NHL All-Star Hangover: A Metro Hockey Update
With the All-Star break over and done with, the second chapter of the 2003-2004 National Hockey League season begins. As they say, history repeats; the New Jersey Devils are still near the top of the Eastern Conference, while the Islanders are hanging on for playoff position. The Rangers are still, well, the Rangers, and are in danger of missing the playoffs yet again. Here are a few observations regarding the various rumors, events, chatter, and circumstance surrounding the three New York Metro-area teams in the days leading up to, during, and after All-Star weekend.
Are the Devils strong enough at center? If rumors that general manager Lou Lamoriello is looking to acquire Alexei Zhamnov from the Chicago Blackhawks are true, then the answer is no. But Zhamnov? He’s a curious choice, considering that he’s not exactly known for physically imposing play. He can contribute additional offense, though, and he’s certainly much more realistic than the options (Bobby Holik?!?!?!) proposed by other Metro hockey writers. Still, wouldn’t the St. Louis Blues’ Dallas Drake, a rugged individual who can play center and left wing, be a better choice? Yes, he most certainly would85
Coaching news, Part 1: It was nice to hear that the New York Islanders brought back their former coach and player Butch Goring to serve as a skybox assistant to current coach Bruce Sterling. Some coaches are strong tacticians, fluent in the "X’s and O’s" of the game, while others are motivators who can instill the team-wide discipline and work ethic necessary for an organization to succeed. As head coach, Goring was more of the former and not enough of the latter, but without the pressures of the head coaching job, Goring can concentrate on his strengths, thus maximizing his benefit to the team.
Coaching news, Part 2: The return of Mike Keenan to the New York Rangers appears to be on hold85for now. But despite the fact that Madison Square Garden’s bigwigs are open to the return of Iron Mike, it wouldn’t be wise to hold your breath. General Manager and head coach Glen Sather has traditionally been reluctant to admit his failures, and he’d rather go down with the ship than hire his own coaching replacement. Let’s also not forget that Keenan is still under the payroll of his previous employer, the Florida Panthers; as such, his hiring by the Rangers would inevitably involve some compensatory deal in favor of the Panthers.
Honoring a legend, while drawing attention to a problem: Bravo to the Rangers for retiring Mike Richter’s 35! The ceremony, which also featured appearances by such noted Blueshirt alumni as Adam Graves, Rod Gilbert, Eddie Giacomin, and Steve Vickers, was a classy and dignified affair – no pompous special effects, no annoying pyrotechnics, and no embarrassing or, ahem, revealing moments. Of the many gifts Richter received, the silver goal net engraved with all 251 former teammates was perhaps the most intriguing. Over his 14 seasons, that number translates to an average of about 18 new faces a year8518 new faces who have to adjust to new linemates and strategies. Considering that an active NHL roster features 23 players, the turnover rate is shocking. Want to know what has plagued the Rangers for nearly a decade? The answers are on that silver goal net.