Idle Chatter and Monday Mailbag
DETROIT—With the Stanley Cup final now shifting to Pittsburgh for Game 3 tomorrow night, NHL general managers and presidents will also be gathering there for meetings, which means there will be lots and lots of rumours in the air.
Here’s two interesting ones emanating out of Montreal these days which are at least worth chewing over.
One, there is chatter that in their search for a new head coach, the Habs might be considering thinking outside of the box and at least considering Russian national team head coach Viacheslav Bykov. Bykov has led the Russians to the last two world titles, last year in Quebec City and this year in Switzerland, and is widely considered to be one of the unifying factors in Russian hockey that makes that country a serious Olympic threat next year in Vancouver.
There hasn’t been a European head coach in the NHL since Czech national Ivan Hlinka was fired by the Pittsburgh Penguins early in the 2001-02 season. Finnish coach Alpo Suhonen was the bench boss in Chicago until he was fired in March, 2001, due to a heart ailment.
The genius behind the notion of hiring Bykov? He can speak French after years playing with Fribourg in the Swiss league, but can’t speak English. Now that would be a twist on Montreal’s legendary linguistic debates.
The second rumour out of Montreal is that the Canadiens would like to host a game involving the Maple Leafs at the Olympic Stadium next November. The catch? The roof on the Big O doesn’t open any more, which means that it would be an indoor/outdoor game without the snowy charm that accompanied games in Edmonton, Chicago and Buffalo in recent years.
Sounds like a money grab to me. Now here’s some samplings from our playoff mail bag:
I was interested to see the long term deals Henrik Zetterberg and Johan Franzen recently signed, they will be 35-36 when the dollars start to drop dramatically (ok a few million per year). When Markus Naslund retired his "cap hit" came off the books as he was under 35 when he signed with the Rangers. I am sure it is not what the NHL wanted, but do you see this "loophole" continuing in the future?
A: No, I don’t. I think the league will seek to close the door on these types of deals in future CBA negotiations, either by putting limits on terms allowed for contracts or not allowing teams to pay significantly more in the early years of these contracts then almost nothing in the final years. If they had to pay nearly the same amount all the way along, teams would be less likely to embrace such arrangements.
A: Right choice? Maybe. Quinn’s record, outside of never having won a Stanley Cup, is very good. I really like the decision to add on Tom Renney as an associate coach in charge of X’s and O’s. Right now, it will have a lot more to do with how GM Steve Tambellini is able to add and improve the Oiler roster than what Quinn and Renney can do. But my guess is that Quinn is as good a coach as he’s ever been, and his work with the national under-18 and national junior programs suggest the game has not passed him by.
I was wondering what is is going on with the issue on the TV rights package in the U.S.? Is ESPN going to get the rights or is Versus and NBC going to keep them. Is the NHL leaning a certain way? What is the current situation at this point in regards to the TV rights issue because the NHL needs to get this sorted out in order to promote the game. Just wondering your thoughts
A: The league seems very committed to sticking with Versus, while the players association wants to get back on ESPN. The numbers on Versus are growing, but the problem is that network isn’t nearly as widely available in the U.S. as is ESPN. The NHL is committed to Versus for I believe three more years, so right now the argument is moot.
A: Well, for the Penguins to come back now, Fleury would have to be brilliant. He hasn’t been in Games 1 or 2, but if he can turn it around now and carry the Penguins to the title, he would at least be invited to Team Canada’s orientation camp in August.
Click here to send a question to Damien for a future mail bag.