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If You Were Ron Francis, What Would You Do About A Coach?
The Kraken have quality candidates to chose from; The Winnipeg Jets & Minnesota Wild look playoff-ready; Jim Rutherford speaks.
This is a fun time of life for Hall of Famer Ron Francis.
His Seattle Kraken is undefeated and every g.m. loves that; fans, too.
Who cares that the soon-to-be 32d NHL team hasn't played a game yet; the Kraken's future is as bright as searchlights on the city's Space Needle.
Enthused fans have shown their dedication by flooding the Kraken combine with ticket info and requests.
Meanwhile, the Seattle savants would love some news about their pre-natal franchise. One question that will grow in heat during the next month comes down to who the estimable Ron Francis chooses as head coach.
A few of the marquee names have a certain glow about them. A couple even wear Stanley Cup rings. Try these on for size and see if you like them:
MIKE BABCOCK: He's a proven winner -- despite what the Toronto media says -- and still has the glow, although it's fading fast.
CLAUDE JULIEN: The French-Canadian maestro won a Cup in Boston and got the best out of a mostly mediocre Montreal market. Claude is lower key than Babcock but just as savvy.
JOHN TOTORELLA: Another Cup-winner, Torts does well in his first year and that's vital with this new franchise. He'll get attention by intimidating the media, benching stars and wearing his emotion on his spectacles.
BRUCE BOUDREAU: Cousin Brucie would be the Don Cherry of the Northwest in the best possible way. His players, the press, the fans -- everybody -- will love this guy. His resume is lengthy and impeccable;
MY CHOICE: Cousin Brucie because I like smart coaches who are as funny as they are smart.
Stan’s Java Jive
HEADLINE: BETTER NOT FORGET THE JETS
THE JIVE; With the fuss and fanfare that accompanied the Trade Deadline, one team, most of all, was ignored -- g.m. Kevin Cheveldayoff's Winnipeg Jets. A team that won't forget them, starting today, will be the overstuffed, over-media-ed Maple Leafs. Manitoba's favorite hockey team demonstrated last night why a best-of-seven series with Toronto would not make Kyle (Get Every Available Player) Dubas happy. The 5-2 Peg victory showed why Paul Maurice's sextet still could top the Scotia North Division.
The Jets have the quality goaltending in Connor (31 saves) Hellebuyck and Shelly Keefe's outfit does not. Jack Campbell was knocked out of the box after allowing three goals on six shots. 'Nuff said.
Once again, Peg's Nik (Two Goals) Ehlers came through with his fifth straight season of scoring at least 20 goals, while the Winnys finished their road trip a nifty 4-1-0. Here's how in Maurice's words: "You gotta be smart; play hard, be comfortable and patient while playing a simple game."
TSN's reputable analyst Craig Button adds, "I wouldn't count out the Jets finishing atop the North." (P.S. Minus Auston Matthews, Leafs ordinary. P.S.S. Winnipeg’s only three points behind Toronto — and host them for the next three straight games!)
HEADLINE: WILD ARE THE JETS OF THE CENTRAL
THE JIVE: Just like the Jets get hidden in their division by the Big Town Maple Leafs, so does Minnesota's handsome outfit quietly thrive behind star-studded Colorado and and flashy Vegas. But, let's not forget that when the season began, g.m. Bill Guerin and coach Dean Evason kept repeating the Wild's theme, "Why not us?" The real-time result has been rewarding. The team picked to finish eighth worst in the league is doing very well, thank you. Their record -- 25-13-3 for 53 points -- is more than commendable. This is especially true considering that Minny's leading scorer is a rookie, Kirill Kaprizov with 16 goals and 35 points. Guerin's acquisition of goalie Cam Talbot has paid off handsomely. The departure of captain Mikko Koivu resulted in defenseman Jared Spurgeon getting the "C" along with a seven-year contract. His leadership along with steady Ryan Suter has been part of the winning equation. Evanson's superb coaching along with Guerin's excellent managing gives meaning to their mantra "Why not us?"
HEADLINE: A BUTTERFLY RE-BUTTAL
THE JIVE: My recent column ridiculing the goaltenders for over-use of the "Butterfly" technique touched an intellectual nerve. Noted historian and superior author, Eric Zweig of Owen Sound, Ontario writes: "The Butterfly had its time and its place. when The Game allowed more clutching and grabbing -- when Patrick Roy was at his peak -- shooters had so little time in front of the net. Goalies ‘played the percentages’ by taking away the lower part of the net. They figured it was worth the rare occasion when they could be beaten high. Now, with more room and more time in front of the net -- and sticks with ridiculous flex -- it's not as difficult for good shooters to go high again. Goalies will eventually evolve back to a more standup style. But maybe we'll gain a period of slightly higher scores for a while before they do!"
HEADLINE: WHY JIM RUTHERFORD MADE SUDDEN DECISION TO RETIRE:
THE JIVE: That's the headline Sportsnet put over the Christine Simpson interview with the former Penguins g.m. But Jim adamantly refused to tell Chris the inside story. In fact he made an emphatic point of saying nix to Simpson. "It happened suddenly," Jim told her. (But we knew that already. "This was the right time to do it," Jim added. (He said that months ago.) But when Simpson pressed him, Rutherford shot back, "I'm not getting into details." He did say he has "a lot of respect for Ron Hextall," who replaced J.R. Sorry, but Sportsnet went overboard with its header but it was nice to see Jim anyhow. (By the way he says he might come back to the NHL in a sort of advisory role. "Or, I might retire altogether."
HEADLINE: RETIRED NHL OFF-ICE OFFICIALS TALK CHANGE IN ROLES
THE JIVE: Pal Matthew Blittner has come up with a fascinating scoop. He chatted with a group of retired NHL off-ice officials and elicited some compelling responses. The feature for TheNYExtra.com was filmed at The Rinx in Hauppauge, Long Island. The chief protagonists included Jim Sullivan, Vin Godleski plus Tom Palamara and Ricky Tully. Jim and Vin in particular were two of the three officials in "Yellow Sunday," Devils-Bruins, 1988, at the Meadowlands. Also, if you ever wondered about how a goal gets changed from one player to another it’s a “nightmare” situation to deal with.
Who was the first coach of the Edmonton Oilers?
FUNNY COMMENTS FROM YESTERYEAR: "This is not me. I must have entered someone else's body."
- Low-scoring defenseman Harold Snepsts after getting two assists in a game.
TRIVIA ANSWER. The first coach of the Edmonton Oilers was Ray Kinasewich. This was when Edmonton still was in the World Hockey Association.