St. Louis Blues v Los Angeles Kings

Davis Payne looks to lead Blues in final year of contract

Each season there are teams with expectations; with coaches who are asked to deliver upon those expectations. Last season, Davis Payne was expected to lead the St. Louis Blues and build upon their 2009 playoff appearance after a frustrating 2009-10 season. Instead, the Blues had enough injuries to fill a steamboat on the Mississippi and the season that started with so much optimism ended with feelings of “what if?” What if T.J. Oshie was healthy all season? What if David Perron didn’t run into Joe Thornton’s elbow? What if Andy McDonald was able to play an entire season? The list goes on and on.

Payne was largely given a free-pass in his first full season behind the bench. To be honest, nothing really stuck out in his first year. They were in the middle of the pack in both goals scored and goals against. Their special teams weren’t all that special with an average power play and penalty kill. On the positive side, team defense was actually pretty good on the whole allowing only 27.7 shots per game—so the coach must have been doing something right. Unfortunately, they were terrible at holding the league as they were one of the worst teams in the league at holding the lead after scoring first period. The Blues may have been prepared, but they didn’t always play the full 60 minutes.

During his “Blues Chat,” Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch in St. Louis addressed Payne and his immediate future with the team:

“This is the last year of Payne’s two-year deal. I’ve written in the past that I think he’s done an admirable job considering his lack of NHL experience and also considering the Blues’ injuries and ownership issues. With that said, there is some heat on Payne this year to get the most out of this club. If healthy, they should be a playoff team. If they can contend, I don’t see any reason the Blues wouldn’t retain Payne. But if the club falls short, there will definitely be questions about whether he’ll be extended.

NHL coaches have a shorter shelf-life than ever these days. After taking over for Andy Murray after New Year’s Day 2010, Payne has a 61-48-15 record in 124 career NHL games. More importantly, he is 0-2 in the playoff department—as in zero playoff appearances. The first season wasn’t necessarily his fault since he only coached half the season and the second season was marred by injuries, but sooner or later the coach will be asked to overcome adversity or find a new job. This may be the season where push comes to shove for Payne.

Adding to Payne’s pressure is the way the Blues started last season. After twelve games, they were sitting on top of the league with a 9-1-2 record. Not only were they winning games—they were beating teams that were destined for the playoffs like the Flyers, Ducks, Penguins, Predators, and Blackhawks. Payne admitted that the quick start may have set expectations to an impossibly high standard:

“9-1-2, I don’t know if anyone finished at that pace. Was it realistic that you were going to carry (that pace) through 82 (games)? Probably not. It was a good start. It was what we needed to do to build that assurance as to how we were going to play and the way we were going to play was going to create success.

“If everybody’s whole and intact the entire year, I see no reason for that type of success, maybe not at quite that level, to continue. … We felt as we finished, there’s teams that are starting (the playoffs Wednesday) that we could go head-to-head with and feel pretty good about it.”

Payne and the Blues will hope to get off to another quick this start—only they’ll hope they learned from last year’s mistakes and play with more consistency. The organization expects veteran additions like Jaime Langenbrunner and Jason Arnott to help the team right the ship during any rough spots and a new captain should give the team strong leadership. This is a team that has shown potential over the last few years—but it’s time for the players to start filling the potential with their play on the ice.

If not, the players and coaches alike could be looking for a new start in a new city.

After missing on Ducks gig, Richardson lands with Hockey Canada

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Luke Richardson, the former player and bench boss that interviewed for Anaheim’s vacant head coaching gig this summer, has caught on with Hockey Canada as an assistant coach for the upcoming Deutschland Cup, per the Ottawa Sun.

Richardson, 47, is considered to be a quality NHL coach-in-waiting.

A veteran d-man with over 1,400 games played in Toronto, Edmonton, Philly, Columbus, Tampa Bay and Ottawa, he’s since enjoyed success as both an assistant coach with the Sens, and as their bench boss in AHL Binghamton.

In his first year with Bingo, Richardson led the club to a 44-21-1-7 record. He was named the AHL’s Eastern Conference all-star coach in his second year.

Richardson’s been praised for his work developing young prospects. Upon departing the Sens organization this summer — he asked GM Pierre Dorion to be considered for the head coaching gig in Ottawa, but was turned down — the club noted that 13 of Richardson’s players were recalled from Binghamton last season.

Earlier, Richardson received accolades for his work with the likes of Mark Stone, Mike Hoffman and Jean-Gabriel Pageau.

Unsurprisingly, he’s been linked to a variety of NHL jobs.

Richardson was considered a frontrunner for the Sabres gig that eventually went to Dan Bylsma and, as mentioned above, was shortlisted and interviewed by Ducks GM Bob Murray to replace Bruce Boudreau (the job eventually went to Randy Carlyle).

“My confidence grew when I was with Binghamton and I have a plan about how to be successful in the NHL,” Richardson said, per the Sun. “But there are only 30 jobs and you’ve got to be patient.

“It’s unfortunate that if you do get a chance, it’s at somebody else’s expense, but I know that if I sign somewhere, I would immediately be on the clock, too.”

Taking a tourney gig with Hockey Canada has proven an effective way to break into — or, back into — NHL coaching. Guy Boucher led Canada at the 2014 and 2015 Spengler Cups, and subsequently scored the Sens gig this summer.

