Through the 5 Hole

February 3, 2010 4:23 PM

Hitchcock latest coaching casualty

And another coach bites the dust.
The Columbus Blue Jackets fired Ken Hitchcock today and named assistant Claude Noel interim coach.
Hitchcock is the third NHL head coach to get the axe this season, joining Philadelphia's John Stevens and St. Louis' Andy Murray. He won't be the last. These guys don't last much longer than the amount of time it takes for a carton of milk's expiration date to pass.
Hitchcock joined the Blue Jackets in November 2006 and was the league's sixth-longest tenured coach behind Anaheim's Randy Carlyle, Buffalo's Lindy Ruff, Detroit's Mike Babcock, Nashville's Barry Trotz and Vancouver's Alain Vigneault.
That tells you all you need to know about the profession's job security.

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February 2, 2010 3:12 PM

Panic mode for Flames?

I actually thought the Calgary Flames could be a Stanley Cup contender this season.
Now I'm wondering if they'll even make the playoffs, especially after dealing Dion Phaneuf and Olli Jokinen.
Sounds like panic moves to me on the part of general manager Darryl Sutter.
Then again, the Flames have been so awful lately that a shakeup was in order, not that the spare parts Calgary received from the Toronto Maple Leafs in the Phaneuf deal helped the team get out of its funk while making their debuts in a 3-0 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers.


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January 25, 2010 5:24 PM

Dumb way to decide OT

Am I the only one who doesn't understand how a team can lose a game -- especially a playoff game -- when it never has the opportunity to gain possession of the ball or puck?
I mean, even the frequently-criticized NHL gets it right when it comes to deciding the outcomes of games, whether you like the idea of shootouts or not following a five-minute overtime. (Teams play all night, if needed, during the playoffs).
I bring this up after watching the New Orleans Saints win Sunday's NFC championship game because they managed to win a coin flip. coin.jpg

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December 4, 2009 5:35 PM

Money flows in Windy City

Ah, to be a young member of the Chicago Blackhawks these days.

Forwards Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and defenseman Duncan Keith this week signed contracts totaling $135 million. That's a lot of dough for an NHL team, especially one that only a few years ago was lucky to draw in excess of 10,000 fans to a game.

It just goes to show what can happen when a franchise that was run into the ground by the late Bill Wirtz is taken over by a progressive owner, Rocky Wirtz, who happens to be Bill's son. logo.jpg

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December 2, 2009 3:25 PM

Milestone for Coach Q

Congrats to Joel Quenneville on pocketing his 500th win as an NHL coach.

Coach Q has never won the big one, as in a Stanley Cup, but he's been a very successful coach nonetheless, taking two teams to the Western Conference championship series - the Chicago Blackhawks last season and the St. Louis Blues in 2001.

But I think his best coaching job came two years ago with Colorado, even though the Avalanche was swept in humiliating fashion by the Detroit Red Wings in the second round of the playoffs.

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November 19, 2009 3:57 PM

McCain: Coyotes deserve more support

empty arena.jpg
John McCain is a closet hockey fan? Who knew?

Like NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, the Arizona senator is hopeful that a buyer will come forward to purchase the Phoenix Coyotes and keep them at Arena.

"I hope they can stay," McCain told the Arizona Republic. "I hope that the fans will come out. We're going to have to increase the fan base, that's all there is to it. I think winning takes us a long way."

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November 13, 2009 2:35 PM

Avs' third jersey: nice or awful?

The Colorado Avalanche has unveiled its new third jersey, one that is predominately blue. Perhaps it's an homage to the Avalanche's predecessors, the Quebec Nordiques, whose sweaters were powder blue.

At least, that's the take of center Paul Stastny, who modeled the uniforms with teammate Kyle Quincey.

Stastny's father, Peter, starred for the Nordiques and is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. His uncles, Anton and Marian, also played for the Nordiques, who moved to Denver in 1995 and were renamed the Avalanche.

third jersey.jpg

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November 10, 2009 5:35 PM

NHL needs closer look at head shots

tucker photo.gifLet's hope the NHL general managers take a serious look at hits to the head during their meetings in Toronto this week.

