NHL Rink Wrap: Panthers hand Hurricanes first loss; Coyotes win

NHL Rink Wrap: Panthers hand Hurricanes first loss; Coyotes win
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Top players from Saturday in the NHL

Anthony Duclair, Panthers

Not that long ago, it seemed like Anthony Duclair’s NHL career was hanging by a thread. Luckily, he bet on himself, and it paid off. Both for Duclair, and the Panthers.

The Panthers drew NHL headlines on Saturday by handing the formerly-undefeated Hurricanes their first loss. To Florida’s delight, it was as decisive as a cat toying with a mouse.

Duclair was at the forefront, scoring two goals and two assists. It’s early, but this season sure does feel affirming for Duclair as a splendid talent. He’s up to 12 points in just 11 games.

In a larger market, Duclair and the Panthers beating the Hurricanes would be a big deal. Or at least draw sellout crowds. Even in a Florida market that may need some convincing, it wouldn’t be surprising if word of mouth picked up.

(Especially since Duclair and the Panthers are so fun to watch.)

Tyler Bertuzzi, Red Wings

Perhaps Bertuzzi’s offense is going to come in surges.

To start the season, Tyler Bertuzzi scored four goals. He’d end up with six points in a season-opening three-game point streak, and nine points in five games. Then he went pointless in three games, and had been without a point in four of five.

On Saturday, Bertuzzi also scored two goals and two assists. He now has 13 points in nine games. At this rate, there will be less vaccination talk and more discussion of his contract ending after 2022-23.

Consider Matthew Tkachuk and Mitch Marner among honorable mentions with one-goal, three-assist nights.

Highlights from Saturday in the NHL

Check out Duclair’s four-point night and the Panthers convincingly handing the Hurricanes their first loss:

Speaking of that game, Antti Raanta was shaken up after a hard collision with Ryan Lomberg. That said, many believed Lomberg couldn’t avoid that collision with Raanta, and thus didn’t deserve a match penalty.

Then enjoy Tyler Bertuzzi’s four-point night, and Moritz Seider‘s OT-winner. Those young Red Wings are coming along quite nicely.

Kasperi Kapanen‘s first NHL hat trick wasn’t enough for the Penguins to beat the Wild. Jason Zucker‘s pass on one of those Kapanen goals should be enough to improve your day if you’re a Penguins fan, however.

Sometimes it feels like hockey players are wrestlers or fighting game characters with special moves. For Andrei Svechnikov, it’s the lacrosse goal. With Matthew Tkachuk, it also feels like his between-the-legs goals should come with a “get over here!”


Saturday’s NHL takeaways

Panthers hand Hurricanes their first loss of the season

If shootouts and overtime losses bother you, then you might have felt compelled to say that Hurricanes – Panthers featured “two” undefeated teams. Technically, though, there are now no more undefeated teams in the NHL.

The Panthers improved to 10-0-1 on the season, tying a record for their best 11-game start in franchise history. (They also became one of three teams to generate 21 standings points through its first 11 games.)

While the Panthers made that history, they denied the Hurricanes (now 9-1-0) the chance to become just the third team to begin a season 10-0-0. Truly, the Hurricanes and Panthers are still off to resounding starts — and not “just for the Hurricanes and Panthers.”

Perhaps the next step, then, is to make sure casual sports fans realize that the Panthers and Hurricanes are a pretty big deal? (Or at least get that word out in the greater Miami area.)

We may find out how much Blackhawks’ blueline blunders are about coaching

When the Blackhawks promoted Jeremy Colliton to head coach in November 2018, the most common response was: ” … Who?” You could argue that, to an extent, we only know so much about Colliton now.

After all, the Blackhawks were really starting to slip when they fired Joel Quenneville and hired Colliton. With that in mind, it was tough to tell how much blame should be placed on Colliton vs. Stan Bowman, the person putting those teams together.

(Bluntly, Bowman resigned for off-the-ice reasons, but he’s largely responsible for the team going from “win at all costs” to “lose at a great cost.”)

[More on Blackhawks firing Jeremy Colliton]

It’s not a 1:1 situation. Frankly, the Blackhawks are almost bound to be a little better, at least compared to their ghastly 1-9-2 record. Few teams who try to win are that bad through 82 games. Plenty of people expected Chicago to struggle. Only the most cynical skeptics expected it to be this bad.

