Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
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Talk of firing Gulutzan ‘pretty ridiculous,’ says Monahan

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Calgary might be the biggest disappointment in the NHL this season — well, the biggest one not named the Islanders — and with that disappointing start has come all the requisite grumbling.

Which includes gripes directed at the head coach.

Though he’s only 16 games into his tenure as Calgary’s bench boss, Glen Gulutzan is already hearing calls for his job, per the Calgary Sun. The Flames are 5-10-1 and just one point out of the Pacific Division basement — a far cry from where many expected them to be — but according to one of the club’s best young players, it’s waaay too early to talk about sacking the coach.

“For people to say that is pretty ridiculous,” Sean Monahan told the Sun. “It’s a process and sometimes things aren’t going the way you want them to. I think it’s just a matter of the full 20 guys buying in. We’ve got a lot of skill and you look at our team on paper we’re a good team.

“Right now we’re not showing it on the ice.”

The problems facing Gulutzan are twofold.

One, he was handed the keys to what was supposed to be a dynamic team. Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau were already there, as was a defense led by Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton and T.J. Brodie. And GM Brad Treliving seemingly took care of last year’s problem spots — completely revamping the crease with Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson, then adding some veteran goalscoring in Troy Brouwer — which, as Monahan said, made the Flames look pretty talented on paper.

Which brings us to problem No. 2.

Hindsight being 20/20, Treliving was given a pretty daunting task — revamping Calgary’s entire approach. In firing Bob Hartley, Treliving all but said he didn’t Calgary’s style of play, and that profound changes needed to happen.

“In today’s game, you need to have the puck. You’ve gotta work like hell to get it. And when you get it, you gotta hold on to it, you gotta play with it,” he said back in May. “Think how you defend in the league, too, is an area we look at. … You really break down the chances that we give up… you’ve gotta be able to defend in this league.”

For all their defensive and possession deficiencies under Hartley, the Flames’ offensive talent sure did shine. Everyone will point to Gaudreau and Monahan, but considersome of the other guys that had career years under Hartley: Giordano (21 goals and 56 points last year), Mikael Backlund (12 goals and 47 points) and the now-departed Joe Colborne, who scored 44 points after never having cracked 30.

So 16 games into the Gulutzan era, maybe the struggles shouldn’t be that surprising. This is a team trying to adapt to a whole new system.

Of course, that doesn’t take any of the pressure off the coach.

No more Circus Trips for Chicago

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One of the most well-known scheduling quirks in the NHL is no longer.

On Monday, the Tribune reported that Chicago’s annual Circus Trip — a two-week sojourn in which the ‘Hawks vacate the United Center for the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus — will be no longer after this season.

Gone too is the annual two-week break the club takes in February, when Disney on Ice comes to town.

More:

The Circus and Ice Show trips have been a staple for the teams for decades and date back to when they occupied the Chicago Stadium. But when the present contracts expired, changes were made.

“The reason we’re doing this is two-fold,” Terry Savarise, Senior Vice President of Operations for the United Center, said Monday. “One is that in future years the Bulls and the Blackhawks no longer have to endure two two-week road trips and a subset of that is that those two two-week road trips had resulted in a compression of our home-game schedules which usually ended up having too many home games for fans in a short period of time.

“There were times when you’d have four home games in a one-week period, which fans didn’t like.”

This year’s Circus Trip begins on Tuesday, when the ‘Hawks take on the Jets in Winnipeg.

From there, it looks like this:

circus

As mentioned above, Chicago also spends considerable time away from the United Center in February.

Things actually kick off on Jan. 31, with a date in San Jose — from there, the ‘Hawks go to Arizona, Dallas, Minnesota, Winnipeg and Edmonton before a quick stop at home for a rematch against the Oilers.

After that, the ‘Hawks are back out on the road again for games in Buffalo and Minnesota.

After just three games, Nakladal cut loose by ‘Canes

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Carolina GM Ron Francis took a flier on Jakub Nakladal in early October, hoping that Nakladal’s efforts with the Czechs at the World Cup would translate into the regular season.

