Mike Halford

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Cooper to coach Canada at Worlds, Gallant and Hakstol to assist

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Hockey Canada has put together an impressive coaching staff for the upcoming World Championships.

Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper will be the head man behind the bench, joined by assistants Gerard Gallant, Philly’s Dave Hakstol and veteran national team coach Dave King, Hockey Canada announced on Tuesday.

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“Canada has tremendous depth in both its player and coaching pool, and we are fortunate to welcome a blend of experience and new faces to our program for this year’s IIHF World Championship,” said Tom Renney, president and CEO, Hockey Canada. “This is always an exciting event that brings Canadian hockey fans together to cheer on the red-and-white, and our players have four talented coaches and leaders in this group to work with and learn from.”

This will mark Cooper’s first stint with Hockey Canada. Gallant was an assistant on the 2007 World Championship team (and, it should be noted, worked with Cooper on the Team North America staff at the World Cup).

Hakstol’s inclusion comes shortly after his GM with the Flyers, Ron Hextall, was appointed general manager of the Canadian squad.

Thornton ‘confident’ about playing in opener, but doubts remain

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The Edmonton Oilers and San Jose Sharks will kick off their opening-round series tomorrow at Rogers Place, and it remains unclear if Joe Thornton will play.

Thornton, who missed the final two games of the year after suffering a knee injury on Apr. 4, has been a sporadic participant in practices and skates lately. Despite saying he had “no doubt” he’d be ready for the opener, Tuesday’s session suggested otherwise.

“I’m confident,” Thornton said, per the Sharks’ Twitter account. “But it’s still day-to-day, so we’ll see how it goes.”

Watch Sharks vs. Oilers on NBC Sports

Jumbo skated on a makeshift fourth line today, between Micheal Haley and Kevin Labanc. He also wasn’t out with the club’s top power play unit, throwing major doubt on his availability for tomorrow.

This could all be posturing from head coach Peter DeBoer. It wouldn’t be the first time a bench boss played coy with his lineup decisions in the postseason, and don’t forget there’s an added element of drama given DeBoer is going up against Todd McLellan.

The same Todd McLellan that coached Thornton and the Sharks for seven seasons, and is the franchise’s all-time leader in wins.

In other San Jose injury news, looks as though Logan Couture is ready to return from a nasty facial injury. Couture sat out the final seven games of the year, but has been outfitted with a protective shield on his helmet and, today, took reps as the club’s No. 1 center.

 

 

Johnson still hurt, so Gillies to start playoffs as Calgary’s backup

The injury that sidelined Chad Johnson at the end of the regular season will keep him out for the start of the playoffs.

Per Sportsnet, Johnson will travel with the Flames to Anaheim for their opening-round series — which begins on Thursday — but it will be young prospect John Gillies that backs up No. 1 Brian Elliott.

Gillies, 23, is a former Providence College standout taken in the third (75th overall) at the 2012 NHL Draft. He’s considered to be the club’s potential goalie of the future and looked good in his big-league debut, stopping 27 of 28 shots in a late season win over L.A.

Sportsnet reports that Johnson could suit up later in the series, suggesting his lower-body injury isn’t that serious.

That said, not having Johnson available could be problematic. Though Elliott had emerged as Calgary’s No. 1 over the second half of the season, Johnson played a key role this year — especially early on, when Elliott was struggling.

The 30-year-old went 18-15-1 with a .910 save percentage and 2.59 GAA prior to getting hurt.

With Sutter out, here’s a list of coaching candidates for L.A.

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After yesterday’s stunning overhaul in Los Angeles — the firing of GM Dean Lombardi and head coach Darryl Sutter, who combined to win a pair of Stanley Cups — attention has now turned toward the future.

Lombardi’s role has been filled by the tandem of Luc Robitaille (president) and Rob Blake (VP and general manager).

Their first job will be to find Sutter’s replacement.

Based on multiple reports, the primary goal is to get the team playing faster. There’s been a huge emphasis on speed — specifically, the Kings’ lack of it — and while that’ll be partly addressed with personnel addition/subtractions from Blake and Robitaille, part of it will also be addressed with systems, philosophy and a new style of play.

