“Once it’s out there that Mess wants to do it, you can’t not do it because if there’s not success early [for the new coach], it’s going to be, ‘We want Mess,’ ” said former Ranger Bobby Holik, a teammate of Messier’s from 2002-04.
“Yes, Glen is backed into a corner and I don’t think he likes it at all,” Holik added. “I don’t think Glen likes to be forced into a decision. But I don’t see any other way out, to keep peace in Rangerland.”
Holik added: “I have tremendous respect for Mark as a player but I haven’t seen enough to tell me he’s going to come to it. Great players do things on ice without really knowing how they do it.”
Bowness, 58, has been either an NHL head coach or assistant for 24 years. He was recently fired after seven years as an assistant with the Canucks, which also fired head coach Alain Vigneault in a housecleaning after Vancouver this season was swept out of the first round of the playoffs.
Tampa Bay has been in the market for an assistant since last month when it announced Dan Lacroix, who handled the defense and penalty kill, would not be given a new contract.
“We have the luxury of being 15 minutes down the road,” said Dave Poulin, vice-president of hockey operations. “Other teams have to take them to their locations. Some might have to fly them in. They can only have a small number, where we have the luxury of taking more.”
Poulin would not divulge how many would come to the MasterCard Centre on Saturday and Sunday for the closed sessions, but it seemed every second player who was asked planned to visit.
“It’s a chance to talk to them away from this environment,” said Poulin of the frenetic 15-minute team interviews conducted during the first three or four days of the NHL combine.
After the Eastern Conference finals opener, defenseman Andrew Ference had an explanation for his teammate’s ability to light up the scoreboard every time the Stanley Cup playoffs roll around, even in the most hostile environments.
“I think the one thing I think that really helps David is he’s very cool-headed and calm,” Ference said. “This time of year is obviously about having emotions and getting outside of your comfort zone. But some of the best players are also the ones that can keep their pulse down a little bit and not get out of their heads with trying to do too much and getting over their heads and only playing with emotion. You know he does a good job of keeping pretty cool and staying extremely sharp, but calm. He’s been a great playoff performer all the time.”
BRIERE AWAITS POTENTIAL BUYOUT
The Courier Post describes how Quebec native Danny Briere is one of the most often quoted Flyers and it has nothing to do with his skill on the ice. His answers are always honest, sometimes brutally, but he’s always dignified. With his level of thoughtfulness when the microphones are on, how about making a media role, which he has dabbled in during these playoffs on television, a full-time gig someday?
“I realize that it could be a possibility, but it’s too early to tell,” Briere said with a laugh. “I’m not there yet. I’m still concentrating on my game. I want to play a couple more years at least and go from there. We’ll see. I think it is a possibility, but I haven’t really thought about it past that point.”
Briere is a prime candidate for a compliance buyout, which would cost the Flyers a little more than $3 million spread across four years. The window to buy out players doesn’t open until late June. The potential of not being a Flyer come next season is weighing on him.
“It’s not fun having to wait, but there’s nothing I can do,” Briere said. “Whatever happens, happens. I really believe things happen for a reason. I’m going to let the chips fall wherever they may and try to deal with the situation the best I can with what’s ahead of me.”
LIMITED PLAYOFF ROLE FOR WINGS’ TOOTOO
The Detroit Free Press recalls how the Red Wings signed hard-fisted spark plug Jordin Tootoo last summer, heralding his arrival as just what was needed to help make them grittier. Tootoo got three years and $5.7 million, but when the playoffs started, Tootoo was tucked away on the sideline for all but one game.
As the regular season games grew in importance, Tootoo’s value diminished. “Those guys, the type of player he is,” coach Mike Babcock said, “gets way more opportunity early in the season, when it’s being silly, than he does in the end and in the playoffs.
“There’s no penalties in the playoffs. You just can’t take a penalty in the playoffs. There’s not as much stuff after the whistle. There’s mauling each other, but there’s not that stuff.”
Babcock had nothing but positive reviews for Tootoo though.
“I thought Toots was great for us. He did everything we wanted from him. He came in, he was physical, he gave us energy.”
“We’ll entertain offers. We’ve already had people inquire with us about it and vice-versa,” assistant general manager Paul Fenton said. “We’ll talk about whatever position that can improve us for the whole big picture of things.”
Still, Fenton was cautious: “In order to move up to that position, you’re going to have to make an offer that you can’t refuse.”
“I’m not gonna be selfish with this whole situation and demand this stupid contract that we’re not going to be able to build a team around,” Smith said. “I believe you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. There’s good players that make a lot of money, and I think I deserve a fair contract. By any means I’m not expecting to hit a home run.”
A hometown discount, it seems, is a possibility, but Smith needs other assurances before agreeing to stick with the Coyotes.
“The biggest part about me signing back here will be: Is the ownership group coming in, is this going to be a place that free agents are going to want to come and play and are they going to spend the money to make this a better team on an every-year basis?” Smith said. “I think that’s the most intriguing piece of the puzzle.”
Smith also wants to see where coach Dave Tippett lands.
“My relationship with Tipp is a good one, and I really believe in the way he coaches and obviously that’ll carry some weight in my decision-making,” Smith said.