PHT Morning Skate: Bruins’ stars workload; Shero’s hot seat

Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• “Akim Aliu’s story of enduring racism inside hockey includes an incident in which a minor-league team staffer dressed up as him in blackface.” [Wall Street Journal]

• “It feels like this examination and accounting of hockey’s ugly underbelly is in its infancy, as if a light has shined on the game’s conscience for the first time in decades, with the holder of the flashlight realizing just how much cleansing there is to do.” [TSN]

• The Bruins stars are carrying a heavy offensive load. [RotoWorld]

• What players need to avoid the regression monster and which ones are ready to bounce back? [ESPN]

• The name, colors and logo of Seattle’s NHL expansion team could be revealed in February or March. [NHL.com]

• How hot is Ray Shero’s seat now becoming in New Jersey? [All About the Jersey]

• Well-travelled Eric Comrie looking to make mark with Red Wings. [Sun Media]

• Speaking of hot seats, how much longer does Jeff Blashill have in Detroit? [Freep]

• Ranking the all-time jersey designs of the Vancouver Canucks. [Hockey by Design]

• Could the Canadians be potential trade partners with the Blackhawks? [NBC Sports Chicago]

• A look at the best player at every age in the NHL. [Yardbarker]

• Finally, here’s Brett Ritchie with the quote of the season:

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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.

PHT Morning Skate: Francis faces criticism; Franzen criticizes Babcock

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Seattle general manager Ron Francis comes under heavy criticism for his handling of the Carolina Hurricanes player abuse situation. [Seattle Times]

• Former Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen opens up about his time playing for Mike Babcock, telling a Swedish newspaper outlet that Babcock is the worst person he has ever met. [Detroit Free Press]

Kyle Okposo considered retirement following his latest concussion. [Buffalo Hockey Beat]

• Washington Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom is representing himself in his next round of contract negotiations. He is eligible for unrestricted free agency after this season.[ESPN]

• The case of two different Tyler Ennis‘ and a near mistaken diagnosis. [TSN]

• Vancouver Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom has been granted a leave of absence from the team so he can attend his father’s memorial service. [Vancouver Canucks]

• Boston Bruins forward David Pastrnak continues to make the case he is the NHL’s best bargain player. [The Hockey News]

• The Montreal Canadiens placed backup goalie Keith Kinkaid on waivers. [Montreal Gazette]

• Who (and what) the Pittsburgh Penguins need to lean on to get through this tough injury stretch. [Pensburgh]

• A new app allows players to rate coaches, agents. [USA Today]

• The Philadelphia Flyers capped off a special November and entered December with their most points since the 1995-96 Eric Lindros season. [NBC Philadelphia]

• The Arizona Coyotes’ tumultuous November still produces a lot of positives. [AZ Central]

Adam Gretz is a writer forPro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line atphtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Ron Francis says he briefed Hurricanes ownership on Peters incident

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Seattle general manager Ron Francis broke his silence on Saturday and issued a brief statement regarding Bill Peters’ player abuse when they were both with the Carolina Hurricanes.

Shortly after it was revealed that Peters had repeatedly used a racial slur toward former NHL forward Akim Aliu, former Hurricanes defenseman Michal Jordan came forward and accused Peters of kicking him in the back during a game and punching another player in the back of the head.

Current Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour — who was an assistant with the team at the time — said the incidents definitely happened, and that Francis had dealt with them internally. How, exactly, they were dealt with is still unclear as then-Hurricanes owner Peter Karamanos said he would have fired Peters “in a nanosecond” had he known about the incidents.

Francis said in his statement on Saturday that he did brief ownership on the situation.

Francis’ entire statement is as follows:

When I was General Manager in Carolina, after a game, a group of Players and Hockey Staff members made me aware of the physical incidents involving two Players and Bill Peters. I took this matter very seriously.

I took immediate action to address the matter and briefed ownership.

To my knowledge, no further such incidents occurred.

It would have been inappropriate for me to comment publicly while an active investigation was being conducted by another team. I will not comment on this matter further.

Peters spent four years as the head coach of the Hurricanes, and as noted by the News & Observer‘s Luke DeCock in a scathing article on the Peters-Francis era on Saturday, had his contract extended two different times by Francis even after the abuse incidents took place.

He had been the head coach of the Calgary Flames since the start of the 2017-18 season, a position he held until he resigned on Friday.

It is entirely possible, if not likely, that his NHL career is finished.

But with Francis now in a position to build the yet-to-be-named expansion franchise in Seattle he is still going to have a lot of questions to answer on how he handled the Carolina situation, and why he handled it the way he did.

Related: Peters out as Flames head coach

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Former Hurricanes owner criticizes how Francis handled allegations against Peters

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Former Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karamanos told the Seattle Times’ Geoff Baker that then-Hurricanes GM Ron Francis didn’t tell Karamanos about physical abuse allegations Bill Peters faced (from Michal Jordan and others) during Peters’ and Jordan’s time with the Hurricanes.

Karamanos said to Baker that, if Francis had told him about such claims against Peters, Peters would have been fired in a “nanosecond.”

“I’m pretty upset,” Karamanos told Baker. “And I have my calls in to Ronnie as well. I think he’s the one who’s going to have to tell people what he did when he found out that the coach had done these things.”

If Karamanos’ claims that Francis never told him about the allegations regarding Peters are correct – Karamanos noted to Baker that Francis kept things “close to the vest” – then the chain of actions would have indeed stopped with the front office.

Current Hurricanes head coach Rod Brind’Amour backed up Jordan’s claims about multiple instances of abuse (with an anonymous other Hurricanes defenseman also being an alleged victim), with Brind’Amour stating that the incidents “for sure happened.”

