Larry Robinson

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Blues defense benefiting from HOFer Larry Robinson’s experience

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BOSTON — It never helps to have a little experience helping guide you through new situations. For the St. Louis Blues defensemen, none of them had ever played in a Stanley Cup Final before this postseason. So as the team’s blue liners got a taste of the rough and tumble fourth and final round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they knew they could rely on one specific person who owns plenty of experience in that situation.

When Craig Berube took over from Mike Yeo in November, Larry Robinson moved from senior consultant to hockey operations to assistant coach.  A nine-time Stanley Cup winner as a player and coach, his addition to Berube’s staff brought plenty of knowledge to the job. 

“To have a guy like that with that experience around, you can’t beat it. He’s an unbelievable man,” said Berube.

It was a position, however, that Robinson only took on until Christmas as he cited the travel being too much for his 68-year-old body. As the season has progressed, especially now in the postseason, the Hall of Famer has been with them through their journey.

A 10-time All-Star, two-time Norris Trophy winner, and Conn Smythe winner, Robinson is a resource for any of the Blues’ defensemen to use for advice. He’s seen it all and any bit of information he can pass on that will assist, he will.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

“He’s been great for me. It’s just another sounding board,” said Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo. “When you’ve got nine Stanley Cups you’ve got a lot of information to provide. He’s fun to have around. If you’ve ever had a conversation with him, his demeanor and personality fit great with our group. I know for us, on the back end especially, he’s been fantastic for us.”

Now an eye in the sky during the playoffs, Robinson communicates things he sees from up top between periods. But it’s the defensemen who as a group have benefited most. With five players at least 6-foot-3 and Robinson listed at 6-foot-4, he knows the ins and outs of playing the position as a bigger player.

“It’s an advantage for us when we’re out there,” said 6-foot-4 Colton Parayko on working Robinson to improve his stick work. “It helps us where we can control the forward a little bit, which is important for us.”

Ask any of the defensemen and they’ll tell you that the way Robinson delivers his messages is in a clear manner and that the players aren’t overloaded with too much information. He knows just how to get his point through when he sees something that needs to be addressed.

Vince Dunn is the youngest and shortest defensemen on the Blues at 22 years old and 6-feet tall. This is his first postseason, and it’s been an eventful one. Having Robinson around and his years of experience behind the bench and on the ice has been very beneficial.

“He’s been amazing to have as a mentor,” Dunn said. “He knows there’s a lot going on with coaching and just learning from the other guys, too, who are on the team. He doesn’t try to push you too much but he’s definitely there for someone to talk to. He has a lot of very smart things to say that maybe you don’t really think about and other guys don’t think about because he’s been around for so long.”

Knowing they have such an asset at hand, the Blues players don’t hesitate to reach out to Robinson with any questions, or inquire about a good story from his 20-year NHL career. Robinson will also approach them if he sees something that he’s noticed in their games. 

Every conversation has had a benefit for the defensemen.

“I think more than anything he wants you to feel confident about yourself and put yourself in good areas, just make the game easier on yourself,” said Dunn. “He doesn’t try to teach you how to shoot all over again or skate all over again, it’s little things that you don’t really think about out there. Those things make a huge difference when you’re on the ice.”

Game 5 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Final airs Thursday on NBC at 8 p.m. ET (stream here).

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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.

Sharks add Jim Johnson as another assistant

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Going into this off-season, the San Jose Sharks wanted to get some NHL experience behind bench boss Todd McLellan. They’ve passed those tests with flying colors as they added veteran coach (and Hall of Famer) Larry Robinson as an “associate” coach and long-time NHL blueliner (and seasoned assistant) Jim Johnson to the mix as an assistant. Johnson is the most recent addition, as the Sharks named him to the staff tonight.

(Jay Woodcroft is an assistant as well.)

Johnson most recently served on Dale Hunter’s coaching staff with the Washington Capitals. Here’s a write-up on his coaching career via the Sharks:

A 14-year NHL defenseman, Johnson, 49, most recently was an assistant coach on Dale Hunter’s staff with the Washington Capitals. He has also served as an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2010 and interim head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes in 1999-2000.

