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Lockout over, short camp and schedule will challenge NHL coaches

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Ken Hitchcock

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock says he’ll have to keep things simple and tweak some routines. (David E. Klutho/SI)

By Stu Hackel

UPDATE (Sat 10:22 PM): Chris Johnson of Canadian Press tweets the Memorandum of Understanding has been signed which official ends the lockout. The league issued a press release shortly afterward. Schedules are set to be released immediately (the full NHL schedule is here) and teams can begin conducting transactions two hours after the signing, probably around midnight Eastern Time. Training camps will open Sunday. The NHL is, after 119 days back in business. Eric Duhatschek of The Globe and Mail tweeted, “Originally, NHL scheduled to play 82 games in 183 days, or 1 game every 2.23 days. Now, 48 games in 98 days, or 1 game every 2.04 days.”

 The NHLPA ratified the new CBA Saturday and, pending the completion of the Memorandum of Understanding between the owners and the players on the new CBA, the NHL’s 30 clubs will open training camp on Sunday. Six days later, we start the abridged 48-game season, what most are calling a sprint to the postseason — quite a change from the way the regular season is viewed in a normal year: as a marathon.

UPDATE (Sat. 5:40 PM): The NHLPA has announced its members voted to ratify the CBA, but said that the agreement cannot become official until the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) is finalized. Jesse Spector of The Sporting News tweeted that 667 players voted to accept and 12 voted “No.” There were reportedly  84 abstentions.  More on the delay in the previous update.

UPDATE (Sat. 4 PM): Somewhat unexpectedly — or perhaps not, considering the erratic nature of this entire process — the announcement of the PA’s ratification of the CBA has been delayed. This is because the Memorandum of Understanding between the league and players is still being drafted by the lawyers for both sides. The MOU summarizes the agreement reached in the negotiations and functions as the legal document of owner-player relations until the complete CBA is drafted, which is a much longer process. The NHLPA tweeted on Saturday morning, “Per agreement with the NHL, we will announce results of player vote later today. Discussions to finalize the MOU continue this morning.” Sports law analyst Eric Macramalla, whose thoughts explaining various legal moves during the negotiations, tweeted about the MOU earlier Saturday afternoon, “Drafting NHL Memorandum is massive legal undertaking; complicated issues, Canada/US laws – takes time; will be done today; NHL sked follows.” Teams and the league have refrained from releasing their schedules until the MOU is done and the NHLPA announces the results of its ratification vote, which concluded Saturday mooring. It is widely expected that the players approved the deal and training camps will open on Sunday. Teams also cannot make any roster moves, including contract signings and trades, until the MOU is completed and, while players have resumed skating at team facilities, coaches cannot join them as long as the lockout has not been officially concluded.

Because hockey players and coaches thrive best in familiar situations, the unusual nature of this season will require major adjustments in the way they prepare for and approach the opening puck drop. The shortened season will be thrilling, but nerve-wracking for everyone, with little time for experimentation or room for error.

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  • Published On Jan 11, 2013
  • Red Wings facing a new world

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    After losing out to the Wild in the free agent sweepstakes, the aging Red Wings may be forced to fill holes by relying on younger players, such as blueliner Brendan Smith, next season. (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    When free agents Zach Parise and Ryan Suter surprisingly signed with Minnesota last week, Al Muir wrote on SI.com how the two stars suddenly made the Wild relevant. I noted the ramifications for their former clubs, the Devils and Predators respectively. But the duo’s decision had a huge impact on another franchise:  the Detroit Red Wings.

    Of the teams in the hunt for the two premier free agents, the Wings were considered their most likely destination and may have been most adversely affected by failing to land even one. The Flyers, Penguins and Blackhawks were in the running, but they all still have good young cores of talent, including some of the NHL’s top superstars. You can’t say that about the Red Wings’ roster now, as talented as it may be. With the exception of goalie Jimmy Howard and forward Valtteri Filppula, Detroit’s best players are all over 30 years old and the team lost its top defenseman, future Hall of Famer Nick Lidstrom, to retirement. Injecting a pair of elite 27-year-olds like Parise and Suter into the lineup would have mattered greatly.

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  • Published On Jul 09, 2012
  • Was Lidstrom the MVP of his era?

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    By Stu Hackel

    Of the many things that Nick Lidstrom said Thursday morning while announcing the end of his remarkable playing career (video), it was perhaps the last one in his prepared remarks that spoke the loudest: “Retiring today,” he said, “allows me to walk away from the game with pride rather than have the game walk away from me.”

    This is a player who for much of last season was considered the best defenseman in the NHL, and if he returned next season, he’d still be one of the best players. But after being slowed by injuries and unable to raise his level of play in this year’s postseason, Lidstrom has his own standard of excellence to uphold. He knows he’s lost the inner drive to train as hard as he must this offseason in order to bounce back and reach that level of greatness again. He won’t cheat himself, he won’t cheat his teammates and he won’t cheat the fans if he can’t play with the same determined excellence that made him, without question, the best defenseman of his era.

    That’s not just me making that evaluation of Lidstrom’s talent and legacy, that’s the opinion of Scotty Bowman.

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  • Published On May 31, 2012
  • Who’s in the hunt for Coach of the Year?

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    Another season of dealing with age, injuries and getting the most out of his team likely won’t be enough to earn Detroit bench boss Mike Babcock his first Jack Adams Award. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    It’s been a rough season for coaches. Eight have been replaced, three — Lindy Ruff, Tom Renney and Todd McLellan – have been injured and forced to miss some games, and then there’s poor Randy Cunneyworth, the good soldier who accepted the toughest coaching job in the league, with the Canadiens,  which was made all the more difficult because they are no good and he’s unilingual.

