Alain Vigneault

Here’s an (updated) list of available NHL coaching candidates

11 Comments

With the Canucks having severed ties with Alain Vigneault, there are now three NHL head-coaching opportunities available: Vancouver, Dallas and Colorado.

And there are about five times the number of potential applicants.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at the coaching candidate landscape.

Lindy Ruff: Has been mentioned for pretty much every job that’s come available. The most experienced candidate in the field — at the time of his dismissal in Buffalo, he sat 12th on the all-time wins list (571). But for all that experience, no Stanley Cup.

Alain Vigneault: He and Ruff are the only two Jack Adams winners since 2004 that are currently unemployed. List of accolades for Vigneault is long, and he’s posted at least a .610 winning percentage in each of the last five years. But for all that winning, no Stanley Cup.

Willie Desjardins: The head coach of Dallas’ AHL affiliate in Texas, Desjardins is well-regarded and won the American League’s coach of the year award in 2013.

Mark Reeds: A bit of a darkhorse candidate (first mentioned as a possibility for the Vancouver job by Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos), Reeds is currently serving as one of Paul MacLean’s assistants in Ottawa. A former NHLer, Reeds joined the Sens after a successful career coaching OHL Owen Sound.

Paul Maurice: The former Carolina and Toronto bench boss recently left his post with KHL Metallurg, and could be eying a return to the NHL.

Patrick Roy: As you may have read on this very site, Roy is reportedly close to signing on to coach his former club, the Colorado Avalanche. The knock against Roy is that he’s temperamental — but he has done a solid job coaching QMJHL Quebec, never finishing with less than a .564 winning percentage.

Dave Tippett: One of the most successful NHL coaches over the last 10 years, Tippett currently finds himself in limbo with the Coyotes. He’s reportedly in meetings with GM Don Maloney about his future with the club — his contract expires in June — and, earlier this week, told Fox Sports Arizona that the plan is to “just stay in a holding pattern until the end of June and see how things work out.”

Dallas Eakins: With his Toronto Marlies now eliminated from Calder Cup contention, Eakins — one of the American League’s best coaches over the last few years — looks like a guy ready to make the jump to the NHL. “I’m fully aware there’s been some coaching changes and there’s opportunities out there,” Eakins said, per the Globe and Mail’s James Mirtle. “Will we look at them? Absolutely.”

Others: Scott Arniel (former Columbus coach, currently with AHL Chicago), John Hynes (head coach AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton), Mark French (head coach AHL Hershey), Mike Kitchen (former St. Louis coach, currently a Blackhawks assistant), Guy Boucher (former Tampa Bay head coach).

Stamkos close to game shape, but return might be weeks or months away

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) competes in the hardest shot competition at the NHL hockey All-Star game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
AP Photo
1 Comment

Steve Stamkos began to practice again on Tuesday and he was back out there on Wednesday and Thursday, which some might interpret as him being close to returning. It seems premature to say that definitively.

“It could be weeks. It could be months,” Stamkos said of his timetable, per ESPN. “That’s the tough part.”

The problem isn’t getting back into game shape after undergoing vascular surgery in early April. He feels he’s already close to reaching that objective. The issue is that Stamkos is on blood thinners, which prevents him from taking any contact. It remains to be seen how long he’ll be on blood thinners.

For what it’s worth, Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy underwent the same surgery and was out for two months and the original timetable provided on April 4 for Stamkos was one-to-three months. So based on that, it sounds like it would be surprising if he returned anytime soon.

Bergeron, Kesler, Kopitar named Selke finalists

Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron celebrates after scoring against the Montreal Canadiens during the second period of an NHL hockey game Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)
The Canadian Press via AP
Leave a comment

Will Patrice Bergeron join Bob Gainey as the only players to have ever won the Selke Trophy four times?

That’s a distinct possibility after the Bruins center was named as a finalist along with Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler and Los Angeles’ Anze Kopitar.

