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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 5:58 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor / - World According to JR

Roenick: Handing out some midseason hardware

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick usually offers his sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League, but with this being midseason week in the NHL, J.R. decided to hand out some hardware.

Everybody has their own list, so I thought I'd give you mine. Here are my midseason picks for the six big trophies in the NHL:

Calder Trophy

It's not a big secret that it's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers.

It still amazes me that Edmonton thought about sending him back to juniors. He's dazzled with his ability to handle the National Hockey League, and he seems way older and more mature than his age would suggest. Boy, oh boy, does he have a bright future, and he definitely gets the early nod for rookie of the year because of the amazing pace with which he has started his career.

Norris Trophy

This is a real close one for me. The two guys I believe are right there are on teams that aren't at the top of the League, but they're good teams and they're going to be in the playoffs.

The first guy is Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators.

Brian Campbell
Defense - FLA
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 33
SOG: 67 | +/-: 2
Karlsson has been fantastic all season. He has been consistently strong offensively and defensively. He's been excellent, especially on the power play. On a team that has struggled through parts of the year, Karlsson has not really had many low points. He's been a model of consistency, which is both impressive and totally necessary in Ottawa.

Nipping at Karlsson's heals, and people may think I'm crazy for this, is Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers.

There's not much hype or attention down in Florida, but the Panthers quietly had a fantastic first half of the season and Dale Tallon bringing Campbell there is a big reason why. He has enhanced the Panthers' overall production. His coast-to-coast rushes have been exciting to watch. He's a defenseman that can control the game. And he seems to be having a lot of fun.

Right now for the Norris it's a push between Karlsson and Campbell. It's still up in the air.

Vezina Trophy

This has to go to Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, but this is a close one. In fact, because of Lundqvist, Tim Thomas and Brian Elliott, I think this is going to be as close a Vezina race as we've seen in the last decade.

The goalies this year have just been phenomenal, but Lundqvist has allowed the Rangers to not only become the No. 1 team in the League, but he has allowed them to win games this year regardless of whether the forwards score goals. That is a pretty impressive feat.

Thomas is again defying the laws of age and continuing the highest level of play, but he did have a tough start at the beginning of the year so I'm going to give Lundqvist the nod because of his consistency night in and night out.

Jack Adams Award

This is going to a guy that didn't even start the year as a coach. It's Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues.

Hitch has done something that not many people have the ability to do, which is go into a team that is struggling, a team that couldn't win any games, that was battling with its confidence, and totally turn it around. In fact, I think the term total remodel is an understatement for what Hitchcock has accomplished in St. Louis. Their structure, their system, and their overall attitude and desire to win -- it's all different. This team believes it can win every single night and works hard every single night.

I feel bad for any team that has to play the Blues in the first round of the playoffs because they seem to be on a roll and playing like warriors.

Selke Trophy

Joe Pavelski
Right Wing - SJS
GOALS: 16 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 30
SOG: 121 | +/-: 13
This is always a tough one, but I'm putting someone down here that will surprise a lot of people. It's Joe Pavelski from the San Jose Sharks.

Todd McLellan trusts this guy in every aspect of the game. He puts him on the power play. He puts him on the penalty kill. He starts him in overtime. He uses him in the shootout. Pavelski is so smart in his defensive play, but he doesn't get any credit out there in San Jose because of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle and Brent Burns. Pavelski is, without question, a guy that should be getting attention for being one of the best defensive forwards in the League that can also play offensively. It's a lot like Ryan Kesler was last year. He's just a great player.

A close second would be Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins. He's such a good penalty killer and he's so smart defensively with his positioning that he makes the Selke race close, but I still like Pavelski by a hair.

Hart Trophy

Claude Giroux
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 18 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 48
SOG: 103 | +/-: 5
The big one is an easy one. Hands down the most exciting player for me to watch this year all the way around the boards has been Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers.

His toughness, grit, goal-scoring, playmaking, work ethic and importance to the team have all been such important elements for the Flyers this season. He's really benefited from Jaromir Jagr being there, learning from a veteran, but Giroux's confidence seems to be off-the-charts high right now. Some of the moves he makes, the timing of them, the timing of his goals, show he's a big time player that rises to the occasion. And I love his mentality. He plays the game with a lot of grit, an edge, and he's in the perfect place in Philly because the people there can appreciate his game.

