Canucks will consider their coaching options at season’s end


As the Vancouver Canucks head for their second straight playoff miss under Willie Desjardins, more and more questions are being raised about the future of the head coach.

This morning on TSN 1040 radio, Canucks president of hockey ops Trevor Linden was asked directly if Desjardins would be back next season.

“I think we’re going to take our time and look at our options at the end of the season,” Linden replied. “I’ll have to do a full assessment of our organization, as I always do, and we’ll move forward from that point.”

Desjardins has come under increasing fire for his player deployment. The latest mini-controversy bubbled up Saturday when Nikolay Goldobin scored in his first game since being traded from San Jose, then sat on the bench as the Canucks nearly blew a 4-0 lead in an eventual 4-3 victory over the Kings.

Goldobin ended up with just 5:51 of ice time on the night.

“We have a passionate market,” said Linden, “and I think at times we can overreact to certain things. This is one 60-minute game out of many games that Nikolay will play with us.”

Goldoin logged 12:41 the next night in Anaheim, where the Canucks upset the Ducks, 2-1.

“Let’s not forget, Nikolay is a 21-year-old player who still has some work to do on his overall game,” said Linden. “I think that’s the thing we have to be careful with. Young players have to earn their time.”

The Canucks have had a number of young players make progress under Desjardins, including Bo Horvat, Sven Baertschi, Markus Granlund, and Nikita Tryamkin. The coach has also not been scared to play inexperienced defensemen Troy Stecher and Ben Hutton.

That being said, the Canucks had hoped to compete for a playoff spot, and barring a miracle down the stretch, that’s not going to happen.

Bottom line: If there’s a better option than Desjardins for management to pursue, Linden didn’t rule out pursuing it.

Davidson could make Habs debut, replacing Emelin


Montreal Canadiens fans may get their first look at Brandon Davidson tonight in Vancouver.

Davidson, acquired last week in a trade with Edmonton, is expected to make his Habs debut against the Canucks. The 25-year-old defenseman is likely to replace struggling veteran Alexei Emelin.

“I really hope that I’m able to get in there,” said Davidson, per the Montreal Gazette. “It’s been a little while now. I sat a couple of games before the (trade) deadline trying not to get hurt. So I’m ready, I’m excited. I can’t wait to go.”

As for Emelin, head coach Claude Julien doesn’t expect the 30-year-old Russian to be out for long.

“He should be an everyday line-up guy. He’s that good,” Julien said of Emelin. “He’s just struggling a little bit. Some decision-making, with the puck, without the puck. Sometimes, just taking a step back and maybe give him an opportunity to watch, if that’s the case, he’ll come back a better player. I know we need him. He’s a very physical player. He’s a hard player to play against.”

The Habs kick off their Western Canada road trip riding a five-game winning streak. They’re in Calgary Thursday and Edmonton Saturday.

Frustrated Panthers need to pounce on Rangers

1 Comment

The Florida Panthers, desperate for wins, need to take advantage of a tired opponent when the New York Rangers pay a visit tonight.

The Rangers played a hard-fought game last night in Tampa, where they beat the Lightning, 1-0, in overtime.

The Panthers, meanwhile, haven’t played since Saturday when they lost, 2-1, at home to Dallas.

After sweeping a five-game road trip, Florida has now dropped five of its last six.

Read more: Tom Rowe calls out Reilly Smith after loss to Dallas

“I would be lying if I said we weren’t frustrated,” captain Derek MacKenzie said, per the Miami Herald. “We may not be playing our best hockey, but we’re doing enough good things to come up with a few more points.”

Added forward Nick Bjugstad, “We need to find ways to score. Last game we had 40-something shots and I, for one, had great chances and just need to bear down on them.”

The Panthers will enter tonight’s action two points back of the Islanders for the second wild-card spot in the East. The Toronto Maple Leafs are also in the mix, and they host Detroit tonight.

NHL GMs discuss evolution of the game


Meeting today in Florida, NHL general managers were asked to gaze into their crystal balls and imagine the league five or 10 years down the line.

It was a brainstorming session, pure and simple. No idea was too radical to propose.

The topics the GMs ended up discussing ranged from awarding three points for a win in regulation to making it illegal for players to slide to block a shot.

“You need an act of God to get a puck through from the point into where a goalie has to make a save,” said Flames GM Brad Treliving, per NHL.com’s Dan Rosen.

It’s not clear if any idea gained much traction, or if there were really any new ideas. In 2008, then-Canadiens GM Bob Gainey proposed a rule that said players had to have at least one skate on the ice to block a shot. Obviously, that proposal didn’t go anywhere.

At the very least, it’s refreshing that GMs were asked to get creative and come up with ways to improve the game. Traditionalists may balk at some of the proposed ideas, but the action on the ice is constantly evolving. Sometimes, changes are warranted.

Tomorrow it’s expected the discussion will focus on the offside challenge and how the video review process in general can be sped up.

Pre-game reading: Who are the top college free agents?

— Up top, Henrik Borgstrom is a Florida Panthers prospect who’s currently ripping it up for the No. 1-ranked University of Denver. The 19-year-old forward, a first-round draft pick in 2016, has scored a number of spectacular goals for the Pioneers.

— Starting with Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese, NHL.com has a list of the top 10 undrafted college free agents that will soon be able to sign with NHL teams. Aston-Reese is a 22-year-old forward who has 30 goals and 32 assists for the Huskies this season. (NHL.com)

Adam Clendening is none too pleased about coming out of the Rangers’ lineup tonight in Tampa. “I’m a little bit surprised, for sure. Just when I thought I was getting my chance and looking to take advantage of my opportunity because of the couple of injuries — that you never want to see, but happen — I had the game Saturday where I think the stat line looked worse than it actually was.” Clendening will be replaced by call-up Steven Kampfer. (New York Post)

— A profile of Connor McDavid, the Edmonton Oilers’ 20-year-old superstar. Says Bobby Orr: “He’s one of those that comes along every once in a while.” And Orr should know, because he was one of those too. (Sports Illustrated)

— An interview with Golden Knights GM George McPhee, who signed the franchise’s first-ever player today. McPhee has already complete three mock expansion drafts. He called them “time-consuming and intense,” but necessary and useful too. “We’re pretty comfortable with where we are. We’re prepared to do it today if we had to, but we’ll keep working because things continue to change.” (National Post)

— The heart-warming story of 11-year-old Flames fan Olivia Lettich, whose new electronic glasses helped her watch a game on Sunday. “It’s super important because everyone else tells me what they see and sometimes I wish I could see it. These help a lot.” (Calgary Herald)

Enjoy the games!