Without Wayne Gretzky, who's sidelined indefinitely with a herniated thoracic disk, you can write off the Los Angeles Kings. Coach Melrose has been reading the business-psych best-seller Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun, but it was owner Bruce McNall who has been acting uncivilized, grounding the team plane and making the Kings fly commercial. "I'm not going to reward this team for losses," McNall said during training camp. "I'll give them back the plane if we lose 10 in a row. Without pilots."
The outlook is a bit brighter on Long Island, where the New York Islanders are trumpeting The New Ice Age in what appears to be a futile attempt to boost sagging attendance at grimy Nassau Coliseum. The Islanders have new management, mainly Trottier and general manager Don Maloney, but the same old coach, Al Arbour. The former general manager, Bill Torrey, still remains on the payroll as a consultant. "I'm an insultant," says Torrey. "And I'm insulting to the best of my ability."
Now it's our turn. The Islanders—who do have some talented young players, like center Pierre Turgeon—can make all the new ice they want. They'll still miss the Patrick Division playoffs, as will the Philadelphia Flyers, who stripped their team to get Lindros. The Flyers aren't completely gutted; they lack defense and an established No. 1 goalie, but they have talent up front, with forward Mark Recchi, center Rod Brind' Amour and Lindros, the superstar-to-be.
Meanwhile the Lindros-less Quebec Nordiques look like a playoff team, thanks to former Flyers such as goalie Ron Hextall, center Mike Ricci and defenseman Steve Duchesne. Nordique center Joe Sakic has even tried to revive the long-dormant rivalry with the Canadiens by suggesting that Quebec will battle Boston for the Adams Division crown, with Montreal an also-ran.
New Calgary Flame coach Dave King is so confident he can teach his team a thing or two that he installed a classroom in the Saddle-dome (defenseman Frank Musil could tell the class some fascinating stories about his summer job—working the killing floor in a slaughterhouse). King inherits a league-high four former 50-goal scorers: Gary Roberts, Theo Fleury, Joe Nieuwendyk and Gary Leeman. Unfortunately for Calgary, only Roberts scored 50 last season.
Former Flame general manager Cliff Fletcher now has the same job with the Toronto Maple Leafs, and he should be ashamed of himself for the way he took advantage of his replacement in Calgary, Doug Risebrough. The trade Fletcher made last season, sending Leeman and a bunch of other stiffs to the Flames for playmaking center Doug Gilmour, defenseman Jamie Macoun and forward Kent Manderville, vastly improved the formerly decrepit Leafs, who finished strong and barely missed the playoffs. Now they might even overtake the St. Louis Blues—gee, maybe this will be the season Brett Hull scores 100 goals for a really bad team—for third place in the Norris Division. At the very least we should be spared yet another bum's rush in the playoffs by the erratic Minnesota North Stars. Courtnall and Mike Modano are fast, and they can score, but they won't score fast enough to offset the goals allowed by overrated goalie Jon Casey.
New Hartford Whaler general manager Brian Burke has a shamrock tattooed on his derriere. Good thing—he'll need all the luck he can muster. The Whalers lost their annual free pass to the playoffs when Quebec made the Lindros deal. Burke and coach Paul Holmgren, who met during an on-ice brawl in a Minnesota summer league in 1973, have a major reclamation project on their hands.
After showing bits of promise—and selling truck-loads of nifty souvenirs—in their debut season, the San Jose Sharks started swimming in the wrong direction. In June general manager Jack Ferreira lost a power struggle and was fired. Three men supposedly will share his duties, but a three-headed shark is a loathsome thing to behold.