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NHL Insider

Coaching candidates that could merit consideration

Monday, 05.14.2012 / 2:33 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

Dale Hunter's departure from Washington was as surprising as his arrival.

Citing a desire to spend more time with his family and run the family business -- the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League -- Hunter announced Monday that he would not return to the Capitals for a second season.

The task for GM George McPhee now becomes finding a third coach in six months for a team that shifted its focus on an up-and-down, attacking system under Bruce Boudreau to a more defensive-oriented style under Hunter.

So who could be next? takes a look at a few early possibilities:

Marc Crawford -- Crawford is a veteran coach who has proven he knows how to win as well as get along with top-level players. He coached Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg to a Stanley Cup with the 1996 Colorado Avalanche, and has been to the playoffs eight times in 15 seasons. He's hungry for one more shot after missing the playoffs in each of his last two stops -- two seasons with the Kings and two seasons with the Stars.

Marc French -- In his three seasons as coach of the Hershey Bears, the Capitals' American Hockey League affiliate, the team has finished with at least 88 points. In 2009-10, his first season, the team set franchise records with 123 points and 60 wins. Since arriving in Hershey, he's helped develop current Caps Braden Holtby, Dmitri Orlov, John Carlson and Karl Alzner.

Young talent leaves Flyers optimistic despite ouster

Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 6:59 PM / NHL Insider

Adam Kimelman - Deputy Managing Editor

VOORHEES, N.J. -- A year ago, the Philadelphia Flyers lost in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a victim of a sweep by the Boston Bruins.

They lasted one more game in the second round this year, but following their five-game loss to the New Jersey Devils in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, there remained a feeling of optimism thanks to the stunning development of a number of young players.

"We knew we had a good group of young guys. I think the coaches did a good job of putting them in situations and giving them roles that keep them excelling. To their credit they did."
-- Flyers GM Paul Holmgren

The Flyers had six rookies in their final-game lineup, and no team got more production from its first-year players than Philadelphia.

"We knew we had a good group of young guys," GM Paul Holmgren said Thursday. "I think the coaches did a good job of putting them in situations and giving them roles that keep them excelling. To their credit they did. For [Sean] Couturier to play the role he did in the playoffs as a shut-down centerman and make plays gives you a glimpse of what he is going to do in the future. It is pretty neat."

Couturier, the eighth player picked in the 2011 NHL Draft, was credited with shutting down Art Ross Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin in the first round, and did a good job limiting Ilya Kovalchuk's chances in the second round. He also was the youngest player since 1945 to have a hat trick in a playoff game when he scored three goals and added an assist in Game 2 of the first round.

Cervenka ready to live NHL dream in Calgary

Thursday, 05.03.2012 / 1:00 PM / NHL Insider

Michael Langr - Correspondent

In a game physically dominated by much bigger men, Roman Cervenka has trouble standing out.

At 5-foot-11 and 187 pounds, the 26-year-old Cervenka will never be known for smashing opposing players against the boards or becoming involved in any of the other physical parts of the game that are synonymous with the North American style. But, while he may often be lost among the bigger players prowling the ice in the NHL, there is always one thing that assures Cervenka will be noticed in any game: his skill.

Simply, Cervenka is creative, he reads the game extremely well, provides teammates with gorgeous passes and, most importantly, he can score.

Coach, Draft among Bergevin's challenges

Wednesday, 05.02.2012 / 12:15 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

MONTREAL -- New general manager Marc Bergevin will be taking over a Montreal Canadiens team that finished No. 15 in the Eastern Conference and No. 28 in the League standings, so obviously he will be facing a number of challenges to right the ship.

While that list will be an exhaustive one, here are five of the primary challenges the 17th GM in Canadiens history will need to tackle.

1. Choose a coach -- Bergevin already confirmed that interim head coach Randy Cunneyworth has been downgraded to the rank of assistant coach, and that it will be up to the new man in charge whether or not he stays. In an ideal world, Bergevin would be able to hire a bilingual coach with experience and a winning history. Potential candidates like current TSN analyst Marc Crawford or Bob Hartley, who led the Zurich Lions to the Swiss league championship this season, have already been mentioned in the media. There will be massive public pressure to hire former Canadiens great Patrick Roy, currently the coach, general manager and owner of the Quebec Remparts of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, but his NHL experience is limited to his playing days.

