Once again, your questions and my answers can be found below, and until the city of Toronto gets significantly warmer and far less snowy, I refuse to be more creative with the introduction to the mailbag. You’ve got to draw a line in the snow sand somewhere.
What is Don Waddell's reputation as a coach and GM among NHL insiders? Maybe Bob Hartley had lost the team when he was fired, but the Thrashers are in a tailspin, and the temptation is to blame the coach and the GM in that order. And in this case, they're the same guy. Thanks,
John C., Atlanta
Waddell wouldn’t have been hired as USA Hockey’s GM of the 2006 Olympic Men’s Team if he wasn’t a highly respected hockey man. However, as you note, the Thrashers’ season is ending in as ugly a manner as ugly-ended NHL seasons get.
Will he be fired at the end of it? I don’t think so, especially after the above-average return he received for Marian Hossa at the trade deadline.
But his leash next season will be as short as anyone’s in the league, and if Atlanta stumbles out of the gate, I can definitely see Waddell getting the same treatment Doug Armstrong got in Dallas this year.
I know it's early to be talking about the draft, but I think there might be a potential controversy brewing, and would like to know your opinion. Let's say the Kings get the first overall pick, and unfortunately it looks like we’re going to get the best chance at it. Do you think Dean Lombardi would pass up Steven Stamkos for a defensive prospect? I know the word around the draft is that Stamkos will be taken first, but Dean Lombardi has said that he is happy with the way his young offense has been playing and progressing, but that the team needs to start building a young defensive core. Maybe potentially draft someone like Drew Doughty or Alex Pietrangelo first overall? Lombardi turned some heads at last year’s draft when he took Thomas Hickey fourth overall; do you think he'll do it again? And do you think it's a good idea for the Kings long term? Thanks!
Rory Weden, La Crescenta, Calif.
I’ve heard very good things about Doughty, and though he fills a hole in the Kings’ lineup better than Stamkos does, my head would be one of the ones turned if Lombardi doesn’t go with the consensus No.1 pick.
That said, I would be less surprised to see Lombardi really shock the league and deal away the first pick for a package that included the type of impact veteran NHLer the Kings need more than anything right now.
You can only add so many young phenoms before you have to augment them with some proven winners, and I think Lombardi and the Kings are fast approaching that point.
What team do you think will become a dark horse in the playoffs?
Scott Roblin, Okotoks, Alta.
I’m answering under the premise your question is somewhat less than literal, even though I’d love to be the guy who predicted a team turned equine one day. I could write my own ticket after that, I think.
The thing about dark horse picks these days is, there really is no such thing anymore. You could make a good argument for the top six teams in each conference making it to the Stanley Cup final, so there’s no real Cinderella element to any of those teams.
I suppose you could say the Bruins, Predators, Avs and Canucks qualify as dark horse candidates, although (a) the latter two teams still have a shot at winning the Northwest Division, and (b) I don’t believe Boston or Nashville have a great shot at getting out of the first round, let alone the second or third.
How come nobody ever mentions the name of Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau as a potential Jack Adams winner? The best result predicted by so-called experts for them was about ninth in the conference, and look where they are.
Maxime Richer, Montreal
Seeing as I’ve already done my post-pre-season groveling in regards to my horrendous prediction for Montreal, I’ll just move along and say Carbonneau definitely is one of my top three candidates for coach of the year (the other two are Bruce Boudreau in Washington, and Wayne Gretzky in Phoenix).
I wasn’t the only one in the hockey community who wondered if Carbonneau’s neck was on the line this season, but he has answered all the skeptics in the best way possible and deserves all the accolades he has coming.
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