Panthers must not overreact to playoffs, including at head coach

Even before they struggled against the Capitals and were swept out of the playoffs by the Lightning, the Florida Panthers inspired an uncomfortable thought. Fun, risk-taking NHL teams rarely receive many chances to succeed.

Time ran out on the Bruce Boudreau era for the Capitals, forcing them to wade through the wilderness before finally grabbing that elusive Stanley Cup. From 2014-15 to 2015-16, the Stars easily lead the league with 522 goals, leaving the Capitals at a distant second with 485. After a setback or two, they now embrace boredom like a badge of honor.

Those are just a few examples of teams barely traveling a rocky road before their style goes blandly vanilla.

So, if you’re like me, you’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop with the Florida Panthers. Thus, a Jeff Blashill – Panthers connection sounds like a loud thud.

To be clear, Elliotte Friedman brought it up as a passing mention around the 55-minute mark of his “32 Thoughts Podcast” with Jeff Marek.

For all we know, the Panthers stick with Brunette, or go for a different head coach.

The larger direction of the Panthers is worth discussing, though. Whether it’s Blashill, Brunette, or someone else as Panthers head coach, this team could look different next season.

Pondering a Blashill – Panthers connection

Again, at first blush, Blashill coaching the Panthers would be puzzling. Even for a franchise that’s enjoyed a run of making fascinating bets that pay off in big ways.

Really, it’s striking that Andrew Brunette boasts more playoff games coached (10 to 5) and more playoff wins (4 to 1) in one interim run with the Panthers than Jeff Blashill managed in seven seasons with the Red Wings.

Of course, the Red Wings don’t feature anywhere near the personnel that the Panthers rolled out in 2021-22.

Should Jeff Blashill get another chance as an NHL head coach? Possibly.

Understandably, people mention examples of coaches learning from mistakes and nailing a second try as an NHL head coach. They risk simplifying that process, though. Sure, Bruce Cassidy enjoyed success during his Bruins run. It’s easy to forget how large the gap was between the Capitals firing him (2003-04) and his next shot as as NHL head coach in 2016-17.

[Cassidy hopes to coach in the NHL again, possibly as soon as next season]

It would be foolish to blame Blashill for the Red Wings’ struggles. At the same time, it’s difficult to find undeniable evidence that Blashill was a great head coach on a bad team.

Work hard enough, and you can talk yourself into any number of situations. Perhaps Blashill’s aggressive leanings would take off with the right pieces?

But maybe this is really about an earlier impression?

Consider what Panthers GM Bill Zito said about Blashill as the two readied to represent the U.S. at the 2018 IIHF World Championship.

” … And I think he brings a nice balance,” Zito said of Blashill, via the Associated Press. “He brings a great balance of the technical expertise of the game — he’s a student of the game and he’s studying, he’s always into the little nuances that make up a game — as well as the personal, one-on-one to get the most out of the individuals.”

Look, it’s great for a coach and a GM to get along.

Still, there’s a fine line between finding chemistry and making a “chummy” move. After all, the U.S. didn’t exactly dominate that tournament. Kraken GM Ron Francis hired Dave Hakstol after bonding with him under similar circumstances. With time, that partnership might shine. However, it was a failure in year one.

Overall, you can talk yourself into Blashill as Panthers head coach. It just might not be a very persuasive argument.

Jury’s still out on Brunette as Panthers head coach

That said, it’s understandable — if a bit hasty — if the Panthers have their doubts about Andrew Brunette as head coach.

Granted, it would be silly to dismiss his overall work. Taking over after Joel Quenneville resigned in disgrace, the Panthers hardly missed a beat under Andrew Brunette. They won a Presidents’ Trophy, and he was a Jack Adams Award finalist.

Playoff worries extend beyond a bitter sweep by the Lightning. Although they eliminated Washington in six games, the Panthers struggled to break through the Capitals’ defenses.

Does Brunette need more experience when it comes to the granular adjustments that sometimes separate good NHL coaches from great ones? These are harsh questions, yet they also might be fair.

Considering all of the assets the Panthers put on the line, they might not be in the most patient mood, either.

Deep down, the Panthers may simply view Brunette as a strong assistant who isn’t totally ready to coach a contending team.

It’s a credible debate. That said, the debate turns dubious if it boils down to Brunette vs. Blashill.

Ultimately, salary cap and free agent issues could make Panthers head coach a tougher job going forward.

Whatever the case may be, the Panthers face a trying offseason

Break down the Florida Panthers’ salary cap/free agent situation, and you’ll likely argue that something has to given. Then again, maybe GM Bill Zito has some tricks up his sleeves?

