Lindy Ruff

Ruff reportedly in Dallas today for second interview

Former Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff is believed to be in Frisco, TX. today for a second interview regarding Dallas’ vacant head coaching gig, the Morning News reports.

Ruff is a frontrunner for the position, which Stars GM Jim Nill is expected to fill in the near future. It’s believed the organization would like a coach in place prior to the NHL Entry Draft (set to go on June 30) and the start of free agency (July 5) — and recent developments suggest Dallas is getting close to a decision.

One of its candidates, Alain Vigneault, already accepted the Rangers job. Dave Tippett sounds as though he’s close to re-upping with the Coyotes, and Dallas Eakins has agreed to take the Oilers’ head coaching gig.

But there is another candidate to consider — AHL Grand Rapids head coach Jeff Blashil.

Blashill had previously unavailable for interviews as he was in the midst of the Calder Cup Playoffs — the Griffins captured the championship on Tuesday — but is believed to be on Nill’s wish list.

Part of Nill’s duties as the assistant GM in Detroit was to oversee Grand Rapids, so he has an extensive relationship with Blashill, who served one year as an assistant under Mike Babcock with the Red Wings before taking the Griffins’ head coaching gig.

That said, Nill also has a relationship with Ruff — the two worked together with Hockey Canada on a number of entries at the World Hockey Championships.

One final name to consider is that of AHL Texas head coach Willie Desjardins.

He’s already employed by the Dallas organization and recently won the American League Coach of the Year award after leading the Stars to a 43-22-11 regular-season mark.

Here’s hoping 3-on-3 doesn’t degenerate into a boring ‘game of keep-away’

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Are coaches going to ruin 3-on-3 overtime?

It’s been the one, big worry since the NHL decided to change from 4-on-4 to 3-on-3 as a way to reduce the number of shootouts.

Via TSN’s Bob McKenzie, here’s a quote from an anonymous coach (talking about 3-on-3 strategy) that won’t exactly quell that worry:

“Really, it’s a game of keep-away, that’s what it is and the longer you can keep it away from the other team, the more likely they’ll break down. So I say let’s slow it down and hold onto that puck for as long as we can.”

Now take that a step further and imagine there’s a team that’s really good at shootouts. If you were coaching that team, might you tell your players to rag the puck for as long as possible to try and get to the skills competition?

Granted, five minutes is a long time to rag the puck. Not sure any team could play “keep-away” that long. Plus, there will always be teams that aren’t very good at the shootout; theoretically, those teams should be more willing to take their chances in 3-on-3.

But just remember that more time and space doesn’t always lead to more goals. Look at international hockey, which is played on a bigger ice surface. Canada won gold in Sochi by beating Latvia, 2-1, the United States, 1-0, and Sweden, 3-0. It was hardly firewagon hockey.

While nobody’s quite ready to suggest that 3-on-3 will actually lead to more shootouts, it will be interesting to see how things evolve, and if there are any unintended consequences.

“I don’t know if anyone’s figured it out completely yet,” Oilers forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins said Saturday after losing in 3-on-3 overtime to Vancouver.

“The big thing is, you want to control the puck as much as you can. It’s 3-on-3, so there’s lots of room and space out there. You don’t need to give it away. I think it’s smart to just wait, take your time, and wait for a good opportunity.”

Oilers go captain-less, name four alternates instead

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Edmonton’s made a fairly significant shift in its leadership group.

The big news is the Oilers won’t have a captain this season, as Andrew Ference will relinquish the “C” he’s worn for the last two years.

Ference will, however, remain part of the group and wear an “A” as part of a four-man alternate captain collective, one that also includes Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Taylor Hall.

The news of Ference being removed as captain doesn’t come as a huge surprise. The veteran d-man is a well-respected leader, but isn’t expected to be in the lineup every night this season.

The decision to go without a captain, though, is something of a surprise, especially given what new head coach Todd McLellan endured during his final season in San Jose.

The Sharks’ captaincy issue — stripping Joe Thornton, then going with four rotating alternates — was an ongoing problem, something that players, coaches and GM Doug Wilson had to repeatedly address until it blew up in spectacular fashion.

That said, the circumstances in Edmonton are quite different.

It’s believed the club’s intentionally keeping the captaincy vacant, on the assumption that Connor McDavid will evolve into a superstar and, subsequently, the club’s unquestioned leader.

Finally, McLellan noted that with Eberle currently sidelined, a fifth Oiler would be added to the leadership group — veteran forward Matt Hendricks, who will serve as a temporary alternate.