2. Lock up his foundation -- Goaltender Carey Price and defenseman P.K. Subban are two of the young cornerstones of the Canadiens moving forward, and both need new contracts for next season. Price will be a restricted free agent who is eligible for salary arbitration and is two years removed from being eligible for unrestricted free agency under the rules currently in place in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Price has made it clear that he wants to stay in Montreal, but locking him up long-term will cost a lot of money and Bergevin will need to determine his value to the organization. Subban will be a restricted free agent but is not eligible for arbitration and is further away from earning UFA status, but it is likely a long-term deal for him would be costly, as well. However, Bergevin could opt to offer a shorter-term contract for Subban and see how things play out.

MacLean proud of his first year in Ottawa

Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 6:27 PM / NHL Insider

Erin Nicks - Correspondent

OTTAWA -- Paul MacLean waited a long time for the chance to coach an NHL team. The Ottawa Senators have to be glad they gave the 54-year-old his opportunity.

MacLean certainly is.

"I'm proud of the fact that I got to be a head coach in the National Hockey League and with the Senators," MacLean said Saturday, less than 48 hours after his team's season ended with a loss to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series. "I think we're really pleased with how it went over the course of the season."

Sens GM Murray pleased with progress

Saturday, 04.28.2012 / 6:12 PM / NHL Insider

Erin Nicks - Correspondent

OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Senators' season is over, but general manager Bryan Murray is optimistic that his team won't be heading for summer vacation as early next year.

Daniel Alfredsson
Right Wing - OTT
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 2
SOG: 15 | +/-: -3
"Based on the last couple of years, this was a good year for us," Murray said Saturday, less than 48 hours after his team's season ended with a Game 7 loss to the New York Rangers in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. "We feel today like we should still be playing. This series was one of two equal teams, and we didn't win. It's as simple as that. It's disappointing that we put ourselves into a position to win and it didn't happen."

The biggest question for Murray involves captain Daniel Alfredsson and whether the 39-year-old will return for a 17th NHL season.

Murray said he'll let Alfredsson take his time -- but hopes the greatest player in franchise history decides to play another season.

Atlantic Division emerging as NHL's best

Friday, 04.27.2012 / 7:23 PM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

A quick scan of the NHL's final regular-season standings showed that two divisions clearly stood above the pack. Not only were the Atlantic and Central the only divisions to have four teams qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they were also the only divisions in modern history to boast four teams with more than 100 points.

But with the first round of the postseason now in the books and three of its teams having advanced, the Atlantic looks like the class of the League.

McPhee reflects on Game 7 on 'NHL Hour'

Thursday, 04.26.2012 / 7:37 PM / NHL Insider

As George McPhee waited Thursday night to find out who his Washington Capitals would face in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the general manager reflected on "NHL Hour with Commissioner Gary Bettman" on a thrilling Game 7 overtime win over the Boston Bruins less than 24 hours earlier.

"I wasn't sure how our team was going to perform in this series," McPhee said. "And we got out there and I felt after the first two games, you know what, we're right there with this team. The guys who didn't really have great years for us in the regular season really were different players in this series. We had a lot of players -- I was really pleased to see it -- elevated their games so much from the regular season to the playoffs. The first couple of games in Boston I said, 'gee, if we can keep this up -- because I hadn't seen this most of the season -- but if we can keep this up, we're going to be in good shape.'"

McPhee's premonition proved to be correct, as the Capitals prevailed in what went down as the closest seven-game series in postseason history -- each game was decided by a single goal. The first two games and the final two games were decided in overtime, with Joel Ward's goal off a Mike Knuble rebound moving Washington into the conference semifinals.

Blackhawks not ready for major overhaul

Wednesday, 04.25.2012 / 7:07 PM / NHL Insider

Brian Hedger - Correspondent

CHICAGO -- The Chicago Blackhawks are still sifting through the parts of where things went wrong and still feeling the sting of a second straight early exit from the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

However, the Blackhawks do not sound like a team that feels it's far behind the rest of the League or one planning to do a major reworking of the roster. Despite losing to the Phoenix Coyotes in a six-game Western Conference Quarterfinal series, the Hawks' second such ouster in as many years, they aren't wasting time sulking.

Pens could see changes after another early exit

Tuesday, 04.24.2012 / 8:50 PM / NHL Insider

Alan Robinson - Correspondent

PITTSBURGH -- Dealing with the Pittsburgh Penguins' unexpectedly early playoff ouster is tough enough for general manager Ray Shero and coach Dan Bylsma. What follows could be tougher still – sorting out what went wrong while figuring out how to keep their core of stars together.

Shero said Tuesday this will be "a big summer" for the Penguins, who plan to go about business as usual even though a new collective bargaining agreement still must be worked out. And big probably translates into busy.

"We have a lot of things moving forward that we have to work on -- decisions we have to make. We're going to take the next two months probably to sort through this," Shero said.

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