Coaches officially hired: Glen Gulutzan in Dallas, Mike Yeo in Minnesota

If you’re a re-tread former head coach looking for work in the NHL, today was a bleak day for your job prospects as two teams officially filled positions today and did so by bringing guys up from their AHL farm teams.

In Dallas, the Stars officially named Glen Gulutzan the 21st head coach in team history. Gulutzan had been coach of the Texas Stars in the AHL and brought them to the Calder Cup finals back in 2010, a series they eventually lost to the Hershey Bears. Gulutzan’s record in his short coaching history is solid (87-56-17 in two seasons in Texas) and with the Stars relying more on the players within their own organization to fill out ranks it helps provide a seamless transition to the NHL for them.

Think of players like Jamie Benn and Tomas Vincour who will look to either get bigger roles (certainly the case with Benn) or more playing time and opportunity to grow at the NHL level. That kind of growth and commitment to sticking within the system has paid off with other teams as Five For Fighting makes note of.

It’s Mike Yeo in Minnesota or Guy Boucher in Tampa or Scott Arniel in Columbus. Dan Bylsma did it in Pittsburgh and won a Cup. Bruce Boudreau did it in Washington and got to the Finals. NHL coaches like starting with someone new. That said, they don’t want too new. They want a head coach who knows how to run a bench and run a team. There is a certain feeling that you can’t just walk in and become a head coach at the NHL level, and that’s why Kirk Muller might not get a head coaching job until he takes a job as an AHL head coach.

Interesting thoughts and given the success Guy Boucher had in Tampa Bay this year, it’s a trend we’re likely to see continue. Case in point: Minnesota.

The Wild officially named Mike Yeo their new head coach today as well. Yeo coached their farm team in Houston last season and did very well bringing the Aeros to the Calder Cup finals, a series they ultimately lost to Binghamton. Yeo is more famous for being an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins during their Stanley Cup appearances in 2008 and 2009 alongside Dan Bylsma. That experience at the NHL level coupled with the tremendous success he had in the AHL this past season with an Aeros team that wasn’t exactly teeming over with great talent speaks volumes to how smart of a guy he is.

Michael Russo of The Star Tribune notes from players who played under Yeo in Houston this year that he’s got his act together and he’s ready to do it in the NHL.

The Aeros played a structured, physical, forechecking, defensively sound style and had immense success despite a lack of offensive firepower.

“He really, really knows how to coach his players,” said 2007 first-round draft pick Colton Gillies. “It’s all about the process with him, the little things that require you to win games. He prepares you so, so well. I’m just really happy for him. I think he deserves it. He’s done wonders for my career already.”

Gillies is one of the first round picks the Wild have made over the years that hasn’t panned out of yet. If Yeo can help turn guys like him and the others in the Wild system that haven’t emerged as potential NHL players, he’s a godsend for Minnesota. Having a coach that can turn the mess that former GM Doug Risebrough made of the Wild organization into something that can win at the NHL level would make Mike Yeo Minnesota’s version of a miracle worker.

Making the jump from the AHL to the NHL is a huge step and for both Gulutzan and Yeo they’ll need to do twice as much work as they did in the minor leagues to make it work out in the majors. Guys like Guy Boucher made it look easy but you can’t forget guys like Scott Arniel who struggled with their teams in transition.

(Photos courtesy of Dallas Stars and Minnesota Wild websites)

Willie Desjardins to coach Team Canada at Olympics

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The past two Winter Olympics, Team Canada has been coached to gold by Mike Babcock, currently the NHL’s highest-paid bench boss.

But the 2018 Olympics in South Korea will be a very different animal. The NHL is not sending its players this time. When the Games are on, Babcock will be busy with his Toronto Maple Leafs.

So, today, Hockey Canada announced that Willie Desjardins, recently fired by the Vancouver Canucks, will be the head coach of the two-time defending gold medalists. Desjardins will be assisted by former Team Canada head coach Dave King, as well as Scott Walker and Craig Woodcroft.

Sean Burke, who rose to prominence as a goalie in the 1988 and 1992 Olympics — which didn’t feature NHLers, either — will be Canada’s general manager. Burke will be aided by Martin Brodeur.

