With the recent firing of Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock, many eyes have turned to the Tampa Bay Lightning who are also struggling in the Atlantic Division. The Lightning are currently in seventh place, even behind the Ottawa Senators. They are only ahead of the Detroit Red Wings.
Regardless, in his most recent mailbag, The Athletic’s Joe Smith (subscription required) suggests that while Toronto general manager Kyle Dubas didn’t hire Babcock in Toronto, that isn’t the case in Tampa Bay, where Julien BriseBois did hire Cooper to be his AHL coach years ago and now the team’s NHL coach. The two have a long-standing relationship and won an AHL championship together, much like the relationship between Dubas and newly promoted head coach Sheldon Keefe.
The scribe writes that because of the long-standing relationship between BriseBois and Cooper, a poor start to the season won’t change things.
- The Ottawa Sun’s Bruce Garrioch reports that Ottawa Senators forward Scott Sabourin returned to the ice Saturday for an informal skills development session, but there is still no timetable for his return. Sabourin suffered a concussion, broken nose and an ugly cut near his eye when he was knocked out in a significant collision with David Backes on Nov. 2. Garrioch writes that Sabourin isn’t expected to return to the lineup anytime soon, but he has been skating on his own recently.
- The Athletic’s Aaron Portzine (subscription required) gives first quarter grades out for the Columbus Blue Jackets, who are in sixth place in the Metropolitan Division with a 9-8-4 record. While the scribe has lots of praise for some of the young players and goaltenders, the veterans weren’t as lucky. He is quick to criticize the play of Cam Atkinson, who has struggled offensively with just four goals and 13 points this season. Atkinson, however, is known to be a streaky scorer, so the veteran could find a way to bounce back and return as one of the team’s top scorers. However, Atkinson would likely have given himself a worse grade as he admitted that he is “embarrassed” by his recent play.