Sports Outside the Beltway

Did the NHL make a mess of the 2009-10 schedule?

The upcoming schedule was released yesterday. Right away I noticed something interesting. Florida has a home and home series with Nashville.

Nov 28 and Mar 29 are when the Panthers and Predators play next season.

What I find interesting is- Florida is playing Nashville home and home for the second straight season. In 2008-09, the Panthers and Predators played on November 1st and December 23rd.

In light of the way the NHL season is set up, namely that any Eastern or Western conference team plays only play 3 home and homes in any season, Florida and Nashville shouldn’t meet home and home more than once every five years 15 western conference teams divided by 3 home and home series equals five.

Here’s a link to the 2009-10 schedule. Anyone have theories as to what happened here or am I off base?


Dallas Stars name Marc Crawford head coach

He replaces Dave Tippett who was just fired yesterday. From AP-

For Dallas Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk, it became clear in less than two weeks on the job that a coaching change was necessary. The team needed a leader with a tougher edge.

Nieuwendyk turned to Marc Crawford, a coach he once played for in the Olympics and someone similar to the coach he played for when the Stars won their only Stanley Cup 10 years ago.

“What Marc will bring is a real command at the top,” Nieuwendyk said. “The players will know who’s in charge. They will be held accountable on a daily basis. That’s what I think is necessary.”

Crawford was introduced Thursday as the replacement for Dave Tippett, who was fired Wednesday. The coaching change is the first significant move made by Nieuwendyk since he was hired May 31.

The more player-friendly Tippett had replaced Ken Hitchcock, who was fired midway through 2001-02 season. Now the Stars are going back to a more dominant coach after missing the playoffs for only the third time since moving to Dallas in 1993.

While Tippett did a good job in Dallas, he probably outlived his usefulness to the franchise. Will Crawford(Who took Colorado to a Stanley Cup Championship in 1996 over my favorite team, the Florida Panthers) make the team better? The Stars have more than their share of aging and or injury prone veterans. Michael Modano, Sergei Zubov, and Brendan Morrow. Crawford has a lot of work ahead of him.


Joe Sacco named new Colorado Avalanche coach

The franchise didn’t waste much time after firing Tony Granato. From AP-

Joe Sacco envisions a fast and feisty team taking the ice, one that attacks and stays aggressive.

Perhaps a version of himself when he was a forward in the league.

Sacco, who spent 13 years in the NHL, was introduced as the new coach of the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, a day after the club fired Tony Granato and shook up its front office.

Flanked by newly appointed general manager Greg Sherman on his left and assistant coach Sylvain Lefebvre to his right, Sacco talked about carving out a revamped identity for a team that’s coming off its worst finish since moving to Denver in 1995.

“We want to be a team that plays with a lot of energy. We want to play on our toes, we don’t want to play on our heels,” Sacco said. “We want to be a team that attacks, we want to be a team that doesn’t sit back.”

Most of all, Sacco wants this team to return to glory, when the Avalanche were perennially challenging for a Stanley Cup crown.

Sherman shares that vision.

“We all want the Avalanche to return to the standards that made this franchise so successful,” he said. “There will be no shortcuts to return to those standards.”

Sacco, 40, was promoted from the Avalanche’s American Hockey League affiliate, where he coached the Lake Erie Monsters the last two seasons.

Sacco should know the Av’s young players intimately from his AHL days. He has also been an NHL player.(A 13-year career with five teams) On the other hand, I think Colorado is in a rebuilding phase right now. Sacco will have to work hard just to make the Avalanche playoff contenders in 2010.


Colorado Avalanche fire coach Tony Granato

The 2008-09 NHL was the worst for the franchise since its move from Quebec. From AP-

The Colorado Avalanche fired coach Tony Granato on Wednesday in a sweeping move that also resulted in the firings of five others in the organization and the naming of Greg Sherman as general manager.

The Avalanche also fired assistant coaches Jacques Cloutier and Dave Barr, goaltending coach Jeff Hackett, assistant to the general manager Michel Goulet and video coordinator P.J. DeLuca.

Sherman had been Colorado’s assistant GM for the past seven seasons. Also promoted within the organization were Craig Billington as assistant GM and David Oliver as director of player development, succeeding Billington.

It was the second set of major offseason moves made by the team after their worst finish since moving to Colorado from Quebec in 1995. Colorado also let go of general manager Francois Giguere in April.

