The 2014 Stanley Cup Finals are set to begin Wednesday night in Los Angeles as the Kings host the New York Rangers in what could be the most-watched finals ever with the two biggest TV markets in the United States going head-to-head. But while most of the spotlight is on La-La land and the Big Apple, there has been plenty of other NHL news over the last few days.
–As reported here last week, the Panthers had interviewed Red Wings assistant coach Bill Peters for their vacant head coach spot. I was then told by a NHL source Saturday that Canadiens assistant coach Gerard Gallant was now a “strong candidate” for the job as well and tweeted that. Within hours The Florida Sun Sentinel reported the same citing a source (was that me?). Then on Monday Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin confirmed that he had granted Gallant permission to interview for the job which he reportedly did later in the day. A team source and NHL source then confirmed to me that Gallant “might” be the frontrunner as of Monday night. Well, numerous sources (one a Panthers source) confirmed to Murph’s Musings Tuesday that Gallant is indeed the frontrunner at this point and soon could be coaching 2013 Calder Trophy winner Jonathan Huberdeau again as he did for three seasons as head coach of the St. John’s Sea Dogs (2009-10 to 2011-12).
–While Gallant may be the frontrunner for the Panthers job, keep in mind that the current Penguins bench boss Dan Bylsma could very well become former Penguins coach when a new GM is hired in Pittsburgh and sources tell Murph’s Musings that could come as soon as Friday. If Bylsma is let go and the Panthers job is still open, he will become an instant candidate for that job as well as the open spots in Vancouver and Carolina.
–Those same sources confirmed the numerous reports that current NBC NHL Insider and Rink Side Analyst Pierre McGuire is the frontrunner for the Pens GM job at this point. Pierre Lebrun of TSN and ESPN.com reported Tuesday that former Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford and current Lightning assistant GM Julien Brisebois are candidates as well. If McGuire does get the job the hunch here is that Rick Tocchet, Ulf Samuelsson and Kevin Dineen would be strong candidates to replace Bylsma if and when he is let go — and he likely will be let go.
— Speaking of coaches, forgot to tweet or write on this last week but I had the pleasure of co-hosting “The Power Play” on Sirius/XM NHL Network Radio with Scott Laughlin May 27 prior to Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals from the Bell Centre in Montreal. During the show we had new Capitals coach Barry Trotz on as a guest and I asked him if after coaching in the same place for 17 years and being let go he contacted Lindy Ruff who found himself in a similar position just over a year ago. Trotz said that he did and that Ruff’s advice helped him a lot in determining where he would coach next and how to adapt to a new organization. So many coaches seem to be replacing each other these days and it was cool to learn of the mutual respect between the two longest tenured coaches over the last 20 years.
— During the Canadiens players end of the season media session, I was standing just outside the scrum around Max Pacioretty when he addressed reporters for the final time this season. I wasn’t recording the interview so I can’t tell you verbatim what he said but one thing I heard was Pacioretty answering a reporter about learning to deal with the heavy media scrutiny in a hockey-crazed market like Montreal. Pacioretty, as he has on other occasions, went on and on about how he didn’t appreciate reporters and fans calling him out when he didn’t deserve it and that through the help of family and friends on Twitter he had identified the guilty reporters. Fair enough, but why say that? Why even let them or the public know that as he also admitted, they get to him. Pacioretty had an amazing regular season and made such doubters eat their words. His playoff performance left a bit to be desired but it wasn’t for lack of effort. He has every right to take offense and make the media aware of it, but based on 12 years of experience as a hockey reporter that will just make things worse the next time he hits a scoring slump, especially in Montreal. If I’m one of the leaders in that dressing room, a coach or management, I’d take Pacioretty aside and urge him to have some thicker skin. Yes he should still use it as motivation — but do so privately and do your talking on the ice.
— To Pacioretty’s credit he never blamed anyone but himself for his struggles and said that the criticism that fell on him when he did struggle was warranted. The same can’t be said for Thomas Vanek and that’s — in this scribe’s humble opinion — a major reason he won’t be back in Montreal next season. It won’t be simply because of his playoff no-show and the fact he will ask for an absurd contract (that some GM will pay) but also because he laid the blame on Michel Therrien reducing his playing time and putting him on different lines in his final interview of the season. The Canadiens are a young and rising team that has a young core that become closer in their surprise playoff run. They don’t need a player who doesn’t show up in the playoffs and then blames the coach.
–Speaking of Therrien, Tony Marinaro of TSN 690 reported Tuesday that he had been signed to a two-year contract extension. That’s not a surprise now but be honest, halfway through this season and many times since he was hired for a second time in Montreal, did you ever expect to hear that news? I’ve been heavily critical of Therrien but I’ll give credit where credit is due. Therrien is one of the most improved coaches in the NHL. Congrats to him and thanks from this new reporter on the Montreal scene for his help this season.