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Breaking down how other teams are faring after mid-season coaching changes

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The Montreal Canadiens shocked the hockey world Tuesday, when they announced they had fired Michel Therrien and hired Claude Julien to take over the head coaching duties.

The decision comes with the Habs leading the Atlantic Division but struggling with one win so far this month, and exactly one week after the Bruins fired Julien, the 2009 coach of the year and 2011 Stanley Cup champion.

Therrien becomes the fifth NHL coach fired this season. For three of the four teams that had previously made mid-season coaching changes, wins suddenly followed in the aftermath, although the sample sizes are smaller in those cases. Keep in mind that just because a team has instant success after a coaching change doesn’t mean it will be sustained for a longer period of time, or that a change is the sole reason for a sudden uptick in wins.

Here is a breakdown of how the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins have fared since making their coaching changes.

Gerard Gallant fired, Tom Rowe takes over as interim coach:

The Panthers have gone 13-11-9 since Rowe took over from Gallant in certainly one of the more controversial firings of the season. Contrary to later case studies around the league, the Panthers won only once in their first six games with Rowe as the interim coach. Florida is five points back in the wild card race, but while there was a change behind the bench, the Panthers have been beset by injuries to a number of players, including their best young forwards in Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov for lengthy periods of time.

Islanders fire Jack Capuano, who is replaced by assistant coach Doug Weight:

Despite a “humbling loss” to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, the New York Islanders have vaulted themselves right into the Eastern Conference playoff race, going 8-2-2 since Weight took over for Capuano on Jan. 17. They’re one of the hottest teams over the last month, with the sixth best goals-for total in that span. Prior to the change, they were middle of the pack in league scoring, while 18th in the league in goals-against. The Islanders had underwhelmed through three-and-a-half months this season under Capuano but could be an intriguing comeback story in the East if they can qualify for the playoffs. The more pressing concerns for the franchise appear to be away from the ice: Arena issues in Brooklyn, more scrutiny on management, and the John Tavares contract situation.

Blues fire Ken Hitchcock, Mike Yeo takes over:

Yeo was going to take over from Hitchcock for next season, but the succession plan was accelerated with the Blues barely holding on to a playoff spot in the West. On Feb. 1, general manager Doug Armstrong made the move to relieve Hitchcock of his duties and replace him sooner than expected with Yeo. Since the coaching change, the Blues have won five of six games to move back into third in the Central Division. Goaltender Jake Allen, who did not accompany the team on a road trip last month because of his struggles, has been stellar since Yeo took over. Only once in the last five games has he given up three goals or more in a single game, and that was against a very dangerous Pittsburgh team.

Bruins fire Julien, Bruce Cassidy takes over coaching duties:

It’s only been one week, but the Bruins have since gone on a three-game winning streak since Cassidy took over from Julien. It’s certainly a nice way to go into a bye week at this point in the season. But really, the Bruins had been getting decent results even before the change, with a three-game winning streak toward the end of the Julien era in Boston. Leading the league in puck possession at five-on-five, the puck has actually starting going in the net with a little more regularity for the Bruins. With the change came plenty of questions for management, which has admitted this is a roster that still needs help.

Meanwhile, back in Montreal . . .

There is no doubt the Habs wanted Julien to take over and help shake things up in Montreal. They had a terrific start to the season but have dropped off since then, now in a fight with Ottawa, Boston and even Toronto for the division as the schedule soon enters the stretch run. Perhaps this will give the Canadiens an instant jolt.

This was a bold move. It remains to be seen if GM Marc Bergevin has another ace up his sleeve for the trade deadline.

Hurricanes give Di Giuseppe a two-way deal for 2017-18

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The Carolina Hurricanes signed forward Phil Di Giuseppe to a one-year, two-way contract on Thursday.

The team announced that Di Giuseppe’s deal is worth $725K at the NHL level and $125K in the AHL in 2017-18.

