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On the coaching carousel and why hiring Darryl Sutter isn’t a ‘safe’ move – Sportsnet.ca

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A common complaint among NHL followers is that “apparently there’s only 35 people on Earth qualified to coach in the NHL” based on what’s viewed as a coaching carousel, where the fired get quickly re-hired and breaking into the ranks seems next to impossible.

The joke isn’t without that shred of truth most jokes hold, as teams mostly make conservative hires to avoid the type of big-swing-and-a-miss that could get a GM kicked out of what’s perceived as the Old Boys Club.

They’ve done the hard work to get in, after all, and if jobs are going to get passed around to those who’ve made it there, one assumes the last thing they’d want to do is rock the boat, get thrown out, and miss their turns.

What gets lost, though, is that being the head coach of an NHL team is a unique job, and a particularly challenging one given the myriad moving parts. On top of X’s and O’s (which, I’ll be frank, are weirdly similar across the board) and practices and in-game decisions, there’s the managing of young ambitious millionaires trying to climb over one another for ice time and opportunity so they can reap the benefits that come with those things.

There’s managing your GM and owner to go along with the expectations of a fanbase. There are media obligations. There are swaths of information in the form of analytics and sport science these days, and staffs have swelled in size to match the players on the ice. The job is not just running a few practices and throwing your best players over the boards in games, it’s involved, and takes measures of knowledge and confidence.

It stands to reason that having been a head coach is just about the best experience a person could have on their resume when applying for the job of being a head coach. I don’t blame GMs for not wanting to be the organization where a person cuts their teeth, and instead hires someone who’s been through it a few times and comes into the role understanding what it all takes. The GM’s career is on the line too, so hiring someone who’s shown themselves to be at least proficient in the role in the past likely feels safer for their own careers than choosing the mystery box.

That said, the Darryl Sutter hiring in Calgary doesn’t exactly feel like the type of safe re-hire that I’m talking about above. The man is four seasons removed from coaching in the NHL, and had since resumed his life as a cattle rancher, running his farm in Viking, Alberta, where he was seemingly content to have moved on from a life in hockey.

(Is this not the most Disney plot the NHL has cooked up since the Mighty Ducks? The uncompromising farmer from the before-times returns to the NHL to turn around a group of stubborn new-age youths? It can only end in glory, with the real twist in the end being what the farmer learns from the kids.)

I say it doesn’t feel like a typical “safe” coach recycling because Sutter isn’t that. He was out of the game, and even before that it felt like he was a bit of a coaching dinosaur. Everything in the NHL (and all sports) is moving in the direction of math and science and computers, and while I’m not suggesting Sutter is some luddite (though some may), I don’t think anyone’s labelling him as being at the forefront of any of those particular movements.

He can be a bit of a curmudgeon, and surely there were “safer” names out there for Brad Treliving to choose, because if this doesn’t go well, it could certainly come back on Treliving.

Claude Julien is a safe hire. Gerard Gallant is a safe hire. Bruce Boudreau is a safe hire. Sutter is one of the few willing to swim against the NHL currents, and so hiring him is too.

When I first heard the Flames re-hired Sutter, I was taken aback. The Flames history of coaching hires is flat-out terrible, and part of that has felt like a lack of due diligence and considering all candidates. My first impression is that this was just more of that, grabbing the closest available name that wasn’t going to cost a fortune. But with some reflection I can see it isn’t that.

More there in a second, but first consider the Flames’ coach hirings since Sutter was last there.

Every guy is either a first-time coach (some would say to keep costs down, as I’ve heard many times on Calgary radio), or a retread on his career’s last legs. None of them — not one of the seven — has held another head coaching job in the NHL since their time in Calgary (and given our discussion on coaching carousels, that’s some statement). Only one remains employed in the NHL to this day, though we’ll give Ward the benefit of the doubt as it’s a near-certainty he’ll find another NHL role this off-season.

Jim Playfair
Mike Keenan
Brent Sutter
Bob Hartley
Glen Gulutzan (currently an assistant coach in Edmonton)
Bill Peters
Geoff Ward

This feels different because it’s obviously a hire made for a purpose, and not just a hire of the closest available name they know well enough (who won’t cost a fortune, as someone like Julien surely would).

I believe this management group has developed real questions about the core of the team and its ability to knuckle down and do the right things on a consistent basis. Treliving has recently said this is a team with an “A” game and a “D” game, and nothing in between. Well, motivated and committed players with talent, even on their off-nights, should be able to find a “B” game. That’s where the questions come in.

