(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.”
The Detroit Red Wings didn’t need Petr Mrazek‘s arbitration hearing either.
The day after the Wings avoided the process by locking up defenseman Danny DeKeyser, they agreed on a two-year deal with Mrazek, with a reported cap hit of $4 million.
Mrazek, 24, went 27-16-6 last season with a .921 save percentage. Those numbers compared favorably to Jimmy Howard‘s (14-14-5, .906); however, GM Ken Holland has argued that keeping Howard could be best for Mrazek’s development.
“It could possibly be detrimental if we put Petr in a situation where we’re just going to throw him out and play 70 games and no matter how you play, we’re going to keep putting you out,” said Holland.
Granted, it may be that Howard is simply untradeable. He’s 32 years old, hasn’t put up solid numbers the past three seasons, and has three years remaining on his contract with a cap hit of just under $5.3 million.
If Howard remains, the Wings will have just under $9.3 million in cap space allocated to their goaltenders next season, one of the highest totals in the league.
Mrazek, by the way, will still be a restricted free agent when his new contract expires in the summer of 2018.
With new majority owners and now talk of a new arena, the future of the New York Islanders has been a popular topic lately.
Not surprisingly, it’s led to plenty of discussion about the future of captain John Tavares, who can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018.
Ownership has insisted that it won’t get that far, that Tavares will be re-signed. The Isles will have “no financial constraints,” owner Jon Ledecky promised.
But what about Tavares? What does he think?
“I think I’ve always showed my commitment, my appreciation and my desire to play on Long Island,” the 25-year-old told Sportsnet 590 radio on Tuesday, per NHL.com. “I would love for that to continue for the long haul. I think you look at some of the greatest players in the game have been able to spend their entire career somewhere. I hope I’m in that same position.”
As for the speculation he could sign in Toronto?
“I would not count on that,” he said.
So start the countdown to July 1, 2017. That’s when Tavares can officially start negotiating an extension with the Isles.
Perhaps by then we’ll even know where the team will be playing its future games. Will it be Brooklyn or somewhere else?
Only 18 NHLers have scored more goals than Mike Hoffman has over the last two seasons.
Today, the Ottawa Senators signed the 26-year-old sniper to a four-year contract with a reported cap hit of $5.1875 million.
Hoffman had an arbitration hearing scheduled for Aug. 4. The breakdown of his new deal, according to Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman:
His contract done, Hoffman can now focus fully on next season, which he’s excited about.
“New coach coming in, Guy Boucher, I had him in junior when I played in Drummondville of the Quebec League,” Hoffman said recently. “Very good relationship with him, we won a championship together. So definitely looking forward to working with him this year.”
As for Sens GM Pierre Dorion, he’s still got some offseason work to do. Defenseman Cody Cedi is a restricted free agent, and there’s no arbitration date to encourage a settlement in his case. While Dorion is confident that something that will get done with the 22-year-old, what remains to be seen is if it’s a short- or long-term deal.
The Carolina Hurricanes may have missed the playoffs in each of Bill Peters’ two seasons behind the bench, but GM Ron Francis is clearly pleased with the job his head coach has done.
Today, the ‘Canes announced that Peters has been signed to a contract extension through the 2018-19 season.
“Bill is a talented, young coach in the National Hockey League,” said Francis in a release. “We are happy that he has made a commitment to the Hurricanes, and that he will be a major part of the team continuing to grow.”
The ‘Canes still won’t be a popular pick to make the playoffs in 2016-17, but with all the young talent that the organization has amassed, Peters will certainly be expected to get them there before his contract expires. (The ‘Canes were actually a pretty solid possession team last season, but were let down by their goaltending and inability to convert scoring chances.)
Carolina last made the playoffs in 2009.
Related: ‘Canes enjoying stronger ticket sales, but ‘fence-sitters’ still need convincing