Now that the St. Louis Blues have come out and Ken Hitchcock blocked the Columbus Blue Jackets, what now for the Jackets who were rumored to be thinking of replacing Scott Arniel with their one-time head coach? While Hitchcock was presumed to be their top option, they’re now left to look around elsewhere if a move at the top is on the way. But who?
Here’s our short list of potential candidates now that the Blues have swept through and stolen the Jackets’ idea.
Therrien hasn’t seen the light of day behind a NHL bench since being fired by Pittsburgh in 2009. Therrien’s defensive-minded style of coaching is similar enough to Hitchcock’s in that it would potentially help out Steve Mason. The big question is: Has Therrien grown up enough to lead such a young team? He was good enough to help set the Penguins up for glory, doing the same in Columbus would make him a savior.
Gordon was seen to have gotten a raw deal when he was fired by the Islanders and Gordon is still thought to be one of the brighter young minds out there. He’s coached Team USA at the World Championships and now he’s Ron Wilson’s assistant in Toronto. He’ll get another head job soon but would Columbus roll the dice? Tough to think they’d do that after doing the same with Arniel.
Clouston has a tough reputation after his time in Ottawa. He made Dany Heatley want out of town but he also took an otherwise brutally talented Sens team to the playoffs in 2009. He’s tough on his players but a very smart hockey man. He’s got a good gig coaching the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL, but if the NHL calls again he’d certainly answer. Much like Gordon, however, he might be seen as a roll of the dice.
Hey, why not? It seems like Payne got a raw deal in St. Louis after the myriad of injuries the Blues have seen and his record in St. Louis, all told, was good (67-55-15). While he didn’t get the overtime/shootout losses needed to keep things afloat this year, the Blues played hard for him and were a threat to make the playoffs late the last two seasons. If he can snap things around in Columbus, that’d be the ultimate payback to the Blues for stealing their plans.
He’s currently Arniel’s assistant right now and while Arniel likely didn’t feel the heat from that appointment before the season, perhaps that was the warning shot he needed. Richards struggled getting a system in place when he coached the Minnesota Wild for two seasons and having him fill Arniel’s shoes on an interim basis would likely be the easiest move to make. Whether that’s a long term fix, however, would be up for debate and might just be seen as a lateral move. The Jackets aren’t in need of a lateral move if they’re going to make the playoffs.
Wayne Simmonds is not only a productive power forward, but he’s one tough customer.
He showed that again Saturday, dropping the gloves with Miles Wood of the New Jersey Devils during the first period.
The fight occurred right after Wood drove Radko Gudas hard into the boards on the forecheck. The scrap didn’t last long, however, with Simmonds landing a few shots and then taking the Devils forward to the ice.
Simmonds was assessed an extra roughing minor.
The Chicago Blackhawks and L.A. Kings have made a minor league trade on Saturday.
The Blackhawks acquired forward Michael Latta, who has 113 games of NHL experience with the Washington Capitals, in exchange for defenseman Cameron Schilling.
Latta will report to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs, according to the Blackhawks. In 29 games this season with the Ontario Reign, Latta has two goals and six points.
Schilling, 28, is expected to be assigned to the Reign, the team said in a release.
In 40 games this season with the IceHogs, Schilling has seven goals and 17 points.
Make that three straight losses for the St. Louis Blues, who have only four wins in their last 10 games.
The Blues lost to the Winnipeg Jets by a final score of 5-3 on Saturday. Late attempts at a comeback from four goals down were fleeting and unsuccessful. Once in competition for the Central Division, St. Louis has fallen off the pace in these times of struggle and is now part of the pack fighting for a wild card spot in the West.
In the last three games, the Blues have given up 18 goals. Eighteen goals.
That is highly uncharacteristic of a Ken Hitchcock-coached team, and the Blues have been one of the stingiest clubs in the NHL over the last five years. Jake Allen‘s struggles have been well documented and he didn’t even travel with the team to Winnipeg.
These are difficult times for the Blues, who turned to Pheonix Copley, who had never started an NHL game before today, in goal versus the Jets.
Despite giving up five goals on 29 shots, Hitchcock praised the play of Copley. And he likes the amount of scoring chances his team is producing. But their own mistakes keep piling up, and they keep piling into the St. Louis net at what is now an alarming rate.
The Blues trailed 2-1 entering the third period, but gave up a Bryan Little power play goal just over two minutes later and they fell further behind. It was a critical moment in the game for St. Louis. The floodgates opened from there for the Jets.
“We left the game out there ,” Hitchcock told reporters.
“It’s tough. Quite frankly, we’re allowing too many goals against, obviously. Too many easy scoring chances. We’re getting scored on killing penalties now. If we clean up our own end, both five-on-five and five-on-four, it will help us a lot.”
Before the celebration of Henrik Sedin reaching 1,000 career points, there was plenty of concern for one of the Canucks’ top young players.
Late in the first period, Bo Horvat was skating behind the Florida net when he was struck in the back of the head by a Nikita Tryamkin slap shot. Horvat immediately hit the ice. He was down for a brief period, but did skate off under his own power.
The good news: He returned to the game after missing a brief time.
On Saturday, the Canucks sent out a photo showing the damage Horvat suffered — a fairly large cut to the back of his head, which required several stitches.
“I would assume he was forced out by the spotter,” said coach Willie Desjardins following Vancouver’s win on Friday. “Whenever you see something like that, you’ll probably check it out, especially if he was bleeding.”
“They took a look at him and he’s fine.”
More good news for the Canucks.
In his third NHL season, Horvat is emerging as a critical component of this team. He’s 21 years old, is tied with Henrik for the team lead in points, with 30 in 47 games, and is on his way to next weekend’s NHL All-Star event. Further to that, the Canucks are in a transition, with a younger core expected to eventually take over from the lasting members of the current core, most notably Daniel and Henrik Sedin, who are both 36 years old.
The Canucks are also in a fight for a playoff spot, and injury to one of their top centers, which Horvat is, would certainly make the hunt for the post-season that much more difficult.
Sitting one point out of the second wild card spot in the West, the Canucks begin a three-game road trip by facing the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday.