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Coaches at work: Flames friction, rematch in Buffalo, Bylsmaspeak and more

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Philosophical differences between coach Brent Sutter and captain Jarome Iginla do not bode well for the Flames. (Colleen De Neve/ZUMAPRESS.com)

By Stu Hackel

Coaches are hired to be fired, as the saying goes. But what happens in between cements the perception we have of the guys who stand behind the bench in the NHL, the ones who prepare their teams in long hours of meetings and video study. It’s a hard job, especially when fans, the media and even the players believe they know better than the coach what a team should be doing.

That seems to be the situation in which Flames coach Brent Sutter finds himself vis a vis his captain Jarome Iginla. Sutter believes his team won’t be the consistent force it can be unless everyone buys into his scheme, and that Calgary will continue to play as a bunch of individuals and not realize the potential of its collective talents. Specifically, he wants Iginla — the 15-year NHL veteran who has topped the 1,000 point plateau and is only 11 goals away from 500 — to concentrate on his defensive game.

Right now, the 34-year-old Iginla is minus-12, with only five goals and four assists — not vintage Iggy.

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  • Published On Nov 23, 2011
  • GMs support Shanny, Loko’s rebirth and empty seats in Big D

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    Despite the fears of some general managers, hitting is not disappearing from the game as the NHL cracks down on dangerous play. (Blair Gable/Reuters)

    By Stu Hackel

    While some NHL general managers prefer to anonymously whisper to reporters about their support or lack thereof for the NHL’s crackdown on dangerous play — a crackdown they called for themselves — one GM at least has the courage to speak publicly: the Blackhawks’ Stan Bowman.

    “This is what the league has to do and I applaud the steps they’ve taken,” Bowman told Tim Sassone of the suburban Arlington Daily Herald. “At the end of the day the players have to stop doing this to each other. Penalties, and making them severe, it’s the way to go. The NHL should be applauded.

    “We want this to be a safe game for the players and they’ve done a tremendous job. I definitely support it. The chances are one of our players will be on either side of it, but that’s how it goes.”

    Bravo to Bowman for his strong support of a safer NHL, putting the game’s interest above his team’s and not buying into the canard that the severe suspensions the league has been handing down so far this season will dilute the game’s physical play. He’s certainly not alone in his sentiment, but it’s refreshing to see a GM who is willing to have his name attached to it in print.
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  • Published On Oct 12, 2011
  • Ovechkin’s chat, team auctions, and the NHL’s little town flirt

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    Coach Bruce Boudreau has Alex Ovechkin’s ear about being a better leader. (Mark Goldman/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    Reading the item today that The Washington Post’s Tariq El-Bashir wrote for the paper’s hockey blog about Alex Ovechkin’s new desire to be a better, more serious captain and leader reminded me of when a downcast Steve Yzerman approached Scotty Bowman after Detroit was defeated by the Devils in the 1995 Stanley Cup Final. Yzerman asked for Bowman’s advice about how he could become a champion. That turned out pretty well for Stevie Y, Scotty and Hockeytown fans. It doesn’t necessarily mean that Ovie will be holding the Stanley Cup as the Capitals parade through the streets of DC next June, but it does signal a new, more mature player who is willing to change for the benefit of his team.

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  • Published On Aug 11, 2011
  • Lemaire transforms himself and the Devils

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    It took two weeks for Jacques Lemaire to turn the shaken, out-of-shape Devils around and make them the team they were expected to be before the season started. (Andy Marlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Here’s an indication of just how bad the Devils played for the first part of the season: They’ve won six of their last seven games (the loss was in overtime, so they’ve taken 13 of a possible 14 points) and are still last overall in the NHL – 20 points below a playoff spot. But thanks to the guy who has often been hailed as the best coach in the game — Jacques Lemaire — there are strong signs that the Devs are becoming the team many thought they’d be in the preseason, although the postseason is most likely out of sight.
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  • Published On Jan 24, 2011
  • Caps’ Leonsis could learn from Lombardi

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    Washington Capitals owner Ted Leonsis (with Alex Ovechkin) wears his heart on his blog, Ted’s Take. (Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    If you’ve yet to see the HBO documentary on the life of Vince Lombardi, which (at least on my cable system) ends at midnight as an On Demand selection, you might want to wedge it in between Monday’s NHL schedule of daytime and evening games. It’s an effective portrait of one of pro sports’ all-time great coaches and it offers some cautionary lessons for today’s NHL, particularly the owner of the Washington Capitals.
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  • Published On Jan 17, 2011
  • Sharks swimming against the playoff tide

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    Patrick Marleau (12), Dan Boyle (22), Joe Thornton (19) and Jason Demers (60) are in uncharted waters for the Sharks, who are ordinarily a regular season powerhouse. (Don Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The San Jose Sharks lost again on Tuesday night, their fifth straight defeat, this time to the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Hey, that’s four wins in a row for T.O. — waffles for everybody!)

    So are the Sharks just playing it coy, hiding among the plankton, getting ready to attack in the playoffs, trying a new approach after years of being a top team only to be ousted early each postseason?

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  • Published On Jan 12, 2011
  • Blackhawks maintain link to past with class

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    Members of the 1961 Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks (left to right) Rob Crawford, Eric Nesterenko, Bill Hay, Stan Mikita, Glenn Hall, Bobby Hull, Ab McDonald, Pierre Pilote, and Wayne Hicks were honored by team chairman Rocky Wirtz and president John McDonough in a pregame ceremony on Sunday. (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Among the major team sports, only baseball rivals hockey when it comes to celebrating the past, and in our disposable culture of planned obsolescence, it’s always heartening when clubs maintain their connection with fans by saluting the players who have brought honor to the sweater and team crest.

    The Blackhawks paid tribute to their 1961 championship team on Sunday night, marking the 50th anniversary of Chicago’s third Stanley Cup, before a 5-0 shutout of the Islanders and you don’t have to be a Blackhawks fan to appreciate the significance of this franchise’s gesture to its history and its fans.
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  • Published On Jan 10, 2011
  • Lemaire too late to save these poor Devils

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    It remains to be seen how struggling sniper Ilya Kovalchuk will play better for a coach whose defense-first system has become an anachronism since the 2004-05 lockout. (Rich Kane/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    Merry Christmas, John MacLean. You’re fired. And down the Devils’ chimney once again comes Jacques Lemaire who, depending on your perspective, is either hockey’s smartest coach since Scotty Bowman or the evil genius who ruined the NHL. But if the purpose of this change is to get New Jersey into the playoffs, it may be too late.

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  • Published On Dec 23, 2010


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