But we may get at least some idea of how much their frazzled defense was about Colliton. It’s unclear if even a brilliant coach could actually steer the 2021-22 Blackhawks to a playoff berth, though.

Coyotes beat Kraken for first win

It turns out Saturday was a night of first, and last-first, for the 2021-22 NHL season.

As you saw above, the Hurricanes became the last team to lose their first game of the season. The Coyotes flipped that, becoming the last team in the NHL to finally win a game. They did so against the NHL’s latest expansion team.

Luckily, they don’t award different points for less-impressive wins, because this was “bowling shoe ugly.”

During the first period, the Kraken built 2-0 and 3-1 leads over the Coyotes. The Coyotes shaved one off in the second, then briefly built a 4-3 lead in the third. Then, 18:42 into that final frame, Mark Giordano tied it back up.

Just 13 seconds later, Lawson Crouse scored the first-game winner of the Coyotes’ season. If this first win is a sign, then the Coyotes may not earn more of these. Then again, they didn’t give up, so perhaps they can at least restore a little dignity to their season?

Sunday’s big story

Zach Parise faces Wild in Minnesota

In discussing his return to face the Wild in Minnesota as a member of the Islanders, Zach Parise said he’s moved on. Yet, his comment to the New York Post still rings true.

“It’s gonna be a little weird,” Parise said earlier this week, via Ethan Sears. “A lot of different feelings and emotions going in there as an Islander.”

How could it not?

For nine seasons, Parise suited up for the Wild. The 37-year-old didn’t make the call to cut ties with the Wild. Instead, Bill Guerin & Co. decided to buy out Parise (not totally surprising) and Ryan Suter (far more surprising) during the Wild’s offseason. The two signed those matching 13-year, $98 million contracts on the same day. The last four years of those deals were also bought out in stereo.

It’s not a clean break, though.

Most obviously, the Wild will pay dearly for the Suter – Parise buyouts, particularly from 2022-23 to 2024-25.

Naturally, there’s the human element. Parise was born in Minnesota. As a free agent, he chose the Wild after seven seasons with the Devils. At the time, the Suter – Parise contracts felt like hockey’s (fittingly milder) version of NBA superstars forming super-teams. It never quite worked out that way, and that likely leaves Parise with bittersweet feelings heading into Sunday.

So far with the Islanders, Parise has two assists in nine games, logging modest minutes. Wouldn’t it be sweet if Parise scored his first goal of the season on Sunday.

(For Wild fans, it might just be bitter.)

Saturday’s NHL scores

Coyotes 5, Kraken 4
Flames 6, Rangers 0
Devils 3, Sharks 2 (SO)
Lightning 5, Senators 3
Panthers 5, Hurricanes 2
Islanders 2, Jets 0
Red Wings 4, Sabres 3 (OT)
Maple Leafs 5, Bruins 2
Golden Knights 5, Canadiens 2
Wild 5, Penguins 4 (SO)
Flyers 2, Capitals 1
Blue Jackets 4, Avalanche 2

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.

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    Penguins name former Maple Leafs GM Kyle Dubas as director of hockey operations

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    PITTSBURGH (AP) Kyle Dubas wanted to take a breath and take a break after being fired as the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

    Then the Pittsburgh Penguins called.

    The break ended shortly thereafter.

    Dubas joined the Penguins as the team’s president of hockey operations, less than two weeks after a somewhat ugly exit from Toronto following a second-round playoff loss to Florida.

    The 37-year-old Dubas goes from one type of hockey crucible to another. In Toronto, he was tasked with helping the Maple Leafs emerge from two decades of postseason futility. In Pittsburgh, his mission will be to prop open the Stanley Cup window for Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang a little longer.

    All three are 35 or older and haven’t won a playoff series since 2018. Yet Dubas believes strongly the issue isn’t the age of the franchise’s core but deficiencies elsewhere on the roster. Dubas replaces Brian Burke, who was fired along with general manager Ron Hextall in April after the Penguins failed to reach the playoffs for the first time since 2006.

    “I heard a lot of people that were highly skeptical of the team’s ability to contend here and the way I view it, if the people want to bet against (Crosby, Letang and Malkin) they can go ahead and do so,” Dubas said. “But I’m going to bet on them and go with them here. I think it is a group that’s capable of contending to win a championship.”

