In what would normally have been a quiet Sunday with no regular season games to play, there seemed to be quite a flurry of activity in the National Hockey League. Perhaps you were outside enjoying some warm spring weather before hibernating in your favorite chair for the next two months of playoff hockey. Or maybe you were stuck with the in-laws somewhere, in which case, you have my sympathies. In any event, regardless of what you were doing, you may have missed a few significant stories as the NHL prepares for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
LEAFS WASTE NO TIME CLEANING HOUSE
This should be a no-brainer in Toronto. It’s been a complete debacle for the Leafs this season on and off the ice. General Manager Dave Nonis and interim head coach Peter Horacheck were issued their walking papers on Sunday Morning. Many believed Nonis’ departure was a foregone conclusion, but Horacheck did little if anything to make himself more appealing to retain the job. He took over for Randy Carlyle who was canned back on January 6. Nonis only served two seasons as GM in Toronto, who hasn’t seen the post season since their collapse of biblical proportions in 2013 against Boston in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Quarters. Toronto would be wise to take it slow on these next hires, but their ideal GM candidate needs to be in place before the Finals begin at the latest with the draft and free agency periods on the horizon.
SABRES FIRE NOLAN
Former Sabres coach Ted Nolan is now a two-time former Sabres coach. He returned to the Buffalo bench in November of 2013 and compiled a less than stellar 40-87-17 record. It’s difficult to say if the Sabres’ ongoing struggles fall squarely on Nolan’s shoulders. There is visible progress in Buffalo’s rebuild, but perhaps there is the appeal of the coaching market heading into the offseason. TSN’s Darren Dreger says as many as three teams could be in on Babcock.
Would Babcock really leave Detroit now? The Red Wings are a dangerous team in the East right now. What’s more impressive is that they got to this point playing much of the season without critical parts like Datsyuk and Zetterburg (among others). Imagine that team if they were healthy. Though Buffalo does present a nice new challenge for Babcock’s career with little left to prove beyond the Stanley Cup with Detroit in 2008.
JAGR STAYING IN SOUTH FLORIDA
The Florida Panthers and GM Dave Tallon announced Sunday that Jaromir Jagr has agreed to a one year extension to remain with the club. Financial terms have not been disclosed thus far. Jagr, 43, joined the Panthers in February when he was traded from the New Jersey Devils. He could play a vital role in getting the Panthers to the post season next year. I don’t think this is a guy trying to hold onto the glory days and overstaying his welcome; even at 43, he’s in prime condition. Though his scoring gradually drops off a bit each season, he’s a guy you want in the locker room. Perhaps he’s found the fountain of youth in South Florida.
A lot of people thought I was done but those young guys [in Florida] give me extra energy, extra life and I’m glad I can continue to play
He’s a big fan of the talent in Florida. If he didn’t genuinely believe they could compete next year, there’s no way he would have taken part in any contract negotiations.
KINGS TURNING ON SUTTER
The Los Angeles Kings, as most of you know by now, will be watching the playoffs from home this year. Their reign of terror officially ended on Thursday Night in Calgary. According to a report from NBC’s Pro Hockey Talk, the team locked the embattled coach out of the locker room during this final road trip of the season. Players have apparently “grown tired of Sutter’s act”. I’m not sure what anyone in the Kings club house could mean with that erroneous statement. Sutter has helped the Kings claim their first and second Stanley Cup championships dating back to 2012. Many expect Sutter to be relieved of his duties this offseason, but perhaps the problem falls on some of the supporting cast; perhaps it is a certain few that could use a change of scenery. If the Kings do indeed decide to show Sutter the door, several teams would be anxious to speak with him (Buffalo and Toronto immediately come to mind). A guy like Sutter can expedite any team’s rebuild.