SI.com Fantasy Minors College Junior Hockey Hockey

 

NHL Notebook

Rangers' Trottier, Predators' Trotz next on firing line

Posted: Thursday January 02, 2003 6:56 PM

JERSEY CITY, N.J. (Ticker) -- Trots or Trotz, who's next to go?

The New York Rangers played like they were fighting to save their coach's job Tuesday night as they blanked the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0. But those close to the team suggest it was only coincidence that one of the Rangers' most complete efforts of the season came hours after a Canadian website said the team was on the verge of firing Bryan Trottier.

Wrapping up his third month behind the New York bench, Trottier said he detected "real urgency and real determination." But he was at a loss to explain why the Rangers have lacked those same qualities for most of their first 40 games.

"We're not here to figure out why things sink in. We're here to make guys apply themselves as best we possibly we can," Trottier continued.

It's that inability to figure out why the Rangers often look like a team without purpose that had some speculating that Trottier would be replaced by assistant coach Jim Schoenfeld.

True, New York has played long stretches of the season without stars Pavel Bure, Brian Leetch and Mike Richter, and Bobby Holik, the "$9 Million Man." And, yes, those were Richard Lintner, Joel Bouchard, Billy Tibbetts and Gordie Dwyer taking regular shifts in Broadway Blue.

But Trottier's team has given up more goals than anyone but lowly Atlanta and sits five points out of a postseason spot, despite playing more games than anyone in the Eastern Conference.

Eric Lindros was one of few voices in the locker room to stand behind Trottier, saying, "Everyone is under fire. ... It's not one person, it's not one coach, it's everyone together. We're all in this fire and we've gotta find some water and douse this baby quick."

That wasn't the first time someone used that analogy to describe what's shaping up to be another disappointing season for the team with the highest payroll in the NHL.

"It's like a Saskatchewan prairie fire," said Trottier, who grew up in the southern part of the province. "You're stomping out a fire and all of a sudden there's a fire behind. Then there's another little fire over here."

Whether general manager Glen Sather allows Trottier - still identified by many impatient Rangers fans as hated ex-Islander - to drive the fire truck could be determined by how they fare on a three-game homestand that begins Saturday against Washington.

As for Trotz, a 7-3 home loss to Colorado on New Year's Day will not help his job security.

The only coach in Nashville Predators' history, he must have resembled a kid looking at a toy store window display at Christmas while Peter Forsberg was collecting a goal and five assists and Milan Hejduk was adding two goals and three assists.

Forsberg and Hejduk are the kind of player Trotz never has had during his five years in "Music City." In fact, there have been only five 20-goal scorers in Predators' history and only two players - Andreas Johansson and defenseman Andy Delmore - are on pace to reach that plateau this season.

Given a chance last month to infuse life into the NHL's 29th-ranked offense, general manager David Poile traded goaltender Mike Dunham to the New York Rangers for two defensemen and Rem Murray, yet another blue collar forward.

In the 10 games since the trade, Nashville is 4-4-2 and has been outscored, 27-22. In the 10 games before the deal, the Predators went 4-5-1 and were outscored, 23-21. ...

Good week for the birds of Atlanta

Their flirtation with Terry Murray notwithstanding, this has been a pretty good week for the Atlanta Thrashers.

For just the fourth time in team history, they've posted consecutive road wins, including a 3-2 overtime triumph at Pittsburgh in which they held the NHL's top power play without a goal in seven chances and scored a shorthanded tally.

And while Byron Dafoe will provide short-term goaltending help when he returns from a groin strain, the Thrashers have to be salivating over the performance of 19-year-old Finn Kari Lehtonen at the World Junior Championships.

Lehtonen has a .927 save percentage and 2.25 goals-against average heading into a quarterfinal matchup with Slovakia. But the numbers tell only part of the story. Detroit Red Wings general manager Ken Holland called Lehtonen, "the best goalie I've ever seen at this tournament."

That's a pretty bold statement, considering the championships have produced Mike Richter, Tom Barrasso, Nikolai Khabibulin, Jose Theodore, Tommy Salo, Roman Turek and Roberto Luongo.

While Lehtonen's performance between the pipes surely meets approval from Atlanta fans, his choice of fashion may not. Like many goalies, he's superstitious. So after struggling for a stretch last season, he began wearing a now-faded New York Yankees cap on game day.

Coaching rotation might work in Calgary

Here's an idea for the Calgary Flames: Change coaches every three games.

After Greg Gilbert was fired on December 3, Calgary went 2-0-1 under interim coach Al MacNeil. And heading into Thursday's game against Tampa Bay, the Flames were 1-0-1 under new coach Darryl Sutter.

Putting the kids to work

The NHL Officials Association is going with a youth movement.

Last week, the union that represents NHL referees and linesmen awarded an exclusive contract for web development services to Cyberteks Design of London, Ontario. And the president and CEO of Cyberteks is 14-year-old Keith Peiris.

Don't snicker. Peiris' firm already has several high-profile clients, including the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League; Interep, the largest radio advertising agency in the United States; and Kewl Threads, a hockey apparel company founded by Toronto Maple Leafs teammates Shayne Corson and Darcy Tucker.

"Keith is not only the youngest but also one of the best web designers we have seen," said referee Don Van Massenhoven, NHLOA web coordinator. "We are very confident that he will design a state-of-the-art website that reflects NHLOA's forward-thinking philosophy."

That the union will have a website at all is pretty forward thinking.

Euro-based players help Canada win Spengler Cup

What do Paul DiPietro, Jamie Heward, Mike Maneluk, James Black and Yves Sarault have in common besides being former NHLers? They helped Canada capture the Spengler Cup last week for the first time in four years.

Backstopped by Corey Hirsch, Canada edged Davos of Switzerland, 3-2, to capture the cup, avenging losses in the championship game each of the last two years.

"The guys who had been here the last three or four years sure felt like they got a monkey off their back," coach Mike Pelino said. "For a number of guys, they said this was their Stanley Cup, their Olympics, their World Championship."

Other former NHLers on the Canadian roster included Brandon Convery, Mike Craig, Mark Astley, Jean-Yves Roy and Jamie Hodson.

American Brian Bonin and Lonny Bohonos, formerly of the Toronto Maple Leafs, played for Davos. Bohonos beat Hirsch on a penalty shot and was named tournament MVP.

Representatives of Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Finland and the Czech Republic participated in the tournament, which is open to club teams.


 
Related information
Stories
NHL Power Rankings: Week 13
Eliot: The NHL's coaching trend
Jon A. Dolezar: Running down the All-Star lineups
Week at a Glance: Stars' Turco flopping his way to the top
Multimedia
Visit Video Plus for the latest audio and video

© 2003 SportsTicker Enterprises, LP

 


 
CNNSI