Shelly Anderson's NHL Notebook: Without delay

It's the reconstruction season for the 14 non-playoff teams

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We know the Penguins fired general manager Craig Patrick and are looking to expand their upper management and modernize the club. What about the other 13 non-playoff teams?

Toronto was among the first to make a major move, firing Pat Quinn after the Maple Leafs missed the playoffs for the first time in his seven seasons as coach. That leaves a big hire for GM John Ferguson.

Similar to the Penguins, Boston produced high hopes before the season, only to flop because of a lack of talent. It was one of the most disappointing Bruins seasons in decades, with 32 losses in one-goal games and 16 losses in 22 overtime games.

Florida missed the playoffs for the fifth season in a row -- thanks, at least in part, to a 12-game losing streak in from late October to late November -- but professed optimism after winning 15 of its final 25 games.

Despite a guarantee from GM Don Waddell, Atlanta missed the playoffs -- barely. A 6-2-2 finish wasn't enough as the offense-heavy Thrashers lost too many high-scoring games and missed injured goaltender Kari Lehtonen.

A 27th-place finish is never much of an achievement, but Washington has at least one reason to look ahead -- rookie of the year favorite Alex Ovechkin. The Capitals need a few other key ingredients to complement Ovechkin and goaltender Olie Kolzig.

The New York Islanders are looking for direction, starting with the question of who will be the new GM, after missing the playoffs for the first time in the past four seasons.

Vancouver, in the ultra-competitive Northwest Division came within a hair of making the playoffs -- perhaps making the Canucks the best of the rest -- and coach Marc Crawford is on the hot seat.

Los Angeles has undergone the biggest shakeup so far. Team president and GM Dave Taylor and the staff of assistant coaches were fired, and interim coach John Torchetti's status is tenuous as Dean Lombardi takes over as GM.

Youth sunk Minnesota, which lost 27 one-goal games and had 28 losses in which it was tied or leading in the third period. The Wild, which was $14 million under the salary cap, might have to spend a little more.

Proving the climb can be difficult, Columbus, in its fifth season, set records for points, wins, home wins and road wins -- and finished 21 points out of a playoff spot.

Chicago GM Dale Tallon expressed optimism despite the fact the Blackhawks finished 28th among the 30 teams with a team-record 56 losses. If they sign all nine of their unrestricted free agents, as expected, they will have less than $10 million to spend on new free-agent help.

Last-place St. Louis, which has the first pick in the June draft, has a new owner. Dave Checketts could make changes from the president, Mark Sauer, to the GM, Larry Pleau, to the coach, Mike Kitchen.

For Phoenix, see below.

A save, but no savings

What a difference a save makes.

By not allowing a goal in his relief appearance in the Penguins' final game, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury lowered his goals-against average a fraction to 3.25. That activated a bonus in his complicated contract worth $491,000, according to the NHL Players Association. Here's how that worked:

The bonus for attaining a 3.25 GAA was $500,000 his first season, $400,000 this season. Because Fleury didn't achieve the bonus his first season, there was an extra $250,000 added under a carryover clause. That's $650,000, minus a 24 percent rollback as per the new collective-bargaining agreement.

On the road with the Cup

Add this to the long list of adventures involving the most storied piece of sports hardware. In an effort to expand the interest in hockey, the NHL took the Stanley Cup home. To London. The Cup recently visited its birthplace, taking a tour of the city on a double-decker bus and starring in a ceremony where it was welcomed by the descendents of Lord Stanley.

The Right Honourable Frederick Arthur Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby, bought the original chalice in a silversmith's shop on Regent Street for 10 guineas. He was the Governor-General of Canada and decided to donate the silver piece to honor the top hockey team.

The Globe and Mail of Canada recounted a British couple's response to seeing the Stanley Cup: "I really don't know what it is," the man told his wife, "but I'm completely sure it has nothing to do with football."

Gretzky watch

They say the best athletes usually don't make good coaches, which is why there was high interest in Hall of Famer Wayne Gretzky's first season behind the bench with Phoenix.

Gretzky, already the managing partner with the Coyotes when he decided to try coaching, led Phoenix to a 38-39-5 record for 81 points, 12th in the Western Conference and 14 points out of a playoff spot. Gretzky could decide as early as next week whether he'll return as coach. It's expected he will.


A game of what if ...

As in what if the NHL had not adopted the shootout

The NHL's stance is that fans love the shootout. Some hockey folks don't care for it.

For the heck of it, let's look at what would have happened this season if there had been no shootout. You just take away the extra point from each game that was won by shootout.

Detroit still would win the Presidents' Trophy. St. Louis still would bring up the rear, with the Penguins in the same penultimate spot.

But there would be changes.

Six of the eight first-round playoff matchups would be different. Vancouver would have beaten out Edmonton for a playoff spot on the victory tiebreaker. Pat Quinn would be coaching the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round against Ottawa instead of looking for work, while players from defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay (from 2003-04) would be on the golf course.

Philadelphia would have won the Atlantic Division, followed by the New York Rangers and New Jersey. Carolina would be the only Southeast team in the postseason.

Here's a look at the adjusted conference standings with point totals and the change.

Eastern Conference

Western Conference

Ottawa

111 (-2)

Detroit

120 (-4)

Buffalo

105 (-5)

Calgary

101 (-2)

Carolina

101 (-8)

Nashville

100 (-6)

Philadelphia

97 (-4)

Dallas

100 (-12)

NY Rangers

93 (-7)

San Jose

98 (-1)

New Jersey

92 (-9)

Anaheim

95 (-3)

Montreal

91 (-2)

Colorado

92 (-3)

Toronto

87 (-3)

Vancouver

88 (-4)

Tampa Bay

86 (-6)

Edmonton

88 (-7)

Atlanta

85 (-5)

Los Angeles

83 (-6)

Florida

81 (-4)

Minnesota

79 (-5)

Boston

72 (-2)

Phoenix

77 (-4)

NY Islanders

69 (-9)

Columbus

71 (-3)

Washington

63 (-7)

Chicago

63 (-2)

Penguins

57 (-1)

St. Louis

53 (-4)

Frank Gunn, Associated Press
Craig Patrick wasn't the only veteran hockey man sent packing this week. The Maple Leafs fired Pat Quinn after missing the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons.
Click photo for larger image.

More Coverage:

Shelly Anderson's Slap shots: 4/23/06



Shelly Anderson can be reached at shanderson@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1721.


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