Coaching carousel leaves 10 NHL teams with new face on bench

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The coaching carousel spun a little faster than usual across the NHL, meaning nearly a third of the league will have someone new behind the bench this season. And not just bottom-feeders making changes.

Ten teams go into the season next month with a new coach, from Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida and perennial playoff-contending Boston to rebuilding Chicago and San Jose.

John Tortorella will try to whip Philadelphia into shape, Bruce Cassidy is tasked with getting Vegas back to the playoffs and Derek Lalonde takes his two Stanley Cup rings as a Tampa Bay assistant to his new challenge with the Detroit Red Wings.

TORTS REFORM

Philadelphia players knew they were in for some changes when Tortorella was hired, so they asked Cam Atkinson, who spent six years playing for the no-nonsense coach in Columbus.

“I keep telling them like he’s a guy that’s going to change the whole dynamic of this organization,” Atkinson said.

Tortorella has not shied away from saying a culture change is needed after a last-place finish and a decade with one playoff series win. There is likely not much he and players can do this year about a Cup drought that dates to 1975, but they can start with maddeningly inconsistent stretches of games that have plagued the Flyers for years, no matter the roster.

BIG MO

The Panthers were the league’s best team in the regular season last year but struggled in the playoffs before losing in the second round to cross-state rival Tampa Bay in five games. That was enough for general manager Bill Zito to decide to move on from interim coach Andrew Brunette and hired seasoned veteran Paul Maurice.

The expectation is to get back to the playoffs and compete for the Cup, and having Maurice at the helm was one of the factors that made power forward Matthew Tkachuk pick Florida as his trade-and-sign destination.

“He’s got high hopes for our team,” Tkachuk said. “He sees us playing in a certain way that’s going to make us successful. And he’s done it. He’s been around the NHL a long time, been a very successful head coach and somebody that I’m really looking forward to working with.”

PLAYOFF ROTATION

Bruins GM Don Sweeney fired Cassidy after a seven-game loss to Carolina in the first round despite Boston’s sixth consecutive playoff appearance.

Vegas had already fired Peter DeBoer, making him the scapegoat for an injury-riddled fall from the top of the Western Conference that ended with the team’s first playoff miss in five years of existence. The Golden Knights quickly turned to Cassidy, who like Maurice brings experience and gravitas to a franchise with championship aspirations.

“I think we’re very fortunate as an organization to have him as our coach,” center Jack Eichel said. “Every single person I’ve spoke to about them, they said the same thing: that he’s got a really, really great knack for the game and to able to make adjustments and he understands things. Very, very competitive — wants to win, has won a lot of hockey games over the last few years.”

The Bruins replaced Cassidy with Jim Montgomery, a hockey lifer getting a second chance after being fired by Dallas in December 2019 for inappropriate conduct. Montgomery sought and received help at a rehab facility and got a big endorsement from the staff with St. Louis, the team he was working for as an assistant.

“He’s a winner,” Bruins goalie Jeremy Swayman said. “I think guys are going to thrive on that energy.”

The Stars completed the circle by hiring DeBoer, who has coached two teams (New Jersey in 2012 and San Jose in 2016) to the final and is on his fifth stop around the league.

“This is a tough league and it’s a tough one to coach in and you have to be able to handle situations,” GM Jim Nill said. “I know Pete can do it.”

LAMBERT ISLAND

Lane Lambert served as an assistant under Barry Trotz with Nashville, Washington – where they won the Cup together – and the Islanders. When Trotz was abruptly fired after New York missed the playoffs for the first time in his four seasons on the job, his right-hand man got the gig with his endorsement.

Longtime executive Lou Lamoriello thought his team needed a new voice. But Lambert isn’t that new, and his familiarity with the Islanders keeps some continuity.

“Barry was great for our team, and having Lane as an assistant, he had lots of say, as well,” forward Mathew Barzal said. “As a group, we all have a good relationship with him, so I think it’ll be an easy transition for our team.”

MORE NEW VOICES

The final coaching change of the offseason came in San Jose, with ownership and interim management firing Bob Boughner and his assistants before Mike Grier took over as GM. Grier hired David Quinn, who most recently coached the U.S. at the Beijing Olympics after spending three years with the Rangers.

Rick Bowness, the Stars’ interim coach when Montgomery was fired who helped them reach the final in 2020 and was not brought back, joined Winnipeg. He immediately made an impact by stripping Blake Wheeler of the Jets captaincy.

