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NHL Report: March 15, 2007

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The Phoenix Coyotes, who are losing a whole bunch of games and a whole lot of money, could soon be losing their executive vice-president, general manager and legendary coach.


Sources say Cliff Fletcher, Mike Barnett and, yes, Wayne Gretzky are all in jeopardy of being dismissed shortly after the NHL's regular season ends on April 8.


There won't be any playoff games for the Coyotes, of course. And, by the time they play their final game of the season, they will show a mind-boggling loss of about $30-million U.S.


And that's not why club owner Jerry Moyes hired Fletcher, Barnett and Gretzky.


Moyes "will review this dreadful season with a fine-tooth comb and the ultimate decision may well be a major overhaul," a source close to the owner said. "There could very well be replacements for Cliff, Mike and even Wayne. The culture of this organization appears to be in dire need of change, and so it's safe to assume that no one in the current hierarchy is safe."





•Phoenix goaltender Curtis Joseph, who will turn 40 next month, is unquestionably out of the Coyotes' future plans and will be allowed to become an unrestricted free agent after the season.


He has no plans to retire.


Neither, for that matter, does another antiquated goalie, Ed Belfour. He'll be 42 soon but he's kept himself in first-rate condition and has emerged as the Florida Panthers' first-string goalie. Heading into Thursday night, his record with the mediocre Panthers was 21-14-8.


He's had a better season than, say, Andrew Raycroft, who has been inconsistent with the Toronto Maple Leafs. The Leafs discarded Belfour when they signed Raycroft as a free agent.





• Mind you, the Panthers irrefutably would prefer that Roberto Luongo was still their first-string goalie because, as a member of the Vancouver Canucks this season, he has ascended to lofty status and might just be the Hart Trophy winner as the NHL's most-valuable player.


The Panthers, in a blockbuster off-season deal, traded Luongo to Vancouver for controversial forward Todd Bertuzzi, who was dispatched to the Detroit Red Wings recently.


While Bertuzzi has spent just about the entire season with an injury, Luongo has excelled and has the Canucks realistically believing they have a shot at the Stanley Cup.


The Canucks entered Thursday night with a record of 24-5-5 since enduring a three-game losing streak in December.


They are easily the best penalty-killing team in the NHL. They also should wind up with 11 players with 10 or more goals.


"We're showing a lot of character," Vancouver captain Markus Naslund said. "We've got a confident feeling we can win every game."


Small wonder.





• The Calgary Flames aren't slouches, either.


Around the NHL, in fact, many believe the Flames have a reasonable shot at making it to the Stanley Cup final, and a major reason for such speculation is a veteran defence pair that is commanding widespread respect.



Brad Stuart and Robyn Regehr, going into Thursday night, were plus-14 in the Flames' past eight games.





• Forward Tony Amonte of the Flames likely will retire after this season, we hear.


Ditto for forwards Trevor Linden and Pierre Turgeon of the Canucks and Colorado Avalanche, respectively.


Don't look for Chris Chelios to hand up his skates, though.


At 45, Chelios is still an effective, if not flashy, defenceman for the Detroit Red Wings.


He hasn't scored any goals and gets fewer shifts these days, but Chelios is a respectable plus-8 and doesn't make many mistakes.





• Speaking of the Red Wings, they're at an impasse in contract discussions with talented foward Pavel Datsyuk.


Datsyuk wants a contract worth $7-million U.S., but the Wings swear they won't offer him any more than $6-million.





• The Philadelphia Flyers, who gave GM Paul Holmgren a contract extension this week, plan to be extremely aggressive on the free-agent market in the off-season and have their sights set on two of the Buffalo Sabres' key players -- Daniel Briere and Chris Drury.


The Flyers obtained ex-Buffalo goalie Martin Biron in a trade recently and are on the verge of signing him to a contract extension. They're also hoping that Biron will talk his good buddies, Briere and Drury, into joining him in Philly.


It also may help the Flyers that their new director of player development is Don Luce, an ex-Sabre.





• I like Ted Nolan, partly because he has historically been a straightforward chap, so I was perplexed this week when he proclaimed that his goaltender, Rick DiPietro, was injured with "general body soreness."


Huh?


I mean, really, doesn't everyone have "general body soreness?"





• The Isles, incidentally, are planning to pack a mean one-two punch soon by placing Alexei Yashin on the same line as recently acquired star Ryan Smyth.





• The New Jersey Devils are blaming what they view as a bad ice surface at their home rink for groin injuries to two of their stars.


Out of their lineup, and conspicuous by their absences, are Patrik Elias and John Madden.





• And what in the world was the NHL thinking by scheduling 10 games Thursday night and six games Friday night -- HEAD-TO-HEAD AGAINST MARCH MADNESS?


That's just dumb.



marty.york@metronews.ca

 
 
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