Housley not New Jersey's choice for new head coach

Phil Housley was not the New Jersey Devils’ choice after all.

Following a weekend of conflicting reports about that franchise’s interest in the Nashville Predators assistant for its head coach vacancy, the Devils hired John Hynes on Tuesday.

The 40-year-old Hynes was head coach of Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Pittsburgh Penguins AHL affiliate, for the past five seasons. In that role he worked with New Jersey general manager Ray Shero, formerly the Penguins general manager.

Like Housley, Hynes has deep ties to USA Hockey.

Since they entered the NHL in 1998, the only changes to the Predators’ coaching staff have been made from within. Assistant Paul Gardner was fired following the 2002-03 season and his replacement, Peter Horachek, was fired to make room for Housley in 2013. Head coach Barry Trotz was fired last year, and two of his assistants, Lane Lambert and Mitch Korn, subsequently were not re-signed.

Housley likely will get an opportunity to be a head coach at some point. This was not it.

Jun 2, 2015 12:13 PM

Predators might be looking for new assistant coach soon

It seems certain that Nashville Predators assistant Phil Housley is a candidate to become the next New Jersey Devils had coach.

The question is how serious a candidate.

On Saturday, a report from The Newark Star-Ledger said that the 51-year-old was the top choice. A day later, Sportsnet reported that the Devils denied that was the case.

Former Predators assistant general manager Ray Shero is the new Devils GM and the one who will make the hire.

From The Star-Ledger report:

Shero has done an extensive search to find the right coach for the Devils, considering Guy Boucher of SC Bern in Switzerland, Washington Capitals assistant coach Todd Reirden and Wilkes-Barre/Scranton AHL coach John Hynes, but Housley has emerged as the leading choice.

“Some pretty strong denials (Sunday) from New Jersey,” Elliotte Friedman said on Hockey Night in Canada. “So you never know what they’re going to do.”

Friedman added that a decision likely will be made early this week.

If not now, Housley is going to be an NHL head coach. He is one of the most accomplished American-born players in the history of the game, having played just shy of 1,500 career NHL contests. He has been a successful head and assistant coach with multiple U.S. national teams and has extensive experience in the high school ranks.

The Predators hired him in 2013 to work with the team’s young, emerging defensemen. The results with Roman Josi, Seth Jones and others have been promising.

If the Devils hire him, it will be the first time the Predators have had an opening on their coaching staff that they did not create themselves.

Jun 1, 2015 2:37 PM

Predators, NHL roll out 2016 All-Star Game logo

It remains to be seen which players will take part on the 2016 NHL All-Star Game.

The contest does have a look, though.

The Nashville Predators and NHL unveiled the logo for All-Star weekend, Jan. 30-31 at Bridgestone Arena. Featuring a guitar pick design that is becoming increasingly common in local sports branding, the emblem also includes a nod to the state flag (three stars) as well as other symbols tied to Nashville’s unique identity.

From the official NHL release:

Designed by Fanbrandz and NHL Vice President of Creative Paul Conway, the 2016 NHL All-Star logo pays homage to the city of Nashville’s deep roots in country music and the Predators navy blue-and-gold team colors, which honor the city of Nashville’s seal and flag. The typography, inspired by Nashville’s music scene and the neon signs on Broadway and Music Row, instantly connects the NHL celebration to Music City.

“We’re very excited to not only tie in the Predators colors but the feel of Nashville into [the logo],” Nashville Sports Council CEO Scott Ramsey said, according to the Predators’ website. “I guess we’re about eight months away from the event, and we really think it represents our city and our event very well.”

Beginning Tuesday, Predators season ticket holders will have the first opportunity to purchase tickets for 2016 NHL All-Star events.

“Nashville is an iconic city, both as the home of country music and an exciting hotbed for hockey,” Brian Jennings, NHL Chief Marketing Officer and Executive Vice President said in the league’s official release. “We’re thrilled to bring NHL All- Star to Music City for the first time ever and feel that the new logo truly celebrates the city’s passion for music and for its hometown Predators.”

May 31, 2015 10:40 PM

Report: Radulov eyes return to NHL -- with a different franchise

Alexander Radulov’s agent says the mercurial forward would like to play in the NHL again once his current KHL contract expires.

Just not for the Nashville Predators.

Yury Nikolayev told the Russian website championat.com that Radulov’s preference would be to play for Colorado, specifically coach Patrick Roy, upon completion of his contract, which has one remaining season.

Google Translate offered the following interpretation of the Russian report:

CSKA forward Alexander Radulov could go to the NHL at the end of the upcoming season of the KHL and SKA captain Ilya Kovalchuk - two years later, when both contracts will end in Russia, according to the players agent Yuri Nikolaev.

"Remember, when Sasha played in the Quebec junior league and gathered there all the incredible trophies, who became his coach? Patrick Roy, who now heads the "Colorado". So, Roy phoned Sasha and says that he is waiting for the next season. Yes, he can leave after next season.”

