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NHL Insider

Burke, Carlyle hope change will shake Leafs from funk

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 11:07 AM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

MONTREAL - After two "brutal" days, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke informed his good friend Ron Wilson on Friday night that he was no longer fit to coach his hockey team.

One of the primary reasons Burke listed Saturday for replacing Wilson with his former coach in Anaheim Randy Carlyle was the reaction of the Maple Leafs fans, who chanted loudly at the Air Canada Center for Wilson to be fired Tuesday night during a 5-3 loss to the Florida Panthers.

Three days later, the fans got their wish.

"After the last home game, I felt it would be cruel and unusual punishment to let Ron coach another home game," Burke told a packed press conference at Bell Centre in Montreal, site of Toronto's game Saturday night against the Montreal Canadiens (7 p.m. ET,  NHLN-US, CBC). "I wasn't going to put Ron through that again."

Large coaching turnover, but results mostly improved

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 10:23 AM / NHL Insider

More than one-quarter of the teams in the NHL have now made a coaching change during the 2011-12 season, and nearly half the 30 current bench bosses were not at their posts at the end of the last campaign.

Randy Carlyle was the fourth NHL coach fired during this season, but he will replace Ron Wilson, who became casualty No. 8 when the Toronto Maple Leafs relieved him of his duties Friday night despite giving him a contract extension in December.

While there has been a lot of turnover among the coaching ranks in the League, the change has more often than not produced improved results.

Five of the seven teams that have made a coaching change have performed better for the new guy. St. Louis and Anaheim are the best examples. The Blues were 6-7-0 when they replaced Davis Payne with Ken Hitchcock, and they're 34-11-7 since.

Hodgson, Kassian ready to face former teams

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 3:30 AM / NHL Insider

Kevin Woodley - Correspondent

Cody Hodgson isn’t quite sure how to feel about returning to the city he was traded from just five days earlier or suiting up against guys he called teammates when the week began.

The 22-year-old hasn’t had much time to process being a key part of a four-player deal that sent him from Vancouver to Buffalo at Monday's  trade deadline, with 2009 first-round draft pick Zack Kassian, Buffalo's top prospect, headed the other way.

Hodgson hasn’t totally wrapped his head around coming "home" to play Saturday night against an organization that picked him 10th overall in 2008 and helped him develop into an NHL Rookie of the Year candidate.

Ducks glad to see Carlyle land in Toronto

Saturday, 03.03.2012 / 1:41 AM / NHL Insider

Curtis Zupke - Correspondent

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- After Randy Carlyle was fired as Anaheim coach on Nov. 30, Ducks players acknowledged that it was time for a new voice in the locker room. But they also took part ownership for not playing up to standards during a disastrous first two months of the season.

The Ducks still have plenty of respect for Carlyle -- after all, he's the only Stanley Cup-winning coach in franchise history -- and they predictably were happy to hear that he was hired Friday as coach in Toronto under former Anaheim general manager Brian Burke, replacing Ron Wilson.

"I don't think there was any question that Randy was going to continue to coach in the League," forward Bobby Ryan said after Friday's 3-2 win against Calgary. "He had a great run here. He won a Cup. I think his resume speaks for itself."

Bettman, two GMs join MIT analytics conference

Friday, 03.02.2012 / 6:35 PM / NHL Insider

Bob Condor - Editor-in-Chief

BOSTON -- The MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference is staging its sixth annual event about cutting-edge statistics this weekend here in Bruins territory. Boston GM Peter Chiarelli served on a "Hockey Analytics" panel Friday to provide some insights on building a Stanley Cup winner, while NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman was part of a group of sports executives who provided perspective on how the management of professional leagues has evolved since Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis was elected as baseball's first commissioner in 1921.

ESPN personality Michael Wilbon introduced Bettman as a sports leader who has accomplished quite a number of impressive analytics while running the NHL, including taking the League’s licensing revenues "from $275 million in the mid-1990s to $1.3 billion." Adding in all League and team revenues, the overall number was $2.8 billion for the most recent fiscal year.

"None of the leagues were in the businesses we are now," said Bettman, referencing that he began working in the sports leagues industry 31 years ago. "When I started at the NHL [in 1993] there was no, no NHL Network, no NHL Radio. We have maybe 40 people working for the League. Now we have 500.

Leafs spending time working out defensive kinks

Friday, 03.02.2012 / 5:42 PM / NHL Insider

Arpon Basu - Managing Editor

BROSSARD, Que. -- After blaming a lot of the defensive woes of the Toronto Maple Leafs on his goaltending recently, coach Ron Wilson decided Friday to address the problems surrounding his net rather than the one between the pipes.

