Blittner’s Blue Line: Another Coach Bites The Dust, Plus Playoff And Draft Updates
By Matt Blittner, The New York Extra/TheNYExtra.com
There’s an old saying about Coaches, “they’re hired to be fired.” If you were skeptical about that saying before reading this then allow me to remove any doubts or concerns you have. The Boston Bruins, after yet another playoff appearance – their sixth consecutive post-season berth – have fired Head Coach Bruce Cassidy. That playoff streak began when Cassidy took over for Claude Julien during the 2016-17 season and is still active – but a new Head Coach will oversee the streak going forward.
Monday evening, just as hockey fans were prepping to watch Game Four of The Western Conference Final between Colorado and Edmonton – more on that in a bit – the Bruins dropped their bombshell news on the hockey world. Nobody saw this coming.
For a team who’s one of the NHL’s model franchises in terms of consistency it was quite stunning for Boston to fire Cassidy when it did. Then again, what’s the old adage? “It’s always the quiet ones.”
With Cassidy now available the Summer Coaching Market is sure to be even more hectic than most ever dreamed. Barry Trotz is still out there. As is Pete DeBoer. John Tortorella is always a wild card waiting in the wings. Paul Maurice may or may not seek another opportunity behind the bench. Does Rick Bowness hang ‘em up or send out feelers? Also, let’s not forget about Alain Vigneault and David Quinn, each of whom could draw interest from multiple teams. And that’s just a few of the coaches who are currently on the market.
Getting back to Boston, while it feels like a surprise, one league source had the following to say about Cassidy. “His shelf life was up frankly.” That same source also indicated that perhaps Maurice will be a good fit for the Bruins.
If so, let’s try this game of musical chairs. Maurice to Boston. Trotz to Winnipeg. Tortorella to Philadelphia. Vigneault to Dallas. And Cassidy to Vegas. That’s just a rumor but it could happen.
Now, getting back to Colorado and Edmonton…
The Avalanche will represent the West in the Stanley Cup Final after completing their sweep of the Oilers Monday night. Now the question remains, how healthy will the Avs be? Darcy Kuemper was available as the backup netminder for Game Four versus the Oilers so he should be fine. But what about Nazem Kadri, who had thumb surgery on Monday? Will he be able to return for The Cup Final?
And speaking of injuries, it looks like the Rangers avoided a major one. Ryan Strome missed most of the second period and all of the third period in Game Three versus Tampa Bay with what appeared to be a knee or quad injury. But Head Coach Gerard Gallant informed the media that Strome should be good to go for Game Four.
That’s a relief for New York fans. What isn’t a relief for the Rangers? The Lightning might get Brayden Point back sooner than expected. If Tampa gets Point back in the middle of the series that could be a game-changer, or rather, series-changer. New York leads the best-of-seven-series, two-games-to-one.
NHL DRAFT COMBINE
Could we be in for a Johnny Manziel type situation in July at the NHL’s annual Entry Draft?
For those who don’t remember, in 2014, Johnny Manziel, the Heisman Trophy-winner and star QB out of Texas A&M fell from the Number One spot all the way to 22nd, where he was taken by the Cleveland Browns. Nobody saw that drop coming.
Fast forward to 2022, Shane Wright has been talked about as the presumed Number One pick in the NHL Draft for years. But his attitude at the NHL Draft Combine may have put that status in doubt. According to league sources, Wright “ruffled a few feathers with his arrogance.” As one person put it, Wright acted like “an entitled kid.”
There’s no denying Wright’s exceptional hockey tools. But could his arrogance cost him the Number One spot? Many sources were very high on Logan Cooley, who shined at the combine. Would Montreal consider taking Cooley Number One instead of Wright? Jeff Gorton has gone off the board during drafts before. Will he again?
With New Jersey not married to its Number Two pick – sources indicate the Devils may trade the pick to get a player who will have an immediate impact on the roster – could Wright find himself sliding down the way Manziel once did?
Only time will tell.