Radulov played for Roy for two seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League after the Predators drafted him 15th overall in 2004. He scored 227 points in 127 games for Quebec, including 152 (61 goals, 91 assists) in 2005-06.

His last appearance for Nashville consisted of nine games at the end of 2011-12 (plus eight more in the playoffs), which satisfied the final year of his NHL entry-level contract after he had played four full seasons in the KHL.

May 29, 2015 6:48 AM

Free-agent-to-be Franson willing to return to former team — again

Apparently, Cody Franson is not the adventurous sort or in search of new horizons.

Back in February, the Toronto Maple Leafs traded Franson to the Nashville Predators, the only other NHL franchise of which he had been a part.

That deal did not work out as planned, and the Predators do not intend to try to re-sign the 27-year-old defenseman, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent in July.

So where would he like to end up? Back in Toronto.

“I enjoyed playing in that city and definitely I’m hopeful that Toronto’s in the mix come July 1,” Franson told TSN Radio 1050 over the weekend. “My phone will definitely be on and hoping that they’re one of the teams that calls.”

Nashville drafted Franson in the third round in 2005 and he made his NHL debut with the Predators four years later. The Predators traded him Toronto prior to the 2011-12 NHL season and in three-plus seasons he worked his way on to the Maple Leafs top defense pairing.

He has played 400 career NHL games – 236 for Toronto, 164 for Nashville.

“This is new territory for me,” he said. “I’m excited to kind of really just get it over with and find out where I’m going and start gearing towards the next season. I’ve been off for a few weeks now, taken my time off and getting back in the gym here.

“When you start getting back in the gym, it’s that time to start looking forward to the next season. With being in free agency, you don’t know where that’s going to be. July 1 can’t come quick in enough.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

May 27, 2015 6:42 AM

Disappointing end to first season in Washington doesn't dampen Trotz's optimism

Apparently his defense-first system was not the only thing Barry Trotz took with him to Washington.

The former Nashville Predators coach brought his optimism as well.

His first season as the Capitals coach ended Wednesday night with a 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Rangers in Game 7 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series. Yet rather than wallow in the disappointment of the moment, the likes of which he never encountered in all his time with the Predators, Trotz sounded a triumphant note in the earliest moments of his sudden offseason.

“We went after this game,” Trotz said, according to The Washington Post. “There was no nervousness in our part. We went after the New York Rangers in their own barn and almost pulled it off. I said to them all year, defeat is not your undertaker, it should be your teacher. And I’ll tell you what, we learned a lot. … You’re going to see the Washington Capitals back here again.”

Every game in the series was decided by a single goal. Two, including the season finale, were decided in overtime.

Each of the last three times he guided a team to the postseason, he got to the conference semifinals but no farther. With Nashville, he lost in six games to Vancouver in 2011 and in five games to Phoenix in 2012.

This time he got all the way to Game 7 with the Capitals. However, that was after his team won three of the first four games. New York won the final three and became the first team to overcome 3-1 playoff deficits in consecutive years. New York did the same thing against Pittsburgh in 2014 en route to the Eastern Conference title.

Trotz is now 19-32 in the playoffs as a head coach. He won seven games this year, which was more than he ever won in any of his seven playoff trips with Nashville, and faced two Game 7s, which was two more than during his time in Nashville.

“You saw two very good teams go nose-to-nose, with just inches, an inch here, an inch there,” Trotz said. “I think everybody here probably predicted seven games, and you got it.”

(Photo: Getty Images)

May 14, 2015 5:34 AM

Rinne's World Championships shutout streak reaches record length

It is now Pekka Rinne’s record.

The Nashville Predators goalie held Belarus scoreless into the second period Monday and eventually ran his shutout streak at this year’s IIHF World Championships to 237:05, a modern era tournament record.

He eventually allowed two goals but made enough stops in a shootout to help Finland to a 3-2 victory on the next-to-last day of pool play. Rinne is now 3-1 (plus a shootout win) with a 1.19 goals-against average at this year’s event.

“There is a reason why Rinne is a Vezina candidate in the U.S.” Finnish forward Tuomo Ruutu said, according to the IIHF website. "He is a top notch goaltender and one of the best, if not the best in the game."

The previous record was 206:26 in 2004 by Slovakia’s Jan Lasak, who at the time was a Predators’ prospect.

After an opening loss to the United States, Rinne posted three straight shutouts. He finally allowed a goal at 5:09 of the second period. That one gave Belarus a 1-0 lead. The next, with 31 seconds remaining in regulation, forced overtime.

Finland has 14 points, tied with Russia for second place in Group B, one point behind first-place U.S.A., and has clinched a spot in the elimination round, which begins Thursday.

“Rinne has been unbelievable,” Finland’s captain Jussi Jokinen said. “Playing the way he has gives our team so much confidence. We will need him for sure the rest of the way.”

(Photo: IIHF Images)

May 11, 2015 10:54 PM

Rinne within reach of one familiar, one legendary name in World Championships record books

Pekka Rinne has a chance to set an IIHF World Championships record Monday when Finland faces Belarus on the next-to-last day of pool play.