    Crosby and Malkin were excellent for much of last season and Letang showed remarkable resiliency while dealing with multiple setbacks, including a stroke and the death of his father. Yet save for a 14-2-2 stretch in November and December, the Penguins struggled to find consistency and ultimately stumbled down the stretch to snap the longest active playoff streak in major North American Sports.

    While the Penguins do have $20 million in cap space and the 14th overall pick in this month’s NHL draft, significant changes or upgrades could be difficult in the short term.

    Dubas inherits a team that was the oldest in the NHL last season and is littered with question marks, particularly in goal and the forward group outside of Crosby, Malkin and Jake Guentzel.

    Two-time All-Star goaltender Tristan Jarry will become a free agent this summer and was beset by injuries over the second half of the season. Forward Jason Zucker, who served as the emotional sparkplug for long stretches, is also scheduled to hit the open market and may have priced himself out of town.

    Pittsburgh also has several aging players with full or partial no-movement clauses, including 38-year-old forward Jeff Carter, 30-year-old Bryan Rust and 35-year-old defenseman Jeff Petry.

    “I think that those are obviously very real situations, everyone knows that they exist,” Dubas said. “To me the effect on it … is what we can add in terms of depth pieces? What we can add in terms of younger players? That’ll be the real key.”

    Dubas does plan to hire a general manager to fill the vacancy created when Hextall was let go after a short but largely unfruitful tenure. Dubas will serve as the GM on an interim basis until early July.

    Dubas comes to Pittsburgh after nine seasons with the Maple Leafs, including the last five as general manager. Toronto won a postseason series for the first time since 2004 this spring before falling to the Florida Panthers in the Eastern Conference semifinals in five games.

    Shortly after the Maple Leafs’ playoff exit, Dubas said that he wasn’t sure if he wanted to remain in Toronto. His contract was set to expire on June 30, but team president Kyle Shanahan opted to pre-emptively fire Dubas instead. Toronto hired former Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving as Dubas’ replacement.

    Dubas helped build the Maple Leafs into a regular-season power during his tenure. Toronto set single-season records for wins and points, and went 221-109-42 in his tenure. Dubas also didn’t shy away from big moves – he fired Stanley Cup-winning coach Mike Babcock in November 2019 and replaced him with Sheldon Keefe – but struggled to find the right mix in the playoffs until this spring.

    In the end, advancing beyond the first round for the first time since 2004 wasn’t enough for Dubas to remain in Toronto.

    He joked he was maybe a little “too honest” during his season-ending press conference with the Maple Leafs when he expressed reservations about returning. Shanahan’s abrupt decision to move on came as a bit of a surprise, and Dubas planned to take some time to hit the reset button before looking for another job.

    Yet the Penguins – who’d already been given clearance by the Maple Leafs to interview Dubas – provided a compelling reason to speed up the timetable. Dubas’ due diligence included speaking to Crosby and longtime coach Mike Sullivan to take the pulse of a leadership group that remains firmly in place.

    Dubas called them “some of the best competitors” in hockey. Competitors that have – for one reason or another – been unable to recapture the magic of their runs to back-to-back Cups in 2016 and 2017.

    Time is running out for Crosby to put his name on the Cup for a fourth time in a career that will almost certainly end in the Hall of Fame. Dubas knows he’ll be judged in part on whether he can make that happen. After taking more than six weeks of searching before landing on Dubas, Fenway Sports Group Chairman Tom Werner believes Dubas is up to the challenge.

    “Our philosophy is giving Kyle and his associates the best possible resources to win,” Werner said. “Kyle’s been very articulate today about his path to success … we’re very confident that Kyle will execute the plan he’s articulated to us.”

    Seattle Kraken sign GM Ron Francis to 3-year extension through 2026-27 season

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    SEATTLE — Ron Francis was initially approached about extending his stay as the general manager of the Seattle Kraken back in the winter, but putting finality to the decision took longer than expected.

    The Kraken kept winning and pushed what was mostly a formality to a secondary need until after Seattle’s unexpected playoff run finally ended.

    “At that point it was kind of verbally done, just kind of a few little small details. And then we get into the playoffs and busy and it kind of got put on the back burner and I didn’t want it to be a distraction with the team and where they were at,” Francis said.

    That finality came when the Kraken announced Francis had signed a three-year extension through the 2026-27 season. Francis originally signed a five-year deal when he became the first GM in franchise history back in 2019 and the new contract will kick in starting with the 2024-25 season.

