It’s too early for spring cleaning, but maybe late January/early February feels that way to NHL teams?
Not long after the New York Islanders finally fired Jack Capuano and the St. Louis Blues decided to part ways with Ken Hitchcock - a move that people wondered about for ages, maybe even longer than Kevin Shattenkirk has been a trade rumor target - the Boston Bruins parted ways with Claude Julien.
This smells of executive panic, much like Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray essentially firing Bruce Boudreau because … if he doesn’t fire Bruce, then isn’t he the guy to go?
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The Bruins are middling, and count me among those who believe that Julien is a sneaky reason why they’re so limited: in my opinion, he was a good chef who happened to throw out some delicious cooking ingredients.
How much do we place the jettisoning of Tyler Seguin, Phil Kessel and Dougie Hamilton on Julien? It’s my opinion that general managers sculpt their teams in the image of their coaches at least to some extent, and I’ll always wonder if those arguments were often a “It’s either Julien or that player who needs to go.”
If there’s ZERO truth to that unscientific yet gut instinct, then the Bruins owe Julien an apology.
The defensive-minded coach showed that he could pivot to what Don Sweeney wanted: a more modern, attacking setup. That makes sense with the rise of David Pastrnak and even better play from Brad Marchand in tandem with Zdeno Chara finally appearing less than superhuman, but there were traces of “too little, too late” considering how perfect Hamilton and others would have fit into such a setup.
If I’m the Winnipeg Jets, the Colorado Avalanche or any number of teams that are floundering right now, I’d have some serious meetings revolving around beating the Golden Knights and other teams to the punch by grabbing Julien or Hitchcock now. Julien is 10 years younger, so even if I might give Hitch the slight edge as far as flat-out coaching genius goes, he has more days ahead of him.
(And, hey, they both have one championship ring apiece.)
I understand that very little of this has anything to do with line changes, although it argues this much: sometimes a coach doesn’t deserve blame when he has to make chicken salad out of chicken (bleep). But sometimes that same coach was part of the process that accounted for the lack of good groceries.
Let’s get to some line changes now, shall we?
-- The Bruins' next game is on Thursday, and they might not have Chara in the mix to balance out their D pairings. Then again, that makes for generally fleeter/younger legs, which might be something of a blessing in disguise.
Pastrnak's meant to add zip to a line of David Krejci and Peter Cehlarik while Marchand and Patrice Bergeron form a nice - if not as brilliant - trio with Frank Vatrano (who I like to call "The Vatrano Presence").
A quick 411 on Cehlarik for those of you who might ponder a limited time trial: he was the 90th pick by Boston in 2013. In 40 games with the AHL's Providence Bruins, Cehlarik has 18 goals and 33 points. He's a big body with decent but unspectacular offensive instincts, if Hockey's Future is correct.
-- Tyler Myers underwent surgery and is expected to miss 6-8 weeks. Considering the Jets' struggles, I'd be tempted to shut him down for the season if I were Winnipeg. Jacob Trouba gets his wish of being one of the top two right-handed defensemen for Winnipeg, completing a pairing with Toby "When did he stop being Tobias?" Enstrom while Joshua Morrissey and Dustin Byfuglien complete the other top pairing.
In other Jets notes, Mathieu Perreault has shaken off his broken thumb. I'm guessing he's being eased back into the mix; otherwise putting him on a fourth line seems like a huge waste, even as teams strive for greater top-to-bottom scoring depth these days.
-- I was actually expecting Tyler Toffoli to make life a little easier for Anze Kopitar, who's been sputtering a bit this season. Instead, in the spirit of the Patriots winning their bajillionth Super Bowl, the rich get richer as red-hot Jeff Carter is with Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli again.
Most of us are probably happier with that certainty than yet another helping of the same team winning. At least the NHL provides greater variety in its champs, eh?
-- You know, I realize that there's some consternation from the Ducks about losing one of the young defensemen they've stockpiled, yet it seems like they're really not getting the most out of them, anyway. Shea Theodore is a regular feature in the doghouse, but he's getting some playing time now that Sami Vatanen is the one under that canine-sized roof.
If I were a team in poach mode, I'd be dialing up Barstool Bob about one of those guys. Neither Vatanen nor Theodore is perfect, mind you, but they could be nice additions depending upon the asking price.
-- It sounds like Jiri Hudler might play in the Dallas Stars' next game, but it's unclear where exactly he'll fall in the lineup. I'd be tempted to put him with Tyler Seguin if Dallas is sticking with its current plan of splitting up Seguin and Jamie Benn.
-- The Penguins went some time without dealing with their disturbingly regular slew of injuries, but they've been hit hard lately. Conor Sheary looks like he'll miss at least a month. It turns out that NHL 100 snub Evgeni Malkin's injury wasn't just an excuse to sit out the All-Star Game, as he's missing Tuesday's game too. Carl Hagelin also appears to be dealing with a concussion.
With that, the Penguins' lines are jumbled up:
Rust may be the big winner, as he has just an assist in his past five games. Before that, he generated five points in two games between Jan 20 - 22, so perhaps he's on the hot end of his streakiness?
Guentzel's been awfully quiet lately after a strong start to his NHL career. I wonder if taking Hagelin's on what's normally the HBK Line could get him back on track? He had seven points in his first eight games before being limited to an assist in his last six contests.
-- It looks like Kevin Hayes is in the mix for the Rangers again, and with his return, New York's offense looks pretty lethal once more.
Not sure you'll find many fourth lines that can compare to Buch - Fast - Lindberg.
-- Robby Fabbri is out for the season with a knee injury, and the Blues' lines are less than stellar under Mike Yeo so far. (They beat the Flyers on Monday, but didn't look very impressive in the process.)
It does open nice opportunities for Alexander Steen (with Paul Stastny and Vladimir Tarasenko) as well as Kenny Agostino (scored a breakaway goal last night, lines up with Jori Lehtera and David Perron). Jaden Schwartz on the third line feels all sorts of wrong, though.