Scott Arniel

The Big Question: Which coach will be fired first?

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The Big Question will be a weekly feature on PHT where we ask a question, provide some background and ask you, the reader, to weigh in with your opinions.

Today’s question: Which current NHL coach will be fired first? 

Let’s play vulture. Here are the candidates:

Scott Arniel (Columbus) – One win over the Ducks isn’t going to get Arniel off the hot seat, even though the Blue Jackets have denied a report that Ken Hitchcock is on the verge of moving behind the bench. Columbus (2-9-1) plays Toronto Thursday and Philadelphia Saturday, after which the team has four days off. Plenty of time to hold a press conference in that span.

John Tortorella (NY Rangers) – On Saturday, his team blew a three-goal, third-period lead on home ice to the Ottawa Senators. On Sunday, it was reported Sean Avery was being re-called from the AHL, presumably to give the Rangers a much-needed infusion of energy. Was bringing Avery back a desperation move? Maybe, maybe not. Mike Rupp has a knee injury and Dale Weise was waived and picked up by Vancouver a few weeks ago, so the Rangers’ options for energy types were limited. At the same time, Torts has been the team’s coach since the latter half of the 2008-09 season and doesn’t have much to show for his time behind the bench. Plus, he’s pretty grouchy.

Claude Noel (Winnipeg) – The Jets really don’t want to fire their coach a month into the club’s inaugural season in a new city, especially considering they only hired him in June. But with a 3-6-1 record and the “chaos” that came with the team’s slow start, it’s still a situation worth monitoring.

Brent Sutter (Calgary) – The Flames (4-4-1) haven’t exactly come flying out of the gate, and with a new general manager (Jay Feaster) that’s looking to put his stamp on a team that’s missed the playoffs two straight seasons with Sutter behind the bench, well, you do the math.

Jacques Martin (Montreal) – The Habs have won three in a row since their nightmare 1-5-2 start that led to the dismissal of assistant coach Perry Pearn. Things look a lot better now, but Martin isn’t out of the woods yet. Montreal plays four of its next five on the road and could easily be back in panic mode soon.

Paul Maurice (Carolina) – You could argue he doesn’t have a ton to work with – the ‘Canes have one of the NHL’s lowest payrolls. But that hasn’t been a problem for Dallas, Colorado, Ottawa or Florida so far. Nor has it been a problem for Barry Trotz or Dave Tippett in recent years. The Hurricanes have missed the playoffs the past two seasons with Maurice in charge, and they’re not in a playoff position today.

Davis Payne (St. Louis) – The Blues are a talented team that really needs to make the playoffs after failing to qualify the past two seasons. Payne took over from Andy Murray halfway through the 2009-10 season. He’s not the new guy anymore. The schedule-makers didn’t do the Blues (5-6-0) any favors with two tough four-game road trips in October, but with five of their next six at home, Payne needs some wins starting now.

Thoughts? Are we missing any?

Sharks grind out win, make life difficult for Kings

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If the San Jose Sharks and Los Angeles Kings meet again, it will be in the playoffs. If they do so, the Sharks will hold quite a bit of a recent edge.

They defeated them in the first round of the 2016 playoffs and won the 2016-17 season series with the Kings after beating L.A. in a tight 3-2 affair on Wednesday.

During a week where leads have been flimsy and goals came in flurries, this one started off pretty hot. The Sharks generated a 2-1 lead in the first period, and then the two teams exchanged goals in the second, with Joe Pavelski‘s goal ultimately standing as the game-winner.

The Sharks won after a scoreless third period, keeping them in a position to take back first place in the Pacific Division:

1. Ducks – 59 points in 47 games
2. Oilers – 57 in 47
3. Sharks – 56 in 45

San Jose has an opportunity to make up that ground with its games in hand. The Kings, on the other hand, see their margin of error for a wild card spot dwindling:

Second wild card spot: Kings, 48 points in 45 games

Canucks – 48 in 46
Predators – 47 in 44
Stars – 46 in 46
Jets – 46 in 48

The Sharks made life easier for themselves while making it tougher for the Kings. If that’s the end of their interactions for 2016-17, Sharks fans should be quite happy.