    “I’ll never forget the day that he said, ‘Yes, I’m ready to do this,’” Kraken CEO Tod Leiweke said. “But today is another great day for our fans because not only did he come and build, he is going to stay here and continue to build this franchise.”

    Seattle reached the second round of the NHL playoffs in its second year of existence, following a challenging first year where it underachieved and was among the worst teams in the league.

    But Francis navigated through that difficult first season and helped land the pieces that turned Seattle into a playoff team in the second year without mortgaging future opportunities or putting the Kraken into challenging salary cap situations.

    “He has been the leader that’s gotten us to where we are today. And he is the leader to take us to the next level,” Seattle co-owner Samantha Holloway said.

    Seattle is the second stop for Francis as an executive after spending seven seasons in the front office of the Carolina Hurricanes. Francis started as director of hockey operations before becoming the general manager in 2014. Francis was let go by the Hurricanes after the 2018 season.

    Seattle jumped at the chance to bring the Hall of Fame player in to lead the front office. Seattle’s expansion season was a major underachievement with the Kraken going 27-49-6 and finishing last in the Pacific Division with 60 points. But Francis was able to move veteran players to stockpile draft picks and left enough salary cap room to make some key moves entering the second season.

    Seattle signed free agent forward Andre Burakovksy, traded for winger Oliver Bjorkstrand and inserted rookie Matty Beniers into the lineup on Seattle’s top line from the first day of the season. The results on the ice couldn’t be argued. Seattle went 46-28-8 and reached 100 points, knocked off defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado in the first round of the playoffs before falling to Dallas in seven games in the conference semifinals.

    “It’s been a real team effort. I’m sitting up here today and they’re saying good things about me, but it’s a much bigger picture than just me,” Francis said. “I’m excited to be here for a few more years and hopefully everybody’s opinion doesn’t change, but we’re going to stick to the plan and continue building it the right way so we can be a great franchise for multiple years.”

    Francis also stuck with coach Dave Hakstol after that difficult first season. He may be the next in line for a contract extension from the team after a season where he was recognized as a finalist for the Jack Adams Award for top coach in the league.

    Maple Leafs hire Brad Treliving as team’s new general manager

    Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

    TORONTO — Brad Treliving has a new job.

    And the Maple Leafs have a new plan.

    Treliving was hired as Toronto’s general manager less than two weeks after firing Kyle Dubas.

    The 53-year-old Treliving left the Calgary Flames in April following nine seasons that included five playoff appearances and two 100-point seasons.

    “Brad brings a wealth of knowledge from his years of experience as a general manager and hockey executive in Calgary, Arizona and beyond,” Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said in a statement. “He has earned tremendous respect amongst his peers throughout his years in the NHL and has built excellent relationships at all levels within the game.”

    Treliving joins the Leafs at a crucial juncture in the wake of Shanahan’s stunning dismissal of Dubas on May 19.

    The Original Six franchise, whose Stanley Cup drought stands at 56 years, won a playoff series for the first time in nearly two decades with a victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning this spring, but then lost to the Eastern Conference champion Florida Panthers in five games.

    Dubas, who had been Toronto’s GM since 2018 and didn’t have a contract beyond June 30, suggested at an end of season news conference May 15 he wasn’t sure he wanted to remain in the role – at least in part because of the stress on his young family.

    A roller coaster five days followed, with Shanahan ultimately firing the 37-year-old Dubas despite previously wanting to keep his GM, and the now-unemployed executive eventually indicating to his boss he wished to stay.

    Treliving is the third GM – joining Dubas and Hall of Famer Lou Lamoriello – hired in Toronto by Shanahan, whose so-called “Shanaplan” aimed at getting the storied franchise back on its feet when he came on board in 2014 has seen unparalleled regular-season success, but just that one series victory in eight attempts.

    “I’m thrilled to join an Original Six team and recognize how much the Maple Leafs mean to this community,” Treliving said. “This is a very exciting day for my family and I.”

    Treliving has a lot to deal with as he settles into his new office at Scotiabank Arena.

    Treliving, who served in the Phoenix Coyotes’ front office for seven seasons before arriving in Calgary, will have to decide the future of head coach Sheldon Keefe, while stars Auston Matthews and William Nylander can sign contract extensions as of July 1.

