Canadiens Fire GM Pierre Gauthier, Pierre McGuire Next In Line?

Written by Mike Salerno on .

According to Darren Dreger of TSN, the Montreal Canadiens have fired general manager Pierre Gauthier. We know what you're thinking, "it's abooot damn time."

Well you won't find an argument here. The Canadiens, who have been the laughing stock of the league this season, have made a number of controversial decisions under Gauthier's leadership in recent months. At this point, one would've expected Montreal to wait until the season had concluded to make this move.

Oh by the way, in the mean time the Canadiens have plummetted down the standings, sitting at a modest 28th overall and have focused all their attention to the NHL Draft Lottery, which they'll surely be a part of.

First, after a rough start to the season, Gauthier relieved assistant coach Perry Pearn of his duties just three weeks into the season prior to the team's morning skate in preparation for their October 26 game against Philadelphia. Claiming he didn't want to blame anyone in particular, Gauthier made Pearn the fall guy, when the problem was far bigger than that.

Keeping the theme of game-day firings alive, he parted ways with embattled coach Jacques Martin on December 17, making Martin the sixth head coach to be fired around the league before Christmas. Assistant coach Randy Cunneyworth took over, without his Rosetta Stone for the time being, and was wildly unpopular with the media thanks to his inability to speak French.

Then came the most shocking of moves, just a few weeks into the new year, as he pulled winger Mike Cammalleri off the bench in the midst of a game against the arch-rival Boston Bruins and shipped him to Calgary in return for Rene Bourque.

Cammalleri was told that he was traded, but not to where, and was to undress and report back to the team hotel for further instruction. How do you not tell a player where he's headed?

Now the attention turns to who will be faced with the task of righting this ship. According to the Canadiens, they've already begun their search for Gauthier's successor. While a quick resolution may not be coming, rest assured the Habs will do their due diligence with regards to finding the right fit. Whoever they select, you can bet they won't be making any rash game-day decisions, be it a trade or otherwise.

NBC Sports analyst (and two-time Stanley Cup champion as a scout and assistant coach with Pittsburgh in the early 90s) Pierre McGuire seems to be the first name that has been connected with the job. While McGuire has fended off rumors that he was headed to Ottawa to replace Bryan Murray earlier this season, it remains to be seen if he'd be interested in taking over in Montreal.

In the mean time, chin up Montreal fans. The worst is almost over. After this season, the Canadiens will enjoy debating who to take with one of the top picks in the 2012 NHL Draft. The potential list of players available when they are slated to pick includes of Mikael Grigorenko, Ryan Murray, Matthew Dumba or Filip Forsberg. Any of these players could potentially step in and contribute to the team as early as next season.

With stud defensemen Nathan Beaulieu (17th overall, 2011) and Jarred Tinordi (22th overall, 2010) in the pipeline, expect the Canadiens to strike for an impact forward and go with either Grigorenko or Forsberg. Seeing either of those high-octane talents could be enough to help Habs fans forget about the Gauthier regime altogether.

Isles Scratch Niederreiter Again; New York Media Shrugs Collective Shoulders

Written by Mike Salerno on .

The Islanders are taking on the Pittsburgh Penguins at the CONSOL Energy Center tonight and are doing so without the services of 2010 fifth overall selection, Nino Niederreiter, for the second straight game.

No Niederreiter isn't hurt, but rather wasting away in a suite high above the ice hanging out with us healthy scratches. This isn't new to the Isles rookie, who also had the best seat in the house for four consecutive games earlier this year. When he does play, he averages under 10 minutes of ice time per game. So someone remind us again, why wasn't this kid sent back to junior hockey?

Yes, the way the Islanders have handled one of their best young talents to this point has been awfully confusing. But what's more baffling is how little we've read about it. Hey New York media, feel like doing your jobs?

Now granted, nobody's saying New York is a "hockey city" by any means. The NHL has to jockey for position on the back page with the likes of the Super Bowl Champions, Tim Tebow and Linsanity, and that's just in the past six weeks.

Even if the Rangers (who by the way have been leading the Eastern Conference for the majority of the season) went on a lengthy playoff run that culminated with their first Stanley Cup since 1994, there would be more of a buzz about what Alex Rodriguez had for breakfast.

So take the whittled down hockey coverage and prepare to divide it up unevenly among the three New York-area teams. Obviously when two of those three are in the thick of the playoff race, the Islanders will fall further down the proverbal totem pole. But this team does have voices. So besides basic game recaps which have the reading level of a fourth-grader, what is there time to talk about?