Consider the basics:

  • Via Cap Friendly, the Panthers’ salary cap space is projected at about $4M. There’s often wiggle room with such estimates, but the bottom line is that it’s tight.
  • Claude Giroux and Ben Chiarot are both slated to be UFAs. Mason Marchment was a revelation this season, and he’s a UFA as well. The Athletic’s Pierre LeBrun detailed Claude Giroux’s interest in returning to the Panthers (sub required), but that would require some Lightning-level juggling.
  • Eetu Luostarinen carved out a place in the mix, and he’s a pending RFA.
  • There are also crucial expiring contracts after next season, ones that the Panthers must plan for. Jonathan Huberdeau turned 29 on June 4, and his $5.9M cap hit expires after 2022-23. MacKenzie Weegar, 28, is underrated and underpaid ($3.25M.), but what will his next deal look like? Spencer Knight‘s rookie contract ends after 2022-23, too, so that’s a tricky situation. (Even with Knight being an RFA, Sergei Bobrovsky‘s $10M cap hit causes problems.)

Those situations create a lot of tricky decisions. Long story short, head coach ranks as just one of the pressing questions for the Panthers.

Even if this team takes a step back, let’s hope they keep dancing to the beat of their own drum. It’s likely their best way to be the last team standing (and would certainly be more fun to watch).

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    Coyotes minority owner suspended by NHL following arrest

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    NEW YORK — Arizona Coyotes minority owner Andrew Barroway was suspended indefinitely by the NHL on Friday following his arrest for domestic violence in Colorado.

    Online court records show Barroway was arrested on Thursday on suspicion of second-degree assault strangulation, a felony, and third-degree assault, a misdemeanor. He appeared in court Friday to be advised of the possible charges he is facing and is scheduled to back in court on April 3.

    Barroway spent Thursday night in Pitkin County Jail after police arrested him at an Aspen hotel, according to a police report obtained by the Aspen Daily News.

    “The National Hockey League is aware of the arrest of Arizona Coyotes’ minority owner Andrew Barroway,” the NHL said in a statement. “Pending further information, he has been suspended indefinitely.”

    The 57-year-old Barroway was arrested after a verbal altercation with his wife turned physical, according to the police report. He is prohibited from having contact with his wife, except when it involves their children, and can’t consume alcohol under a court order.

    A prominent hedge fund manager, Barroway owns 5% of the Coyotes.

    “We are aware of the allegation regarding Mr. Barroway and we are working with the League to gather more information,” the Coyotes said in a statement. “When we have enough information, we will have an appropriate response. Until the investigation is complete, we will have no further comment.”

    Blue Jackets’ Patrik Laine out 2-4 weeks with triceps injury

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    COLUMBUS, Ohio — Columbus Blue Jackets forward Patrik Laine is out 2-4 weeks after straining a triceps muscle in practice, yet another blow to the last-place team in the NHL that has been hampered by injuries all season.

    The Blue Jackets announced Laine’s absence before their home game against the New York Islanders.

    They already have 454 man-games lost to injury, one of the highest numbers in the league, and have a record of 22-41-7.

    Laine missed two separate stints with elbow and ankle injuries in the fall. The 24-year-old Finn is the team’s second-leading scorer with 52 points in 55 games.

    Columbus has been top defenseman Zach Werenski since November because of a torn labrum and separated shoulder. Forward Sean Kuraly recently went on injured reserve with a strained left oblique muscle but is set to return Friday.

    Tortorella earns 700th career win, Flyers top Wild 5-4

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    PHILADELPHIA — John Tortorella needed one word to sum up if 700 career wins meant anything to the Flyers coach.


    OK, then. Good thing the brusque Stanley Cup winner isn’t paid by the word.

    James van Riemsdyk scored the only goal in a shootout, and Philadelphia beat the Minnesota Wild 5-4 on Thursday night for Tortorella’s 700th victory.

    Tortorella is 700-573-181 in 1,454 games as an NHL head coach. His 700 wins rank 12th in NHL history and his career games rank ninth in NHL history. He led Tampa Bay to the Stanley Cup in 2004. In his first season coaching the Flyers, Tortorella joined Peter Laviolette as the second American-born coach to win 700 games.

    “I think the culture’s kind of changed around here,” Flyers forward Joel Farabee said. “I think he’s done a really good job of keeping the group together.”

    Farabee, Scott Laughton, Rasmus Ristolainen and Tyson Foerster scored for Philadelphia. The Flyers have two straight games for the first time since Jan. 9-14 when they won three straight. Yeah, it’s been that kind of season.

    “Farabee’s starting to pop, he’s looking real good. Tyson is looking real good,” Flyers defenseman Tony DeAngelo said. “This is all about laying the foundation for next year but we get a lot of money to do this job. It’s something we love, so we’re gonna go out and give it our best every night.”

    Matt Boldy had two goals for the Wild, and Oskar Sundqvist and Marcus Foligno also scored.

    “We weren’t very good. They were good,” Wild coach Dean Evason said. “We knew they were playing well, they played well tonight. We were loose. We were not firm, turnovers, it didn’t look like our hockey club.”

    The Flyers and Wild were tied 1-all at the end of the first period, 3-3 at the end of the second and 4-4 headed into OT.

    The rebuilding Flyers have been plucky of late. They had won two of three coming into the game, with the lone loss in overtime. They showed some of that grit in the final two periods, scoring late tying goals.

