Should Toronto give Ron Wilson an extension?

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Michael Traikos of the National Post has opined that the Toronto Maple Leafs — off to their best start since 1994 — should extend the contract of head coach Ron Wilson.

“Does this earn the beleaguered head coach his contract extension? We certainly think so. After all, the Leafs are a Northeast Division-leading 9-3-1. Flip that record around — 3-9-1 — and people would undoubtedly be calling for Wilson’s head right now,” Traikos writes. “So why not reward him? Why not give Wilson, who is in the final year of a four-year contract, more time to continue growing this team? Why not let him breathe a little easier?”

It’s not a horrible idea, even though the Leafs have been subpar (at best) for most of Wilson’s tenure.

That said, his coaching history shows a tendency for success in years four and five:

In Anaheim: Best season was his fourth and final one — 36-33-13, 85 points, first playoff appearance.

In Washington: Best seasons were third/fourth — back-to-back division crowns.

In San Jose: Best seasons were fourth/fifth — 107 and 108 points respectively.

This is Wilson’s fourth season in Toronto and based on and based on an admittedly small sample size, his best. Toronto has won games despite playing without starting goalie James Reimer and No. 1 center Tim Connolly for large stretches. Phil Kessel looks great, Dion Phaneuf looks great and the team is getting contributions from everywhere (see: Crabb, Joey and Scrivens, Ben.)

That said — we’re only 13 games into the season. Still haven’t hit the quarter pole. Which means you have to take the following into account:

— The Leafs have defeated exactly three playoff teams from a year ago (the Rangers, Habs and Penguins.)

— The Leafs have yet to leave the Eastern time zone.

— The Leafs have the NHL’s worst penalty kill.

— Luke Schenn is playing less than 10 minutes a game.

— 30-goal scorer Nikolai Kulemin has just two goals.

Now look, this isn’t to urinate on the parade or anything — the Leafs are off to a tremendous start and should be applauded — but there’s a reason GM Brian Burke likes to wait at least 20 games before assessing his team’s performance.

In 2010, Colorado started 12-7-1 but finished 29th in the standings. In 2009, Columbus started 12-6-2 but ended up firing Ken Hitchcock and missing the playoffs. Getting off to a good start is great, but maintaining it is far more important.

Wilson deserves a lot of credit, but an extension? It’s way too early for that.

Should Erik Johnson be suspended for ugly play on Namestnikov?

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Vladislav Namestnikov has been the Mikael Renberg equivalent on the Tampa Bay Lightning’s Legion of Doom with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov for much of this season, complimenting those two scorers with strong work of his own.

The Lightning were lighting up the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night, perhaps frustrating Erik Johnson and others. Whatever the explanation might be, it was a pretty ugly sight when Johnson slashed and then boarded Namestnikov, earning those two penalties plus a game misconduct.

Plenty of people believe that supplemental discipline would be merited for Johnson’s actions. For what it’s worth, “Names” did return to action in the third period. We’ve seen instances where players return only to be hurt anyway, so we’ll see if the nifty winger sees any delayed issues.

Johnson, 29, was suspended for two games by the NHL back in 2014, but has a generally clean history otherwise.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Senators blank Canadiens in NHL 100 Classic

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One win, even in the frosty outdoors for the NHL 100 Classic, only means so much.

Still, the Ottawa Senators probably experienced some ice-cold relief on Saturday, beating the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 during a tightly defended outdoor bout.

It was 0-0 for much of the game until Jean-Gabriel Pageau tipped an Erik Karlsson shot for the first goal with about five minutes remaining in the second period. Bobby Ryan then capitalized on a rough Jonathan Drouin turnover to make it 2-0, while an empty-netter iced the icy evening for Ottawa.

For a night, it was a fun time, and Karlsson reminded us what all the fuss is about, as he logged a ridiculous 32:55 of ice time. And he seemed to be having a good time doing it.

This night laid the “Canadian” on thick, with Bryan Adams performing during the event, and Gary Bettman posing for photos with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?

via Getty

Weird, but OK then.

Generally speaking, things haven’t been that OK for the Senators lately. Such headaches did surface during this frosty-mug-on-ice event, as owner Eugene Melnyk inspired a #Melnykout hashtag on Twitter, not to mention icy barbs like these.

Fair criticisms about the Sens’ bigger picture aside, Ottawa looked nice tonight, with Karlsson shining and Craig Anderson pitching a rare shutout outdoors (shutoutdoors)?

Carey Price generated some nice saves of his own, but couldn’t will Montreal to win in his 10th consecutive start. The Habs rarely got things going against the Senators, seen most easily in Ottawa’s 38-28 advantage in shots on goal.

Nights like these make a bigger impact on fans’ memories and bottom lines, but this marks consecutive wins for the Senators either way. Considering the fact that the Senators hadn’t put back-to-back wins together since they faced the Avalanche in two contests in Sweden, it might not be a big deal, yet it’s far better than the nothing they’ve been coming up with far too often lately.

Also

In other news from the event, Mario Lemieux’s “five goals, five different ways” was named as the NHL’s greatest moment, voted by fans:

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Sadly, Capitals aren’t selling this collection of Christmas songs

via Capitals
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Let’s be honest, virtually any time a team gets its players to embrace a holiday theme, it’s in the name of goofiness. And bless NHL teams for this.

When it comes to Movember, you get the fantastic combination of mustaches and charitable contributions.

The holidays are rapidly approaching (hey, I see that Amazon tab open), so we’ll start to see various New Year’s/Christmas/Festivus/etc.-themed fun. Even with that in mind, the Washington Capitals will be tough to top with their collection of Christmas tunes.

Sadly, there’s no Volume 1:

Question: which performance stood out to you the most? While Braden Holtby was fantastic (with a Tomas Plekanec-level turtleneck game), the simple entertainment of watching Alex Ovechkin sing is tough to top.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

 

Video: Michael Grabner totally meant to do this for Rangers

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Depending upon how things go for each team, the New York Rangers and Boston Bruins may very well grapple for a wild-card spot in the East.

Thankfully, it won’t come down to Michael Grabner‘s deeply weird, memorable, and fun goal against Tuukka Rask, a “bank” goal that Grabner totally meant to do. Right?

(Watch that goal in the video above this post’s headline.)

That was Grabner’s 16th goal of 2017-18, which isn’t half-bad for a guy carrying a $1.65 million cap hit this season. Prediction: the speedy winger will cost quite a bit more than that in 2018-19.

As you can see in this video, Alain Vigneault points to Grabner gathering steam in his second season with the Rangers as part of the reason this team is turning things around:

J.T. Miller added a beauty of a goal to make it 2-0, but the Bruins dug deep to tie it 2-2, so we’ll see how the rest of that game goes.

Update: The Rangers ended up edging the Bruins 3-2 in overtime thanks to Mats Zuccarello‘s patient, OTPPGWG.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.