Moving on from this core would be a big deal. We’re talking about massive trades, a rebuild with a long-term vision, and likely years of transition (and if you’re the ownership, are you sure you’re going to let Treliving be the guy to do that if you think this group he’s built has failed?)

In 2018-19, just two seasons ago, the Flames finished first in the Western Conference, and had the second-best offence in the entire NHL. Shocking to remember, right? They averaged 3.52 goals per game, which is exactly the offensive number that leads the entire NHL right now. Before you torch that core and start over, you better do everything you can to get the most out of some talented players you already have.

So, Sutter feels like just the type of guy who won’t take any guff from any player, and he might also be the type to use the word “guff.” There’ll be no time for half-efforts or excuses. It’ll just be “go out there and work hard or you won’t play.” It’s not that unlike the way John Tortorella coaches, minus the yelling. Do it or don’t, that’s up to you, but we’ll decide what to do with you based on your actions.

This hiring is about the core of players, and finding someone who can squeeze the most juice from it.

So in a world where coaches are recycled, it would be easy to view Sutter in the same light.

But I see a spot filled by someone who’s been known to run a team the way this core needs to be run right now, if for no other reason than to see if they’ve got “it” or not. Sutter’s more of a hired assassin brought in for that one task than he is some safe retread, meant to preserve middling results and jobs. And if he fails, then this core has failed too.

None of it feels safe. Rather, it feels like it’s now up to Johnny Gaudreau and friends to figure it out under Sutter before the clock hits zero on this group.

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Drouin must return to mentality that’s led to success this season – Sportsnet.ca

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It was something Dominique Ducharme said after his Montreal Canadiens played an abysmal game against the Ottawa Senators last week, something that only truly resonated after they lost 3-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday — a game that emboldened the struggle Jonathan Drouin’s currently enduring.

“Ninety per cent of the mistakes we made were mental, and the rest of it was above our shoulders.” the coach said after the 6-3 loss to Ottawa last Saturday, somewhat channelling New York Yankees legend Yogi Berra with this bit of wit and wisdom.

It was hard not to think of those words watching Drouin play the way he did on Wednesday. For much of this season, the talented left winger has played a primary role in Montreal’s success. He’s led them with 19 assists, been tenacious on the forecheck, physically engaged all over the ice, cerebral as always in his execution and, as he’s said on several occasions, relatively unconcerned by whether or not his name has been featured on the scoresheet.

But it seemed clear, after watching Drouin dump a breakaway into Jack Campbell’s chest with one of 32 shots the Maple Leafs goaltender turned aside to set a franchise record with his 10th consecutive win, he had diverted from that. And that affected the way he played the rest of the game.

It was Drouin’s fifth in a row without a point, his 18th without a goal, and he’d have to be a robot not to be suffering the mental wear of not seeing the puck go in more than twice since the season started, the torment of seeing only three per cent of his shots hit the back of the net through 36 games after 10 per cent of them resulted in goals through the first 348 games of his career.

“It is weighing on me where, when I have a chance and miss the goal, I might be trying to score too much,” Drouin said. “It’s something I obviously think about — every player would — and I’ve just gotta put it past me and just keep shooting pucks.”

Ideally, the 26-year-old wouldn’t be thinking about any of this. These are thoughts that weigh a player down and right now the Canadiens are in tough without Brendan Gallagher for the rest of the season and Drouin needs to be light and free to help account for that loss. And in order for him to do that, he needs to focus on what he does best.

Because the reality is that even though Drouin can score more, scoring isn’t what he needs to do in order to be at his best and really help this team.

“When his feet are moving and he’s making plays, Drou’s a pass-first guy,” explained Jake Allen, who made 29 saves in Carey Price’s absence. “When his feet are moving, his head’s always in it. When his feet are moving, he’s controlling the play, controlling the puck. He’s a guy who really can control the play for a whole line. You want the puck on that guy’s stick and let the other guys do the dirty work and he’ll find them.”

But when Drouin’s feet aren’t moving, there just isn’t enough of that other stuff happening.

When Drouin’s feet weren’t moving, he lost a battle for the puck in the offensive zone and allowed the NHL’s leading goal scorer to start the rush that resulted in the winning play of Wednesday’s game.

Auston Matthews to Mitch Marner, back to Matthews, off Allen and slammed into Montreal’s net by Zach Hyman with 9:39 remaining in the third period, with Drouin watching from just inside his own blue line.

“You give a 3-on-2 to the Matthews line and it’s the kind of play they’re going to make you pay on,” said Ducharme.

Was Drouin still thinking about that shot he didn’t bury in the second period?

