Dean Evason

NHL on NBCSN: Blues looking to keep rolling, Wild aim to keep hopes alive

NBCSN’s coverage of the 2019-20 NHL season continues with Sunday’s matchup between the St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

The Blues and Wild are in very different situations, yet both teams have dealt with tumultuous times heading into their Sunday game on NBCSN.

Blues starting to heat up again?

Things were starting to look a little dicey for St. Louis. The Blues lost five in a row from Feb. 6-16, with a game against the Ducks postponed following Jay Bouwmeester’s health scare. Pulling back further, the Blues managed just two wins from Jan. 15 – Feb. 16 (2-7-3).

For some time, it looked like the Blues would cruise to a Central Division title despite Vladimir Tarasenko‘s absence.

Now the Blues are on an upward trend again. In dispatching the Stars 5-1 in Dallas, St. Louis is now on a three-game winning streak.

“The way the guys in front of me and [Jordan Binnington] have played the last four games has been pretty remarkable,” Jake Allen said, via the Blues’ website. “Scoring chances created, back-checking and blocked shots. It’s great to see.”

There are also positive vibes regarding trade acquisition Marco Scandella. Craig Berube provided a positive early review to how Scandella is working with Colton Parayko, as the Athletic’s Jeremy Rutherford reported (sub required).

“He’s a big guy,” Berube said. “Plays physical, good defender, good stick. Two big guys out there that we can play against anybody, be hard on the other team, be hard on top players on the other teams. (Jay Bouwmeester) was there for a long time with Parayko. This is a similar fit that I see.”

Wild try to hang in there

Minnesota’s been through quite a bit in 2019-20, as well.

After quite a few instances where he seemed to be on the hot seat, Bruce Boudreau got the axe. Plenty of Wild players have wondered about their future, a thought highlighted by Jason Zucker being traded. Interim head coach Dean Evason has had his hands full in trying to keep the Wild in the West playoff hunt.

It still looks like a serious uphill battle, but the Wild have won two in a row. Jared Spurgeon‘s hat trick was the highlight of a frenetic 5-3 Friday win against the Oilers.

“We had a real scramble-fest going there in the third period,” Evason said, via the Wild website. “But guys were committed and it didn’t really matter who we called up, they just played and played the right way. It’s very encouraging.”

With all of that in mind, will it be the Blues or Wild who end Sunday’s NBCSN game feeling encouraged?

Chris Cuthbert will call the action from Xcel Energy Center alongside analyst Pierre McGuire. Sunday’s studio coverage on NBC will be hosted by Liam McHugh with analysts Keith Jones and Mike Milbury.

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.

Bruce Boudreau fired, Wild names Evason interim coach

Boudreau hot seat
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Bruce Boudreau has been fired by the Minnesota Wild with 25 games remaining and the team sitting three points out of a wild card spot.

“I would like to thank Bruce for his hard work and commitment to the Minnesota Wild during his tenure with the organization and wish him and his family the best in the future,” said Wild GM Bill Guerin in a statement.

Dean Evason, who was named an assistant in June 2018, has been named interim head coach.

Guerin made the decision Friday morning, a day after a 4-3 shootout loss to the Rangers. Despite a sluggish start to the season, they had been playing well of late going 7-3-1 in their previous 10 games. Still Boudreau being firing felt inevitable as he coached the final year of his deal.

In parts of four seasons under Boudreau, the Wild compiled a 158-110-35 record and the 12th-best points percentage since his hiring in 2016. He led the team to two playoff appearances, which both ended in five games in Round 1.

You can also point the finger at one area that ends up costing head coaches their jobs: goaltending. Since Boudreau was hired, the team’s even strength save percentage has gone from .926 and .927 in his first two years to .912 in each of the past two seasons.

Boudreau, who marks the eighth NHL coaching change this season, is an interesting free agent on the market at the moment. The Devils, Flames, Sharks, Stars all currently employ interim head coaches, while teams like the Red Wings and Sabres could potentially be seeking new bench bosses in the near future. Any one of them could benefit from hiring Boudreau, who has a track record of improving teams after coming on board.

There’s also the possible interest by the Seattle expansion franchise who will begin play with the 2021-22 NHL season. But given Boudreau’s work history, he’s not out of a coaching gig for very long. It should be interesting to see if any teams move quick to lock up his services.

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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.

Washington assistant Evason named head coach of Nashville’s AHL affiliate

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The longest-tenured coach on Washington’s staff is officially gone.

Dean Evason, a Capitals assistant since 2005, has been hired by the Nashville Predators to coach their AHL affiliate in Milwaukee.

The hire comes just days after Caps GM George McPhee speculated that Evason and fellow assistant Jim Johnson were unlikely to return to Washington for the 2012-13 season.

It remains unclear why the Caps wanted to sever ties with both assistants, though in Evason’s case it might’ve been an opportunity issue. He obviously was out of consideration for the Capitals head coaching gig and, since he’s never held a head coaching position at the professional level, might have figured being the boss at the AHL level was better than being someone’s right-hand man (again) at the NHL level.

As far as stepping stones go, Milwaukee is a good one.

Two ex-coaches since 2003 — Claude Noel and Kirk Muller — are now head coaches at the NHL level with Winnipeg and Carolina, respectively.

It’s no surprise the Nashville organization targeted Evanson to be the next Admirals head coach. Preds GM David Poile drafted Evason in 1982 when Poile was the Caps GM and Evason a scoring sensation with the Kamloops Junior Oilers.

Evason also has a tight relationship with Preds assistant GM Paul Fenton, the man primarily responsible for the hire. The two were teammates together in Hartford during the mid-80s.

More coaching change in Washington? McPhee says assistants unlikely to return

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Washington Capitals GM George McPhee met with the media today to discuss the future of his club — a future that could be without the services of Dean Evason and Jim Johnson.

McPhee said “probably not” when asked if Caps’ assistant coaches would return for the 2012-13 season. Evason is the longest-tenured coach on Washington’s staff (since 2005) while Johnson joined last year after Dale Hunter replaced Bruce Boudreau as head coach.

While Johnson’s departure wouldn’t be that shocking — he was tied to the Hunter regime, and the Hunter regime is over — seeing Evason go would be a surprise.

He’d been rumored as a candidate for the head coaching gig and has proven to be a versatile assistant, having coached under three different bench bosses (Glen Hanlon, Boudreau, Hunter) since joining Washington’s staff.

Speaking of Washington’s head coaching gig, McPhee said he had no timetable for a hire and stressed he didn’t need anyone in place by the draft or July 1 free agency period. He noted that New Jersey waited until July 19 last year before hiring Peter Deboer, which worked out well for the Devils.

Dreger: Caps no longer considering Craig Berube for head coach job

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According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, Flyers assistant coach Craig Berube won’t be headed to Washington. Dreger reports Berube was on the Capitals’ list of head coach candidates but that’s no longer the case.

The Caps are looking for someone to help fill the shoes of Dale Hunter who opted to leave Washington after this season rather than stay on board and continue where he left off bringing the team to within a win of the Eastern Conference finals. As for who is on the Capitals list now, speculation is the name of the game.

Caps assistant coach Dean Evason is believed to be in the mix. Paul Maurice was believed to be a man of interest before he headed to the KHL. Devils assistant coach and former Capitals center Adam Oates is another guy rumored to have the Caps’ eye as is Norfolk Admirals coach Jon Cooper.