    Matthews and Mitch Marner have full no-movement clauses ready to kick in the same day. Nylander will have a 10-team list.

    The NHL draft is also set for the end of June in Nashville, Tennessee, while the Leafs have 12 roster players primed to hit free agency at noon EDT on July 1.

    The Flames, who missed the playoffs this season, won the Pacific Division in 2021-22 under Treliving before falling to the Edmonton Oilers in the second round.

    Johnny Gaudreau then stunned the organization by leaving Calgary for the Columbus Blue Jackets in free agency last summer. Fellow star forward Matthew Tkachuk added another wrinkle by informing the team he didn’t plan to re-sign.

    Treliving subsequently dealt the winger to Florida as part of a package that included forward Jonathan Huberdeau and defenseman MacKenzie Weegar heading to southern Alberta.

    Huberdeau then signed an eight-year, $84 million contract extension with the Flames that kicks in next season.

    Tkachuk, a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate as playoff MVP, and the Panthers open the Cup Final against the Vegas Golden Knights.

    Despite the departures of Gaudreau and Tkachuk, the Flames looked like contenders ahead of the 2022-23 season.

    The acquisition of Huberdeau and the signing of center Nazem Kadri was expected to fill the void left by Gaudreau and Tkachuk, but the mix wasn’t right for a group led by hard-nosed coach Darryl Sutter.

    Huberdeau and Kadri finished well off their career-high points totals of the previous season – the former went from 115 with Florida to 55 in Calgary – while subpar goaltending was an issue much of the season.

    Treliving now turns his attention to Toronto.

    Just like last summer, he has lots of work to do.

    Nashville Predators hire Andrew Brunette after firing John Hynes

    Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

    NASHVILLE, Tenn.– The coaching shuffle in Nashville is complete, with Andrew Brunette officially hired as the Predators coach a little over 12 hours after the team announced that John Hynes was fired.

    The moves are the first being made by incoming general manager Barry Trotz and come about six weeks after the Predators missed the playoffs.

    The 49-year-old Brunette spent the past season as a New Jersey Devils associate coach under Lindy Ruff and has previous head-coaching experience.

    He was promoted to interim coach of the Florida Panthers during the 2021-22 season and oversaw a team that set franchise records for wins (58) and points (122) in claiming the Presidents’ Trophy before being eliminated in the second round of the playoffs. Brunette finished second in the Jack Adams Award voting for the NHL’s coach of the year.

    He becomes just the fourth coach in the history of a Predators franchise and returns to Nashville, where Brunette played for the Trotz-coached team during its inaugural season in 1998-99. Their relationship goes back to 1993-94, when Brunette played under Trotz, who was head coach of the Washington Capitals’ American Hockey League affiliate in Portland, Maine.

    “I feel like this is coming full circle for my career – from pulling on the jersey for the first time 25 years ago to returning now to take care of some unfinished business,” Brunette said in a statement. “It has been awesome to see how this city and its fanbase have grown since I played here and I look forward to continuing the legacy and the culture behind the bench that Barry cultivated that inaugural season.”

    Trotz, meantime, has an eye on building on the Predators’ youth and offensively skilled players as he takes over as GM for David Poile, who is retiring at the end of June after 26 years overseeing the franchise.

    “We want to become more of an offensive team and Andrew specializes on that side of the ice – he lived it as a player, and he coaches it as a coach, Trotz said. “He is as good of an offensive teacher and power-play coach as there is in the game today. He will be great with our young players, and I know, because of his background as a player, he will connect well with our top, skilled players.”

    In Florida, Brunette coached a Panthers team that led the NHL with 337 goals and had the league’s fourth-best power-play unit.

    The Predators missed the playoffs for the first time in nine years, and the first under Hynes, who took over as coach during the 2019-20 season after Peter Laviolette was fired.

    Brunette, who is from Sudbury, Ontario, spent 16 seasons playing in the NHL, ending with a one-year stint with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2011-12. He finished with 268 goals and 733 points in 1,110 career games split among six teams, including two separate stints in Minnesota. Brunette is one of 25 players selected in the seventh round or later to appear in more than 1,000 NHL games.

    Upon his retirement, Brunette spent seven seasons with the Wild in various off-ice roles, including assistant coach and assistant GM, before being hired by the Panthers as an assistant coach in 2019-2020.