Posted On Wednesday, 03.07.2012 / 4:00 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Melrose Place: New Coaches in Playoff Races

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Posted On Tuesday, 03.06.2012 / 2:32 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Carlyle move culminates coaching-change culture

When we look back at this season, it may be remembered as the season of coaching changes.

More than a quarter of the League has replaced its coach during the course of the 2011-12 campaign, which is a remarkable total. The latest replacement came last week in Toronto when Ron Wilson was replaced by Randy Carlyle. In all likelihood, this will be the last time a coach is fired before the regular season is over, but with eight coaching changes this year, it's important to note that the previous changes all played a part in leading up to this one.

And they haven't all worked out for the better.

St. Louis Blues -- This was the first one and, obviously, this was a home run. When Ken Hitchcock came in and replaced Davis Payne he completely changed the culture of the team and brought in accountability. Obviously, when a coach walks in that's won a Stanley Cup the players can't say the coach doesn't know what he's doing. Given the results, it's clear he was the perfect man at the right time. St. Louis may be the best team in the NHL since the change, their home record is fantastic, and their goaltending, which was at one point a weakness, might now be the best in the League.

Most importantly for every other coach, however, is that this one probably accelerated the process for other changes around the League. When an owner or GM looks at St. Louis and says, "Well, look what this change did. That's clearly what we have to do," it has a wide-ranging impact.

Carolina Hurricanes -- When Kirk Muller replaced Paul Maurice at the end of November, it was another successful change. Paul Maurice is a good coach, but I think this was just a case of the message being lost. Maurice had been there for too long, the guys had heard from him for too long and some fresh air was needed. Since Kirk's come in the team has turned it around and played a style that's much more fun to watch and much quicker. Eric Staal also looks like he's responded and as Staal goes, so go the Canes. This was a change that has definitely paid off and it could get things going for this team next season.

Washington Capitals -- The Capitals are a total mystery, and Bruce Boudreau's getting replaced by Dale Hunter seems to have confirmed it. Washington was a team that started the season on fire with seven straight wins, Boudreau had everything going his way, and then the Caps lost to Detroit and the wheels just fell off the wagon. Personally, I think it's just a case of the players deciding they didn't want to play for Boudreau anymore, and GM George McPhee knew some change had to be made -- and the choice was basically change the coach or change the team. They weren't going to trade Ovechkin, they weren't going to trade Semin, they weren't going to trade Backstrom and any other move would have just been cosmetic. It's always easier to fire one guy than 25 guys and I think Boudreau was a victim of that. But as you can see, despite a few brief flashes, things haven't gotten much better with Hunter in the job now. I think this is a team with issues in the dressing room and issues with character and the solution might just be to blow the team up, because it looks like it doesn't matter who's coaching. They're probably the biggest disappointment in the NHL this season.

Anaheim Ducks -- Of course, it's hard to talk about the Caps without mentioning the Ducks, who brought in Boudreau just days later to replace Carlyle when they were in their own slump. Now, I have my three-year rule. After three years a coach can't find a new way to get their message across and the players get tired of hearing the same thing. The nucleus for the Ducks is very talented, but it's also been together for a long time by NHL standards. Sometimes things get stale and it looks like it was just a case of Carlyle getting shut out. Boudreau has been a breath of fresh air and the players have responded. This is clearly another coaching change the has worked out for the best. I think they've run out of time as far as the playoffs are concerned; but at the start of next year, you have to assume they'll be in the playoff mix with Boudreau at the helm.

Los Angeles Kings -- This is another group that might be in the same boat as Washington. They aren't as dramatic a disappointment, but when Terry Murray was fired the team was struggling to score and were fighting in that No. 7 to No. 10 cluster of teams in the West. When they won, they basically won with goaltending from Jonthan Quick and Jonathan Bernier. Now, under Darryl Sutter, they're basically the same team. They're not scoring more, they're not assured of a playoff spot and, even with the addition of Jeff Carter, they're not putting up the numbers they expected even if they've won a few games with him. GM Dean Lombardi clearly didn't want to make this move when he did, and the apparent results might indicate why.

