Bad teams, such as the Panthers, are dumping their G.M. and coach
The latest NHL wisdom is, if you can't change the players, then change the coach and the general manager. When the Panthers fired G.M. Bryan Murray and his brother Terry, the coach, on Dec. 28, Florida became the third club to make the double switch this season. (The Bruins and the Canadiens did it earlier.) The Flames and the Rangers have made similar management changes over the past nine months, and the widespread overhaul around the league has most likely just begun. The disappointing Panthers (7-19-7-5 through Tuesday) could soon be sold, which means that new coach Duane Sutter and president-G.M. Bill Torrey (who dismissed the Murrays and took on Bryan's responsibilities) may not hold those jobs for long. Here's a look at other management teams that could be gone by summer:
?Islanders G.M. Mike Milbury and coach Butch Goring. In five years in New York, Milbury has made four coaching changes and enough bad trades to ensure that the Islanders were the NHL's worst team over that span. Though Milbury publicly supports his second-year coach, Goring fears losing his job. A sign that the two could fall in a single swoop came on Dec. 19, when owner Charles Wang addressed the players but did not invite Milbury or Goring to join them. Last June, Milbury declared that it would be "off with my head" if his club didn't improve this season. Through Tuesday, New York was 11-21-4-2.
?Canadiens G.M. Andr� Savard and coach Michel Therrien. In light of the team's impending sale, the Nov. 20 hiring of Savard and Therrien—neither of whom had NHL experience at their respective positions—smacks of a stopgap move. Montreal, which through Tuesday was 11-23-4-2, needs to tear apart the roster and rebuild, which is why a new owner would almost certainly hire a fresh management team. After winning four of its first six games under Savard and Therrien, Montreal had gone 2-8-2-2.
?Coyotes G.M. Bobby Smith and coach Bob Francis. Prospective owners Steve Ellman and Wayne Gretzky were supposed to have taken over months ago, but now the transfer seems uncertain at best—which also describes the futures of Smith and Francis. Smith, whose club has not won a playoff round in his four years on the job, expects to be replaced if and when Gretzky takes over. Francis remains well-regarded, but after a fast start the team has faded (7-9-5-1 over its last 22 games after having begun the season 9-1-5-0).
?Hurricanes G.M. Jim Rutherford and coach Paul Maurice. Owner Peter Karmanos's loyalty to his employees is commendable, though it seems to be costing the club. Since taking over in June 1994, Rutherford has put together mediocre teams and bungled several player-personnel decisions. Maurice, meanwhile, has reached the playoffs only once in his five seasons. The few Carolina fans who show up at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Raleigh have been calling for Karmanos to abandon his allegiances and to clean house.
Peter Bondra's Future
A Cap for the Long Run?
Peter Bondra is so swift and physically fit that his resurgence as a sniper this season—at age 32 and on the verge of unrestricted free agency—might have been forecast. The surprise is that his revival has come with the Capitals. "I didn't think I'd be here now" Bondra said on Monday before scoring his team-high 20th goal in a 4-2 victory against the Thrashers. Then he smiled. "Maybe I'll stay."
Bondra, a two-time 50-goal scorer in 10 seasons with Washington, coasted lackadaisically through a 21-goal year in 1999-2000. By season's end he had been demoted to the third line, his coach and teammates had lost faith in him, and he had asked general manager George McPhee to trade him. "Peter said that he wanted to go to a Stanley Cup contender," says coach Ron Wilson. 'Well, that's what we are."
That's true. After Monday's win the Capitals were on a 12-3-1-0 run and were pulling away from the rest of the Southeast Division. Bondra was at the heart of that success, having scored 12 goals in his last 15 games and having committed himself to Wilson's system, which calls for wingers to forecheck aggressively. "In the past we didn't know whether Peter was going to play for himself or for the team," says Wilson. "This year I know that, shift to shift, he's going to do the right thing to help us win."