Author: Ryan Dadoun

Brad Lauer

Boudreau remains, but Ducks fire assistant Lauer

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Although Anaheim made it to the Western Conference Final this year, Ducks GM Bob Murray wasn’t happy with how the team handled itself in Games 6 and 7 of that series against Chicago. Murray consequently wouldn’t even guarantee the return of head coach Bruce Boudreau until after he had time to conduct an evaluation of the franchise.

Now that process is over and the Ducks have announced that assistant coach Brad Lauer will not be retained. The rest of the coaching staff, including Boudreau, will return, per the Orange County Register’s Eric Stephens.

“We’ve spent the last week evaluating everything from top to bottom, including all player and staff performance,” Murray said. “This process is something I believe is essential each and every year, no matter the results of the season. We’ve decided to refocus and change the responsibilities of one of the assistant coach positions. We want to thank Brad Lauer for his hard work and dedication, and we wish him the best of luck in the future.”

There was some speculation about Boudreau’s future with the club, but Murray’s decision to retain him doesn’t come as a surprise. Boudreau has more than his fair share of big game losses, but there’s been a clear line of advancement since he took over as the team’s bench boss. This was the Ducks’ first trip to the Conference Final since 2007.

Coyotes ‘open for business’ as draft day nears

2014 NHL Draft - Round 2-7
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The Arizona Coyotes missed out on one of the coveted top two picks when the Edmonton Oilers won the 2015 draft lottery. That left them with the third overall selection, which is where things start to get interesting as there’s no consensus number three after Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.

Certainly there’s still plenty of high-end talent available after McDavid and Eichel though and teams have consequently contacted Coyotes GM Don Maloney about acquiring the pick.

“I was approached by three teams, had a call right before now asking me what would it take to get that pick, and I’m like, first born, second born, maybe I could use a helicopter to take me to work,” Maloney joked during the Coyotes’ “State of the Union” press conference. While that obviously sounds like a way to rule out moving the pick, he actually is open to the idea. Rather than move it straight up for a player though, he thinks it’s more likely that the Coyotes will trade down in the draft.

The Coyotes also have five other picks in the first three rounds, including Chicago’s top selection and they’re willing to part with some of them to help address their current holes. Among other things, Arizona is in the market for centers.

“Nobody is going to give us good players without giving up something, and that’s why we are certainly open for business,” Maloney said.

It also helps matters that the Coyotes have more cap space right now than any other team, per General Fanager. If the cap ends up being $71 million, then they will need to spend nearly $19 million just to reach the floor and thus are in a great position to take on contracts from squads struggling to get below the ceiling.

Adding to that is the fact that the Coyotes will be operating with an increased budget for the 2015-16 campaign. Although the specifics of that aren’t clear and some of the money is going into things like scouting and player development rather than player salaries.

All that’s left Maloney optimistic about the future despite the Coyotes’ disastrous season.

“If we can fill in the rest of the holes, I think we can all get back to where we want to be in a hurry.”

Salvador won’t decide on future before training camp

Bryce Salvador #24 of the New Jersey Devils skates against the New York Islanders at the Prudential Center on September 19, 2013 in Newark, New Jersey.
(September 18, 2013 - Source: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images North America)
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Defenseman Bryce Salvador hasn’t played since Nov. 10 due to a back injury and at the age of 39, there’s a real possibility that his playing career is over. He’ll become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and rather than immediately seek another contract, he plans to keep his options open over the summer.

“I won’t make a decision like that until training camp or after training camp,” Salvador told The Record. “It’s too tough to make a decision like that right now.”

He’s okay with the idea of entering training camp on a tryout basis and he even joked that he could follow Scott Gomez’s path as the veteran forward didn’t sign with New Jersey until Nov. 30.

In the meantime he’s resumed skating, but his health won’t be the only factor as he has family matters that need to be taken into consideration.

It also remains to be seen how much interest the Devils have in Salvador at a time when several members of their young defensive core are primed to play a bigger role. Salvador’s first choice would be to stay with New Jersey, but he is open to finishing his career elsewhere.

Czech national team coach Ruzicka resigns amid bribery scandal

IHOCKEY-WORLD-CAN-CZE
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Vladimir Ruzicka has decided to step down from his post as the head coach of the Czech Republic’s national team amid a bribery scandal, per the Associated Press.

“I’ve decided to stand down following a concerted media campaign directed against me since April,” Ruzicka conveyed in a statement. He also maintained that he hasn’t done anything illegal.

He allegedly accepted a bribe from Miroslav Palascak of 500,000 Czech koruna ($20,000) while coaching Slavia Prague of the Czech league in 2012-13. Palascak was quoted by the media as saying that the money was given to Ruzicka to guarantee that his son would stay on the team. Since then other parents have claimed that Ruzicka sought money from them to aide in their respective sons’ playing careers.

Ruzicka won an Olympic gold medal in 1998 as a player and has coached the Czech Republic to world titles in 2005 and 2010. He’s also a veteran of 233 career NHL games with Edmonton, Boston, and Ottawa.

Hedman’s stellar play draws attention to Olympic omission

Victor Hedman
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Defenseman Victor Hedman need some time to develop into a player worthy of the expectations thrust upon him when he was taken with the second overall pick of the 2009 NHL Entry, but he’s certainly been a big part of the Lightning’s run to the Stanley Cup Final.

In fact, Hedman has been playing at an elite level for a little while now and it’s gotten to the point where it’s encouraged of a reexamining of Sweden’s 2014 Olympic roster decisions. He was left off that team as they went with a defensive core of Alexander Edler, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jonathan Ericsson, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Erik Karlsson, Niklas Kronwall, Johnny Oduya, and Henrik Tallinder. That group is certainly nothing to sneeze at, but was there really no room in there for Hedman?

Swedish coach Par Marts was the one to reject Hedman and he doesn’t regret that decision, per Aftonbladet. As he pointed out, it’s easy to criticize in hindsight and he argued that Hedman wouldn’t have gotten the ice time he deserved if he was put on the roster, in part because they leaned towards the defensive pairings in Detroit (Ericsson-Kronwall) and Chicago (Hjalmarsson-Oduya). At the same time though, plenty of star players go into the Olympics with the understanding that they won’t get the minutes that they’re accustomed to.

“I was surprised that he didn’t make the team,” Blackhawks defenseman Hjalmarsson said during Tuesday’s press availability. “Obviously he’s a good player.”

Hedman admitted to being disappointed, but he said it wasn’t difficult for him to switch his focus to Tampa Bay’s next game after finding out he wouldn’t make the team. Certainly he has plenty to be pleased about at this point as he took another step forward in 2014-15 and needs just two more wins to win the Cup.

Marts did leave the door open to him reaching out to Hedman over the summer. The fact that he didn’t make the 2014 team was eyebrow raising, but it will be a far bigger story if NHL players go to the 2018 Olympics and Hedman is once again left off the roster.