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.

Red Wings rally by Bruins in another game that evokes the Eighties

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 18:  Tomas Tatar #21 of the Detroit Red Wings takes a second period shot that gets past Tuukka Rask #40 of the Boston Bruins at Joe Louis Arena on January 18, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
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Things looked pretty grim for the Detroit Red Wings after the Boston Bruins chased Jared Coreau from the net with a quick 3-0 lead. Maybe the Red Wings took note that this has been a weird, high-scoring week in the NHL, because they rallied back and eventually won 6-5 via a shootout.

To recap the zaniest games of each day from this odd few days of hockey:

Monday: The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Washington Capitals 8-7 in an overtime thriller.

Tuesday: The Dallas Stars managed to hold off the New York Rangers in a 7-6 victory. Plenty of weird things happened beyond all of those goals.

Wednesday: Red Wings storm back from that 3-0 deficit to eventually win.

Games like these can be a nightmare for coaches and goalies on both sides, yet Claude Julien was probably especially steamed by this one.

The Bruins were up 3-0, 4-1 and 5-4 but the Red Wings kept fighting back. As a defensive-minded coach, Julien couldn’t have been happy with his team’s play.

(That’s the coach’s answer to slamming a video game controller in a frustrating loss.)

Fitting in with this week’s other wilder contests, there were flurries of goals even beyond the trio that quickly gave Coreau the boot. The Red Wings warped a 4-1 Bruins lead to a 4-4 tie with three goals in a little more than 10 minutes of time.

Adam McQuaid then regained Boston’s lead 21 seconds after it was tied, but the Red Wings didn’t give up. Instead, they applied a ton of pressure in the third period until Gustav Nyquist tied it up with about three minutes left.

Detroit still has a long way to go to protect its remarkable playoff streak, especially when teams like the Bruins can at least salvage “charity points” with losses. If the Red Wings want to make an unlikely push, they’ll need to show the kind of resolve that was on display on yet another wild night in the NHL.

Pavelec makes highlight reel save, gets win in return to Jets’ net

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 28:  Ondrej Pavelec #31 of the Winnipeg Jets dives across to make a first period save against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Jets 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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With an expiring contract, Ondrej Pavelec’s time with the Winnipeg Jets is nearing an end. Plenty of Jets fans would say, mercifully.

Still, he did return to the Winnipeg Jets net on Wednesday for his first NHL appearance since April 9, 2016, to mostly successful results. The Jets beat the Arizona Coyotes 6-3, for one thing.

Beyond that, it probably felt like a typical Pavelec start for many Jets fans, though some would contest that it would also need to involve a loss.

There were those regrettable moments, like giving up a goal right away:

Even his critics would probably agree that Pavelec does have a knack for making breathtaking saves:

It’s unclear how many more times we’ll see Pavelec play for the Jets (or an NHL team in general). His performance – if given more chances – in the near future may determine that answer.

If nothing else, his 2016-17 debut felt pretty fitting.

Connor McDavid hits the 100-point mark with assist (Video)

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 08: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers skates with the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers in the third period at Wells Fargo Center on December 8, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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PHT brings you the hard-hitting math, as you know, so here’s the latest burst: Connor McDavid is more than a point-per-game player.

You see, he scored the 100th point of his promising NHL career, and he did so in just his 92nd career game on Wednesday. Let us remind you that he’s just 20 years old (and he turned 20 on Jan. 13). Yeah.

Point 100 came on via an assist on a Zack Kassian goal as the Edmonton Oilers went up 1-0 against the Florida Panthers.

Here’s the clip:

Considering how quickly McDavid got to 100 and how young he is, it tempts you to do all sorts of speculative math. Maybe you’ll even wonder where No. 97 will finish on all-time lists:

Here’s the helper in GIF form, if you’d prefer:

Video: This assist helps explain why Red Wings might not trade Vanek

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In the video above, you can see Bob McKenzie lay out the Detroit Red Wings’ status as the trade deadline begins to look like more of a consideration.

Considering their playoff streak, it’s not that shocking that they’re at least struggling with the idea of being sellers. More than a few people probably did a double-take (or spit-take?) when McKenzie noted that management might opt to re-sign forward/remarkable reclamation project Thomas Vanek instead of moving him for assets.

It’s reasonable to question that logic, but then you see what he’s doing lately, particularly the chemistry he seems to be building with Andreas Athanasiou.

Wednesday’s gorgeous assist to Athanasiou illustrates some of that brilliance, if stats bore you:

If stats tell some of the story, well, they’re impressive. Vanek now has a seven-game point streak with the assist; if he doesn’t score another point, he’ll have 10 points during that span. He also has at least a point in 11 of his last 12 contests.

Athanasiou’s really “feeling it” lately, too. If he stays at a goal tonight, he’ll have five goals and eight points in his last seven games, only failing to generate a point in two of those contests. His speed and skill really seem to be coming to the surface, a great sign for the 22-year-old.

Still, Vanek is 32, and the Red Wings would need a heck of a run to even make the playoffs. So that’s where the discussion gets a little sticky.

There’s still time to sort that out, though. In the meantime, fans should enjoy what those two have been accomplishing, even if many want the window to close on that combo soon.