Mike Halford

BLAINVILLE-BOISBRIAND, QC - NOVEMBER 25:  Conor Garland #8 of the Moncton Wildcats reacts during the QMJHL game against the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada at the Centre d'Excellence Sports Rousseau on November 25, 2015 in Blainville-Boisbriand, Quebec, Canada.  The Blainville-Boisbriand Armada defeated the Moncton Wildcats 6-5.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)

Coyotes sign Quebec League scoring sensation Garland

7 Comments

Arizona has signed Conor Garland, it’s fifth-round pick in 2015, to a three-year, entry-level contract.

Garland, 19, has spent this year tearing apart the Quebec League. The Moncton forward has a staggering 21 goals and 80 points through just 33 games and is a whopping 22 points clear of the No. 2 scorer in the league, Sherbrook’s Guillaume Gauthier.

(Yes you read that right. Garland has 80 points in 33 games.)

A Massachusetts native, Garland is small — 5-foot-8, 163 pounds — but has an incredibly high skill level.

Last season, he set Moncton’s franchise record with 129 points in 67 games, then added another 25 in 16 playoff games.

Doughty ‘surprised’ by how bad Pacific Division’s been this year

Drew Doughty
3 Comments

The Pacific is the NHL’s weakest division by nearly every measure, something that’s caught Drew Doughty off guard.

“I’m a little surprised,” The Kings d-man said, per the Los Angeles Daily News. “Typically our division is one of the tougher ones. Right now, it doesn’t seem that way.”

Doughty’s right. Heading into the Christmas break, the Pacific is the only division with just one 40-plus-point team — the Kings, who have 42 — and of the NHL’s bottom-10 teams, five come from the good ol’ Pacific.

The Canucks, on 35 points, sit 21st overall. Arizona (34 points) is right behind at No. 22, while Calgary (also on 34 points) sits 23rd.

Edmonton, with 32 points, is at No. 26 while Anaheim managed to climb out of the league basement on Tuesday night, securing one point in an OT loss to the Rangers.

With that, the Ducks went into the break on 30 points — one ahead of last-place Columbus.

Ugh.

Of course, a few things have improved since earlier this month, when Brough wrote Five Fun Facts About The Terrible Pacific Division. The Flames have gotten better — they’re 8-2-0 in their last 10 — and actually managed to win some games in regulation (two in the last six days.)

The Oilers, meanwhile, are 7-3-0 in their last 10 and, for the first time in a long time, head into the holiday break in the thick of a playoff race.

And the positives don’t stop there.

San Jose leads the NHL in road wins! Anaheim has the league’s best penalty kill! The Kings are second in goals allowed!

So hey, maybe the Pacific Division isn’t so bad after all.

(As long as you don’t look at the standings.)

Video: Paul Maurice says Paul Maurice is in a bad mood

After the Jets lost 4-1 in Calgary on Tuesday — their fifth loss in seven games — Paul Maurice looked like the head coach of a team that just needed to get away for a little while.

Then he met with the assembled media, and confirmed it.

In the third person!

“We’ll deal with what we’re doing coming out of the break, but this team needs some rest,” Maurice said, per the Jets website. “The coach has been in a bad mood for a long time and…. we need some rest, some separation.”

The Jets head into the Christmas break as one of the NHL’s biggest disappointments. After making the playoffs a year ago, they currently sit 24th overall with 32 points, eight back of Nashville for the final wild card in the Western Conference.

Maurice is clearly frustrated.

And that frustration might not be going anywhere.

Coming out of the break, the Jets have a pair of tough home games — against Pittsburgh and Detroit — before heading out on a five-game road swing through Arizona, San Jose, Anaheim, Nashville and Dallas (the Jets are an ugly 6-12-1 away from home this year).

The club is also dealing with the contract uncertainty of pending UFAs Dustin Byfuglien and the captain, Andrew Ladd.

With the trade deadline drawing closer, those storylines will only intensify.

Finally, there’s the issue of the club’s goaltending.

While Ondrej Pavelec has been erratic during his time as the club’s No. 1, his lengthy absence with a knee injury has proven costly. Michael Hutchinson has one win in his last 12 outings while prized prospect Connnor Hellebuyck has struggled recently, posting just an .883 save percentage in his last five games.

Bolland back from AHL stint, but now dealing with injury

Ottawa Senators v Florida Panthers
5 Comments

Underachieving center Dave Bolland is back with the Panthers following his conditioning stint in the minors, but it’s unclear when he’ll actually be back in the lineup.

More, from the Miami Herald:

Bolland returned to the Panthers on Monday and his gear is back in the team locker room but he might not play right away.

Bolland sustained some sort of injury while on assignment to Florida’s AHL team in Portland, Maine.

General manager Dale Tallon would only say that Bolland is being evaluated for a “lower-body” injury.

Bolland, 29, has been a major disappointment this season, and that disappointment’s been exacerbated by the fact that, at $5.5 million annually, he’s Florida’s highest-paid forward.

Head coach Gerard Gallant’s made Bolland a healthy scratch on a number of occasions this season, but insisted he wasn’t trying to send the veteran center a message.

Yet by sending him to the minors, the Panthers pretty much did exactly that.

Bolland appeared in two games for Portland during his stint, registering one point. He last played on Saturday, in a 2-1 win over Bridgeport.

Rangers’ Diaz signs with Swiss team

Raphael Diaz, Mike Sislo
3 Comments

Raphael Diaz’s time within the New York Rangers organization is coming to a close.

On Wednesday, EV Zug of Switzerland’s National League A announced it had signed Diaz to a five-year deal, beginning in 2016-17.

Diaz, who is Swiss, has spent all of this season with the Rangers’ AHL affiliate in Hartford, appearing in 10 games.

According to a (pretty rough) translation of the Zug website, Diaz will play out the year in North America before joining the club. His contract in Switzerlad does have an out clause, where he can stick in North America if any NHL team offers a one-way contract of at least two years in length.

Prior to the start of the season, the Rangers exposed Diaz to waivers, where he went unclaimed.

Back in October, the New York Post reported that Diaz was mulling a move to Europe after he lost out on the Rangers’ final d-man spot to Dylan McIlrath.

Diaz’s agent, Ritch Winter, told the Post at the time that Diaz signed a one-year, $700,000 deal with the Rangers “to play with the Rangers.”

Other defenseman have since been recalled from Hartford ahead of Diaz, including Chris Summers and highly-touted prospect Brady Skjei.

(To be fair, Diaz has been out injured since mid-November.)