A dramatically fast coast-to-coast turnaround, a star winger turned into trade bait, a goaltending situation in the Pacific Northwest that is getting blown way out of proportion, and a pair of teams on the rise all are trending this week in the National Hockey League.
What does it all mean? Well…
Based on press releases, Bruce Boudreau
was out of a job for exactly 65 hours and 25 minutes. The Washington Capitals
announced he was fired at 7:56 a.m. ET on Monday and the Anaheim Ducks
announced Boudreau was replacing Randy Carlyle
with a press release that was sent out at 1:21 a.m. ET on Thursday.
In the meantime, Boudreau, who earned the nickname Gabby during his playing days, had to come to grips with the fact that he had lost a job he loved, in a city he grew to adore, with a fan base that loved him, and seemingly does not blame him for what is happening with the Capitals this season. While dealing with that, a practice that for some takes weeks to overcome, Boudreau was talking with Ducks GM Bob Murray
and hammering out a contract.
When I spoke to Boudreau on Wednesday around 11:30 a.m. ET, he sounded as if he was in a rush. After 10 minutes, he had to cut off the conversation and said he was late for a meeting.
Before hanging up, Boudreau ended the conversation by saying he happily would coach in the NHL again this season if given the opportunity. "I don't see why not," he said. "It's what I do."
The other thing he does is watch a lot of hockey. Even when Boudreau was coaching the Caps he would stay up to watch the late West Coast games. Odds are he knows more about the Ducks than most people who were at Murray's disposal. That knowledge of Anaheim's roster likely impressed Murray and helped him land a job so quickly after losing one.
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So is Carlyle the only Duck to fall in Anaheim? Or are the rumors of a possible Bobby Ryan
trade true as well? That remains to be seen, and you'd like to think Boudreau would have some say in the matter, but if Murray seriously is considering a trade that involves Ryan, the Ducks' 24-year-old three-time 30-goal scorer, there should be no shortage of phone calls for him to take.
Murray said on Thursday that he would let the team settle with the new coach before making additional moves, according to Ryan.
The young forward is a dynamic top-line scorer with one of the best shots especially off the rush, in today's NHL. Carlyle told NHL.com in early November he thinks Ryan can easily be a 40-goal scorer provided he starts going to the gritty areas in front of the net more often.
If the Ducks do chose to move Ryan, the key would be what Anaheim would get in return, and what team (the New York Rangers
?) would be willing to give up enough to take on Ryan and his $5.1 million cap hit.
The Ducks need center depth with Saku Koivu
aging and on the last year of his contract. They also could use a top-four defenseman and a top prospect. They should be able to get all of that for Ryan, but only if Murray is serious about dealing, which we're not sure of yet.
There is no controversy in Vancouver among Roberto Luongo
, Cory Schneider
and coach Alain Vigneault
, because a coach's decision to ride the hot hand never should been seen as controversial. Vigneault knows Schneider deserves to play, so he's playing him and the Canucks were winning -- five in a row, to be exact, including twice via a shutout -- before Thursday's 6-5 loss to Nashville which saw Schneider get pulled after a three-goal first period.
Luongo came in and allowed three goals on 15 shots over the final two periods in his first action since Nov. 13.
So what will Vigneault do next? Schneider had stopped 164 of the 168 shots he had faced in five games leading into Thursday. But Luongo is an All-Star, an Olympic gold medalist and the goalie who backstopped the Canucks to the Stanley Cup Final.
The only good news is Vigneault doesn't have to make a decision until Sunday.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said after Tuesday's win in Washington that the team is "starting to dial into playing the game the way we need to play to win hockey games." If that's the case now, then what does it say for the team before now, because they were winning while working out the kinks of Hitchcock's system?
Hitchcock's effect in St. Louis has been nothing short of remarkable. The Blues are 8-1-2 since he took over early last month, and they've been darn near impossible to score against. They've allowed just 13 goals and are limiting their opponents to just 24.8 shots on goal per game, and that includes the 33 Pittsburgh got against them in a 3-2 overtime win and the 32 Minnesota put on net in a 3-2 shootout loss.
St. Louis General Manager Armstrong knew the type of stern, my-way-or-the-highway coach he was getting when he fired Davis Payne
and hired Hitchcock. However, there was no way to tell if the old coach with more than 500 wins was going to be able to get through to a young Blues team.
Armstrong went out on a limb anyway, and so far the move has had its desired effect. Winning now is important, too, because it's proof to the Blues that following Hitchcock's message will lead them to where they want to go.