    With the NHL season heading down the home stretch, our thoughts also turn to the good work some coaches have done. These are the men who deserve consideration for the Jack Adams Award as NHL Coach of the Year.

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  • Published On Mar 07, 2012
  • Hockey Weekend celebrates the game in the United States

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    Joe Louis Arena in Hockeytown is just one of the sites across the U.S. that will host games and events. (Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    It’s “Hockey Weekend across America,” a celebration of the game that also includes the NHL and NBC’s “Hockey Day in America” on Sunday. This nationwide initiative, which USA Hockey inaugurated five years ago, actually began today with “Wear Your Jersey Day” — and if you didn’t pull one on to go to work or school, consider wearing one tonight. I’m sitting at the computer wearing a circa 1962-63 Baltimore Clippers sweater with one of my favorite logos — and, yes, it’s really a sweater although, alas, a replica. I used to listen to the Clippers’ AHL games long distance over WBAL in the early ’60s. It’s a good, warm sweater and in pretty good shape, even though the sleeves are big to fit elbow pads under them. Makes it a bit difficult to type.

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  • Published On Feb 17, 2012
  • Red Wings’ streak only guarantees a place in record book

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    The 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens of Ken Dryden rattled off an NHL record 34-game home unbeaten streak, but most importantly also grabbed the Stanley Cup. (Photo by Melchior DiGiacomo/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Detroit’s mark of 21 consecutive victories at home has stirred up the beehive of naysayers who, not without at least some justification, believe an asterisk should accompany the Red Wings’ new entry into the NHL Record Book. But no one should lose sight of the bigger picture here and confuse what the Wings have done as an indication that they are so formidable that winning the Stanley Cup is their inevitable fate. Far from it.

    The Red Wings certainly know this and that while their home record is pretty amazing, their road mark is rather mediocre at 15-15-1. They’re hardly invincible. And when you look at all the teams that have put together record streaks of one sort or another during the regular season, almost none of them won the Cup.

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  • Published On Feb 15, 2012
  • Ken Dryden’s anti-concussions mission

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    Will there come a time when people look back and wonder why more wasn’t done to stop concussions? (Chaz Palla/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    It was another bad week for concussions in the NHL. Sidney Crosby, who many hoped would be back in the Penguins’ lineup by now, is still unable to practice. Unsure of his return, he sought help from a specialist in Atlanta and is seeing another in California. Center Danny Briere was concussed in Saturday’s game against the Devils. He’s the sixth Flyer to suffer that injury this season.  Teammate James van Riemsdyk is still sidelined; Chris Pronger is out for the rest of the season, maybe longer, and his wife Lauren went public with their struggles (video). The Jets’ leading goal scorer, Evander Kane, joined the ranks late last week. The Bruins’ Marc Savard (photo above), whose career is in doubt after repeated concussions, disclosed the problems he’s having with headaches and memory.

    When 28 players were concussed in December, we titled our post on the subject  “An Awful Month for NHL Concussions.” The way Hockey Hall of Famer Ken Dryden sees it, however, it would be a mistake to believe that this epidemic of head injuries is a temporary condition, and that the game will get past it the way one gets over a cold. We’re better off thinking that this painful situation is the way things in the NHL will continue to be.

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  • Published On Jan 23, 2012
  • A vanishing shot; Semin’s enigma

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    Alex Semin of the Washington Capitals is a supremely talented player, but maddeningly inconsistent. (Russell Lansford/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    One of hockey’s most breathtaking plays has nearly vanished from the NHL: the goal scored by a player who zips down the wing and blows a slap shot past the goaltender.

    “You can’t do that kind of shot today,” Avalanche forward Matt Duchene​ told my SI.com cohort Adrian Dater at his regular Denver Post gig. “It’s not going to work. The goalies are going to make the save, and you can’t even take the time to wind up like that off the rush. The (defenseman) is going to get to you and take away the puck or block the shot in the time it takes you to wind the stick back.”

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  • Published On Dec 22, 2011
  • Coaching in Montreal presents unique demands

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    Randy Cunneyworth, the Canadiens’ interim coach is probably glad to be on a six-game road trip as it takes him out of the firestorm his hiring sparked in Montreal. (Photo by Brian Jenkins/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    Fewer and fewer things in this world make sense, it seems, especially at first glance. The real essence of stuff often lies beneath the surface, requiring examination and context to become clear. The appointment of Randy Cunneyworth as coach of the Montreal Canadiens and the outcry among Quebec’s Francophone majority because he cannot speak French qualifies as one of those things.
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  • Published On Dec 20, 2011
  • It’s the time of the season for NHL coaching upheaval

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    Despite his recent three-year extension, coach Randy Carlyle was given the old heave-ho at the season’s quarter pole before the struggling Ducks fell too far out of the playoff race. (Joe Scarnici/ZUMAPRESS.com)

    By Stu Hackel

    As this week dawned, Bruce Boudreau was coaching the Capitals, Paul Maurice was bench-bossing the Hurricanes and Randy Carlyle was directing the Ducks. It’s only Thursday and, today, Bruce Boudreau is directing the Ducks, Kirk Muller is bench-bossing the Hurricanes and Dale Hunter is coaching the Caps. What will tomorrow bring?

    Firing coaches has gone viral in the NHL. Why? “It’s about the time,” says Scotty Bowman, the legendary Hall of Famer who won nine Stanley Cups as a coach. “The first quarter of the season is gone. You’re coming up to the one-third mark now. The end of this month you’re halfway. These teams, if they don’t make a move now, it’s going to be a long season and they’re not going to catch up.”

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  • Published On Dec 01, 2011


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