The Selke Trophy honors the league’s top defensive forward and for three of the last four years, that distinction has gone to Bergeron. However, Kesler and Kopitar have been popular with the voters of this award as well.

Kopitar has finished second in the voting in each of the previous two campaigns while Kesler won back in 2011, though he finished outside of the top-five in each of the last three years prior to the 2015-16 campaign.

Among the trio, Kesler excelled this season on the draw with a 58.5% success rate, which was good for second in the league among forwards who took at least 200 faceoffs. Bergeron was up there too, winning 57.1% of his draws while Kopitar posted a 53.5%. Meanwhile, Bergeron ranked seventh in the NHL with 67 takeaways compared to Kesler’s 39 and Kopitar’s 43. Where Kopitar stood out was in plus/minus as he finished second in the league at plus-34. Kesler was plus-five and Bergeron was plus-12.

Kopitar similarly led the trio with a 57.4% Corsi For versus Bergeron’s 55.9% and Kesler’s 52.9%.

Capitals get Orpik back for series opener

Washington Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik (44) celebrates his goal with teammates on the bench during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Saturday, Feb. 20, 2016, in Washington. The Capitals won 4-3. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
AP Photo
2 Comments

Capitals defenseman Brooks Orpik missed half of Washington’s first round series, but he’s back in time for the opener against his former team.

Orpik last played on April 18 and was regarded as questionable going into tonight’s contest against Pittsburgh. He’s expected to be paired with John Carlson throughout the contest.

Washington’s other projected pairings are Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen as well as Dmitry Orlov and Nate Schmidt.

Orpik was limited to 41 games during the 2015-16 regular season, but when he did play he averaged 19:48 minutes per contest. He also recorded 125 hits and 102 blocked shots despite missing half the season. The 35-year-old blueliner got his start with Pittsburgh and played in 703 regular season contests with them and an additional 92 postseason contests. This is his second season with Washington.

Wild GM Fletcher undecided on Vanek buyout, but notes ‘our cap situation is much better this year’

Minnesota Wild left wing Thomas Vanek controls the puck during NHL hockey training camp in St. Paul, Minn., Friday, Sept. 18, 2015. (AP Photo/Ann Heisenfelt)
AP Photo
1 Comment

Thomas Vanek hopes he’s not bought out, but his rough 2015-16 campaign has made that a possibility.

Wild GM Chuck Fletcher certainly isn’t ruling it out, but at the same time he also presented an assessment for Vanek that was in a way more of a mixed than negative review.

“I thought Thomas in October and November was arguably our best forward – or certainly played as well as any body on our team,” Fletcher said, per the StarTribune. “He seemed to lose confidence. But I thought he really shot the puck well and did a lot of great things early. And there’s no question he pressed after that and then got banged up. He’s a goal scorer and we need to find a way to score more goals. Our cap situation is much better this year.”

That last point is particularly relevant given that a buyout essentially boils down to missing out on the chance of Vanek bouncing back in exchange for some short-term cap relief. To put figures on it, buying out Vanek would save Minnesota $5 million in cap space for the 2016-17 campaign, but then it will cost Minnesota $2.5 million in 2017-18, per General Fanager.

With Vanek in the books, the Wild are projected to consume $63.8 million in cap space next season and that figure doesn’t including pending restricted free agents Jason Zucker, Jordan Schroeder, Zac Dalpe, Matt Dumba, or Darcy Kuemper. If the 2016-17 ceiling is $74 million, as has been previously suggested, then it seems reasonable to believe that Minnesota can lock up its RFAs, keep Vanek, and still have some flexibility left over to engage in other changes over the summer. Although obviously gaining an extra $5 million would make it easier for them to make more sizable moves.

“I’m much more comfortable with our flexibility this year than last year. It’s going to give us more options,” Fletcher said.

The plan is for Fletcher to take a couple weeks before deciding on what to do with Vanek.

Related: No Chemistry issues or character problems here, says Wild GM