BLUELINES: A look around the NHL

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  • Knowing that he would be punished by Gary Bettman for speaking on the record about the potential lockout in 2004, a senior NHL owner privately tells us that the odds are "worse than 50-50" for a 2004 labor settlement when the current CBA expires. The owner adds that it's imperative that "serious talks begin now, and not a couple of months before the expiration."
  • As well as his team is playing, Ken Holland is still seeking to reinforce any potential weak areas. Thus Red Wings scouts are diligently eyeing veteran defensemen who might be added before the trade deadline. Jiri Fischer, Maxim Kuznetsov and Mathieu Dandenault have certainly helped Detroit stay in first place, but their playoff ability in April and May remains a concern to the high command.
  • Paul Stewart has set a target date for retirement that zeroes in on a Montreal-at-Boston game which should fall about Christmas 2002. He's hoping that Pat Dapuzzo and Wes McCauley work the game with him. Stewie adds that it was more difficult to rebound from his painful back injury than from cancer.
  • Brian Sutter on his Hawks' work ethic: "If you start good and you finish good, everything in between looks after itself. You're as good as your last game."
  • Despite their Jagr-less malaise, the Capitals continue to be mentioned by scouts as the team most likely to have the home-stretch rally for a playoff berth.
  • Need a grinder? Speedy Joe Sacco is said to be available.
  • The annual late-winter rite of New York hockey columnists is being held. Once again they're predicting a Mike Richter-to-St. Louis deal if the Blueshirts fade.
  • Those not fearful of being slapped down by Bettman, Inc. agree that an All-Star Game in an Olympic year is either unnecessary, ridiculous or superfluous.
  • The least-heralded neat coaching job of the season belongs to Michel Therrien, who's gotten some help from his friend Jose Theodore.
  • Mario Lemieux is missing virtually all the Penguins' optional practices.
  • Mark Messier's son, Lyon, is 15 and playing hockey for a Washington-based traveling team. Mark adds that the young defenseman will be a big fellow. Mess says, "Lyon recently told me, 'Hang on, Pop, I'm coming.' "
  • This from one former coach who is now a well-respected network and local broadcaster: "I can't figure from game to game -- if not period-to-period -- how the refs are going to call a game!"
  • Jim Cummins credits Darryl Sutter with making his NHL career -- now in its 10th year -- more successful than it might have been without Darryl's help.
  • Butch Goring's friends report that he's moved from Alaska back East and has obtained an agent. Butch is seeking a coaching job in some form after his disastrous Alaskan experience.
  • One difference between Gary Bettman and Bob Goodenow is media availability. A sports editor for a nationwide service phones the commissioner and Bettman answers the phone. The editor tells us that he's still trying to reach Goodenow after weeks of trying. "I get a wall in front of me," the man tells us. "Once in a while the NHLPA PR man will answer. But never Goodenow!" Goodenow WILL speak, we guarantee that. The dates are March 13-14 in New York. He's accompanying Bettman to the dais for the first annual World Congress of Sports at the Astoria Hotel. Ted Leonsis will rep the NHL governors.
  • Ex-NHL VP Steve Ryan is now Commissioner of the Major Indoor Soccer League.
  • According to Forbes, the combined sale price of the Oilers, Flames and Senators would come to $261 million, less than the $277 mil at which the Rangers are worth. The Blueshirts remain the highest-valued club in hockey. The Leafs, at $216 million, are worth the most in Canada.
  • Slap Shot 2: Breaking The Ice is going straight to video and will be in stores March 26. Dave Hanson, along with Steve and Jeff Carlson, will be back in their familiar roles. But Stephen Baldwin replaces Paul Newman as coach and Gary Busey plays the owner. Wonder why it's not hitting the theaters?
  • The future of Ed Belfour remains a keen discussion topic from Dallas to Philadelphia. Why would Bob Clarke want to break up his current winning combo unless he questions his goaltending for playoff games? Which he might.
  • NHL corporate support is reinforced with MasterCard International and Anheuser-Busch signing new multiyear, multimillion-dollar sponsorships. A-B has been with the league since 1994.
  • Kansas City is looking at possible franchises, starting with the AHL. Don Kincaid, owner of the MISL's K.C. Comets, is considered a likely operator, hopefully with Doug Soetaert as GM.
  • The East Coast League's All-Star game comes off Tuesday night at Sovereign Bank Arena in Trenton, N.J. Neil Smith, who owns a piece of the Cincinnati Cyclones, will be color commentator for the broadcast on CN8.
  • If the Hurricanes can't sign Bret Hedican, who becomes an unrestricted free agent next season, they have newly acquired Tomas Malec as backup. He was offensive-defensive rookie-of-the-year last season in the QMJHL.
  • Good Guys Do Well Dep't.: Darby Hendrickson was named USA Hockey Male Athlete Of The Year.
  • Perplexing Question Dep't.: Assuming Atlanta finishes last, what will Don Waddell do with his top draft pick -- keep it or deal it? "I'm not out there selling the pick," says Waddell, "but if teams want to try to buy it, that's OK with me." Should Don keep the pick, then defenseman Jay Bouwmeester likely would be his selection.
  • It will be interesting to see how Peter Laviolette utilizes new acquisitions Kip Miller and Ted Donato. The former scored one and assisted on another in the Isles' meaningful 3-2 win at L.A. on Saturday. Donato has yet to play.
  • Worth reading: The Hockey Compendium.
  • This from our man in Washington, Jacob Rudman: "When Jaromir Jagr does play, it's sometimes hard to notice that he's on the ice. If that situation is not corrected, the Caps could blow a playoff berth. JJ's lack of production compared to his potential remains an enigma."
  • Tuesday marks the Rangers' first game at Nassau since the notorious and humiliating "chicken-dances" delivered by Theo Fleury and Sandy McCarthy to the Islanders' bench.
  • Tagged: Flames, Red Wings, Hurricanes, Stars, Canadiens, Rangers, Senators, Capitals, Panthers, Wild, Jiri Fischer, Mathieu Dandenault, Ed Belfour, Jose Theodore, Jaromir Jagr, Bret Hedican

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