Ken Hitchcock

There are plenty of ‘All-Star’ coaches available for next season

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It seems like every league has a few innovators and a whole bunch of copycats who assume they can Xerox a successful team’s blueprint and then just make sure that they save some ink for playoff tickets.

One can see such a phenomenon in the NHL’s coach hiring practices. Several seasons ago, the league followed the cycle of retreading coaches of varying quality. Bench bosses such as “Iron” Mike Keenan seemed to have more opportunities than a cat has lives.

Yet now that is very much not the case, as the latest trend over the past few seasons is for teams to “call up” AHL coaches who are having great success. In many cases, it’s hard to argue with the results, as former minor league bosses such as Dan Bylsma and Randy Carlyle won Stanley Cups while Bruce Boudreau and Guy Boucher have dramatically improved their teams.

Of course, there might also be some “over-correction.” Michael Farber points out that there is an “All-Star cast” of former coaches hoping for a new job, highlighted by the likes of Bob Hartley and Michel Therrien. Amid all the names Farber drops, he didn’t even get to two other worthy wardens: Andy Murray and Ken Hitchcock.

It’s natural to think that those AHL coaches might be more adept when it comes to adapting to the changing landscape in the NHL – especially since they work with younger players, the best of whom are making rapid jumps to the big leagues – but a smart team might want to hire a Murray or Hitchcock to turn things around. The Edmonton Oilers or New York Islanders would be wise to look to a more experienced NHL coach to transition their youngsters to a more professional game, if nothing else. Therrien did a great job of that in Pittsburgh while Murray and Hitchcock squeezed playoff appearances out of mediocre teams in St. Louis and Columbus.

That might be a good idea, but chances are, it will take one trendsetting team to make such a move before the cycle reverses again.

Isles claim goalie Berube off waivers

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Jaroslav Halak
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The New York Islanders have claimed goalie Jean-Francois Berube off waivers from the Los Angeles Kings, the club announced today.

Berube won the Calder Cup last season with AHL Manchester, but the 24-year-old has yet to appear in an NHL game.

That the Isles claimed Berube could be evidence that Jaroslav Halak will not be ready to start the season after all.

If that’s the case, Berube would back up Thomas Greiss, with Stephon Williams expected to go to the AHL.

The Isles open their regular season Friday at home versus the Blackhawks, then play the next day in Chicago.

Leafs claim Corrado from Canucks, waive Panik

Frank Corrado
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The Toronto Maple Leafs have claimed one of the more intriguing players placed on waivers — former Vancouver defenseman Frank Corrado.

Corrado, 22, was waived by the Canucks on Monday. The former OHL standout had appeared in 28 career games for Vancouver — including 10 last year — but was squeezed out of an NHL spot following the emergence of Ben Hutton, who surprised many onlookers by making the 23-man roster.

Canucks GM Jim Benning will receive criticism for losing an asset like Corrado for nothing. Several Vancouver pundits warned of exposing a young, promising d-man to waivers and those warnings ultimately proved accurate.

With Toronto, Corrado could push for playing time as the club indicated on Monday veteran d-man Sephane Robidas wouldn’t be with the team to start the year. That would leave the the Leafs with seven healthy blueliners: Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner, Roman Polak, Morgan Rielly, Matt Hunwick, Martin Marincin and Scott Harrington, who can go to the minors without having to clear waivers.

Petter Granberg, another defenseman, is currently on IR.

In a corresponding move to the Corrado claim, the Leafs put forward Richard Panik on waivers. Panik, who Toronto plucked off waivers from Tampa Bay last year, appeared in 76 games for the Leafs, scoring 11 goals and 17 points.