Columbus Blue Jackets -- What can you really say about this one? Columbus came into this season with massive expectations and it's just been a complete disaster. The trades have been terrible, there was the Nash boondoggle at the NHL Trade Deadline, and things haven't changed much since Todd Richards replaced Scott Arniel. It's a mess. Whether Richards loses the interim tag or they hire someone new this offseason, the Jackets will have a number of things they need to do -- most notably figure out the Nash situation. Either way, however, the season was lost long before the coaching change happened. This could be a real make-or-break time for the Columbus franchise. The fans in that city have been great since the team started playing, but they need something to repay them for coming year after year. The man who eventually is coach in 2012-13 has to give those fans a positive light for the future.

Montreal Canadiens -- This is another team that's just in a tailspin that a coaching change couldn't fix. I will be very surprised if both Pierre Gauthier and Randy Cunneyworth are still with the team next season as the team is going to finish near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. It's just been a tough season all around. When Cunneyworth replaced Jacques Martin I think he walked into a real no-win situation. The team was bad, he didn't speak French, it was just an uphill fight from the start. I love the way he battled and how he handled everything, but it was a can't-win situation for him. I expect there will be more changes this summer in Montreal.

Toronto Maple Leafs -- So after looking through all the coaching changes that happened this season before Toronto's, it was clear that some proved to be great moves and others have proven not to be or were just window dressing on bigger problems. The change in Toronto is particularly surprising, though, because Ron Wilson was given a contract extension midseason. I think GM Brian Burke did his friend Ron a favor by giving him that extra year -- remember, these two have a history together, most recently with Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. I think Brian thought things would turn out OK when he did that, but it hasn't been the case.

The Leafs had lost six games in a row before Wilson was fired and and the two of them had had enough time to turn that team around, particularly since they're in a market where they can spend to the salary cap.

At this point, Toronto is clearly not where it expected to be with the moves its made and that hot start probably fooled the Leafs into thinking they were better than they are. All of that created a lot of pressure to make a change. I don't think Burke wanted to fire Wilson, but he had to to appease the fans. When your fans get riled up and the team shows no sign of turning it around, you have to make a move like that, particularly with a guy like Randy Carlyle available. Burke obviously has a history with Carlyle, too, since they won a Cup together in Anaheim in 2007. He knows what kind of a coach Carlyle is and he couldn't risk letting him get to another team. This is a guy who is a big name in Toronto, who knows what to expect from the media after playing there and who's won a Stanley Cup. Burke couldn't risk him getting hired away and knew he had to make a move now to get him.

This is probably step Toronto had to make to advance. Randy is a very good coach, and so is Wilson, but they're different kinds of coaches and Burke, knowing he had to make a move, probably knew he couldn't wait much longer because someone else might have hired his man first. Now, I tend to think that most times coaching changes are made in season, it's a panic move where the GM is trying to take the heat off himself. Sometimes teams improve afterward, but often the replacement doesn't do much better and it lets the players get off the hook for underperforming. If you look at the situations in Buffalo and Nashville, those players know that their coach isn't going anywhere, and as a result, they're going to be held accountable.

That wasn't what happened in Toronto, but the change probably brought the players a needed bit of fresh air anyway. The Leafs won their first game with Carlyle at the helm and with two games in hand on eighth-place Winnipeg, their playoff hopes are far from finished.

At this point though, the Maple Leafs could still wind up looking as much like Washington as they could St. Louis. Only time will tell if Carlyle is the right man for the job.
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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 9:47 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Melrose Place: Best non moves of the deadline

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Posted On Thursday, 03.01.2012 / 9:46 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Melrose Matchup: Panthers at Jets

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 8:20 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Melrose Blog: My take on the 2012 Trade Deadline

The trade deadline is always one of the most dramatic days of the season, with teams scrambling to make the right moves that will get them a Stanley Cup. This season's was no different, but there were some clear winners and clear things to take away from it in my mind.

Here are my thoughts on the biggest stories of deadline day.

Why did St. Louis stand pat?

A lot of people thought the Blues might have been left behind after each of their division rivals made moves to solidify their rosters before the playoffs, but I just think St. Louis likes its team a lot. The Blues don't really have any extra guys to trade, and they're mostly young aside from Jason Arnott and Jamie Langenbrunner, both of whom have been playing great (though Langenbrunner is hurt right now). Sometimes it's better not to tinker. Sometimes you know you've got a good thing going in your locker room and the window for the Blues is big because so much of the team is young and in its prime. They didn't want to give up draft picks or young players in older to bring an older player back, so I just think it was a case of Doug Armstrong liking his team and not wanting to shake it up.

