Steve Tambellini, Greg Sherman

Avalanche GM Greg Sherman says he’s “very confident” in his abilities

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There’s no question that Colorado Avalanche GM Greg Sherman has had his share of doubters since free agency opened on July 1. Actually, some would say that he’s been under fire since the moment he pulled the trigger on the blockbuster trade that sent power-forward Chris Stewart and blossoming defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (and a pick) to St. Louis for Erik Johnson and Jay McClement (and a pick). It certainly didn’t help that the Avalanche only had one victory in 21 games between the end of January and the middle of March. Such is life around a team that finishes with the second worst record in the league.

The naysayers have become loud enough that Terry Frei of the Denver Post talked to Sherman about it at Semyon Varlamov’s press conference on Thursday.

“I’m very confident in my abilities to do the job I have to do,” Sherman said. “This particular job, while player personnel decisions are a big part of it, there are multiple facets to running a hockey club. I’m very confident in the role.”

Sherman isn’t shying away from it: For better or worse, these are “his” moves and he’ll be accountable for them.

“A hundred percent,” he said. “I make the decision. I’m surrounded by great hockey people, but at the end of the day, make the decision and move forward. I and we believe what we’ve done in the last couple of weeks, culminating with last Friday, has upgraded this hockey club. We’ve addressed the areas that were a priority for us and we believe we have put ourselves in position to continually grow this team together and get us back to where we rightfully belong.

“I don’t think it’s any different than any other major organization or sports organization. I surround myself with strong hockey people. I come to the hockey decisions. The recommendation is made and at the end of the day, I make the final call. So to me, it starts and ends with me and I’m fortunate to be surrounded by these strong hockey people, and keeping everyone on the same page as we move forward as a franchise.”

It’s probably not a good sign when the general manager of an NHL team feels that he has to start a response with: “I’m confident in my abilities.” Then again, it’s not a great situation for the Avalanche GM when an opposing general manager says, “I’m surprised we got such a good deal from Colorado.” Ouch. No wonder the man is more defensive than Dave Bolland against a Sedin.

Unfortunately for Sherman, there is going to be high profile criticism when he makes high profile moves. It’s easy for fans and pundits to sit back and criticize the Stewart/Johnson trade or the move for Varlamov. Did it look bad for the Avalanche when Chris Stewart went on his scoring binge in St. Louis? Absolutely. Do first and second round draft picks sound like a king’s ransom for a goaltender that has only started 59 NHL games? Sure it does. Honestly, only time will tell if those deals work out in the Avs favor—but the early returns don’t look good.

No matter what happens, you have to give respect to the man who takes ownership for his decisions. He did everything short of saying “the buck stops here.” He made a good move to acquire Tomas Fleischmann (health not withstanding) and he went out and got the goaltender who he thought would be the best for the Avalanche’s future. After his comments, we know that he made the final evaluations and is confident in his hockey decisions.

If Varlamov develops into an elite goaltender, fans in Colorado will be confident in his hockey decisions as well.

Flames dominate the Jets to take over top spot in the Pacific Division

CALGARY, AB - DECEMBER 10: Dougie Hamilton #27 of the Calgary Flames celebrates after scoring his team's third goal against the Winnipeg Jets during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on December 10, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Is there a changing of the guard in the Pacific Division?

It’s the middle of December and the Calgary Flames, now with six straight wins, lead the same division dominated last season by the California powers in Anaheim, San Jose and L.A. The Edmonton Oilers have been inconsistent at times this season but they are right there, too, one point back. Same goes for the Ducks. The Sharks and Kings are definitely in contention.

There is plenty of hockey remaining in the season. Plenty of chances for change in the NHL’s division standings, including in the Pacific. But there’s no denying the Flames are on an impressive run.

Late last month, they had a particularly frustrating loss to Philadelphia and coach Glen Gulutzan voiced his displeasure about it. They followed that up the next day with an overtime loss to the Islanders. Prior to that weekend, there had been rumblings about the future of Gulutzan with the club, despite being only a few months into his tenure.

But since then, the Flames have yet to lose. They continued their winning streak with a convincing 6-2 victory over the visiting Jets on Saturday.

Dougie Hamilton — remember all that trade speculation surrounding the Flames defenseman and Brian Burke’s classic response? — had two goals for Calgary. Chad Johnson was solid in net again. It was a pretty dominant performance all around.

Frustrating night for the Jets and it showed when Dustin Byfuglien dropped the gloves with Garnet Hathaway late in the third period.

There are more difficult tests ahead for Calgary.

The Flames face the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday and then the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday.

