Wings get their message across

Not convinced Dominik Hasek's days in Detroit are over? Read between the shots.

Updated: February 14, 2004, 2:19 PM ET
By Jim Kelley | ESPN.com

Subtlety and hockey aren't normally found in the same sentence, unless of course you're talking about a roomful of veteran players.

Take, for instance, the Detroit Red Wings, a well-traveled and experienced lot as evidenced in two noteworthy treatments of Dominik Hasek's "departure."

1. Most every player and person in management focused his public comments on Curtis Joseph and the strength of character he has shown. The way he handled Hasek's arrival, being sent to the minors (twice) and being recalled to save the day after Hasek couldn't (or wouldn't) play was not lost on any member of the Red Wings, not even those who favored Hasek as their No. 1 goalie.

The subtle message there was that players respect other players who suffer adversity of any kind and still put the team first. Detroit may have won a Stanley Cup with Hasek, but it will be difficult for the players to respect him after he walked away claiming his groin injury does not enable him to play in the manner in which he has become accustomed. Players and management both know now that Hasek, who has a history at this sort of thing, did little if nothing to prepare himself for the rigors of an 82-game season, and that his return to Detroit after yet another aborted retirement had little or perhaps nothing to do with helping the club win another Stanley Cup.

The fact that the Red Wings didn't offer a medical opinion to support Hasek's contention speaks volumes.

IN THE SLOT
Chirpin'
Dominik Hasek "Knowing what I know about his groin, I'm not surprised. It was a bothersome situation here with Dom. We even had one of his guys come over and treat him and train him. I'm not surprised, no.''

-- Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff regarding Hasek, his former goalie.
Our deepest sympathies to ...
• ... fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins, who saw their team break the club record with its 12th consecutive loss ... then its 13th. Heading into Saturday, the Penguins are 11-38-5-4, just four losses shy of their total last season.

• ... Ric Jackman, who was traded from Toronto to Pittsburgh for Drake Berehowsky and now has no shot at the playoffs.

• ... Mike Comrie, who was shipped from Edmonton to Philadelphia and now from Philadelphia to Phoenix and also is likely to miss the postseason. However, Comrie wasn't expected to stay long with the Flyers. Since the day he was acquired from the Oilers, it was all but a foregone conclusion the Flyers would use him to acquire a goalie if they needed one, which they did.
Zhamnov going or staying?
The Blackhawks are getting nervous Alexei Zhamnov's future. The Hawks are looking to trade their captain, but they aren't getting the type of offers they had hoped due to the center's history of back problems. Sources tell ESPN.com that the Ottawa Senators might have an interest now that Radek Bonk is out and that the Philadelphia Flyers have had a couple of scouts taking a look even before Jeremy Roenick went down with a broken jaw.
Wild on verge of fire sale?
The Minnesota Wild are shopping goaltender Manny Fernandez and they aren't asking for a lot. Hey, Glen Sather, you interested? If Fernandez does go, he'll be the first of several if the Wild are further out of the playoffs than near.
2. When players are upset, they have ways of letting it be known short of making a public pronouncement or even having a closed-door session with the offending party. So when they are upset with a selfish goalie, instead of venting in the press or having a sit down with him, they whizz a shot or two past his ear during practice. According to those in attendance, several players took Hasek's last skate as an opportunity to use the netminder's noggin for target practice.

"I would expect he's done in Detroit," said Red Wings general manager Ken Holland. Good thing, because it's unlikely his teammates would welcome him back.

Roy switching sides?
Was it just odd timing or an orchestrated coincidence?

During a press conference prior to Sunday's All-Star Game, retired goaltender Patrick Roy was asked for his thoughts on reducing the size of goalie equipment as a way to increase scoring. Roy noted the width limit increased from 10 to 12 inches during his playing days (1985-2003) and that he'd be in favor of reducing it back to 10 inches. Two days later, the league's general managers made the same recommendation at their meeting in Henderson, Nevada.

We won't go so far as to say we suspect the league asked the winningest goaltender of all time to ease the shock for the brethren he left behind; that would be speculation on our part. Still, we can't help but recall that Roy not only took advantage of the rules when he played, but he stretched them every time he had the chance. Once, Roy was fingered for employing a wing-like device that spread out from his already large pads whenever he dropped into the butterfly formation. The flaps, initially designed to protect the area alongside and behind the knee, opened to a point where they helped cover the open area between the goalies legs, commonly known as the five hole.

Like we said, we're not suggesting a public relations ploy on behalf of the NHL here, but it was vaguely reminiscent of the night Wayne Gretzky offered up an unsolicited endorsement of Brett Hull's controversial Stanley Cup-winning goal at the height of the debate back in 1999. Gretzky was asked point blank if anyone asked him support the league's finding and he said no. Interestingly, no one had asked Gretzky for his opinion to begin with. The statement came at the NHL awards ceremony that year, the same year Gretzky retired and it was widely rumored that he had entered into an endorsement deal with the NHL.

Same old forward thinking
The fact the NHL's GMs endorsed a slew of changes for the game while in Nevada has created the impression the group finally has adopted a forward-thinking approach.

Sorry, I don't buy it.

Most of the ideas the GMs endorsed seem to reflect a desire to return to the NHL of the past. That's the case with their proposals of moving the goal line back three feet, re-embracing no-touch icing and shrinking the size of goaltender equipment to near pre-war (fill in your own war here) widths. The retro thinking is the usual sign that the group as a whole tends to think in terms of what works best for the short term and their teams, rather than what might be good for the game's future and fan appeal.

Another reason, we're told, is because the GMs got a look at some prototype goal cages that had been enlarged in width and height. They recoiled in horror.

A sizable number of GMs objected to the new cages simply because they were not the traditional size and we all know how important tradition is in the NHL. Another portion of the group feared that the bigger target zone would actually accomplish what it's designed to do, increase scoring. That, they felt, would lead to more goal scorers demanding more money and no matter what the economic landscape of the NHL in the future, tradition dictates that when a scorer scores more goals he gets more money.

That said (or perhaps unsaid in this case), the group opted for what it almost always opts for: tradition and moderation. Shrinking goalies' pads, they argue, will bring hockey back to where it was (critics would argue it didn't appeal to a whole lot of people back then either, just check the ratings when the game was on NBC). The GMs took a similar stance with wider red and blue lines. Instead of embracing the forward thinking of former Phoenix GM Bobby Smith (fired by Gretzky after he took over the Coyotes) and proposing them to be six feet wide, they opted for three feet.

The one place where the GMs appeared to embrace innovation was in proposing three points for a win. Still, they know their ideas aren't binding and they don't have to endorse them as official recommendations until the next time they meet. That should allow plenty of time for public debate and a gentle, behind-the-scenes effort to let the concept die at the AHL level.

Hunter gathering goals

Trent Hunter
Hunter
It's become clear that New York Islanders rookie Trent Hunter isn't going away anytime soon. Hunter scored his rookie-leading 20th goal of the season earlier this week in Dallas, making him the first Islanders rookie to net 20 since David Volek had 25 in 1988-89.

Most interesting is that Hunter has played even better since Alexei Yashin and Mark Parrish were knocked out of the lineup with injuries. Hunter plays on a line with Michael Peca, which means he's being deployed against opponents' top lines and has to be responsible defensively. With that in mind, his plus-16 says almost as much about his game as his goal scoring.

Oh yeah, one other thing, he hits like a truck.

Dudley's careful calculations
Rick Dudley said he stepped away from behind the Florida Panthers bench in order to concentrate on his GM duties. What he didn't say was the Panthers' chances at a playoff spot are so slim that his time is better spent elsewhere.

Dudley announced his decision on the same day the Tampa Bay Lightning extended the contracts of its coaching staff, including Craig Ramsay, who has been rumored to be Dudley's first choice as head coach. It's likely Ramsay has a clause that allows him to seek a head coaching position, but it's also likely the Lightning got a commitment from him not to seek it in South Florida, hence a two-year deal at a time when teams are looking to reduce contractual obligations due to a possible work stoppage.

With Ramsay scratched off his list, Dudley can still survey the scene, which includes his own house. Dudley's assistant John Torchetti takes the position on an interim basis. If he does well, he's a no-brainer for the full-time position. If he doesn't, at least Dudley will know that now and won't have to discover it once another season is underway.

Jackets placing players on trade block
The Washington Capitals aren't the only team in fire-sale mode. The Columbus Blue Jackets have a plethora of good young players on their team and in their system, which makes it less painful for them to bail out of the free-agent spending experiment they conducted last summer. Among the candidates available are veteran centers Andrew Cassels and Todd Marchant, left winger Geoff Sanderson and defenseman Scott Lachance.

While it looks like a money thing, it's also a team thing. GM Doug MacLean brought Cassels and Sanderson in because they can score goals, which is a good way to sell hockey in a new market. But neither player has a proven track record of winning in the NHL and it's likely MacLean doesn't want complacency to take root in what is still a very young and impressionable team.

That isn't the case with Marchant, however, MacLean has a replacement for him (read: younger and cheaper) in Manny Malhotra and he knows Marchant has value on the trade market, especially for a team looking for a good two-way center.

Jim Kelley is the NHL writer for ESPN.com. Submit questions or comments to his mail bag.