Owning The Night: After Big Wins, Hawks Run Chicago Bar Scene

Written by Mike Salerno on .

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Nothing feels better than a come-from-behind overtime win at home over your hated Canadian rivals. But for the Chicago Blackhawks, some hard liquor goes down just as smooth.

This was a team who just a month ago had tumbled from the top of the Western Conference standings and was in danger of falling out of the playoff picture altogether. Recently though, they've gotten back to their winning ways with improved play from goaltender Corey Crawford and more consistency from their top offensive guns, even without captain Jonathan Toews.

The Hawks, who extended their current winning streak to five games after Andrew Shaw's leg redirected Johnny Oduya's shot past Roberto Luongo on Wednesday night, had capped off three games in four nights the best way they possibly could: with six points.

What happened next, you ask? I'd imagine a few of them might have a hard time telling you.

While enjoying a few adult beverages at McFadden's, a Michigan State alumni bar in the heart of Chicago (a watering hole that is in no way, shape or form exclusive to the Second City), a few friends and I found ourselves sharing the evening with some of the Hawks, including star winger Patrick Kane.

Kane, who's famous for his raucous goal celebrations and rambunctious cab rides, makes certain to enjoy the height of his celebrity. While the 23-year old probably doesn't even remember being at the bar as much of anything but a blur, a handful of young ladies could thorougly compare his tonsil hockey skills with his on-ice prowess.2012-03-22_02-05-25_823_1

My friends and I were having a grand old time in Chicago and wouldn't stop gushing about the best regular season NHL game any of us had been to, regardless of city. Upon approaching the bar, we heard a familiar celebratory tune and began laughing and singing along. I wondered aloud if any of the players would be inside.

This year's Blackhawks rank as the 13th youngest team in the NHL, including 12 players aged 25 or younger. You'd be hard-pressed to find Toews, dubbed "Captain Serious" for his steadfast attention to detail with regards to everything hockey-related, out on the town after a big game, but plenty of others were happy to oblige.

Much to my surprise while walking through the front door, we found Kane and rookie Jimmy Hayes standing on the bar, fists pumped and lungs blaring the repetitive chorus of Chelsea Dagger.

They weren't alone. Scattered around the bar were the likes of Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford, Nick Leddy, Bryan Bickell and Shaw all equally enjoying the thrill of victory.

Most of them were happy to take pictures with fans. Everyone except for Kane, that is. He's had more than his fair share of embarrassing drunkface portraits taken in his tenure in Chicago. Others listened to people gush about how great they played just a few hours earlier. This much I was quite guilty of, at least with Keith and Seabrook.

Corey Crawford even withstood some drunken criticism from a friend we met after the game. "Great game tonight Corey," she said. "Just wish you played like that all the time."

His reaction? He bought her a shot.

Granted, they weren't playing again for four days. The players were more than within their rights to go out and enjoy a quality win. But they chose to do it, more or less, amongst the common folk.

There was nothing stopping them from heading to a VIP room in a ritzy Chicago nightclub. They chose a college bar.

Now, I won't sit here and pretend that this is the first time a group of famous athletes have gone out and partied hard. But coming from New York, where you need at least a Mercedes and a rather large sense of entitlement to get into any club the high-profile stars frequent, it was refreshing to see this bunch of guys going wild like they didn't have a care in the world.

One would imagine Thursday morning's practice wasn't the most impressive, up-tempo or particularly high-functioning for Joel Quenneville's crew. But the NHL's hottest team since the trade deadline deserves a night out to enjoy themselves every once in a while.

Let their fans buy them some shots. So far, they've earned it.

Coyotes' Doan Gets a Three-Game Ban

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

Shane Doan is the latest player to book a suite at the Shanaban Hotel. The Coyotes captain was suspended for three games, following a hearing regarding his elbow on the Stars' Jamie Benn during Tuesday night's contest.

While it's going to be tough for the slipping Coyotes to maintain traction in the Western Conference playoff chase, by losing their captain and third-leading point scorer, they should consider themselves lucky.

How Doan only received three games for this hit is beyond me. As Brendan Shanahan clearly states in the video below, Doan not only has a history with suspensions, but, he was fined just less than a week ago for a dangerous hit.

 

Rene Bourque, while still a member of the Calgary Flames, was suspended for five games just over two months ago for a very similar hit. Much like Shanahan's assessment of Bourque's hit, he felt Doan did not intend to injure Benn, but rather an "instinctive," yet reckless motion while reacting to a play. Also, much like Doan, Bourque was a repeat offender, and had recently been disciplined for another dangerous hit.