Colorado Avalanche left wing Darcy Tucker (right) can attest to the danger of head shots, having been victimized by Carolina's Tuomo Ruutu in an Oct. 23 game.

Tucker lost consciousness and was wheeled off the Pepsi Center ice on a backboard. He suffered a concussion and needed about 40 stitches to close a gash on his forehead.

Tucker missed eight games and is expected to return Wednesday night when the Avalanche plays in Chicago

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November 3, 2009 11:28 PM

'Andy' gets well-deserved day off

Photo of Peter Budaj by Getty Images

The Streak ends Wednesday night for Colorado Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson, who has started all 15 of the team's games.

It isn't that Anderson hasn't been playing well. He has, despite back-to-back losses to San Jose and Vancouver last weekend.

But he could use a rest and Peter Budaj needs to shake the cobwebs and rust off, and get into a game for the first time. Budaj has been given the nod to play against another surprisingly-successful team, the Phoenix Coyotes, at the Pepsi Center.

Budaj was scheduled to make his first start back on Oct. 23 when the Avalanche played Carolina at the Pepsi Center, but he came down with the flu, and it turned out to be the H1N1 virus (swine flu).

Budaj regained his health and joined the Avalanche for the games against the Sharks and Canucks but served as Anderson's backup.

"He deserves the opportunity,” coach Joe Sacco said today of Budaj. "Craig has played, as we all know, extremely well for us. I think it’s the right time right now to give Craig a rest and get Peter in there."

It'll be interesting to see how Avalanche fans react to Budaj, who is coming off a poor season in which he had the worst record of his NHL career when the team sank to the Western Conference basement.

Anderson was the NHL's Player of the Month for October when he tied a league record for the most wins by a goalie in that month (10), posted two shutouts and had a goals-against average of 2.04 and a .939 save percentage.

Anderson, who signed as a free agent in July, has become a popular figure in town, which puts more pressure on Budaj to excel. The boos are certain to come raining down from the stands if Budaj allows a soft goal or two.

This is an especially important season debut for Budaj, and a significant homestand for the Avalanche, which has gotten off to a 10-3-2 start despite playing 11 times on the road.

The Avalanche needs to prove that its start isn't a fluke. The Avalanche also needs to show fans disenchanted by last year's poor showing that it's worth purchasing tickets to watch the team play.

This homestand, which includes games against Chicago and Edmonton, could go a long way in doing that, and it all starts with Budaj in goal against the Coyotes.

October 26, 2009 11:13 PM

Anderson could join US Olympic mix

The 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver are still four months away, giving a handful of hockey players who weren't invited to the U.S. orientation camp over the summer plenty of time to impress the powers that be enough to earn spots on the Olympic team.

One of them could be Colorado Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson, who is from Park Ridge, Ill., and makes his offseason home in Chicago.

Anderson isn't thinking a whole lot about the Olympic team at the moment, but he has to be opening some eyes in the American camp, including those of Olympic team general manager Brian Burke.

Burke, who also is GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, watched Anderson make 30 saves against his team earlier this month at the Air Canada Centre when the Avalanche skated to a 4-1 win.

Anderson has continued his extraordinary play, starting all 11 of the Avalanche's games -- he'll be in the crease again Tuesday night when Colorado visits Edmonton -- while posting an 8-1-2 record with a 2.14 goals-against average and .936 save percentage.

Anderson's numbers certainly stack up well with the three goalies who took part in the orientation camp: Buffalo's Ryan Miller (6-0-1, 1.69, .940); Los Angeles' Jonathan Quick (8-3-0, 2.91, .897) and Boston's Tim Thomas (4-3-0), 2.97, .902).

"I'm getting wins, and that's all that really matters," Anderson said. "The goal is to get 'W's' and try to find a way to win, and right now I'm seeing the puck well and the guys are getting goals for me. I'm just doing my job, and my job is to stop the puck."

St. Louis' Ty Conklin (2-1-0, 2.40, .918) is another possibility. He won 25 games with Detroit last season, and it was a surprise when he wasn't invited to the orientation camp.

This much is certain: it looks like the Americans, while decided underdogs in Vancouver, should be pretty solid in goal.

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