Red Wings rally by Bruins in another game that evokes the Eighties

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Things looked pretty grim for the Detroit Red Wings after the Boston Bruins chased Jared Coreau from the net with a quick 3-0 lead. Maybe the Red Wings took note that this has been a weird, high-scoring week in the NHL, because they rallied back and eventually won 6-5 via a shootout.

To recap the zaniest games of each day from this odd few days of hockey:

Monday: The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the Washington Capitals 8-7 in an overtime thriller.

Tuesday: The Dallas Stars managed to hold off the New York Rangers in a 7-6 victory. Plenty of weird things happened beyond all of those goals.

Wednesday: Red Wings storm back from that 3-0 deficit to eventually win.

Games like these can be a nightmare for coaches and goalies on both sides, yet Claude Julien was probably especially steamed by this one.

The Bruins were up 3-0, 4-1 and 5-4 but the Red Wings kept fighting back. As a defensive-minded coach, Julien couldn’t have been happy with his team’s play.

(That’s the coach’s answer to slamming a video game controller in a frustrating loss.)

Fitting in with this week’s other wilder contests, there were flurries of goals even beyond the trio that quickly gave Coreau the boot. The Red Wings warped a 4-1 Bruins lead to a 4-4 tie with three goals in a little more than 10 minutes of time.

Adam McQuaid then regained Boston’s lead 21 seconds after it was tied, but the Red Wings didn’t give up. Instead, they applied a ton of pressure in the third period until Gustav Nyquist tied it up with about three minutes left.

Detroit still has a long way to go to protect its remarkable playoff streak, especially when teams like the Bruins can at least salvage “charity points” with losses. If the Red Wings want to make an unlikely push, they’ll need to show the kind of resolve that was on display on yet another wild night in the NHL.

Pavelec makes highlight reel save, gets win in return to Jets’ net

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MARCH 28:  Ondrej Pavelec #31 of the Winnipeg Jets dives across to make a first period save against the Philadelphia Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center on March 28, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Flyers defeated the Jets 3-2 in overtime.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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With an expiring contract, Ondrej Pavelec’s time with the Winnipeg Jets is nearing an end. Plenty of Jets fans would say, mercifully.

Still, he did return to the Winnipeg Jets net on Wednesday for his first NHL appearance since April 9, 2016, to mostly successful results. The Jets beat the Arizona Coyotes 6-3, for one thing.

Beyond that, it probably felt like a typical Pavelec start for many Jets fans, though some would contest that it would also need to involve a loss.

There were those regrettable moments, like giving up a goal right away:

Even his critics would probably agree that Pavelec does have a knack for making breathtaking saves:

It’s unclear how many more times we’ll see Pavelec play for the Jets (or an NHL team in general). His performance – if given more chances – in the near future may determine that answer.

If nothing else, his 2016-17 debut felt pretty fitting.

Connor McDavid hits the 100-point mark, scores OT-winner (or did he?)

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 08: Connor McDavid #97 of the Edmonton Oilers skates with the puck against the Philadelphia Flyers in the third period at Wells Fargo Center on December 8, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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PHT brings you the hard-hitting math, as you know, so here’s the latest burst: Connor McDavid is more than a point-per-game player.

You see, he scored the 100th point of his promising NHL career, and he did so in just his 92nd career game on Wednesday. Let us remind you that he’s just 20 years old (and he turned 20 on Jan. 13). Yeah.

Point 100 came on via an assist on a Zack Kassian goal as the Edmonton Oilers went up 1-0 against the Florida Panthers.

Here’s the clip:

Update: There’s debate regarding whether McDavid’s overtime-winner should have counted or not, but either way, it’s impressive that he generated a goal and an assist after hitting the 100-point mark. So it’s now 102 points in 92 games.

Here’s that contested goal: