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The Cross-Ice Pass: The Return
By BRIAN PIKE, MOP Squad Sports Hockey Editor
Jul 7, 2005 - 7:25:00 PM
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With the imminent return of hockey comes the return of The Cross-Ice
Pass! Today we talk about the impending CBA deal and coaching
shuffles from around the league.
A Done Deal?
a report in a Los Angeles newspaper that a deal has been reached, it
appears as though the NHL and NHLPA will not have an announcement on a
new collective bargaining agreement today, though it could happen as
early as this weekend, and will almost certainly be done by the middle
of July. Most of the critical issues have supposedly been dealt
with, and at this point the issues are more of the dotting the i’s and
crossing the t’s variety, as they say.
This is certainly welcome
news for, if you’re a hockey fan such as myself, you’ve been sick to
death of all the talk since February, and really didn’t want to hear
anything from either side until a deal was reached. While we’re
not quite there yet, all reports indicate we will be shortly.
Now comes the fun part.
things immediately spring to mind at this point concerning how things
will proceed once a deal is reached. The first concerns the entry
draft and everyone’s favourite up and coming star, Sidney Crosby.
Who gets Sid the Kid?
Really, at this point it’s anyone’s guess.
Teams will be falling all over themselves for the chance to draft Sidney Crosby (photo: www.insidehockey.com)
almost a dead-certainty that the league will hold a draft lottery to
determine the 2005 draft order. That same Los Angeles Times
report states that every team will have an equal shot at the first
overall pick, while other sources believe it will be a weighted
lottery, with the performance of a team within the last two-to-five
years determining how good a shot they have at first
overall. This certainly makes a lot more sense than an equal
draw, though it would follow that every team be included in the
lottery, rather than how it works during your average season, when just
the teams who missed the playoffs get their names in the hat, so to
If Crosby is as good as they say, however, this year’s draft lottery
could mean more than just the short- and long-term success of the
franchise that wins it. It could have serious ramifications on
the future of the league. Should Crosby go to a media hub like
New York, Los Angeles or Toronto, the benefits to the league are
obvious; the Crosby hype would be deafening, and, if the kid really is
that good, could result in a new surge of popularity for the
league. On the other hand, the benefits should Crosby end up in a
struggling market such as Washington or Pittsburgh or Phoenix are
obvious as well. Imagine the fans who would flock to see Crosby
and Alexander Ovechkin, the two brilliant young stars, in Washington,
or to see Crosby and Mario Lemieux wearing Penguin jerseys, or to see
Wayne Gretzky coach young Crosby in his rookie season. Heady
stuff. Of course, all this is contingent on Crosby actually being
as good as some say he is.
Who Goes Where?
The second question that pops up about a post-new CBA NHL is where do all the players go?
of right now the number of players each team has under contract runs
from a low of four in Boston (Patrice Bergeron, Nick Boynton, Tom
Fitzgerald, and Ian Moran) to a high of fifteen in Phoenix (Jason
Chimera, Mike Comrie, Boyd Devereaux, Shane Doan, Denis Gauthier, Brett
Hull, Brent Johnson, Ladislav Nagy, Tyson Nash, Petr Nedved, Mike
Ricci, Michael Rupp, Oleg Saprykin, Brian Savage, and David
Tanabe). This means that some teams are going to have an awful
lot of work to do to sign enough players to fill out a training camp
roster come September.
Fortunately for them, there are a lot of
free agents out there right now. And considering that under a new
CBA the age a player must reach before qualifying for unrestricted free
agency will almost certainly be lowered, and that new rules will likely
be in effect for restricted free agents, there will be even more once
the deal is reached.
It’s been said that once the CBA is signed,
the negotiation to watch will be in Atlanta, where both Ilya Kovalchuk
and Dany Heatley are restricted free agents coming off their
entry-level contracts, which saw both of them make millions in
bonuses. Many believe that just how much these two get will set a
new standard of sorts for young stars, and considering that both played
in Europe last season and lucrative options exist there for both
players, negotiations could get ugly.
More interesting to me, however, will be the situation in Colorado.
Colorado GM Pierre Lacroix sits with nine players under contract for
next season, including Joe Sakic and Rob Blake, both of whom made in
excess of $8 million last season. Even with a rollback of
salaries, those two will eat a fair chunk of salary cap space.
Not only that, but in the restricted free agent category Lacroix has
three players, Alex Tanguay, Milan Hejduk, and David Aebischer, coming
off excellent 2003-04 seasons; combined, those three made more than $12
million that season. With all that taken into account, how will
Lacroix ever find the space to sign even one of his unrestricted free
Peter Forsberg will be back in the NHL next season, but will he be back in Colorado? (photo: www.denverpost.com)
Granted, Lacroix likely won’t even consider re-signing
Paul Kariya or Teemu Selanne, who both signed with the team in the
summer of 2003 but turned out to be less than successful in
Colorado. But as much as Lacroix might not be able to afford to
make an offer to longtime blueline stalwart Adam Foote, can he really
afford not to?
