Carlyle out, Murray in as Ducks finally make coaching change

15 Comments

Everyone saw this coming — we just didn’t know when.

After losing their seventh straight game on Saturday and 19th in their past 21, the Anaheim Ducks finally made the choice to remove Randy Carlyle from his post as head coach on Sunday.

The team’s executive vice-president and general manager Bob Murray will assume the controls behind the bench with an interim title attached. Murray said the team will begin its search for Carlyle’s successor after their season is put out of its misery in April.

“We thank Randy for everything he has done for the organization,” Murray said in a release from the club on Sunday. “Leading the team to a Stanley Cup and three conference final appearances, he has accomplished so much in Anaheim. Difficult decisions need to be made when times are tough, and our play has clearly been unacceptable. We have a tradition of success in Anaheim and we need to get back to that.”

The Ducks got dusted by the surging Philadelphia Flyers 6-2 on Saturday, just another link in a chain of embarrassing losses during their recent seven-game skid.

Just look at some of these scores:

  • 4-0 loss to Ottawa
  • 4-1 loss to Montreal
  • 6-1 loss to Toronto
  • 9-3 loss to Winnipeg
  • 5-1 loss to St. Louis
  • 3-0 loss to New York Islanders

And this doesn’t even begin to delve into the team’s franchise record 12-game losing streak earlier this season. The Ducks managed a brief reprieve with back to back wins against the Minnesota Wild and New Jersey Devils before returning to regular, losing proceedings.

Carlyle was given a vote of confidence during that 12-game slide after showing signs of life in a 4-3 loss to the Winnipeg Jets in January.

As LeBrun notes in the tweet above, former Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakins is considered the frontrunner to replace Carlyle. He’s already coaching the team’s future with San Diego of the American Hockey League, so the move makes sense from that angle.

Eakins wasn’t a world beater in Edmonton, however, and you wonder if Murray wouldn’t rather kick the tires with Joel Quenneville first than hand an unproven NHL head coach the reins.

Anaheim’s season only got worse last week when John Gibson got injured, forcing him to not dress in Saturday’s laugher.

Gibson has been the sole bright spot in Anaheim, despite all of the losing and deserves to be in the conversation for the Vezina.

But his grip on that trophy has lessened over the past couple of months, but it hasn’t really been any fault of his own. He has given the Ducks plenty of opportunities to win, only to watch the team in front of him fall apart on most nights. He got lit up for six goals in the first period last week against the Winnipeg Jets. The team in front of him did little to stop the onslaught. And that’s just one example of many during this horrid stretch.

The Ducks have just 127 goals for this season, lowest amongst NHL teams. They’ve given up the third-most number of shots and tied for the third-most goals allowed. And yet the Ducks are somehow still only six points out of a playoff spot.

Given their current play, however, that six points is akin to scaling Mount Everest without crampons. It just isn’t happening.

Carlyle leaves the Ducks (for the second time) as their winningest coach with 384 wins and led the team to the playoffs in seven of eight full seasons with the team, including the 2007 Stanley Cup. In his second tour of duty as bench boss in Orange County, Carlyle was 111-74-35. He’s bound to find a new home eventually.

You have to believe that Murray’s job will be in the crosshairs as the team moves forward. He’s been in his role for over a decade now and the Ducks have only reached the Western Conference Final under Murray’s guidance since winning the Cup under Brian Burke.

The team still has two more seasons of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry making a combined $17-million-plus and another three years of Ryan Kesler making close to $7 million. That’s a quarter of their salary cap and they need to find money for Jakob Silfverberg this offseason (unless he’s shipped out at the trade deadline). Gibson’s new contract kicks in next year, too, with another $4 million being added to his AAV.

All of this has happened while other teams in the Pacific Division have strengthened their rosters. From Erik Karlsson going to the San Jose Sharks to Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny heading to Vegas. The emergence of the Calgary Flames has also taken the Ducks down a notch and it’s looking like the Central Division will be sending five teams to the playoffs to the Pacific’s three. It’s a tough conference as it is, and having a few contracts handcuffing the additions of better talent isn’t helping.

And the problem is you can’t really blow it up. Who’s going to want any of those contracts?


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Key defensemen enter contract years, possible free agency

Getty Images
2 Comments

Despite being the most exciting offseason since PHT started in 2010, the NHL will probably always lag behind the NBA when it comes to stars moving in free agency.

Rudely, players like Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid don’t even flirt with drama, instead sticking with their teams by signing extensions, often almost at the first possible moment they legally can. Again, rude.

So, it’s important to get that disclaimer out of the way. Chances are, the fascinatingly robust list of pending free agent defensemen will narrow down, possibly starting before the 2019-20 season begins.

