Craig MacTavish

Report: Craig MacTavish likely to coach the AHL’s Chicago Wolves

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Much like free agent goalies, it seemed like there were quite a few more worthy candidates then there were available jobs in the NHL coaching ranks this summer. If Kirk Muller (who opted to coach the Norfolk Admirals) and Craig MacTavish are any indication, coaches don’t share the same distaste for using the AHL as a backup plan, though.

TSN reports that MacTavish is on the verge of taking a head coaching job with the AHL’s Chicago Wolves. The Wolves were once the AHL affiliate of the Atlanta Thrashers, but now that the Winnipeg Jets are using the Manitoba Moose, the Wolves became the farm team for the Vancouver Canucks. (This might strike some as odd because of the boiling rivalry that is building between the Canucks and Chicago’s NHL team, the Blackhawks.)

It’s probably accurate to call this AHL assignment a “Plan B” (or worse) for MacTavish, who was rumored to be a top candidate for the Minnesota Wild gig that eventually went to Mike Yeo. That being said, a successful run with the Wolves could be the best way for MacTavish to make his way back into the NHL; the hot trend in coach hiring is for franchises to scoop up the hottest minor league coaches when they have a vacancy.

The one big difference is that MacTavish already has plenty of NHL coaching experience. After spending three seasons as an assistant coach for the New York Rangers (from 1997-98 to 99-00), MacTavish was the Edmonton Oilers’ head coach for eight seasons. The Oilers made the playoffs three times in that span, including that Cinderella run to the Stanley Cup finals in 2005-06.

He hasn’t been able to land an NHL head coaching job since. Instead, he’s been an analyst for TSN. Of course, hockey fans knew him by his face from his playing days as well; MacTavish owns the impeccably manly distinction of being the last NHLer to play without a helmet.

MacTavish probably hopes that one NHL GM uses his head and makes him their head coach next summer.

Ducks name Kesler alternate captain

Ryan Kesler
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For the second time in his career, Ryan Kesler is wearing an “A.”

On Thursday, the Anaheim Ducks announced that Kesler would serve as one of the club’s alternate captains this season, taking over for Francois Beauchemin, who signed in Colorado this summer.

With the move, Kesler joins Anaheim’s existing leadership group of captain Ryan Getzlaf, and alternate Corey Perry.

“It’s an honor,” Kesler said, per the Ducks. “It’s special. I’m going to wear it with pride and lead by example.”

As mentioned earlier, Kesler has some experience as an alternate — he wore an “A” in Vancouver from 2008-13, but had it removed prior to the start of the ’13-14 campaign.

It’s not surprising Anaheim went in this direction. GM Bob Murray made a huge investment in Kesler this summer by inking the 31-year-old to a six-year, $41.25M extension.

Diaz could leave Rangers for Europe

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
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Could Raphael Diaz be on his way back to Switzerland?

We’ll know in a month.

Diaz, who lost out on the Rangers’ final blueline spot in training camp, has reported to the club’s AHL affiliate in Hartford but doesn’t seem pleased with his current situation, per the Post:

The 29-year-old Diaz, who cleared waivers last Saturday after the Blueshirts opted to keep rookie Dylan McIlrath as the club’s seventh on the blue line, is interested in the European option if he is not in the NHL.

The Blueshirts have told Diaz they will revisit the situation at the end of October, but have not promised to release him or assign him to a European team at that point.

If Diaz, a Swiss native who represented Switzerland in the 2014 Olympics, does play in Europe during the season, he would have to go through waivers in order to return to the NHL.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

And it’s understandable if Diaz — a journeyman offensive defenseman — isn’t happy with this situation.

While some believe McIlrath earned his roster spot on merit, some think it’s because of his contract status. McIlrath, who’s only 23 and a former first-round pick, would’ve needed to clear waivers to go back to Hartford, and it’s believed he would’ve been claimed by another club.