Even More Rumblings and Grumblings from Around the League
Another week has passed and we are now passing the one quarter-mark of this 2002-03 season. As always, there are lots of issues to discuss and I’m sure everyone out there in HTR land has an opinion about one or all of them. Trades, rumors, firings, and off-ice happenings are the meat and potatoes of this website, and I am all to happy to throw some scraps out to the starving poor – especially on a slow day like today.
COACHING CHANGE ABOUT TO HAPPEN IN THE SADDLEDOME? (tsn.ca)
If there is one coach in the League who had better start working on his resume, it is Greg Gilbert of the Calgary Flames. Over the past couple of weeks, there has been growing sentiment that Gilbert would be the first of the coaching fraternity to get the boot. After Thursday’s sixth consecutive loss, it seems like the countdown to his tenure’s demise has begun. While it’s easy to say that a coach should be fired, hiring a new one is another problem in and of itself. Bob McKenzie of TSN speculates that the new man in Horse Town could be none other than current Dallas Stars executive (also former coach and GM) Bob Gainey. McKenzie thinks that Gainey is tiring of his desk job in Texas, and could be ready for another challenge. There is a connection, as Flames GM Craig Button worked under Gainey in Dallas. Other candidates available include Ron Wilson, Alain Vigneault, and the most heard from the vox populi, Ted Nolan.
My take: I agree with McKenzie on this one. The Flames are in desperate need of a swift kick in the ass, and a big name like Gainey, with a world of experience behind him, could be just the tonic for what ails the Calgary franchise. Gilbert seems to have just lost the team. It would have been interesting to see how someone like Gainey would have handled Marc Savard.
CHELIOS LIKELY TO BE FINED FOR REMARKS (Detroit Free Press, Toronto Star)
Bolt your doors, put the kids to bed, and tell the wife to go sew something because another NHL star player is criticizing the officiating. If you need extra incentive to do those things, it’s Chris Chelios who has opened his mouth – yet again. In an interview published in yesterday’s Detroit Free Press (which you can’t just take off the news stand, they actually want you to pay for it – what’s up with that?) the Methuselan blueliner went on one of his patented tirades about the state of the game and the rule changes – sorry, rule ENFORCEMENTS – that went into effect this season. In classic Chelios style, he opined that “prima donna” players are “crying about hooking and holding.” He also echoed similar statements about the officials that players like Brett Hull, Eric Lindros, Marc Bergevin, and Mark Recchi had already made public. Saying that it was not the fault of the referees, but the league itself: “You don’t know what they’re calling, and they don’t know what they’re calling.” He also went on to say that the game is being ruined “no matter what Mario says.” Seeing as how a not-so-well-known player like Bergevin can be fined a grand for comments of that ilk, it is logical to assume that Chelios will be getting a payroll deduction in the coming week.
My take: What can I say, it is Chris Chelios. This is, after all, the man who flew into a fit of unbridled rage after a Barca lounger looked at him the wrong way. That being said, I am not going to agree with him completely, but his comments do have a hint of merit. I think the players need to have some degree of patience, as the referees are still working out what has to be called and what doesn’t. Also, we would do well to remember that Chelios himself embodies the clutching-and-grabbing style that the league so despises. His thinly veiled insult at Lemieux was un-called for, as Damien Cox so eloquently put it: “The question seems straightforward. Do we want a game preferred by Chris Chelios, or one preferred by Mario Lemieux? Let’s just say a lot more people buy tickets to watch Lemieux and leave it at that.”
FLEURY CLEARED TO PRACTICE WITH ‘HAWKS (ESPN.com)
Chicago Blackhawks winger Theoren Fleury has been cleared to resume practicing with his team, although there is no indication as to when he will actually return to the lineup. Fleury was suspended indefinitely on October 8 for violation of his NHL-mandated substance abuse aftercare program. The diminutive winger’s problems are well-documented, both on and off the ice, and it remains to be seen whether or not he can resume his playing career and stay sober AND sane at the same time. ‘Hawks general manager Mike Smith has gone on the record as saying: “It would be completely illogical to keep him out for seven weeks, and in two days, you go from sitting at home to playing in a game.” Fleury will join the Blackhawks tonight in Phoenix, where he will begin full workouts with the team.