But, even so, it’s quite the list, and a lot of these defensemen will earn enormous, team-changing raises, whenever their next deals get signed.

And, hey, sticking with your team can still alter its course. Just look at how scary that Drew Doughty extension ($11 million AAV through 2026-27) seems today compared to when Doughty re-upped with the Kings in July 2018.

Let’s consider some of the most intriguing names, split by UFA and RFA designations. Cap Friendly’s listings were helpful in putting this together, and being that these lists aren’t comprehensive, you may enjoy digging deeper there to find even more.

Prominent UFAs

Alex Pietrangelo (Blues), Roman Josi (Predators), Tyson Barrie (Maple Leafs), Torey Krug (Bruins), Jared Spurgeon (Wild, more on them here), Justin Faulk (Hurricanes), Jake Muzzin (Maple Leafs), Justin Schultz (Penguins), Christopher Tanev (Canucks), T.J. Brodie (Flames), Sami Vatanen (Devils), Travis Hamonic (Flames).

The headliners of this list – particularly Pietrangelo and Josi – must have licked their chops when Erik Karlsson signed that mammoth eight year, $92M ($11.5M AAV) contract with the Sharks. Pietrangelo and Josi don’t boast multiple Norris Trophies, yet they might also be healthier than Karlsson when he signed his deal, so there could be interesting value debates.

Either way, Roman Josi’s borderline-insulting $4M won’t cut it after 2019-20.

The marquee names are the most intriguing, yet there are interesting situations as you go down a rung and more. And those are the players who are arguably more likely to sign with new teams.

Would Toronto be able to bring back even one of Barrie or Muzzin after next season? Are the Hurricanes destined to move on from Faulk, or would they instead keep Faulk and move someone else, like Dougie Hamilton? Players like Faulk, Schultz, and Vatanen could see their value shift in big ways depending upon how well or poorly they perform in 2019-20. Will P.K. Subban‘s arrival hurt Vatanen, or will the former Ducks defenseman thrive in a more relaxed role next season for New Jersey?

There are a lot of intriguing situations to watch there.

Notable RFAs

Josh Morrissey (Jets), Thomas Chabot (Senators), Samuel Girard (Avalanche), Mikhail Sergachev (Lightning), Ryan Pulock (Islanders), Darnell Nurse (Oilers), Brandon Montour (Sabres), etc.

These players don’t have the same leverage as they’re restricted, but it should still be interesting if there’s a ripple effect when the Jets have to pay Morrissey, and how strenuous negotiations could be between Chabot and the penny-pinching Senators. Tampa Bay’s really brought Sergachev along slowly, and you wonder if they’d be wise to try to extend him before a potential breakthrough?

***

Again, extensions will kill some of the wildest daydreams by crossing names off the list long before July 2020. Don’t assume your team will happen upon a Pietrangelo or Spurgeon.

That said, there are certain “something has to give” situations. The Maple Leafs may know that they’re only getting Muzzin and Barrie for a limited time. The Bruins have a tight squeeze happening, especially with Charlie McAvoy still needing an RFA deal this summer.

Either way, teams should savor deals like Josi at $4M, because they won’t last much longer.

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.

Maple Leafs’ Marner mum on contract negotiations

Getty Images
Leave a comment

It’s not much, but for Toronto Maple Leafs fans willing to hang on anything said by still-unsigned restricted free agent Mitch Marner, it was at least something.

When Marner stepped in front of a crowd of reporters on Thursday, he did undoubtedly knowing what the first line of questioning would be. And the second, and the third.

When is he going to sign?

“Hopefully sooner than later,” Marner said. “I want to be there for the start of camp, so hoping something can get done then.”

From there, Marner steered those questions toward his agent as he threw on his best pair dancing shoes and showed he could sidestep with the best of them.

If you’re looking for a t-shirt slogan, “You have to ask my agent” is right up there with the best of them in Toronto these days.

 

“My agent and Kyle are doing it, and they’re going to figure something out,” Marner said.

One thing Marner made pretty clear is he wouldn’t be at training camp without a contract.

“Probably not,” he said. “There’s so much risk with that. It’s just something you don’t want to risk.”

What about an offer sheet?

Marner whipped out the agent line once again, while saying he’s trying to stay out of all of that “stuff.”

So the uncertainty hasn’t affected you?

“None,” he said, before once again talking about his agent’s role in the negotiations.

What about fans’ concerns that you may not sign a contract with the Maple Leafs.

“I’m leaving all of that to my agent right now,” he said.

Those agents, man. Ruining Toronto’s summer for the second year in a row.

View this post on Instagram

First 3 🤟🏄

A post shared by Mitch Marner (@marner_93) on

Marner seemed unfazed by it all and appears to be enjoying his summer.