Granato’s job appeared to be in jeopardy when the team courted Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy to be their coach. Roy turned them down.

The Avalanche were hurt by injuries and went long stretches without captain Joe Sakic, offensive threat Paul Stastny and top defenseman Adam Foote.

Sakic is 40, and Foote turns 38 this year. The Avalanche’s key players are getting on in years. I think Colorado is in for a few years of rebuilding before they become competitive again.


He’s back- Martin Brodeur and NJ Devils shutout Colorado 4-0

It was his 99th whitewash of his career, and 3rd in elevens of a season he has mostly been absent from due to injury. From AP-

Martin Brodeur recorded his 99th career regular-season shutout, making 24 saves in his first game since elbow surgery in early November and the New Jersey Devils beat the Colorado Avalanche 4-0 on Thursday night.


Brodeur posted his third shutout in 11 games this season to move within four of Terry Sawchuk’s regular-season career mark of 103, and reached 545 victories to close within six of tying Patrick’s Roy’s NHL record.

The four-time Vezina Trophy winner as hockey’s best goalie was greeted by a standing ovation from fans when he stepped on the ice for the warmups and they cheered every time he touched the puck, even when he simply directed it to the corner.

With Brodeur back in goal and some of the league’s highest scorers in Zach Parise and Patrik Elias, the Devils could be the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. Next up for them is my favorite team the Florida Panthers. Can Florida punch through enough goals to beat Brodeur?


Claude Lemieux signs two-way deal with Sharks

He hasn’t played a NHL game since the 2002-03 season. From AP-

Claude Lemieux signed a contract with the San Jose Sharks on Monday after spending the past month with their top minor-league affiliate, giving another boost to his NHL comeback hopes.

The 43-year-old Lemieux signed with the Worcester Sharks on Nov. 25 after a five-year absence from pro hockey. The four-time Stanley Cup winner’s new contract is a two-way deal, allowing him to play in San Jose or Worcester.

San Jose general manager Doug Wilson said Lemieux will stay with the Worcester Sharks if he clears waivers Tuesday after signing his new deal. He has two goals, four assists and 12 penalty minutes in 14 games in the minors.

“This is simply the next step in the evaluation process with Claude,” Wilson said.

Lemieux played parts of 20 seasons in the NHL, winning titles with Montreal (1986), New Jersey (1995 and 2000) and Colorado (1996). He won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP in 1995, and his 80 postseason goals rank ninth in league history.

Lemieux was a great player in his day, but five years away from the NHL is likely to leave him deficient as a player. MLB players(Jackie Jensen, Bruce Bochte, and many other) who came back after losing a whole season have had struggles. Two goals in 14 minor league games doesn’t exactly scream he is ready for a comeback either.


Florida Panthers beat Colorado for the first time ever at home

The final score yesterday was 3-0. If you wanted to get technical, Florida had beaten the Colorado franchise in a home game, but it was the team was still the Quebec Nordiques in 1994. In between 94 and 2008 Florida lost the regular season encounters in Florida between them and the Avalanche plus two Stanley Cup final games.

Highlights of last night’s game-

Tomas Vokoun stops all 23 shots on the way to his second shutout of the year.
Brett McLean scored his first goal of the season. It coming against his former team. Honestly I think Florida shoud dump McLean he gets too much play time in return for the scoring production he’s given Florida.

Florida is starting to make a believer of me. The win last night put them at 15-13-4, which is only 10th in the Eastern conference. Tampa Bay, Atlanta, and the New York Islanders are so stinking up the place that above .500 doesn’t cut it at the moment. But remember, Florida is 7-2-1 over their last 10 games and that came with vital players missing from the lineup.

It is still early to tell if Florida can make the playoffs for the first time in a decade. At the present moment, I think Panther fans have reason for hope.


Thrown hockey stick leads to Colorado Avalanche victory

The Tampa Bay Lightning keep finding ways to lose hockey games.

Milan Hejduk was awarded the lone goal in a shootout when Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith was penalized for throwing his stick as the Colorado Avalanche beat the Lightning 2-1 on Thursday night.

Smith’s stick came loose when he was making a save on Hejduk’s backhander. After discussing the play for several minutes, the officials awarded the goal.

“They huddled to make the decision to see if they felt the stick was thrown,” NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Mike Murphy said in a phone interview from Toronto. “And if a stick is thrown, as outlined in Rule 26.4, they can award a goal and that’s what they did in this case. There was a strong feeling that his stick was thrown.”

