Jason Brough

2011 NHL Entry Draft - Round One
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People are wondering — do the Florida Panthers know what they’re doing?

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The Florida Panthers’ managerial shakeup continued this week with the firing of their director of player personnel, Scott Luce.

Luce had been with the club since 2002. According to his bio, he had “been responsible for the Panthers drafting notable players, including Aleksander Barkov, Aaron Ekblad, Erik Gudbranson, Jonathan Huberdeau and Dmitry Kulikov.”

The firing of Luce was particularly noteworthy, since it came just days after Dale Tallon was “promoted” to president of hockey operations. That move was sold as a way for Tallon to do more of what he liked (scouting), while handing off other responsibilities (contracts, salary cap, etc.) to new GM Tom Rowe and his young assistants, Eric Joyce and Steve Werier.

But not all in the Florida media are buying, apparently.

From Sun Sentinel columnist Dave Hyde:

I can retire now. I’ve seen it all. I’ve seen teams fire everyone after bad, average and even mildly disappointing seasons. But I’d never seen a team replace people who created a record-setting season that buoyed the franchise’s future.

Until the Florida Panthers over the last few days.

Hyde goes on to question the Panthers’ new, analytics-focused direction. (If that direction sounds similar, it’s because the Arizona Coyotes are taking the same route.)

His column finishes like this:

This should be an offseason of great hope for the Panthers. Instead, it’s now weighed down with a question of recent days. It’s not what Tallon’s diminished role is or who Rowe is.

The question starts here: Does Vinnie Viola know what he’s doing?

And that’s a fair question to ask of any owner. Especially a new one.

That being said, it’s also fair to question how much Tallon and Luce should be credited for the Panthers’ turnaround. After all, since Tallon was hired in 2010, Florida has had the first overall draft pick (Ekblad), the second overall pick (Barkov), and two third overall picks (Gudbranson, Huberdeau). Yes, there have been a few savvy picks — Vincent Trocheck in the third round stands out — and a few good additions via trade. But really, with all the blue-chip talent they’ve been gifted, making the playoffs this year was the least they should have expected.

“It’s a great game, but a tough business sometimes,” Rowe said of the firings, per the Sun Sentinel. “The fans came out in big numbers and it was awesome. We made the playoffs and that’s good. But at the end of the day, I didn’t think we had enough punch in the playoffs and I don’t think we gave [coach Gerard Gallant] enough options to get past the Islanders on our third and fourth lines.”

Regardless of where you stand on what’s happening in Florida, you can’t deny it’s all quite reminiscent of the summer of 2009, when Tallon was fired by the Chicago Blackhawks, replaced by the much-younger Stan Bowman.

Here’s a column that was written by the Chicago Tribune’s Rick Morrissey after that decision was made:

Wirtz and McDonough wanted to have their own crew in place. Fair enough. They don’t even want a suggestion of the mustiness of the Bob Pulford era.

But let’s try to remember Tallon played a huge role in building a team that surprised a lot of people by getting to the Western Conference finals last season. How it came to be that they chose Stan Bowman over Tallon is no secret. There had been rumblings for most of the year that Tallon would be out.

Yes, anybody could have picked superstars-in-training Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. But let’s remember that anybody could have picked Michael Jordan in the first round of the 1984 NBA draft. The teams with the first two picks didn’t.

The Blackhawks, of course, won the Stanley Cup the next year, a month after Tallon was introduced as the new GM in Florida.

Jagr confirms he’s not available for Czechs at World Cup

SOCHI, RUSSIA - FEBRUARY 14: Jaromir Jagr #68 of Czech Republic looks on in the first period against Latvia during the Men's Ice Hockey Preliminary Round Group C game on day seven of the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics at Bolshoy Ice Dome on February 14, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
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PRAGUE (AP) The Czech Republic will have to do without Jaromir Jagr at the World Cup of Hockey after the star winger confirmed he won’t be available to compete in September.

Czech Republic general manager Martin Rucinsky says Jagr announced his decision in a telephone call over the weekend.

Jagr retired from the national team after last year’s world championship, and was not included in the first 16 players for the Czech’s World Cup squad.

But Rucinsky hoped the 44-year-old Jagr would change his view after yet another decent NHL season. Jagr led the Florida Panthers with 66 points (27 goals, 39 assist) in 79 games in the regular season, and added two assists in the playoffs.

Rucinsky told Tuesday’s edition of the Sport daily he respects Jagr’s decision.

The Blues could sure use a goal or two from Tarasenko

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The “hard lessons” continued last night for Vladimir Tarasenko. For a fifth straight game — i.e. the entire Western Conference Final — the Blues’ sniper went goalless. In his last three games combined, he’s managed just four shots total.

“He’s a guy that’s struggled this series,” conceded coach Ken Hitchcock after Game 5, a 6-3 loss that put St. Louis on the brink of elimination. “He’s struggled offensively. He hasn’t got the looks offensively that he normally gets. But he’s one shift away from breaking it open.”