He has been by far the most valuable to his team.
Posted On Wednesday, 01.04.2012 / 9:30 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor / - World According to JR

Still in awe over Winter Classic

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

It's been a few days since the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, but I'm still in awe over the entire event. Plus, the problems that the Buffalo Sabres have been having all season are still mystifying to me. Read on to find out more of my thoughts on both:

What's clicking?

I've done a lot of cool things in my lifetime and have been involved with a lot of really neat events, including All-Star games, the Olympics and the Stanley Cup Final, but the Winter Classic was one of the coolest things I've ever done. The best thing I've ever done was go to the Vancouver Olympics, but last weekend's Winter Classic was one of the most fun and best-run events I've seen in a long time.

My hat goes off to the NHL for putting on a first-class event. My hat goes off to the Rangers and Flyers for the support they gave the Winter Classic. And, I certainly tip my hat to the fans that came out, all 45,000 for the alumni game and the 47,000 for the big game. That just goes to show you how supportive these fans are in both of these cities.

The buildup to the even was spectacular, too.

For both teams to open up and allow HBO's cameras to go inside and get up close and personal not only in the locker rooms, but on the buses, on the planes, in the hotel rooms and in their homes was just phenomenal. Those are forbidden territories to media, but the coaches and the teams allowed that to happen and by doing so allowed people to get up front with the National Hockey League and its players from their living rooms.

Getting to play in the alumni game was tremendous. To be in the same locker room with Bernie Parent, Bob Clarke, Mark Howe, Eric Lindros, Mark Recchi, Rick Tocchet -- it was a true treat. To be on the ice with 45,000 people watching, I can't remember being in an environment that took my breath away, and that really took my breath away. It's the only way I can describe it.

Seeing the amount of sweaters that were worn out there, it was inspiring.

Again, the NHL really succeeded in pulling off another great celebration of the game. The Winter Classic is a huge hit and a huge bonus for the NHL and its fans.

What's missing?

I remain perplexed by the struggles of the Buffalo Sabres. I really just don't get it. I don't understand why this team has struggled to win consistently. They have solid, strong forwards, good defenseman and in my opinion a guy who should be one of the best goalies in the NHL in Ryan Miller, but it's not working.

What is wrong with Miller, both physically and mentally? He just doesn't seem to be the same guy I'm used to watching. He's letting in a lot of shots that in past years he would have stopped. He seems to be struggling in the crease with his positioning. I think he's battling a confidence issue right now, and I don't know why it has been going on for so long.

Maybe it's because Ryan Miller got married in the offseason and his wife lives in L.A., so there is that separation. But, that's personal stuff that you have to deal with, that you have to put aside and forget about when you're on the ice.

Lindy Ruff is a good coach, but for some reason the guys and him just aren't connecting with the work aspect that needs to be done. They're struggling to win the games they do win, and they're not beating teams they should beat.

They barely beat Edmonton on Tuesday because the Oilers came out and totally dominated them in the work aspect. That leads me to wonder why the Sabres aren't working hard enough for Ruff.

They do deserve some benefit of the doubt because their injuries have been immense, and now Christian Ehrhoff is out as well. They have used 33 different players in the lineup and they have lost 173 man-games to injury. It is hard for the coach to find any cohesiveness with all those injuries because he is forever mismatching combinations, so you can't get into any kind of groove.

But there is still the work ethic problem and the issues that Miller seems to be having.

Let's hope that Buffalo can get everybody healthy, working hard, and clicking so they put together the push to the playoffs that those fans deserve. It is a really good fan base and it's always good to see the Sabres battling come playoff time.
Posted On Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 7:17 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor / - World According to JR

Roenick: Alumni game provided return to young days

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for every Wednesday during the season. Roenick, though, couldn't limit himself to one blog this week.

He suited up in the Molson Canadian 2012 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game on Saturday and wore No. 97 for the Flyers. Roenick finished a plus-1 in 12:48 of ice time. He was introduced after Eric Lindros, who received the loudest and longest ovation from the 45,808 at Citizens Bank Park. He was robbed by Rangers goalie Dan Blackburn. But, the experience was magical and Roenick fulfilled some childhood dreams.

Here is his experience, in J.R.'s own words:

There I was, standing on the top step of the Phillies dugout, waiting to be introduced and listening to the roaring ovation that Eric Lindros was getting. It was such a great introduction for him. He deserved a really good ovation for what he's done for this city and the city acknowledged what he's done. It is a class move by this town and I think Eric really appreciated it.

