Hockey Night in Canada's Scott Morrison delivers his insights into the world of hockey, on and off the ice.
Coyotes' housecleaning no surprise
Wednesday, April 11, 2007 | 07:15 PM ET
By Scott Morrison
The events of Wednesday in Phoenix, just hours before the start of the Stanley Cup playoffs, really did not come as any great surprise.
For weeks the writing has been on the wall. All they did Wednesday was put it on the pink slips of general manager Mike Barnett, senior advisor Cliff Fletcher and assistant Laurence Gilman, along with a couple of other front-office employees.
For weeks, the ownership has been promising a full review of the front office and change. Significant change, they said.
And so the big broom was hauled out.
Though they’re disappointed, those who were dismissed understand that after four more seasons of not making the playoffs, change was inevitable. It happened on the ice, it eventually had to happen off it. It is still too bad because some good people, some very talented people, are now out of work. They didn't get stupid overnight, they just weren't able to pull it all together in time and there have been mitigating circumstances with that franchise.
It isn't a point of debate any more, that chapter is closed. The key will be how the Coyotes move forward, who they hire as general manager, who they surround him with, who they name as associate coach to work with Wayne Gretzky and to replace Barry Smith, who accepted a head coaching job in Russia. Gretzky would prefer having Rick Tocchet back, but that is obviously not a lock and not guaranteed to be possible by the start of next season.
It was widely agreed, though, that when Tocchet was assisting the Coyotes were a much better team.
As for the big job, a short list has been compiled, with sources saying all of those names are currently employed elsewhere in the NHL. Names that have been mentioned so far include Rangers assistant GM Don Maloney, with whom Gretzky would be familiar from their days in New York, as well as Hockey Canada boss Bob Nicholson, a runner-up for the job in Toronto a few years ago.
Vancouver assistant Steve Tambellini has been mentioned, but there is a faction that believes he isn't under consideration, at least not yet. Another possibility is former Leafs coach Pat Quinn, but he apparently is more interested in coaching an NHL team than managing one. Another possibility will be Coyotes director of player personnel Tom Kurvers.
The bottom line is that, before departing with a four-year contract as his parachute, Barnett did a good job of rebuilding the scouting department and replenishing the supply of prospects. He also has the Coyotes’ two best players, Shane Doan and Ed Jovanovski, signed long term. The replacement’s job will be able to acquire talent or sign free agents who are not at the end of their careers and can still be useful contributors. It won't be easy, but that isn't any great surprise, either.
Oh, yes, this person is obviously going to have to be able to work with head coach/owner Wayne Gretzky who, because of his brilliance in the game and because of his position, has considerable say in personnel matters. It is a unique arrangement.
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About the Author
Scott Morrison, the recipient of the Hockey Hall of Fameís 2006 Elmer Ferguson Memorial Award, has been covering hockey for 25 years. The Toronto native began his career at the Toronto Sun in 1979. After spending more than 11 years as a hockey writer and columnist at the paper, Morrison became Sports Editor in 1991 and led the section to being named one of North America's top-ten sports sections in 1999 - the first sports section in Canada to receive the AP Sports Editors North American Award. Scott, a former two-term president of the Professional Hockey Writers' Association, joined Rogers Sportsnet in 2001 as Managing Editor, Hockey, and is currently both a commentator on Hockey Night in Canada and a columnist for CBC.ca.
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