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Weekly Warmup: Dec. 16

A closer look at one month and five coaching changes-and the mixed results so far

by Bob Condor / @NHLSeattle_ /

An 82-game NHL regular season schedule can seem longer during a losing streak. Just ask the Detroit Red Wings, who beat Anaheim on the road Nov. 12 then didn't win again until Dec. 12. In between, you guessed it, they lost 12 straight games.

Edmonton is currently on a four-game downer, dropping from first to a tie for third in the Pacific Division of the Western Conference. Before a welcome three-day NHL holiday break (Dec. 24 to Dec. 26), the Oilers will aim to work through the adversity all teams face at intervals during the season.

As fans observed in the last month, sometimes the losing can lead to coaching changes. 

Alright, let's drop the puck: 


Breaking Up is Right Thing to Do
The aforementioned Edmonton Oilers are tied with Calgary, reversing its early-season down arrow-they lost six straight in mid-November--by winning seven games in a row with new coach Geoff Ward. Carolina shut out the Flames. 4-0, Saturday in Calgary. While his interim coach title didn't change, Flames management did increase Ward's salary as part of the new role. The coach's major decision so far has worked to spark more scoring across the lineup: Ward separated the first line of forwards Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindhom, a trio that amassed 259 points last season, putting each with new linemates. The revitalized group hosts Pittsburgh Tuesday and Montreal Thursday, then head to Dallas and Minnesota before the break.  

Shakeup in San Jose
When Detroit was losing those dozen games between Nov. 12 and Dec. 12, more than a few media members noted there were five NHL head coach changes between Red Wings victories. The fifth of those shakeups included an unusual move for San Jose general manager Doug Wilson: For the first time in 16 seasons as Sharks boss, he fired a coach in season, giving Peter DeBoer the bad news last Wednesday. Assistant Coach Bob Boughner, who posted a 80-62-22 record with Florida the last two seasons, takes over the top job on an interim basis. He is the only coach retained from DeBoer's staff. DeBoer led San Jose to the Stanley Cup Final in 2016 and did the same with New Jersey in 2012. He will get another chance to win his first Cup. In fact, some media reports point to DeBoer maybe takes another NHL top job this season.

Devils Ready to 'Battle'
New Jersey's interim head coach, Alain Nasreddine, earned his first W in six starts Saturday in Arizona, beating one of the top performers in the Western Conference. The 2-1 victory was the second of the never-easy two consecutive-night road games. It also snapped an overall seven-game winless streak. In a good sign, Devils top scorer Kyle Palmieri says the team is staying together despite the seven-game dip under Nasreddine: "It's good feeling when every guy in this [dressing] room is battling for each other." 

Buying into the New System
In the media pressure cooker also known as Toronto, new Head Coach Sheldon Keefe is 6-4 in his first 10 games taking over for Mike Babcock. Toronto Star columnist Bruce Arthur asked players about the transition. It appears players are buying in. Veteran captain John Tavares said, "Right off the bat we felt excited about what [Keefe] was preaching … we're trying to build into a structure and have a good understanding of how we're going to play offensively." Tyson Barrie, the 22-year-old defenseman who came over in a trade this past offseason, is equally encouraged: "There's definitely a learning curve ... some mishaps and some communication things, just chemistry and feeling out. But I think it's worth it. I think in the end it'll be beneficial for us."

Fifteen Years Between Wins
The Dallas Stars interim head coach, Rick Bowness, steered the team to a 2-0 win last Tuesday, his first NHL coaching victory since early April 2004. He finished the week with two wins and one loss and five of six possible standings points (the loss was in overtime to Vegas). Credit the Dallas players plus Bowness and his fellow coaches. Nobody saw the change coming; the Stars were playing solid hockey. Montgomery was fired for "unprofessional conduct inconsistent with the core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League," said Dallas GM Jim Nill, adding it did not involve any Dallas players or staff. 



Sweet 16 for Eichel
Buffalo star Jack Eichel scored his 23rd Saturday to send the game against the New York Islanders into overtime. It marked 16 consecutive games in which Eichel scored a goal, notched an assist or both. It's the longest point streak of season, surpassing Buffalo native and Chicago Blackhawks star Patrick Kane's 15-game tear earlier this season. But Kane still ranks No. 1 among U.S.-born NHL players for point streaks: He notched 26 games during the 2015-16 season.  

Kings Waive an All-Time Scorer
Ilya Kovalchuk is the seventh-highest scoring Russian-born player in NHL history. In 2004, he finished in a three-way tie with Jarome Iginla and Rick Nash for the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy as the NHL's leading goal-scorer. Los Angeles put him on unconditional waivers Monday, possible ending Kovalchuk NHL's scoring career.  

Hall on Hold
New Jersey forward Taylor Hall did not play Saturday for the second game in a row amid rumors GM Ray Shero is about to trade him. Hall, who the league's Hart Trophy as most valuable player for the 2017-18 season, wants to play for a playoffs contender. He was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft. 

UPDATE: Hall was officially traded from the Devils to the Arizona Coyotes on Monday afternoon. The trade sent Hall and forward Blake Spears to Arizona in exchange for the Coyotes' 2020 conditional first-round pick, a 2021 conditional 3rd round pick, and three prospects.

Tweet from @NHL: HALL & YOTES 🐺 Taylor Hall (@hallsy09) is headed to the @ArizonaCoyotes.



Flyers Stand By Teammate with Cancer Diagnosis
The Philadelphia Flyers announced last Wednesday that promising young player Oscar Lindblom has been diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that typically affect people during teenage and early 20s years. Lindblom is not expected to play for the rest of this season. But Flyers teammates will hang Lindblom's jersey and nameplate in every locker room. 

"He's still part of the team," Flyers forward Sean Couturier said. "It's tough. It's sad news, but I think if he was here, he would want us to battle hard and win some hockey games… We can do it in his honor."

Tweet from @NHLFlyers: We���re all fighting with @oskarlindblom.

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