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Red Wings fans would like to forget not only Vachon but also all of last season. Vachon is back in goal, but now as the No. 2 man behind Jimmy Rutherford. The Wings have traded for Pete Mahovlich to fill the gap at center, and brother Frank, 41, is trying to make the team.
Pittsburgh is in trouble unless 22-year-old Greg Millen can perform the miracles that Herron did in goal. Even if he can, everyone in the front office should be lynched on principle—for making such a risky deal with a team that has won four straight Stanley Cups. VANCOUVER pins its hopes on three players who were sidelined with injuries much of last season: Center Bill Derlago, Goalie Glen Hanlon and Defenseman Kevin McCarthy, acquired from Philadelphia last December for Dennis Ververgaert.
The only area in which these four clubs do not need sympathy is season tickets. EDMONTON has sold more than 15,300, which means that the Edmonton Coliseum will be filled to capacity every time the Oilers play there. The Oilers' main attraction is 18-year-old Wayne Gretzky, who last year signed a 21-year contract at center ice on his birthday. To protect Gretzky, who scored 46 goals and had 64 assists last season, the Oilers gave a second-round draft choice to Minnesota for the Friendly Giant, Dave Semenko, who is billed as the undefeated heavyweight champ of the WHA. The other Dryden, Dave, the WHA's Most Valuable Player in 1978-79, is in goal, but the defense was severely weakened by the loss of Dave Langevin ( Islanders) and Paul Shmyr ( Minnesota).
Quebec has sold all 10,656 of its seats for the season, and on the ice the Nordiques will fare better than any of their former WHA brothers. They have four exciting forwards in Robbie Ftorek, Marc Tardif, Real Cloutier and Serge Bernier, and NHL veterans Gerry Hart and Dave Farrish will help a generally weak defense. But it will be a while before the Nordiques repeat the back-to-back Stanley Cups won by the Quebec Bulldogs in 1912 and 1913.
Winnipeg won three WHA championships in seven years, but gone are the Ulf Nilssons, Anders Hedbergs, Bobby Hulls, Joe Daleys, Kent Nilssons, Terry Ruskowskis and Rich Prestons who wrought those triumphs. General Manager John Ferguson is trying to replace the departed speed and finesse with youth and brawn. The Jets' first choice in the amateur draft was a winger named Jimmy (the Ox) Mann, and Ferguson expects Mann will add "quite a lot of backbone." Defensemen Lars-Erik Sjoberg and Scott Campbell are both first rate, but this will be the weakest team Winnipeg has put on the ice in five seasons.
When HARTFORD abandons the 7,574-seat Springfield, Mass. Civic Center, sometime around New Year's Day, for the expanded 15,000-seat, newly roofed arena in Hartford, it probably will have the worst record in hockey. Twenty-seven of the Whalers' first 40 games are on the road. Their offense is "led" by 39-year-old Dave Keon—egad!—now that Mark Howe is shifting to defense, where Rick Ley, Gordie Roberts and former Bruin Al Sims give the Whalers their only strength. And, nostalgia fans, it looks as if the Old Man may not make it back. At 51, Gordie Howe is contemplating retirement. And this time he may mean it.