    “It’s a credit to their group, to their coaching staff, that they’ve got them playing the right way,” Evason said.

    Boldy poked a backhander past Carter Hart with 6:28 left for a 4-3 lead. The Flyers, playing more for the No. 1 pick and for pride, tied the game on Foerster’s second goal of the season.

    Farabee tipped in Cam York’s shot early in the second for a 2-1 lead.

    The Wild got going when Boldy ripped one top shelf past Hart for his 24th goal of the season that tied the game 2-all. Foligno scored his seventh goal for the 3-2 lead.

    Ristolainen buried a hard slapper from the blue line on the power play for the tying goal with 23 seconds left in the second.

    “I think it’s good to try to lay this foundation, kind of get ready for next year. You see guys getting confidence,” DeAngelo said.

    The Flyers only played ahead in the first period.

    Laughton scored off the rush for his 17th goal of the season and a 1-0 lead. Sundqvist celebrated his birthday with a deflection for the tying goal with 3:24 left in the period.

    The Flyers had been one of the lowest-scoring teams in the NHL until the start of this seven-game homestand (3-2 so far). They have scored at least three goals in every game and at least four in the last four.

    “We have definitely gotten to the net better,” Tortorella said. “We have spent a lot of time on the ice and with tape as far as getting to that area.”


    Wild: Host Chicago on Saturday.

    Flyers: Host Detroit on Saturday.

    Crosby reaches 30-goal mark, Penguins knock off Avalanche 5-2

    Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

    DENVER – Sidney Crosby wasn’t even aware of reaching yet another milestone. He’s simply locked in on helping the Pittsburgh Penguins make a 17th straight postseason appearance.

    Jeff Carter had a pair of goals, Crosby scored on a nifty backhand shot in the second period to reach the 30-goal mark for an 11th season and the Penguins beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.

    Crosby moved into a tie with Hall-of-Fame center Mario Lemieux for the most 30-goal seasons in Penguins history. Another milestone reached – it came as news to him.

    “I think the most important thing for me is just try to be consistent and if that reflects that great,” said Crosby, who turns 36 in August.

    Even more, Crosby’s the first player in league history to post a 30-goal campaign at 18 years old and again when he was 35-plus, according to NHL Stats.

    “It means I’ve been in the league for a while,” Crosby cracked. “That’s been the thing that’s driven me since since I got into the league – in your first year, you want to prove that you belong. Even at 35, I still think you want to prove you belong, because it is a younger league.”

    Jake Guentzel also scored and Bryan Rust added an empty-net goal for the Penguins, who snapped a four-game slide and moved back into a wild-card spot in the East.

    “It’s definitely a big one for us, for sure,” Guentzel said. “Defending champs, coming to their building, you know how good they are. Top to bottom, we defended hard and that’s what we have to do at this time of the year.”

    Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry stopped 28 shots in improving to 11-4 this season against teams from the Western Conference.

    J.T. Compher and Devon Toews had goals for the Avalanche, whose six-game winning streak was halted. Nathan MacKinnon had an assist to extend his home points streak to 18 games.

    It was a missed opportunity for Colorado, which could’ve pulled into a three-way tie with Dallas and Minnesota in the Central Division with a victory.

    “We knew they were going to play with urgency,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “But I didn’t feel like there was any reason why we couldn’t, either. … We didn’t get it done. Hopefully we get another one.”

    Alexandar Georgiev made 40 saves, including several critical ones in a second period controlled by the Penguins, who outshot the Avalanche by a 21-9 margin. It could’ve been more than a 3-1 deficit heading into the third period.

    Toews’ power-play goal made it 3-2 with 9:32 remaining. But Carter wrapped up the win with his first multigoal game in the regular season since Jan. 11, 2022.

    “I’m thrilled for him. We’re all thrilled,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said of Carter. “He cares about the Penguins. He wants to win, and he wants to contribute in helping us win so we couldn’t be happier for him.”


    Bednar was appreciative of the three-year extension he signed Tuesday that goes through the 2026-27 season. In his seventh season, he’s the third-longest tenured coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s Jon Cooper (March 2013) and Sullivan (December 2015).

    “It’s not a forgiving league or sport, for the most part, but obviously that’s part of the reason why I’m so grateful and thankful,” Bednar said. “Because there were times over my tenure that got a little hairy and management could have made another decision. But obviously they didn’t.”


    Avalanche D Cale Makar missed a second straight game with a lower body injury. “I still have him as day-to-day,” Bednar said. … F Darren Helm returned after missing 64 of 69 games this season with a lower-body injury. … Penguins D Jeff Petry (upper body) skated in the morning but sat out his third straight game. … The Penguins are 11-1 against the Central Division this season. … Penguins standout Evgeni Malkin assisted on Guentzel’s goal to reach the 50-assist mark for a seventh time in his career.


    Penguins: At Dallas on Thursday night.

    Avalanche: Host Arizona on Friday night.