Friday, August 3, 2007

Top Tens: Who’s On Thin Ice In 07-08?

1. John Ferguson Jr. – General Manager – Toronto Maple Leafs

No one has been so precariously close to the edge of being fired than JFJR. You have to feel sorry for a guy who is being undercut by ownership in a very public attempt to bring in a “mature hockey advisor” to oversee JF’s work. Talks with ex-Ottawa GM John Muckler seem to have cooled so maybe ownership is scratching the idea for now. But what remains is a very fragile situation where the team is headed nowhere quickly without recourse to rebuild due to some very heavy contracts to the likes of Bryan McCabe and Pavel Kubina. Everyone knows the team needs to rebuild, even Ferguson himself. But he may not be around to help.

2. John Stevens – Head Coach - Philadelphia Flyers

John Stevens seems like a man with no clear personality. He is stoic and icy but not in a Scotty Bowman way. It just doesn’t seem right for him to be in charge of a newly revamped Philly squad with (now) huge expectations. It may be unfair to say, but some guys just seem like career assistant coaches and that’s what strikes me about Stevens. After spending a ton of bucks in the offseason, Flyers fans are going to be frothing at the mouth for a winning team. If they get off to another slow start, look for Paul Holmgren to bring in a more experienced guy. Mike Keenan would have been ideal.

3. Kevin Lowe – General Manager – Edmonton Oilers

He put his ass on the line this summer, enraging the elite cabal of NHL general managers by throwing around ridiculous offer sheets. He did snag Dustin Penner but we must remember that he traded Ryan Smyth because of money and then offered him even more bucks when Smyth was a UFA. It’s a good thing Smyth didn’t end up going to the Flames or there would have been hell to pay. Then he trades the last remaining heart and soul Oiler, captain Jason Smith and pisses off his remaining roster in the process. If, as rumoured, new ownership comes in to Oil country, Lowe could be on his way out, especially if Joni Pitkanen and Dustin Penner tank the way Joffrey Lupul did. Stay tuned.

4. Tom Renney – Head Coach – New York Rangers

At first this choice may seem stupid but things can change awful fast in the Big Apple. Glen Sather is not one to sit and wait out a crisis. The Rangers have been built to win this year with both Scott Gomez and Chris Drury coming on board. Sather will be super sensitive to the notion that high priced free agents always flop in NYC and he will not hesitate to dispatch Renney back to the pile if things don’t work out.

5. Craig MacTavish – Head Coach – Edmonton Oilers

Mac T is a good coach but he might fall victim to the whirlwind that Kevin Lowe has created. Lowe could fire Mac T if the Oil fail coming out of the gate (to save his own ass) or more likely, exit along with Lowe in an ownership change.

6. Ron Wilson – Head Coach – San Jose Sharks

Ron Wilson has a history of burning out the teams he coaches. He gets good results in his first few years but diminishing returns thereafter. Witness Anaheim and Washington in the 90’s. Unfortunately, the Sharks have underachieved in the playoffs and there are now hints of a sour relationship between Wilson and once-franchise player Patrick Marleau. This does not bode well despite the fact that Wilson got an extension on his contract. He might get one more year but he had better win in the playoffs or it will be obvious that his players have tuned him out.

7. Jacques Martin – General Manager/Head Coach – Florida Panthers

Mike Keenan was shown the door because he did not see eye to eye with his coach Martin. That’s not surprising since both men are stubborn to the point of self-destruction. Keenan engulfs the castle in flames with his antics but Martin does it in a more sly way. He doesn’t change, no matter the circumstances. Much like Roger Nielson before him, he’d rather lose 2-1 than win 6-5. Now that he is running the whole organization, he has stocked up on his favourite hockey players - defensively responsible Europeans – and has shown no willingness to let his players free from the neutral zone trap system. Jay Bouwmeester would be getting way more points on any other team but now he’s turning into Charlie Huddy with faster legs. Martin must make a push for the playoffs or he could be looking for work very soon.

8. Doug Risebrough – General Manager – Minnesota Wild

It is now time for the Minnesota organization to reward its fans with some high-calibre, exciting and winning hockey. It’s not Doug’s fault that his best player, Marion Gaborik, has a wonky groin but he still has to take responsibility for the Wild being an average team in the same time frame that the Nashville Predators turned into a contender. How long can he keep his job? Honestly. Him and Jacques Lemaire have been there forever and all they have created is a lesser version of the New Jersey Devils. Maybe the Wild need some fresh ideas.

9. Wayne Gretzky – Head Coach – Phoenix Coyotes

I know, I know. Nobody is going to fire Wayne Gretzky. But he might decide to step down if the Coyotes go into the tank once again. Everybody wants him to do well, including myself. But maybe it’s not in the cards. He might be more suited to management.

10. Nashville Predators

Now that William “Boots” Del Biaggio has a huge slice of the team, the Predators are still in danger of relocation. Granted the fans have shown a huge willingness to buy tickets during a crisis situation but what happens when the fear goes away. Boots has an arena in Kansas City ready to go and he has the money to buy out the other investors at any moments notice. I like the fact that Gary Bettman stuck up for the city of Nashville and their hockey team because a league should stick by its franchises, even in the midst of a shiticane like the Preds just went through. But too many people have been trying to rip them from Music City. Until further notice, the Preds are skating on thin ice.

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