In this week’s edition of Hockey Central Ask the Insiders, several fan questions are answered including will Patrick Roy be the next coach of the Avalanche; which first round series have the greatest potential for an upset; and which teams will make the playoffs next season after missing out this year.
Mary asks: Who do you see as a good fit to take over as head coach of the Colorado Avalanche now that Joe Sacco has been fired?
Chris Johnston: Is Patrick Roy finally ready to make the leap? I believe he is the best fit, although the Avs have been down this road before with their former goalie and failed to convince him to take the job. Roy has spent a number of years running the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts and there is a feeling that it’s only a matter of time before he takes a NHL position.
Jeff Marek: Considering this is a young growing team this is a squad that needs a teacher, someone who can shepherd a group of fresh-faced hockey players as they grow to respectability. Also, it should be someone who can relate to young players, speak their language and understand what makes them tick. The name many keep coming back to is former Avalanche netminder, and Stanley Cup champion Patrick Roy. Roy runs the entire operation for the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts and has played footsies with the Avalanche organization before. Considering the cleansing the Avs are about to go through (and have already begun with the Joe Sacco dismissal) it wouldn’t surprise me to see Roy return in Denver in a coaching capacity, perhaps working under Joe Sakic who we assume will take on a greater role in the organization.
Patrick asks: Which of the first round playoff series do you see the most potential for an upset?
Mike Keenan: Patrick, the series that has the potential for an upset is Detroit versus Anaheim. The Red Wings showed their experience down the stretch. They may have enough momentum to take a game on the road and win the series at home.
Neil Smith: Depending on what qualifies as an upset, there are several possibilities. Normally an upset is defined as a lower seed defeating a higher seed. However this season the No. 3 seed in the East, Washington, had only one point more than the No. 6 seed NY Rangers. It is very conceivable that the Rangers would “upset” the Caps in the first round. The same logic applies to the West, where Vancouver had only two more points in the standings as the No. 3 seed as compared to the No. 6 seed San Jose. Again quite conceivable that the Sharks “upset” the Canucks in Round 1.
If you’re looking for bigger “upsets” than these, I would say Detroit at No. 7 has good odds of upsetting Anaheim at No. 2 in the West. I say this because of the experience of the Red Wings organization, their coaching staff and their veterans.
In the Eastern Conference, I believe that the Ottawa Senators at No. 7 have the ability to knock out the No. 2 seed Montreal Canadiens. Ottawa is playing well with the return of Karlsson and the ageless play and leadership of Alfredsson. Montreal is stumbling with Carey Price not at the top of his game and are heading into the playoffs with inconsistent play as a team in general.
Rob asks: What do you think of MLSE hiring Tim Leiweke? Can you sum up what it means for a Leafs fan?
Scott Morrison: From all accounts Tim Leiweke is regarded as being a great hire by the teams. He is very well regarded in pro sports management circles for running successful franchises from a business stand point, but also having success with the actual teams. So, the Leafs fans can only hope that he will provide the resources for Dave Nonis to do his job. I don’t think Leiweke will have an influence in the hockey department, but he will set the objectives for the organization.
Doug MacLean: Rob, I don’t see the hiring as having a big impact on the Leafs. He was with the Los Angeles for probably 15 to 20 years and had little impact in the Kings rise in my opinion. I would focus on GM Dave Nonis and coach Randy Carlyle vs. him.
Annie asks: Of all the teams that missed the playoffs this season, which do you see as most likely to make the playoffs next year?
Scott Morrison: There are several teams that could bounce back next season, the likes of Nashville, Philadelphia, New Jersey and especially Carolina, which was decimated by injuries. At one point they were missing four regulars on defence and two goaltenders. With the Staal brothers, Alex Semin (if a new contract doesn’t make him complacent), Jeff Skinner, Justin Faulk and Cam Ward, and a top five pick on the way, the Hurricanes should be a playoff team next season.
Doug MacLean: Annie, I still believe the Oilers with their young group will continue to improve. Other teams such as Colorado with their youth and also Columbus look ready to take a step.
John Shannon: At first blush Annie, I think we will see the Carolina Hurricanes return to form next season. This team has too much talent with the Staal boys, Semin, Skinner and Faulk. Let’s remember their season took a hard left turn with the injury to goaltender Cam Ward. They also only got 17 games out of rugged two way forward Tuomo Ruutu As a team they lost more than 170 man games to injury, which would surely cripple any team in any season. I expect Jim Rutherford to re-tool his team a bit, and Kirk Muller and his staff to be fully prepared for an 82 game season with a full training camp. The ‘Canes will be a different team next season.
Mike Keenan: Annie, I believe Columbus has positioned themselves well for next season. They had a very strong finish and should have the team confidence to make the playoffs next year.
Neil Smith: Annie, in the Eastern Conference the Philadelphia Flyers will do whatever they have to do, both on the ice and off, to qualify for the 2014 playoffs. Mr. Snider who has had ownership of the Flyers since their inception in 1967, does not take losing lightly and is willing to spend whatever is needed to bring a contender to the ice in Philadelphia. That combined with players like Claude Giroux and Wayne Simmonds etc., will make the Philadelphia Flyers a team to watch over the summer and into next season.
Cameron asks: In light of Don Cherry’s comments Saturday, I’m curious if you think any reporters are needed to have access to the locker room following the game? Could the team’s media relations people bring them out to a separate area? It seems like this is what they do for the Stanley Cup playoffs.
John Shannon: Actually Cameron, that’s exactly what happens now in all NHL rinks. Dressing rooms are divided into private and common areas. The media does not have full access to the complete complexity of an NHL room. They are allowed to enter an area, after the game, where the players come out to see them. It is the same area we see on TV in those staged shots before the game that shows the players preparing to go to the ice surface. The days of one room, and media and players interacting as one group asks questions and the other puts on their clothes is long gone. In fact, for many media members, the grumbling about players “hiding” in the back has become a common refrain.
By the way, I don’t agree with my friend Don, but I respect his right to have an opinion. No one should be shocked when he takes a stand like this. He has a pulpit on Saturday night that is built on his own personal philosophy and his ability to simplify the most complex issues. He shouldn’t be taken to task for voicing opinions. That’s what Hockey Night in Canada has asked him to do for more than 30 years. That also doesn’t mean he’s right, and you have to agree with him. As my father used to say at the dinner table, “I don’t agree with your opinion, but I will fight for your right to have it.”
Levon asks: What do you think of the Stars hiring Jim Nill as their new GM? Seems to me he has been the “next big thing” for GMs for a while now but never wanted to make the move from Detroit.
Chris Johnston: I believe Jim Nill will be highly motivated in the new role, which is a good thing given the amount of work in front of him. As you correctly pointed out, this is an opportunity he’s waited a long time for. Nill was one of the NHL’s highest-paid and most-respected executives during his tenure in Detroit and there was no reason to leave before the right situation materialized. At age 55, he’s found it. And with his pedigree, I certainly wouldn’t bet against him having success.
Jeff Marek: Great hire for the Stars and a huge coup too. Many teams have tried to pry Nill out of Detroit but he’s always resisted, figuring it was either the right time to make a jump. Given he’s been hounded for years and finally relented with Dallas leads me to believe they’ve granted him an enormous level of autonomy to set the course HIS way. And for the Stars that means a deliberate (and perhaps slow) path grown out of drafting and developing players. Don’t expect any big name free agents to show up at Nill’s doorstep, unless they can provide a strong work ethic and leadership quality to help guide what will be a very young Dallas Stars team.