The other new coaches – Lalonde in Detroit and Luke Richardson in Chicago – are not expected to make such big waves.

Richardson, who briefly was acting coach for Montreal during the 2021 final when Dominique Ducharme tested positive for the coronavirus, is overseeing the start of a long-term rebuild by the Blackhawks. Lalonde was Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman’s pick to help end the storied franchise’s playoff drought.

“He believes in what he’s preaching, which I think is great walking into a new locker room,” captain Dylan Larkin said. “He’s made a great impression on the guys.”

Training camps open around NHL after another short offseason

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
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Training camps open around the NHL after another short offseason, a third in a row squeezed by the pandemic. That doesn’t bother Colorado Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon one bit.

For one of hockey’s best players and his teammates, it’s already time to get back on the ice and defend their Stanley Cup title, less than three months since they knocked off the back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning.

“I still feel like I just was playing,” MacKinnon said. “I took two weeks off, and then I started skating again. It’s just fun. I enjoy it, and I like the short summer. It feels like the season’s just kind of rolling over again.”

The NHL rolls into fall coming off an entertaining playoffs and final with the chance to finally get back on a normal schedule. That means full camps for teams that got new coaches and the benefits of a regular routine.

That means a mere 88 days between Game 6 of the final and the first-on ice practice sessions.

“We’re kind of used to it now,” Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy said after he and the Lightning lost in the final for the first time in three consecutive trips. “It’s a little harder, of course, because you don’t have that much time to rest. It’s basically a few weeks and you have to get back at it. But, yeah, I can’t complain. You want your summers to be short every year.”

It was a little longer for Connor McDavid and the Oilers after losing to Colorado in the West final. Despite the lack of downtime, McDavid “wouldn’t trade that in for anything” and aims to make it even further since Edmonton shored up its goaltending situation by adding Jack Campbell.

A few spins of the goalie carousel ended with the Avalanche acquiring Alexandar Georgiev from the New York Rangers and Cup winner Darcy Kuemper landing with Washington. Joining new teammates, many of whom hoisted the Cup in 2018, Kuemper is not worried about less time off.

“It was definitely a very unique summer,” Kuemper said. “With how short it was, you start getting back into the gym and you’re kind of a little bit worried that your training’s going to be so short. But you kind of felt like you weren’t getting back into shape. You were already there.”

NEW COACHES

The Oilers are one of several teams settling in for training camp under a new coach. Jay Woodcroft took over as interim coach in February but has the full-time job now.

“Looking forward to a camp with him,” McDavid said. “He did a great job coming in during the middle of the season, but it’s never easy on a coach, for sure. I’m sure there’s things that he wanted to touch on that you wasn’t able to kind of in the middle of the year, so he’ll be able to to touch on all of it this year.”

The same goes for Bruce Boudreau in Vancouver, 11 months since being put in charge of the Canucks. Philadelphia’s John Tortorella, Boston’s Jim Montgomery, Vegas’ Bruce Cassidy, Dallas’ Peter DeBoer, Florida’s Paul Maurice, Chicago’s Luke Richardson, Detroit’s Derek Lalonde and the New York Islanders’ Lane Lambert are all starting the job fresh.

CAMP TRYOUTS

Roughly 40 players are attending a camp on a professional tryout agreement with the chance to earn a contract for the season. James Neal has that opportunity with the Blue Jackets, and Derek Stepan returned to Carolina to seek a job with the Hurricanes.

The most intriguing situation involves 37-year-old center Eric Staal, who agreed to the tryout with Florida the same time brother Marc signed a one-year contract. Younger brother Jordan was with Eric and Marc on the 18th green at Pebble Beach to witness the occasion.

“They’re both just super pumped, as was I,” said Jordan Staal, who is the captain of the Hurricanes. “Eric is excited about the opportunity and Marc, as well. Really cool. Really cool thing.”

EARLY START

Before the puck drops on the NHL season in North America on Oct. 11, the Nashville Predators and San Jose Sharks play twice in Prague on Oct. 7 and 8. And those are not exhibitions.

“We still play two important games,” said Sharks forward Tomas Hertl, who is a native of Prague. “It’s not just preseason where you coming here to warm up.”

Colorado and Columbus will also play two games in Tampere, Finland, on Nov. 4-5 as part of the NHL’s Global Series.

