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Over The Boards

Mailbag: Devils' next coach; Rangers' three-goalie system

NHL.com's Dan Rosen answers weekly questions

by Dan Rosen @drosennhl / NHL.com Senior Writer

Here is the Jan. 8 edition of Dan Rosen's weekly mailbag. If you have a question, tweet it to @drosennhl and use #OvertheBoards.

Going into the offseason, would Peter Laviolette make sense to be the next coach of the New Jersey Devils? -- @Wakes3019

Disclaimer: This answer is not a knock on Laviolette, a proven winner who has taken three teams to the Stanley Cup Final, winning it in 2006 with the Carolina Hurricanes. However, I don't think Laviolette is the type of coach who would be successful with the Devils in their current state. Wherever Laviolette goes next, if he goes anywhere, I would imagine he would want to know the tools are already in place to win. The Devils may have the tools, but if they do, they're still being sharpened and molded. I don't see it in Laviolette's style to sharpen and mold. He's better with a veteran team, especially at this stage of his NHL coaching career. 

The Devils instead are in the process of developing potential cornerstone players: centers Jack Hughes and Nico Hischier, forwards Jesper Bratt, Jesper Boqvist, Michael McLeod and Mikhail Maltsev, and defensemen Ty Smith and Kevin Bahl. But they're all 21 or younger right now. I think the more sensible approach for the Devils is to take a page out of the New York Rangers' book and look for a coach with a player development background, a la David Quinn, who came out of Boston University to coach the Rangers last season. Names to consider are Tony Granato (University of Wisconsin) and Scott Sandelin (University of Minnesota Duluth). Granato was an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins when Ray Shero was the general manager. 

Let's also not disregard the potential for current Devils coach Alain Nasreddine. New Jersey has played better of late under Nasreddine. Maybe he earns the job in the second half.

Video: NHL Tonight on Laviolette's firing

 

At what point do we start talking about Tristan Jarry for the Vezina Trophy? -- @iCoachHockey

I'm not there yet -- stress yet -- for the Penguins goalie. Jarry has yet to play in more games than Penguins goalie and two-time Stanley Cup champion Matt Murray. He needs to surpass Murray in games played before I can think clearly about him as a legitimate candidate for the Vezina Trophy, given to the player voted as the top goalie in the NHL. However, if Jarry stays on his current path, I'd say by the NHL All-Star break later this month we'll be including him in the very fluid Vezina Trophy discussion. 

Entering Tuesday, Jarry was tied for the NHL lead in wins (13), third in save percentage (.935) and second in goals-against average (2.00) among the 46 goalies who played at least 10 games since Nov. 16. And he's put up these numbers behind a team that has been ravaged by injuries, including top-four defensemen Justin Schultz and Brian Dumoulin. I'm in the need-to-see-more category when it comes to Jarry, but it's hard to not be impressed with what we've already seen.

 

Are you surprised by the improvement of Chandler Stephenson after the move to Vegas? -- @DerekSchoen

You say improvement. I say opportunity. Stephenson has gotten a chance with the Vegas Golden Knights that he was not getting and may never have gotten with the Washington Capitals, who have Nicklas Backstrom, Evgeny Kuznetsov and Lars Eller firmly entrenched as the top three centers. That's the surprise. I thought when Vegas acquired Stephenson in a trade with Washington on Dec. 2 for a fifth-round pick in the 2021 NHL Draft that he was going to be an addition to the fourth line, a placeholder until either Cody Eakin could return or a better or more productive bottom-six forward came along. He has instead continued to impress and earn more ice time, more responsibility.

The perfect example of Stephenson getting an opportunity and earning the right to keep it came in overtime against the St. Louis Blues on Jan. 4. It wasn't just that he scored his first NHL overtime goal on a clean breakaway to give the Golden Knights a 5-4 win, it was that he was playing a regular shift in overtime. Stephenson played one shift that lasted 33 seconds in 10 games that went to OT with the Capitals from Oct. 2-Nov. 30. That includes not getting an overtime shift in four games that went to a shootout. He played two shifts that totaled 1:12 of ice time in OT against the Blues.

