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FlightZone: Mutiny in Michigan Succeeds, Coaches Reinstated

Sometimes, life imitates art.

Graig Abel/Getty Images

Revolt at the Dort Federal Credit Union Event Center

First things first: yes, that is the actual name of the Flint Firebirds' home arena. My goodness, that's a terrible moniker. It makes me long for the Jobing.com Arena. Anywho, now that that's out of the way, on to the story behind the sedition.

The Flint Firebirds, in their inaugural OHL season, rallied from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the Oshawa Generals 4-3 in overtime. And immediately after the game, Flint head coach John Gruden and assistant coach Dave Karpa were fired.

Wait, what?

Reports and rumours began flying that team owner Rolf Nilsen was unhappy with the ice time his son, 17-year-old rookie defenceman Håkon Nilsen, was receiving under the newly fired coaching staff. This in and of itself would have been a juicy enough story, but as it turns out, the players didn't take the news lying down:

I can hear the touching Jerry Goldsmith original score as I write this, almost as if I just watched the relevant scene and have embedded the video below:

One imagines Firebirds captain Alex Peters walking into owner Rolf Nilsen's office and saying, "For the coaching staff, Mr. Nilsen", before leaving his jersey on the ground. His request and action are then repeated by every member of the team, one by one, including Rolf Nilsen's own sonHakon:

Indeed, according to Frank Seravalli's sources, Hakon "could be heard making phone calls to his father, saying 'What the (bleep) are you doing?' and 'You can't do this!' Hakon, who appeared in all three games over the weekend, then joined his teammates in solidarity and returned his jersey. Players left a message on a whiteboard in the team's dressing room, stating: 'We'll come back when the coaches come back.'"

It was a dramatic gesture to be sure, but some folks were skeptical of its ability to produce results and reverse time. The response from one TSN talking head? "It happens in movies. It happened in Rudy. They all came in and put their jerseys down. It was a movie, guys. It doesn't work in real life."

Well Mr. TSN man, sometimes life imitates art. And in an incredible real-life manifestation of that movie's spirit, the players' actions appear to have worked, with a little weighing in from OHL Commissioner David Branch:

In less than 24 hours, we have seen a tremendous show of strength on the part of major junior players, one made in response to an apparently egregious injustice. With John Gruden and Dave Karpa rehired and the players' rage likely mollified, this mild PR disaster for the OHL would seem to have been swiftly dealt with. Though if I were Gruden or Karpa, I wouldn't be expecting any Christmas cards from ownership this year.

For more, read Frank Seravalli's excellent piece on the matter:

And now, your Central Division news (because this FlightZone is already going to be long enough without the other three divisions getting their grubby paws on it).

Central Division

Following a two game stint playing alongside Toews and Hossa, Chicago Blackhawks phenom Artemi Panarin emphatically responded to his reunion with Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane on the second line. Two goals and one assist later, the just turned 24-year-old from Korkino now has 15 points in 15 games. Not bad for an undersized kid coming straight from the KHL. (NHL)

In other news, Duncan Keith continues on the road to recovery after tearing the meniscus in his right knee. He'll almost certainly be back by time Winnipeg faces Chicago twice in early December, if not a week or two before. Woo. (NHL)


For both for Jack Skille and Ben Street, the roads have been long and winding since winning the 2006 NCAA Championship together. But now, nearly a decade later, they find themselves reunited on Colorado's fourth line. Fun fact: the Most Outstanding Player of that tournament, fellow Wisconsin forward Robbie Earl, is currently plying his trade with Färjestad BK of the Swedish Elite Hockey League. Now you know. (Denver Post)


After having cracked the opening day lineup, both Mikko Rantanen and now Nikita Zadorov have since been reassigned to San Antonio. The reason? So that the two of them, born in 1996 and 1995 respectively, can play substantially more minutes. Here's what Colorado Avalanche GM Sakic had to say on the Zadorov matter:

"A little bit like Rantanen, I think he lost a little bit of confidence...and if you’re not playing PK, PP — the quality minutes — as a young guy, (they need to go down). We’re going to need him (in the future). For a young man in that position, he needs to play a ton and work on his confidence. He’ll go down and play as much as he can and keep learning that way. The only way you can get better is by playing a lot at a young man’s age."

Joe Sakic, 2015

Joe Sakic gets it. Joe Sakic. This is the same General Manager who thought a contract extension for Brad Stuart was a good idea. Meanwhile, through 11 games, Nic Petan is averaging 09:32 of ice time and Andrew Copp 07:01. They have three points combined, and for what it's worth, the fancy stats are not strong with these ones. Oh, and did I mention that the Manitoba Moose are 2-7-1-1? Because the Manitoba Moose are 2-7-1-1. Draft and develop, baby. (Denver Post)


At 12-3-0, the Dallas Stars are off to the best 15 game start in franchise history. They have the top goal differential in the Western Conference, are fancy stat darlings, and have been getting outstanding goaltending from Kari Lehtonen. And for Stars fans, you'll be happy to hear of a change in their 3rd period habits: "Last season, Dallas was outscored 101-74 in the third period. This year, they are outscoring teams 20-11."

Long story short: the defence and goaltending are there in a way they weren't last season, and the offense is firing on all cylinders not named Valeri Nichushkin. Here's hoping that Antti Niemi is in net Thursday. (Dallas Morning News)


In light of Zach Parise's MCL injury, the versatility of Charlie Coyle is getting another chance to shine. This time, he'll be playing left wing in Parise's spot, alongside slumping forwards Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville. Though admittedly, while a goalless Pominville is surprising, a disappointing Granlund is not. (StarTribune)


Speaking of Zach Parise's injury, the team is going to proceed in a careful manner, according to GM Chuck Fletcher. Or in other words, they're going to ignore Parise's pleas of game-readiness: "The thing with Zach is you’re managing the injury, and you’re also managing Zach". This is probably the right move when you're talking about a player who has nine years left on his contract after this season. (StarTribune)


After failing to make the big club, both top prospect Kevin Fiala and KHL star Steve Moses have gotten off to mediocre starts with the Milwaukee Admirals. According to Admirals head coach Dean Evason, "...it was disappointing for them to be sent down for sure, as it is with a lot of people. It's been an adjustment for both of them." They're playing their way out of call-up contention, while Colton Sissons has 6 points in 8 games and Viktor Arvidsson 4 in 4. (The Tennessean)


In what must have been a mildly terrifying moment for the talented rookie, St. Louis Blues forward Robby Fabbri was summoned by General Manager Doug Armstrong to the front of the plane as the team flew home from Nashville. Fretting turned to smiles, however, as he was told he'd be sticking with the big club past his nine game trial. One can't accuse St. Louis of not sticking to their "younger, more creative" game plan. (St. Louis Post-Dispatch)

Later that same plane ride, Darren Pang caught up with the 19-year-old. One gets the impression that his teammates were also quite pleased:

Good for the kid. He must play the game the white right way.


For I would argue the first time in his career, Jake Allen is beginning to look like the real deal for St. Louis. The early returns on 2015-16? A 6-3-0 record, 1.71 GAA and .945 SV%. If St. Louis have indeed finally settled their long-standing uncertainty in net, that's one genuinely dangerous team top to bottom. They may even make it out of the first round this year. (ProHockeyTalk)


And finally, the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers quite literally brought the house down:

It's a madhouse, a madhouse!


As always, thanks for reading!