The first three days of the off-season for those not preparing for the playoffs have been filled with decisions and comments that range from entertaining, surprising and expected to disappointing.
In Tampa, new Lighting owner, Jeff Vinik cleaned house firing GM, Brian Lawton and head coach, Rick Tocchet on Monday and now is on the lookout for a GM, coach and a CEO. Word is former Senators president and CEO, Roy Mlakar, is the leading candidate and then will be in charge of hiring a GM.
Lawton’s contract expired in June, so his dismissal wasn’t a surprise, while Tocchet didn’t get a lot of wins he worked a lot with Steven Stamkos since coming in late last season. Last year Tocchet sent Stamkos to the pressbox for three games with a pen and paper and asked him to jot down notes. Stamkos would then watch game film with assistant coach, Wes Walz, the next day and compare his notes to the actual film.
Stamkos is adamant that those three games helped him see the game in a different light, and it resulted in a 51-goal season. But with Lawton getting the axe, there was little chance Tocchet would have been the new GM’s first choice. I wouldn’t bet against Tocchet being back in the league next year. (I know it’s cheesy, but true).
The Atlanta Thrashers named Rick Dudley their GM on Wednesday and he promptly fired John Anderson. Anderson was 70-75-19 in two seasons behind the Thrasher bench, and he wasn’t blessed with loads of talent, but the minute Dudley was named GM, Anderson’s days were limited.
The Thrashers “promoted” Don Waddell to team president and replaced him with Dudley. Waddell will be responsible for all primary business aspects of the organization, while Dudley takes over the hockey operations. I wrote back in February that Waddell should be fired for his incompetency and finally the Thrashers saw the light.
Dudley has been the assistant GM for three years, but it was made clear that Waddell will have no influence on Dudley’s hockey decisions. If that is the case, the Thrashers might be able to turn things around, but if Waddell has his no-success hands in the mix the Thrashers will continue to be bottom feeder.
The big disappointment came from one of the more level-headed players in the league, Jarome Iginla. When the Flames packed up their bags Wednesday Iginla commented on the Flames’ offensive woes. The Flames scored a league-low 204 goals this past season, but Iginla clearly didn’t realize that.
"We do have good pieces and we’re not that far off, I think we have guys who are capable of scoring more goals. With some adjustments, maybe there are one or two creative players who could help the mix that would give us more potent offence. I think we can do it here. I’m definitely not giving up on that."
Are you serious Jarome?
Iginla chose to tow the company line and give the usual rhetoric that fans loathe to hear. “We are one or two guys away from being competitive,” news flash Jarome, you aren’t close.
The Flames are currently committed to 17 contracts worth around $52.8 million for next season. That includes, Mikael Backlund, the only good offensive prospect they have. Outside of Iginla and Rene Bourque their offensive juggernauts include Daymond Langkow, David Moss, Niklas Hagman, Ales Kotalik, Matt Stajan, Nigel Dawes and Curtis Glencross.
Iginla is right that they need at least two creative players, but where does he expect them to come from: The offensive-player fairy? They have no cap space, no depth in the organization and no first or second round picks this summer.
He must have more faith in Darryl Sutter than Sutter deserves, because Sutter has shown no ability to evaluate offensive talent. I’ll credit Sutter in that he isn’t afraid to make a trade, or six, but outside of the Bourque trade, his decisions regarding supposed offensive players have blown up in his face.
MORE ON SOURAY
But the most entertaining story came out of Edmonton involving Sheldon Souray and Steve Tambellini and Souray’s trade demands. Souray fired up the Nation, and he even got the mild-mannered Tambellini hot under the collar.
Souray stated Tambellini was a bad communicator and the organization pressured him to play during his first season.
Yesterday Tambellini didn’t hold back how he felt about Souray.
“I know he didn’t help the situation. It’s been no secret that Sheldon wants out of Edmonton. I’ve had numerous meetings with him over the last year mostly revolving around the fact he wants to be traded. “I’m sick and tired of hearing about people complain about this city, this organization. I don’t like the coach, I don’t like the management and it is too cold. If you can’t develop your own core of expectations of what an Oiler truly is and respect for that logo and the city they you’ll always be spinning your wheels.”
It was nice to see some fire from Tambellini, but he needs to come up with a new level of expectations on what it means to be an Oiler, because whatever those expectations are right now they aren’t working.
Does being an Oiler mean you can never question management, the trainers or the coaches? I would hope not. It’s great that Tambellini wants to develop players that want to be in Edmonton, but he needs to surround them with the right coaches, veteran leaders and re-introduce an identity.
Because right now the only identity the Oilers have on or off the ice, is one that reflects losing.
If you want to hear the entire Tambellini interview you can at justagame.ca It is long, so if you want to hear specific answers to questions here is the breakdown of where you can fast forward to exactly.
1. Tambellini opening remarks – 0:00 – 7:10
2 – How difficult will it be to trade Souray – 7:23 – 10:36
3 – Why did he say he wanted to leave – 10:43 – 11:22
4 – Is it obvious you don’t have enough depth, and how do you plan on addressing a face-off guy – 11:48 – 12:48
5 – Is it possible to clear out that many guys – 12:57 – 13:15
6 – What’s a realistic timeline until you’re a playoff team or cup contender – 13:23 – 14:55
7 – Injuries aside, what do you have here that led you to believe that the team isn’t good enough – 15:31 – 16:48
8 – Did you get anything resembling a trade request for Souray a year ago, and what does the #1 pick mean to you guys – 17:27 – 18:47
9 – How difficult do you think it’s going to be to handle the goaltending situation – 19:06 – 20:44
10 – Will we see the coaching staff back as-is – 20:59 – 21:55
11 – Do you have a plan on how many rookies you think will be in the starting lineup – 22:16 – 22:56
12 – Do you have a philosophy change about the rookies spending time in the AHL – 23:05 – 24:38
13 – Is this team in the market for a heavyweight – 24:43 – 25:17
14 – How much more talk has to happen between you and Stu regarding Hall/Seguin, and how much leverage does the #1 pick give you – 25:48 – 27:13
15 – Would you have traded Souray at the trade deadline if he didn’t break his hand – 27:31 – 28:08
16 – Would you buy out Ethan Moreau – 28:40 – 29:14
17 – Will it be a goal of yours in the off-season to get more players in a leadership role – 29:44 – 30:54
18 – How confident are you that there are guys that can step up and take over that leadership role – 31:17 – 32:47
19 – Is there a potential to buy out the smaller skilled forwards – 33:02 – 33:19
20 – With Eberle & either Hall or Seguin, how does that affect what moves you make in the summer – 33:36 – 34:24
21 – What’s your most important job this summer as GM for the 2010/2011 Oilers – 24:44 – 35:18
22 – Are you looking forward now and more positive and excited than disappointed with this last year – 35:41 – 36:17
23 – How do you instill grit & toughness – 36:38 – 37:33
24 – The importance of the 1st pick for the fans – 37:54 – 38:41
ICE WOMEN OF THE WEEK
The Stars are out of the playoffs, but their Ice Crew is playoff worthy. I introduce you to Nazlie, or Nazzle Dazzle as her friends and family call. She attends SMU and is majoring in TV and Film. This second-year veteran Dallas Stars Ice Crew member loves all kinds of music, especially Britney Spears and Michael Jackson, she’s known for doing a mean moon walk on the ice. A very sexy woman, but it would be tough to call her Nazzle Dazzle without laughing. Her nickname fits in with the usual lame hockey monikers.
- Keith Yandle is the best D-man no one talks about. The Coyotes’ rearguard has size, a decent shot and skates extremely well. After the Coyotes beat the Wings you’ll hear a lot more about Yandle, if you haven’t already been impressed watching him in game one.
- Marty St. Louis wants out of Tampa. He didn’t make a Souray-like request, but he said this to Damien Cristodero "I want to be on a winning team, It’s three years of this and (we’re going) back to square one, so I want to be on a winning team. That’s the biggest thing. I’m not getting any younger. We’ll see how it all shakes out this summer." St. Louis will be 35 next season and has one year left on his contract. Coming off a 94-point season, he’d have some value on the market.
- Jarome Iginla said he’d waive his no-movement clause if the Flames wanted him to. This after he says they are a few creative players away from contending. The fact is the only way they will get some creative players, is if they use Iginla as the trade bait. This off-season is going to be exciting across Alberta.
- Losing the first game in a playoff series isn’t the worst thing, unless you are the San Jose Sharks. Shark fans are clearly fed up with their under-achieving bunch as they booed the Sharks off the ice last night after giving up the winning goal in the final minute. I’m still picking the Sharks to win, but can you recall another franchise in any sport that has choked early in the playoffs as often as the Sharks have? Outside of the Flames of course.
- Fans in Phoenix need to work on their animal tossing. Last night they threw a rubber snake on the ice. We all know the tradition of the Wings and the octopi, but at least those one are real. In Edmonton someone threw a real slab of steak on the ice in 2006, at least the Coyotes fans could toss a real snake on the ice. (A frozen dead one, not an actual live one. That would be animal abuse, and I’m not supporting that.)
- Love him or hate him, the Human Rake is a difference maker. Did you see him control the game in New Jersey last night? It’s only one game, but like I wrote yesterday I should have went with my intuition and picked the Flyers. They have more skill than the Devils, and as long as Brian Boucher doesn’t give up a weak goal a game, the Flyers will win.
- Who gets hired first, Craig MacTavish or Ken Hitchcock? I’ll say MacT.
- Marty Turco really must have pissed off Joe Nieuwendyk, because the Stars are going with Kari Lehtonen over Turco next year. I know Turco is older, but what has Lehtonen proven other than he is injury prone?
LEADERS THROUGH THE SEASON
Here are the top ten in pts, goals, assists and other stats.
51: Steven Stamkos and Sidney Crosby
50: Alex Ovechkin 44: Patrick Marleau
42: Marian Gaborik
41: Ilya Kovalchuk
40: Alexander Semin
39: Dany Heatley
38: Zach Parise
35: Bobby Ryan and Alexandre Burrows
83: Henrik Sedin
69: Joe Thornton
68: Nicklas Backstrom
67: Brad Richards
65: Martin St. Louis
59: Ovechkin and Paul Stastny
58: Sidney Crosby and Patrick Kane
57: Mike Green
112: H. Sedin
109: Ovechkin and Crosby
94: St. Louis
91: Brad Richards
88: Patrick Kane
86: Marian Gaborik
+50: Jeff Schultz
+39: Mike Green
+36: Daniel Sedin, Christian Ehrhoff and Alex Semin
+35: H. Sedin
+34: Alex Burrows
+27: Mark Fistric
Patrick O’Sullivan wins the green jacket sitting at -35. Funny thing is he was -37 going into final game of the season, and he finished +2 in a game the Oilers lost 7-2.
14: Anze Kopitar, Teemu Selanne and Gaborik
13: Mike Richards, Tomas Holmstrom, B.Richards, Eric Stall, Crosby and Ovechkin
318: Cal Clutterbuck
287: Dustin Brown
285: Ryan Callahan
269: Stephane Robidas
266: David Backes
255: Brooks Orpik
251: Steve Ott
245: Chris Neil
238: Matt Greene
233: Douglas Murray
319: Jeff Carter
309: Henrik Zetterberg
250: Phil Kessel and Stamkos
295: Vincent Lecavalier
284: B. Richards