Drew LeBlanc’s year just keeps getting better.
On Wednesday, the Chicago Blackhawks — who signed LeBlanc on the same day he won the Hobey Baker — announced he’d be making his NHL debut against Edmonton tonight.
The news had to come as a surprise to the 23-year-old St. Cloud State product.
Last week, he told the Chicago Sun-Times he didn’t expect to suit up for the ‘Hawks this season, having only joined the club one day after his collegiate career ended (with a Frozen Four semifinal loss to Quinnipiac.)
“No,” LeBlanc replied when asked if he expected to see any playing time. “I’m just here to work hard, have fun, take it all in, learn what it’s like to be a professional and get as many pointers as possible.”
He’s going to get a lot more than that.
According to Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune, LeBlanc will center Patrick Kane and Patrick Sharp against the Oilers, which is a pretty good way to kick off your professional career.
The move to insert LeBlanc makes sense on a number of fronts.
One, the ‘Hawks have little to play for with just three games left in the season — they’ve already clinched first overall in the Western Conference and winning the Presidents’ Trophy is a formality at this point (a victory of any kind tonight will clinch it.)
The move also makes sense due to LeBlanc’s playing status being in limbo.
He was ineligible to join AHL Rockford because he signed after the trade deadline (Rockford’s season is now over), which also made him ineligible for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Travis Green has never coached in the NHL, not even as an assistant.
But a lengthy career as a player, followed by success as a head coach in the WHL and AHL, has left him feeling prepared to take the next step.
“I think I’m ready,” Green told Postmedia yesterday. “Every job in the NHL is worth its weight in gold, and I would have 100 per cent interest at options with every team in the league. You hope all your qualities are enticing for one of them.”
After the Flames fired Bob Hartley yesterday, many are wondering if Green could be a candidate to take over in Calgary. Other head-coaching vacancies exist in Anaheim and Ottawa, and potentially Minnesota.
For the past three seasons, Green has been the head coach of the Utica Comets, the AHL affiliate of the Vancouver Canucks. Last year, the Comets made it all the way to the Calder Cup finals, an accomplishment that Green found particularly rewarding since “it wasn’t like we had an all-star team.”
While some GMs won’t risk hiring a coach without any NHL experience — they’d prefer a guy who’s been there before and knows what to expect — it’s worth noting that Jon Cooper didn’t have an NHL track record before he took over in Tampa Bay, and he’s done OK. Heck, Dave Hastol hadn’t even coached professionals before he landed the job in Philadelphia, and the Flyers seem pretty happy with him.
Green is under contract for one more season in Utica, but reportedly has an out-clause to pursue an NHL job.
Related: Will the Sens take a run at Kevin Dineen?
Any thought Tyler Seguin flying into St. Louis after last night’s 6-1 blowout loss was wiped out on Wednesday morning, as Stars head coach ruled out both Seguin and fellow forward Patrick Eaves for Game 4.
The decision comes after Ruff played a bit coy prior to Game 3. While he said neither Seguin nor Eaves would travel with the Stars, he noted both had resumed skating back in Dallas, adding “they have flights into St. Louis every day.”
Well, the airline schedule doesn’t much matter now.
Game 4 will be played at Scottrade tomorrow night, which means Stars fans clamoring for Seguin might need to look ahead to Game 5, and the potential implications at hand.
Should the Stars even up the series at two heading back to Dallas, Seguin could return for Game 5 and provide what would be a huge momentum swinger.
Should the Stars lose on Thursday and return home down 3-1, Seguin could be inserted into the lineup simply to stave off elimination.
Or, Seguin could not play at all.
Whatever the case, Dallas has a tall task at hand — and it goes well beyond surviving life without No. 91. The club has allowed 10 goals over the last two games, and seems to have an issue in goal, where neither Antti Niemi nor Kari Lehtonen has played especially well.
Former Tampa Bay Lightning player Dave Andreychuk is now a member of the club’s senior management team, and he’s confident that the Bolts won’t lose Steven Stamkos to unrestricted free agency this summer.
“Steven is going to come back. He’s going to be fine,” Andreychuk told Hockey Central today, per Sportsnet.ca.
“I still believe that Steve Yzerman is trying whatever he can do to sign Steven Stamkos, and I believe it will happen.”
Andreychuk — whose official title is VP Corporate & Community Affairs — is not part of the Lightning’s hockey operations, but presumably he speaks with Yzerman, the general manager, from time to time.
Of course, the challenge for Yzerman goes well beyond re-signing the captain. Even with an owner that’s willing to spend to the cap, it simply may not be possible to keep Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ben Bishop, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, and Jonathan Drouin.
All eight of those players need new contracts this summer or next.
Stamkos, Hedman, and Bishop are pending UFAs, while the other five are pending RFAs.
A report out of Sweden says that defenseman Gustav Forsling has signed an entry-level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.
For the past two seasons, Forsling has been with Linkopings HC of the Swedish Hockey League. In 2015-16, the 19-year-old had six goals and 15 assists in 48 games.
A fifth-round pick of the Canucks in 2014, Forsling was a star at the 2015 World Juniors, where he had eight points (3G, 5A) in seven games for Sweden. He was traded to Chicago in return for Adam Clendening.
“He’s an offensive defenseman that plays very well on the power play and has a big shot,” said Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman upon Forsling’s acquisition.
Assuming the report is accurate, Forsling can probably count on starting his North American career in the AHL.
The Blackhawks are hoping to graduate Rockford d-man Ville Pokka to the NHL next season.
Related: Three major challenges facing the Chicago Blackhawks