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McKenzie: On the NHL's coaching moves and candidates

Bob McKenzie

5/14/2012 11:06:02 PM

Some thoughts from the NHL on TSN Panel on Monday night:

I'm not the least bit surprised that Dale Hunter decided to go back to London.

He cited personal and family reasons, and when someone cites personal and family reasons, that quite often is it. There are often people looking for other reasons, like "he didn't enjoy this or he didn't enjoy that", but Hunter looks at his junior hockey franchise, the London Knights, as family and he feels like that's where he's best needed.

I think that Washington Capitals GM George McPhee wants to put some distance between right now and hiring a new head coach and replacement for Hunter. I don't think he's in any hurry at all and I think this could drag out all summer.

I think McPhee right now is most interested in getting up to speed on this year's NHL Draft, going out and doing the deals that need to be done within his hockey team - he's got to get restricted free agent Mike Green signed to a new long-term contract, as well as John Carlson, a valuable defenceman coming out of his entry-level deal. He also has to decide if Alex Semin's days with the Capitals are over - I suspect they probably are. So he needs to go through all of that.

I know he absolutely wanted Dale Hunter back and would have him back, but he's also got a blank canvas now.

What's the next coach going to be like? I don't think he wants to hire someone exactly like Dale, I think he wants to find somebody who's in the middle ground between a Hunter and his defence-first mentality, and a Bruce Boudreau, who played a much more wide-open style. He wants somebody that can make the stars accountable, reduce their ice time, do more with less, as Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom and Green did, but also maybe a coach who would be a little more offensive in terms of his orientation.

I think it's weeks if not months before the replacement is named.


More notes on the NHL's head coaching ranks via Twitter:

I know some are talking up Ron Wilson, Part Deux, in D.C., but I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for that to happen.

My takeaway on the Blue Jackets giving head coach Todd Richards a two-year contract: It's a vote of confidence. Richards' first order of business, replace himself. That is, hire a new assistant coach. No one assumed that role last season. It may be done by week's end.

Some have been wondering about future of Todd McLellan in San Jose. No question in my mind he'll be back with the Sharks. I would not, however, be surprised if the Sharks look to hire an experienced or veteran assistant coach.

There were rumours that Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle was going to hire his own assistants but I am told now that both Scott Gordon and Greg Cronin are expected back.

The Canadiens are in the process of touching base with potential head coach candidates including Michel Therrien, Guy Carbonneau, Marc Crawford, and Bob Hartley. Interviews have not been set up and the process is in the early stages.

The Flames head coach search is also still in the early stages. A list of 10-12 candidates is to be pared to 5-6 for interviews. Bob Hartley and Troy Ward are prominent.

There are crickets on the Edmonton Oilers' coaching front. Tom Renney's contract is expiring. So is that of general manager Steve Tambellini's although most believe that a Tambellini extension is done.

Renney's lodge brothers in the coaching fraternity are hoping he's not being kept on in Edmonton only to be cut loose later when no jobs are available.

And finally, I expect Alain Vigneault's extension with the Vancouver Canucks to be worked on and presumably completed in the next two weeks.


Kreider didn't play tired for Rangers

It's a team rule that you can't be tired and one of the guys that wasn't tired was Chris Kreider. He just turned 21; he's 6'3 and 220 pounds; he's an absolute thoroughbred.

 It was Kreider who set up the Dan Girardi goal, he gets an assist on the game-winning goal and then gets his own goal to make it 2-0 and really put this one on ice for the New York Rangers.

He's already got two game-winning goals in these playoffs and when you're that big, that strong, and that young – and he only averages 12 minutes per game through the playoffs – he's not tired.


Missed opportunity for the Devils in Game 1

Game 1 was a missed opportunity for the New Jersey Devils. In the first period it was no contest, the Rangers looked like they had no legs and the Devils had all sorts of energy. Their fore-check has been outstanding. They get pucks deep, they go in and take advantage and they get to pucks first. When they get there and it's a tie, they're winning the battles.

Again, chip and chase – a very simple formula. But the Devils play a very aggressive fore-checking game; they play a hard game that wears down the other team's defence. But it didn't pay any dividends.

Time after time in the first and second periods they controlled that aspect of the game but they had nothing to show for it because of good goaltending by Henrik Lundqvist, the shot-blocking of the Rangers, and timely defensive plays.

Yes, it is a missed opportunity but they will look at it as an investment, and they will believe that if they keep playing like that and they keep punishing that defence, at some point in this series it will pay dividends.