There was more than a bit of scrutiny and criticism when Anaheim Ducks GM Bob Murray named himself interim head coach despite not having any coaching experience. Yet, Murray’s first game behind the bench last night was the Ducks’ first win in weeks. A shutout performance by Kevin Boyle played a major role, but USA Today’s Mike Brehm writes that Murray’s presence made an obvious impact. Anaheim came out hot, scored early, and played with energy and aggression that they haven’t displayed during this disappointing stretch. Brehm advocates that all NHL GM’s consider spending time as a coach following a coaching change, as he feels the pressure and seriousness that Murray brought to the Ducks’ locker room was the reason for their sudden change of spirit. The next question, of course, is how long Murray’s role as coach can maintain this level of play.
- Another coach is trying to motivate his team a different way, one that required some boldness. Appearing on KFAN radio in Minnesota today, Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau guaranteed his team to make the playoffs. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s not often that anyone on a team offers up such a prediction, never mind the head coach, but the veteran Boudreau apparently feels confident and surely wanted to energize his players. “I can tell you right now”, Boudreau proclaimed, “we’re going to make the playoffs. And we’re going to be somebody hard to deal with.” It’s big talk from the Minnesota bench boss, but can he back it up? The Wild are currently clinging to the final wild card spot in the Western Conference, having picked up just one win in the past seven games, but still hold a two point lead over the Vancouver Canucks with a game in hand, with several more teams right behind. Minnesota also stands little chance of climbing further up the standings, as the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues have played their way to solid leads over the Wild. Boudreau has consistently qualified for the postseason during his long career as a head coach, but with one seed up for grabs and arguably seven teams within striking distance, it could be a tall task for the Mikko Koivu-less Wild to hold on.
- BSN Denver’s A.J. Haefele reports that the Colorado Avalanche have had discussions with the Ottawa Senators about impending UFA trade target Mark Stone. It’s unclear how far back these talks were, but it seems very unlikely that the two sides are still talking given that GM Joe Sakic has made it clear that his first-round picks and top prospects are off the table at the deadline. Haefele himself even doubts that a deal is made. However, if Stone doesn’t end up re-signing in Ottawa, the Avs could circle back on their interest this summer when the world-class winger likely hits free agency. With Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog signed long-term to below-market deals, Colorado could more than afford to bring in Stone while also extending Mikko Rantanen. Stone may be eager to join the Avs, who have top young offensive talent and a treasure trove of promising prospects still to come. It’s an interesting possibility to consider in a few months time.
- A journeyman forward who has suited up for the Ducks, Wild, Avalanche, and several other NHL teams in his career is hoping to make a comeback. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman hears from brother Anthony that Chris Stewart is gearing up for another try at an NHL contract this off-season. A veteran of 652 NHL games, Stewart played for the Wild and Calgary Flames last year, recording 16 points in 54 games. The physical winger has tallied 321 points to go with 729 penalty minutes in the NHL, but is looking to add more. Although he had PTO offers from the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs this off-season, per Friedman, Stewart instead chose to spend the year training in England and has played a handful of games with the Nottingham Panthers of the EIHL. Stewart, still just 31, could have a chance to land a contract, or at least a PTO, next season due to his reputation for physicality, his work ethic, and his ability to be a difference maker along the boards.