The only difference? Bourque received a five-game ban.

Much like Bourque's elbow on the Capitals' Nicklas Backstrom--who hasn't played since the incident--Doan only received a two-minute minor penalty for the elbow, which proved to be an integral factor on the outcome of the game for the 'Yotes.

After serving his time in the sin-bin (he also picked up a five-minute fighting major in response to the elbow), Doan went on to assist on both Coyotes' third-period goals, helping them force the shootout.

Earning the extra point was crucial for the Coyotes, as the fight for the final playoff spots in the West has turned into an ever-changing dog fight.

Currently tied with Los Angeles for the eighth and final playoff spot, although the Kings have the tiebreaker, the Coyotes are only one point away from the seventh place Colorado Avalanche. With that being said, they're also only two points ahead of the 11th-place Calgary Flames.

Losing Doan from a lineup that was already missing leading-goal scorer, Radim Vrbata, and one of their top defenseman Adrian Aucion, will undoubtedly be difficult to overcome. However, as history shows us, it could have been a lot worse.

Connor McDavid Deemed OHL Draft Eligible

Written by Brian McCormack on .

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Connor McDavid will continue a recent trend when he enters the OHL Draft on April 7.

As reported by the Toronto Star earlier today, McDavid, a 15 year-old forward for the midget minor AAA Toronto Marlboros will be available to the Erie Otters with this year's first pick, only the third player to be granted the "exceptional status" to enter the draft early. The standard entry age is 16 years of age.

The previous two players granted such status were John Tavares in 2005, who was drafted first overall by the Oshawa Generals and went on score 77 points in 65 games and win CHL Rookie of the Year honors, and Aaron Ekblad, who was drafted with the first overall pick last season by the Barrie Colts and went on to score 29 points in his first campaign, second amongst rookie defenseman. Ekblad will be NHL Draft eligible in 2014.

The Otters have signed agreed to a two-year lease extension with the Erie County Convention Center Authority to stay in Erie, and hired John Frey as Director of Operations, according to ontariohockeyleague.com

NHL.com reports McDavid scored 33 goals and 39 assists in 33 games this year for the Marlboros and picked up the Greater Toronto Hockey League Player of the Year Award.

The Marlboros organization has produced first round talent including John Tavares, Sam Gagner, Rick Nash, Jason Spezza, Wojtek Wolski, and Ryan Strome.

McDavid will be NHL Draft eligible in 2015.

Malkin, Crosby and Neal Help Penguins Further Their Dominance in the East

Written by Frank Castaldi on .

How scary are the Pittsburgh Penguins right now? Sidney Crosby's four points last night were merely an afterthought. That scary.

If anyone thought that the dagger that Scott Hartnell launched into the Penguins' heart with just under a second remaining in Sunday afternoon's overtime thriller would slow them, boy, were they mistaken.

The Penguins responded after their first loss (still perfect in regulation) in the past 11 games, with an 8-4 thumping of the Winnipeg Jets, Tuesday night.

Sure, Crosby continued to show his dominance over nearly everyone else in the NHL not named Evgeni, adding four more helpers to his stat sheet, but his performance was probably the least of the Jets' worries.

Evgeni Malkin had five points of his own, scoring goals 42 and 43, while James Neal netted a hat trick. Neal's three-goal effort, added him to a four-way tie for fourth place in goal scoring, as he joins Marian Gaborik, Corey Perry and Hartnell, all with 35.

 

Kovalchuk's 400th the Difference for Devils

Written by Brian McCormack on .

The Devils traded for Ilya Kovalchuk at the 2010 trade deadline, and after signing him to a 15 year, $100 million deal the following summer, committed to Kovalchuk as the future of the organization. To this point, Kovalchuk hasn't disappointed.

Kovalchuk put up 27 points in 27 games for the Devils after coming over from the Atlanta Thrashers before adding six points in five playoff games. Last season's disappointing season in Jersey didn't stop Kovalchuk from posting his eighth straight 30-goal season.

Last night, Kovalchuk scored his 31st of the year, and the 400th of his career, the difference-maker in a 1-0 win over the Ottawa Senators.

Kovalchuk's powerplay tally was the lone blemish in an impressive night in a 33-save effort for Ben Bishop. Johan Hedberg was just a bit better, stopping 34 shots for his fourth shutout of the season.

Kovalchuk's 400 goals in 771 gmes is the third fastest among active players, behind only Teemu Selanne and Jaromir Jagr.

