Top Shelf Thursday: Weekly NHL notebook
By DAVE TURNER
1. With the firing of Paul MacLean by the Ottawa Senators, the coaching situation around the league has it's first domino to fall. MacLean was fired after guiding the team to a 11-11-5 record. Sure, the Sens were still in it, but after failing to make the postseason last seasons, expectations were high and the leash was short in Ottawa. MacLean was a good coach, winning the Jack Adams award in 2012-2013 when he took an injury depleted Senators club to the playoffs. After struggling some out of the gate this season, GM Bryan Murray has decided to go another way, perhaps making the change at a time where the Senators can still get themselves back into the playoff race. As for the rest of the league, the coaching hotstove is coming to a boil in NHL cities.
Five coaches come to mind as potential in-season firings if their teams continue to slide down the standings. Pete DeBoer of the New Jersey Devils, J.S. Berube of the Philadelphia Flyers, Dave Tippett of the Arizona Coyotes, Todd McLellan of the San Jose Sharks and even perhaps Lindy Ruff. Ruff might be the outlier here, but the fact that the Stars spent a lot of money to get better during the offseason, yet find themselves toiling near the bottom of the Central Division could lead to a shakeup. DeBoer has pressure on himself after failing to make the playoffs for two straight seasons, I can't see him surviving a third one under Lou Lamoriello. Berube has a playoff team from last year that is really struggling in a division that hasn't exactly been stellar. Dave Tippett has seen his Coyotes go from a playoff team a few seasons ago to a bottom dweller with no goaltending. As for McLellan, his demise has been predicted from the outset of this season, but if the Sharks continue to play better hockey, he might actually survive. With teams looking to make changes in order to salvage a season, I would expect that there will be at least one or two more coaching changes by the end of January.
2. St. Louis has an issue on it's hands when Brian Elliot returns from injury. The old saying, two's company, three's a crowd, rings true in St. Louis after the signing of Martin Brodeur. The Blues are in a very tricky situation, for both the short term and for the rest of the season. Brodeur came in and won in relief of Jake Allen against the Islanders and picked up a win. He followed it up with a win against the Panthers. Allen has struggled lately, but the rookie netminder has shown some flashes of brilliance. In the short term, if he continues to struggle, it might mean more starts for Brodeur. If the NHL's most winning goaltender can round into form, he might be an option moving forward. But what about when Elliot returns? Sending Allen down could destroy his confidence. Allen has been pretty good for most of the season and sometimes letting a young goaltender play through a bit of a slide is the best thing. As for Elliot, his numbers speak for themselves. In 14 starts before his injury, Elliot posted a 1.82 goals against average and a .931 save percentage. One would think that when Elliot is healthy he has to return, but who will be the odd man out. Allen starts tonight against the Islanders, the team that blitzed him last week. At this juncture, every game may be an ongoing audition for both Allen and Brodeur.
3. Two teams that were thought to be postseason givens continue to struggle. If the playoffs ended today, the Boston Bruins would be the Eastern Conference's second wild card and the Los Angeles Kings would be watching the postseason from home. Though there's plenty of hockey to play, there is room for concern for both perennially contending clubs. For the Bruins, they'll get a big boost soon as both David Krejci and Zdeno Chara are back practicing and should play soon. The Bruins have a lot of competition in their own division, as both Montreal and Tampa Bay have asserted themselves as the teams to beat in the Atlantic. With Toronto and Detroit playing well, even if Boston does get it going, they may be looking at opening a first round playoff series on the road. Though they've struggled, the only team in the East that may force them out of the eight seed would be whoever doesn't finish third in the Metropolitan Division between the Capitals and the Rangers. Still, once Krejci and Chara come back, this team needs to get hot to solidify their postseason position. As for the Kings, we all know how they can turn it on and can win it as an eight seed, but this season may not provide such an easy road to the postseason. Marian Gaborik is back for LA and he'll need to chip in. With the Ducks, Canucks, Flames and Sharks all playing good hockey, the Kings won't have an easy road, especially with teams like Winnipeg and Minnesota hanging around as well. Sure, the Kings will most likely make the playoffs, but if they turn it on too late, they may have a much tougher road in a highly competitive Western Conference.
Stat of the week: With his two wins last week, Martin Brodeur stands at 690 wins. If he's able to stay with the Blues all season, he'll get a chance at cracking 700.
1. The "stadium series" jerseys that the Islanders continue to wear from time to time are really growing on me. Though i'm not sure what the team plans to do when they move to Brooklyn next season, if they adopted those jerseys as their home threads and created a white with blue shoulders away uni, the Islanders would look really sharp in their new digs.
2. Zemgus Girgensons continues to widen his lead as the top vote getter for the NHL all-star game. Party on Zemgus! Really, the most interesting thing to me about the whole all-star weekend is the skills competition. Can't wait to see Nathan McKinnon fly around the ice in the fastest skater competition.
3. The more I watch of both Vlad Tarasenko and Filip Forsberg the more I think we're seeing two of the next superstars in this league. Both are exciting to watch and a potential first round playoff matchup between the Predators and Blues would be fantastic.
4. Recipe of the week: Herbed Salmon I make a variation of this recipe that includes some garlic, a bit of butter and some rosemary as well. Pop it in the oven and it's nice and easy to make.
5. Beer of the week: Nitro Milk Stout- Left Hand Brewing – I'll admit that trying this one in a bottle doesn't do it justice, just as most nitro stouts are, but this is a fantastic Stout. It's so smooth and creamy on tap, with coffee and chocolate tones. This is a superb choice if you're a fan of Stouts.
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