And just as the league gets used to a regular schedule, work is ongoing between the league and NHL Players’ Association to stage a World Cup of Hockey in February 2024, which is popular among players even if it knocks the calendar off kilter again.

“I think they missed out on a huge, huge portion of the international game that’s really going to be missed,” McDavid said. “We need to figure out a way to get an international tournament in as quickly as possible.”

Sharks trade Adin Hill to Vegas for 4th-round pick

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Sharks have traded goalie Adin Hill to the division rival Vegas Golden Knights for a 2024 fourth-round pick.

The Sharks had a glut at goalie with James Reimer and Kaapo Kahkonen slated to be the top two options, leading to the decision to trade Hill after one season in San Jose.

“We have significantly increased our organizational depth at the goaltending position over the last six months,” general manager Mike Grier said. “This trade provides an opportunity for Adin to compete for playing time, while adding another asset that our organization can use in the future. We wish Adin the best in Vegas.”

The Knights were looking for goaltending help with Robin Lehner expected to miss the entire season because of hip surgery.

With backup Laurent Brossoit‘s status also is uncertain after he had hip surgery during the offseason, the Golden Knights were left with a potential goalie tandem of the inexperienced Logan Thompson and journeyman Michael Hutchinson before adding Hill to the mix.

Hill appeared in 25 games for the Sharks last season, going 10-11-1 with a 2.66 goals-against average and .906 save percentage.

Hill began his career with Arizona and has a 29-32-5 record with a 2.74 goals-against average and .908 save percentage in 74 career games.

Veteran forward Phil Kessel headed to Vegas on 1-year deal

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Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images
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LAS VEGAS — The Vegas Golden Knights bolstered their forward depth by signing veteran Phil Kessel to a one-year, $1.5 million deal Wednesday.

The 34-year-old Kessel spent the past three seasons with the Arizona Coyotes. The two-time Stanley Cup champion has 399 goals and 557 assists in 1,204 career games with Boston, Toronto, Pittsburgh and Arizona.

Kessel has appeared in 982 consecutive NHL games, the longest active streak, and is seven away from tying Keith Yandle‘s record of 989.

Last season, Kessel had a career-worst eight goals along with 44 assists. He’s a goal away from becoming the 13th American-born player to score 400 NHL goals.

Vegas goalie Robin Lehner to miss upcoming season

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights goalie Robin Lehner will require hip surgery and is expected to miss the upcoming season.

The 31-year-old Lehner, who will likely spend the entire 2022-23 season on long-term injured reserve, has three years remaining on a contract that carries a $5 million annual cap hit. The team said no timeline for his recovery has been determined yet.

He also also underwent shoulder surgery during the offseason.

Lehner started 44 games for the Golden Knights last season and finished 23-17-2. He has a 152-141-49 record and .917 save percentage over his NHL career. He won the William M. Jennings Trophy twice – in 2019 with the New York Islanders and in 2021 with the Golden Knights.

During the Golden Knights’ late-season run that left them out of the playoff picture for the first time since entering the league in 2017, Lehner disputed reports of both upper- and lower-body injuries during postgame media sessions.

In what turned out to be his final appearance last season on April 20, Lehner was pulled in favor of rookie Logan Thompson between the first and second periods of a 4-3 overtime victory over the Washington Capitals. It was a move then-coach Peter DeBoer said was made to spark the team and create a different vibe.

But with Vegas’ playoff hopes hanging in the balance, reports surfaced April 22 that Lehner agreed to season-ending surgery due to an undisclosed lower-body injury suffered March 8 in Philadelphia.

After missing three consecutive practices leading up to a must-win game against the San Jose Sharks on April 24, Lehner served as a backup to Thompson in the game.

Less than two weeks before he was fired, DeBoer expressed regret about how he previously described Lehner’s situation, saying he felt the 12-year veteran looked uncomfortable in net during a road trip in Canada.

With backup Laurent Brossoit‘s status also uncertain after undergoing hip surgery during the offseason, the Golden Knights are left with a potential goalie tandem of Thompson and journeyman Michael Hutchinson to start the season.

Thompson, the AHL Goalie of the Year in 2019, went 10-5-3 with a .914 save percentage in 19 appearances with Vegas last season.

Hutchinson, who has had stops in Winnipeg, Florida, Colorado and Toronto, has career marks of 55-55-15 with a 2.79 GAA and .905 save percentage in 137 appearances.