Why wouldn’t he? He’s about to get paid in a major way, but the Maple Leafs or any number of teams that would be willing to lavish cash upon him if given the chance.

Marner’s situation is one of several playing out this summer. He’s not the only big-ticket RFA without a deal so far.

Patrik Laine in Winnipeg, Brayden Point in Tampa Bay, Mikko Rantanen in Colorado are just a few others. It’s become commonplace for big names without arbitration rights on the RFA list to let negotiations span the summer, if not further.

Marner’s contract is only illuminated better because of where he plays. Dominating two national TV broadcasters on a daily basis in Canada.

And the fear in Leafs Nations is made only worse knowing all-too-well where this path can lead.

William Nylander‘s contract last summer dragged right into the regular season and Nylander and the Maple Leafs felt those effects throughout the season.

The same scenario with Marner would be worse, given he’s the team’s leading point-getter from last season.

A Toronto native, Marner said he’s well-accustomed to the media and said his phone has been shut off for much of the summer.

Like he said, his agent is running the show. Marner’s merely the main protagonist who has yet to be revealed in a complex script.

When he will is anyone’s guess.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Ron Francis has big hopes as GM of Seattle’s new NHL club

AP Images
Leave a comment

SEATTLE (AP) — Ron Francis has all kinds of eye-popping statistics attached to his Hall of Fame career. He averaged more than point a game, is second in NHL history in assists behind Wayne Gretzky and fifth in career points.

When CEO Tod Leiweke and the ownership group of the Seattle NHL expansion team looked at his playing resume, though, they were most impressed by another statistic: Francis was voted captain by three teams for 14 of his 23 years, first earning the role at age 21.

That leadership ability spurred them to hire Francis on Thursday as general manager of the yet-to-be-named team – well ahead of their schedule.

”Ownership made an incredible commitment . in supporting this idea of let’s do this a year early,” Leiweke said. ”If we’re really here working for our fans, let’s reward their belief. They said we’re willing to make this commitment a year early. We’re willing to bring on a general manager earlier than any other expansion team in the history of the NHL and that gift of an additional year will serve us well and give us a chance to scout and build and plan. But we had to find the right person.”

They believe the 56-year-old Francis is that person, announcing his hiring at a news conference that was attended by the mayor and a state senator. He’ll have complete control of building the organization under Leiweke. He said he’s already drawn up an organizational chart that will guide hiring as the team prepares to open play in 2021 as the NHL’s 32nd franchise.

And he’s already started daydreaming about how his team will look.

”I think if you look at my past experience, it’s a team that’s fast,” Francis said. ”I think it’s a team that needs to have skill and hockey sense. I like a team that’s extremely competitive. And for me I think you need a team that has character. It’s easy to be a good person when things are going well. When things get a little bit tough, that’s when character rises to the top and pulls you through those tough times.”

Character defined Francis’ playing career. Jaromir Jagr, his teammate on the 1991 and 1992 Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins, called Francis perhaps the most underrated player in NHL history. After starting his career as the No. 4 overall pick in the 1981 draft for the Hartford Whalers, he played for the Penguins and the Toronto Maple Leafs before returning to the Whalers in 1998 after they moved to Carolina.

He guided that team to the NHL finals before retiring. He joined the Hurricanes’ front office and worked through a number of jobs under Hall of Fame GM Jim Rutherford, including assistant GM and associate head coach. He was promoted to GM in 2014 when Rutherford left for Pittsburgh and held that position until an ownership change in 2018, a year before Carolina played in the finals.

Francis said he was depressed after leaving the Hurricanes, but found his drive again while working at the Spengler Cup and with Hockey Canada during last year’s world championships.

”Getting around the NHL players again, the NHL coaches and stuff, the passion started burning again and I thought, ‘OK this is really where I want to be,”’ Francis said. ”And when Tod called, I looked at the opportunity and said, ‘What a great chance.’ We get to build it from the ground up. We get to establish our culture and how we want to do it. I think it’s a unique opportunity. It doesn’t happen every day.”

Connor McDavid’s signature forged on Oilers jerseys

Getty Images
1 Comment

EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — A man has been charged with forging the signature of Edmonton Oilers star Connor McDavid on team jerseys and then selling them for big profits.

Edmonton police say the 23-year-old man in April 2018 contacted several people on Facebook, claiming he was employed by either the Edmonton Oilers Entertainment Group or Pro Am Sports, and was selling autographed McDavid jerseys.

Chandra Vinesh Singh has been charged with fraud, forging documents and false pretense.

Investigators believe he sold two items bearing bogus signatures to someone for $1,400, then defrauded another person of $23,000.

Oilers Entertainment Group executive Tim Shipton thanked fans for their support but stressed that this case is a ”good reminder for our fans to always go to trusted sources.”