With Christmas just a few days away, I figured I'd do a little gift-giving in this edition of the Tuesday 10. After all, as many of you already know, it's better to give than receive. After some intense thought, I think I've found the perfect presents to slide under the trees of several different players or teams. In some cases, these gifts would be almost too good to be true.
In a salary-cap league, where it's difficult to dramatically change your team with in-season trades, the coach is usually the fall guy.
If your team is underperforming, fire the coach. If your team isn't giving consistent effort, fire the coach. Heck, if your team just isn't that good, fire the coach.
On Saturday, the Canadiens became the sixth team since Nov. 6 to drop the axe on their coach, firing Jacques Martin after he compiled a 13-12-7 record. Habs GM Pierre Gauthier tried to take another tack several weeks earlier, firing assistant coach Perry Pearn on Oct. 26. The abrupt decision to fire Pearn, who was relieved of his duties on the afternoon of a game, was seen as a message to Martinm as well as an indication of the intense pressure on the current management group.
As the season pushes toward the Christmas holiday and the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 2, there are a host of interesting matchups this weekend. Here's a quick look at three highlights.
Friday: Stars at Devils
Prior to puck drop, the Devils will honor their former star defenseman, Scott Niedermayer, raising his No. 27 to the rafters of the Prudential Center. A future first-ballot Hall of Famer, Niedermayer was a key member on the club's three Stanley Cup-winning teams (1995, 2000, 2003). He went on to win a fourth Cup as a member of the Anaheim Ducks in 2007.
If the Calgary Flames want to climb out of the Northwest Division basement -- they enter the weekend two points behind the Avalanche (who’ve played two more games) -- they better start scoring some goals.
Entering Friday's visit by the Western Conference-leading Blackhawks, the Flames were 29th in the League with an average of just 2.12 goals per game. Clearly, that's not enough, even with the reliable Miikka Kiprusoff minding their net.
So you want to be an NHL linesman? Just remember, there might be evenings like the one that Darren Gibbs had Thursday night in Minnesota.
The lanky Gibbs was doing the toughest part of his job, trying to break-up a scrap between Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck and Canucks center Maxim Lapierre late in the third period, when he took a stray Clutterbuck left to the face.
After touring Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Western Canada for the past month (with a short stopover on Long Island), the Rangers made an unsuccessful return to the "transformed" Madison Square Garden on Thursday, dropping a 4-2 decision to the visiting Toronto Maple Leafs.
While the building had a different look to it, the team seemed eerily similar to the offensively-challenged bunch that's been working on Broadway for the past few seasons.
After a successful trip across the pond, the Buffalo Sabres return home to their fancy new locker room for a clash with the Hurricanes tonight. They'll follow up that up with a quick trip to Pittsburgh for a Saturday night date with the Penguins. I wonder if Lindy Ruff's crew will look as impressive as it did overseas. If the Sabres brought their scoring touch back home with them, I suspect they'll be a handful for both the ‘Canes and Pens.
Well, we're one day into the regular season, and as we expected, Penguins "sniper" Matt Cooke has taken the early lead in the chase for the Rocket Richard Trophy, scoring a pair of goals in a 4-3 shootout win in Vancouver. That's good for Cooke, who's said he's turning over a new leaf. Maybe that leaf includes 20 or 25 goals. I have to say I'm still a bit skeptical.
Here's an opening day edition of the "Friday Flash."
It's Flash Friday! Here are several headlines, with some puck thoughts on each.
FLASH: Late Thursday, the Kings finally signed elite young defenseman Drew Doughty to a new contract. The details: eight years, $56 million, for an annual cap hit of $7 million.
Kings management wasted most of the summer insisting they wouldn't do a new deal with Doughty that exceeded the $6.8 million cap hit of top center Anze Kopitar. I guess they didn't really mean it.
If they were willing to do this deal, they should've done it in July or August, or even early September. Then, Doughty wouldn't have to play catch-up after missing the first two weeks of training camp. Too often, the guys who miss camp time end up getting some type of injury as they try to make up for lost time. Maybe that won't happen to Doughty, but the length of these negotiations was a waste of everyone's time.
While it's been nice tracking some of the top young prospects in the various rookie tournaments across North America, we're going to find out a lot more about them – and their chances to earn a big league job – during training camp and the exhibition schedule. After all, they'll be dealing with proven pros, rather than kids, many of whom will never see the light of an NHL rink.
I'll be particularly curious to keep an eye on the pre-season progress of five elite prospects. To get a better handle on their respective games and their chances to make the jump, I reached out to a long-time amateur scout, who has watched these teenagers develop and emerge over the past few years.
Here are his thoughts on my five intriguing prospects. Not to play favorites, I've listed this handful in alphabetical order.
It's cool when you think about how many great American players have played the game and the two players that were at that 18-game point streak and what they've done in their careers. It's pretty cool right now, but it was kind of overshadowed by the loss.
— Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane after breaking the record for longest point streak by an American-born player with a goal and an assist in a 3-2 overtime loss against the Kings