Prior to arriving in Washington in 2011, Johnson was coaching for Switzerland’s HC Lugano. While working with the Tampa Bay Lightning organization, he also served as the head coach for the American Hockey League’s Norfolk Admirals during the 2009-10 season and as development coach for the Lightning in 2008-09.

Johnson also spent three seasons (2000-02) as an assistant coach with the U.S. National Junior Team.

Some quite reasonably believe that the Sharks’ Stanley Cup window is closing rapidly, but adding some top-notch help for McLellan could help the team get the most out of a still-talented roster. Johnson should be a good addition in that regard.

Did Hurricane Debby keep Larry Robinson from landing a job in Montreal?

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Larry Robinson landing a new gig as associate coach in San Jose makes for another great turn in his post-playing career, one where he spent the bulk of in Montreal. The Canadiens too were interested in bringing Robinson aboard Michel Therrien’s staff but talks never got far.

Why? Apparently Mother Nature determined a return to Quebec wasn’t in the cards as Dave Stubbs of the Montreal Gazette shares.

It was no secret that a number of NHL clubs had expressed interest in Robinson’s coaching talents. Complicating matters with the Canadiens was the fact that he was unable last month to come north for a face-to-face interview, tied down in Florida dealing with the onslaught of Hurricane Debby and the torrential rains that overflowed his swimming pool and swamped the 12-acre polo farm he co-owns, stabling and training polo horses.

As Stubbs notes, Robinson kept in touch with Habs GM Marc Bergevin but an interview never happened as Therrien wanted to bring J.J. Daigneault so badly, they hired him before even speaking to Robinson. Alas, romanticism only goes so far when it comes to getting business done.

Robinson landing his gig in San Jose, however, should turn out pretty good for him given the defensemen he’ll get to work with there in Dan Boyle, Marc-Edouard Vlasic, and Brad Stuart among others.

PHT Morning Skate: Where the rumor mill gets a bit silly

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Did you hear a rumor about Alexander Semin going to Pittsburgh? You might not want to pay attention to that one. (PensBlog)

Check out Erik Karlsson getting married this weekend. Not a bad couple weeks. Signs a monster contract, wins the Norris Trophy, and gets hitched. It’s good to be the… Senator. (Senators Extra)

Did Hurricane Debby prevent Larry Robinson from joining the Montreal Canadiens? (Montreal Gazette)

Looks like Roberto Luongo, I mean @strombone1, decided to see Celine Dion in Las Vegas last night. But hey, Joey Fatone from *NSync was there too! (@strombone1)

Some Ducks fans are unhappy with GM Bob Murray. You know what that means: Petition time! Looks like they’re taking the Kings Cup win a bit hard. (Anaheim Calling)

Kings-Devils finals not hurting for story lines

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While the Devils and Kings didn’t face each other many times this season, just twice and those don’t mean much now, these two franchises have a lot of links tying them together.

Rich Hammond of L.A. Kings Insider broke down all the different ties that bind Los Angeles and New Jersey and we find out if there was such a thing as “long term money on the board” there’d be a whole lot of cash to get for both teams.

Here are a few of the more interesting potential story lines to look out for.

—- Ilya Kovalchuk turned down the Kings to sign with the Devils during the “Summer of Kovalchuk” in 2010.

—- Devils assistant coach Larry Robinson was the Kings’ head coach for four years and played for the Kings for three seasons. In his four years as coach, he took the Kings to the playoffs once in 1998 getting swept by St. Louis in the first round.

—- Kings defenseman Matt Greene and Devils captain Zach Parise were roommates and teammates in college at the University of North Dakota. It’s like Tim Thomas and Martin St. Louis all over again, just not as cuddly.

—- Kings GM Dean Lombardi and Devils GM Lou Lamoriello are long time friends and confidants.

—- Willie Mitchell was originally a New Jersey Devil. Coincidentally, he first signed with Los Angeles the same summer Kovalchuk signed with New Jersey.

—- Peter Harrold and Alexei Ponikarovsky were both Kings just last season. They were clearly destined to be in the finals this season.

The most interesting one here is Kovalchuk’s place in the series. He’s been the focus of attention no matter what in the playoffs (15-year, $100 million contracts help that) but now he’s going against the team he spurned for the Stanley Cup. Hello intrigue!