Stecher to make NHL debut for Canucks

BOSTON, MA - APRIL 09: Troy Stecher #2 of North Dakota skates against the Boston University Terriers during the third period of the 2015 NCAA Division I Men's Hockey Championship semifinals at TD Garden on April 9, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.The Boston Terriers defeat North Dakota 5-3.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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It didn’t take long for the injury bug to bite the Vancouver Canucks again. Head coach Willie Desjardins announced this morning that forwards Alex Burrows and Derek Dorsett were expected to miss 7-10 days, each with undisclosed ailments, and that defenseman Chris Tanev was day-to-day after getting banged up Sunday in Anaheim.

Of the three injured players, Tanev has by far the biggest role. The 26-year-old typically logs 20 minutes on the top pairing with Alex Edler. Tonight against Ottawa, Tanev will be replaced by rookie Troy Stecher, who will be making his NHL debut.

Stecher, 22, signed with the Canucks in April after three years at the University of North Dakota. He had an impressive preseason but was sent down to AHL Utica to start the year.

“Playing with Edler, certainly he’s going to get some hard match-ups,” said Desjardins, who opted to keep his other two defensive pairings together. Vancouver’s second pairing is Ben Hutton with Erik Gudbranson, its third is Luca Sbisa with Philip Larsen.

Another former college star, Jayson Megna, will make his Canucks debut tonight, stepping in for Burrows on the fourth line.

As for Nikita Tryamkin, the big Russian d-man is expected to be a healthy scratch for the seventh time in seven games.

“He’s still on the program,” said Desjardins. “We’re still trying to get him to where we want him to be. He’s not quite there yet.”

Tryamkin, 22, has refused to accept an assignment to the AHL.

Investor offers to build Seattle arena without public financing


From King 5 News in Seattle:

Chris Hansen and his investment team on Tuesday offered to forgo public financing to build a new sports arena in Seattle’s SoDo neighborhood.

The group also said it would cover the current funding gap to build an overpass over Lander Street, a project long desired by freight and industrial interests concerned about congestion in around the Port of Seattle.

The proposal amounts to a stunning and swift turn in the nearly five-year debate over building a new arena and, ultimately, bringing a professional basketball and hockey team to the city.

Be sure to click on the story for all the details. These stories are rarely simple, and there’s still no guarantee that Hansen and his group will get permission to build their new arena.

But suffice to say, if a new arena does get built, Seattle will have a much better chance of landing an NHL franchise. Hansen has said he’s only interested in owning an NBA franchise, but back in 2014, billionaire Victor Coleman was reportedly working with Hansen to land an NHL tenant. It’s not clear if Coleman is still working with Hansen.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman has said that Seattle is not a consideration for relocation or expansion until there’s a suitable arena.


— Bettman rejects notion that the NHL is waiting for Seattle

— Pacific Northwest will ‘get serious consideration’ for expansion or relocation


Goalie nods: Subban to make second career start

Malcolm Subban

Plenty of noteworthy starts on a busy night — 11 games! — but let’s focus on the situation in Boston.

Yes, again.

Malcolm Subban will make his first start of the season and second of his NHL career when the Bruins host the Wild at TD Garden.

Guaranteed he’s hoping this one goes better than the last.

Subban lasted half a game in a loss to St. Louis last February, allowing three goals on just six shots before getting hooked. This test against Minnesota will be a tall one, especially given how Subban’s brief time in the AHL has gone — the former first-round pick is 0-3-1 with Providence this year, posting a 4.50 GAA and .846 save percentage.

As we wrote earlier, both Tuukka Rask and Anton Khudobin are injured, meaning Subban’s goalie mate in the American League — Zane McIntyre — will serve as Boston’s backup.

For the Wild, Devan Dubnyk gets the start.


— Justin Peters will make his first start for the Coyotes, who are in New Jersey. The Devils will go with Cory Schiender, after he stopped 28 of 29 shots in a win over Minnesota on Saturday.

James Reimer gives Roberto Luongo a night off as the Panthers visit Pittsburgh. He’ll be up against Marc-Andre Fleury, who continues to shoulder a heavy load with Matt Murray (hand) still out.

— It’s Cam Ward versus Petr Mrazek as the ‘Canes visit Detroit.

— The Bolts will go with Ben Bishop (even though Andrei Vasilevskiy will get more starts) in Toronto. No word on a Leafs starter yet, but it’s expected Frederik Andersen will go. Mike Babcock fielded some questions about Andersen this morning, in case you missed it.

Anders Nilsson makes his first start of the season for the Sabres tonight. Philly has yet to announce who’s going.

— After getting parked for the first meeting against his old team, Brian Elliott will start in goal for the Flames in St. Louis. Carter Hutton gives Jake Allen the night off for the Blues.

— It’s Michael Hutchinson versus Antti Niemi as the Jets take on the Stars in the first of a home-and-home set.

— Ottawa will give Craig Anderson the nod in Vancouver. No word on a Canucks starter yet — Ryan Miller and Jacob Markstrom split back-to-back games in Anaheim and Los Angeles over the weekend, with Miller playing in Sunday’s loss to the Ducks.

Martin Jones is going for the Sharks tonight, as they host the Ducks. Anaheim has yet to announce a starter.

— The in-form Sergei Bobrovsky, fresh off Saturday’s shutout of Dallas, goes for the Blue Jackets in Los Angeles. Peter Budaj was first off at the Kings’ morning skate. He’s been getting the job done for L.A. thus far, with both Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff out with injury.