And, it was nice coming after him because there was still some of the residual applause. That was great.

When you're out there at the start of the game, first of all you're thinking that you just can't get hurt. I was like, 'Oh please, don't pull anything.' A lot of us haven't played for a long time.

We had to make sure there was respect, and there was a lot of it on both sides.

The ice was expectedly just OK, so we weren't going to have very crisp passes or plays, but the intensity was actually pretty good. I honestly thought the guys worked hard, and I was especially impressed by watching Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach and Bill Barber because they were moving the puck well and had a couple of great chances to score.

But, I don't think anybody can disagree that our goaltenders stole the show.

We have to start with Bernie Parent. He played well and didn't allow a goal in his four minutes of ice time, but it wasn't just the way he played -- it was so much more. After not being on the ice for 34 years, for him to come out and get the ovation that he had; it put chills up my spine. What a wonderful man and the way they acknowledged him here, you know why he's such an icon in this city.

Then Mark Laforest and Neil Little shut the door for us. It'll probably be the lowest scoring alumni game in the history of alumni games, and it definitely was Neil Little's best game as a Flyer. Especially at the end, he kind of looked like Denny Lemieux, he was getting peppered so much.

Overall, it was just amazing to be out there. To be down on the ice and look up in the stands and see the amount of people in this building all standing up, it was inspiring. I really was in awe. It was such a great experience. I have never been in something like this and I'm very proud I got to do it, especially in a Flyers uniform.

What it also did was give me a new appreciation for the Winter Classic because it felt like I was a kid again, playing outside with my buddies, playing a little shinny game on the pond. It really brought me back to those days -- even though it was a little warmer than I remember.

To look up and see the blue sky, the clouds, the people around and a lot of familiar faces that brought me back to my days here, it was just really awe-inspiring to me.

And, being on the ice with Clarkie, that was amazing. I'm just happy he kept his stick down, though he did clip one guy so at least we saw some of his old antics again.

It was also nice playing with Kenny Linseman, 'The Rat.' I grew up watching him play and just loving it because I was a big Bruins fan growing up, and I remember him just driving people crazy when he played for the Bruins.

I'd like to think we played pretty well together.

One of the great things I'm so happy I did was right before we came out for the third period a couple of us got all the boys to sign our jerseys. I mean, if you're in a room with all these legends and you don't get some kind of memorabilia from them shame on you. This jersey is something that I'll hang in my living room.

This experience is going to live with me forever.

Posted On Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 9:29 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor / - World According to JR

Blues are clicking, Habs are missing -- a lot

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for this season.

Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

On my mind this week is a Western Conference team on the rise and an Eastern Conference team that appears to be on the cliff, in danger of falling over. I'm talking about the Blues and the Canadiens. You should read on to find out why:

What's clicking?

Ken Hitchcock came into the perfect scenario in St. Louis, with his style matching the makeup of the Blues. This team doesn't have any superstars, so they all listen, are very attentive and are clearly responding very well to Hitchcock's hard style of coaching.

Alexander Steen
Left Wing - STL
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 11 | PTS: 24
SOG: 113 | +/-: 20
The Blues the last five years have been built on speed and defensive mentalities. They don't have any big goal scorers, but they have guys like Alexander Steen, David Backes and David Perron, among others -- and these are all good two-way players, which is perfect for Hitchcock. The trade they made last year in getting Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk really bolstered this team to have more of an all-round competitive aspect to it. That also has helped Hitchcock.

I think they're one of the hardest working teams in the League for the way they attack the puck and play the puck with so much aggression. Hitchcock's defensive mentality, in-your-face, hard-work mentality also works well with the makeup of the players who already were on the team when he got there in early November.

It was like a match made in heaven for Hitchcock and the St. Louis Blues, and that's why they've been so successful.

What also matters is that goalie Jaroslav Halak has been a whole lot better since Brian Elliott has been on this major tear. You love to see that goaltender competition, two guys fighting for the No. 1 job. That always brings out great numbers in goaltenders. The same thing happened in Minnesota, and now it's happening in St. Louis.So, I tip my hat to Hitchcock and the Blues for the massive turnaround they've made in the last month and a half. They've put themselves in the top four teams in the West and are looking to put themselves in the top two or three teams in the League.

What's missing?

