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Stars and stripes

The Dallas Stars finished the season in 12th place in the Western Conference. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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The Dallas Stars finished the season in 12th place in the Western Conference. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

Wherever did the week go? Oh yeah – mostly up and down the highway, back and forth between Toronto and Columbus. (If you don’t know what I’m referring to, click HERE for written and video evidence.)

To finish it off, here’s this week’s mailbag.

Adam,

Can the Columbus Blue Jackets build off of this playoff appearance under Scott Howson and Ken Hitchcock? Despite getting swept, can the franchise grow and does more money have to be spent to be a contender in the playoffs?

Jonathan Shum, Westerville, Ohio


Jonathan,

After what I’ve just been through, you actually think I’m going to bet against the HHH (Hitchcock and Howson Hockey) Regime in Columbus? Not a chance, my good man.

Besides, if you look at what the Jackets will have going for them next year – a full season of Steve Mason in net and Derick Brassard up front; further career development from Jakub Voracek, Kris Russell and Nikita Filatov; and anywhere from $10-15 million in cap space – this organization won’t be sliding down the standings anytime soon.

Hello Adam,

There's been some talk on Toronto sports radio that John Tavares or Victor Hedman might refuse to play for the Islanders. Should draft picks be required to play for the team that drafts them? What's the point of the draft if an elite pick can just sign where he wants? Thanks!

Mark Golden, Williamsville, N.Y.


Hello Mark,

Amateur players absolutely ought to be bound by the NHL’s entry draft system, because that system provides something essential to any franchise’s business prospects: hope.

Without the hope that’s inescapably tied to players of Tavares’ and Hedman’s stature, the NHL would rapidly descend into Major League Baseball territory – you know, the place where teams such as the Kansas City Royals and Pittsburgh Pirates have virtually no shot at competing on a level playing field with massive-market teams such as the New York Yankees or L.A. Dodgers.

Some will argue small-market teams occasionally do make a run at a World Series championship; that’s true, but as in all sports, the year-in, year-out chances of constant contention is what really matters when you’re trying to sell (and renew) season ticket packages.

The good news for the NHL is that an Eric Lindros-type scenario is by far the exception and not the rule when it comes to young hockey players. And neither Tavares nor Hedman has expressed any opinion to make people believe they won’t accept their fate the way the vast majority of future NHL stars do.

Hey Adam,

Just recently I noticed NHL assistant coaches have earpieces in their ears. I was wondering whom they were talking to.

Taylor Trecroce, Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.


Hey Taylor,

It may seem somewhat secret agent-ish, but assistant coaches who speak into their cufflinks are really only talking to other assistant coaches or team employees from their organization who sit high above the rink (usually in the press box area) and offer a bird’s-eye perspective on what’s going down on the ice.

Adam,

As we all know, Craig MacTavish was "relieved" of his duties as coach of the Edmonton Oilers. My question to you is, who would be the best replacement for ‘Mac T?’

Dylan, Edmonton


Dylan,

There are all sorts of solid coaches looking for NHL employment. Besides the usual cast of coaching veterans (Pat Quinn, Marc Crawford and Bob Hartley chief among them), I don’t think you could go wrong with Guy Carbonneau – a guy somewhat similar to MacTavish who showed he could help a team overachieve the way time has revealed he did in Montreal in 2007-08.

The other thing to consider is which coaches still working in the NHL playoffs might be available once their team is eliminated. For instance, would you want Brent Sutter in Edmonton? I think you would, even if everyone in Calgary (including Darryl Sutter) would prefer him to either stay with the New Jersey Devils or return to coaching in the Western League.

Adam,

How do you think the Dallas Stars will do next year with a healthy, Sean Avery-free team?

Stephanie LaGrant, Delhi, Iowa


Stephanie,

Let’s look at the facts: Before Avery played his last game for Dallas Nov. 30, the Stars were 8-11-4. And after he was booted off the team, they finished the season 28-24-7 – and that’s without key components Brad Richards, Sergei Zubov and Brenden Morrow for extended stretches of time.

If Loui Eriksson and James Neal can carry over their promising production and the Stars can avoid the injury bug, there’s not a doubt in my mind they’re back in the post-season this time next year.

Show off your hockey knowledge by entering The Hockey News’ FREE Playoff Challenge!

Ask Adam appears Fridays on TheHockeyNews.com. Proteau also answers readers' question in every issue of The Hockey News magazine and on The Hockey News Radio Show every Friday from 3-4 p.m. EST on XM Radio channel 204. To send us your question or comment, click HERE.

Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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