Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Johnston leaves Portland for Pittsburgh . . . WHL's regular-season schedule is released








F Kenndal McArdle (Moose Jaw, Vancouver, 2002-07) has signed a one-year-plus-option contract with Malmö (Sweden, Allsvenskan). Last season, with Västerås (Sweden, Allsvenskan), he had 24 points, including 11 goals, in 45 games. . . .
F Jordan Draper (Red Deer, 2007-08) signed a one-year contract with Mont-Blanc Megève (France, Division 1). Last season, with the Columbus Cottonmouths (SPHL), he had 53 points, 20 of them goals, in 56 games.
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When the week began, there was one WHL team, the Vancouver Giants, without a head coach.
Today, there are three.
The Regina Pats joined the list on Tuesday when the franchise’s new ownership group chose to fire Malcolm Cameron.
On Wednesday, Mike Johnston, the highly successful general manager and head coach of the Portland Winterhawks, was NHLintroduced as the head coach of the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins. He signed a three-year contract.
Johnston began working for Bill Gallacher, the man who would officially purchase the Winterhawks in October 2008, prior to the 2007-08 season. Johnston took over as GM/head coach in October, once the deal closed.
He leaves the Winterhawks having led them to four consecutive WHL championship finals. They won the 2012-13 title, but Johnston sat out most of the regular season, all of the playoffs and the Memorial Cup with a WHL-mandated suspension.
The WHL ruled that the Winterhawks had been guilty of various player benefit violations under Johnston’s watch, thus he was suspended. The franchise was fined $200,000 and lost a number of bantam draft picks.
Johnston has 231 regular-season victories, second in franchise history to Ken Hodge, who holds the WHL career record of 742. Johnston’s .660 winning percentage is a franchise record for coaches with at least 100 appearances.
From a Winterhawks’ news release:
“The Winterhawks had 20 players selected in the NHL draft during Johnston’s tenure, including six in the first round. Already, six of those players have seen NHL action: Ryan Johansen, Nino Niederreiter, Sven Baertschi, Tyler Wotherspoon, Ty Rattie and Seth Jones.
“Under Johnston the Winterhawks also became a leader in the players’ educational efforts, with all players, including college players, taking courses to further their education. Those efforts led to the Hawks being named the 2012-13 WHL Scholastic Team of the Year.”
Despite the success, Johnston was never honoured as the WHL’s executive or coach of the year.
While signing Johnston, the Penguins also gave assistant coach Rick Tocchet a three-year contract, and also announced that they will keep Jacques Martin, who had been an assistant under Dan Bylsma, albeit in a different role. Pittsburgh also has kept goaltender coach Mike Bales and video co-ordinator Andy Saucier.
On Wednesday, the Penguins fired assistant coaches Todd Reirden and Tony Granato, with Reirden signing later in the day with the Washington Capitals.
The Penguins are going to hire another assistant coach, and you are free to wonder if that spot may end up being filled by Travis Green, Johnston’s long-time assistant in Portland who just finished his first season as head coach of the Utica Comets, the Vancouver Canucks’ AHL affiliate.
“I’m looking to maybe bring Travis in here as an assistant,” Johnston told Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune.
Johnston and Rutherford talked during the weekend in Pittsburgh, then met in Philadelphia, site of this weekend’s NHL draft, on Tuesday. Johnston was introduced as head coach during a news conference on Wednesday afternoon.
To show you how crazy things can get when the coaching carousel starts turning, consider all of this . . . Pittsburgh GM Jim Rutherford originally wanted Willie Desjardins as his head coach. Instead, Desjardins signed a four-year deal with the Vancouver Canucks. . . . Johnston, who wasn’t one of the first eight men to be interviewed by Rutherford, actually interviewed with the Canucks last week. . . . Johnston last worked in the NHL since 2007-08 when he was an assistant with the Los Angeles Kings under head coach Marc Crawford. Johnston also worked under Johnston with the Canucks. . . . Crawford was one of the eight men interviewed by Rutherford
Winterhawks owner Bill Gallacher and president Doug Piper are in Philadelphia for the NHL draft. The search to replace Johnston will begin there, with them hoping to find someone who, like Johnston, is capable of wearing both hats.
"We like that formula, if there is a person with the skill set to do both," Piper told Eggers, adding that there is no rush to sign someone.
"I'd rather find the right person than be in a hurry," Piper said. "It's important to have someone in place, settled and ready for the start of training camp on Aug. 20.
