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Breaking down how other teams are faring after mid-season coaching changes

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The Montreal Canadiens shocked the hockey world Tuesday, when they announced they had fired Michel Therrien and hired Claude Julien to take over the head coaching duties.

The decision comes with the Habs leading the Atlantic Division but struggling with one win so far this month, and exactly one week after the Bruins fired Julien, the 2009 coach of the year and 2011 Stanley Cup champion.

Therrien becomes the fifth NHL coach fired this season. For three of the four teams that had previously made mid-season coaching changes, wins suddenly followed in the aftermath, although the sample sizes are smaller in those cases. Keep in mind that just because a team has instant success after a coaching change doesn’t mean it will be sustained for a longer period of time, or that a change is the sole reason for a sudden uptick in wins.

Here is a breakdown of how the Florida Panthers, New York Islanders, St. Louis Blues and Boston Bruins have fared since making their coaching changes.

Gerard Gallant fired, Tom Rowe takes over as interim coach:

The Panthers have gone 13-11-9 since Rowe took over from Gallant in certainly one of the more controversial firings of the season. Contrary to later case studies around the league, the Panthers won only once in their first six games with Rowe as the interim coach. Florida is five points back in the wild card race, but while there was a change behind the bench, the Panthers have been beset by injuries to a number of players, including their best young forwards in Jonathan Huberdeau and Aleksander Barkov for lengthy periods of time.

Islanders fire Jack Capuano, who is replaced by assistant coach Doug Weight:

Despite a “humbling loss” to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, the New York Islanders have vaulted themselves right into the Eastern Conference playoff race, going 8-2-2 since Weight took over for Capuano on Jan. 17. They’re one of the hottest teams over the last month, with the sixth best goals-for total in that span. Prior to the change, they were middle of the pack in league scoring, while 18th in the league in goals-against. The Islanders had underwhelmed through three-and-a-half months this season under Capuano but could be an intriguing comeback story in the East if they can qualify for the playoffs. The more pressing concerns for the franchise appear to be away from the ice: Arena issues in Brooklyn, more scrutiny on management, and the John Tavares contract situation.

Blues fire Ken Hitchcock, Mike Yeo takes over:

Yeo was going to take over from Hitchcock for next season, but the succession plan was accelerated with the Blues barely holding on to a playoff spot in the West. On Feb. 1, general manager Doug Armstrong made the move to relieve Hitchcock of his duties and replace him sooner than expected with Yeo. Since the coaching change, the Blues have won five of six games to move back into third in the Central Division. Goaltender Jake Allen, who did not accompany the team on a road trip last month because of his struggles, has been stellar since Yeo took over. Only once in the last five games has he given up three goals or more in a single game, and that was against a very dangerous Pittsburgh team.

Bruins fire Julien, Bruce Cassidy takes over coaching duties:

It’s only been one week, but the Bruins have since gone on a three-game winning streak since Cassidy took over from Julien. It’s certainly a nice way to go into a bye week at this point in the season. But really, the Bruins had been getting decent results even before the change, with a three-game winning streak toward the end of the Julien era in Boston. Leading the league in puck possession at five-on-five, the puck has actually starting going in the net with a little more regularity for the Bruins. With the change came plenty of questions for management, which has admitted this is a roster that still needs help.

Meanwhile, back in Montreal . . .

There is no doubt the Habs wanted Julien to take over and help shake things up in Montreal. They had a terrific start to the season but have dropped off since then, now in a fight with Ottawa, Boston and even Toronto for the division as the schedule soon enters the stretch run. Perhaps this will give the Canadiens an instant jolt.

This was a bold move. It remains to be seen if GM Marc Bergevin has another ace up his sleeve for the trade deadline.

All-Rookie, All-Star Teams and rest of 2018 NHL Awards

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Let’s recap the remaining winners from the 2018 NHL Awards. Before we do so, here are the other big winners and corresponding links.

Hart Trophy

Taylor Hall

GM of the Year

George McPhee

Vezina Trophy

Pekka Rinne

Selke Trophy

Anze Kopitar

Jack Adams Award

Gerard Gallant

Norris Trophy

Victor Hedman

Calder Trophy

Mathew Barzal

Bill Masterton Trophy

Brian Boyle

Ted Lindsay

Connor McDavid

Lady Byng

William Karlsson

Also:

P.K. Subban named cover star for “NHL 19.”

Humboldt Broncos reunite to honor late coach Darcy Haugan (Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award).

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Now, let’s jump into the remaining awards and honors.

Mark Messier Leadership Award

Deryk Engelland (see video above this post’s headline)

King Clancy

Daniel and Henrik Sedin

William Jennings

Jonathan Quick with Jack Campbell

Of course, Alex Ovechkin won the Maurice Richard Trophy and Connor McDavid took the Art Ross.

First NHL All-Star Team

Left Wing: Taylor Hall
Center: Connor McDavid
Right Wing: Nikita Kucherov
Defense: Drew Doughty and Victor Hedman
Goalie: Pekka Rinne

Second NHL All-Star Team

Left Wing: Claude Giroux
Center: Nathan MacKinnon
Right Wing: Blake Wheeler
Defense: Seth Jones and P.K. Subban
Goalie: Connor Hellebuyck

All-Rookie Team

Forwards: Clayton Keller, Brock Boeser, and Mathew Barzal
Defense: Charlie McAvoy and Will Butcher
Goalie: Juuse Saros

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Humboldt Broncos reunite to honor late head coach

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Ten members of the Humboldt Broncos reunited on Wednesday night during the 2018 NHL Awards in Las Vegas. The survivors of the April 6 bus crash that killed 16 players and staff were on stage to help give out the first Willie O’Ree Community Hero Award to their late head coach Darcy Haugan.

