Two good trades by the Penguins with an eye towards the Cup, a coach replacement and a huge contract signing have set the stage for the NHL’s home stretch.
After a few days of (March) Madness, here are a few notes:
• It’s hard to argue against hiring a Calder Cup-winning coach from within the organization when there is a position to be filled on the NHL squad, but a raised eyebrow should accompany this decision.
Sure, it’s a bold hiring to bring in a rookie NHL coach with a strong track record, but Yzerman already tried something a little off the board with Guy Boucher.
At some point, consistency has to settle in behind the bench or the Lightning won’t ever get out of this rut. Who has the better odds of being able to hang around longer: Cooper or Lindy Ruff? Not saying Cooper won't be a good NHL coach, but the Lightning need to stay the course with someone.
• Consistency is crucial to long-term success as a team and that doesn’t just go for coaches. The Philadelphia Flyers were two wins away from the Stanley Cup in 2010 and though they were swept in Round 2 by Boston the following season, Philadelphia had an incredibly strong base. That’s when they decided to blow up the roster in a big way. That transition hasn’t been very smooth - they would have been better off pushing on with Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and probably even Sergei Bobrovsky.
• This is also why the Florida Panthers shouldn’t completely tear apart their roster for bit pieces or late-round draft picks. Ask any of the players in their young core and they’ll tell you a veteran presence is key to have around as they develop. That’s partly why GM Dale Tallon signed all those UFAs for so long. By the time those deals expire, Erik Gudbranson, Jonathan Huberdeau, Dmitry Kulikov and the other youngsters should be ready to be go-to guys. If they were forced into that kind of role now, this young core wouldn't be any different than the many failed ones that came before.
• Joffrey Lupul wanted someone to explain to him what warrants a suspension in this league and what doesn’t. I want someone to explain to me why so many NHLers feel it necessary to leave their feet when they hit someone. Head shot rule or not, that should be called charging each and every time.
• Signing Alexander Semin for one year at $7 million was an excellent move by GM Jim Rutherford. Along with the Jordan Staal trade, the Canes were clearly trying to ramp up the roster to take advantage of a weak division. But signing him at $7 million for five years? Sure, average contract values will inevitably creep up over the life of the current CBA, but Semin has shown to be a streaky player. To sign a guy for that amount and for that long you have to know exactly what you’re getting. In Semin, you don’t really know.
The Canes have invested more than $4 million in five different forwards for the long term and have put down $6.3 million on Cam Ward. This kind of investment is needed in the D-corps.
• Blake Wheeler played some center in college and sparingly for the Bruins. The Jets should consider trying him there and experiment with him more on the penalty kill. If he does well, it gives them breathing room to look into trading Bryan Little or Alexander Burmistrov. Wheeler is their best player and should be leaned on more.
• Really like the Brenden Morrow-Joe Morrow trade from both sides. Penguins got the grit, depth and leadership all champions need. Stars get a good young defense piece to add to a promising pipeline of blueliners. They couldn’t just let Brenden Morrow leave for nothing and got a real nice piece.
• The San Jose Sharks appear to be wasting away in front of our eyes. It’s amazing this team has sunk to one of the worst offences in the league. The question is: do they have enough assets left over to re-tool on the fly or is a complete meltdown inevitable?
Rory Boylen is TheHockeyNews.com's web editor. His column appears regularly only on THN.com.
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