- E.J. Hradek, Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
- 0 Shares
Former Sharks boss Dean Lombardi has emerged as the front-runner to fill the vacant general manager post in Boston. A league source said Lombardi spent two days meeting with top Bruins execs earlier this week. The source added, "It looks like he's the guy." Lombardi, who grew up in nearby Ludlow, Mass., likely would view the Bruins position as a dream job. Currently a pro scout for the Flyers, Lombardi had previously interviewed for the Islanders' GM job, which is still open.
With Lombardi apparently out of the picture on Long Island, I wonder what the Islanders are going to do to fill their vacant post. A source with knowledge of the Isles' search said Lombardi and former NBA GM John Weisbrod are the finalists for the position. If Lombardi does indeed go to Boston, does Weisbrod get the job by default?
Personally, I'm still trying to figure out what makes the former Orlando Magic GM such a good candidate to run an NHL club. Some say he's tight with Gary Bettman. At this point, that is simply hearsay. Weisbrod does have some minor league hockey experience, but does that really make him a top candidate to take over an NHL franchise? He has never been an assistant GM or scouting director at the NHL level, and he didn't thrill anyone with his one season of work in the NBA. Quite frankly, I can think of many more qualified individuals from around the league. To think the Islanders would consider Weisbrod over experienced people such as Neil Smith, Craig Button and Pierre Gauthier (to name a few) is an absolute joke.
The Kings may be looking for a new GM after failing to make the playoffs for the third straight season. Several sources indicate that club management will fire Dave Taylor soon after Monday's regular-season finale in San Jose. During Taylor's eight-year tenure in L.A., the Kings won only one playoff series and failed to qualify for postseason play four times. In the end, Taylor's inability to acquire a top goalie was his downfall. Of course, ownership's decision to trade Rob Blake in 2001 didn't make Taylor's life any easier. If Taylor is fired, it will mark the end of a long relationship. Taylor joined the club as a player in 1977. He played 17 seasons in L.A., registering more than 90 points five times. Taylor is among four Kings whose numbers are retired.
Stevie's still got game
Steve Yzerman is heating up at just the right time. Yzerman, who has battled through several tough injuries in recent seasons, had an 11-game point-scoring streak before being shut out in Tuesday night's tilt with the Oilers. In his first 48 games of the season, Yzerman managed just nine goals and 20 points. During his recent streak, the future Hall of Famer had five goals and 14 points. Yzerman's strong play has earned him a few more shifts per game from coach Mike Babcock. In fact, the 40-year-old Yzerman logged a season-high 20:07 of ice time during a 6-5 overtime win over the Blue Jackets on Friday.
In line for Norris ...
Speaking of the Red Wings, top defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom seems to have his gloves on a fourth Norris Trophy. In 76 games, Lidstrom leads all defensemen with 61 assists and 75 points. He's a plus-16. Scouts around the league continue to marvel at the ease in which the Swedish star plays his position.
Stars blueliner Sergei Zubov (68 points, plus-20) also deserves serious consideration. Zubov, another guy who makes the game look too easy, has been underrated for many years. A second-half charge by defending Norris winner Scott Niedermayer should garner him some votes, too. At his best, Niedermayer can control a game from the blue line. Very few players have been able to do that.
Bad move for Coyotes
If you're wondering why the Coyotes can't find their way out of the desert, think about the trade deadline deal they made with the Islanders for Oleg Kvasha. The Coyotes, already out of the playoff chase, dealt a 2006 third-round pick to the Isles for the enigmatic winger, who'll be an unrestricted free agent at season's end. In other words, a rebuilding, non-playoff team traded a third-round pick for a rental player. Huh? One scout, shaking his head, just couldn't figure out the logic. Of course, such a move defies logic. A team such as the Coyotes should be collecting draft picks, not trading them away.
The kids are alright
Congratulations to both Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby. On Monday, Ovechkin became the first rookie in 13 seasons to crack the 100-point plateau, netting an overtime game winner against the Bruins. It was Ovechkin's 49th goal. Crosby, meanwhile, became the youngest player ever to reach 90 points. He beat the old mark, set by Dale Hawerchuk during the 1981-82 season, by 100 days. Both Ovechkin and Crosby find themselves in the top 10 in league scoring. These kids are special. But you already knew that, didn't you?
Eaves dropping into NHL?
University of Wisconsin coach Mike Eaves, who led the Badgers to the NCAA Division I men's title with a win over Boston College Saturday, deserves consideration for an NHL job somewhere down the road. Eaves is among the sharpest young coaching minds in the business. At this point, he seems very content to stay in Madison. That doesn't mean an NHL club shouldn't try to steal him away. In 2004, Eaves led Team USA to its first (and only) World Junior Championship gold medal.
And finally ...
Is it too late for any more expansion franchises? I know two major American cities that would love NHL teams: Boston and Chicago.
Teams that don't reach the playoffs face questions ... and personnel changes. E.J. Hradek looks at who could be on the move.