Author: Jason Brough

Ken Hitchcock

Hitch has ‘unfinished business’ with the Blues


A couple of noteworthy quotes, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, from today’s press conference announcing the re-signing of Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock.

First, from Hitchcock:

“This is unfinished business for me. I don’t want to coach to coach. I want to coach to win and I couldn’t find a better spot than to show up right here and coach this hockey club. This is a really good team trying to become a great team. I think I have the tools and the expertise to help them along the way.”

Second, from GM Doug Armstrong:

“Show me a well-liked coach, and I’ll show you a losing coach.”

That Armstrong quote is basically the same thing Blues owner Tom Stillman said recently, when asked about the speculation that some players had been chafing under Hitchcock’s rule.

So, now that the coaching decision has been made, all eyes will be on Armstrong as the draft approaches. The GM all but guaranteed there will be changes to the roster, though as he did last month, he fell short of guaranteeing a blockbuster trade.

Related: ‘I’ve got no issues’ with Hitchcock, says Blues captain Backes

(Video) PHT Extra: Blackhawks one loss away from interesting summer


The Chicago Blackhawks aren’t done yet. They could still come back and beat the Ducks in the Western Conference Final. Nobody’s written them off.

But whenever their season ends, even if it’s after winning the Stanley Cup, it’s going to be an interesting summer in Chicago.

Pending unrestricted free agents include three defensemen — Johnny Oduya, Michal Rozsival, and Kimmo Timonen — plus veteran forwards Antoine Vermette, Brad Richards, and Andrew Desjardins. At the same time, Brandon Saad is a pending restricted free agent, and Brent Seabrook will be eligible to sign an extension on July 1.

We discuss:

Related: Hossa’s age just one of the challenges facing Blackhawks

Wild reporter pegs Dubnyk deal at ‘well north of $3 million per’


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about free-agent goalie Devan Dubnyk and suggested a contract of three years at $4.5 million per season to re-sign with the Minnesota Wild.

PHT commenters were aghast. Way too high, they said. The media is so dumb. Why is the media so dumb? Is it because they have no brains?

So here’s a second media opinion, courtesy Michael Russo at the StarTribune:

The market for Dubnyk is basically whatever another team will pay him as a free agent (couple that with the fact there’s no obvious answer for the Wild if Dubnyk leaves).

Now, maybe Dubnyk takes less to stay in a place where he was a solid fit, but this was a $3.75 million goalie in Edmonton. For the Wild to sign him, the deal will obviously average well north of $3 million per.

Remember that Dubnyk was the catalyst in the Wild’s turnaround this season. He’s a Vezina Trophy finalist, and he probably got a few Hart Trophy votes too.

Granted, the goalie market isn’t great (for goalies) and Dubnyk wasn’t fantastic in the playoffs. The Wild could play hardball with him if they chose. But what if they ended up losing him? Do they have a fallback plan beyond Darcy Kuemper and Niklas Backstrom? Because that’s the tandem that got them in trouble in the first place.

Anyway, I’m still optimistic the two sides will find a way to get something done. He wants to stay. They want to keep him. And usually that’s enough to get pen to paper.

Related: So…what should the Wild do with Dubnyk?

Bob Clarke really doesn’t care for tanking

2011 NHL Entry Draft - Rounds 2-7

Former Flyers captain and current Flyers executive Bob Clarke hates the idea of tanking.

Like, really hates it.

“It pisses me off that teams try to lose continually to come up with the Crosbys . . . and Malkins,” Clarke tells the Philadelphia Inquirer.

“The Flyers have never intentionally tried to lose. That would put a foul taste in my mouth. Who wants to be a part of any organization like that? I wouldn’t want to be.”

Ironically, Clarke’s remarks were found in an article about the Flyers’ 40-year Stanley Cup drought. Since winning their second straight title in 1975, they’ve been to the finals five times, losing all five times.

Most recently, in 2010, the Flyers lost to a Blackhawks team that was led by Jonathan Toews, the third overall pick in 2006, on a goal by Patrick Kane, the first overall pick in 2007.

As proven this year by the Rangers and Ducks, it’s not absolutely necessary to hit rock bottom in order to assemble a team capable of contending for a Stanley Cup. But the Blackhawks, champions in 2010 and 2013, bottomed out first. So did the Kings, allowing them to draft Drew Doughty second overall in 2008, and win it all in 2012 and 2014. And yes, the Penguins did too, drafting Evgeni Malkin second overall in 2004 and Sidney Crosby first overall in 2005. They won the Cup in 2009.

Oh, and has anyone noticed how important Victor Hedman, second overall in 2009, has been in the playoffs for the Lightning, whose captain, Steven Stamkos, was the first overall pick in 2008?

That’s why management in a place like Buffalo has done what it’s done over the past couple of years. And that’s why the Flyers have, until lately, received their share of criticism for choosing quick fixes over long-term solutions. In the salary-cap era, if winning the Stanley Cup is the ultimate goal, there are clear incentives to — um, how did Darcy Regier once put it? — “go in a very distinct direction.”

There are no guarantees that direction will work out for the Sabres. Or the Oilers. Or the Leafs. Or the Coyotes. But until the incentives change, teams will continue to tank, whether some people like it or not.

Related: Snider says patience is ‘great with the kids,’ but not with ‘the team we have on the ice’

In defense of Yandle, who’s ‘trying to make some plays’

Tampa Bay Lightning v New York Rangers - Game Five

Keith Yandle tried to make a play.

Unfortunately, it ended up on the stick of Steven Stamkos, right in front of the Rangers’ net…


Thank goodness for Henrik Lundqvist.

But the fact no goal was scored didn’t stop reporters from asking Rangers coach Alain Vigneault what he’s seen from Yandle the past couple of games.

“He’s working extremely hard,” replied Vigneault. “He’s trying to make some plays. With the pressure sometimes our D are under, (it’s) a little bit more challenging to make the right play. But he’s got the right idea.”

Vigneault was then asked about the challenge of making the right play under pressure.

“It’s a big challenge,” he said. “It’s the biggest team that we’ve met this year, and not just when they have the puck, but when they don’t have it, they are quick to put pressure. You’ve got to have
your head up. You’ve got to be thinking a play ahead, and you’ve got to make the right plays.”

The fact is, puck-moving defensemen like Yandle are going to make the odd giveaway. P.K. Subban led the league in giveaways by defensemen during the regular season. Erik Karlsson and Drew Doughty were up there, too. Those players aren’t out there to clear it high off the glass, and give it right back to the opposition. They’re out there to make plays, with the intention of keeping possession and going on the attack.

On top of that, with more and more teams bringing their defensemen down the wall to pressure wingers on the breakout, more and more plays need to be made in the middle of the ice, right in the danger area. So get your stick on the ice, Kevin Hayes. Be ready for the pass.

That’s not to let Yandle off the hook entirely. When Stamkos is lurking, putting the puck in the danger area is a pretty big risk. There were probably better options available, like spinning off the forecheck and skating with the puck behind the net. But that’s easy to say in hindsight. Also, easier said than done. (“Oh, just spin off the forecheck next time.”)

Yandle had his struggles adjusting to a new system after joining the Rangers in a late-season trade from Arizona. It hasn’t been all struggles though. He had two points in Game 3 versus the Lightning and three more in Game 4.

“We need him tonight to find a way to get a couple more pucks to the net, and we’ll be in good shape,” said Vigneault.