The Rick Nash situation

I'm not surprised Nash stayed put in Columbus. I'm glad that it came out that he asked for the trade and I think Scott Howson and the Blue Jackets handled it perfectly. They asked for a big price -- if they got it they got a home run and if they didn't they don't trade him. People need to remember that Nash has several years left on his contract. They don't have to trade him. He tried to back them into a corner to make them deal him, but he also said he only wants to go to four or five teams. He wants to have his cake and eat it, too. Columbus held firm, and that was the right thing to do. Come this summer if the Jackets can get the group of guys they want for him then make the move, but if not then keep him. If you play it right at that point, maybe you can convince him to be a part of the rebuilding process. If you don't get what you want during the summer then he'll be a Columbus Blue Jacket next season if he wants to get paid.

Some might say Columbus was asking for too much and that's why it didn't get done -- at least with the Rangers that appeared to be the case -- but it didn't have to get done. Nash isn't a free agent and Columbus holds all the cards. And they have to hit a home run. They can't look like the losers in this to their fans. They can't look inept. They have to make it look like they did a great job and got maximum value for their top asset. They can wait until someone blinks and I think they're handling it the right way. Demand the Moon and if you get the Moon great. If not, Rick Nash is going to be a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Looking forward, who's the best?

Right now I rate the top contenders for the Stanley Cup in 2012 as Vancouver, the New York Rangers, Detroit, Pittsburgh and Boston. Of course, if Sidney Crosby comes back that changes things dramatically, because it adds the greatest player in the game to the team that has the greatest player playing right now in Evgeni Malkin. Pittsburgh would be right there with New York if he comes back. I don't think Dan Bylsma can count on that, I think he has to count on not having him, but they've done a masterful job of handling that all year long, which is why they're still in the thick of the hunt.

If I had to pick a team to win it all at this point though, I'd probably take New York because of its goaltender, Henrik Lundqvist. I'm a big believer in goaltending and Roberto Luongo struggled last year in the playoffs for the Canucks. I know Vancouver has Schneider backing him up, but once you get to the late rounds of the playoffs, I think whomever Vancouver plays will have better goaltending.

It's possible we might have a rematch of the last time New York won the Cup in 1994, but despite the fact that Vancouver made several moves to improve and the Rangers didn't make many, I still think Lundqvist gives the Rangers the edge -- and it also makes them the team to beat from here on out.

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Posted On Tuesday, 02.28.2012 / 8:15 PM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Melrose Blog: My winners at the Trade Deadline

The trade deadline is always one of the most dramatic days of the season, with teams scrambling to make the right moves that will get them a Stanley Cup. This season's was no different, but there were some clear winners and clear things to take away from it in my mind.

Here are my thoughts on the biggest stories of deadline day.

The Winners

Nashville Predators -- I like what Nashville did for several reasons. First of all, it was great to see the Predators be buyers at the deadline. For so many years Nashville always had to sell players. They've always had to get rid of free agents because they knew they couldn't sign them. We've seen so many great players leave Nashville so it was nice to see them change their philosophy and take a run at winning. I think everyone that follows hockey is a Nashville fan. They know what Nashville's been through financially, and I think everybody deep down would love to see Nashville have a deep playoff run.

As for what the Predators did in the days leading up to the deadline, I love the Hal Gill deal, because Hal Gill plays his best hockey in the playoffs. Come playoff time he always plays against the other team's top forwards and he shuts down everyone he plays. As for Monday, I liked the move to get Paul Gaustad. I know the price is high -- a first-round pick -- but Gaustad is something they don't have. They don't have a big, physical forward -- a guy that can win draws, a guy that can check the other team's top player, a guy that can kill penalties, and a guy that has a physical edge to him. I thought that was a need that Nashville had and I thought they went out and filled that need.

I like the move to bring in Andrei Kostitsyn as well. I know he's an underachiever. You look at him and his points never add up to what his talent level is, but hopefully he'll get caught up in what Nashville's doing and get fired up about playing with his brother again. That is something, a little added spice, that other teams couldn't offer Kostitsyn. Hopefully the chance to play with his brother again will invigorate him and get him fired up for the stretch run. Nashville is a very defensive team -- they win by bottling you up -- and doesn't have a lot of offense, which is why Kostitsyn is such a good addition. He's a pure scorer, someone who doesn't need 10 or 12 chances to put the puck in the net.

