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

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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).

Pre-game reading: Does the NHL’s playoff format need fixing?

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— Up top, Brian Boucher and Mike Milbury have their say on NHL participation in the Olympics, something Gary Bettman continues to put into doubt.

— At least fans can still be certain there will be playoff hockey. That being said, does the NHL’s format need fixing? Because as it stands right now, at least one of Washington, Pittsburgh, or Columbus is guaranteed to be gone after the first round, and only one of those three can survive past the second round. The Capitals, Penguins, and Blue Jackets are first, second, and third in the overall standings, respectively. Hence, the debate. (The Washington Post)

— The Caps take on the Blue Jackets tonight in D.C., and Barry Trotz is looking forward to the fight for playoff positioning. The Caps, you’ll recall, coasted to first place in the Metro Division last season. But they can’t afford to coast now. “Having gone both routes now, I prefer this,” Trotz said. “Because it’s more meaningful. … It was in our hands too early last year, and I think it took a little edge off. You get too comfortable for too long, you get too soft.” (Washington Post)

— Don’t expect the NBA’s controversial practice of resting star players to become a common problem for the NHL. Said Canadiens captain Max Pacioretty: “I just think hockey’s a different kind of animal where I don’t think guys would want to do it. Guys are stubborn enough to probably fight it if they were asked and that’s how I would see that going down.” (Canadian Press)

— Why Dave Hakstol won’t be fired, by Flyers beat reporter Dave Isaac, who writes: “It took multiple pleas to woo Hakstol from a much more comfortable college job at the University of North Dakota. To fire Hakstol this early would be an admission from Hextall that this part of his grand plan — hiring the coach that he thought would grow with the roster — was wrong.” (Courier-Post)

William Nylander may sometimes get overshadowed in Toronto by fellow Maple Leafs rookies Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. But with 20 goals in 70 games, what Nylander has done is still very impressive. (The Hockey News)

Enjoy the games!

Bowling Green goalie Nell leaves school, signs with Rangers

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The Blueshirts added to their goaltending depth on Thursday, signing Bowling Green junior Chris Nell to an entry-level contract.

Nell, 22, just wrapped his junior campaign at Bowling Green, going 17-14-2 with a 2.15 GAA and .916 save percentage. This year, he became the school’s all-time leader in career shutouts, this after a terrific sophomore campaign in which he finished with a sparking 1.31 GAA and .930 save percentage.

An undrafted free agent, Nell now joins an organization with several young netminders in the mix. Mackenzie Skapski, a 2013 draftee, made his NHL debut two years ago but has struggled this season, splitting time between AHL Hartford and ECHL Greenville. Brandon Halverson, a second-rounder in ’14, has also split time between Hartford and Greenville, and was recently recalled to New York on an emergency basis.

New York has also drafted Russian netminder Igor Shesterkin (fourth round, ’14), Slovak Adam Huska (seventh round, ’15) and UMass-Lowell product Tyler Wall (sixth round, ’16).

 

On verge of missing playoffs, Red Wings aim to keep winning culture

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The Detroit Red Wings have no intention of tearing their roster down and undertaking a painful rebuild, a la the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Why not, you ask?

Because even though the Wings are going to miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, and even though their leading scorer (Henrik Zetterberg) is 36 years old, they don’t want to lose the culture that made them so successful over the past quarter century.

“There are organizations where they have lost culture,” said head coach Jeff Blashill, per the Detroit Free Press. “They have missed the playoffs, and they miss it 10 straight years. We don’t want to be in this position again. This isn’t OK. That is the approach we are taking every day.”

We have heard other teams say similar things. For example, the Vancouver Canucks. (Which won’t make Wings fans feel great to hear.)

While there’s nothing wrong with trying to maintain a winning culture, the biggest challenge the Wings have is a lack of talent — particularly on the back end.

That’s up to GM Ken Holland to solve, and solve relatively quickly, given his lack of appetite for a lengthy rebuild.

“We’re going to continue to try and be competitive, we’re going to continue to try and make the playoffs and our ultimate goal is to eventually be a Cup contender,” Holland said a few months ago.

“To me, rebuild means eight to 10 years, and there are teams that have made the playoffs one year in 10 while rebuilding.”

Related: It’s going to be a very different draft for the Red Wings

Yeo more surprised than anyone to learn of Stastny injury

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For the second time since taking over as head coach, Mike Yeo has lost the services Paul Stastny.

This time, though, Yeo was caught off guard.

“It may sound misleading, but it was a completely separate injury that kept him out of (Tuesday’s) game and one that we believed would have him possibly in the lineup for us tonight,” Yeo told the Post-Dispatch of Stastny’s lower-body ailment, which will keep him out week-to-week. “We were surprised to hear that this came about yesterday.

“Believe me, I was probably more surprised than all the fans out there. So it’s a difficult one, but one that we’ll have to overcome.”

Stastny was limited to less than four minutes of ice time during Tuesday’s 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche. Initially, Yeo indicated that the issue wasn’t serious — and it very well may not haven been — but that’s irrelevant now, as an entirely new issue could potentially sideline Stastny for the remainder of the regular season.

The Blues are in good shape for a playoff spot, up eight points on L.A., but are jockeying with Nashville for third spot in the Central Division (both head into tonight’s action with 83 points). St. Louis also has 10 games left.

There’s no denying Stastny’s absence will be felt. Back when he missed four games in early February, Yeo noted how integral he was to the club.

“He’s usually the first guy over the boards for a power-play faceoff or the first guy over the boards for a penalty-kill faceoff, and those are key,” Yeo said, per the Blues website. “He’s a very important player for us. You don’t take out a top-line center from too many lineups where they don’t feel that.”

Limited to just 66 games this season, Stastny has still managed to score 18 goals — third-most on the team — and 40 points. He also averages a healthy 19:08 TOI per night.