My take: I think this is way too soon. Alcoholism/addiction isn’t the kind of thing that ever fully goes away. Yes, it must have been nice for him to relax for a couple months, but shouldn’t he have done that in the off-season? Or just call it quits altogether to play it safe for his own health? Smith is right, he’s not going to come back and be a 30 goal man after his relapse and treatment. Time heals all wounds, and Fleury seems like the type who likes to pick his scabs. This isn’t a good thing.
LIGHTNING SHOPPING FOR KHABIBULIN HELP? (St. Petersburg Times)
With the kind of season the Tampa Bay Lightning are having, is it to early to think about the playoffs? Evidently not. Reports out of the erstwhile Ice Palace indicate that the team may be in the market for a goaltender to take some of the workload off of Nikolai Khabibulin’s shoulders. The braintrust obviously does not want to over-work the brilliant ‘Bulin Wall, as they have seen what effect that can have on a netminder when the post-season rolls around (see Brodeur, Martin). Fragile forward Fredrik Modin and inconsistent blueliner Pavel Kubina are thought to be on the block as this team looks to gear up for a playoff run.
My take: Not a bad idea. It at least shows that the team is serious about making the post-season. Although who is available and would take Modin or Kubina? Jamie Storr might be an option, and Modin actually could help out the struggling LA power play. Craig Billington could be made available as well, especially if the Capitals don’t right themselves by season’s end. Modin could also be a replacement for the bust that Dainius Zubrus has become.
LORD BYRON WILL TAKE TO THE NETS IN DIXIELAND (SLAM!Sports)
For the first time since last spring’s playoffs, Byron Dafoe will see live action in an NHL game. Dafoe, who last faced the Montreal Canadiens back in April, faces that team again as he returns to the league with the Atlanta Thrashers tonight. He replaces Pasi Nurminen and Milan Hnilicka, who combined for a 3.80 GAA and a 5-13-1-1 record. Dafoe won 35 games for the Boston Bruins last year while posting a 2.21 GAA. His opposition is a struggling Jose Theodore, who back in April was standing on his head en route to dispatching Dafoe and the Bruins to an early playoff exit, but has struggled through the first quarter of this season with a 4-6-2 record and a 3.61 GAA.
My take: Good to see Dafoe back at work, and it is only fitting that he seek redemption against the team that saw fit to end his Bruin career. I don’t know about anyone else, but I’ll be pulling for him tonight, and if there is such a thing as poetic justice, Lord Byron will score a goal in the closing seconds of tonight’s contest. I don’t expect him to be a savior for the Thrashers, but he makes this team instantly better. He will see a lot of shots and needs to get out the WD-40 early to get rid of all his rustiness, because the porous Atlanta defense won’t be of much help.
That’s it for now – Release the hounds!
Adding some salt and pepper to this:
(Nov. 26th) According to published reports, the Edmonton Oilers are speaking with the New York Rangers and Buffalo Sabres in regards to forward Todd Marchant.
(Nov. 26th) Bruins general manager Mike O’Connell said yesterday that none of the recent trade rumors regarding recalcitrant defenseman Kyle McLaren are true, reports the Boston Herald. He also said he hasn’t shut the door on the holdout restricted free agent defenseman returning to the Bruins, although that seems highly unlikely. The rumor mill has been working overtime the last few days with speculation that McLaren, and possibly teammate Martin Lapointe, could wind up in Colorado or New York. O’Connell said there have been a number of teams who contacted him recently about McLaren as the rumors circulated. “Everyone’s calling because I’m sure the press is asking them if they’re involved in the McLaren situation,” O’Connell said. “If a deal is made, they want to be sure they get in on it. People are still kicking tires.”
(Nov. 26th) Since February 20th, 2001 (when Felix Potvin was traded to Los Angeles), the 31-year-old goalie has posted the 3rd most amount of wins amongst NHL goalies, and only four other netminders have compiled lower goals-against averages. However, according to the LA Times, the Kings seem reluctant to commit to Potvin. He is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent when his contract runs out at midnight June 30. GM Dave Taylor has said he would like to sign Potvin to a multi-year deal, but no offer has been forthcoming. “We just haven’t had any talks,” Taylor said Monday. “We’ve just been focused on the games.”