Hello, good people. This edition of our mailbag feature takes a bit of a detour from our usual topics and answers several curiosity questions you guys have swirling around in your heads. I like a little change of pace, especially when it opens up a lot of opportunities for opinionated discussion. Let’s get started.
Who are the most terrifying coaches in the NHL?— Zia (@DAflying81) December 2, 2017
This is such an intriguing question and one that’s so different from any I’ve ever been prompted with in the past. When first reading it, I wasn’t exactly sure what this fan meant by “terrifying,” but I’m assuming they basically meant what coaches, in my opinion, have the most intimidating style and tenacity in the league that makes facing them worrisome in the eyes of the Penguins.
So to answer, I took a lot around the NHL to the teams who have the best records, the most talented players, and then of course, the most effective styles of play that are difficult to face. Obviously Mike Sullivan would be on this list if it weren’t about who Pittsburgh will have trouble with, but here are the finalists for each of my self-made categories:
Hellish Style of Play: Guy Boucher
Bond villain Ottawa Senators head coach Guy Boucher is touted for his detrimental ability to suck the life out of a team using his infamous system. He implores his players to be calculated, controlled, absent of any improvisation, and focused on a low-event seeking mindset. For the fair-weather hockey fan, these are all synonyms for boring and agonizing to watch. But for Ottawa, it was methodical and defensive-minded, and it worked really well.
Evident last season in the Eastern Conference Final, Pittsburgh facing Ottawa was almost laughable to many media members and fans. But once that series kicked off, it was clear that Boucher’s system was forcing the Penguins to play a completely different style of hockey against the Senators than their usual bread and butter: fast-paced and explosive. It didn’t take long for Boucher to not only successfully frustrate an entire organization and fanbase, but bore them to death in the process. It wasn’t luck that drove the ECF to seven games.
Perfect Creator of Mismatches: Jon Cooper
Tampa Bay, currently the league’s best team and Atlantic division frontrunner, is led by a guy who’s had quite the interesting path to the head coaching job of the Lightning. Not only does the former lawyer have an arsenal of superstar talent to work with in Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, which in itself is intimidating to begin with, Cooper has an exceptional eye for creating mismatches on the ice in the matchups he chooses to roll out each game.
He carefully chooses his line combinations to adapt to the opponent he’s facing each night while implementing the 11/7 lineup — 11 forwards instead of the traditional 12 and seven defensemen instead of the traditional six.
Cooper used the 11/7 lineup to near perfection during the 2011-12 season while coaching the Lightning’s AHL affiliate in Norfolk. The Admirals won 43 of their final 46 games, including an astonishing 28 straight, en route to the Calder Cup championship. I bet Cooper has similar goals this season for Tampa Bay and will make winning the east a tall task for Pittsburgh if the Lightning never slow down.
An Exceptional Leader: Mike Babcock
Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock has a pretty successful past that’s garnered him the upmost respect from not only the players he’s coached, but also most people involved in or fans of the game of hockey. He’s taken several teams to conference championships and Stanley Cup Finals, with one championship ring to his name.
Babcock is commended for his talents in developing young players (just look at the average age of his current Leafs team) into high-flying, offensively-gifted talent. His focus on puck skills and possession bolsters his team’s ability to handle nightly matchups through smart line combinations, rather than beat teams down with enforcement. The absence of penalties is also a feat Babcock has in his bag of tricks.
It’s not uncanny that Toronto is heading towards being a tough playoff opponent come April. The fact that the Leafs skated circles around Pittsburgh last week is a troublesome thought.
Straight-Up Crazy: John Tortorella
This isn’t so much a “terrifying guy to play against” as it is just a “terrifying guy in general.” John Tortorella is known for his, uh, abrasive personality, especially when it comes to his style of coaching. Before agreeing to come to Columbus and take on the head coaching job for the Blue Jackets, Tortorella had a dodgy past with angry tirades — blowing up at and battling with the media enough times to make it a normal thing to expect.
Since arriving to run things in Ohio, he’s settled down a hell of a lot more, but locker room issues and the problems his players had with his methods of discipline last season have been harsh. Maybe he’s better, but as of Tuesday night after the Blue Jackets played like absolute booty against Edmonton, he still shows glimpses of his old self:
John Tortorella with one of the shortest press conferences of the season pic.twitter.com/vpSExs4Apx— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) December 13, 2017
If you were counting, this post-game presser lasted 12 seconds — a new record for Torts!
Do we not have a 3rd Jersey this year? Haven’t seen anything other than the Road Whites and Home Blacks.— Richard Eve (@VolFFrickeve) December 6, 2017
This is sort of old news now, but with Adidas taking over as the NHL’s provider for jerseys this season, and with the league cutting ties after 10 years with Reebok, Adidas decided that, to make the transition easier, it would be nixing all alternate jerseys and only sticking with a home and away sweater in 2017-18. There’s some rumors and voting polls floating out there on social media about Adidas introducing alternate jerseys next season, but that has yet to be officially confirmed.
When is Jordan Staal coming home— katie c. (@katielynn906) December 2, 2017
Spoiler, Katie: he probably isn’t. Jordan Staal is currently sitting at a sizable $6 million, 10-year contract with the Carolina Hurricanes and a no-movement clause to match. He’s too expensive, his contract is way too tough to manage for Jim Rutherford, and he’d have to waive his NMC in order to go literally anywhere until 2023. It just isn’t in the cards.
When are our Pens gonna make a trade for a 3rd line center & a capable Dman?— danny pritt (@DaPritt) December 10, 2017
Sigh. Soon — I’d say by the end of December or January.
Check us out on Twitter @Pensburgh and look for our next mailbag tweet.