Jason Brough

Flint Firebirds head coach John Gruden, second from left, and assistant coach Dave Karpa, right foreground, talk with their defensemen during a workout, Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2015, in Flint, Mich. The Firebirds were back on the ice, trying to regain a sense of normalcy after the Ontario Hockey League players stood up for their fired coaches and ended up getting them reinstated. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
AP

The Flint Firebirds have fired their coaches….again (Updated with statement from OHL)

18 Comments

Hey, remember in November when the Flint Firebirds fired coaches John Gruden and Dave Karpa and then hired them back the very next day after owner Rolf Nilsen — who was upset that his son, defenseman Hakon Nilsen, wasn’t getting enough playing time — admitted he made “an irresponsible mistake”?

Well, today the Flint Firebirds fired coaches John Gruden and Dave Karpa.

This time, they appear to mean it. According to a press release, the OHL team’s director of hockey ops, Sergei Kharin, will take over head-coaching duties from Gruden.

The Firebirds are last in the West Division with a 16-31-4-2 record, but this is reportedly once again about Hakon Nilsen’s ice time:

Supporting that theory, here’s what former Firebird Vincent Scognamiglio had to say about today’s firings:

The Firebirds did share some good news in the same press release that announced Gruden and Karpa had lost their jobs:

Thursday is “College Night!” Featuring $2 beers and $2 hot dogs for all fans in attendance and all college students will receive $2 off tickets with valid ID.

Tight ship.

Update:

OHL commissioner David Branch has released the following statement:

It has come to the league’s attention that the Flint Firebirds ownership has once again made significant changes to their coaching staff.  This change, the manner in which it occurred and the way it was communicated to the players and to the league is of great concern. 

We have been in contact with the team captain and it is our intention to meet and communicate with all players and families in short order.  The players and their playing experience is of the utmost importance to the league and we will continue to work to ensure that they are treated with respect.

It is the league’s intention to immediately review the actions of the Flint Firebirds before we determine the next steps we will take to address this situation.

 

Demko focused on winning a title with Boston College, will talk with Canucks this summer

Boston College players mob goalie Thatcher Demko (30) after they defeated UMass Lowell 4-3 in the NCAA Northeast Regional hockey final in Worcester, Mass., Sunday, March 30, 2014. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)
AP
5 Comments

If Thatcher Demko doesn’t sign with the Vancouver Canucks by Aug. 15, 2017, he can become an unrestricted free agent and join whichever NHL team he chooses.

Canucks fans are naturally nervous about this, because the 20-year-old Boston College netminder has been outstanding this season. Demko, a junior, is 20-4-4 with a .935 save percentage for the No. 2 team in the nation. Recently, the 36th overall pick in the 2014 draft earned his ninth shutout of the season in the Beanpot final, a 1-0 victory over Boston University.

So, what’s his plan?

“My plan right now is to win a championship here at Boston College,” Demko told TSN 1040 today. “I’m not sure what this summer’s going to look like. I do have another year (of eligibility) here at Boston College, so I’m trying to stay in the present here, not look ahead, because it can be a distraction. We’ll see what this summer has in store for me.”

Would he consider signing this summer and starting his pro career?

“To be honest, I haven’t even talked to the Canucks about it,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a two-way street, so they’ve got to talk to me about it before it can even be an option. I think once the season ends, I’ll just touch base with them and see where they’re at and we’ll have a discussion about it.”

The Canucks would surely love to get Demko under contract ASAP. He could play next season in the AHL, with an eye on joining the big club in 2017-18. (Ryan Miller, remember, is only signed through 2016-17.)

Individually, Demko has little left to prove at the college level. So Canucks fans should probably be cheering for the Eagles when the Hockey East playoffs begin next month. For Demko, a national title would be a nice way to end his college career. Anything less and he might be tempted to stay.

Related: Preds believe Vesey could ‘come in and play right away’

Coach Q thinks the ‘Hawks could use another forward or two

Chicago Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville smiles as he talks during a news conference, Sunday, June 7, 2015, in Chicago. The Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning are tied 1-1 in the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Final after the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in Game 2. Game 3 is scheduled for Monday. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
AP
21 Comments

When the Chicago Blackhawks put Rob Scuderi on waivers yesterday, our initial reaction was to wonder if GM Stan Bowman would try to add another defenseman prior to the trade deadline.

