Friday August 1st, 2008

I can't believe Scotty Bowman is such a traitor! It's bad enough that he leaves [the Red Wings], but to go to a traditional rival in the same division no less? What a classless move. What is he thinking? -- D. Duchesne, Windsor, Ont.

Another great day for the Maple Leafs, eh? So it's not that Bowman didn't want to leave Detroit, it's that he didn't want to leave for Toronto. Guess he is the smartest guy in hockey after all! What's his role going to be with the Hawks? -- Len Smythe, Toronto, Ont.

I'm not sure where reader Duchesne's hostility is coming from. When you consider the circumstances, this move was pretty easy to foresee. Bowman's son, Stan, is the assistant general manager in Chicago, so it's clear that the chance to work with him and be in a position to spend more time with his grandkids and another son, Bob, weighed heavily in his decision. I'm sure Scotty also was inspired by the challenges offered by the Hawks. They've got a very promising nucleus with Johnny Toews, Patrick Kane, Jack Skille and Brent Seabrook, but they're still a long way from a championship. That's a process he can expedite in his role as senior advisor of hockey operations. He'll probably perform the same duties as he did with the Wings, meaning he'll do a little bit of everything, including working with the team's top prospects in Rockford. But his key role in Detroit was to serve as a guide/sounding board/advisor to Mike Babcock. If Denis Savard is smart, he'll come to rely heavily on the man who captured a record nine Stanley Cups as a coach.

As far as being a traitor, it's my understanding that Bowman never had a written contract with the Wings, meaning that his employment, and departure, was entirely up to him. No doubt Detroit's sorry to see him go, but given the circumstances, I'm sure they support his decision.

While the Hawks seemingly can do no wrong in the Rocky Wirtz era, Bowman's willingness to go to Chicago is another glaring example of the ineptitude of the Maple Leafs. Rumors that Bowman wanted to run every facet of the organization ring pretty hollow when you consider that the 74-year-old was hardly an everyday face in the Wings' offices. It's safe to read his refusal to join the Leafs as a negative assessment of the team's operation. Bowman, like all great leaders, likes to surround himself with people who are just as committed to greatness. That type is scarce -- maybe even extinct -- in the current Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment hierarchy.

The Predators seem to need some help at right wing with Alexander Radulov having defected to Russia. Do you think Glen Murray makes sense? What kind of salary might he require? -- Kim Black, Tenn.

Murray makes some sense -- as long as your expectations aren't too high. He's probably got a bit more left in him than he showed while scoring 17 goals in an injury-shortened season with the Bruins...but not a whole lot. Never a speedster, he looks like he's skating with a piano on his back and even stopping to play it in the new go-go NHL. And honestly, if he's not scoring, he's not adding much to a lineup. There weren't many around Boston who were surprised to see him waived. In fact, there were plenty calling for the team to make the move prior to last season.

There are plenty of rumors suggesting that San Jose is interested in Murray, but you can write that off as fan spec based on reuniting him with his old center, Joe Thornton. The Sharks have almost no cap room to play with, and they still need to sign RFA Ryane Clowe. If Murray goes anywhere, a return to Los Angeles is the most logical. He has a home in the area, and they could use both his locker room presence and his salary cap hit.

I think there's a chance that the Preds take a long look at Mark Parrish, who recently was cut loose by the Wild. I get the sense that he's more highly regarded than Murray, though I'm not sure why. Parrish is a sluggish skater, and for a player who carries a rep as an offensive catalyst, he really hasn't produced enough to earn it. He has just one 60-point season on his resume, and hasn't topped 40 in his last two -- no wonder the Wild kicked him to the curb. The one advantage he has is that he's five years younger than Murray, so that makes him a more palatable risk. Odds are that Parrish would be cheap -- perhaps as little as $1.5 per year. Two more teams to keep in mind as possible destinations : Los Angeles and Dallas.

