New Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin definitely has the people skills and sense of humor to handle the high-pressure gig in Montreal. In the coming months and years, we'll find out if he has the hockey smarts needed to get the proud franchise back on the right track.
The 46-year-old former defenseman isn't walking into a terrible circumstance. The Canadiens have some nice pieces in place.
Carey Price is a high-end goaltender. P.K. Subban is the type of dynamic puck-mover that every club needs on the blue line. After that, veterans Andrei Markov (if healthy) and Josh Gorges are legit top-four defenders and young Alexei Emelin impressed last season with his physical style.
Up front, while they lack what I'd consider a real No. 1 center (those guys don't grow on trees), they have some talented and experienced guys in Tomas Plekanec, Brian Gionta and Erik Cole, as well as emerging young skaters Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais.
Really, things could be a lot worse (see: Columbus or Toronto).
In the short term, Bergevin's to-do list includes: hiring a coach, figuring out what to do with the final two years of Scott Gomez's over-sized contract ($7,357,143 cap hit; $5.5 million/$4.5 million in real dollars in each of the next two seasons) and getting potential restricted free agents Price, Subban and Emelin signed to new deals.
Bergevin's decision on a new coach will be interesting. It certainly will send a signal of exactly how he wants his team to play. Will he opt for a more experienced coach (Marc Crawford, Bob Hartley) or choose a younger candidate? His decision will go a long way toward determining how successful the early part of his tenure in Montreal will be. Think carefully, Marc.
Now, it's time for a quick spin on the Express.
Predators general manager David Poile made the right move to keep night owls Alexander Radulov and Andre Kostitsyn out of the club's lineup for Game 3 on Wednesday night against the Coyotes in Music City. The bottom line is simple: the inmates can't run the asylum.
I do wonder, though, if Poile would have taken the same action if his team had won Game 2 and the two players had performed well? I guess we'll never really know. With a better effort Wednesday, the Preds still can make this a series.
Capitals coach Dale Hunter is uniquely positioned to limit the ice time of star players like Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Mike Green. Unlike other coaches who worry about keeping their job (co-existing with sometimes cranky superstar players), Hunter would seem to have no qualms with returning to his highly successful junior team in London (Ontario Hockey League) after completing the season in Washington.
The majority owner of the London Knights, Hunter coached the team until leaving to take the Caps' gig early in the 2011-12 season. Mark Hunter, Dale's brother, is currently coaching the club, which has advanced to the OHL final against Niagara. Mark is a minority owner and he serves as the Knights GM.
In Washington, Hunter is doing it his way. Meaning, if you play well, you play more.
"It's refreshing," Caps gritty winger Jason Chimera admits. "We're all pulling hard for one another. We just want to win."
So far, Hunter's way is working. It'll be interesting to see if the Caps can wear down the Rangers in a long series. Under Hunter, the Caps have been committed to playing four lines and six defensemen. On the other bench, John Tortorella has taken a different approach, relying on three lines and four or five defensemen. If the series were to go the distance, the Caps might be the fresher crew.
There have been fewer things tougher to predict than Dustin Penner's sudden resurgence for the Kings.
During the regular season, the burly 6-foot-4, 245-pound power forward managed just seven goals and 17 points while playing to a minus-7 rating in 65 games.
That's a far cry from the 29 goals he scored as a rookie for the Cup-winning Ducks in 2006-07 or the career-best 32 tallies he registered for the Oilers during the '09-10 campaign.
The most news Penner made during this past season was admitting he'd injured his back while eating pancakes at his home.
In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, however, Penner is chewing on his opponents. A physical force on a line with C Mike Richards and RW Jeff Carter, the 29-year-old Manitoba native has two goals, four assists and a plus-5 rating in seven games. Penner's power move to the net in the opening minute of Monday night's Game 2 against the Blues led directly to Richards' goal at the 31-second mark.
The big man's better play certainly comes at a good time for the team and him, personally. His five-year, $21.25M contract -- which came to him via an offer sheet from the Oilers in the summer of 2007 -- is set to expire June 30.
Penner's renewed vigor likely will boost interest if he hits the open market in the summer.