If it's late in the week, there's probably a Screen Shots column coming your way, and today is the day the new one arrives. Below, we'll always give you a few different, intriguing hockey topics, and carve out a brief breakdown of each one. Onward, we go:
– Carolina Hurricanes goalie Antti Raanta announced Thursday he had a sprained MCL knee ligament in Game Seven,, and would`ve been out of action for 6-8 weeks even if Carolina beat the New York Rangers in Round Two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This feels like the worst year for goalie injuries ever.
I talked to an amateur scout a couple weeks ago, and he said he thought the fact goalies are increasingly going side-to-side (because the game is faster, and more of those shots off the end boards and to the other side) is a big factor.
What he’s saying makes sense. The knee isn’t naturally-inclined to move to either side, and repeated pressure and stress wears it down. With the speed of the game forever rising, and different strategies to score goals (the behind-the-net-from-one-side-to-the-other-side-of-the-net shot is increasingly common), perhaps we’re at a point in the game’s evolution where goalies have to be treated like pitchers in major league baseball – delicate, and in need of very close time management. Otherwise, you could’ve been like the situation the Hurricanes would’ve been in had they won Game Seven: playing your No. 3, NHL-rookie goalie. Not ideal.
- The number of head coach vacancies – and potential coaching vacancy situations – is extremely high at the moment. Five teams (Vegas, Winnipeg. Dallas, Philly, and Detroit) currently have no head coach; Three other teams have a head coach on thin ice (Bob Boughner in San Jose, Dallas Eakins in Anaheim, and Derek King in Chicago) because a new GM has been or will be hired and may put their own man in; and one team has a coach (Lindy Ruff in New Jersey) on thin ice because he simply hasn't produced results on a team that expected much more. That`s nine teams with major coach issues. That's nearly one-third of the league.
Some believe teams are waiting for the rest of the playoffs to shake out, but none of the four teams still playing are going to let go of their coaches. This is about teams being incredibly meticulous. And there`s no shortage of coaching candidates, so teams can take their time making such a huge decision.
That said, you don't want to hold out for too long; ideally, you'd want your coach to have input on drafting, developing and personnel choices. Once one coach is hired, the dam may break, and the rest of the openings will be filled in short order. It will be intriguing to see who moves first. My bet? Philly. Chuck Fletcher is under massive pressure to turn things around. The wrong coaching pick could cost Fletcher his job, and he needs to avoid sitting around while the best candidate for the position lands elsewhere.
Who is the No. 1 coaching candidate on the market at the moment? It has to be Barry Trotz, doesn’t it? Stanley Cup winner, proven structure-builder, respected by his players wherever he’s went. If he decides to go to his hometown Winnipeg Jets, you’d expect Vegas (if they haven’t hired a new coach before them) to move quickly and attempt to re-start their stalled engine.
The NHL free agency sweepstakes will no doubt be intriguing, but the best free agent acquisition may well turn out to be the one that works behind the bench.