Kukla's Korner

Kukla's Korner Hockey

Coachign fro the Wrong Reason

from the Edmonton Sun via the Ottawa Sun,

Is it possible The Great One, who starting today will be known to the Phoenix Coyotes as "Coach Gretzky," has lost his famed sense of timing and stage completely? I mean, today is Aug. 8. Wait a day, Wayne. Tomorrow is Aug. 9 --the date which will live on in infamy in your career. That's the day, in 1988, when No. 99 was sold by Peter Pocklington from the Oilers to the Kings. This day could live on in infamy in a whole other way. Gretzky, I believe, is becoming an NHL coach for all the wrong reasons. And that's never right. I don't see a burning desire by The Great One to become an NHL coach or a great belief that he can lead the failing franchise to the Stanley Cup. I see Gretzky becoming coach because the Coyotes have nothing else to sell but his name. And they can't sell it any longer with him sitting up in an owners' suite.

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Warning Signing

from Darren Eliot of Sports Illustrated,

While old teams showed renewed vigor by wading into the previously untested free agent market, as the week wound down, the Columbus Blue Jackets may have set the most noteworthy standard by re-signing restricted free agent Rick Nash to a reported five-year deal for $27M. The term is staggering for a player with two years in the NHL and the money is suitably outlandish. Nash is a splendid player and certainly the centerpiece for the CBJ's for years to come, as well as one of the brightest young stars the NHL has to offer. But GM Doug MacLean seems to have jumped the gun a bit here and it isn't the first time. Next summer MacLean will have to figure out some sort of rationale for his hodgepodge spending, especially when the CBJ's other fine young forward, Nikolai Zheredev, comes looking for the same kind of love. Until then, he can expect only glances askance and muted mutterings of others in the GM fraternity.

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Shifting of Power

from Darren Eliot of Sports Illustrated,

It was just a date on the calendar -- August 1. A mere 48 hours after the amateur draft came free agency under the new collective bargaining agreement. Everyone knew that would be a free agent free-for-all, but no one was quite sure how quickly the market would be set with an unprecedented array of marquee names available. What is the case universally -- now and for the balance of the CBA -- is an all-encompassing need for teams to constantly revamp their rosters with the salary cap in mind. An addition of an asset will have an immediate effect on payroll as well as long-term ramifications.

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Gretzky to Coach

via ESPN,

After months of speculation, Wayne Gretzky has decided to coach the Phoenix Coyotes, multiple sources told The Arizona Republic on Sunday. Gretzky, the team's managing partner, is expected to be announced as coach Monday, the NHL sources told the paper. Former Detroit Red Wings associate coach Barry Smith will be named one of The Great One's two assistants, The Republic has learned. Former Coyotes player Rick Tocchet or interim head coach Rick Bowness will be Gretzky's other assistant, according to the report. The NHL's all-time leading scorer and nine-time MVP had tentatively agreed to the post, but opted to wait until a new collective bargaining agreement was in place before officially deciding whether to take on the coaching job.
update 5:19pm, Now we have this via Sportsnet,
The Phoenix Coyotes won't confirm reports which suggest the team's managing partner, Wayne Gretzky, has officially decided to become the team's new head coach. A source with the team says no media conference has been scheduled for Monday, as has been suggested. The speculation around Gretzky's coaching debut has been widespread for months, and may get resolved this week. However, for the moment team sources say an announcement is not imminent.

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Wave Money, Not Flags

from the St. Paul Pioneer Press,

The Wild have a media event planned for Monday. They're getting Gov. Tim Pawlenty and St. Paul Mayor Randy Kelly to show up outside Xcel Energy Center for what they're calling a State of Hockey Flag Day Proclamation. Oh, boy, you don't want to miss that. While other NHL teams are stockpiling high-profile talent at a dizzying rate, the Wild are hoisting flags. It's an attempt to rouse fans into loving them again. Instead of flags, the Wild should try waving some money around to attract at least one of the premier players who became unrestricted free agents after the lockout ended. That would get the adoration of fans. The Wild could go after Peter Forsberg or Paul Kariya or Scott Niedermayer or Sergei Gonchar or Pavol Demitra or Adam Foote. Oh, wait. All those guys already have signed with new teams.

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Winners & Losers

from the Courier Post,

Just what kind of impact did Wednesday night's signing of Peter Forsberg have on Flyers ticket sales? The club isn't releasing specific numbers, but word around the ticket office is that season ticket sales are so brisk that, aside from single seats, the only seats available will be in the upper level family sections, amounting to about 400 tickets. Those tickets, priced at $20 for adults and $10 for kids 12 and under, will be sold in 30-day increments, so that they are not swiped up before the season begins. Here are last week's winners and losers:

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Marketing the Player

from the Ottawa Sun,

The NHL free-agent market -- no one's free, but there is a lot of marketing going on. The league's absence last year gave all players a chance to return on a level playing field, and it's unlike anything we have experienced in the past. Some players maintained their skills by representing their country in international competition. Others chose to stay in shape overseas. But the NHL is the standard by which hockey excellence is measured. We know the names of the players in the top echelon, and some (Jarome Iginla) will likely be more reliable that others (Bobby Holik). That being said, there's money to be made on both sides -- and with the ability to score a "name," most teams are jumping at the chance to add a known player, thereby increasing the odds of a marketing angle to sell their fans on. Here are some of the standouts on both ends of the spectrum:

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Steve Moore May Play Agin

from the Toronto Sun,

Steve Moore is on the verge of being medically cleared to return to professional hockey, The Toronto Sun has learned. What hasn't been determined is whether Moore wants, in fact, to return and whether there is actual interest from National Hockey League teams in signing the free agent forward, who many thought would never play again.

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The Backhawks are Back

from the Chicago Tribune,

After spending the last decade tripping over their own feet, all of a sudden the Blackhawks can do no wrong. Friday might have been the best day in the best week in the best summer this franchise has ever seen. t's hard to exaggerate the importance of signing Nikolai Khabibulin, the reigning Stanley Cup champion goaltender, on the future of this once-proud organization. "The Blackhawks are back," general manager—and leading candidate for NHL executive of the year—Dale Tallon said. Indeed, the addition of Khabibulin was a definitive statement that these are no longer your father's Blackhawks.

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Overpaying

from the Tampa Tribune,

So much for a salary cap restraining owners and general managers. The first week of free agency in the new NHL looked more like the old NHL when it comes to bidding for players. For some general managers -- Philadelphia, maybe? -- it was business as usual. For others -- Columbus, Nashville, Atlanta -- it was as if they were kids let loose in the candy store for the first time. And how about the teams that once cried poor -- Chicago, Pittsburgh, Boston, Edmonton -- all of sudden dipping into their wallets like they had a reserve built up during the lockout. The new lay of the land looks an awful lot like the old landscape -- teams are still overpaying for players. Two things have become crystal clear in the past week -- teams are still trying to understand how to play under a salary cap and owners made a monumental mistake with one clause in the new collective bargaining agreement.

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

Email Paul anytime at pk@kuklaskorner.com

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