The Predators have risen up a level with these moves and they're with the big boys in West now. Their goaltender gives them a chance to win every night -- an argument could be made for Pekka Rinne to be in the discussion for the Hart Trophy, not just the Vezina -- and now all of their players in their prime. They've also got to have a deep playoff run to take a run at keeping Ryan Suter and Shea Weber over the next two offseasons. That makes this a paramount time in the history of the Predators franchise. These moves have set them in the right direction at this important moment for that team, and I think they were the clear winner at the deadline this year.

San Jose Sharks -- I thought San Jose had to do something. They were in a free fall after going 2-6-1 on their recent road trip -- and coach Todd McLellan is out with a concussion, which doesn't help. Things seem bleak for them and they're dropping like a rock, so it was important that they did something to send a message to the team. They added two forwards who will be third- and fourth-line guys, but they're going to give them depth. Daniel Winnik is a big body who gives them a kind of physical presence they don't have enough of, and T.J. Galiardi is a guy I loved as a rookie. He can fly and he'll fit in well with San Jose's style and maybe he can recapture how he played in his rookie year. I thought it was a good move, they needed to do it, they sent a message to the team that they weren't going to stand pat and that they were going to try to jumpstart the team.

You could say they didn't add an impact player, but sometimes just the message you're sending is more important than what you actually do. I think this was a good message from the San Jose Sharks and don't forget they've still got Martin Havlat coming back, too. He's a top-six forward who will make their power play better, and while I think he's a bit of an underachiever, he's still one of the biggest pure talents the NHL has when he's healthy.

Vancouver Canucks -- I like what Vancouver did. A lot of fans might be upset that they traded Cody Hodgson to Buffalo, but I have no problem with that. He was only playing 12 minutes a game or so, and he wasn't seeing time on the power play behind Kesler and Sedin so where would he go. The Canucks felt they weren't tough enough last year against Boston, but going to get a guy like John Scott from Chicago wouldn't have been the move they needed. They needed a Milan Lucic-type player, someone with skill and toughness. I'm not saying Zack Kassian already is that kind of player, but you can see him becoming that type of player. He's skilled enough, he's a good skater, he's mean, he's big at 230 pounds, he's physical. Having him on the bench and the ice will make them a tougher team mentally -- and certainly give them more toughness physically. You could say that they overpaid for him, but unless you've been pushed around and you know your team's not tough enough you don't value toughness. You don't value toughness until you don't have it. I think Vancouver realized that was what they didn't have last year against Boston.

The Canucks' pickup of Sammy Pahlsson is also interesting because he had such a good playoff for Anaheim back in 2007. He scored some big goals, he was big on draws, and you can never have enough guys that score and can win draws come playoff time. Getting him was a good deal because of his playoff experience, and if you can get him to play well for three months, that's all you're looking for. Vancouver now has two solid centermen in Manny Malhotra and Pahlsson who can play on the third or fourth line. It also gives you the ability to put two centermen on one line if you need to have a second option on the ice for a key draw. Getting Pahlsson was a good, cheap pickup for Vancouver.

Boston Bruins -- In the East, Philadelphia made deals to add Pavel Kubina and Niklas Grossman a week before the deadline, but on the deadline day itself, the East was much quieter than the West. The West was much more aggressive. Boston cheaply added Brian Rolston, and people might wonder why, but the Bruins know Rolston. Claude Julien probably figures he can come in and play on the third or second line and play a little on the power play. I like Greg Zanon, too. He's a Boston-type defenseman -- very physical and he blocks a lot of shots. Mike Mottau is a veteran who doesn't beat himself. That's what Boston wants on its defense -- guys who don't beat themselves. They need to know what they're getting every shift and Mottau and Zanon are those types of defensemen. Boston got better.

