Report: Pens to interview Crawford, Wilson for head coaching gig


TSN’s Darren Dreger with the latest from Pittsburgh’s search for a new bench boss:

Wilson and Crawford have been out of the mix for a while — the former hasn’t worked since being fired by Toronto two years ago, the latter hasn’t since getting turfed by Dallas in 2011 — but both recently resurfaced as part of Florida’s head coaching search. Wilson interviewed with the Panthers but is reportedly no longer in consideration; Crawford spoke with GM Dale Tallon is well and believed to be one of the remaining five candidates.

As for other interviewees in Pittsburgh, only one has been identified by new GM Jim Rutherford thus far — AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes. Given he’s only been on the job for 11 days, it’s clear Rutherford’s head coach search is still something of a work in progress, which he explained to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette recently.

When he was hired June 6, Rutherford said he had two “short lists” — one bearing six names, the other three — of attractive candidates for the job, and reiterated Sunday that he believes Bylsma’s replacement will come from one of them.

“I’m still zeroing in on my original short list,” he said.

Still, Rutherford acknowledged that the pool of coaching candidates has expanded in the past week or so.

“My list of names has grown because I get more and more calls from associates who are recommending people or the coaches themselves contacting me,” he said.

As for timeline, Rutherford said he’d like to have a coach in place either prior to the 2014 NHL Entry Draft (June 27-28) or the start of free agency (July 1), but noted that he wouldn’t rush the hiring process just to have someone in place.

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.