Anaheim Ducks v San Jose Sharks

Ducks hand coach Randy Carlyle a three-year contract extension

There are plenty of teams that seem unpredictable heading into the 2011-12 season, but the Anaheim Ducks might be the toughest to gauge.

On one hand, they have the best trio of power forwards in the league: 2011 Hart Trophy winner Corey Perry, outstanding center Ryan Getzlaf and still-improving American winger Bobby Ryan. The Ducks also have explosive offensive defensemen in Lubomir Visnovsky and Cam Fowler (who just completed an impressive rookie season).

The problem is that the Ducks’ question marks are just as big as their burly, high-scoring forwards. Their defense ranged from mediocre to awful last season and it didn’t get much better during the summer. (In fact, hard-shooting defenseman Kurtis Foster might be a downgrade from Andy Sutton – at least in the Ducks’ end.) Of course, the biggest problem is that goalie Jonas Hiller’s vertigo issues seem unresolved. If you ask me, Hiller deserves consideration among the NHL’s most valuable goalies because of all the leaks he plugs with his leg pads. The Ducks might also have even more trouble providing secondary scoring if Teemu Selanne retires.

In other words, Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle has his hands full. On the bright side, contract worries won’t be at the top of his mind, though; the team handed him a contract extension that runs through the 2013-14 season today. It’s technically a three-year extension, although the 2011-12 season will be part of the deal. Financial terms haven’t been disclosed.

Carlyle has enjoyed a great run behind the Ducks’ bench, which you can see from this summary from the team.

Carlyle, 55 (4/19/56), was named the seventh head coach in team history on Aug. 1, 2005 and has since led the Ducks to their first Stanley Cup championship (2007), Pacific Division championship (2007) and five playoff appearances in six seasons (2005-09, 2011). Only one NHL coach has won more postseason games than Carlyle’s 36 since 2005-06 (Mike Babcock). Carlyle has the most wins and highest winning percentage in Ducks history, compiling a 266-169-57 record in 492 regular season contests (.599 winning percentage).

There were some who were calling for Carlyle’s head early last season when the team got off to a very slow start, but the Ducks stood by him and it paid off with a breathtaking run to the playoffs. The Ducks have provided him with some nice talent over the years, but his track record is still very impressive considering the rigors of the Pacific Division and Western Conference.

That being said, the 2011-12 season could be his toughest test yet. If he can get this talented but deeply flawed Ducks team to the playoffs again, then he deserves every undisclosed penny he’ll receive.

Red Wings look to future in net … a future possibly without Howard

BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS - APRIL 07:  Jimmy Howard #35 of the Detroit Red Wings makes a save against the Boston Bruins during the first period at TD Garden on April 7, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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This summer looks like it could be one of changes for the Detroit Red Wings, even beyond the most obvious storyline of Pavel Datsyuk‘s future.

One area where the Red Wings would like to make some tweaks is in net, namely in trading Jimmy Howard. The Detroit Free-Press points out that GM Ken Holland admitted that moving the former franchise netminder “might be good for the organization.”

It’s reasonable to wonder what kind of market there will be for Howard, whose deal ($5.29 million cap hit through 2018-19) looks pretty tough to stomach on paper.

Maybe it’s best to consider the Red Wings’ options if Howard starts the 2016-17 season off on a strong note, or something of that nature. Perhaps an expansion draft could “solve” that problem if Detroit cannot find any takers?

The Red Wings remain forward-thinking and patient, which likely explains why the Free-Press focuses on their confidence with prospect Jared Coreau.

“In the big scheme of things, he’ll play in Grand Rapids for another year, but now we know he can play a lot of minutes if needed,” Goalie coach Jeff Salajko said. “Jimmy Howard played four years in the minors. We’re not rushing Jared, but he is going to be an NHL goalie, there is no doubt in my mind about that.”

In other words, a pairing of Petr Mrazek and Coreau wouldn’t just be a cost-effective duo … it might just be the Red Wings’ ideal scenario in the not-too-distant future.

Stanley Cup Final referees: McCauley, O’Halloran, O’Rourke, Sutherland

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 13:  Referee Dan O'Halloran #13 holds up a face-off between the Buffalo Sabres and the Ottawa Senators during their NHL game at First Niagara Center on December 13, 2011 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Dave Sandford Getty Images)
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From the NHL:

refs

Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.

Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.

After advancing to Cup final, DeBoer had Sharks fans coming up to him with ‘tears in their eyes’

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 29: Head coach Peter DeBoer addresses the media during the NHL Stanley Cup Final Media Day at Consol Energy Center on May 29, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.

Now he knows.

“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”

The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.

More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.

It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”

Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.

“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”

Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot

Kopitar will play for Slovenia in Olympic qualifiers

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 13: Anze Kopitar #11 of Slovenia skates against Russia during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group A game on day six of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 13, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.

RTV Slovenia has the story here.

The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.

The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.

Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.

Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.

Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win