Wilson ran the Maple Leafs through an intense practice that ran over an hour at the Canadiens' suburban practice facility in advance of their game Saturday matchup at Bell Centre (7 p.m., NHLN-US, CBC), and the focus clearly was placed on how Toronto defends its end of the ice.

"Right now we've just got to play better in our zone," Wilson said. "We're getting chances, we're scoring goals, but we have to be better in front of our goalie. It's as simple as that. That's what today's practice was all about."

Neal hoping for warm reception in Dallas return

Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 3:07 PM / NHL Insider

Steve Hunt - Correspondent

James Neal
Left Wing - PIT
GOALS: 30 | ASST: 31 | PTS: 61
SOG: 253 | +/-: 1
DALLAS -- Wednesday will mark the first game for James Neal in Dallas since he was traded to the Penguins last February. And the Pittsburgh forward and 2012 NHL All-Star admits he's hoping for a warm reception from the fans at American Airlines Center after the solid three seasons he had with the Stars.

"Yeah, that would be nice," he said of a positive fan reaction. "I definitely enjoyed my time here. It was a great group of guys, had fun, and on to a new page in my career. It'll be weird for a bit to start, but I'm sure it'll continue to be another road game and that'll take care of itself."

Neal was a second-round pick (No. 33) of the Stars in 2005 and started his NHL career with three-straight 20-goal seasons. But with the Stars looking to add some offense to their blue line, he was dealt -- along with defenseman Matt Niskanen -- to the Penguins for defenseman Alex Goligoski.

Tallon: Panthers' success this season just 'first act'

Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 1:14 PM / NHL Insider

Neil Acharya - Correspondent

Heading down the stretch, the Florida Panthers are in an unfamiliar position -- fighting for a playoff spot and the Southeast Division title with 20 games to go.

Their success to date has surprised many, perhaps even the team's architect.

"It's our first act. We've got a long way to go and I'm not going to mortgage the future just to get a little early success. Success for me is being a Stanley Cup winner and contender for a lot of years to come. ... We are on the right track and I feel really good about our future as well."
-- Panthers' GM Dale Tallon

"With 13 or 14 new players now, a new coaching staff and all the injuries we have accumulated over the year, I take my hat off to the players and the coaching staff for playing so hard and buying in to what we are trying to do here," said Panthers Executive Vice President and General Manager Dale Tallon.

When Tallon was hired by the Florida Panthers in May 2010, the ownership group hailed his arrival as the beginning of a new chapter in club history. With his team heading into the final five weeks of the season with a very real possibility of earning a playoff berth for the first time in 12 years, Tallon is inching closer to putting his stamp on what he prefers to call "the first act."

"We are in the first phase of what we are trying to accomplish," he said. "I would say it's a three-phase situation and let's say it's Act 1 and we are ahead of schedule."

Six stories to watch in season's stretch run

Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 10:33 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

With the trade deadline having come and gone, it's finally time to shift gears to the playoff races and the storylines that relate to them. There is plenty there to keep everyone on edge and focused between now and April 7, when all 30 teams are in action on the final day of the regular season.

Here are six storylines that should grab the hockey world's attention over the next 5 1/2 weeks:

Sidney Crosby's status

Penguins GM Ray Shero says he likes his team, so much so that he decided not to change anything at the trade deadline. There's no question he likes his team a whole lot more when No. 87 is in the lineup.

No one can say for certain if that's going to happen again this season, but there's some speculation in Pittsburgh that Shero's silence at the deadline suggests Crosby is close to getting back in the lineup. Crosby's level of work on the ice also should make that suggestion, as he's begun to ramp it up in recent days.

Leap Day special to eight current, former NHL players

Wednesday, 02.29.2012 / 9:35 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

"In the early ages I got made fun of for being so young. Now being 28, I'm sure I'll get some 7-year-old cards." -- Cam Ward

For most of us, Wednesday is "Leap Day," a day that's added to the calendar once every four years to keep things in harmony. For eight NHL players past and present, however, it's a chance to celebrate their "real" birthday.

For Carolina goaltender Cam Ward, who turns 28 by normal standards, it's the seventh time he gets to celebrate his birthday on the right day -- Feb. 29.

"In the early ages I got made fun of for being so young," Ward told "Now being 28, I'm sure I'll get some 7-year-old cards."

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It's an incredible feeling just to see it go in and see the Joe go pretty crazy.  Ever since the introduction there, I was kind of feeling the nerves, and to put that one home, I started to feel comfortable and I thought my play started to pick up.

— Nineteen-year-old Red Wings forward Dylan Larkin after scoring a goal in his NHL debut
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