You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
Mike Vellucci will wear a pair of hats for Carolina next season.
Vellucci, who’s been GM Ron Francis’ assistant for the last three years, will take over head coaching duties for the club’s AHL affiliate in Charlotte. Vellucci inherits the gig from Ulf Samuelsson, who accepted an assistant coaching gig with the Blackhawks.
“Mike has more than 20 years of coaching experience, including more than 800 games as a head coach in the Ontario League,” Francis said in a release. “He is excited to get back behind the bench and we appreciate his willingness to take on this additional responsibility.”
Carolina confirmed Vellucci would continue to serve in his role as AGM, along with Rick Olczyk and Brian Tatum.
With today’s move, Vellucci becomes the fourth different coach Charlotte has had in four years. Jeff Daniels had the gig in ’14-15, only to be replaced by Mark Morris in ’15-16. Morris was replaced by Samuelsson last season.
After Jason Botterill left the organization to become the general manager in Buffalo, Pens GM Jim Rutherford said he wouldn’t rush to hire a replacement, instead waiting to see if his current staff could handle the workload.
Looks like it can.
On Thursday, the Pens announced a trio of in-house promotions. Bill Guerin, who was serving as assistant GM, took over Botterill’s old gig as the GM of AHL Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. Jason Karmanos, the VP of hockey ops, was elevated to assistant GM while Mark Recchi, a player development coach, will now serve as the director of player development.
Looking down the road, today’s news seemingly puts Guerin in line to become Rutherford’s heir apparent.
Rutherford’s under contract through 2019, turned 68 in February, and is one of the oldest GMs in the league. Botterill looked like his natural successor, to the point where some thought he could’ve gotten the job three years ago, when the Penguins fired Ray Shero.
Pittsburgh had been down that road before, too. Another promising young executive — Tom Fitzgerald — spent six years as the Pens’ AGM, and actually interviewed for the head job after Shero was let go. In 2015, he left the organization to reunite with Shero in New Jersey.
So now the focus turns to Guerin, who seems the most logical replacement candidate. He has worn two different executive hats for Pittsburgh — as both a development coach and AGM — and is clearly well-regarded. USA Hockey tabbed him and Rangers AGM Chris Drury to run this year’s entry at the World Cup of Hockey.
Just don’t expect Guerin to be promoted anytime soon.
“I don’t think about [how long I’ll be here],” Rutherford said last month, per Pens Inside Scoop. “So I guess I’ll be here for a while longer, whatever that means.”
Nearly two months after firing assistant coach Mike Kitchen, Chicago has found a pair of replacements.
On Thursday, the club announced that Ulf Samuelsson and Don Granato had joined the club to work under bench boss Joel Quenneville.
“The addition of Ulf and Don bolsters an already veteran coaching staff,” Chicago GM Stan Bowman said, in a release. “They will join Joel, Kevin [Dineen], Jimmy [Waite] and Matt [Meacham] to form a staff that I believe is the best in the NHL.
“Ulf brings over 20 years of NHL experience and knows what it takes to be a Stanley Cup champion. Don has an extensive coaching background and has been successful at developing players at every level. Both have the leadership skills and experience to complement our staff.”
Both new hires have history with Coach Q.
Samuelsson was teammates with Quenneville in Hartford, where the pair spent five seasons playing together. Since retiring, Samuelsson’s held a number of coaching positions — associate coach in Arizona, assistant coach with the New York Rangers and, last year, head coach of Carolina’s AHL affiliate in Charlotte.
Granato, the brother of former NHLer (and current University of Wisconsin coach) Tony Granato, has a wealth of experience coaching at the USHL, ECHL and AHL levels. His connection to Quenneville came via the Blues organization in the early 2000s — Granato was the bench boss with Worcester, the club’s AHL affiliate, while Quenneville was the head coach in St. Louis.
After Quenneville left the Blues, Granato was promoted to assistant coach in 2005-06… where he worked under Kitchen, who succeeded Q as head coach.
Currently, the Red Wings have seven retired numbers hanging from the rafters.
Could there soon be an eighth?
Earlier this week, GM Ken Holland told 97.1 The Ticket he “certainly” thinks the organization needs to discuss retiring Sergei Fedorov’s No. 91.
“He had a tremendous career and I think he was one of the best players in the history of the Red Wings franchise,” Holland said. “Certainly I think that Mrs. Ilitch, Chris Ilitch, Tom Wilson, Jim Devellano, myself, all the people that are involved probably have to have a conversation about Sergei.”
Fedorov spent 10 years in Detroit, racking up a number of accolades. He captured three Stanley Cups, two Selke Trophies and was the ’94 Hart Trophy winner as league MVP.
In 2015, he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Under normal circumstances, those accomplishments alone would make Fedorov a slam dunk. But his history with the Red Wings is complicated. He signed an offer sheet with Carolina in ’97 — one the Wings ultimately matched — and left the organization in 2002-03, to sign in Anaheim.
He also spent time with the Blue Jackets and Capitals before calling it a career.
As mentioned above, Detroit has retired seven jerseys: Nicklas Lidstrom’s No. 5, Steve Yzerman’s No. 19, Sid Abel’s No. 12, Terry Sawchuk’s No. 1, Alex Delvecchio’s No. 10, Ted Lindsay’s No. 7 and Gordie Howe’s No. 9.
Many assumed Pittsburgh assistant coach Rick Tocchet was a candidate for the Sabres’ vacant head coaching gig, given his ties to new Buffalo GM Jason Botterill.
Turns out that’s not the case.
Per TSN, the Sabres didn’t reach out to Tocchet for the bench boss job. It was widely assumed Botterill was waiting for Pittsburgh’s playoff run to finish to speak with him.
The two are, as mentioned above, quite familiar with each other. Botterill spent 10 years in the Penguins’ front office prior to moving to Buffalo, and Tocchet has spent the last three years behind the team’s bench.
The 53-year-old is held in pretty high regard. He’s got a wealth of experience from his playing days — over 1,100 NHL contests — and has managed to survive two different coaching changes in Pittsburgh. Tocchet came in under Dan Bylsma, was retained to work on Mike Johnston’s staff, then retained again when Johnston was replaced by current head coach Mike Sullivan.
Today’s news certainly makes it sound like Nashville assistant Phil Housley — a former Sabre — would be the leading candidate for the job.
More: Sabres reportedly waiting to interview Housley