Claude Julien, Hartford Islanders, flat cap (Puck Daddy Countdown)

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(In which Ryan Lambert takes a look at some of the biggest issues and stories in the NHL, and counts them down.)

10 – Firing Claude Julien now

Here’s how you know Don Sweeney is playing whatever the opposite of 12-dimensional chess is.

Like, everyone in Boston fried him for having the big presser for the Julien firing — inevitable though it may have been — during the Patriots’ victory parade. But that wasn’t why the timing was bad. It was bad because this starts the countdown on Sweeney’s own inevitable firing, which I see as probably being like 15 months from now if we’re being particularly hopeful. Maybe he makes it to the end of 2018-19 but I tend to doubt it.

Julien was the shield against anyone who was holding out hope Sweeney was building something worthwhile becoming almost immediately disillusioned. Whatever you think of the job Julien was doing, you can’t say it wasn’t “making a roster acknowledged to be pretty underwhelming over-perform.” And that includes Sweeney, who didn’t seem to be able to articulate why, exactly, he was firing a top-four coach in the league save for “a new voice.”

Well here’s the story, bud: That new voice might be different but different isn’t better. It is, in fact, not even as-good. Guaranteed. Sweeney says he wants to more accurately assess the roster without Julien, which is a hell of a way of saying, “These guys might suck but I gotta fire the good coach to find out for sure.”

It’s like if you were interested in anatomy and cut your stomach open with a steak knife to find out how the intestines work. “I have a pretty good idea of what peristalsis is, but how can I know for sure without bleeding out on the bathroom floor?”

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Bruce Cassidy’s job is likely to preside over an overdue sell-off. The new coach’s job (Nate Leaman, perhaps?) will be to ferry a youngish roster with a glut of bad-but-leadershippy veterans through the rebuild.

Trust The Process, I guess. But I wouldn’t want Sweeney in charge of that process. The Bruins will come to the same conclusion soon enough. And the clock is now officially ticking.

9 – A flat cap (for top teams)

Little-discussed in the news that the NHL now expects the salary cap to stay flat next year: It was also flat this year, and only went up because the players went against their own best interest (insofar as keeping a larger portion of their paychecks) and used the cap inflator.

So that’s two years in which the cap was effectively flat, and it’s the teams that spend money who will suffer most. Which is dumb for a lot of reasons, of course, but mostly it’s dumb because it disincentives league-wide team spending on players. Because with a flat cap it’s not like bad teams are being forced to increase spending, and they won’t unless they can obtain good younger players from Chicago every year.

And more teams are going to join that Chicago-y group in the near future. Good for the league’s agenda of forced parity. Bad for teams that want to keep some distance between themselves and the riff-raff below the elite level. The best, most skilled teams in the league aren’t exactly head-and-shoulders against all but a small handful of the worst in any given game. Redistribution of talent from the elites to the not-elites — while effectively socialist and therefore good — grinds the league to a further ill-defined morass of mediocrity.

8 – Not moving the Coyotes

How is this working out for the owners and also the league? Is it working out well?

But at least the good people of Glendale are getting their money’s worth.

7 – Mike Ribeiro’s trade demand

“Hi Dave? Hey it’s another GM. Doesn’t matter who. Anyway, listen, I was wondering if I could trade for this 36-year-old guy who makes $3.5 million against the cap and has four goals this season and also once settled a lawsuit alleging sexual assault. Yes, I’ll hold.”

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6 – The Hartford Islanders

I’m trying to come up with a worse idea than moving the Islanders from Brooklyn to a decrepit 42-year-old rink that seats less than 15,000 that already has two hockey tenants in a city with just 1.2 million people in the metro area.

Maybe moving them back to Nassau Coliseum but that’s about it I think.

5 – A Pierre Lacroix return?

Reports indicate Pierre Lacroix would be willing to take over the Avs once again.

A report out of my house indicates so would I.

And I bet I’d do a better job than Pierre Lacroix. Being a GM really isn’t hard from a player management point of view. It is in GMs’ best interests to make it seem that way.

Because yeah Lacroix made all those nice trades when teams were very dumb, and also hey look at that he helped drive the Avs into the ground in the mid-2000s because he couldn’t adapt to the changing league and an aging roster, and they’ve been a team that (even in the best of times) hasn’t been worth caring about ever since.

Wow. Crazy.

4 – The Panthers?

Hey look at that, Florida got Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau back at a time when the team was already starting to play better as a whole (with points in five of their last six games). And then a few days later, the Bruins fired their coach who was keeping them from totally circling the drain.

Did… was that…? I think it was. The Panthers’ playoff window just opened this year. A little bit, but it’s there. Well well well. I mean, they’re still not all that good or anything and seem primed for an early bounce-out as a best-case scenario.

3 – Hockey Is For Everyone

Great idea in theory, but as with anything else in this league, I kinda just sit here waiting to see how they screw it up. Andrew Shaw’s inclusion doesn’t fill me with optimism.

2 – Trading Iginla to a contender

Someone please do this. Doesn’t matter to me if he’s a fourth-line winger. But I want that beautiful kind man to get a Cup this season. That would be extremely good. To me.

1 – A flat cap (for lower-end teams)

If you want to give up a good pick or prospect, you’re about to get a hell of a lot of options to lock down some pretty good veterans that can help you win now. Especially because of that whole “expansion draft” thing that will continue to monkey with everyone’s roster plans.

(Haha joke’s on you. You have to take Brent Seabrook.)

(Not ranked this week: Nothing.

This week I hope you are blessed with boundless happiness and joy in your life and that’s it!!!!!)


Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is here and his Twitter is here.

(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)



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