It's no accident that Risebrough and his counterpart on the first-year Blue Jackets, Doug MacLean, adopted philosophies similar to Torrey's and were quite successful in putting together their teams. Neither club appears to be playoff-bound, but both have beaten a few Stanley Cup contenders and run off short winning streaks. "We both learned from watching what previous expansion teams did," said MacLean after Columbus (14-26-4-3 through Saturday) split a home-and-home series against Minnesota (16-21-8-2) last week. "There were some things we knew we had to do." Here are four of them.
•Get goaltending skill and depth.
The Blue Jackets wisely signed veteran free agent Ron Tugnutt last summer, even though they had already acquired promising Marc Denis, 23, from the Avalanche. The Wild traded for talented Stars backup Manny Fernandez (.917 save percentage) and then selected Jamie MacLennan, a former No. 1 goalie for the Blues, in the expansion draft.
•Assemble a blend of experience and youth.
Minnesota plays three rookies, including dynamic 18-year-old left wing Marian Gaborik, but is anchored by established forwards Scott Pellerin and Jim Dowd. Columbus also sends out three Calder Trophy candidates, but the Blue Jackets have been led by seasoned wingers Geoff Sanderson and Steve Heinze.
•Acquire veteran players from Europe.
Columbus relies on the playmaking of 29-year-old Norwegian center Espen Knutsen and on the two-way effectiveness of 25-year-old wing David Vyborny from the Czech Republic. Minnesota gets steady play on the back line from 32-year-old Slovakian Lubomir Sekeras and 25-year-old Czech Ladislav Benysek.
•Hire a veteran coach who believes in hands-on teaching.
The Blue Jackets' Dave King was a prominent coach in the Canadian national team program for nine years. The Wild's Jacques Lemaire implemented the trapping style that the Devils thrived on in the mid-1990s.
Naturally, executing the plan isn't as simple as devising it, and MacLean and Risebrough say they've been zonked by the complexities that running their teams involves. That may explain why when Torrey was asked what he would do if he were given control of an expansion team today, he replied, "Find a psychiatrist."
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