“This is an exciting time for Hockey Canada and for our National Men’s Team program, and it will be an exciting season for Canadian hockey fans,” said Tom Renney, Hockey Canada’s CEO. “The goal is always to field the best possible team in all upcoming competitions, including this February when we hit the world’s biggest sporting stage in Pyeonchang. The faces on our Team Canada rosters may be different than in previous years, but the expectations will be the same; with the addition of Sean, Martin, Willie, Dave, Scott, and Craig, we have assembled some of the best hockey minds out there to help us meet those expectations of on-ice success.”

Today’s announcement is yet more evidence, if you still required it, that the NHL isn’t bluffing about not sending its players to South Korea.

In an email to The Hockey News, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly refuted a report out of Russia that suggested the league had a backup schedule with an Olympic break in it.

“There is not an alternative schedule,” Daly wrote. “Having NHL Players participate in the 2018 Winter Olympic Games is not an available option. All of the international federations are planning appropriately for constructing teams that will not include NHL players. I anticipate there will be federation announcements in the coming days that should eliminate any and all continuing doubt or skepticism about the issue.”

The NHL released the 2017-18 schedule a month ago.

Related: Tampa awarded the 2018 All-Star Game, further dampening Olympic hopes

Preds expect answer from Fisher next week

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We should find out next week if Mike Fisher is going to retire or keep playing for the Predators.

Fisher, Nashville’s 37-year-old captain, is an unrestricted free agent. He confirmed last month that he was considering retirement. But first, he needed some time to think.

Yesterday, Preds GM David Poile said he expected an answer soon.

“I’m hoping to talk to him later this week to see where he’s at,” Poile said, per The Tennessean. “I’d say by next week, we should have an update.”

Fisher had 18 goals and 24 assists in 72 games last season, but then had just four assists in 20 playoff games as the Preds reached their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

If Fisher re-signs, he’ll likely be in the bottom six next season, with Ryan Johansen and newly signed Nick Bonino expected to center the top two lines. Fisher could even be the fourth-line center or a winger, allowing the likes of Calle Jarnkrok, Colton Sissons, and Frederick Gaudreau to take on bigger roles.

But for Fisher, hockey isn’t everything, and after more than 1,000 games in the NHL, he may simply opt to hang up the skates.

“Everyone wants to win in this game, no one probably more than me,” Fisher said. “But there’s other things. At the end of the day, this is a game. It’s an important part of my life, but it’s not everything.”

Related: Predators take Stanley Cup loss with grace and optimism

Habs sign Mark Streit — is he Markov’s replacement?

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The Montreal Canadiens have signed 39-year-old defenseman Mark Streit to a one-year contract worth a reported $700,000.

This will actually be Streit’s second stint with the Habs. He started his NHL career in Montreal, all the way back in 2005.

Streit split last season between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. In the playoffs, he only appeared in three games for the Penguins, all of them in the Eastern Conference Final against Ottawa when Justin Schultz was hurt.

What the Streit signing means for Andrei Markov remains to be seen. Streit, like Markov, can run a power play, so it’s tempting to conclude that Streit is Markov’s replacement.

That being said, almost all of Streit’s contract could be buried in the AHL if necessary, so that conclusion may be premature. This could even be a move by GM Marc Bergevin to gain leverage and convince Markov to sign.

Markov, 38, remains an unrestricted free agent. The Canadiens want him back, but only at a certain price.

Devils give Mirco Mueller two-year extension

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The New Jersey Devils have signed defenseman Mirco Mueller to a two-year contract extension with a cap hit of $850,000.

Mueller, a first-round draft pick of the Sharks in 2013, has only played 54 NHL games, scoring two goals with four assists. In June, after spending most of 2016-17 in the AHL, San Jose traded the 22-year-old to the Devils.

In New Jersey, Mueller should get a good chance to crack a rebuilding roster.

“Mirco is adding another piece to what we’re trying to build here,” Devils coach John Hynes said, per NJ.com. “He’s a young player, he can play with pace. He’s a very good skater. He’s got size, which is something we need on the back end. He makes a good first pass. He allows you to get out of your own zone because he can break out, he can end plays defensively, get possession, make the pass to be able to transition yourself out of defensive situations.”

The Devils have also re-signed goalie Scott Wedgewood and forward Joseph Blandisi.