Well, Scuderi was sent to AHL Rockford today, giving Bowman a bit more cap space to work with.

However, based on what Chicago’s head coach had to say, bolstering the defense might not be the priority.

“I think up front we could use a player or two,” Joel Quenneville said, per the Chicago Sun-Times.

More on that from the newspaper:

The Hawks have needed a top-line left wing all season and with Marian Hossa out for a couple of weeks with a lower-body injury, the need is even more glaring. Winnipeg’s Andrew Ladd is a likely target, and Arizona’s Mikkel Boedker, Carolina’s Kris Versteeg, or Toronto’s P.A. Parenteau are among the many options that Bowman could go after.

The Blackhawks, of course, lost a couple of top-six wingers this offseason in Brandon Saad and Patrick Sharp. Artemi Panarin has more than replaced one of those spots, but tonight against the Rangers, Jonathan Toews could be flanked by Andrew Shaw on the left side and Richard Panik on the right.

No disrespect to Shaw and Panik, but imagine if it was Toews between Ladd and Hossa.

The trade deadline is Feb. 29.

Related: Jets will take one more crack at re-signing Andrew Ladd

 

It’s time to pay attention to the San Jose Sharks

San Jose Sharks' Melker Karlsson, left, of Sweden, celebrates his goal with teammate Brent Burns during the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. The Sharks won 4-2. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
AP
7 Comments

The San Jose Sharks won again last night. They’re 12-2-3 in their last 17. Among the teams they beaten during that stretch: Dallas, St. Louis, Chicago, and Tampa Bay.

Perhaps it’s time the hockey world started paying attention to these guys. Because it’s been crickets, mostly.

“It’s a veteran group, and right now, there’s a real good confidence level,” coach Pete DeBoer told reporters after last night’s 4-2 victory in Tampa. “We’re feeling like we can win every game that we’re playing.”

This is no smoke-and-mirrors trick either. The Sharks have been among the NHL’s top puck-possession teams in the new year. Combine that with the solid goaltending of Martin Jones and you get a team that, in a relatively short span, has gone from outside the playoff picture to threatening the Kings for first place in the Pacific Division.

standings

Undoubtedly, the return of Logan Couture has helped, since the Sharks can now boast Joe Thornton as a first-line center, Patrick Marleau as a second-line center, and Couture as a third-line center. Not many teams have that kind of depth down the middle. And that’s without mentioning All-Star sniper Joe Pavelski, whose 26 goals are the seventh-most in the league.

Supporting the forward group is a quality top-four defense of Brent Burns, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Justin Braun, and Paul Martin. There’s also been speculation GM Doug Wilson may bolster the back end before the trade deadline.

The Sharks’ next game is tomorrow in Sunrise. After that they play Friday in Carolina, before finishing their road trip Monday and Wednesday in St. Louis (on NBCSN) and Colorado (on NBCSN), respectively.

“All four lines have been producing throughout this stretch, and that’s how deep our team is,” Thornton said. “It shows every night any line can step up and be the game-changer and win games for us. It’s been fun to be a part of.”

Cooper on Bolts’ mini-slump: ‘It’s our job as coaches to straighten this out’

Jon Cooper
AP
1 Comment

With four regulation losses in their last five, the Tampa Bay Lightning once again find themselves outside the playoff picture.

True, the Bolts hold two games in hand on the Devils, just one point ahead in the standings. And yes, the odds of making the postseason are still in the Lightning’s favor.

But coach Jon Cooper is concerned all the same.

“We have guys who have been with us for a while out there on the ice,” he told the Tampa Bay Times after last night’s 4-2 loss to San Jose. “It’s our job as coaches to straighten this out. Why they’re (deviating) from what’s worked for us is what we need to figure out.”

It would help if Steven Stamkos started to find the back of the net. He has just one goal in his last nine games. The last time he scored at even strength was Jan. 12, over a month ago. He’s not getting traded, so at least he can “just focus on hockey” and “do my best to help the team win.”

The Lightning’s next game is tomorrow at home versus the Jets. Cooper is calling for an “inspired effort” in that one.

After that, the Bolts play six of their next seven on the road.