Tarasenko was a big reason the Blues got through the first two rounds. The 24-year-old had four goals against Chicago, then potted three more versus Dallas. In 14 games, he had 13 points.

Against the Sharks, he doesn’t even have an assist. And if plus-minus still means anything, he’s a minus-four.

Credit to the under-appreciated Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and his defensive partner Justin Braun, for much of that.

“Take away his time and space,” Vlasic said when asked the key to shutting down Tarasenko. “Our forwards have been doing a good job as well supporting us. Good back pressure does not allow them to have one-on-ones with our D.”

Not to downplay the challenges he’s facing, but if Tarasenko doesn’t start contributing offensively, the Blues are going to find it extremely tough to beat San Jose two straight times. During the regular season, he scored 40 of the Blues’ 224 goals. That’s almost 20 percent of them. Yes, some of his teammates need to step up too, but he’s the one with the most goal-scoring talent.

“It’s like any other goal-scorer, when they don’t score, there’s a frustration level that comes in,” said Hitchcock. “It’s my job to make sure and correct the frustration level if I can.”

Couture says Sharks have been ‘under-appreciated all season’

SAN JOSE, CA - MAY 12: Logan Couture #39 of the San Jose Sharks is congratulated by Brent Burns #88 and Joonas Donskoi #27 after Couture scored in the second period against the Nashville Predators  in Game Seven of the Western Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at SAP Center on May 12, 2016 in San Jose, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Last May, when Pete DeBoer was named the new head coach of the San Jose Sharks, he predicted a “big bounce-back” from the team that had missed the playoffs in 2014-15.

“You’ve got a lot of proud people here that aren’t too happy about where they were sitting at the end of last season,” he said. “My history with that is, if you’ve got character and you’ve been through that, you’re ready to push back. And I think we’re going to see that.”

Many were skeptical. And by January, almost halfway through the season, the Sharks still hadn’t bounced back. They were 18-18-2 after 38 games, not even good enough for a playoff spot in the Pacific Division.

It was then that they finally took off. Buoyed by the return of Logan Couture, they went 28-12-4 to finish the regular season, and now they’re just two wins from reaching their first Stanley Cup Final in franchise history.

“Our team has been, I think, under-appreciated all season,” Couture told reporters last night after Game 3 of the Western Conference Final, a 3-0 Sharks victory over the beleaguered-looking Blues.

“We found our game the second half of the year and started playing the kind of hockey that Pete was preaching when he came to training camp. It took a little while for us to get used to the system and for injuries to heal. And we’ve been great the second half and in the playoffs.”

In hindsight, perhaps the Sharks should’ve been considered stronger contenders heading into the postseason. After all, they did have a great second half, and it wasn’t like their roster lacked star power.

But then, the Ducks also looked pretty good down the stretch; and the Kings had won two Stanley Cups in the last four years; and let’s face it, it was hard to ignore San Jose’s history of playoff flops.

Now, the Sharks still have to beat the Blues twice, and that won’t be easy. But DeBoer’s prediction has already been proven correct. The Sharks have indeed bounced back, and they’ve done it in a “big” way.

“I’ve been around here where the Sharks have been that team that’s expected to go out and win the Pacific and roll through teams,” said Couture. “We faced a lot of adversity this season and last summer and I think it really helped us come together as a group.”

Related: Young Sharks forwards have ‘answered a lot of questions regarding our depth’

Yep, there’s a bottle of Cool Mint Listerine atop Kessel’s dressing-room stall

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Apparently, Phil Kessel‘s teammates aren’t quite finished enjoying his post-game interview with NBCSN’s Pierre McGuire.

Per the Penguins’ Twitter feed, a bottle of Cool Mint Listerine has been placed atop Kessel’s dressing-room stall at Amalie Arena in Tampa Bay.

There also appears to be some Winterfresh gum in there.

We all know the backstory by now. Following Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Final on Wednesday, McGuire asked Kessel, “How’s your breath?” To which Kessel replied, “It’s not good, eh?” To which McGuire said, “No! I meant in terms of conditioning.” Kessel laughed, hid his face in his towel for a second, then earnestly answered the question. When the interview was over, he chuckled again and said he couldn’t believe what just happened.

Pittsburgh captain Sidney Crosby said the Penguins “had a good laugh” about the awkwardness of the whole thing.

“First of all, I think it was funny, it was awesome,” Crosby told reporters. “I think that anyone being asked that question, I think we’ve all probably thought to ourselves, ‘How do you answer that?’ It’s kind of a tough one to answer and he handled it great. It was pretty funny. It’s probably perfect that it was Phil because he’s probably the one to handle it as good as that.”

Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was asked this morning about the Listerine bottle.

“That’s part of being part of a close-knit team,” he said. “These guys, they don’t miss much. So when they have opportunities to have some fun with one another, I think that’s a good thing. I think it brings our team even closer together, and that’s an example of it.”

Game 4 goes tonight. The happy-go-lucky Pens lead the series, 2-1.