Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.

What’s next for Claude Julien?

13 Comments

As we wait to hear from Boston brass on the firing of head coach Claude Julien — GM Don Sweeney will meet with the media later this morning, smack in the middle of the Patriots’ Super Bowl parade — we should turn our focus to the recently departed.

What’s next for Julien?

The well-regarded bench boss, known as one of the NHL’s best defensive minds, shouldn’t be out of work very long — assuming he wants to get right back in. With the ’11 Stanley Cup and ’09 Jack Adams on his resume, Julien boasts the kind of credentials only a handful of active coaches can match.

And oh yeah, he’s the winningest coach in Bruins franchise history.

Let’s take a quick look at some potential landing spots.

Las Vegas: This seems like the most obvious one. The NHL’s newest expansion franchise really couldn’t do much better in terms of landing its first-ever coach, and owner Bill Foley said there’s a chance they hire their man prior to the end of this season.

What’s more, Foley said GM George McPhee is looking for a guy with experience.

“He’s not looking for a first-termer,” said Foley. “Some may or may not be available. … I would say the coach that we name is going to be a recognizable individual.”

Vancouver: It’s easy to connect the dots on this one. The team is led by GM Jim Benning, who for years worked with Julien in Boston. The pair won the aforementioned Stanley Cup together. Current bench boss Willie Desjardins has been under heavy scrutiny at times this year and, though the club did climb back into playoff contention over the last month, it’s about to embark on its toughest part of the schedule.

If they crater, the Canucks could be looking for a change.

Florida: While the Panthers seem committed to interim head coach Tom Rowe, could the allure of having Julien on board for a playoff push — and beyond — change things up?

The bottom line is that Julien’s the hottest free agent coach to hit the market since Barry Trotz in 2014. The Caps, you’ll recall, fired Adam Oates with a year left on his deal in order to land their guy, as it was reported both Carolina and Florida were in the mix for Trotz’s services at the time.

That last bit is important. If teams are uncertain with their current coaching situation and knows this could be their one shot at getting Julien, how big a splash will they be willing to make?

Goalie nods: Reeling Blues turn to Hutton

Getty

Carter Hutton will make his first start under new head coach Mike Yeo when the Blues take on the Flyers tonight at Wells Fargo.

It’s a start worth paying attention to.

As has been well-documented, Jake Allen‘s had a tremendously difficult year. One of former head coach Ken Hitchcock’s final moves as Blues coach was to park Allen in late January, while rolling with Hutton and AHL recall Pheonix Copley.

Hutton had three straight starts from Jan. 14-17, scoring a pair of wins over the Sharks and Ducks. The third, a 6-4 loss to Ottawa, opened the door for Allen’s return, which was disastrous — a 7-3 loss to the Caps in which Allen was hooked after allowing four goals on 10 shots.

Then came Allen’s “mental reset,” and more starts for Hutton. He did play well in one of them, stopping all 34 shots faced for a 3-0 shutout win in Pittsburgh.

Looking ahead, it’ll be interesting to see how much Yeo uses Hutton in the coming weeks. Tonight kicks off a five-game road trip for the Blues, one that will continue through Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Detroit.

For the Flyers, Michal Neuvirth gets the start.

Elsewhere…

Cory Schneider, coming off a 32-save win over the Blue Jackets on Saturday, is back in goal for the Devils as they host the Sabres. No word on a Sabres starter yet, as they kick off a week in which they’ll play five games.

Thomas Greiss, who’s been a big part in the Isles’ turnaround following the dismissal of Jack Capuano, gets the call as the Leafs come to Brooklyn. Frederik Andersen is expected in net for Toronto, as per usual.

In statement, Hitch says Blues are in ‘good and capable hands’ with Yeo

Getty
2 Comments

It’s been total silence from Ken Hitchcock since he was fired as Blues head coach last week — but on Monday, Hitchcock finally spoke.

Well, sort of.

Though he’s turned out repeated interview requests from the Post-Dispatch, Hitchcock did release a statement to the paper. Here it is, in full:

“When I reflect on my time in St. Louis, I remember it as some of the best years of my career. I would like to thank Tom Stillman and the entire ownership group, Doug (Armstrong) and the rest of the Blues management for giving me the opportunity to be part of such a storied franchise.

