Can Vancouver Canucks bump their slump with shuffled lines in Nashville?
Thursday November 21 - Vancouver Canucks vs. Nashville Predators - 5 p.m. - Sportsnet Pacific, Sportsnet 650
Vancouver Canucks: 22 GP, 10-8-4, 24 pts, fourth in Pacific Division
Nashville Predators: 20 GP, 9-8-3, 21 pts, sixth in Central Division
When a member of the NHL's coaching fraternity loses his job, does it make other coaches around the league question their own job security?
I'm wondering if Mike Babcock's dismissal from the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday is one of the reasons why Travis Green is showing very different player deployment at the morning skate ahead of Thursday night's matchup against the Nashville Predators?
Of course, it could just be that the Canucks got their lunch handed to them in Dallas on Tuesday.
Looks like Zack MacEwen and Tyler Graovac are in, Sven Baertschi and Loui Eriksson are out and the defense pairings have been shuffled.
Also, Green is sticking with Tanner Pearson alongside Elias Pettersson and Brock Boeser, while MacEwen will join J.T. Miller and Bo Horvat.
Job security for NHL coaches is always tenuous at best, and sometimes one firing can cause a domino effect. Last year, the Los Angeles Kings kicked things off early by firing John Stevens just one month into the season, on November 4, 2018. That was quickly followed by the dismissals of Joel Quenneville from Chicago on November 6, Mike Yeo from St. Louis on November 19, Todd McLellan from Edmonton on November 20 and Dave Hakstol from Philadelphia on December 17. After Christmas, Randy Carlyle was let go in Anaheim and Guy Boucher was turfed in Ottawa.
Like Quenneville, Mike Babcock was a widely well-respected coach on a big-ticket deal — the biggest in NHL history in fact, with three full years left at $6.25 million per season on top of what remains of this year. After carefully trying to build a winning team over the last few years — and looking, for awhile, like they were sort of on the right track — it's a bold move to blow up the plan just a quarter of the way into the season, even if it always looked like Kyle Dubas was hoping to eventually bring in the coach who had worked under him back in the OHL with the Soo Greyhounds, Sheldon Keefe.
Last year's rash of firings happened *before* anybody knew that the St. Louis Blues were going to strike gold by replacing Yeo with their AHL bench boss, Craig Berube. Babcock's dismissal came a year and a day after Yeo was let go. I can't help thinking that the Leafs are hoping to catch that same lightning in a bottle — first to get themselves back into a playoff spot and then to try to win a round.
Now that the gauntlet has been dropped, will this trigger any firings in other markets? There was talk earlier in the season that Jim Montgomery was in danger in Dallas; I daresay that fire has been extinguished.
What about Peter Laviolette in Nashville? His Preds are another team that's expected to do big things. They disappointed with a first-round playoff loss last year, and have been in a funk after a strong start to this season. On October 30, both Nashville and Vancouver were 8-3-1. The Preds have gone 1-5-2 while the Canucks are 2-5-3 over that same span.
While Sven Baertschi looks set to sit out on the Vancouver side on Thursday, it looks like B.C. boy Kyle Turris will do the same for Nashville.
With four goals and nine points in 19 games this season, Turris' name has often come up as possible trade bait, but his $6 million-a-year salary makes him virtually impossible to deal. He sat out for the first time this season in Nashville's 2-1 loss to Winnipeg on Tuesday.
After a tough night on Tuesday where he didn't get much help from the players in front of him, Jacob Markstrom will be back in net for Vancouver. At the time of this writing, Pekka Rinne is listed as the "likely" starter for Nashville.
One other bit of fallout from the upheaval in Toronto — now that Babcock is gone, player movement could follow as the team tries to re-work itself. As a result...
Though Tyson Barrie regularly torched the Canucks when he played on the first power-play unit in Colorado, his time in Toronto has been a disaster so far. In 23 games, he has seven assists and is still looking for his first goal although he has continued to log significant minutes. He's averaging 21:33 per game, just 14 seconds less than he played with the Avalanche last season.
Since it's not working out for Barrie in Toronto, it seems likely that he'll be looking for a new home when he reaches unrestricted free agency next summer. If they can, the Leafs might be open to trading him away sooner, potentially freeing up some valuable salary-cap space and changing team chemistry.
Definitely something to watch, going forward. You know there will be plenty of rumours flying around over the next little while.
In the meantime — enjoy the game!