In previous seasons, a Friday night game between the Flames and Blue Jackets in the middle of December might not garner much interest. But they are both among the hottest teams in the league right now and it’s likely not many would’ve predicted that a short time ago.

Video: Perlini’s first NHL goal helps lift Coyotes over Predators

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 10:  Brendan Perlini #29 of the Arizona Coyotes reacts alongside Calle Jarnkrok #19 of the Nashville Predators after Perlini scored his first career goal during the second period of the NHL game at Gila River Arena on December 10, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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The Arizona Coyotes have moved out of last place in the NHL’s overall standings, courtesy a 4-1 win over the Nashville Predators on Saturday.

Minus forward Max Domi, placed on IR and expected to be out on a week-to-week basis, the Coyotes got a 44-save performance from goalie Mike Smith and recently recalled forward Brendan Perlini pitched in with his first career NHL goal.

That goal gave Arizona a 3-1 lead. Thanks to the play of Smith, the Coyotes wouldn’t relinquish the lead, snapping a six-game losing skid.

It wasn’t all good news for the Coyotes.

Defenseman Connor Murphy played only 4:12. He left the game with an upper-body injury and didn’t return. Per reports, Murphy is considered day-to-day at this point.

The Blue Jackets just keep on winning

COLUMBUS, OH - OCTOBER 15:  Zach Werenski #8 of the Columbus Blue Jackets is congratulated by Cam Atkinson #13 of the Columbus Blue Jackets after scoring his first career NHL goal during the third period of the game against the San Jose Sharks on October 15, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. San Jose defeated Columbus 3-2. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Jack Johnson, Cam Atkinson and Seth Jones each had a goal and an assist as the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the New York Islanders 6-2 on Saturday night for their sixth straight win.

Josh Anderson, Brandon Saad and Lukas Sedlak also scored for Columbus and Sergei Bobrovsky had 25 saves.

Josh Bailey and John Tavares scored for New York, which had earned a point in a season-high five straight games (4-0-1). Jaroslav Halak made 32 saves until he was pulled after the Blue Jackets scored four consecutive goals in the third period.

Anderson put Columbus ahead 3-2 at 2:19 when he picked off a defensive pass and banged it in from the slot seconds after coming onto the ice for his shift.

Saad, Sedlak and Jones scored in a 5-minute span to make it 6-2 with 5:37 to go.

New York’s third-string goalie Jean-Francois Berube then replaced Halak and stopped the one shot he faced in his season debut.

The Islanders came out quick and it took Columbus a while to get going. New York took a 1-0 lead 5:59 in when a defensive pass by the Blue Jackets’ Sam Gagner at the boards was deflected by Bailey, and the popup was bobbled by Bobrovsky into the net. Bailey was given credit for an unassisted goal.

The Blue Jackets tied it up on a power play with 6:01 left in the first when Johnson wound up from just inside the neutral zone and fired a bullet past Halak. It was Johnson’s first goal of the season.

Columbus’ Brandon Dubinsky and New York’s Travis Harmonic went to the penalty box for 5 minutes each when both threw down the gloves and threw punches near the end of the first quarter.

Columbus took a 2-1 lead when a speeding Atkinson took a pass from Johnson in the neutral zone and beat Halak on the breakaway 10:16 into the second. New York tied with 7:28 left in the period when Tavares lifted the puck over Bobrovsky’s pad from in front of the net.

The Blue Jackets took off in the third period.

After Anderson gave Columbus the lead for good, Saad made it 4-2 on a wrister from the high slot at 9:23.

Sedlak, who scored his first NHL goal on Friday night, scored another when he tapped in a loose puck with 7:21 to go. Jones capped it with just over 5 1/2 minutes remaining.

NHL schedules hearings for Stars’ Oleksiak, Sens’ Borowiecki after separate incidents

CALGARY, AB - NOVEMBER 10: Jamie Oleksiak #5 of the Dallas Stars in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on November 10, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Two NHL players will have disciplinary hearings Sunday with the league’s Department of Player Safety for separate incidents that occurred Saturday.

The league announced Saturday evening that Jamie Oleksiak of the Dallas Stars will have a hearing for an illegal hit to the head of Philly’s Chris VandeVelde during the third period of the Flyers’ win.

There was no penalty called on the play.

The league also announced that Ottawa Senators defenseman Mark Borowiecki will have a hearing Sunday for a boarding penalty he took against Kings forward Tyler Toffoli.

The incident occurred early in the first period. Borowiecki received a major penalty, but remained in the game. Toffoli left the game to undergo concussion protocol, but he did eventually return.