Intrigue in Toronto (cont.)
The Burke Watch
It will be interesting to see how or even if the NHL reacts to a Nonis hiring. We told you last week that there was intense speculation that the league had a hand in advising the Ducks about Burke and the Leafs' presumed interest. Both the NHL and the Leafs denied it, but SI.com has learned that the Ducks did indeed seek out Bettman's thoughts on to handle the Burke situation.
Exactly what Bettman said is unknown at this time, but it was shortly after those discussions that the Ducks opted to call Burke in and "remind him" that he was under contract and expected to honor it.
Just hours after that conversation, Burke issued a statement saying he would indeed honor the final year of his deal. He made no mention of the contract extension and his words indicate that next season may well be his last in Anaheim.
Given that the Leafs will have done nothing wrong, should they receive permission to talk to Nonis and, eventually, sign him, there isn't much the league can do or say. That said, however, the NHL won't be happy with a season-long "Burke Watch" in the media capital of hockey. A situation like that would be closely watched by the league as well as the media and might prompt someone to start a dialogue that would result in a resolution of the matter.
Not done yet
Recently fired Leafs coach Paul Maurice had a simple and simply great answer about how he might be perceived by a future employer given that his overall record has more losses than wins and only three playoff appearances. Maurice, who is 344-356 with 99 ties and 38 overtime losses, said he believes that hockey people will look at his teams overall and what he got out of what he had. He also said, "My teams never quit."
Hockey players are pros and aren't supposed to quit, but some do and Maurice made a strong point. His two-year term with the Leafs will be best known for his piloting a largely talentless team under a dysfunctional management system that created more problems than it solved. Maurice has been fired in both Carolina and Toronto, but it's safe to assume there is at least one more head-coaching job in his future.
Two more coaches have booked hotseats.
Ron Wilson didn't exactly need to win the Stanley Cup in San Jose to keep his job, but not getting past the second around again is sure to give GM Doug Wilson pause. The Sharks played hard against Calgary and Dallas, and should the Stars go on to the Stanley Cup Final, Ron Wilson will be able to say that his team lost to a darn good one.
However, more was expected from this edition and the fact that it often had to play from behind and dig out of deep holes is not something the GM will want to see repeated next time around.
Coach Wilson was in trouble last season. He got a reprieve, but was expected to do better. He didn't and that doesn't sit well in GM Wilson's office.
With new GM Mike Gillis in Vancouver, how safe is coach Alain Vigneault?
Not very, according to several sources who claim that Gillis, a former player and player agent, would like to get his career as a GM off with the confidence that comes from knowing his coach is his own hand-picked man. It's not a given that Vigneault is gone because the betting is that Gillis will try to get a few of his former clients, who are about to become unrestricted free agents, to sign with the Canucks. Doing so will take up a great deal of his time. However, if the new GM isn't overly successful on the free-agent market, well, what better way to renew interest in the franchise than to announce a new coach?
There are continuing rumors that John Tortorella of the Tampa Bay Lightning will be on shaky ice once new ownership takes over there. The sale to Oren Koules' OK Hockey (OK Oren Koules, get it?) is said to be in the due diligence phase. Once new ownership is in, it's expected that there will be a review of the hockey operations department. GM Jay Feaster is thought to be safe, but there is some concern as to whether Tortorella has the right touch with what should be a younger team with a heavily marketed first-round draft pick expected to contribute right away.
Tortorella is a good coach, maybe great, but he's a tough taskmaster and his ability to handle young players is something that will be questioned.