Brind’Amour said that he was satisfied with whatever actions Francis & Co. took, for what it’s worth:

”Management handled it directly and never heard of it again and never saw anything else after that,” Brind’Amour told reporters on Wednesday, according to the AP. ”So it was definitely dealt with, in my opinion, correctly. … We’ve definitely moved past that.”

Whether Peters moved on or not, Karamanos provided some troubling insight to Baker about Jordan’s career path, as the 29-year-old has been playing in the KHL since the 2016-17 season.

“I never could figure out why the kid wouldn’t take the contract we had offered him,” Karmanos said of Jordan, who left to play in the Kontinental Hockey League. “He was an excellent seventh defenseman as far as I was concerned. And now I can understand why.’’

It’s haunting to consider Karamanos’ comments about Jordan in light of Akim Aliu telling TSN’s Frank Seravalli that he feels like the fallout from Peters’ alleged racist remarks “ruined my career before it started.”

Peters submitted a statement in the form of letter to Calgary Flames GM Brad Treliving on Wednesday, addressing Aliu’s claims — while not mentioning Aliu by name. Peters did not address the allegations from his time with the Hurricanes, however.

At the moment, the Flames have not announced whether Peters will be fired or not, although he wasn’t on the bench for Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime win against the Buffalo Sabres.

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.

Where will Mike Babcock end up after Maple Leafs?

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The Toronto Maple Leafs fired Mike Babcock on Wednesday after a terrible start to the 2019-20 season. We already know what direction the Maple Leafs are going to go in — it is Sheldon Keefe’s team now — but Babcock’s future remains unsettled.

Even though his tenure never produced the results it was expected to in Toronto, he is almost certainly going to get another head coaching job in the NHL in the not-too-distant future as long as he wants one. And given his reputation and the fact his name still carries a ton of respect among NHL teams there will probably several options for him when the time is right.

Let’s take a look at what some of those potential options could be.

It could happen, it might make sense, and it might actually work

Vancouver Canucks. Based on their roster moves the past couple of years it is easy to get the sense Canucks management believes the team is closer to winning than it might actually be, and that could put a ton of pressure on the current head coach if they don’t start producing better results. Travis Green is in his third year behind the team’s bench and while they have shown incremental improvement every year, they have hit a pretty big wall the past couple of weeks and are starting to regress back down toward the no-man’s land in the standings they’ve taken up residence in the past few years. How tempting would the opportunity to land a big-name coach be for Canucks ownership if things don’t turn around in the coming weeks and months?

While Babcock’s last two-plus years in Toronto turned into a disappointment where a change was necessary, he did help get things going in the right direction when the Maple Leafs were at a comparable stage to where the Canucks are now.

Minnesota Wild. It is a matter of when, and not if, the Wild make a coaching change. They have one of the worst records in the league, they are almost certainly going to miss the playoffs for a second year in a row, and a new general manager is going to want his own coach. It is not a great roster, but there is still enough there that a coach like Babcock could do enough to get them to a playoff spot where they bow out in Round 1.

My goodness, this fit might actually be perfect.

It is a real long shot, but still worth considering

Seattle. He takes a couple of years off, continues to get paid by Toronto in the short-term, then becomes the first head coach of the Seattle Kraken/Sasquatch/Sockeyes/Evergreens/Whatever they might be. Given that this team is going to have the same expansion draft rules as Vegas, and with the way Vegas has become an immediate contender, expectations are going to be absurdly high for Seattle to repeat that. An established coach with a championship pedigree would also be a big splash at the beginning. The one potential problem here might be that Seattle’s new front office seems as if it is going to be heavily invested in utilizing analytics and we just saw what happens when Babcock works with a more analytically inclined front office.

He just retires. He goes nowhere. He just rides off into the sunset, makes the occasional appearance on TV as an analyst during the Stanley Cup Final or the Winter Olympics, says goodbye to coaching, and does whatever he wants to do with his free time. The competitor in him may not be ready for this, but just pretend for a second that you were 56 years old, had already accomplished all of the highest honors you could in your chosen profession (in this case a Stanley Cup and two Olympic gold medals) and had millions of dollars sitting in the bank with many more coming your way over the next few years. Wouldn’t you at least consider retiring? Of course you would. And no one would blame you. Honestly he would probably be crazy not to consider this.

It will get suggested, but it probably shouldn’t happen

Chicago Blackhawks. I’m not saying Jeremy Colliton won’t be the solution in Chicago, and I am not even sure this would be a good fit (it probably wouldn’t), but the Blackhawks seem determined to try and squeeze everything they can out of their remaining core, and who is to say Stan Bowman’s desperation to keep that window open couldn’t lead to him at least considering a move like this?

On the other hand, if you just fired your three-time Stanley Cup winning coach, and then within a year fired his replacement only to hire another veteran coach that has been less successful than the Hall of Fame coach you already fired it might paint the picture that you don’t really know what you’re doing and don’t have much of a plan.

San Jose Sharks. The Sharks are still trying to get that elusive championship. A slow start probably put Pete DeBoer on the hot seat and would have made this sort of swap very tempting, but with their improved play of late things have probably cooled off in that regard. This also doesn’t seem like a good fit. What the Sharks need right now is a better goalie, not a better coach.

A return to Detroit: No. Don’t even think about it. Not happening. Shouldn’t happen. Time to move on.

MORE BABCOCK/LEAFS COVERAGE:
Maple Leafs fire Babcock and replace him with Keefe
Underachieving Maple Leafs needed this change

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.