Author: Mike Halford

Doug Wilson

Wilson expects Sharks to ‘bounce back very quickly,’ make playoffs


San Jose GM Doug Wilson met with the media Monday — following news that head coach Todd McLellan would not return next season — and said that, after a “transitional year” in which the team missed the playoffs for the first time in 10 seasons, next year would be different.

“We’re going to bounce back very quickly,” Wilson said. “We said last summer there would be a transition and this was the year we’d go through it. We stayed true to our word. We had complete clarity with what we were going to do, and that’s what we did. We’re looking to have a quick bounce. We missed the playoffs this year.

“Did we think we’re a good enough team to make the playoffs? Yes, we do. Do we expect to be a playoff team next year? Yes, we do.”

The question now, of course, is if Wilson will be around to see the Sharks get back in. He said he’s yet to finish his player reviews and added his own evaluation still needs to be completed by owner Hasso Plattner:

While there are signs Wilson might return — he spoke at length about how he’d conduct the new coaching search, and constantly reiterated that this “transitional year” was all part of his master plan — there are, clearly, no guarantees. Like Wilson, Boston GM Peter Chiarelli was allowed to conduct an end-of-year presser that included some fairly significant decisions (specifically, confirmation that veterans Dan Paille and Gregory Campbell wouldn’t be resigned) but was fired just two days later.

Speaking of getting fired, Wilson was adamant that’s not what happened with McLellan. The Sharks GM repeatedly mentioned it was a “mutual decision” between he and McLellan, and quickly shot down comments that the coach was forced out, like what happened with Jim Harbaugh and the San Francisco 49ers.

“Completely inaccurate,” Wilson said. “You can ask myself, you can ask Todd. It was a mutual [decision], I shared the process with you and that’s what took place.”

So, the big question still remains: Should, and will, Wilson be retained and put in charge of finding a new bench boss? If he is, it’ll be just the second coaching hire of his 12-year career in San Jose (he inherited Ron Wilson, lest we forget.) Which means the next order of business isn’t the hire — it’s Wilson trying to convince Plattner he’s the right guy to make it.

Caps’ Fehr to miss Games 4 and 5 after Okposo hit

Washington Capitals play the New York Islanders in game 3 of the first round of the NHL playoffs

The Washington Capitals will be without Eric Fehr for the next two games of their opening-round series against the Islanders, following this hit from New York forward Kyle Okposo in Game 3:

Fehr, 29, is listed with an upper-body injury.

While he failed to score through the first three games of the series, Fehr did average over 15 minutes per and has been a steady contributor for the Caps this year, scoring 19 goals and 33 points in 75 games while emerging as a solid third-line checking center.

No confirmation from Caps head coach Barry Trotz on who’d replace Fehr in the lineup, though speculation suggest it’ll be Michael Latta.

Game 4 goes on Tuesday at Nassau.

Another ‘easy’ choice: Hawks confirm Darling back in for Game 4

Chicago Blackhawks

Tough goalie decisions for Joel Quenneville this round?


The Chicago head coach, who said it was an “easy decision” to stick with Corey Crawford after a rough Game 1 outing against the Preds, is back at it again — only now it’s Scott Darling who’s the easy choice, especially after he stopped 35 shots in a 4-2 win on Sunday.

“It’s tough to make a change when you like everything about the game,” Quenneville said, per the Chicago Sun-Times. “He played so well. Very deserving.

“I think it was an easy choice.”

Darling, who made his first-ever Stanley Cup playoff start in Game 3, has been terrific this series, posting a 2-0-0 record with a .975 save percentage and 0.94 GAA. Quenneville’s raved about the 26-year-old, calling his 42-save effort in Game 1 “one of the greatest relief performances you’re going to see.”

As for Crawford… well, he’s clearly on the outside looking in after allowing nine goals on 47 shots over four periods of action against Nashville. The ‘Hawks don’t seem keen on another goalie switch, and certainly don’t sound as though they expect Darling to go south.

“He’s done an outstanding job, played well in [the United Center], played some big games on the road,” Quenneville said. “Doesn’t get rattled, doesn’t change his demeanor no matter what the situation is. He’s got a smile on his face, he’s happy to be here.

“Good story.”

Minnesota mixes it up: Bergenheim, Fontaine in; Cooke, Schroeder out

Sean Bergenheim, Carl Gunnarsson

After a 4-1 loss on Saturday, the Wild are switching things up for tonight’s Game 3 of their Western Conference first-round series against the Blues.

Sean Bergenheim, acquired at the trade deadline, will draw back in with Justin Fontaine after both dressed for Game 1 and sat Game 2. They’ll suit up at the expense of Matt Cooke and Jordan Schroeder; the former played just 10:27 on Saturday while the latter finished minus-1 in 8:50 TOI.

“At home here, we know the crowd’s going to be buzzing,” head coach Mike Yeo explained. “We can get in there and bump them a little bit, but to make that happen we need to execute getting up the ice as well.

“That’s where a guy like [Fontaine] comes into play. He’s [also] very quietly become one of our top penalty killers.”

With these moves, it means another seat in the press box for last year’s surprise playoff performer, Erik Haula. After scoring four goals and seven points in 13 games last spring, big things were expected of the Finnish speedster but he struggled during the regular season and has been parked upstairs for the entire Blues series.

“This is not about beating down [Haula],” Yeo explained. “It’s been a trying year for him.”

Burrows’ instigator suspension rescinded, allowed to play Game 4

Vancouver Canucks v Calgary Flames - Game Three

Sounds like Vancouver forward Alex Burrows will have his instigator-related suspension from late in Sunday’s loss to Calgary rescinded, meaning he’ll be eligible to play Game 4.

The report, per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, comes just hours after Burrows was given a five-minute fighting major, a two-minute boarding minor and the aforementioned instigator penalty following a scrap with Calgary d-man Kris Russell in Game 3:

Though NHL rules state that instigator penalties levied in the final moments of games can be grounds for suspension, it’s possible that Burrows’ ban was rescinded because he wasn’t judged to have been sending a message, or exacting retribution.

It’s also worth noting that the league has already rescinded an instigator penalty in this series — the one called against Flames defenseman Deryk Engelland in the waning moments of Game 2.

Update: NHL confirms it: