Bruce Boudreau was running a recent practice when one of his players skated over for a chat.
The Vancouver Canucks head coach assumed winger Conor Garland was going to ask him about trade speculation.
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It is, after all, that period in every NHL season when chatter runs rampant as teams look to either load up or rebuild ahead of the looming deadline.
“I thought, ‘Uh oh, he’s gonna ask me about rumours,”’ Boudreau recalled. “He didn’t, we talked about a hockey play. There’s been nothing said.
“They’re either keeping it all bottled up or it’s not bothering them.”
General managers are working the phones with the league’s trade deadline set for Monday at 3 p.m. ET, but coaches also have a job to do navigating emotions, players potentially on edge, and getting their current rosters ready for games as the clock ticks down.
“The media thinks every Canuck player’s getting traded,” Boudreau added. “Honest to God’s truth we haven’t had one word said by me about it, and not one player’s come up to me.”
And while Vancouver is on the playoff bubble and could conceivably go either way at the deadline, teams further the standings are in a different position.
The expansion Seattle Kraken, for example, will no doubt be hoping to deal from their pool of veterans, including captain and defenceman Mark Giordano, as the club tries to accumulate more assets.
“We have to be very careful to speculate,” Kraken head coach Dave Hakstol said of how he tackles trade season. “For me, it’s just a simple, honest approach. A couple of quiet conversations individually along the way, and really just everybody remaining focused on the job at hand together until things change.
“It’s that balance of the long-range planning or thoughts that you might have combined with the importance of today.”
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Toronto head coach Sheldon Keefe, whose team is in the market to add a defenceman as it challenges for first place in the Atlantic Division, said he doesn’t address the deadline with his roster players.
But like Seattle, the Arizona Coyotes are expected to be sellers at the deadline, and already made a deal last month that saw defenceman Ilya Lyubushkin shipped to the Leafs.
Head coach Andre Tourigny could sense a tension in his group after the trade was announced, due in large part to a long list of expiring contracts and rumours surrounding the future of Coyotes star defenceman Jakob Chychrun.
“We addressed it as a team,” Tourigny said of the deadline. “For the first time this year we felt, ‘Uh oh, there’s a little bit of soul-searching.’ The guys were thinking a little bit. Our mental skills coach talked about focusing on what you can control right now.
“Let’s live in the present. Make sure your brother in the room has that image of you. Don’t be focusing on your situation.”
Boudreau said that while his Canucks haven’t spoken to him about deadline rumours, it’s certainly happened during other stops in his coaching career.
“They’ll come up and say, ‘Listen, any truth to this? What’s going on?’ I give them the answer,” he said. “It’s a fun time of year for the media to speculate who’s going where and why and everything else.
“And then come March 21 they go, ‘Geez, I was wrong on that one, I was wrong on that one.”’
Tourigny conceded it’s probably easier said than done to block things out as a player when your name dots numerous public lists of potential trade targets.
But he added those same veterans, at least on his team, accept that whatever comes is out of their hands.
“They have a calm demeanour,” Tournigny said. “That helped a lot for the young guys and for everybody to say, ‘OK, nothing we can do about that other than making sure we do the best with our day, we win the day.”’
Arizona’s new home
Much has been made — and with good reason — about the Coyotes’ plan to play at least their next three seasons at a 5,000-seat arena on the campus of Arizona State University as the team works to get a new building constructed in the same Phoenix suburb of Tempe.
But Tourigny, who had a long career coaching in junior hockey in small, raucous rinks, hopes the intimate confines will be a short-term advantage on the ice after the City of Glendale opted out of its joint lease agreement at the team’s current Gila River Arena home.
“Whatever the size of a full rink, it’s intimidating,” he said. “You ever been in Owen Sound when it’s full? That’s unbelievable. You feel there’s 50,000 people in the building. They’re all on top of you.
“Hopefully we’ll have that kind of atmosphere.”
Tourigny also pointed out the most important aspect of the plan is to get a foothold in Tempe as the Coyotes look to get their US$1.7-billion arena project approved.
“What’s important for us is do the best we can with what we have,” he said. “Being business-wise in Tempe, that will be good for our organization.
“The key in all of it is having the construction of our new building.”
Kallgren gets another start
Leafs goalie Erik Kallgren — pronounced “SHAHL-grehn” — will make his second career NHL start Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes.
The 25-year-old Swede stopped 35 shots in Tuesday’s 4-0 victory over the Dallas Stars to become the fourth rookie in franchise history to register a shutout in his first start.
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Kallgren was also part of history last week when he made his NHL debut in relief as the fifth Toronto netminder to play this season, joining Jack Campbell, Petr Mrazek, Michael Hutchinson and Joseph Woll.
Mike Palmateer, Allan Bester, Rick St. Croix, Ken Wregget and Bruce Dowie all saw action in the Leafs’ crease in 1983-84 — the only other time the team has used five goalies.
Wild card woes
Calgary Flames head coach Darryl Sutter’s team currently occupies first place in the Pacific Division.
Good thing, too.
Sutter didn’t mince words when discussing the playoff chances of the Western Conference’s two eventual wild-card seeds, especially as the Colorado Avalanche continue to run away with the Central Division.
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“If you are a wild-card team I sure as hell don’t want to play Colorado in the first round,” said one of the Jack Adams Award front-runners for NHL coach of the year.
“It’s going to be a waste of eight days.”
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