"There are a lot of good candidates, which is really gratifying to us. Portland and the Winterhawks are attractive (to candidates). We're at the top of the game at this level. Bill Gallacher is an owner who provides the resources to be successful. And Portland is a great city. People want to live here."
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Kerry Eggers of the Portland Tribune has a comprehensive Johnston story right here.
www.pamplinmedia.com/pt/12-sports/225378-87733-whirlwind-leads-to-almost-a-dream-job-for-mike-johnston-new-penguins-coach
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The WHL released its regular-season schedule on Wednesday. Some tidbits . . .
1. While the Portland Winterhawks have a schedule, they don’t know in which building each game will be played. That will be finalized after the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers complete their schedule.
2. The WHL finalists from each of the last three seasons meet in Portland on Nov. 2 when the Winterhawks play host to the Memorial Cup-champion Edmonton Oil Kings. Will they be part way to a fourth straight meeting for the Ed Chynoweth Cup?
3. The Spokane Chiefs and Tri-City Americans will begin their seasons in Kennewick, Wash., on Sept. 20. It will be the 23rd time in the past 25 seasons that these two teams have played each other in a season opener. . . . The Americans will visit Spokane for the Chiefs’ home-opener on Sept. 27.
4. The Chiefs open the season by playing nine of their first 14 games at home.
5. For the first time in more than 30 years, the Brandon Wheat Kings won’t be at home on Remembrance Day (Nov. 11). Instead, Westman Place will be home to Game 2 of the Subway Super Series between Team WHL and touring Russian side.
6. The Wheat Kings and Moose Jaw Warriors complete their schedules by going home-and-home on March 20 and 21, starting in Moose Jaw. . . . Brandon’s 880 CKLQ Sportsman’s Dinner is scheduled for Jan. 29, with the Warriors in Brandon the next night. The dinner, normally held in early in February, has been moved so as not to clash with the Manitoba men’s curling championship.
7. The Wheat Kings will play three games in three nights on two occasions, both on the road.
8. With the Tim Hortons Brier (the Canadian men’s curling championship) in Calgary in 2015, the Hitmen will be out of the Saddledome from Feb. 17 to March 15.
9. Don Hay, who returns as the Kamloops Blazers’ head coach for the first time since winning the 1995 Memorial Cup, will make his home debut on Sept. 19 against the Victoria Royals. . . . Hay spent the last 10 seasons as Vancouver’s head coach; the will make his first appearance in Vancouver with the Blazers on Oct. 17. . . . The Blazers, coming off the poorest season in franchise history, will play six of their first eight games on the road.
10. Kamloops will conclude its regular-season schedule by playing four of its last six games against the Prince George Cougars.
11. The Prince George Cougars, in their first season without Rick Brodsky as the owner, will give the new ownership group a real baptism by fire. They open in Portland against the four-time defending Western Conference-champion Winterhawks on Sept. 20, then meet the Tri-City Americans in Kennewick, Wash., on Sept. 21. The Cougars open at home against the Kelowna Rockets, who had the WHL’s best regular-season record last season, on Sept. 26.
12. In past seasons, the Swift Current Broncos rarely have made their western road swing in the early portions of the season. This time around, the Broncos will open their western trip in Prince George on Sept. 30. “With farming being at a busy time in September and October we felt that was the best time to be on the road,” Mark Lamb, the Broncos’ GM/head coach, explained in a news release. “That will give our fans the opportunity to attend more games at home.”
13. The WHL playoffs are scheduled to open on Friday, March 27.
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The Moose Jaw Warriors will hold their annual general meeting on July 17 in the Heritage Inn. The fun begins at 7 p.m. . . . The Southern Professional Hockey League’s Augusta franchise, the RiverHawks, has moved to Macon, Ga., where it will be known as the Mayhem. A lot of folks were hoping for a reincarnation of the Whoopee. . . . D Garrett Haar, who completed his junior eligibility last season with the Portland Winterhawks, has signed with the Hershey Bears, the AHL affiliate of the NHL’s Washington Capitals. He was selected by Washington in the seventh round of the 2011 NHL draft while he was still with the Western Michigan Broncos. . . . According to Over The Boards (@OTBPuckWatch), the Portland Winterhawks have listed F Ryan Poehling, a 15-year-old from Lakeville, Minn., who has committed to St. Cloud State U. He played last season with the Lakeville North High Panthers, spending at least part of his freshman season on a line with his brothers Jack and Nick, who are twins and were juniors. . . . Over the Boards also reports that the Medicine Hat Tigers have listed Ben Copeland, a 1999-born forward from Edina, Minn.
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