It’s understandable if he was, but those are the kind of thoughts he needs to shake right now.

“He wants to do well, and I’m sure it’s getting a little bit in his head,” said Ducharme. “I think the best remedy for him is to be scoring that goal or making that big play, and I think he’s going to be energized by that and less thinking, more acting.

“It is a fine line. Those kind of thoughts is not something that you want to happen. But when you receive that puck and you see the opening and stuff, (the slump) comes back to (your mind). That’s why the mental part of the game is something that’s very tricky. It’s not his will to be thinking that way. Every player who’s going through a time like that will have that thought and scoring that goal will take him to a different level. At those kind of times you need to make it even simpler and being even more inside going at the net and finding a garbage (goal) right there and you put it in and sometimes you go on a little run. It might be that kind of goal that he needs to get that monkey off his back.”

It’s the kind of goal Corey Perry scored twice to give the Canadiens a chance in this game.

But Drouin isn’t Perry, who rightly pointed out after the game he’s made a career of scoring goals that way. And even if Drouin can borrow from what Perry does next time he has a chance like the one Brett Kulak set him up with for that breakaway, there are other ways he can positively impact the game.

You can appreciate that Drouin said he’s putting pressure on himself to score more and help make up for the goals the team will be missing with Gallagher sidelined, but that might not get him to where he needs to be mentally to contribute as much as he already has this season.

What would, though, is a sharp turn towards the mentality he described just days ago. The one that’s enabled him to be a much more consistent player this season than he has in seasons past.

“When I was younger, I’d stay on one game or stay on one play for too long and wouldn’t be able to let it go for a bit or a couple of days,” Drouin said. “But I think for me now it’s can I look at myself in the mirror after a game and did I give my good effort? Was I a part of this game? Was I doing something right in a lot of areas?

“That’s what I do now. I think points are there, goals are there, assists are there, but it’s just about playing that real game and playing to help your team win.”

Drouin’s done a lot of that this season and has a chance to get right back to it when the Winnipeg Jets visit the Bell Centre Thursday.

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Scioscia to lead U.S. baseball bid for spot at Tokyo Olympics

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(Reuters) – Mike Scioscia, who won World Series both as a player and manager, was named manager of the U.S. men’s national baseball team on Tuesday, as they seek a spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

After 19 seasons as manager of the Anaheim Angels, guiding them to their only World Series win in 2002, Scioscia will make his international coaching debut in June when the United States hosts the Baseball Americas Qualifier in Florida.

For the tournament the U.S. will be grouped with the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Nicaragua in Pool A while Canada, Colombia, Cuba, and Venezuela will make up Pool B.

The top two teams from each pool will advance to the Super Round, where the country with the best overall record will earn a spot in the Tokyo Olympic tournament.

Second and third-place finishers will advance to a final qualifier, joining Australia, China, Taiwan, and the Netherlands.

“Mike’s tenure with the Angels’ franchise was nothing short of spectacular, creating and celebrating a culture of success with six division titles, an American League pennant, and its first-ever World Series title,” said USA Baseball Executive Director/CEO Paul Seiler in a statement. “More impactfully, his leadership, integrity, and character are unparalleled in our game, making him the perfect fit for the USA Baseball family.”

The Olympic tournament will take place from July 28-Aug. 7 in Fukushima City and Yokohama.

Hosts Japan, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico have already secured a berth in the six-team field.

 

(Reporting by Steve Keating in Toronto. Editing by Toby Davis)

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Masters 2021: Tiger Woods says he'll miss Champions Dinner, running up DJ's bill – Golf Channel

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AUGUSTA, Ga. – Dustin Johnson will host his first Champions Dinner on Tuesday night in the Augusta National clubhouse, and he’ll be joined by several past Masters champions.

One former winner who won’t be there is five-time champ Tiger Woods, who is still home in South Florida recovering from a serious car accident in February near Los Angeles. Justin Thomas, who is still working toward his invite to the prestigious dinner, said Woods texted him Friday night and was “bummed” to not be at the Masters this year.

Woods then tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he’ll miss one of his favorite nights of the year.

“I’ll miss running up @DJohnsonPGA’s bill at the Champions Dinner tonight,” Woods said. “It’s still one of my favorite nights of the year.”

Johnson responded to Woods’ tweet, saying: “Will miss having you here. This week isn’t the same without you.”

The PGA Tour announced that the club would leave a seat open for Woods at the dinner, though the tweet has since been taken down.

Johnson will serve a menu including filet mignon, sea bass and peach cobbler.

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