Tuesday, May 25, 2004

5/25 Notes

Coaching Situation A decision on the future of the Wings' coaching staff could be coming soon. Owner Mike Ilitch was out of town last week, and has met with Ken Holland to discuss the future of the player personnel and coaching staff this week. A decision is expected by the end of next week. While Dave Lewis and Barry Smith are likely to find coaching positions somewhere in the league in the event that the Wings hire a new coaching crew, Joey Kocur has to feel nervous about his stature. After retirement in 2000, Kocur joined the Wings as the video coach for two seasons, before Dave Lewis promoted him to assistant coach for the past two seasons. Kocur is a fiery and emotional coach, as exemplified by the March 29, 2003 chair-throwing incident in St Louis. When Joel Quennville sent out mugs in the final minute of a 6-2 Wings victory, Kocur sent a message and defended his players. In all the vagueness of coaching terminology, Joe Kocur is listed as "Assistant Coach", while Barry Smith as "Associate Coach." This reflects the hierarchy of the Wings coaching staff, Lewis on top, followed by Smith, and finally Kocur. So, in the scope of presidential succession, Barry Smith is the Vice President and Joe Kocur is the Speaker of the House. And your government lesson is done. An interesting twist is that Barry Smith has been contacted by teams in the Swedish Elite League about coaching there next season. If you remember, Smith coached team Malmo of that very league during the 1996-1997 season, before joining up with the Wings in time for the successful playoff run. Smith's ties to Sweden also include acting as assistant coach for Sweden at the 1998 Olympics and 1996 World Cup of Hockey tournament. In addition, Smith coached in Sweden from 1981-84 (and in Norway from 1984-86) before moving to Buffalo to join Bowman in 1986. Chelios Closer to Return General Manager Ken Holland has told Chris Chelios that the Wings want him back next season, and Holland is going to try to work out a deal before he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1. This is after serious doubts that the future Hall-of-Famer would play another game in the Winged-Wheel. Part of me definitely wants Chelios back, but I also would like to see the Wings move away from aging stars and open their roster for young guys who'd otherwise end up on the farm team in Grand Rapids. This led me to list Chelios under the heading "Bon Voyage" on May 7th. Despite these hints that Chelios might return with a reduced salary, I stand by my position that the Wings need to move on with certain players. We can respect their Hall-of-Fame careers while also deciding that it is best to part ways. Chris is welcome to sell all the chili he wants at Cheli's Chili Bar, and I know he wants to stay in the Detroit area after he slips out of his skates. Shanny's Stock Ken Holland met with Brendan Shanahan for three hours in the rash of player interviews going on recently. Says Mr. Holland: "Brendan and I talked about his season, what could have been done differently, and it was all positive." It is likely that Shanny will have to take a pay cut to stay in Detroit, as the Wings will not exercise the $6.5 million club option to bring him back next season. Stanley Cup Finals After a grueling first three rounds, the playoffs are concluding with the Finals series of the Calgary Flames versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Flames beat the Sharks 4-2 and the Lightning beat the Flyers 4-3. While I picked the Flames to win the San Jose series, I never would've expected the youthful Lightning to win their series against the physical Flyers, especially in a grueling seven games. While the Lightning have a highly-skilled roster, I was certain that the Flyers would grind them down on the boards and enforcer Donald Brashear would take out a few of the Lightning stars. Overall, the Lightning are a fun team to watch, and guys like St Louis and Lecavalier always score great goals. The feel-good story down in Tampa is that Dave Andreychuk is in Cup Finals for the first time after playing in 1,752 games. The other feel-good story is that the Flames are the first Canadian team to reach the Finals since Vancouver in 1994. The last Canadian team to hold up Lord Stanley's Cup were the Montreal Canadiens in 1993. The NHL has to be concerned about the ratings the Flames/Lightning series will bring, as they will almost certainly be less than what a Wings/Philly series would produce. While Detroit money would lead me to root for Bill Davidson's Tampa Bay Lightning, quite simply, I like the Flames more than the Lightning. Jarome Iginla is a great ambassador to the game, and Darryl Sutter's no-nonsense, blue-collar coaching is admirable. In addition, Sutter is in the unique position of the head coach and general manager of the Flames, the only such dictatorship in the league. He is a finalist for the Jack Adams Award as coach of the year, and one of six hockey-playing brothers of the Sutter family hockey dynasty. The Flames are a passionate team, and I'd much rather see them hold the Stanley Cup above their heads, in the midst of an infamous "C of red" in the Saddledome. Game 1 is 8:00 PM tonight in Tampa Bay. The Lightning have home-ice advantage, as they were the runner-up in points for the regular season. Calgary is a sixth seed from the West, and Tampa Bay is a one seed from the East. Calgary's road to the Finals took them through Vancouver, Detroit, and San Jose. Tampa Bay faced the Islanders, Canadiens, and Flyers, a much easier route. Igor Grigorenko Update After a car accident on May 16 of last year, Igor Grigorenko is healthy and ready to play with the Wings again. He suffered a broken left thigh bone and two fractures in left shin bone. In addition, complications arose and he developed a fat embolism in his left lung, which is potentially fatal. Said his agent, Mark Lapush: "They gave him a 10-percent chance to be alive, and he made it. He's feeling good. He said, 'Mark, trust me, I'm going to play hockey. I'm going to play for Detroit.'" The 2001 second-round draft pick made a rather quick recovery and attended the Wings' training camp last September. He then joined up with Lada Togliatti and played for their farm team in Russia's third-tier league. Says Ken Holland: "All reports are, he�s feeling 100 percent. He was able to play in the playoffs (in Russia), and played well." World Cup of Hockey August 30 through September 14, with games in six countries. Competing countries include Canada, United States, Russia, Sweden, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Finland, and Germany. The USA won the first tournament in 1996, with a shocking victory over hockey-pompous Canada. The following Wings are participating in the tournament: Steve Yzerman, Canada Kris Draper, Canada Kirk Maltby, Canada Barry Smith, USA assistant coach Chris Chelios, USA Derian Hatcher, USA Mathieu Schneider, USA Brett Hull, USA Nicklas Lidstrom, Sweden Tomas Holmstrom, Sweden Henrik Zetterberg, Sweden Pavel Datsyuk, Russia Robert Lang, Czech Tuesday Trivia The Wings have 377 consecutive home sellouts in the regular season and playoffs, dating back to December 1996. But this isn't the NHL record, as the rival Avs have a streak of 434 games, dating back to November 1995 (the first season in Denver).


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