Babcock denies report he’s on verge of signing contract extension

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Contrary to a report in the Windsor Star, Red Wings coach Mike Babcock insists he’s not on the verge of signing a contract extension.

From Nick Cotsonika of Yahoo Sports:

And from Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press:

If Babcock doesn’t re-sign with the Wings — and we’re not saying he won’t — Toronto and Pittsburgh have been speculated as possible landing spots for the longest-tenured bench boss in the NHL.

But would Babcock see any better chance of winning a championship with the Maple Leafs? Maybe he could negotiate more power in player-personnel decisions, but would that be enough? He obviously likes the direction the Wings are headed, recently calling them “the best team we’ve had here since ’09.”

As for Pittsburgh, doesn’t the job Mike Johnston has done through the first third of the season make it less likely there will be another new coach for Sidney Crosby and company?

Granted, it’s all about the playoffs for the Penguins; maybe Babcock will wait until the postseason is over before he makes his decision.

Update: Click here for video of Babcock denying the report and being all gruff about it.

Sens GM says MacLean lost the room, ‘didn’t believe in the group’ anymore

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A few quotes below from Senators GM Bryan Murray, who addressed reporters today in Ottawa following the firing of head coach Paul Maclean.

First, the meat and potatoes (audio):

“We’re sitting seventh out of eighth in our division. We continue to be a big turnover team in our own zone. Our goaltending has been, to say the least, outstanding most nights, giving us a chance to win hockey games. [But] the chances against our team are some nights atrocious.

“I think there’s an obligation for a lot of people, the players included, to perform better than that. But the leader of the pack always is the coach, and he’s the guy that has to assemble a group, or a style, or a system, that allows you to be good in your own end, good defensively.”

When a reporter asked Murray if he got the sense that “communication had become a one-way street” between MacLean and the players, here was his response (audio):

“Yes, I did. I actually had several meetings (with players) yesterday and I found that what had happened was…and sometimes this happens when there’s pressure on people, too, that they’re not as open to listen and take ideas and go back and forth in the communication part. I think players today more than ever need and want that. I think they grow up through minor hockey, through the Junior A or college system, where they’ve got great rapport and have some input. Hopefully that will happen now.”

The Sens’ new head coach (not interim as first expected, but full-time) will be Dave Cameron, who was an assistant under MacLean and, before that, a successful junior coach.

“I don’t know if he’s a players’ coach or a demanding coach,” Murray said of Cameron. “[But] I do know that he’s a teacher.”

As for MacLean, it probably didn’t help his cause when he talked a few days ago about being “scared to death no matter who we’re playing. Whether it’s Sidney Crosby or John Tavares or the Sedins, I go day-by-day and I’m just scared to death every day of who we’re playing. … And sometimes I’m scared to death of who I’m playing.”

Said Murray today: “I thought when he came here he was a guy that related very well to the players. He had been a player himself. He understood what it took to play in the NHL. But it seemed that kind of drifted. Maybe it’s the pressure of the business here. Maybe you guys are too tough on our people. But very definitely he became more demanding of some of the players, and more critical of some of the players.

“The fact that he makes statements that ‘I’m afraid who I put on the ice’ type of thing, that kind of sent a loud message to me that, whether it was in jest or otherwise, that maybe he didn’t believe in the group the way we thought we believed in the group when we started the year. “

Datsyuk, Bobrovsky, Ekblad named NHL’s three stars of the week

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Detroit’s Pavel Datsyuk, Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky and Florida’s Aaron Ekblad have been named the NHL’s three stars for the week ending Dec. 7, the league announced on Monday.

The highlights:

Datsyuk shared the League lead with seven points (3-4—7) in four games, including three multi-point performances, to help the Red Wings (17-6-5, 39 points) pick up a trio of victories and tie the Lightning (18-7-3, 39 points) for the most points in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference.

Bobrovsky posted a 3-0-0 record with a 1.62 goals-against average and .956 save percentage to backstop the Blue Jackets (9-15-2, 20 points) to their first three-game winning streak of the season.

Ekblad led all defensemen and tied for fourth in the NHL with six points (2-4—6) in four games to lead the Panthers (11-7-7, 29 points) to five out of a possible eight standings points.

Datsyuk’s accomplishments are remarkable considering he’s missed a bunch of time this year — 11 games, to be exact — with a nagging groin injury. He currently sits third in the NHL in points per game (1.29), trailing only Sidney Crosby and Tyler Seguin; should it hold, that 1.29 PPG rate would be the highest of Datsyuk’s 13-year NHL career.

Video: Seguin becomes first NHL player to hit 20 goals this season

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Tyler Seguin became the first player this season to hit the 20-goal mark. He’s now up to 21 goals after the Dallas Stars defeated the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday.

He’s also up to 35 points, which has him one point ahead of some guy named Sidney Crosby for the league lead. In terms of scoring, it certainly helps when you have Jamie Benn feathering these sweet little saucer passes to you on a nightly basis, as was the case on Seguin’s 20th of the year.

After rejecting Penguins, Desjardins says Johnston was the ‘best guy’ for the job anyway

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Looking back on this past summer, there was at least one handsome hockey blogger who thought Willie Desjardins would be crazy to pass up the opportunity to coach Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins for the opportunity to coach the Vancouver Canucks, arguably the NHL’s most dysfunctional team of 2013-14, with an aging core and not a whole heck of a lot in the way of blue-chip prospects.

While Desjardins — a 57-year-old who had never been a head coach in the NHL prior to this season — did, in fact, reject the Penguins for the Canucks, he fully admits he was intrigued by the Pittsburgh job.

“When you look at what was there and the opportunity, it’s unbelievable,” Desjardins told the Vancouver Sun. “You look at where they are in the standings, so that’s what type of team they are. And to have an opportunity to coach that kind of team is pretty special. That’s a special group. Not just Crosby. They have so much talent there and it’s a great city, too.”

So far, both teams are enjoying success in 2014-15, the rejuvenated Canucks with Desjardins behind the bench, the Penguins with Mike Johnston, who, chances are, would’ve been hired by Vancouver had Desjardins chosen Pittsburgh.

“I think [the Pens] are really lucky that Mike’s here and if they had a choice to make again, they’d take Mike every time now,” Desjardins said. “I think it turned out the way it should. I can say honestly that I think Mike Johnston is the best guy for this job.”

If you’re curious why Desjardins used the word “here,” it’s because the Penguins and Canucks meet tonight in Pittsburgh.