The Nashville Predators goalie has recorded three straight shutouts and has not allowed a goal in his last 191:56 of play.

That means he needs less than one period to surpass the modern record of 206:26 without a goal allowed, set in 2004 by Jan Lasak of Slovakia. Coincidentally, at the time he set the record Lasak was a Predators’ prospect, a 1999 second-round pick who appeared in six games for Nashville in 2001-02 and 2002-03.

Rinne’s three shutouts this year match his total from 2014, when he was named the tournament’s Most Valuable player. He also had one each in 2009 and 2010.

His most recent outing was a 4-0 victory Thursday over Slovenia.

He now has eight career shutouts at the World Championships, which is tied for third all-time with Sweden’s Tommy Salo. One more and he will move into a second-place tie with Russia’s Vladislav Tretiak, arguably the greatest goalie in the history of hockey.

The all-time World Championships shutout leader is Jiri Holecek of the Czech Republic. The five-time Best Goalie of the tournament had 12.

Rinne has played all but one of Finland’s five games to this point. In the other, Predators prospect Juuse Saros, a fourth-round pick in 2013, stopped all 22 shots he faced and earned a shutout of his own. Rinne and Saros have combined to save 95.9 percent of the shots they have faced.

Belarus has scored 15 times in its five games. On Tuesday, Finland (4-0-0-1) will conclude pool play against Russia, the third-highest scoring team at this year’s event.

Other notable performances by Nashville players at this year’s World Championships:

• Filip Forsberg, a right wing for Sweden, is tied for the tournament lead in goals with six in six games. Brock Nelson of the USA is the only other player with six. Forsberg has only one assist, though, and is 11th overall with seven points.

• Roman Josi (Switzerland) is the highest scorer among Nashville defensemen playing in the tournament. He has one goal and two assists is six games, which is well off his pace from the last two World Championships when he combined for five goals and 11 assists in 17 contests.

(Photo: IIHF Images)

May 11, 2015 5:15 AM

Laviolette named one of three finalists for NHL's top coach trophy

This time, being named a Jack Adams Award finalist will have to serve as a consolation price for Peter Laviolette.

The Nashville Predators head coach on Wednesday was named one of three finalists for the award that annually recognizes the NHL’s best coach. The other finalists are Calgary’s Bob Hartley and Alain Vigneault of the New York Rangers.

Laviolette has been a finalist one other time in his career. That was in 2005-06. He finished runner-up that year in the closest vote in the award’s history, a near-miss that was tempered by the fact that his team, the Carolina Hurricanes, won the Stanley Cup in their first full season with Laviolette in charge.

Nashville was 47-25-10 this season, its first with anyone other than Barry Trotz in charge of the team. That was an improvement of 16 points over the previous campaign. The Predators, though, stumbled in the playoffs and lost to Chicago in six games in the opening round.

Trotz was a two-time Jack Adams finalist with the Predators (2010, 2011) but never won.

“I can tell you that after a year gone by now and having the opportunity to work with everybody, what a terrific choice [to come to Nashville],” Laviolette said following the season. “I’m grateful for the opportunity, because for me, it was a terrific year and a great opportunity to work with great people and great players.”

It just ended a little sooner than expected.

Laviolette is the second member of the franchise named finalist for one of this year’s awards. Two weeks ago Pekka Rinne was named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, given annually to the league’s top goalie.

The Jack Adams Award winner is determined by a vote of the NHL Broadcasters’ Association.

(Photo: Getty Images)

May 6, 2015 10:31 PM

Next in line among Predators goalies signs on for next season

The line shows no signs of moving.

Nonetheless, Marek Mazanec decided to keep his place in it for now. After all, it puts him — at 23 years old — one step from the NHL.

Mazanec, a top goalie prospect, signed a one-year contract with the Nashville Predators on Wednesday that means he won’t be going to another organization even if there is no apparent opportunity to move up at the moment.

The two-way deal is for an NHL salary of $570,000 and an AHL salary of $100,000 for 2015-16. With Pekka Rinne signed through 2018-19 and one season remaining on Carter Hutton’s current contract, the most likely scenario is that he will spend most, if not all, of that season with Milwaukee (AHL) as he did in 2014-15.

He appeared in two games (one start) for Nashville in January but was 18-18-9 with four shutouts in 48 games for Milwaukee, where he split time with Magnus Hellberg, Nashville’s second-round choice in 2012. Hellberg (15-10-3, 2.33 GAA at Milwaukee) is a restricted free agent.

Mazanec, a 2012 sixth-round draft pick, has shown what he can do in the NHL. When Rinne was sidelined for roughly half of 2013-14 with a post-surgical infection, he went 8-10-4 with two shutouts in 25 appearances for the Predators. He was the NHL’s Rookie of the Month for that December.

He played well enough that season to make it seem likely he will be in the NHL full-time someday. It just won’t be next season.

(Photo: Getty Images)

May 6, 2015 10:10 PM