Sidney Crosby

After rejecting Penguins, Desjardins says Johnston was the ‘best guy’ for the job anyway


Looking back on this past summer, there was at least one handsome hockey blogger who thought Willie Desjardins would be crazy to pass up the opportunity to coach Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the opportunity to coach the Vancouver Canucks, arguably the NHL’s most dysfunctional team of 2013-14, with an aging core and not a whole heck of a lot in the way of blue-chip prospects.

While Desjardins — a 57-year-old who had never been a head coach in the NHL prior to this season — did, in fact, reject the Penguins for the Canucks, he fully admits he was intrigued by the Pittsburgh job.

“When you look at what was there and the opportunity, it’s unbelievable,” Desjardins told the Vancouver Sun. “You look at where they are in the standings, so that’s what type of team they are. And to have an opportunity to coach that kind of team is pretty special. That’s a special group. Not just Crosby. They have so much talent there and it’s a great city, too.”

So far, both teams are enjoying success in 2014-15, the rejuvenated Canucks with Desjardins behind the bench, the Penguins with Mike Johnston, who, chances are, would’ve been hired by Vancouver had Desjardins chosen Pittsburgh.

“I think [the Pens] are really lucky that Mike’s here and if they had a choice to make again, they’d take Mike every time now,” Desjardins said. “I think it turned out the way it should. I can say honestly that I think Mike Johnston is the best guy for this job.”

If you’re curious why Desjardins used the word “here,” it’s because the Penguins and Canucks meet tonight in Pittsburgh.

The runaway All-Star vote leader through two weeks is… Zemgus Girgensons


From the NHL:

Buffalo Sabres center Zemgus Girgensons is the top vote-getter after two weeks of voting in the 2015 NHL All-Star Fan Vote presented by SiriusXM with 399,356 total votes. Last week’s leader, Montreal Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, occupies the second spot in the overall leaderboard, with 240,362 votes, while Chicago Blackhawks teammates Patrick Kane (216,261), Jonathan Toews (212,994), Duncan Keith (208,086), Corey Crawford (174,466) and Brent Seabrook (154,865) continue to rule the top 10. Nearly 8.5 million votes from more than 170 countries have been cast to date.

The top vote-getters by position are forwards Girgenson, Sidney Crosby (218,672) of the Pittsburgh Penguins, and Kane; defensemen Subban and Keith; and goaltender Carey Price (204,923) of the Canadiens.

Voting opened on Nov. 20 and, according to the league, nearly 8.5 million votes have been cast already. (You can vote here, by the way.) If you’re wondering how Girgensons is already hovering around the 400K mark — and nearly 160K up on the second-place Subban — well, the Buffalo News has you covered:

What’s behind this clear voting anomaly? Has to be foreign ballot stuffing from his native Latvia.

“I’ve seen the votes. I’ve seen it. There’s not a lot I have to do with it. It’s not me voting,” Girgensons said today just before leaving the Bell Centre after the Sabres’ optional skate. “It’s the fans back home. We got some crazy hockey fans back home.”

Girgensons, 20, is actually having a good year — seven goals, 13 points in 24 games with a plus-5 rating on a bad Buffalo team. He’s also the NHL’s lone Latvian player, so chances are this voting landslide isn’t going to slow down anytime soon.

‘Canes extend Penguins’ woes vs. Metro opponents


The Pittsburgh Penguins have done a great job in most regards this season, but they have one noteworthy blemish on their record: They have come up short in divisional contests. Carolina earned a 4-2 victory tonight, pushing Pittsburgh to 3-4-1 against its Metropolitan competition.

That might not be a horrendous record, but it is jarring compared to Pittsburgh’s 12-2-1 showing against the rest of the league.

The Hurricanes outshot Pittsburgh 35-22 on Friday, but the Penguins were in this game until the end. Jiri Tlusty and Kris Letang traded goals within a minute of each other late in the first period and the score was tied at 2-2 by the second intermission. It took a power-play goal from Nathan Gerbe at 3:10 of the final frame to give Carolina a lead that would finally stick.

Tlusty found the empty net with 13 seconds remaining in the contest to collect his second goal of the night.

Sidney Crosby assisted on both of Pittsburgh’s goals, which extends his multi-point game streak to three. He’s opened up a three-point edge on Philadelphia’s Jakub Voracek in the scoring race (33 points to 30).

Pittsburgh and Carolina will play again tomorrow night.

The Coyotes would ‘love a franchise player,’ but tanking is not in their ‘DNA’


Remember the Pittsburgh Penguins before they drafted Sidney Crosby first overall in 2005? Terrible team on the ice? Couldn’t draw flies? Stuck in an old outdated arena and in danger of moving?

And what about the Washington Capitals before Alex Ovechkin was selected first overall in 2004? The local hockey team, in case you’d forgotten, was a complete afterthought in D.C. Heck, when they made it to the Stanley Cup Final in 1998, their own rink was half Red Wings fans.

The Arizona Coyotes — if ever there was a franchise that could use a boost, after all the damage that’s been done to its brand the past few years — don’t need to be told how much Crosby and Ovechkin have contributed to the Penguins’ and Capitals’ on- and off-ice success, respectively.

Still, even with potential franchise-changing players like Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel up for grabs in this summer’s draft, GM Don Maloney has no plans to tank.

“I don’t think that’s something I would ever accept under any circumstance,” Maloney said, per FOX Sports Arizona. “Tanking is not in [coach Dave Tippett’s] DNA, it’s not in my DNA, it’s not in ownership’s DNA and it’s not in the players’ DNA.

“Just that idea destroys the whole credibility of an organization. We would all love a franchise player — or two or three — but that’s not how you go about it. … The only way you breed a winning culture is by going into every game looking to win.”

They might end up with a franchise player anyway. The Coyotes (9-11-3) are currently well back of a playoff spot in the Western Conference. Barring a comeback, they’ll have at least a 1 percent chance of winning the draft lottery and picking first overall.

It just won’t be intentional.

Related: Oilers fans are feeling ripped off


Comeau and Crosby lead Pens over Leafs


Blake Comeau had the overtime winner to complete the hat trick as the Penguins edged the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 Wednesday night.

With his assist on the game-winner, Sidney Crosby reached the 800 point plateau. He becomes just the third player in franchise history to reach the mark joining Jaromir Jagr and Mario Lemieux.

Crosby, who had two assists in the win, is also the sixth fastest player to reach 800 points (571 games) behind Wayne Gretzky (352), Lemieux (410), Mike Bossy (525), Peter Stastny (531) and Jari Kurri (558).

Evgeni Malkin had the other Penguins goal. Marc-Andre Fleury made 24 saves for his 301st career win.

Leo Komarov scored twice for the Leafs, his first career multi-goal game. Tyler Bozak added a shorthanded goal.

Jonathan Bernier made 22 saves seeing his record drop to 7-5-3 on the season.