NHL News Cycle on Overdrive
It has been a torrid three weeks of newsmaking in the NHL.
Not just small stories, either. Big juicy ones, seemingly every day.
It started in late November with the firing of Bruce Boudreau in Washington with Dale Hunter as his replacement, and the firing of Randy Carlyle as Anaheim's head coach soon after. Less than 72 hours of he was fired, Boudreau was hired to replace Carlyle with the Ducks, and Carolina joined the fray by firing of Paul Maurice, with rookie Kirk Muller brought in to coach that struggling club.
Then came NHL realignment in four conferences and the bombshell report on the death of Derek Boogaard. Then the $1.3 billion sale of MLSE to the combined forces of Rogers and Bell. Then L.A. canned head coach Terry Murray, with Darryl Sutter apparently set to take over next week.
Then Sidney Crosby was lost again with recurring concussion issues, and in quick succession Claude Giroux, Jeff Skinner, Milan Michalek and Chris Pronger were also diagnosed with concussions. Pronger's condition is so serious he is gone for the season. On Friday came the stunner that Mike Milbury had been charged with assaulting a 12-year-old boy on a hockey rink, and was subsequently relieved, at least temporarily, of his Hockey Night in Canada and NBC duties.
Now today's news. Saturday is generally a quiet day for the NHL news cycle, but today arrived with a pair of significant stories.
First Montreal sacked head coach Jacques Martin after less than three years on the job and just 20 months after the Habs' memorable playoff run that began with a stunning first round upset of Washington in what became the spring of Jaroslav Halak.
With only 13 wins in 32 games to start the season, there was trouble brewing in Montreal that the early season firing of one of Martin's assistants, Perry Pearn, couldn't address on its own. The acquisition of Tomas Kaberle and his big contract last week seemed to be a move aimed to shake up the club, but when the Habs fell this week to a Philly team that was missing Giroux and Pronger, GM Pierre Gauthier decided to make a move.
Still, the Habs sit only two points out of a playoff berth, and just two points behind the struggling Maple Leafs. The elevation of Randy Cunneyworth, a fellow with a distinguished minor league coaching career, may be enough to change the fortunes of the Habs, particularly if Cunneyworth can rouse an offence that has fallen to 20th in the league.
The dismissal of Martin, meanwhile, demonstrates the different standards of Montreal compared to Toronto, a team that has missed the playoffs for three straight seasons under Fibbin' Ron Wilson and is going to be in a dogfight to make it this year, yet GM Brian Burke pronounced Wilson his team's No. 1 star this week.
Not to be outdone, the Ottawa Senators made a big splash by trading for centre Kyle Turris, sending defenceman David Rundblad and a second round pick to Phoenix for a player who had held out earlier this season to force a trade out of Arizona.
The Sens, the NHL's worst defensive team this season, added more offence at the expense of the inexperienced Rundblad, a talented puck-mover who was a team worst minus-11 in 24 games. The addition of Turris came just a few days after the conclusion of the Nikita Filatov experiment, with Filatov headed back to Russia after failing to make a mark in the nation's capital. Rundblad, meanwhile, had been acquired from St. Louis in June, 2010, for a first round pick, 16th overall.
Turris, just 22, was the third overall pick of the 2007 draft and has done little to justify that selection ever since. He has 46 points in 137 NHL games in which he was also minus-22. After refusing to sign with the Coyotes this season, he finally did, and in six games back had failed to register a single point.
In theory, he and Jason Spezza could make a productive centre ice duo in Ottawa. But Turris has to actually show he can produce in the NHL, something he wasn't able to do with a Phoenix team that has been good enough to be a playoff squad the last two years despite being owned by the NHL.
The Sens are just a point out of a playoff berth despite allowing a league-high 116 goals, and with Michalek gone indefinitely.