Finished seasons leave unfinished business

Updated: April 22, 2004, 2:17 AM ET
By Al Morganti | Special to ESPN.com

The defending Stanley Cup champions are history. The Detroit Red Wings survived a mini-scare, and both conferences are still a free-for-all.

Though all eyes now turn to the conference semifinals, there are still some loose ends hanging from the first-round losers that will have some impact on next season, including the following:

Who'll coach the Rangers?
What does this have to do with the playoffs? Well, the smart money has always been on Joel Quenneville to take over in Colorado should Tony Granato falter, however, the Avalanche had a better first round than some expected. If that continues, the chances get better that Granato will be back as coach, and the suggestions that Quenneville takes over go away. But that doesn't mean he's a slam dunk for coach of the New York Rangers. Suddenly, with the Ottawa Senators' failure to win the latest Battle of Ontario, you have to wonder about the future of Jacques Martin. If he does lose his job, he won't be out of work for long, and the Rangers would be wise to make the call.

An ordinary Joe after all?

Joe Thornton
Thornton
Boston might be the nerve center of Red Sox Nation, but there is also a large core of fans who have suffered through the failures of the Bruins to win a Stanley Cup for the past 32 years. This year, the meltdown occurred against the Montreal Canadiens, which is similar to the Red Sox losing to the Yankees. But blowing a 3-1 lead in the series is as bad to Bruins fans as all those Bucky Dent flashbacks. Captain Joe Thornton took some heat from a highly regarded member of the Boston media for failing to communicate during the series, but to the fans the only problem was a failure to score. Thornton will be given some slack because he did the hockey thing and played hurt. However, he will get no slack if he has a slow start next season -- and this playoff series has now become the monkey on his back.

Where is Burke's future?
The questions about Brian Burke's future with the Vancouver Canucks were swirling around well before the playoffs. On balance, Burke has done a solid job in Vancouver and, in light of Todd Bertuzzi's suspension, it's not hard to explain the demise of this year's team at the hands of the physical Calgary Flames. All of this positive background is exactly why you should expect a change. Given his history, why doesn't Burke already have a deal? The suspicion is that there will be a mutual parting of the ways. Where could Burke end up? How about as the next GM of the Boston Bruins. True the Bruins had a great season of contributions from young stars in goal and forward. However, Bruins ownership is suddenly very aware of public opinion, and Burke would be an upgrade in that area as a bonus to his hockey knowledge.

Second fiddle ... to No. 3?
How secure would you feel as a backup goalie when the top guy goes down and the team turns to an untested third goalie in the playoffs? It's a question to ask Vancouver's Johan Hedberg.

Paging Mike Modano ...
Of course Mike Modano will be back with the Dallas Stars next season, but will the real Mike Modano be back? He had a very erratic season, and didn't play anywhere near his standards. For the Stars to remain among the elite, he has to be elite.

Al Morganti covers the NHL for ESPN. Click here to send Al a question for possible use on ESPNEWS.