Over at the L.A. Times, longtime NHL scribe Helene Elliott caught up with the catalyst of the last Kings team to make the Stanley Cup finals: Wayne Gretzky.
No. 99, who currently resides in L.A., said he’s thoroughly enjoyed the Kings’ postseason and plans on attending the their first home game on June 4 — the first time a Stanley Cup finals game will be played in L.A. in 19 years.
“It’s been unreal what they’ve done and what they’ve accomplished so far,” he said. “It’s been fun to watch. It’s been spectacular. They’ve been without question the best team in the Western Conference in the first three rounds of the playoffs and they deserve the accolades they’re getting. It’s no fluke.”
Some other nuggets from the Great One:
— He heaped huge praise on Darryl Sutter and loves the way Sutter tweaked Terry Murray’s defensive gameplan with more aggressive forechecking and puck pursuit (which, if you’ve watched the Kings at all these playoffs, looks like a bunch of starved dogs going after a bone.)
— While he doesn’t want to mess with tradition, Gretzky thinks the NHL could revise the Jack Adams process. “You look at changing the coach of the year award and picking it after the Stanley Cup playoffs and not before the playoffs start, I think [Sutter] would win in a landslide.”
— Gretzky thinks the current Kings are a “much better team than we were in ’93.” He has a point, especially when it comes to opponents. That Kings team finished 39-35-10 — 88 points, and caught some lucky breaks along the way: Chicago, the West’s top seed, lost in Round 1 to St. Louis. Same went for the No. 2 seed, Detroit, who lost to Toronto.
A far cry from the 2011-12 Kings, who knocked off the No. 1 (Vancouver), No. 2 (St. Louis) and No. 3 (Phoenix) seeds by themselves en route to the Cup final.
After the Boston Bruins squandered a 3-0 lead against the Detroit Red Wings and ultimately lost 6-5 via a shootout, plenty of fans and commenters had enough. Many called for Claude Julien’s head.
They might not be alone.
During the latest edition of TSN’s Insider Trading on Thursday, Bob McKenzie didn’t say that Julien was definitely going to be fired, but he said there’s a “credible threat” to the long-standing Bruins bench boss’ job security.
The phrase “impending doom” came up, too.
So … yeah, it sure sounds like Julien is on thin ice.
McKenzie indicates that Julien should be behind the bench on Friday and could improve his situation if he reels off some wins. That’s where things get extra interesting.
The Bruins play three of their next four games and seven of their next nine contests at home. Most of those games are against playoff-caliber teams, however, so it wouldn’t necessarily be “easy.” Still, the opportunities are there for the Bruins to solidify their spot in the East playoff picture.
Still, it sure sounds like the margin of error is pretty small for Julien, just as it might be for Boston in this playoff race.
Want more coaching hot seat talk from McKenzie? He also discussed Paul Maurice’s situation with the Winnipeg Jets on Wednesday:
New York Islanders fans probably needed a moment like this, even ones who are more than happy that Jack Capuano was let go.
It’s no surprise that John Tavares provided such a moment.
Watch in the video above as he makes an obscene move against Dallas Stars defenseman John Klingberg, and then finishes with some really nifty timing. Wow.
Tavares now has 17 goals this season, reinforcing the thought that the team’s struggles aren’t on him.
Now catch up on all of the drama surrounding the team:
Bob McKenzie updates on the fuzzy future for the Isles
Liam McHugh grills Garth Snow on a variety of burning questions
It’s been a tough season for both Anthony Duclair and the Arizona Coyotes. Even so, it’s still startling to see that he was demoted to the AHL on Thursday.
GM John Chayka explained the team’s logic for the demotion:
“Anthony is a good young player,” said Chayka. “Unfortunately, he has struggled this season. We felt this was a good time to send him to Tucson to work on a few things and hopefully regain his scoring touch. We hope to have him rejoin our team soon.”
Duclair’s been the subject of more than a few trade rumors, but this is probably the low point of a rough 2016-17 season for the 21-year-old.
It’s worth taking a second to consider the very different luck Duclair’s experienced in his breakout season last year vs. this one.
His shooting percentage was 19 in 2015-16, helping him score 20 goals on just 105 shots. By comparison, he’s only converted on 5.2 percent of his shots this year, nabbing three on 58.
In other words, Duclair’s work is probably somewhere between those extremes … but he’s also at that age where a player can make big leaps forward. So, it’s understandable that the Coyotes want to try to repair their prospect’s confidence, and it’s also reasonable that other teams might believe that they can get more out of him.
A trip to the AHL really might be good for his confidence but … still, wow.
Roman Josi told Swiss Hockey News.ch that he suffered a concussion from that Anton Blidh hit you can see in the video above, according to a translation passed along by the Tennessean.
So, that’s the bad news for the Nashville Predators. The good is that he also told that outlet that he might be able to return for the Preds sometime next week.
Josi, 26, has dealt with concussion issues before, making this report a concern for the long-term. Still, the possibility of a return so soon is definitely a positive.
Here’s what the next week and change looks like for Nashville:
Tonight: at Flames
Friday: at Oilers
Sunday: at Wild
Tuesday, Jan. 24: vs. Sabres
Thursday: vs. Blue Jackets
The Predators aren’t out of the West picture altogether, but they need to make the most of their opportunities. Much like the Bolts with Victor Hedman, Nashville’s hanging in there OK without one of their key guys, but every point counts. Getting Josi back would be huge.