What we learned from the last week of play in the NHL:
Only one Southern California hockey coach got fired
For most of the week, it appeared possible both the Kings and the Ducks would have new coaches when they meet Tuesday at Staples Center for the first of four encounters this season. The Kings fired John Stevens on Sunday morning but the Ducks, who ended a seven-game losing streak by beating Columbus in overtime Sunday evening, have stuck with Randy Carlyle and show no signs of changing course in that regard. General manager Bob Murray is expected to try to make some trades before he would resort to displacing Carlyle, who is guaranteed a front-office job after he stops coaching. The Ducks’ array of injuries has bought Carlyle time, too. It’s tough to judge his performance when he’s missing so many key forwards as well as defenseman Josh Manson. Through Sunday, the Ducks had lost a league-high 93 man-games.
Pekka Rinne knows how to party
The Nashville goaltender, who won the Vezina Trophy as the NHL’s top goalie last season, celebrated a contract extension and his 36th birthday on Saturday. He did well on both counts. He agreed to a two-year, $10-million deal that will kick in next season and later stopped 26 shots in the Predators’ 1-0 victory over the Boston Bruins at Bridgestone Arena. Nashville has won three straight and eight of its last 10 games to take the overall points lead with 22 (11-3-0). “Both the organization and Pekka want him to play his entire career with the Predators, and this helps accomplish that objective, while also stabilizing our goaltending for at least the next two seasons beyond 2018-19,” general manager David Poile said in a statement. “We feel the tandem of Pekka and Juuse Saros is among the best in the league.”
The meek are inheriting the Pacific Division
Through games Sunday, Calgary, Vancouver and Edmonton ranked 1-2-3 in the Pacific, and the Canucks are staking claim to being the league’s most surprising team so far this season. Vancouver has won three straight, including a 7-6 overtime victory over Colorado on Friday that featured a five-point performance by sensational Swedish rookie Elias Pettersson, the fifth pick in the 2017 entry draft. Despite missing six games as a result of a head injury, Pettersson leads all rookie scorers by far with nine goals and 15 points in nine games. It’s heady stuff for the Canucks, who are deep into a rebuild in their first season without the now-retired Sedin twins. The Canucks probably will drop in the standings but Pettersson and 21-year-old Brock Boeser (four goals, 11 points in 13 games) are giving them hope for the future.
NHL is thinking globally
While in Finland for two games between the Florida Panthers and Winnipeg Jets last week, Commissioner Gary Bettman announced preliminary plans for games to be staged next season in Prague, Czech Republic, and Stockholm in addition to exhibitions in Germany and Switzerland. But his global reach went only so far. Bettman repeated his opposition to allowing players to represent their homelands in the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, calling past breaks in the schedule “terribly disruptive” to the NHL season. Players are eager to return to the Olympic stage after missing the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, and Bettman knows it. Look for that to become a key issue in the next labor talks.
The apple didn’t fall far from this tree
Claude Lemieux was considered one of the NHL’s dirtiest players during a career that lasted more than two decades, and he became notorious for the hit he leveled against Detroit’s Kris Draper in the 1996 playoffs that basically destroyed Draper’s face. Lemieux’s son Brendan, a forward for the Winnipeg Jets, might have inherited some of his father’s genes: The younger Lemieux was suspended by the NHL for two games without pay Monday as the result of an illegal hit to the head of Florida’s Vincent Trocheck on Friday. Claude Lemieux, though hated, played on three Stanley Cup-winning teams. Brendan might want to channel his energy in that direction.