Then there’s Peter Forsberg.
got some press last month when he expressed his desire to return to
Colorado after a year playing in Sweden. At this point,
Forsberg’s return to the NHL is all but certain, but his return to the
Avalanche? Forsberg made $11 million in his last NHL
season. While it seems unlikely he’ll get that amount from
anybody next season, he’s even less likely to get it in Colorado.
Forsberg’s situation will be one to watch, because with apologies to
Kariya, Mike Modano, Markus Naslund, Martin St. Louis, Zigmund Palffy
and Scott Niedermayer, all of whom will also be unrestricted, he will
be the first bona-fide superstar to hit the market under the new system.
probably can’t imagine an Avalanche team without Adam Foote and Peter
Forsberg, let alone an Avalanche team that isn’t a contender.
Just wait until next season.
Yawney In As 'Hawks New Coach
New Chicago Blackhawks coach Trent Yawney (photo: www.theahl.com)
Yawney was announced today as the new head coach of the Chicago
Blackhawks, which follows the announcement two weeks ago of the hiring
of Dale Tallon as GM and the firing of former coach Brian Sutter.
course, to regular readers of this column, Tallon’s ascension to GM
came as no surprise, and really, the firing of Sutter in favour of
Yawney isn’t much of one either. Sutter did manage to out-last
former ‘Hawks GM Mike Smith, with whom he had several rather public
debates, but it seems clear now that when Smith was fired in October of
2003, the biggest reason Sutter didn’t go with him was to give Yawney
more minor-league experience. It was certainly no secret that
Yawney was being groomed to be the next head-man in Chicago, just as it
was no secret Tallon was in line for the GM’s position.
Quite frankly, they deserve each other; if the ‘Hawks brass were
inclined to think rationally about their team, they would’ve hired Dean
Lombardi to manage, then let him decide whether or not to retain
Sutter. Of course, who can accurately predict just what owner
“Dollar” Bill Wirtz and president Bob Pulford are thinking most of the
time? Luckily for Tallon and Yawney, expectations for the team
will be rock-bottom, so they should be fairly secure in their jobs for
a little while, and thanks to the efforts of Smith and Sutter they’ll
have some good young prospects to play with who have a solid work ethic.
Babcock Finished in Anaheim, Heading to Detroit?
on the subject of coaching, one of the most interesting stories/rumours
this week has come from Anaheim and spread to Detroit. Now, the
hiring of Brian Burke as general manager by Anaheim’s new owners was a
good move. However, Burke is the sort of guy who really needs to
have full control over his team, particularly coming out of a bad
situation in Vancouver where he clashed with ownership on several
occasions. Everyone remembers when Burke was hired in Vancouver
in 1998 and Mike Keenan was already installed as coach, right?
Keenan didn’t last the season, but Burke probably would’ve fired him
right away if ownership had let him.
heads into a similar situation in Anaheim, though the previous regime,
led by Bryan Murray, who left the team to coach in Ottawa, did a pretty
decent job. Still, he has a coach hired by the previous
administration in Mike Babcock, not necessarily an ideal
situation. When Babcock’s contract expired at the end of June,
Burke did offer a one-year extension, a testament to Babcock’s success
and stature as one of the league’s up-and-coming young coaches.
However, Babcock asked for a week to test the open market and see if he
could get a longer deal elsewhere.
Mike Babcock berates somebody, something he may well be doing from behind Detroit's bench next season (photo: www.nhl.com)
Which is where Detroit comes in.
today indicate that Red Wings GM Ken Holland will be meeting with
current Wings’ head coach Dave Lewis, who’s contract also expired last
month, to tell him that he will not be retained. This would then
pave the way for the Wings to hire Babcock.
This would, needless
to say, be a somewhat bold move on the part of the Red Wings.
However, two seasons with no playoff success may very well have spelled
doom for Lewis, who was badly out-coached in the 2004 playoffs by
Darryl Sutter of the Calgary Flames during the Wings’ second round
loss, and again the season before by none other than Babcock and the
Ducks. Babcock is not wholly unfamiliar to the Wings’
organization, having coached the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the AHL for
two seasons while Anaheim and Detroit were both stocking that franchise
and, as stated before, is widely considered one of the league’s rising
stars among coaches. The Wings have looked entirely too
complacent under Lewis, who was Scotty Bowman’s longtime assistant
coach, taking over the reigns when the legend retired, and Babcock
could well be just what they need.
As for the Ducks, Burke
reportedly began looking at candidates for the head coach’s job as soon
as Babcock said he wanted to look at the market. The leading
candidate is thought to be Randy Carlyle, the head coach of the AHL’s
Manitoba Moose. Carlyle was very much in the running for
Washington’s head coaching job before the position was given to Glen
Hanlon, and has a solid track-record with Manitoba and a prior
relationship with Burke, as the Moose are Vancouver’s primary
Write Brian with comments,
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