With the win, New Jersey pushed their lead over the Senators to five points over Ottawa for sixth in the Eastern Conference.

Stars Host Coyotes in Crucial Matchup in Pacific

Written by Brian McCormack on .

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Since the All-Star break, the St. Louis Blues have asserted themselves as the top team in the Western Conference and top-dog in arguably the NHL's toughest division, with the likes of Nashville, Chicago, and Detroit all competing in the Central Division. The Wings and Predators both sit eight point back of Detroit.

The Canucks hold a commanding lead in the Northwest, eleven points ahead of the Colorado Avalanche, who are playing their best hockey of the season.

Then there's the Pacific, the division nobody seems to want. At the end of January, it belonged to the San Jose Sharks. At February's end, the Phoenix Coyotes had ridden an 11-0-1 streak to the top of the division. Now, thanks to Phoenix's 3-5-2 record in March, the division belongs to the Dallas Stars, in a virtual tie with the Coyotes, and only a one point lead over the Sharks and the Los Angeles Kings.

Tonight in Dallas, the Stars and Coyotes will face off with the Pacific's top spot on the line.

Radulov Returning to Nashville

Written by Brian McCormack on .

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According to his Twitter account, which is conveniently almost entirely in Russian, Alexander Radulov is headed to Nashville.

Radulov tweets:

"In the plaine going to new york then Nashville"

With Radulov's return, the Predators, fourth in the Western Conference, will make arguably the best offensive transaction this season and strengthen a team already having its best offensive season since 2006-07, Radulov's rookie season in Nashville.

For those unfamiliar with the complications of Radulov's return to Nashville, ESPN's EJ Hradek and NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly offered the in-depth analysis earlier this week.

Stay with The Scratches as news breaks concerning Radulov's official return to the Nashville Predators.

 

Video courtesy of NHL.com


Devils DeBoer Wonders If John Tortorella Is a Hypocrite After Early-Game Fisticuffs

Written by Mike Salerno on .

What have we here? Two bitter rivals in close proximity? Check. Mutual hatred amongst fans? Check. Opposing players criticizing one another in the media? Check. And now, it seems, the head coaches aren't exactly the best of friends, either.

The Rangers and Devils played the last of three recently spirited matchups tonight to close out their season series, and started it off with a bang. A trifecta of fights just three seconds into the action got things going, followed shortly by Brandon Dubinsky's goal en route to a 4-2 Rangers victory.

Stu Bickel and Ryan Carter made a bloody mess of each other while Cam Janssen, Brandon Prust, Mike Rupp and Eric Boulton all danced simultaneously. It made for quite the site on television:

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Blueshirts coach John Tortorella, though, made his displeasure with Devils bench boss Peter DeBoer known immediately following the early-game frecas. Tortorella was seen on NBC Sports Network profanely screaming at DeBoer, suggesting he, um, kindly go back from whence he came. Here's video of the fisticuffs:

After the game, DeBoer wondered why it seemed to be the case that he was being criticized for doing the same thing Tortorella had done at the Prudential Center just days ago (courtesy of Peter Botte of The New York Daily News via Twitter):

"I guess in John's world you can come into our building and start your tough guys, but we can't do the same in here. He's either got short term memory loss or he's a hypocrite."

Tortorella declined to respond to DeBoer's comments or speak about the festivities in the first few seconds, but he did say he was thrilled with the way his team responded. Of course he is, they won.

For those who are unfamiliar with the rules, the head coach of the visiting team must post his starting lineup first. Upon seeing that DeBoer was interested in sending a message by starting with his goons, Tortorella apparently grew angry and started to rip off his suit and transform into a giant, mysterious green creature.

"He was not happy with their starting lineup, and he got us going pretty good in here," Henrik Lundqvist said of Tortorella to reporters after the game. "When Torts saw their starting lineup, he changed a little bit on our starting lineup."

That he did. Bickel, a defenseman by trade who claimed he had never taken a faceoff in his career, professional or otherwise, was moved to the middle to square off with Carter. You may remember Carter as the guy who bopped Dubinsky last week for his comments on New Jersey winger David Clarkson. Still following? Me neither.

Bickel centered Brandon Prust and Mike Rupp in a move that certainly wasn't made to promote offense. But hey, at least he won the faceoff.

The Rangers clinched a playoff berth with the win and earned a split of the season series with New Jersey. That's right, each team won three games. So after all that, the teams separated by the Hudson still haven't decided a thing. Ugh. Now what?

Well, let's see. Wrestlemania is coming up in about two weeks. Something tells me neither coach would object to a steel cage match right about now.


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