Tampa Bay’s players and head coach Rick Tocchet weren’t happy with the call. I didn’t see the play, so I can’t pass judgment. It has to be a tough year for Tampa area hockey fans.

Update- Here’s a video of the play

It is my opinion the referees badly blew the call. Puck Daddy has more.


Chicago Blackhawks fire coach Denis Savard

He was replaced by former Blues and Avalanche head coach, Joel Quennville. From ESPN-

The Chicago Blackhawks fired head coach Denis Savard just four games into the season on Thursday, replacing him with NHL coaching veteran Joel Quenneville.

“I’m disappointed but I guess it’s the nature of the business,” Savard said from his Chicago home Thursday.

Savard, who was in the last year of his contract, was told he’d been fired Thursday morning by general manager Dale Tallon.

The firing of Denis Savard after just four games did not rank as a record for an NHL coaching change.

• Bill Gadsby left the Detroit Red Wings after just two games of the 1969-70 season.

• Fred Glover departed the California Golden Seals after three games at the start of the 1971-72 season and went on to coach 68 games as head coach of the Los Angeles Kings.

• In 2001-02 the Pittsburgh Penguins fired Ivan Hlinka, the first European-born and trained NHL coach (along with Alpo Suhonen who coached in Chicago at the same time) after the Penguins lost the first four games of the season.

• Jacques Demers saw his tenure as head coach of the Montreal Canadiens end after four games at the outset of the 1995-96 season ( indicates Demers coached five games that season).

So there is ample precedent for Chicago’s move. Was the firing a good decision?

The dismissal came hours after the team won its first game by beating Phoenix 4-1. The Blackhawks are now run by owner Rocky Wirtz, and the combination of a slow start and a big public relations push may have led to Savard’s abrupt ouster.

Wirtz took over the team following the death of his father, Bill Wirtz, a little more than a year ago. Since then, he has hired former Chicago Cubs president and marketing guru John McDonough as president. The team has mended fences with former stars such as Bobby Hull, made sure that home games are televised — something Bill Wirtz was opposed to — and allowed Tallon to spend in the free-agent market.


Quenneville, who had been working as a scout for the Blackhawks, coached the Colorado Avalanche from 2005 through 2008 and led the St. Louis Blues for seven seasons (1996-2004). He has a 438-283-118 career record, including a 44-31-7 mark in Colorado last season.

Led by sophomore stars Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, the Blackhawks have high hopes to make it into the playoffs this season. They lost their first three games before finally winning Wednesday night.

Chicago is both young and talented. Will Quennville make a difference? He was good in St. Louis, but Colorado underacheived under Quennville. So I’m a little skeptical because of it being too early to judge a coach, being its only 4 games into the season.

Pierre LeBrun writes-

In the wake of Thursday’s Denis Savard firing (the worst part of my job is calling a guy like that at home on a day like this), I thought to myself: Here’s an organization that employs the greatest coach of all time in Scotty Bowman.

Why not give him the gig?

“No, no, my coaching days ended six years ago,” Bowman, a senior adviser of hockey operations for the Hawks, told me.

Another reason Bowman may not want to coach- his age. He’s seventy-five-years-old. Very old to be starting a new and stressful job anywhere in professional sports. Maybe more so when you are talking one of America’s biggest cities.


Colorado Avalance choose Tony Granato as their next coach

This is one of the most bizarre strategems I’ve ever seen as a sports fan. Demote your coach back in 2004 to being just an assistant, then re-name him head coach in 2008.

DENVER — Tony Granato returned as coach of the Colorado Avalanche on Thursday, four years after he was demoted from the job.

Granato will take over from Joel Quenneville, who parted ways with the Avalanche two weeks ago by mutual agreement.

Granato was 72-33-17-11 when he led the team from 2002 to 2004. He has been an assistant coach since July 2004, when the Avs hired Quenneville.

George Steinbrenner used to shuffle Billy Martin, Bob Lemon, and others in and out as New York Yankee manager, but I never recall any of them stepping down to being a coach and then getting the manager’s job back.

The Avalance have been one of the more successful NHL franchises over the last 15 years. So I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt in their re-hiring Granato.


Visitors Since Feb. 4, 2003

All original content copyright 2003-2008 by OTB Media. All rights reserved.