“I am very proud of our record on the ice over my time in St. Louis and would like to thank all of the coaches that I have had the pleasure of sharing the bench with: Gary Agnew, Ray Bennett, Danny Brooks, Jim Corsi, Sean Ferrell, Corey Hirsch, Scott Masters, Scott Mellanby, Kirk Muller, Brad Shaw, Steve Thomas and Rick Wilson and the Blues’ equipment and medical staffs for all of their support during my tenure. Without their hard work and dedication, we could not have had the success we achieved. A special thanks and good luck also goes to Mike Yeo. Mike was a true professional and an incredible source of knowledge and support as an associate coach. The Blues are in good and capable hands going forward with Mike.

“I was very fortunate to coach many wonderful players during my tenure and I truly appreciate your dedication over the years as we tried to make our goal a reality. I have made some special friends with many of you and I know our paths will cross again soon.

“I also want to recognize the front office staff in St. Louis. Their commitment and passion for connecting the team with the community is inspiring and did not go unnoticed. They continue to play an important role in keeping the organization moving in a positive direction.

“Finally, to the St. Louis Blues fans, I want to thank you for your unwavering support. I have received countless notes of appreciation over the last few days and it truly means the world to me. St. Louis is an amazing sports town with some of the most knowledgeable fans in the world. I am eternally grateful to have been part of the Blues organization and to have made St. Louis my home over the last six years. The friendships I’ve developed and the memories I have made here will last me a lifetime.”

It’s a nice gesture from Hitch who, as Armstrong put it, paid the price “for all our failures, including mine.” One gets the sense this was a heartbreaking conclusion to his time in St. Louis, something made evident by Armstrong choking back tears in announcing the dismissal.

Related: The challenge for Yeo? Make better use of Blues’ speed

Sharks recall Sorensen, another of Wilson’s European finds

Getty

If Melker Karlsson and Joonas Donskoi have shown anything, it’s that San Jose GM Doug Wilson knows how to find NHL talent in Europe.

Now, we’ll see if that applies to Marcus Sorensen.

Sorensen, the speedy 24-year-old forward signed out of the Swedish League last summer, has been recalled by San Jose and could make his NHL debut tomorrow when the Sharks take on the Sabres.

Sorensen’s recall comes after he scored 13 goals and 27 points in 39 games for the AHL Barracuda, in what is his first professional season in North America.

Previously, the former Ottawa draftee (fourth round, 2010) had spent the better part of his career with SHL outfit Djurgardens IF.

As mentioned above, Wilson and the Sharks are hopeful Sorensen can follow in the footsteps of Karlsson and Donskoi. The former was signed out of Sweden in 2014 — age the age of 23 — and the undrafted forward spent a short time in the AHL before transitioning to the Sharks that same year.

Karlsson has since become a lineup fixture for the Sharks, and has six goals and 13 points through 46 games this year.

Donskoi, a former Florida draftee, signed with San Jose in 2015 after capturing Finnish League MVP honors. Like Karlsson, he was 23 at the time of singing and, like Karlsson, wasted little time making an impact in San Jose. Donskoi jumped straight to the NHL and had a solid rookie campaign, with 11 goals and 36 points in 72 games.

Welcome back: Sabres claim Grant off waivers from Preds

Getty
2 Comments

What’s old is new again in Buffalo.

Derek Grant, who the Sabres lost on waivers to Nashville last month, is back in the fold — on Monday, the Sabres claimed him back from the Preds.

The 26-year-old appeared in six games during his brief spell in Nashville, registering a single assist. His departure coincided with the Preds acquiring veteran depth center Vern Fiddler in a trade with New Jersey over the weekend.

In his first go-round with the Sabres, Grant appeared in 35 games but failed to score a single goal, and had just three assists. Buffalo was disappointed to lose his services — head coach Dan Bylsma later admitted the club was trying to sneak Grant through to AHL Rochester — so it’s not surprising the Sabres were quick to jump on the chance to re-acquire him.