With injuries and a shortage of talent, Montreal Canadiens General Manager Pierre Gauthier has to take a big part of the responsibility for the way the team is struggling. Defenseman Andrei Markov being injured for the last couple of seasons is one of the biggest blows that any team has had in terms of injuries in the last two or three years. He's such an important part of their team. But it's kind of crazy to watch this team struggle when they have a goalie as good as Carey Price. That tells me they have too many weak points.

The Canadiens don't have a playmaker every night that sets up their goal scorers, among them Michael Cammalleri. He's one of the best snipers in the National Hockey League, but Cammalleri needs to get fed the puck and use his quick release to his benefit. Tomas Plekanec, who might be their best playmaker, is two games on, one game off, two games off, one game on. And, unfortunately he doesn't appear to have the speed or strength to be that playmaker for Cammalleri every single night.

Erik Cole
Left Wing - MTL
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 11 | PTS: 25
SOG: 114 | +/-: 2
Erik Cole has had a decent season, but he doesn't have anybody to play with that can match his speed. He needs someone to keep up with him, but instead he's finding himself having to slow down a lot to be effective.  Max Pacioretty is having a very solid season, but he's more of a workhorse, a defensive-style forward that is being forced into scoring goals because the rest of his team doesn't do that very well.

The Canadiens also are a very small team that gets pushed around too much. Their lack of size and speed in the big and fast NHL forces them to work extra hard to win games. That's never a recipe for extended success. It becomes way too tiring emotionally and physically on a team.

When they have breakdowns defensively and the puck goes into the back of the net, they can't find the offense to counter that. So it's up to the GM to make a move very quickly to get somebody in there with size, somebody that can put the puck in the net and stand in front of the net to become that presence on power plays. The Canadiens are in a situation where if they continue to sputter the way they are, they're going to be out of the playoff race by the end of January. That is just unacceptable in Montreal.

It's nice seeing the blue, red and white playing in the playoffs and not battling these offensive demons they have right now. For crying out loud, Cammalleri and Cole need some help.
Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 5:35 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor / - World According to JR

JR: Rangers, Flyers seek upper hand in Classic preview

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

The Flyers and Rangers have at it Friday night in a preview of the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic while a team on the other coast is going through a coaching change that better get them steered in the right direction. It's all on my mind this week, so read on …
Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 7:26 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor / - World According to JR

League needs help from players to limit concussions

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick is blogging for this season. In today's blog, Roenick provides his personal opinions about what's proved effective in reducing concussions and preventing further symptoms among NHL players, plus what the League and its players still need to do.

With so many star players now sidelined with concussions or concussion-like symptoms, the topic has to be explored. Here are my thoughts:

What's Clicking?

The game is different today. It's not the same game it was when I started in the late '80s, and it's still not even the same game from the early 2000s. This is a big-business sport where you have extreme physical contact, extreme speed and extremely talented players that are in peak athletic condition.

For those reasons, concussions seem to be more rampant nowadays. We can put the blame on the speed and ferocity of the game, because whether you get hit in the head or you don't, the surge and the way your body is jolted every time you make contact with somebody rattles your brain. That is very important to understand.

Back 20 years ago we didn't think of it that way. We didn't think about hurting ourselves. We thought of it as pain and something we had to play through. Actually a lot of guys thought it was honorable and manly to play through concussions, broken bones and pulled muscles -- but in actuality the damage we did to our bodies could end up being life-altering down the road. That remains to be seen.

But let's take it back to the present. Due to all the research that has been done on concussions and considering what the National Hockey League now knows about concussions and how it plays in part to your brain, this is an issue that must be taken very seriously. Your brain and heart are the most important parts of your body. If they go, there's no sense in going on.

I applaud the NHL for doing all it can to protect the players from injury, not only current injuries but future injuries. And, yes, sometimes the players need to be protected from themselves.

Hockey players are proud people. They want to be looked at as tough, as guys who can play through injuries and do what is best for the team. Doing that at times can be a serious health risk, so I'm glad the NHL has taken such an aggressive stance in making sure that when guys get their bells rung they go to a quiet room, get evaluated and either go back in the game or sit out to rest.

I hope it doesn't go too far to the point that every time players get hit they go down and call for suspensions. I hope the guys are tough enough to play through the injuries they think they can play through and they think they should play through. The concussion issue is front and center now, and with so much attention on it players are fearful for their well-being and teams are fearful for their players.