Right Wing - NYR
GOALS: 12 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 21
SOG: 92 | +/-: 5
With Brad Richards
and Marian Gaborik
leading the way, the Rangers have won four in a row, against Washington, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Carolina, as well as 11 of their past 13 games. They are 14-5-3 for 31 points, just three behind the Eastern Conference-leading Penguins, who have played four more games.
Let's not ignore the obvious here -- the Rangers had to have a streak like this to erase any of the doubts that crept in immediately following their two-week European tour and to set themselves up for what will be a ridiculously difficult December, on and off the ice.
HBO's cameras will be documenting everything the Rangers do between now and the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic in Philadelphia on Jan. 2. The crews are good at staying out of the way, but there's no denying that having a camera on you for every waking moment is a daunting challenge to people who aren't used to it.
December also is the Rangers' second-busiest month, with 15 games (they have 17 in March), including eight on the road.
A rivalry renewed for the first time this season, a candid look at the League's newest rookie coaches, questions about more coaches that could be on their way out, and a pair of goalies on the mend all could be trending by this time next week.
Don't be confused any longer. Just read on:
The Penguins and Flyers will meet for the first time this season next Thursday in Philadelphia. It's possible that first place in the Eastern Conference could be up for grabs.
The rivalry picked up some extra spice during the summer with ex-Penguins forward Jaromir Jagr
spurning interest from his old team to sign with the Flyers, and Maxime Talbot
leaving Pittsburgh for a big contract in Philadelphia.
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 11 | PTS: 17
SOG: 44 | +/-: 5
Jagr, who has been a hit in Philly, has been nursing a groin injury, but is expected to play Friday in Anaheim. Talbot has been an important piece to the Flyers as well, with his offensive production and time on the penalty kill.
While next Thursday's game at Wells Fargo Center should be interesting because it always is when Sidney Crosby
and the Penguins come to town, the game Dec. 29 in Pittsburgh might have more flair. It definitely should be fun to watch how the Pittsburgh fans greet Jagr after he supposedly toyed with their emotions before signing on the other side of the state in July.
By next Thursday, Dale Hunter
and Kirk Muller
, the respective new coaches in Washington and Carolina, each will have coached five games. It's only a small sample and definitely not enough to pass judgment on their abilities to turn around their struggling teams, but five games should tell us if Hunter and Muller are having an impact in the way Hitchcock has so far in St. Louis.
The Capitals and Hurricanes are 0-2 under their new coaches, but neither Hunter nor Muller felt deflated after losing their debuts Tuesday. Hunter said he liked the Caps' compete level in their 2-1 loss to St. Louis, while Muller on Wednesday said he was impressed with the Canes' energy level in their 3-1 loss to Florida. Each maintained the positive vibe after losses Thursday, as well.
Competitive level and energy are important ingredients to getting a team going in the right direction, but so is production from their respective superstars. Alex Ovechkin
and Eric Staal
are the linchpins Hunter and Muller, respectively, have to get to know, get a handle on, and get motoring in the right direction.
Three coaches already have been axed this week, making it four in the NHL this season, 10 since the end of the 2010-11 regular season, and 11 in the past 13 months.
There could be more coaching changes coming, perhaps within the next seven days. And with a Cup-winner like Randy Carlyle
now available, you'd have to think some GMs that have been contemplating a coaching change now are considering pulling the trigger.
The focus of the speculation has shifted to Colorado's Joe Sacco, Calgary's Brent Sutter
, Columbus' Scott Arniel
and the Islanders' Jack Capuano
If all goes to plan and neither suffers a setback, look for Toronto's James Reimer
and Buffalo's Ryan Miller
to return to their respective nets in the coming days. In fact, both goalies were cleared for returns Friday.
The teams have survived without their No. 1 goalies. Truth be told, the Maple Leafs, despite a 6-3 loss to Boston on Wednesday, have been pretty good of late, with wins in four of their last six as they await the return of Reimer, who has been out since Oct. 22 with concussion-like symptoms. Buffalo is 3-4-1 since Miller was shut down after a collision with Boston's Milan Lucic
on Nov. 12.
Since they've been out, Reimer has had to deal with the Leafs' overreaction to his mother talking to a Toronto reporter about his health, while Miller has had to vehemently deny, on more than one occasion, rumors that he has asked to be traded out of Buffalo.
If both get back into the nets soon and play to their capabilities, Reimer's honest mom and the rumors surrounding Miller will become, if they haven't already, yesterday's news, and both the Leafs and Sabres will be much better for it. Toronto and Buffalo need their top netminders if each wants to ride toe-to-toe with Tim Thomas
and the Boston Bruins
in the Northeast Division.
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl