<span class="vcard">Jason Brough</span>

Jonas Hiller, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Matt Hendricks, Dennis Wideman

Struggling Flames need to ‘get the ball rolling’


The Calgary Flames knew they couldn’t count on last year’s magic to keep working. They knew they had to “get better.”

So far, they’ve failed.

“I don’t know what it is,” defenseman Kris Russell told the Calgary Herald after Saturday’s 5-2 loss to Edmonton. “The team we were last year … If we think it’s just going to happen.”

It’s not, and it hasn’t.

In five games, the Flames have only won once, and it took overtime to do it. At five on five, they’ve only scored six times, versus 15 against. In all situations, only the Columbus Blue Jackets have a worse goal differential.

And tough tests are looming. Washington and Detroit visit this week, before the Flames hit the road against the Rangers, Islanders and Senators.

“We’ve got to look at the next game and try to get a win and get the ball rolling,” said forward David Jones. “It’s tough to lose this many early, but I don’t think we can panic or anything.”

Related: The Flames have a crease conundrum

What will the Jackets do with Todd Richards?

Todd Richards

The Columbus Blue Jackets were supposed to have a team dinner at the owner’s house on Sunday.

It was canceled.

Just in case you were wondering how things were going for that team.

After an 0-6-0 start to what was supposed to be a breakout season, head coach Todd Richards said after Saturday’s 4-1 loss in Chicago that he’d been given no assurances about his job status.

The Jackets, so far, have not called any press conferences. They host the Islanders Tuesday before hitting the road for four games.

If a coaching change isn’t made this week, it could come after the four-game trip. The Jackets host the Jets on Halloween, before traveling to California for three games starting Nov. 3 in San Jose.

Of course, by that point, if things haven’t turned around, the season could already be lost. Crawling out of an 0-6-0 hole will be tough enough.

Not that Richards should shoulder all the responsibility for what’s gone on, but that doesn’t change the fact that firing the coach is the easiest way to shake things up.

Nor does it change the fact that Richards’ team has looked disorganized defensively, surrendering at least four goals in each of its six games. Sergei Bobrovsky has been poor, yes. But that only begs another question: why did Bobrovsky start the first five games before Richards finally gave Curtis McElhinney the nod?

On top of all that, it’s not like Richards is Claude Julien or Darryl Sutter, each of whom has won the Stanley Cup. Richards hasn’t even come close to that. He’s only made the playoffs once in five full seasons as a head coach in the NHL.

Richards’ contract with the Jackets runs through next season. When he signed his extension in May of 2014, after the team lost in the first round of the playoffs, GM Jarmo Kekalainen called him “one of the top young coaches in the NHL because of his knowledge of the game, work ethic and ability to communicate well and bring out the best in our players.”

Unfortunately for the Blue Jackets, the best of their players has not been brought out in 2015-16, and that’s left Kekalainen with a decision to make.

Related: No, teams aren’t asking about John Tortorella (not even Columbus)

On second thought, Cleary will report to minors

Daniel Cleary

From the Detroit Free Press:

After thinking it over for a week, Daniel Cleary has reconsidered and decided to report to the Detroit Red Wings farm club.

Cleary told the Free Press Friday afternoon that he will join the AHL Grand Rapids Griffins on Tuesday.

The 36-year-old winger explained to the paper that he wants to be “a good pro and a mentor” to the youngsters in the organization.

The Wings were apparently going to pay Cleary even if he didn’t report. He signed a one-year, one-way deal worth $950,000 in September, only to be waived in October.

Panthers hire Hal Gill in player-development role

Philadelphia Flyers v New York Rangers - Game Five

The Florida Panthers have hired former NHL defenseman Hal Gill to be their manager of player development.

“We are very pleased to welcome Hal to our organization,” said GM Dale Tallon in a release. “We are honored to have someone with his level of hockey experience work with our prospects and assist them in developing their young careers.”

Gill retired in April after 16 seasons in the NHL. He won a Stanley Cup with Pittsburgh in 2009.

Related: Hal Gill says ‘Big Bad Bruins mantra’ can be ‘tough’ for big players

Baertschi expected to be healthy scratch for Canucks

Sven Baertschi, Radim Vrbata

Sven Baertschi is one of those “top six or scratched” players. For all his skill and creativity, he’s neither big nor tough nor known for his checking prowess.

Which is to say, he’s not the kind of forward who can just be dropped down to the bottom six when he’s not scoring. 

That’s why Baertschi is expected to be a healthy scratch when his Canucks host the Blues tonight. Despite some strong possession numbers, the 23-year-old winger has just one assist in four games, with no goals, while skating mostly on the second line with Bo Horvat and Radim Vrbata.

“I’ve always said that his step was probably the biggest step to make,” said Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins, who last year was able to start Horvat on the fourth line and this year will be able to do the same with big 19-year-old Jake Virtanen.

In fact, Baertschi’s situation is more similar to that of another young Canuck who isn’t exactly a fourth-line type. It’s been third-line center or press box for 19-year-old Jared McCann. Which is why there’s a good chance McCann will be returned to junior before his entry-level contract kicks in.

Baertschi is not expected to be sent to the AHL, as he requires waivers and the Canucks have already lost one player that way.

When he gets back into the lineup, however, he needs to produce.

“The main thing is I have to stay calm,” Baertschi told The Province, “and as soon as I get a chance again, I have to secure a spot.”

Related: Here are the 10 youngest skaters in the NHL