In case you missed it, Toronto Maple Leafs superstar Auston Matthews was no longer wearing the non-contact red sweater in today's morning skate, just hours before the game against the Montreal Canadiens. There were many people hoping he would be ready for the game, since he's been practising with the team for a few days already. Head coach Mike Babcock, however, did not think it would be wise to insert him in the line-up just yet.
He gave an important update about Matthews and other injured players. Here is what TSN's Kristen Shilton reported:
"Mike Babcock updates on #Leafs: Nikita Zaitsev and Frederik Andersen skated today, won’t play. Leo Komarov is day to day, won’t play. Auston Matthews getting close, won’t play."
We have to admit this team looks awesome ahead of another matchup against the Habs, even though some of our key players are injured:
Hyman - Nylander - Johnsson
Marleau - Kadri - Marner
JvR - Bozak - Brown
Moore - Plekanec - Kapanen
Rielly - Hainsey
Gardiner - Polak
Dermott - Carrick
The fact that Matthews is getting closer and closer to a return is great news for Toronto, but as Nick Kypreos said after Matthews suffered his shoulder injury, the Leafs simply have no reason to rush him:
“It’s been described to me as a second-degree shoulder separation,” Kypreos said. “Typically, that is two-to-four weeks. In the Leafs’ case, they don’t want to rush it back. They’ve built up this war chest of points in the standings. The most important thing to the Leaf management team is that he comes back healthy and pain free.”
The 20-year-old appeared in 53 games this season, in which he recorded 28 goals and 20 assists for 50 points.
With just three weeks remaining to the regular season, we do not want to jinx anybody. But you have to admit that it is quite something to see that no NHL coaches have been fired this season.
TSN's Frank Seravalli says it best: "Coaching job security has typically been an oxymoron, particularly in the NHL, where more than a third of the league (11 teams) changed coaches in the 2017 calendar year."
It is the first time since the 2008-09 campaign that not a single NHL head coach lost their job during a season. Back then, eight coaches had lost their jobs, and in the last two seasons, three coaches were dismissed. Seravalli believes there is a change of philosophy across the NHL:
"I believe a lot of teams have shown significant patience this year when it comes to their head coaches. Look at the Winnipeg Jets and Paul Maurice: the Winnipeg fans calling for Maurice's head last year and now, all of sudden, he could be a Jack Adams Award candidate this year. Like the Philadelphia Flyers, Ron Hextall very loudly said Dave Hakstol is going to remain our coach in November, fans were calling for his head, chanting 'Fire Hakstol' at Flyers' games during a 10-game winless skid. They now have been in a playoff position for two months, and I think a lot of coaches that's music to their ears."
“I’m encouraged that hopefully the league is taking a breath, trying to find other alternatives before pulling the trigger,” said former NHL head coach Dallas Eakins, who lost his job midway through the season back in 2015. “That’s great. It’s good to see no one is being let go. I think everyone is being given a real good, fair chance to do something great. Sometimes it takes time.”
Eakins, who seems ready for another run behind a bench in the NHL, understands why a change is coming to the NHL and the blame placed on a head coach's shoulders.
“The coach is an easy target,” Eakins said. “I understand when teams are suffering; you can’t change out 23 players. Heck, a lot of times in today’s salary cap world you can’t even change out two or three. The hope is to get a new voice, a different style of coaching that will help your group.
“What I don’t understand is that when you hire a person, you go through an intense interview process, this is your guy - and then suddenly he doesn’t have a clue what he’s doing. I’m cautiously hopeful teams maybe take a deep breath here.”
However, Seravalli notes that things will be different in the offseason.
"We may be looming to the version of a hockey’s version of Black Monday on April 9, and I think that one name that a lot of teams are curious about what are the Chicago Blackhawks and Joel Quenneville do? Do they decide to shake hands after thus dynastic run and three Stanley Cups and move on? If so, Joel Quenneville would be unemployed for approximately 34 seconds, and then from the market would be a trickle down effect."
If Quenneville becomes available, with now more and more rumors of him being on the move, teams that currently have a strong coach behind their bench could consider getting Quenneville the job instead. He is that good.
There is also a lot of questions surrounding the coaching situation with the Edmonton Oilers, Calgary Flames, New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes.
Which teams may make a change after the regular season comes to a close?
Photo Credit: Keystone Press