The New Jersey Devils beefed up their professional scouting department on Tuesday, as they announced the additions of Claude Noel and Andre Savard.
Savard and Noel join Bob Hoffmeyer in that specific scouting department for the Devils.
The two hirings really bolster the Devils’ staff from an experience perspective.
Savard, 61 spent time as an assistant coach, scout and even as a GM, as he held that position from Nov. 2000 through 2002-03 with the Montreal Canadiens. He remained as an assistant GM to Bob Gainey for a few more years before working with Devils GM Ray Shero in Pittsburgh.
Noel (pictured) may be more immediately recognizable to many fans, as he’s not very far removed from a head coaching gig with the Winnipeg Jets. The 59-year-old served in that role from 2011-12 to 2013-14 before spending part of last year with the WHL’s Vancouver Giants.
Obviously, Lou Lamoriello’s exit still leaves a crater behind in the Devils’ front office, but tweaks like these can help to fill some of that void.
In a way, this is like an NFL team grabbing a former head coach to work as a positions coach. Grabbing a few people who may seem a little “overqualified” for certain gigs could end up being pretty lucrative.
Caps GM provides positive injury updates for Backstrom, Orpik
For all the exciting additions made this offseason, the Washington Capitals still must cross their fingers about a few injury situations.
Most obviously, they need Nicklas Backstrom’s hip surgery rehab to go well.
While it doesn’t sound like Capitals GM Brian MacLellan is guaranteeing that the outstanding playmaker will be available at the beginning of the 2015-16 season, his update was still positive, as the Washington Post reports.
“I think he’s progressing well,” MacLellan said during a Monday conference call. “I heard he started skating recently, so that’s a good sign.”
(Note: there’s no guarantee that Backstrom won’t be ready by the season-opener, either.)
Backstrom’s situation is still a work in progress, but it sounds like things are going especially well for hard-hitting defenseman Brooks Orpik. MacLellan noted that Orpik previously “managed” a wrist injury, finally decided to undergo surgery on it, and is expected to be “100 percent healthy” to start 2015-16.
There are quite a few reasons for Capitals fans to be optimistic about next season, and positive health news should only brighten those outlooks. Plenty can change in the next few months, yet it sounds like the word is so far, so good.
Here’s an understatement for you: Mike Babcock is a tough act to follow.
In the hearts and minds of Red Wings fans, Jeff Blashill may very well face an impossible task in trying to supplant the scowl of Babs. It cannot be easy to jump from the AHL to replacing one of the most respected bench bosses in recent history.
That said, for all the well-earned hero worship Babcock often inspires, there’s an argument that Detroit needed a breath of fresh air.
The Red Wings were as dominant as ever from 2006-07 to 2008-09, making three conference finals, two Stanley Cup Final rounds and winning one ring. They’ve been solid-yet-mostly-unspectacular since then, however:
Just one division title (in 2010-11).
Three first-round exits in their last six postseason berths, including two straight years of one-and-done. The Red Wings haven’t made it beyond the second round in that span, either.
They struggled to make the playoffs more than ever in recent years.
This is likely a case of oversimplifying, yet some may look at this situation in one of two ways:
A) Babcock squeezed every standings point possible out of a fading team.
B) Conversely, the franchise was begging for a jolt of energy.
It’s worth noting that the Red Wings remain a quality possession squad, although their exact rankings vary based on which specificmetrics you use. The bottom line is that there’s a solid chance that Blashill has a decent group to work with, even if this obviously isn’t the stupidly dominant group many long associated with the Red Wings brand.
When your team is currently on a record 24-season playoff streak, expectations are inevitable, and Blashill faces a tall task. For all we know, setting the bar so high might not be such a bad thing.
The Buffalo Sabres made huge strides this offseason, yet they may still fall closer to historic ineptitude than they will to playoff contention in 2015-16.
That’s not meant as a slight to GM Tim Murray’s work this summer; instead, it’s a reminder of just how bad that team really was last season.
By just about anymeasure, the Sabres were the worst team in the NHL. Honestly, it was probably wiser to compare them to the sorriest teams in recent history rather than last year’s Arizona Coyotes or Edmonton Oilers.
That said, Murray enjoyed an offseason that was so strong, he thought he might have consumed some fungus, so maybe a playoff trip isn’t so far away after all?
A host of improvements
Jack Eichel brings in the hype of a “generational player,” while Ryan O’Reilly is the sort of sturdy two-way center who can make life easier for his teammates. (Eichel can be sheltered as he gets used to the NHL game thanks to O’Reilly and perhaps David Legwand.)
Evander Kane will play his first game as a Sabre in 2015-16, too. Young players such as Sam Reinhart may take significant steps forward while vets like Matt Moulson could rebound next season.
Sabres fans might not be particularly excited about Robin Lehner, but Murray sure is. Most believe that Lehner will need to be outstanding to cover up what projects to be a putrid defense.
Read more about the pressure Lehner faces here and Buffalo’s defensive question marks here.
For all the improvements Buffalo made – and Dan Bylsma’s impact should not be dismissed, by the way – the smart money is on the Sabres missing the playoffs. Really, it’s not outrageous to imagine at least one more cellar-dwelling year before things get sorted out.
Feel free to disagree in this poll, but despite a strong offseason, it ultimately seems like Buffalo still has a long way to go.
Murray was beside himself in drafting Jack Eichel while trading for Robin Lehner, Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane.*
When you combine those acquisitions with possible developmental gains for the likes of Sam Reinhart, the Sabres’ outlook gets awfully interesting. Of course, it’s also valid to note that this team has a lot of room for improvement. The Sabres weren’t even close to competitive in 2014-15, after all.
That actually leads us to Buffalo’s poll question: how long will it take for the Sabres to return to the postseason?
If you need a push either way, consider some of the posts from PHT’s Buffalo Sabres Day extravaganza.