The Toronto Maple Leafs got off to a strong start this season with a 10-4-0 record. Their offense, led by Phil Kessel, was dominating the league and goaltenders James Reimer and Jonathan Bernier were an effective duo.
So far, it looks like Toronto peaked in October. By Dec. 18, Toronto had slipped to 17-16-3 and had just a three point edge in the battle for the second Wild Card spot. That naturally led to speculation about head coach Randy Carlyle’s job security, but Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis insisted that he wouldn’t fire the bench boss.
Fast forward a month and the Maple Leafs remain stuck in the mud and they’ve lost their Wild Card spot. However, even as Toronto’s situation gets bleaker, Nonis hasn’t changed his stance.
“Randy’s job is not in jeopardy,” said Nonis, according to the Toronto Star. “It’s the players who have to play better, and they know that. The biggest piece in all of this is the players, collectively. This is not a bad hockey team.”
Instead, Nonis is looking to shake things up via a trade. He’s already made some moves in that regard, including the acquisition of 22-year-old Peter Holland from Anaheim and a trade involving defensemen Tim Gleason and John-Michael Liles.
In the meantime, he added that Friday’s 3-2 loss to Washington was their best game in roughly two months. They’ll play New Jersey tonight.
Winnipeg Jets fire Claude Noel
Penguins center Sidney Crosby, Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson, and Panthers center Vincent Trocheck have been named the NHL’s three stars for the past week.
From the NHL:
Crosby led the League in goals and points (5-3-8) in three games as the Penguins (26-18-7, 59 points) earned four of a possible six points to secure the second Wild Card position in the Eastern Conference.
Karlsson led the League in assists and ranked second in points (0-7-7) in three games as the Senators (24-23-6, 54 points) won one of three starts for the week.
Trocheck notched six points (3-3—6) in three games, helping the Panthers (31-15-6, 68 points) widen their lead atop the Atlantic Division to six points.
Related: Red-hot Crosby could make Pens a flawed (but dangerous) dark horse
Evgeni Malkin‘s “nagging” lower-body injury will keep him out at least one more game.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said this morning that the star center will sit out tonight at home against the Ducks. Malkin already missed two contests this weekend in Florida. His status is day-to-day.
The Penguins lost, 6-3, in Tampa on Friday, but rebounded Saturday with a 3-2 OT win over the Panthers.
Pittsburgh’s next game after tonight’s is Wednesday at home versus the Rangers.
The New York Rangers will be without Ryan McDonagh tonight at home to New Jersey, the club announcing this morning that the defenseman is out with a concussion.
McDonagh left Saturday’s game in Philadelphia following an altercation with the Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds that ended with McDonagh taking a punch to the face from Simmonds.
Simmonds received a match penalty and was thrown out of the game, but did not receive any supplemental discipline.
Given the standings, the Rangers can ill afford to lose McDonagh for long. They play in Pittsburgh Wednesday, followed by three home games against Los Angeles, Philadelphia, and Chicago.
Tuesday night, Milan Lucic will play his first game in Boston as a member of the Los Angeles Kings.
It should be an emotional return for the big 27-year-old winger. In an interview with the L.A. Times, he recalled his time with his former club fondly, saying how great it was to be a “part of one of the best-ever eras to be a Bruin.”
A pending unrestricted free agent, Lucic also commented on his contract negotiations with the Kings.
“Nothing to get excited about,” he said. “There’s been two or three little talks here and there. My plan is to remain a King and hopefully finish off my career here. Like I said, I go day by day and you never know what tomorrow is going to bring.”
Lucic has 12 goals and 18 assists in 50 games this season. Though the Kings reportedly want to keep him, the question is whether they can find the cap space to make it happen.
Los Angeles already has Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter, Dustin Brown, Marian Gaborik, Kyle Clifford, Drew Doughty, Jake Muzzin, Alec Martinez, and Jonathan Quick locked up long term. Plus, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson will require new deals after next season.
Related: Why Lucic is an interesting pending UFA