They didn’t.

On Monday, the ‘Canes announced they’ve terminated Nakladal’s contract, after he went scoreless in just three appearances for the club — the last one a shootout loss to New Jersey on Nov. 8.

The 28-year-old spent last season in Calgary — his first NHL campaign after years in the Czech League and KHL — but wasn’t resigned by the Flames, making him an unrestricted free agent. A contract failed to materialize during the summer, but interest rose after Nakladal appeared in all three games at the World Cup, acquitting himself reasonably well.

(His best game came in the Czech Republic’s group finale against the U.S., when he went plus-2 with over 20 minutes of ice time and three shots on goal.)

Nakladal was part of a Carolina defense that’s come under fire this season. He, along with waiver claim Klas Dahlbeck, were supposed to round out the bottom pairing and provide some depth, but that plan never came to fruition.

 

Blues ‘need to get that competitive nature back’ after ugly road swing

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One would think Ken Hitchcock would be an unhappy man on Monday, given he was on the heels of a two-game losing streak in which his club surrendered a whopping 11 goals.

But instead, Hitch was happy.

Calling it the best practice the Blues have had in nearly two years, Hitchcock praised his team’s “focus, the energy, the communication, disposition, compete level,” just two days after getting drilled 8-4 in Columbus.

Captain Alex Pietrangelo said the response was sorely needed.

“That’s the reality of the situation,” he said, per the Post-Dispatch. “I thought we went out there today, we battled each other and we played each other honest. We need to get that competitive nature back.”

November has been a month to forget for the Blues. They’ve been crushed on three separate occasions — 5-0 against the Rangers, 6-2 against the Stars and the Blue Jackets beating, after which Kevin Shattenkirk said the Blues were “dazed” by the situation.

Needless to say, there have been issues.

Health-wise, the club has been thinned out on defense due to injuries to Joel Edmundson and Robert Bortuzzo.

The Blues also haven’t gotten enough offense from key forwards like Jori Lehtera, Patrik Berglund and Jaden Schwartz — a trio that’s only combined for five goals and 12 points thus far.

The schedule hasn’t done a ton of favors, either. St. Louis has played seven games in 12 nights in November, with a couple of travel heavy two-game sets.

Thankfully for them, the last issue will be rectified soon. Starting tomorrow against Buffalo, the Blues will begin a stretch that sees them play eight of their next 10 at Scottrade, which will be a great opportunity to make up ground in the Central.

Goalie nods: After shouldering blame last game, Halak back in for Isles

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Just one game on the ledger tonight, but there’s still a goalie storyline to follow — in Brooklyn, the Isles will continue to ride Jaroslav Halak when they host the Bolts at Barclays.

Halak has received almost all the minutes since Thomas Greiss was on the hook for a 6-1 loss to Tampa Bay back on Nov. 1.

Since then, Greiss has only made one appearance — in relief of Halak in a 4-1 loss to the Lightning on Nov. 10 — in what’s become another twist in New York’s ongoing goalie saga.

Halak’s most recent outing came on Saturday, in which he made 40 saves in a 3-2 OT loss in Florida. On paper, it looked like a strong effort — especially since the Isles were out-shot 43-21 — but, afterward, the veteran ‘tender stepped up and took blame for Jonathan Marchessault‘s game-tying goal with 13.6 seconds left.

“It shouldn’t go in. That’s on me,” Halak said, per Newsday. “Obviously it was a better game, but the second goal really bugs me. I can’t let it happen.”

These are certainly tough times for the Isles. The club has been thinned out on defense, with Ryan Pulock and Dennis Seidenberg on IR, and Travis Hamonic making an early return from a suspected broken thumb.

They’ve also been collectively outscored 10-2 by Tampa Bay this season, and the head-to-head series is only two games deep. Tonight’s game will be the third and final meeting of the year.

For the Bolts, Andrei Vaslievskiy gets the start. His last outing came in the aforementioned Nov. 10 win over the Isles, in which he made 31 saves on 32 shots.