Another option for the Preds might be Mike Knuble, who the Flyers are reportedly willing to move to clear some cap space. He's as old as Murray (36), but he's averaged 29 goals over the last three years. His won't cost an NHL asset, he's great in the room, and he's reliable: playing all 82 games in three of his last four seasons. If the Preds really feel like they need someone short term just to buy time for the development of Mike Santorelli, (Knuble is a free agent after this season), that's the direction that makes the most sense to me.

In cherrypicking the "must-see" games, did you forget about the Western Conference? Here are three games that caught my eye: Oct. 15, Oilers @ Ducks: The first meeting of the year between Brian Burke and Kevin Lowe; Nov 8, Stars @ Sharks: Do you recall the last regular season game these two played in the Shark Tank?; Apr 12 Blues @ Avalanche: Joe Sakic's last game? Cheers! Love your work. -- Ian Chin, Irvine, CA

Some fine choices there, Ian. Of course, that Oilers vs.Ducks game would be a lot more compelling if Burke and Lowe actually took the ice instead of simply staring each other down in the press box popcorn line. For the record, I'd put my money on Lowe on the ice...and Burke in the popcorn line.

A local radio host was discussing possible landing spots for Mats Sundin, and the Phoenix Coyotes came up. I think that'd be a brilliant addition to a young team, but do they have the cap room? -- Clare Downing, Toronto, Ont.

The whole Sundin thing gives me the worst case of tired-head imaginable, and if it weren't for the sheer volume of letters, I'd close my eyes and ask someone to wake me when it's over. But this Phoenix rumor is so off the wall, and coming from so many of you, I had to throw it out there.

The Coyotes definitely have the cap room, with just over $42.5 million committed to 20 players. But Sundin just doesn't feel like a fit, either for his purposes or theirs. Phoenix already has six natural centers under contract, and you have to believe that Olli Jokinen, Peter Mueller, Martin Hanzal and Mike Zigomanis have their spots all but locked up. Jokinen's No. 1, and Mueller and Hanzal can't have their development retarded by moving away from the pivot position. Sundin, of course, could move to the wing, but if he comes back, he's likely looking for a team with a better chance of contending than the young Yotes.

On the bright side, we shouldn't have to wait much longer before this period of national hand-wringing finally comes to an end. Sundin set today as a soft deadline for revealing his intentions for the future -- that means whether he wants to play, not necessarily which team he's choosing. Calling it quits is an option, but I'm betting he pushes on, taking a two-year deal with a contender in the next couple weeks. Look for Montreal, Colorado and -- if only for old time's sake --Toronto to be the most likely landing spots.

Ignoring the fact that the Flyers have more top young prospects than anyone in the league is laughable when considering Jay Bouwmeester's future. If the Flyers started a package headed by James Van Riemsdyk and one or two of their pro youth (Lupul, Giroux, Upshall, etc.), who's going to top that? Seriously! -- Scott Richards, Deptford, NJ

There's no doubt that the Flyers could put together an impressive package of talent if they decided to target Bouwmeester. Then again, so could several other teams. The Bruins could offer up Phil Kessel, David Krejci and Matt Lashoff, or the Blues could dangle T. J. Oshie, David Perron and Ian Cole. There's no shortage of teams with young, compelling talent that would make Jacques Martin personally pack J-Bo's bags...but there is a dearth of clubs that are willing to give it up.

The Flyers certainly could move those bodies, but why would they? Not only would it devastate their organizational depth (which I'd rank closer to the middle than the top of the league), but they're not really in a position to make such a move. Remember, they're actually over the cap right now, so if they were to make a move for Bouwmeester, they'd have to drop at least two NHL bodies in the mix -- likely Upshall and Lupul -- along with other talent.

It makes more sense for the Flyers to make a pitch for him next season, if he goes to free agency. Derian Hatcher's $3.5 million will be off the books, making Bouwmeester's salary (minimum of $6.5 million per) a little more manageable. Of course, that would leave them with a top four featuring all left-handed shooters, but adjustments can be made to accommodate a talent like Bouwmeester.

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