Randy Cunneyworth has been under a lot of pressure in Montreal for not being able to speak French. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Some Friday musings for your dining and dancing pleasure:
My former esteemed THN colleague, Mike Brophy, and I were discussing the Montreal Canadiens the other night and he came up with an idea I believe has some real merit.
Broph proposed the Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning simply trade coaches. And the more I thought about it, the more sense it seemed to make to me.
Both Randy Cunneyworth of the Canadiens and Guy Boucher of the Lightning look to be dead in the water with their current teams. And under different circumstances, both could probably be very good NHL coaches.
Cunneyworth has been placed in a complete no-win situation in Montreal by a management and ownership that has refused to stand by their choice, simply because he doesn’t speak French. After one wildly successful season, Boucher appears to have lost the Lightning, a team that is far too offensively talented and front-loaded to play the type of defense-first game he wants it to play.
So why don’t Lightning GM Steve Yzerman and whoever replaces Pierre Gauthier as GM in Montreal propose a one-for-one trade of their coaches?
It’s not as though trading a coach hasn’t happened before. You’ll recall back in 1987, the Quebec Nordiques received a first round pick and $75,000 as compensation for the New York Rangers hiring Michel Bergeron. And in the NFL, the Oakland Raiders received four draft picks and $8 million dollars from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers for Jon Gruden.
Think about it, the Canadiens would get a coach in Boucher who would not only fill the French-language requirement, but would also be familiar with the organization, since he led the Canadiens’ American League affiliate in Hamilton to a conference final in 2010 before being scooped up by the Lightning.
Tampa, meanwhile, would get a coach who has a solid reputation and would likely have some success under less suffocating circumstances.
Hey, it’s worth a try…
The debate about freedom of choice for players came to a head once again this week when Taylor Hall of the Edmonton Oilers suffered a nasty, potentially devastating head injury during warmup because he wasn’t wearing his helmet. In the first game for both teams after the incident, every member of the Toronto Maple Leafs wore his helmet for the warmup Thursday night, while four members of the Minnesota Wild stubbornly refused to wear any head protection during the pre-game ritual.
The funny thing is, players didn’t even need the Hall incident to realize the perils of playing without a helmet in the warmup.
Almost 10 years ago, former NHLer Father Les Costello of the Flying Fathers fame, was playing in a charity game in northern Ontario. During the warmup, the ice was still wet from being resurfaced and he reached back for a puck that stuck in the water and fell to the ice backward, striking his head. He was admitted to hospital the following day, where he slipped into a coma and died a week later.
When you watch a warmup and see the pucks flying around and pinging off crossbars, it’s actually a marvel more injuries don’t occur.
Should players have the right to choose? Of course not, but they shouldn’t have the choice over wearing visors either. At least not if they’re going to be paid an average of $2 million a year.
Nikita Filatov chased the money in the Kontinental League this season and nobody would be surprised if he never resurfaces in the NHL again.
But Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray, who traded for Filatov’s rights last summer, isn’t completely giving up on the sixth overall pick in the 2008 draft, saying he would be open to having Filatov come back to camp next season to compete for a job.
In fact, he said he tried to convince Filatov to stay in the organization and spend more time with the AHL’s Binghamton Senators this season. Instead, Filatov bolted for the KHL and its $800,000 salary, instead of making $65,000 in the AHL. But Filatov has been even less productive in the KHL than he was in the NHL, with just a goal and two points in 10 games with CSKA Moscow.
“I understood, but I told him it might jeopardize his chance to play in the league if he wants to do that in the future because he’ll go back and do the same things he was doing before,” Murray said of Filatov. “I really believe that if he had stayed and gone to Binghamton for a couple of months, he would have been on our team by the first of February.”
Murray believes Filatov is a decent kid with a lot of talent and he has no problem having him come to camp next fall, “but he has to earn it.”
Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column. To read more from Ken and THN's other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.