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are the main subjects behind that -- but like the NHL, I applaud the Penguins for how smart they've been in treating Crosby's injury as cautiously as they are. Their approach is what is best for the player, but I worry about Crosby's future in the National Hockey League. The fact that he had a setback after a seemingly normal body-contact situation that happened in a game arguably sets off more alarms than the 10 months he sat out.

The Penguins and Crosby will have to evaluate how bad this is and whether his body is capable and built to withstand the contact that professional hockey demands night in and night out. I'm concerned because I really enjoy watching Crosby play, and I would like to see him play for the next 15 years and dazzle us.

What's missing?

We can no longer ignore the stupidity of the hits that are still happening today despite the fact that the players know the concussion aspect is such a big part of the game and sports in general.

You saw Chris Stewart get suspended for hitting Niklas Kronwall from behind. You saw Andy Sutton get suspended for jumping in the air -- a 6-foot-6 and 240-pound defenseman jumping in the air -- to hit Alexei Ponikarovsky. These hits are absolutely unnecessary and the stupidity is beyond belief.

Brendan Shanahan probably never thought he would be so busy doling out suspensions because of the lack of intelligence of so many players in very dangerous situations.

NHL players have to understand that it is a different game, a more powerful game in a different era, and the respect of the players' well-being has to come into play at every area of the ice.

There are too many hits from behind near the boards. There are too many elbows to the head. There are too many blindside hits.

It's one thing to hit strong and hard, but it's another thing to throw elbows, have knee-on-knee hits, hits from behind, cross checks on defensemen who are four feet from the boards.

I'd like to know when is the respect factor is going to come back into the game.

Let me also be clear -- I wasn't the fairest hitter. I left my feet. I hit guys from behind. I had my fair share of dirty hits and cheap hits. I hit to inflict pain at times, without question. I needed that intimidation factor because of my size.

Shame on me, but it was a totally different mentality when I played the game. This game today is much faster, much stronger and more scrutinized because it is bigger business. These players are worth much more than they were when I started, and they better start adapting to the new era of the National Hockey League by respecting each other.
Posted On Monday, 12.12.2011 / 4:05 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor / - World According to JR

Roenick builds his team of top American talent

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for this season called, "World According to JR." It runs every Wednesday and will again this week. However, with the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony Monday night in Chicago, Roenick decided to write a special blog entry catered to Americans in hockey. Roenick was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame last year.

Let me start by saying what an honor it is to have Gary Suter, Chris Chelios, Keith Tkachuk, Ed Snider and Mike Emrick join me in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. All five are truly legends not just in the American hockey world, but the entire hockey world.

It is an annual tradition at the time of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductions to debate the best American-born players. But what about the next generation of U.S. Hockey Hall of Famers? More appropriately, what about this generation of American hockey stars?
Posted On Wednesday, 12.07.2011 / 9:45 AM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor / - World According to JR

Roenick: Nugent-Hopkins clicking, Ovechkin missing

NHL Network analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for this season. Look for new entries from "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

A rising rookie and a falling superstar highlight my blog this week. Read on to find out what's on my mind:

What's clicking?

Ryan Nugent-Hopkins
Center - EDM
GOALS: 12 | ASST: 17 | PTS: 29
SOG: 55 | +/-: 4
With the instant impact of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, it just amazes me that the Edmonton Oilers even considered sending this kid back to junior instead of keeping him for the season. At 18 years old and being the No. 1 draft pick, and then to come in and make such an instant impact while making things look so easy is totally amazing to me.

This kid has impressed me with his maturity, with his sense of the game, with how knowledgeable he is, the way he reads the game. For a rookie to have 29 points in 27 games, with 12 goals and 17 assists -- I don't know if we've seen a rookie this good in a long time. 
Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 5:04 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor / - World According to JR

Roenick weighs in on recent coaching changes

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday.

In the wake of the decisions made in Washington and Carolina earlier this week, I have decided to change up the format of my blog for this week. Instead of giving you my opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League, I wanted to give you my opinions on the moves made by Capitals GM George McPhee and Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford.

Let's first start this thing off by saying I don't think anybody was surprised by the firing of Bruce Boudreau and Paul Maurice. But I do think they were the byproduct of separate issues in that one team is talented enough but wasn't responding, and the other just doesn't have enough talent to be able to respond.