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Posted On Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 10:14 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Melrose Matchup: Capitals at Maple Leafs

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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 10:26 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Melrose Mullet of the Week: Steven Stamkos

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Posted On Friday, 02.24.2012 / 10:25 AM

By Barry Melrose -  NHL Network Analyst / - Melrose Minute

Barry's Best: Trade Deadline Moves

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Posted On Monday, 02.20.2012 / 9:00 AM - Melrose Minute

My take on the first big trades before the deadline

The 2012 NHL Trade Deadline doesn't hit for another week, but a few teams fired their first shots over the bow this week. Here is my take on what the moves of the last week mean and how they helped their respective teams.

Dominic Moore
Center - SJS
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 16 | PTS: 20
SOG: 78 | +/-: -10
Dominic Moore, San Jose Sharks: The big quesiton with this, and I hear it all the time, is why is this guy traded all the time? It seems like he's traded every deadline, and I think it just shows that he's wanted at every deadline. If you watched the San Jose game Sunday, he played a lot and was on the ice during the last minute of the game. He's a solid hockey player all around -- great on draws, a guy that can score, he's very committed defensively and he blocks shots. He's the type of guy that's very in demand this time of year when the checking gets tighter, the going gets tougher and draws get more important. In addition, most lines only have one guy that can take a draw, but Moore plays on the wing, too. That means he gives teams two guys that can take a draw on one line in the final minute of a close game. That's a very important thing this time of year. A team that's going to be playing a lot of hard-fought, close-checking games can use someone like Moore. He becomes a pretty valuable guy. That's why you see him moving this time of year so often.

Moore is the type of a gritty guy you go after to push your team to that next level this time of year. Obviously, you'd go for an elite goal scorer if you could, but the price tag on one of those is pretty high. If you look at teams that win Cups, the gritty guys become more important because the elite scorers get checked tighter. Those third and fourth-line types are the ones that become important. If you look at Boston last year, players like Shawn Thornton were scoring big goals. Dominic Moore fits that kind of mold.

Hal Gill
Defense - NSH
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 8
SOG: 34 | +/-: -5
Hal Gill, Nashville Predators: I like this move, but the minute I saw it, two things came to my mind. The first is that Nashville is definitely taking a run at the Cup. This gives them a very deep defense and Hal Gill has been excellent in the playoffs. When he has an assignment, and it's usually been to shut down the team's top line, he plays very well. Getting him can also free up Ryan Suter or Shea Weber from that role of shutting down the other team's top line, allowing them to use their offensive weapons as well. The other thing that went through my mind though, was 'Did they do this because they're going to give up Suter at the deadline?' Nashville is saying they aren't going to give him up and they're taking a run at the Cup, but this is solid insurance if they decide to get rid of him to make sure they get something in return for developing a player they expect to leave.

If they know Suter is likely to be gone on July 1, they have to trade him. It's a bad decision to lose all the assets you could get back for nothing. This is a guy who could bring really high-end prospects or a boatload of draft picks back in return.

Having those three guys together though, Weber, Suter and now Gill, gives them a top three defensemen that might be unmatched talent-wise in the West. Vancouver, Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles all have talented defenses, but it's hard to beat a top three like these. Gill might get lost in the shuffle, but if you look back at what he did alongside Rob Scuderi in 2009 in Pittsburgh, he went against every team's top line every night and he always shut them down.

Nicklas Grossman
Defense - PHI
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 5 | PTS: 5
SOG: 38 | +/-: 1
Pavel Kubina and Niklas Grossman, Philadelphia Flyers: Obviously, the overriding theme here is size. These are two gigantic defensemen, and they're both good defensemen. They're not top-pair guys. They're more like third and fourth defensemen, but they've got big bodies and they skate well for guys that size. Kubina has already won a Stanley Cup which gives the dressing room another experienced guy, but all of the sudden, a defense that wasn't very big after Braydon Coburn now gets a very nice addition of size, which in the Eastern Conference will be key when they have to grind it out against teams like the Rangers and Bruins. I think these are both solid moves and they add to the depth of that team in a big way considering how much is missing with the absence of Chris Pronger.

I don't think they're in the discussion for top teams in the East because their goaltending still isn't on par with teams like New York or Pittsburgh. The goaltending is definitely the Flyers' Achilles heel, but their defense now looks much better than it did a week ago.
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Quote of the Day

He scores 50 goals, they go in, they go in, and they go in. And I think, 'Why can't I do that?'

— Capitals forward Brooks Laich on teammate Alex Ovechkin, who scored his 50th goal of the season Tuesday in a 4-2 win vs. the Hurricanes