2017 has been quite a busy year in the hockey world. There have been several big trades, the first expansion team in over 15 years, and much more. Over the coming days, PHR will take a look back at the top stories from around the game on a month-by-month basis. We already looked back at January yesterday.
Blues Fire Ken Hitchcock: After a slow start to the season (24-21) and his contract being up anyway at the end of the year, the St. Louis Blues decided to rid themselves of Hitchcock after six years with the franchise. Hitchcock had won 248 games with the Blues and took the team to the playoffs in each of the five years he coached the team, but only reached the conference finals once, in the 2015-16 season. He was immediately replaced by now-current head coach Mike Yeo, who was an assistant coach and was being groomed to replace Hitchcock after the veteran coaches’ deal expired. The move seemed to work as the team went 22-8-2 under Yeo and the team eventually lost in the second-round of the playoffs.
Robbi Fabbri’s Lower-Body Injury Begins His Demise: St. Louis Blues’ Robby Fabbri suffered what was described as a lower-body injury on Feb. 3 after sustaining a hit from Pittsburgh’s Carter Rowney, just three days after the team’s coaching change, and the young, talented stud prospect hasn’t played a game since. Two days later, he was listed as out for the season with a torn ACL, requiring surgery. Life only got worse for the Blues and Fabbri during training camp when he re-aggravated his knee and it was announced that he will miss all of the 2017-18 season as well to undergo a second surgery. The promising prospect will have missed more than a year and a half due to his knee injury as players with multiple knee injuries often have trouble returning to form.
Julien Fired By Bruins, Hired By Montreal: The Boston Bruins let go of head coach Claude Julien after 10 years with the franchise as the team was struggling with a 26-23-8 record on the season and didn’t look to be going anywhere in the playoff race. He had won 393 games with Boston in that span and was replaced by assistant and now-head coach Bruce Cassidy, who took Boston to the playoffs. However, just one week after being fired, Julien found employment again after the Montreal Canadiens fired Michel Therrien during his second-tenure with the team. Therrien had been coaching the team for five years (eight total), but Montreal was looking for a change after the team lost 10 of its previous 13 games and found Julien’s availability too good to pass up. Ironically, it was the second time that Julien replaced Therrien as the Canadiens’ head coach. He took over for him back in 2002 as well.
Lightning Trade Bishop To Los Angeles Kings: With the expectation that young prospect goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy would become the team’s future in the net, the Tampa Bay Lightning shipped veteran goaltender Ben Bishop off to the Los Angeles Kings for Peter Budaj, defensive prospect Erik Cernak, and and a 2017 seventh-round pick. A second pick was conditional on the Kings making the playoffs, which they didn’t. Bishop, who had been stellar for Tampa Bay in his tenure there, was just average with Tampa Bay last year with a 2.55 GAA in 32 games. He put up similar numbers with Los Angeles but only won two games for the franchise. Bishop was nothing more than a rental as he would be a free agent at the end of the season. The trade was especially confusing since the team had just gotten starter goaltender Jonathan Quick back from injury the day before the trade after he had missed all but one game due to injury. The trade was panned as many believed that the Kings needed a scorer, not more goalie support.
Blues Send Shattenkirk To Washington Capitals: While there were many interesting deals made at the trade deadline, none was more intriguing that the rumors that surrounded defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and his expiring contract. It was strange to see a playoff caliber team that was playing well under Yeo, to trade their top defenseman, but the team didn’t want to lose the veteran for nothing. Instead, the team traded Shattenkirk to the dominant Washington Capitals in their quest for a Stanley Cup (didn’t happen) as they got back prospect Zachary Sanford, veteran Brad Malone, a first-round pick in 2017 (which they packaged to Philadelphia for Brayden Schenn) and a second-round pick in 2019. Shattenkirk joined a dominant group of defenders in Washington, but struggled along with the rest of the team in the playoffs before the team was bounced by the Pittsburgh Penguins.