Here's what I mean:

Dale Hunter for Bruce Boudreau

Boudreau did a wonderful job in Washington. He was the fastest coach in the modern era to reach 200 wins. He really seemed to have a good rapport with the players and had the Capitals looking like one of the top teams in the League.

So, no, I don't know why the players stopped responding to Boudreau, but ultimately it started with Alex Ovechkin and Alexander Semin -- two of the most talented guys not only on their team, but in the League. For example, when Ovechkin was sat by Boudreau against Anaheim and followed that up by muttering some unflattering words about his coach, I think it was obvious then that something bad was starting to brew in Washington.

McPhee said that his players stopped responding to Boudreau, so they had to make a coaching change. One thing you never like to hear about is players not responding to the coach. That's just a total lack of respect toward a coach and toward the job he's trying to do to win games and ultimately a Stanley Cup.

But McPhee and the Capitals had to make this change. They couldn't keep wallowing in mediocrity, and worse yet, accepting it. If they continue to lose and have Ovechkin go pointless for games at a time, they're going to find themselves battling for a playoff spot come April.

Yes, I do think this was a necessary desperation move by McPhee to try to salvage the season early and spark some life and attention into his players. And bringing in a very hard-nosed, disciplinarian-style coach in Hunter seems to be a good fit.

The players have to look at themselves for why Boudreau got fired, and Hunter will make them do just that.

He was one of the fiercest competitors that I ever played against. It seemed like he wanted to eat me every time I was on the ice against him. He was always one of those awe-inspiring players. And he played like he looked -- hard, in your face, and always with either black eyes or cuts with blood on his face.

I'm sure he's going to be able to coach the same way he played. He is going to demand hard work and respect from his players.

Kirk Muller for Paul Maurice

Maurice fell victim to not being able to have the team to compete every single night. He didn't have enough horses to compete for a playoff spot.

Carolina let Erik Cole walk to Montreal. Cory Stillman retired. Joe Corvo was traded. And GM Jim Rutherford didn't bring anybody in of substance that was going to replace those players and help Maurice get this team to a higher level.

But again, just like Ovechkin in Washington, another star player in Eric Staal is having a very tough year and that did not help.

However, by no means do I think Staal's struggles have anything to do with Maurice. Staal is battling a confidence problem right now that he has to work his way out of himself. He seems to be too much on the outside and not going into those real heavy octane areas to score goals. Maurice couldn't make him do that and Muller won't be able to either.

That said, hopefully Muller does a good job with this limited team because unfortunately Rutherford did not put enough into place during the offseason.

It'll also be interesting to see how Muller deals with NHL players as a head coach considering he doesn't have much head coaching experience. He was a head coach in Milwaukee earlier this season, but that's it.

He is a tactical, smart and very easygoing coach, a great people person always with a smile on his face. His message to the boys will be something like, "Let's go have fun first, and if we're having fun and working hard we're going to win."

I'm curious to see if Carolina can have fun and win hockey games under Kirk Muller, just as I am to see if Washington can get back into contention under Dale Hunter.
Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 12:15 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor / - World According to JR

Sid's amazing return and who needs to step up

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

There are a lot of guys making a lot of money in the NHL. One of them once again started to earn every penny of his salary on Monday night, but there are others that I believe just aren't pulling their weight. It's all below in this week's blog entry:

What's clicking?

We absolutely have to talk about Sidney Crosby and the much, much, much anticipated return of No. 87 to the Penguins lineup.

It was well worth the wait.

Nobody knew what we were going to get from him, and I think everybody was astounded by the level of play that Sidney showed against the Islanders.

If there was any question, any doubt who the best player in the world was before, I don't think there should be now after Sidney Crosby dominated from start to finish in his first game back in more than 10 months. To be out for more than 10 months and stay dedicated to his conditioning and dedicated to his recovery, and to come back with that confidence and in that good of shape is a remarkable feat.

I loved the way the Pittsburgh fans embraced him. The emotion and the adrenaline in that building was as good as I've ever seen it in Pittsburgh, and that's a team that has won multiple Stanley Cups. That building was electric as any time I have ever seen it in Pittsburgh, and that shows me how much the fans love hockey in that city. 
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Quote of the Day

You could feel it. You could feel that they were going after each other and trying to win the game for their team.

— Capitals forward Nicklas Backstrom on Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference Semifinals, in which Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin and Penguins forward Sidney Crosby each scored hat tricks
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