Dan Bylsma takes home Jack Adams Award as coach of the year

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Pittsburgh’s Dan Bylsma helped Pittsburgh navigate a minefield of injuries to big time players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin in propelling the Penguins into the playoffs as the fourth seed. He also helped the Penguins to win 49 games this year and came within one point of winning the Atlantic Division.

That sort of rèsumè for Bylsma helped him win the Jack Adams Award as the NHL coach of the year. Bylsma edged out Alain Vigneault of Vancouver and Nashville’s Barry Trotz for the award. For Bylsma it’s his first coach of the year award and one that he more than earned given the laundry list of injuries the Penguins faced this season up front at forward. Starting out the year without Jordan Staal and closing it without Crosby and Malkin would make most coaches crack.

Bylsma adjusted and helped make the Penguins a tenacious defensive team and one that was poised to be a tough out in the playoffs. The Pens ultimately lost in seven games in the first round to Tampa Bay, but they couldn’t have gotten even that far without his coaching.

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Byslma said his biggest adjustments came before the injuries happened

Call it typical hockey-style modesty if you want, but Bylsma seemed adamant that he didn’t really do anything drastic to keep the Penguins on a winning track after Crosby and Malkin went down.

“I’d like to tell you that I did something really marvelous to keep it going but that’s not the case,” Bylsma said. “And looking back I think that the best thing that we’ve done – and we continue to do – is give our players have a clear understanding of how we’re going to have success as a team and how we’re going to play.”

“At that time when you were all asking what we were doing I felt sheepish thinking I’m really not doing that much. I think all that was done long before the injuries happened.

The impact of HBO

HBO’s 24/7 series was a wonderful display of storytelling, colorful language and Matt Hendricks’ gnarly stitches. One of the biggest beneficiaries was Bylsma, though. He came across as a wonderful (and detailed) motivator and a warm family man in those great episodes.

Bylsma admitted that the documentary series probably helped him win the Jack Adams.

“I think even within the Pittsburgh community of media people, they had a picture of Dan Bylsma in their brain in which they see about 5 percent of who you are,” Bylsma said. “They see a serious guy behind the bench. That’s not me. I’m a terribly emotional person and guy. I have a huge passion for the game and it’s not shown when I’m on the bench.”

Bylsma said that the series showed a different side of his personality and the relationships he has with his players.

I think it was advantageous for me, but I’m not going to put an asterisk by the award just because I had 24/7 though.

Hopefully we’ll get another deeper look at the two coaches in the 2012 Winter Classic when HBO’s cameras roll again.

Habs president Molson pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

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Another bold move by GM Marc Bergevin, another statement from Montreal Canadiens president/CEO Geoff Molson.

However Molson actually feels about the franchise’s decision to let Andrei Markov leave for the KHL, he provided quite the goodbye letter regarding the 38-year-old defenseman. One can’t help but wonder how Molson feels about Montreal’s overall makeover, whether you believe Mark Streit is really “replacing” Markov or not.

Anyway, that will need to wait. In the meantime, here’s the very kind statement from Molson to Markov:

“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Andrei for his great contributions during his 16 seasons as a proud member of the Montreal Canadiens. Arguably one of the best defensemen in franchise history, Andrei was a model of dedication to the great game of hockey. A respected figure around the league and among his teammates, Andrei demonstrated leadership both on and off the ice. Andrei’s commitment to our franchise was second to none, proven by his overcoming three serious and potentially career-ending injuries. I would like to wish Andrei the best of luck in the next step of his career, and happiness with his family.”

Speaking of Canadiens all-timers, Larry Robinson had plenty of nice things to say about Markov, too.

Related

Markov, Habs officially part ways.

Markov is headed to the KHL.

Sabres re-sign Eichel’s buddy Rodrigues for two years

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The Buffalo Sabres might have signed Evan Rodrigues back in 2015 in part because he enjoyed so much success as a college linemate with Jack Eichel at Boston University, but the undrafted forward seems like he’s making a case that he’ll be a part of their future in his own right.

The Sabres handed Rodrigues a two-year deal that is two-way in 2017-18 and one-way in 2018-19. Whenever he’s at the NHL level, it’s worth $650K per season.

Rodrigues debuted in 2015-16, scoring a goal and an assist in two games. He managed to play in 30 regular-season contests for the Sabres last season, collecting six points.

He’s shown quite a bit of improvement at the AHL level, in particular. After collecting 30 points in 72 games for the Rochester Americans in 2015-16, he scored 30 again in 2016-17, although he only needed 48 contests to do so. Rodrigues isn’t quite Matt Moulson to Eihel’s John Tavares just yet, but it’s possible that he might at least development into a regular NHL player.

Buffalo’s work isn’t done for the summer just yet, as RFAs Zemgus Girgensons and Nathan Beaulieu still need deals.

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

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Andrei Markov wanted to play his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens. With that option officially off the table, Markov announced that he’s headed for Russia and the KHL.

“I didn’t see myself with any other NHL team,” Markov said during a conference call wrapping up his lengthy stay with the Habs. “I didn’t see myself wearing another jersey.”

(At least not the jersey of another NHL team.)

The 38-year-old also noted that he hasn’t closed the door to a return to Montreal. That makes sense since it seems like it was largely the Canadiens’ decision to part ways with Markov, essentially replacing him with Mark Streit at a heavily discounted rate.

Beyond the comforts of home, Markov was almost certainly motivated to play in the KHL because of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The veteran blueliner did not mention which KHL team he’ll end up playing for. There were some rumblings that Markov might sign with the Florida Panthers, but that turned out to not be true.

If it’s a one-year deal, a return to the Habs is at least feasible in 2018-19. Considering his age, it sure seems like this is the end of Markov’s lengthy run with the Canadiens, though.

After making NHL debut, Jones re-ups with Isles

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One of the Isles’ feel-good stories from last season wrote a new chapter on Thursday.

Connor Jones, the undrafted 26-year-old that made his NHL debut in April, has signed a one-year, two-way extension, the club announced.

Jones certainly earned his way to the show. He spent four years at Quinnipiac before catching on with the Oilers, spending time with both their AHL and ECHL affiliates before jumping to the Isles organization in 2015.

Though he’s not an offensive producer — just 19 points in 58 games with Bridgeport last season — Jones emerged as a good energy guy that proved an effective penalty killer.

With AHL Bridgeport, he also played alongside his twin brother, Kellen, who was in attendance as Connor made his NHL debut in April.

Connor would go on to play four games for the Isles, averaging just under 12 minutes per night.