Sutter was a proponent of hard, heavy hockey that relied on big, physical forwards and a strong forecheck. He had tremendous success with it but, as the rest of the league trended towards skill and speed, the Kings failed to adapt.

The result was an anemic offense this past season, one that finished 25th in the NHL with 2.43 goals per game.

So with that in mind, who might be on the coaching shortlist? Some ideas:

John Stevens

On paper, Stevens ticks a lot of boxes. He’s got extensive experience, having served as a head coach in Philly and an assistant in L.A. for the last seven seasons. That’s a tremendous amount of familiarity with the Kings organization, an organization that might not want to lose him. Stevens has been in demand over the last few summers, and has reportedly been in the running for a few head coaching jobs, including the Carolina gig that eventually went to Bill Peters.

Of course, the 50-year-old’s familiarity with the Kings might be why he won’t get the job. The club had a massive shakeup yesterday, and it’s safe to assume Blake and Robitaille will want to go in a different direction from Sutter. Hiring his longtime assistant doesn’t exactly accomplish that.

Mike Stothers

Stothers is another nod to familiarity, albeit in a different fashion than Stevens. Stothers has been the head coach of L.A.’s AHL affiliate for the last three years and enjoyed tremendous success, winning the Calder Cup in 2015 while sending a number of minor-leaguers to the bigs. This year alone, Adrian Kempe, Paul LaDue and Johnny Brodzinski all made their NHL debuts.

Stothers is an interesting candidate because, as Sutter stressed last summer, some of the Kings’ young prospects need to make an impact at the NHL level. Who better to integrate the kids than the guy that’s coached them for the last few years?

Tony Granato

Yes, Granato only recently left the NHL for his dream job at the University of Wisconsin and yes, he was named a finalist for national coach of the year. So it would seemingly take an awful lot to leave the Badgers (of note, he inked a five-year, $2.75 million contract with UW.)

With that said…

Granato, at least in terms of the aforementioned checkbox, makes sense for the Kings. He’s got a wealth of NHL experience, serving as the head man in Colorado with lengthy assistant stints in Detroit and Pittsburgh. He’s also got deep ties to both Blake and Robitaille, having played together in L.A. (the three all went to the ’93 Stanley Cup Final together).

Granato was on hand at Blake’s jersey retirement ceremony, and both he and Robitaille — along with Barry Melrose — were honored on the same Legends Night back in ’14.

Others…

ESPN’s Scott Burnside floated the idea of Caps assistant Todd Reirden, which makes sense. He’s been described as a head coach in the making… Gerard Gallant’s name has come up though, to be fair, his name has been attached to almost every coaching vacancy since his dismissal from Florida last year… Dallas is believed to already have a shortlist to replace Lindy Ruff, consisting of Gallant, Ken Hitchcock and recently dismissed Canucks bench boss Willie Desjardins. Per TSN, Stars GM Jim Nill wants to make a decision quickly, meaning the two leftover candidates could be courted by the Kings.

Blashill to coach USA at Worlds

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Yesterday, USA Hockey announced the management group that would assemble the American entry into this year’s World Championships.

Today, the organization named its head coach — Detroit Red wings bench boss Jeff Blashill.

“We’re extremely pleased to have Jeff lead our men’s national team at the world championship,” USA Hockey’s Jim Johannson said in a release. “He’s been successful at every step of his career and we know our team will be well prepared when the puck drops.”

This will mark the first time Blashill’s led the senior national team. He’s previously been involved with USA Hockey at the junior and U-18 levels.

This selection is a nice ending to what’s been a difficult year. Detroit struggled to a 33-36-13 record this season and Blashill, fairly or not, will always be remembered as the guy at the helm as the franchise ended its quarter-century playoff streak.

USA Hockey has yet to announce the remainder of Blashill’s staff for the tournament. On Monday, the big announcement was the addition of Bill Guerin and Chris Drury to the National Team Advisory Group.