The award, presented “to an individual who – through the game of hockey – has positively impacted his or her community, culture or society,” was voted on by the public after fans submitted candidates, and the field was then narrowed down to three finalists.

From the NHL:

Haugan left a lasting impact in Humboldt, Sask., as well as every other community that was fortunate enough to have him as a resident or involved in junior hockey. He changed the lives of many of his players, always being there for each one of them and never hesitating to give them a second chance. He fought for his team and had their backs – he was the coach and mentor everybody wanted. Haugan believed strongly that the game is not about making hockey players; it is about making amazing human beings. He did just that, building up young leaders who also developed strong hockey skills along the way. His presence would fill the room and his love for the game was undeniable. Haugan died doing what he loved, surrounded by the young people he dedicated his life to. Haugan left behind, in all of those he touched, his spirit and passion for the game, his love for his beautiful family, and his example of dedication to his community.

Haugan’s wife, Christina, accepted the award in his honor.

The other finalists were Debbie Bland of the Etobicoke Dolphins Girls Hockey League and Neal Henderson of the Fort Dupont Hockey Club.

The NHL Foundation is donating $10,000 in Haugan’s memory to the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association, a charity important to the coach.

On Tuesday, the NHL and NHLPA announced that Washington Capitals forward Chandler Stephenson will bring the Stanley Cup to Humboldt on Aug. 24 that will involve a skills competition at the Broncos’ home rink.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Hall beats MacKinnon for first Hart Trophy

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Being that Art Ross and Ted Lindsay winner Connor McDavid wasn’t even a finalist, it’s clear that being indispensable to your team factored heavily into the 2017-18 Hart Trophy voting.

With those unspoken parameters in mind, it makes sense that the MVP race ended up being so close between runner-up Nathan MacKinnon and winner Taylor Hall. Anze Kopitar ranked a distant third, but he could take comfort in being a finalist and also taking home his second Selke.

Sometimes you need to dig deep into “With or Without You” stats to realize how much a player stands above his teammates. You merely need to glance at the gap between Hall’s scoring (93 points, sixth-best in the NHL) and the next highest-ranked Devil (Nico Hischer with 52). Hall clearly dragged the Devils to an unlikely playoff berth, scoring that many points in just 76 games.

Nathan MacKinnon, meanwhile, finished with 97 points in 74 contests, yet he enjoyed a bit more help as Colorado’s top line was rounded out by fantastic wingers in Mikko Rantanen (84 points) and Gabriel Landeskog (62).

Now, the trickier part is figuring out if McDavid deserved to either win it or at least be a finalist. Ultimately, the PHWA viewed Hall as the “player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team,” no doubt weighing a playoff appearance in their decision:

As you might expect, the deeper voting is quite interesting. Kopitar narrowly edged Claude Giroux for third place, while there’s an interesting list of players who managed a single vote: Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby, Victor Hedman, and Eric Staal. Drew Doughty got a fourth place vote while Hedman receive one fifth, yet Hedman ended up the Norris winner.

During certain seasons, the Hart Trophy is an easy call. This was one of the tougher years to truly pinpoint a top season, but the beauty for hockey fans was because there were so many great choices.

However you feel about who should have been the actual winner, Taylor Hall generated an absolutely brilliant season.

For a player who was traded for flawed reasons and blamed far too often for his teams’ failings, it must be awfully sweet to receive such high recognition. It can’t hurt that this award came after his first-ever postseason appearance, either.

Naturally, Hall has his eyes on the sort of celebration that Alex Ovechkin is enjoying right now, but Hall’s 2017-18 season was “a long time coming” in its own right.

And, yes, the Oilers must weep at the thought that they voluntarily gave up an opportunity to deploy the 2018 Hart winner (Hall) and the 2018 Art Ross winner (McDavid) on the same team.

GM of the Year George McPhee adds another award for Golden Knights

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George McPhee of the Vegas Golden Knights continued a big night for the franchise as he was named 2017-18 General Manager of the Year during Wednesday’s NHL Awards show in Las Vegas. Earlier, Gerard Gallant won the Jack Adams Award for top coach, William Karlsson was named winner of the Lady Byng and captain Deryk Engelland took home the Mark Messier Leadership Award.

The NHL’s 31 GMs and a panel of League executives, print and broadcast media voted on the award following the conclusion of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Using the NHL’s expansion draft rules to his advantage, McPhee made shrewd deals to add draft picks and impact players while creating the franchise’s first-ever roster. Success came right off the bat and the Golden Knights ended their inaugural season by becoming the first modern-era expansion team from the four major North American professional sports league to win its division. By advancing to the Stanley Cup Final, Vegas became the third team in NHL history to win multiple playoff rounds in their first season.

McPhee was presented with the award by actress Lynda Carter and Nicklas Backstrom, the player he drafted in fourth overall 2006 while GM of the Washington Capitals.

Kevin Cheveldayoff of the Winnipeg Jets and Steve Yzerman of the Tampa Bay Lightning were the other finalists this year.

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.