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Big Name Coaches Left Out in the Cold
John Tortorella, Mike Babcock and Claude Julien still on the sidelines. Leah Hextall to call games for ESPN. Fred Andersen's future in Toronto. Habs go into Game 3 with only 3500 fans.
John Tortorella, Mike Babcock and Claude Julien -- where are you now that no National Hockey League seems to need you?
Ditto for "sure thing" hire that hasn't happened, Rick Tocchet.
One by one, coaching vacancies have been filled, leaving several prominent personalities having to file "Situations Wanted" ads in The Hockey News.
For me, the biggest surprise is Tocchet who walked away from his gig in Arizona because the ice seemed firmer on another side.
What's obvious, of course, is that clubs such as the Coyotes are quite willing to gamble on rookie mentors who'll sign on for bargain rates.
Exhibit A has to be Arizona's choice of Andre Tourigny.
For the past four years, he's been head coach of the Ottawa 67's, not to mention that he helped Gerard Gallant's Team Canada to a World's Gold Medal.
Hey; if GG likes the guy, he can't be anything but good.
Meanwhile, Sabres g.m. Kevyn Adams ignored the likes of Babcock, et. al, for another low income selection.
The difference here is that Don Granato gained Brownie points for his resurrection of Buffalo's embattled franchise. Not only did he shape up The Swords but actually re-invented them as an occasional winning team.
By Western New York standards that's as tremendous a feat as rebuilding the Erie Canal.
How come there's no grabbing for the marquee names?
Let's start with Mike Babcock who seemed to be lobbying for another gig with an assortment of tv interviews, not to mention his most recent employment as a tv analyst; and a good one, too.
Could be Babs' future is studio work where he won't have to tilt with the media; although there might be the odd rift with either a director or producer.
Torts figures to be a natural for either ESPN or Turner. Frankly, I'm more surprised that a network hasn't signed him than I am that he's out of the coaching spotlight.
Then again, Johnny Nasty could use a respite for even a full season or until some last place mentor in 2021-22 is given the hook. Torts as a fresh replacement always is attractive at the start.
My favorite, Claude Julien, seemed one of many "naturals" for the Seattle Kraken.
Instead, g.m. Ron (Always Close To The Vest) Francis stunned the "Insiders" by fishing Dave Hakstol's name out of Puget Sound.
Among the NHL Family of Nations, Francis has a rep for being a close-to-the-vest kind of leader -- no harm in that, right? -- and one who does not exactly like blowhards who just might upstage him.
That said, Hakstol has not won standing O's from the press folks in terms of being the best available bench boss for the new franchise.
Let's not forget that g.m. George McPhee had no qualms about signing Gerard Gallant to lead his baby Vegas outfit in the Knights freshman season.
Shazam! All GG did was take his spear-carriers all the way to the Cup Final. Now and forever, that will rate at the top of any NHL "Believe It Or Not" list.
Not that he was a favorite for any opening but I thought ex-Rangers Lieutenant-Colonel Dave Quinn might hook on somewhere. Matter of fact he still might be an assistant coach hire before the season begins.
Stan’s Java Jive
HEADLINE: LEAH HEXTALL BECOMES FIRST WOMAN FULL-TIME PLAY BY PLAY ANNOUNCER
THE JIVE: This is a major league breakthrough; no question about it.
The ESPN hire isn't a publicity stunt either. She's paid her broadcasting dues, big-time, and comes from a distinguished hockey family. Her cousin is the former ace goalie Ron Hextall, currently Penguins g.m. But, get this, Leah's great-grandfather was Bryan Hextall, the Rangers right wing who scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal against the Maple Leafs in 1940.
Further to Leah's hockey roots; she was born in Flin Flon, Manitoba, home to among others Hall of Famer Bobby Clarke. She later grew up in the hockey hotbed of Brandon, Manitoba, home to a legion of major leaguers. And guess who her first broadcasting mentor happens to be; none other than the iconic Mike (Doc) Emrick.
Ms. Hextall confesses that Doc was her first choice when seeking advice about learning the play-by-play biz. "He told me to take a recorder to Junior games and just start broadcasting that way." Hextall recalled. "It was tough at first but I stuck with it."
Clearly, the windows are opening for women hires throughout the hockey universe and at every level. Good stuff!
HEADLINE: FRED ANDERSEN'S FUTURE STILL MIGHT BE IN TORONTO
THE JIVE: There's nothing wrong with an experienced NHL goalie wanting his job back; especially in nutsy-fandom Toronto. Let's face it, Jack Campbell is a solid back-up for the Maple Leafs. But anyone who believes that he can be numero uno has to be a close relative.
Which explains why Fred Andersen has gone public with his voice telling g.m. Kyle Dubas, "Gimme another shot and I'll get you past the first playoff round."
Dubas' challenge is finding some stopper superior to Andy and that could happen when one considers the goalie glut. Take away Fearless Fred's failures and you have an honest netminder, admired by teammates and coach Sheldon Keefe. Public opinion may not be wholeheartedly in favor of the Dauntless Dane's return but Dubas is the man who counts. Since I never could read the minds of general managers,I leave the answer to Fred's bid up to you, the reader.
HEADLINE: HABS CROWDS WILL BE LIMITED FOR HEALTH REASONS:
THE JIVE: Fan sentiment favored larger crowds for Games Three and Four of the Final at Bell Centre. And who could blame the Canadiens or their dedicated followers to preferring an enlarged attendance to boost the home club. But, in these uncertain times, the health issue is paramount and if you don't believe me, check the news.
That means that the odds against the Habs -- already steep -- just climbed again; especially when the Champ Bolts have enjoyed raucous support at Tampa Bay's Amalie Arena.
You know what; under the circumstances, if Duke Ducharme's team can somehow scratch out one victory -- how about tonight? -- it would rank as a monumental accomplishment. Two wins? That would be out of this world!