Things have come full circle for Mike Johnston.
Johnston, fired by Pittsburgh midway through the regular season, looks like he’s headed back to the place he’s enjoyed the greatest success of his coaching career — WHL Portland.
Johnston will reportedly be introduced as the Winterhawks’ new head coach and general manager on Wednesday, per various outlets. The move returns Johnston to the same club he coached from 2008-14, sending a number of talented youngsters to the NHL: Seth Jones, Ryan Johansen, Nino Niederreiter, Sven Baertschi and Derrick Pouliot, to name a few.
Hired by Pens GM Jim Rutherford two years ago, Johnston never really clicked in Pittsburgh. He had a respectable record — 58-37-15 — but the team always seemed to be underachieving with him in charge, and was hovering on the edge of the playoff picture upon his dismissal.
Since taking over for Johnston, Pens head coach Mike Sullivan has enjoyed tremendous success, and has the club back in the Eastern Conference Final for the first time since 2013.
Mike Yeo’s in demand.
Just one day after reports claimed Anaheim had received permission to interview him for its head coaching gig, the Star-Tribune is now reporting another team has gotten permission to speak to Yeo as well — the Calgary Flames.
Yeo is currently serving as an assistant for Team Canada’s entry at the Worlds.
Treliving is Canada’s GM.
Should he interview with the Flames (and Ducks), Yeo will have essentially completed the circuit of available head coaching gigs. Yeo previously interviewed with Ottawa — that job ultimately went to Guy Boucher — and, obviously, wasn’t going to be in line for the Minnesota position.
During his time with the Wild, Yeo earned a reputation for his strong defensive system (“defense-first Yeobots” is how one columnist described the players.) That could be attractive to the Flames, who finished dead last in the NHL in goals allowed per game (3.13) last season.
Teams are require to ask Minnesota permission to interview Yeo, as the contract extension he signed two years ago runs through 2017.
The Lightning have named decorated junior bench boss Benoit Groulx as the new head coach of their AHL affiliate in Syracuse.
“Benoit Groulx has a long track record as a winning head coach. Throughout his career, he has consistently gotten the most out of his players and his teams,” Bolts assistant GM Julien BriseBois said in a release. “We are very excited to be adding Benoit to our organization. Our players in Syracuse will benefit from his tremendous leadership and his relentless pursuit of excellence.”
Groulx, 48, has spent most of the last 15 years coaching in the QMJHL (largely with Gatineau), save a two-year stint as the head coach of AHL Rochester. He also led Team Canada to gold at the 2015 World Juniors.
The Lightning have had some success drafting out of the Quebec league in recent years. Jonathan Drouin (Halifax), Cedric Paquette (Blainville-Boisbriand) and Ondrej Palat (Drummondville) all played their junior hockey there, with Palat being one of the franchise’s best finds — he was taken in the seventh round in 2011.
Groulx has developed a reputation for his ability to work with young players. Per TVA, the Sens had considered him for their vacant AHL gig in Binghamton.
The Groulx hire does, however, signify the end of Rob Zettler’s time as Syracuse’s head coach. Zettler had been behind the Crunch bench for the last five years — one as an assistant, four as head coach — and led the team to the ’13 Calder Cup final, taking over for Jon Cooper after Cooper was promoted to the NHL.
It was all going so well for the Stars — they eked out a win last night in St. Louis to force Game 7 at home in Dallas, where Tyler Seguin had been skating in the hopes of dressing for the first time this series.
You’ll note I said it was going well.
On Tuesday, Dallas head coach Lindy Ruff updated the status of his injured star center, and it wasn’t the update Stars fans wanted to hear:
The injury — which, Dallas has stressed, is not related to the lacerated Achilles Seguin suffered late in the regular season — has kept No. 91 from all but one of the Stars’ playoff games this spring. Seguin suited up for Game 2 of the Minnesota series, but looked ineffective in limited minutes.
There was some optimism Seguin could be ready for tomorrow’s game after he suited up in practice on Tuesday.
If Dallas wants to try and salvage some of that optimism, it could take solace in the fact Seguin could be ready to return should the Stars dispatch of the Blues, and qualify for their first conference final since 2008.
Anaheim has reportedly gained permission to speak with ex-Wild bench boss Mike Yeo, per the Minnesota Star-Tribune.
Yeo, fired in mid-February after four-and-a-half seasons on the job in Minnesota, has been a relatively warm commodity recently as the coaching carousel continues to spin.
He’d previously interviewed for the Ottawa job — which eventually went to Guy Boucher — and has been linked to the Calgary gig, though there have been no reports of a formal interview or discussion with GM Brad Treliving.
Yeo, 42, would be an interesting fit in Anaheim. He’d be significantly younger than the club’s previous two bench bosses — Randy Carlyle, who was 55 at the time of his dismissal and Bruce Boudreau, who was 61 — and doesn’t have many ties to the organization.
Yeo has also operated almost exclusively between two organizations over the last 15 years: Pittsburgh, and Minnesota. In each place, he started out in the American League before gaining a promotion to the NHL — with the Pens, it was he eventually moved up to an assistant’s and with the Wild, it was to replace Todd Richards as head coach in 2011.
There haven’t been many reports out of Anaheim as to what other coaches GM Bob Murray is speaking to. It’s believed assistant coach Paul MacLean — a former Jack Adams winner with Ottawa — is in the running.