Over the course of NHL history, the Montreal Canadiens have typically gotten the better of their bitter rivals, the Boston Bruins, in terms of championships and playoff series victories. With the hiring of Claude Julien as their new head coach, the Canadiens can add “surprising upgrades behind the bench” to that list as well. We’ll take a look at this huge move by Montreal, as well as a couple of plays that either have or will earn suspensions, and the passing of an iconic builder in the hockey world in this week’s look Around The NHL.
CLAUDE JULIEN: ONE TEAM’S TRASH, ANOTHER TEAM’S TREASURE
On Tuesday, just days after being fired by the Bruins, Julien was hired by Montreal to replace Michel Therrien as the Habs’ head coach. Therrien had been on the hot seat since Montreal’s collapse last season that led to them missing the postseason after a hot start. The Habs then started 13-1-1, but had fallen into a swoon since then. As a result, they made the bold move to fire Therrien and replace him with Julien, who is one of the best head coaches in the NHL and a guy that I said in last week’s column would be unemployed for as long as he wanted to be. This will be Julien’s second stint behind the bench in Montreal, as he was the head coach there from January 2003 to January 2006. The guy he had replaced at that time? Ironically, it was Therrien. Montreal immediately signed Julien to a five-year contract and will look to him to provide a new voice in the room for a struggling team that is still in first place in the Atlantic Division, but has seen that lead shrink over the last couple of months. Julien will allow Carey Price to play himself out of the month-long slump that he’s in, and he should be able to pry some more secondary scoring out of guys not named Max Pacioretty or Alexander Radulov. Great news for Canadiens fans, awful news for Bruins fans, who just saw their old head coach take over the reins of their most hated rival.
GUSTAV NYQUIST SUSPENDED SIX GAMES FOLLOWING HIGH-STICKING INCIDENT
During a matchup this past Sunday between the Detroit Red Wings and Minnesota Wild on Sunday afternoon, Wild defenseman Jared Spurgeon and Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist were battling for a puck in the corner when Spurgeon cross-checked Nyquist in the back. By rule, this should have been a penalty, and frustrated by what just happened, Nyquist turned around and whacked Spurgeon in the face with his stick, opening up a cut on his cheek. Nyquist earned a four-minute penalty for the incident and probably should’ve been ejected, but was allowed to remain in the game. The NHL’s Department of Player Safety reviewed the incident and handed down a six-game suspension, based on the fact Spurgeon remained in the game and Nyquist had no serious disciplinary history up to that point. The cross check actually hurt Nyquist’s case, as Nyquist can be clearly seen attempting to retaliate, although he claimed in his meeting with the DOPS that he intended to assume a cross-checking position and not hit him with a high stick. Regardless, intent is still intent, and it was enough to warrant supplemental discipline. Some folks will say that the suspension isn’t long enough, and I tend to agree, but supplementary discipline is a product of the collective bargaining process. The NHLPA has a big say in how punishment is handed out to players, and unless you’re a repeat offender that continually crosses the line (Matt Cooke, Raffi Torres, Chris Simon), you’re probably not going to end up with a suspension in double digits. Speaking of which……
ANTOINE VERMETTE SLASHES A LINESMAN, BANNED FOR 10 GAMES
On Tuesday night, Anaheim Ducks center Antoine Vermette took his stick and chopped it against the back of linesman Shandor Alphonso’s legs after losing a faceoff to Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu during the third period of the Ducks’ 1-0 win in St. Paul. Play was stopped and Vermette was promptly given a game misconduct for his actions. Vermette had a conference call with the league and the NHLPA on Wednesday, and on Thursday, the NHL handed a down a 10-game suspension, the minimum allowed by the league per their rules for abuse of an official without the intent to injure. Vermette, who is not known as a hot-head, appeared to act out of frustration when Alphonso dropped the puck before Vermette’s stick was on the ice, leading to the slash. After the game, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said he didn’t believe that Vermette acted with any malicious intent, but also acknowledged that any discipline was out of his team’s hands. Per the Orange County Register:
Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said Vermette reacted to not being ready for Alphonso dropping the puck and that the veteran forward wasn’t vicious or had malice in striking him. But he added, “He touched the official. What are you going to do?”
“To me, these are things that the league reviews,” Carlyle continued. “We have a view on it; they have a view on it. Whatever they decide, we have to live with.”
RED WINGS OWNER MIKE ILITCH PASSES AWAY AT THE AGE OF 87
Soon after last week’s Around The NHL was published, the hockey world was saddened to hear of the passing of Red Wings owner Mike Ilitch. Ilitch, who also owned MLB’s Detroit Tigers and was the founder of Little Caesar’s Pizza, bought the Red Wings in 1982 when the team was struggling on the ice and in attendance. He oversaw the team’s eventual rise back into a powerhouse that won four Stanley Cups in a span of 11 years and is currently riding a streak of 25 consecutive playoff appearances. Ilitch has been praised for his commitment to the city of Detroit even after so many others had abandoned it to go elsewhere. For example, in 2009 he was approached by organizers of the Motor City Bowl in Detroit. Wanting to provide a boost to a poor local economy, Ilitch agreed to sponsor the annual college football bowl game. The game was renamed the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. In an interview with the Associated Press from 2010, Red Wings general manager Ken Holland praised Ilitch and his wife’s commitment to their teams as well as the city.
“Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch are incredibly passionate about Detroit and their teams. They create a family atmosphere with stability, loyalty and a personal touch. But we all understand we have to produce to be around for a long time.”
Tampa Bay Lightning general manager and former Red Wings captain Steve Yzerman also released a statement in response to Ilitch’s passing.
“Both Mr. and Mrs. Ilitch, as well as their entire family, have had an immeasurable impact on not only my career, but my life. Going back to the age of 18 when I arrived in Detroit, the guidance, generosity, concern and love Mr. Ilitch had always shown me and my family are things I will forever be grateful for.”
Ilitch is survived by his wife, seven adult children, 22 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
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