Di Giuseppe, 23, was the 38th pick of the 2012 NHL Draft. He’s been getting some looks at the NHL level with Carolina:

2015-16: 17 points in 41 games
2016-17: seven points in 36 games

He’s also been splitting time between the AHL and NHL lately, so a two-way deal works well enough.

Carolina doesn’t have much more to do on the free agent front, but that doesn’t mean that their off-season is wrapped up, as there’s still that whole ownership situation to settle.

Habs president Molson pens glowing farewell letter to Markov

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Another bold move by GM Marc Bergevin, another statement from Montreal Canadiens president/CEO Geoff Molson.

However Molson actually feels about the franchise’s decision to let Andrei Markov leave for the KHL, he provided quite the goodbye letter regarding the 38-year-old defenseman. One can’t help but wonder how Molson feels about Montreal’s overall makeover, whether you believe Mark Streit is really “replacing” Markov or not.

Anyway, that will need to wait. In the meantime, here’s the very kind statement from Molson to Markov:

“On behalf of the entire organization, I would like to thank Andrei for his great contributions during his 16 seasons as a proud member of the Montreal Canadiens. Arguably one of the best defensemen in franchise history, Andrei was a model of dedication to the great game of hockey. A respected figure around the league and among his teammates, Andrei demonstrated leadership both on and off the ice. Andrei’s commitment to our franchise was second to none, proven by his overcoming three serious and potentially career-ending injuries. I would like to wish Andrei the best of luck in the next step of his career, and happiness with his family.”

Speaking of Canadiens all-timers, Larry Robinson had plenty of nice things to say about Markov, too.

Related

Markov, Habs officially part ways.

Markov is headed to the KHL.

Sabres re-sign Eichel’s buddy Rodrigues for two years

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The Buffalo Sabres might have signed Evan Rodrigues back in 2015 in part because he enjoyed so much success as a college linemate with Jack Eichel at Boston University, but the undrafted forward seems like he’s making a case that he’ll be a part of their future in his own right.

The Sabres handed Rodrigues a two-year deal that is two-way in 2017-18 and one-way in 2018-19. Whenever he’s at the NHL level, it’s worth $650K per season.

Rodrigues debuted in 2015-16, scoring a goal and an assist in two games. He managed to play in 30 regular-season contests for the Sabres last season, collecting six points.

He’s shown quite a bit of improvement at the AHL level, in particular. After collecting 30 points in 72 games for the Rochester Americans in 2015-16, he scored 30 again in 2016-17, although he only needed 48 contests to do so. Rodrigues isn’t quite Matt Moulson to Eichel’s John Tavares just yet, but it’s possible that he might at least develop into a regular NHL player.

Buffalo’s work isn’t done for the summer just yet, as RFAs Zemgus Girgensons and Nathan Beaulieu still need deals.

Andrei Markov opts for KHL after saying goodbye to Canadiens

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Andrei Markov wanted to play his entire career with the Montreal Canadiens. With that option officially off the table, Markov announced that he’s headed for Russia and the KHL.

“I didn’t see myself with any other NHL team,” Markov said during a conference call wrapping up his lengthy stay with the Habs. “I didn’t see myself wearing another jersey.”

(At least not the jersey of another NHL team.)

The 38-year-old also noted that he hasn’t closed the door to a return to Montreal. That makes sense since it seems like it was largely the Canadiens’ decision to part ways with Markov, essentially replacing him with Mark Streit at a heavily discounted rate.

Beyond the comforts of home, Markov was almost certainly motivated to play in the KHL because of the 2018 Winter Olympics.

The veteran blueliner did not mention which KHL team he’ll end up playing for. There were some rumblings that Markov might sign with the Florida Panthers, but that turned out to not be true.

If it’s a one-year deal, a return to the Habs is at least feasible in 2018-19. Considering his age, it sure seems like this is the end of Markov’s lengthy run with the Canadiens, though.