3a) Barry Smith, 48; and 3b) Dave Lewis, 45, Red Wings. They shared interim coaching duties when Scotty Bowman missed the first five games of last season following knee surgery, and one of the two is likely to take over when the 66-year-old Bowman retires. Smith instituted Detroit's successful left-wing lock system, and Lewis has devised excellent tactics for Wings defensemen. Whoever doesn't succeed Bowman may get a top job elsewhere.
5) Alpo Suhonen, 51, Maple Leafs. He's intelligent and one of the game's most original thinkers, and could become the NHL's first European head coach. He also has a fan in the Blackhawks' de facto general manager, Mike Smith, under whom Suhonen worked in Toronto and Winnipeg. Smith is expected to name a replacement for interim coach Bob Pulford after this season.
Linguist Georges Laraque
Da, the Black Russian Speaks
Hang around the Oilers' dressing room and it won't be long before you see Edmonton enforcer Georges Laraque puff out his chest and gaily exclaim to his teammates, "Ya chorney Russky!" That translates to "I'm a black Russian!" and it's one of Laraque's favorite expressions, because, he says, "there aren't any other guys like me speaking Russian in this league."
The son of Haitian parents, Laraque, 23, grew up in Montreal and spoke French, English and Creole as a child. Last season he asked roommate Andrei Kovalenko (since traded to the Hurricanes) to teach him some Russian so that they could talk more easily. Now Laraque chats with Russian teammate Alex Selivanov. "Georges learns fast," Selivanov says. "He knows all the really bad words."
Laraque won't use those profanities against Russian opponents, but he often gives Selivanov a good-natured earful. "Once we were in an airport, and I was calling Alex the worst Russian swear words," says Laraque. "All of a sudden I saw people staring at me. You could tell they knew what I was saying. At least I knew how to apologize in Russian."
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