What we learned from the last week of play in the NHL:
In the eye of the Hurricanes
Carolina Hurricanes owner Thomas Dundon drew criticism for demoting Ron Francis from general manager to director of hockey operations, but while Francis assembled a lot of talent he never put the Canes over the top and into the playoffs. They will miss the postseason for the ninth straight season and they’re at the bottom of the NHL in percentage of seats filled after playing to an announced 71.8% of capacity through 34 home games. Francis had budget limitations, but big spending doesn’t always lead to big success. And when you can’t spend much, you’d better spend well — which he didn’t do when he signed goaltender Scott Darling to a four-year, $16.6-million contract last summer. Oddly, Francis is the only GM who has lost his job this season. No coaches have been fired — yet.
Capitals’ McLellan gets job security
Brian McLellan signed a multiyear extension to continue as Washington’s general manager, but coach Barry Trotz remains in the last year of his contract. Trotz’s coaching future will depend on the Capitals’ playoff performance. After three straight second-round exits — the last two after Washington had the NHL’s best regular-season record — his job security might need the boost of a long postseason run.
NHL puts perception over reality
According to Canada’s Sportsnet network, NHL executives are weary of hearing players and coaches complain about the inconsistency of goaltender interference calls and reviews, and they will urge general managers to tell their personnel to stop publicly questioning the rule. Instead of quashing dissent, the NHL should come up with clear definitions of goalie interference and stick with them. It shouldn’t be as hard as the league has made it.
Scoring goals is back in fashion
Only three players scored 40 or more goals last season — Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby, Toronto’s Auston Matthews and Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov — but two players have reached 40 this season and several others are close. Winnipeg’s Patrik Laine, riding a nine-goal flurry during a five-game goal-scoring streak, tied Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin for the league lead at 40 on Saturday. Ovechkin scored twice and Laine once in the Capitals’ 3-2 overtime victory over the Jets on Monday. Ovechkin reached 600 goals. Pittsburgh’s Evgeni Malkin (39), Minnesota’s Eric Staal (37), Dallas’ Tyler Seguin (36), Vegas’ “Wild” Bill Karlsson (36) and Kucherov (34) looked likely to join them. So might late-surging Connor McDavid of Edmonton (33).
Knights are still Golden
Anyone waiting for Vegas’ season to turn sour is still waiting. The Golden Knights aren’t maintaining their early pace but that’s to be expected, especially since injuries sidelined Nate Schmidt and James Neal. On Saturday at Buffalo they earned their 20th road victory, breaking the record of 19 road wins by an expansion franchise set in 1993-94 by the Mighty Ducks. The playoffs will be new territory, but they also don’t have any bad history to hold them back.