Expect one thing from the Phoenix Coyotes this summer. Changes. Lots and lots of changes. When Steve Ellman purchased the Coyotes franchise earlier this week, he purchased a team full of disenchanted players.
First and foremost for the Coyotes organization is a decision regarding GM Bobby Smith. Smith, brought in by the Burke regime, may find himself looking for a job sooner than later. The Coyotes hardly made any noise against the Avalanche in this years playoffs. This was due largely in part due to a lack of their star goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin and center Robert Reichel. Both players, Smith was unable to come to an agreement on new contracts. With fourteen free agents this off-season, Smith can ill-afford to lose any more of their top line talent, namely Dallas Drake and Lyle Odelein.
Speaking of Khabibulin, the Tampa Bay Lighting have reportedly shown interest in the netminder. Khabibulin who starred in the IHL this season should demand a high price. However, if changes are made within the management structure of the Coyotes organization, expect Khabibulin to reach an agreement to remain in Phoenix next season. Khabibulin is on record stating that he would return to the Coyotes organization if such a change transpired. This is in stark contrast to his previous comments regarding never again playing for the Coyotes organization.
Regardless of what “experts” say, Jamie Lundmark had a very good year for a very poor team. Maintaining a 90 plus point pace on a team that lost far more game than it won proved to be a challenging task for the 19-year-old Edmonton native who now appears ready for a new challenge in the NHL.
The Rangers fully expect 1999 first round blue chipper Jamie Lundmark to make a run for a shot in the 1999-00 NHL season. His work ethic isn’t a problem, nor is his world class skill level but still he isn’t a sure bet to make the team and one must wonder why. The answer to the riddle is simply a lack of space for the young speedster. Where can the Rangers find room with Petr Nedved anchored on the first line, soon to be hot shot sophomore Mike York on line two and most likely Tim Taylor and Manny Malhotra on the remaining two lines? All this and still the possibility of a Mark Messier return looming. One possible solution being thrown around is possibly turning Manny Malhotra into a left winger. Malhotra has proven a little lost at center at the pro level and turning the 6’2 210 center into a winger might solve two problems. Still Malhotra does appear a lot more comfortable at a pivot position.
Take one look at Pat Leahy’s stats and it is easy to go gaga thinking about him becoming a solid power foward. Take a look at his numbers and the picture comes into focus better. At 6’3 and 215 pounds, the right handed shooting Leahy certainly has the ability to make the show. But it wasn’t always that way. In fact just a year ago Leahy was seen as your typical mid round player with virtually no chance of making the show.
A fifth round pick back in the ’98 draft, Leahy was seen as a kid worth taking a flyer on. The Miami of Ohio player was regarded as a kid with good skills and descent skating ability, and if given time capable of evolving into a real player. Tall and lanky he didn’t have an overpowering physical game and he surely wasn’t a game breaking scorer but the Rangers had faith he could develop his skills over time in the Miami of Ohio program.
The first year did not exactly net the offensive results that the Rangers had hoped for, but still there was a level of improvement. He just wasn’t looking like a minor league player, let alone a potential pro player. Finally something clicked his Junior year. More responsibility, more ice time. Leahy got more comfortable with his body and used it more effectively. The result was 37 points in 34 games as Leahy started to look like a solid player.
Kootenay over Broncos/ICE – Hitmen Part II
It has been said that revenge is a dish best served cold. Perhaps that dish might even taste better served on ICE. It’s been one year since an
upstart Kootenay ICE club took the eventual Memorial Cup finalists to seven games in the opening round of the playoffs and it looks as though the
1999-00 edition of the ICE are going to be able to add another chapter to the epic known as the Kootenay ICE/Calgary Hitmen rivalry. Hopefully
this time with a better conclusion.
Going into the Eastern Conference final on a high note after overcoming the Swift Current Broncos in six games, the ICE/Broncos series
warranted being a proving ground to test the mettle of the Kootenay ICE players. Having to overcome series deficits of 1-0 and 2-1 against the
Broncos, the team survived and adjusted their game to match and defeat a talented, hard working, well disciplined Swift Current hockey club. A
key adjustment was made earlier in the series after the game one shocker in which the Broncos tenaciously forechecked the ICE and forced them
into bad decisions in their own zone. When they did get out of their own zone they found the neutral zone as crowded as a nightclub on cheap
night as the Broncos performed their own version of the ‘Left-wing lock’ and impeded the ICE’ transition game between the blue lines.
Responding to that defensive tactics of the Broncos, the ICE proceeded to make sounder and quicker decisions in their own zone and got the Read more»
PLYMOUTH, MI-Do you want some more? That’s what the Plymouth Whalers were asking the wounded Windsor Spitfires as they left Compuware Arena in Plymouth in their recent four-games-to-one playoff series victory. It’s not that the Spitfires played poorly or did not compete, it’s just that Plymouth seemed to have more when it mattered.
Take Game Five of the series for instance. The Whalers started off with two big, very deflating goals in the first ten minutes, setting the tone for the rest of the game and putting a dagger in Windsor’s hearts.
It was the Whalers top scorers rising to the occasion when they had to-Damian Surma and Justin Williams, who had the big early goals for Plymouth off of Windsor goaltender Mike Leighton. But, shortly after this point, Windsor had their moment to get back into it and change the direction of the series.
Three straight Plymouth penalties, one of which was a ten minute misconduct assessed to Libor Ustrnul for boarding, and a hooking call to Jared Newman, was just what Windsor needed. And they made it interesting.
Vince Grant worked hard in front of the net to get the power play tally off of Plymouth goalie Rob Zepp and it made the score 2-1 at the end of the first period.
“We had it in the back of our minds that if we worked hard, kept plugging away and got scoring chances, that we could win,” said Zepp, a 1999 fourth round draft choice of the Atlanta Thrashers. “We learned from last year’s mistakes.” Read more»