(Need to get up to speed on the New Jersey Devils’ decision to fire John MacLean and make Jacques Lemaire their interim head coach one again? Read these posts first.
Devils fire MacLean, re-hire Lemaire.
But why go with Lemaire all over again?)
It’s tough to say that I was surprised to hear that Devils GM Lou Lamoriello decided to fire overwhelmed coach John MacLean, even if I think the true fault falls at the feet of the seemingly bullet-proof “Loophole Lou.” After all, MacLean didn’t err profoundly by giving Ilya Kovalchuk a $100 million nor did he lean toward nostalgia with questionable acquisitions of Jason Arnott and Brian Rolston over the last few years.
But ultimately the coach’s head was lopped off, as is often the case with sports teams. You may know the cliche that “you cannot trade the whole team” after all.
So the Devils once again took a trip down memory lane by bringing back Jacques Lemaire for the third time in franchise history. So, the question is: how are some of the biggest figures in the organization reacting to the changes? We’re so glad you asked, because Tom Gulitti of the Fire & Ice blog found answers from high-priced sniper Kovalchuk, team captain Jamie Langenbrunner and team owner Jeff Vanderbeek.
Kovalchuk insisted he had no problems with MacLean, though he was scratched for an Oct. 23 game against Buffalo because he was late for a mandatory meeting the morning of the game.
“I’m not the reason (why MacLean was fired). Don’t worry,” Kovalchuk said. “Everybody has their own opinion, but in the situation that we are, (a coach gets fired). It’s unfortunate, but we have to live with it and move forward.”
When asked to describe his relationship with Lemaire, Langenbrunner said,“We’ll see. Right? You guys obviously wrote a lot about what that was like last year – some truth, some not. I respect him as a coach. I think he’s a very smart hockey man. We’ll do what’s best for the team. He’s a very good hockey guy.”
We’ll see? That’s an interesting way to start off an otherwise PR-soaked answer, isn’t it?
- Finally, Devils owner Jeff Vanderbeek was saddened that the team needed to fire MacLean but also admitted that change was needed. Of course, many will question whether this was the right type of change. But as Langenbrunner would say, “we’ll see.”
Jyrki Jokipakka was one of the three Finnish d-men added to the World Cup roster last week but, according to Calgary president Brian Burke, Jokipakka isn’t a lock to play this fall.
“He had hip surgery after the season, and it’s not 100 percent that he’s going to be able to compete in this tournament,” Burke told Sportsnet’s Fan 960. “But the fact he was named recognizes his accomplishments to date, and we’re very proud of [him].”
Jokipakka, acquired in the Kris Russell-to-Dallas deadline trade, appeared in 58 games last year — 18 for the Flames, 40 for the Stars. He finished with two goals and 12 points.
Still only 24 years old, Jokipakka could be a nice piece for the Flames moving forward. He’s 6-foot-3, 215 pounds and was rated highly enough to crack the Finnish roster (granted, the country isn’t overwhelmingly deep on the blueline).
So it’s understandable why the club might be wary of letting him play in the World Cup. In addition to coming off major surgery, Jokipakka is headed into the last of a two-year, $1.8 million deal with a $900,000 average annual cap hit.
Once that expires, he’ll become a restricted free agent.
PITTSBURGH — Kris Letang will play tonight. He confirmed it this morning, albeit in rather unusual circumstances.
Letang did not participate in yesterday’s Media Day at the Stanley Cup Final. He didn’t practice either. The Penguins said it was simply a “maintenance day” for their best defensemen, but when it was learned he would hold a press conference this morning, all of a sudden people started to wonder about his status for Game 1 against the Sharks.
He was asked if he was playing.
So, no problems?
And that was that.
No explanation was provided about yesterday, but Penguins head coach Mike Sullivan said a few minutes later that he was confident that Letang would be able to log his usual amount of minutes.
“Very confident,” said Sullivan.
Penguins center Nick Bonino also confirmed that he’ll be able to go tonight. He didn’t skate Saturday or Sunday, but was on the ice this morning.
Jan Bulis, who appeared in 552 games with the Capitals, Canadiens and Canucks, announced his retirement from professional hockey today, per Czech news outlet Ceske Noviny.
Bulis, 38, last played in North America with Vancouver during the 2006-07 campaign, and has since carved out a pretty lengthy career in the KHL, playing for both Mytishchi Atlant and Chelyabinsk Traktor.
Picked 43rd overall by Washington at the 1996 draft, Bulis’ best years came with the Habs. He posted a career-high 20 goals and 40 points in 2005-06 — that year, he also represented the Czechs at the Winter Olympics in Turin (capturing bronze) and at the World Hockey Championships (capturing silver).
It seems there will be no NHL comeback attempt by Alex Semin. At least not in 2016-17.
Instead, Semin has inked a one-year extension with Magnitogorsk Metallurg, according to Sport-Express writer Igor Eronko.
At 32 years old, Semin still could have a lot of years left in him as a professional hockey player, but at this point it wouldn’t be surprising if he has played in his last NHL game. Early in his career his talent was clear and demonstrated by some great showings offensively, but he was plagued by inconsistency. In recent years though, he wasn’t so much inconsistent as he was underwhelming.
After being limited to six goals and 19 points in 57 games with Carolina in 2014-15, the one-time 40-goal scorer was bought out of his five-year, $35 million contract just two seasons into it. Montreal took a chance on him for 2015-16, but he only appeared in 15 games with the Canadiens before they put him on unconditional waivers on Dec. 9.
He’s fared better in the KHL though, with five goals and 14 points in 20 regular season games followed by another seven markers and 15 points in 23 playoff contests.