Video: STL@VGK: Stephenson wins it on breakaway in overtime

Stephenson didn't play an overtime shift in his first three opportunities with Vegas, but coach Gerard Gallant's faith in him has obviously grown. His defensive ability was never in question, but Stephenson has found chemistry with wings Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone to make him a productive forward too. He has 10 points (five goals, five assists) in 17 games with Vegas. He had four points (three goals, one assist) in 24 games with Washington prior to the trade. He skates down the middle of the ice, the all-important center-lane drive, opening room for Pacioretty and Stone. Stephenson is also a strong puck retriever, so he'll do a lot of the grunt work.

 

How do you think the New York Rangers will handle the three-goalie system? It has many flaws, such as practice time and getting goalies into games. -- @GregoryMorano

Keeping the three-goalie system with Henrik Lundqvist, Alexandar Georgiev and Igor Shesterkin is not a long-term solution for the Rangers, so I wouldn't worry about managing it. If Georgiev doesn't get as many shots in practice for the next few weeks, it's going to be fine. There are ways for him to make up for that with pre-practice and post-practice work. The key now is Shesterkin and if he can prove he's capable of being an NHL goalie this season (one start isn't enough of a sample size). If yes, I expect the Rangers will act quickly with Georgiev on the trade market. They have approximately six and a half weeks before the 2020 NHL Trade Deadline on Feb. 24. They may know enough about Shesterkin by the All-Star break. 

Lundqvist, who is signed through next season, isn't going anywhere, so this is going to be the Rangers eventually choosing between Shesterkin and Georgiev. Shesterkin's play for Hartford of the American Hockey League (15-4-3 with a 1.93 GAA, .932 save percentage and three shutouts in 23 games) may have forced the Rangers to fast-track him to the NHL, but it's smart for them to see what they have in the 24-year-old with what is still a long runway to the trade deadline.

Video: Rosen talks Shesterkin's opportunity with the Rangers

 

Will Dallas as a Winter Classic host forever change where the NHL can hold a Winter Classic? Maybe it's a bit radical, but could we eventually see a Florida Panthers vs. Carolina Hurricanes Winter Classic in Raleigh? Or an Arizona Coyotes vs. Anaheim Ducks Winter Classic in Orange County? -- @MacWinnon

I wouldn't rule anything out regarding the future of the NHL Winter Classic. The game at Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas on New Year's Day proved that a so-called non-traditional hockey market is certainly equipped to handle the League's most visible regular-season game. There were 85,630 fans who watched the Dallas Stars defeat the Nashville Predators 4-2. I don't think it would be radical to have a future Winter Classic game at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh or Angel Stadium of Anaheim. However, the venue and the areas that surround the venue matter greatly because the Winter Classic is an event, not just a game. The State Fair of Texas was an attraction for the 2020 Winter Classic and the NHL used it to create a hockey-themed fair that helped make Dallas and Cotton Bowl Stadium work so well as a host venue. The NHL will go to Target Field next year and I expect a winter hockey wonderland in downtown Minneapolis, both inside the stadium and the areas surrounding it. Figuring out those elements is key to wherever the NHL holds future Winter Classics.

 

Who would be your top five backup goalies in the League at the moment? Seems a lot of them are struggling. -- @Sossunalle

This is a subjective question because it brings up another debate about some goalies and if they are backups, No. 1s or somewhere in the middle. Specifically, is Jarry the new No. 1 for the Penguins, making Murray the backup? It certainly looks that way. Is Semyon Varlamov the New York Islanders' No. 1 goalie now after starting five straight games until Thomas Greiss played against the Devils on Tuesday? Robin Lehner started to take over as the Islanders' No. 1 early in the second half of last season. The same could be happening this season with Varlamov.

I won't include Jarry or Greiss in this answer because of the subjective nature of the analysis, so here are my top five backups without them, neither who are playing poorly:

Pavel Francouz, Colorado Avalanche (11-4-1, .929 save percentage, 2.32 GAA, 18 games)

Jaroslav Halak, Boston Bruins (9-4-5, .928 save percentage, 2.25 GAA, 18 games)

Anton Khudobin, Stars (10-5-1, .931 save percentage, 2.20 GAA in 17 games)

Jake Allen, Blues (7-3-3, .924 save percentage, 2.36 GAA in 15 games)

Ilya Samsonov, Capitals (12-2-1, .921 save percentage, 2.24 GAA in 16 games)

Coyotes goalie Antti Raanta likely belongs in this conversation too, but a lower-body injury has put him out of the lineup along with No. 1 Darcy Kuemper. 

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