Whalers at a Crossroad of the Season - Rough Road Ahead
Continued Post Season Failures force the franchise into a difficult position
HARTFORD, CT. – Whaler management is facing some very difficult decisions. Their “win now” approach has served them well with multiple championships (2 – 1986 and 1987) and never missing the RHL Post season (8 consecutive years). The team was a veteran laden team relying on their collective leadership and experience to get through the rugged RHL. In the mid 80s, the Whalers were looked upon as a premier organization. Fast forward to today and the Whalers are in need of a face lift. The average age of the team is 32 years old which is the oldest in the league.
The last championship was in 1987 with their last Stanley Cup finals appearance in 1988. Since 88 the Whalers have not gotten past the Divisional round of the post season. Adding to the slide from are the recent retirements. Coming into this season, the whalers lost their All Star goaltender Greg Millen. Millen was a mainstay in goal and routinely shined in the post season. Rod Langway, the leader of the defense and recently re-acquired Pierre Larouche also hung up their skates.
The current team is still competitive and will challenge for a playoff spot but are not considered cup contenders. Veterans Christoff, Gustafsson, Sulliman and Cloutier are still productive and bring value to any team looking for scoring.
It is not all doom and gloom in Hartford as youngsters Tony Amonte, Dmitri Kristich and Curtis Leschyshyn are ready to play in RHL and need to have roster spots open up for them. Prospects Brian Smolinski, Mike Grier and goaltender Tommy Soderstrom are developing in juniors and are coming.
We were able to get a few minutes with the GM who discussed the status of the team.
HC: How do you feel about the 8-8 start?
GM: This is not where we want to be and thought we’d more productive offensively. We need to improve our defense as well. We’ve always been near the top of goals against and losing Greg (Millen) didn’t help but Clint (Malarchuk) and Al (Jensen) are doing well. Our defensemen need to provide better support in front of those guys and clear the rebounds.
HC: Are you looking to make some changes?
GM: As I’ve said in the past, I’m always looking to improve the team. We have a bunch of leaders in that locker room and none of them are happy with this start. If we need to make personnel changes, we will.
HC: Are you concerned that the Whalers are the oldest team in the RHL?
GM: I’m not concerned but if an opportunity presented itself for us to get younger and plan for the future, we’d certainly look at it.
Rangers Trade Star Defenseman to Cross-River Rivals
East Rutherford, New Jersey – The struggling New York Rangers made a surprise move Monday afternoon by trading their top defenseman, Chris Chelios, to their cross-river rivals, the New Jersey Devils. The Rangers, who currently sit second to last in the Wales Conference, acquired a first round pick in the 1995 draft from the Devils along with prospects Steve Dubinsky and Drake Berehowsky. Scouting services ranked Dubinsky and Berehowsky among the top rated prospects on New Jersey's farm team in Spokane.
The Devils, who are 6-4-2 two weeks into the season, are trying to make the post season for the first time in five years. New Jersey has added over $5 million to its payroll with the summer re-signings of Scott Stevens, Ulf Samuelsson, Bobby Carpenter and Joel Otto, and with the additions of Claude Lemieux and now Chris Chelios. "They're serious about making a run this year," said an unnamed team executive. "I know management is fed up with losing, as is the team owner and their fans. Now it is up to the players to turn things around."
Chelios, a veteran of over 800 career games, took on a lot of responsibility for New York's struggles. "My play up to this point has been unacceptable," said a frustrated Chelios, who had a team worst minus-11 rating with the Rangers. "I am hoping to turn things around in New Jersey and look forward to befriending some former rivals," said the veteran defenseman.
Detroit makes a splash in the UFA market
Free agency can be good some years and bad others, this year was a good one.
Leaving Motown was Mats Nasland unfortunately but we knew this was a position we felt comfortable with and that he would be a casualty so we did not make him an offer and moved on. We used a pre-sign card to keep Hakan Loob to a 4 year deal and think he had more to offer us than Mats did, but we are sad to see him leave.
It is no secret that last year we made some moves to build up our core with positional players and draft picks, and we felt we did a good job with it and we like the team we have put on the ice and feel we good make a run for a playoff spot with the addition of a few players, and voila we were able to fill in the concerning spots.
#1, we felt we needed a number one Dman who could play strong on our end of the ice and log lots of minutes, enter Randy Boyd. He will see 1st line minutes and PK minutes as well and will help mold our younger players into the type of play we expect to see each shift.
#2, a number one center, with a retirement and trades we have holes at center, Mike Ridley inked a 4 year deal with us and we were over the moon that he agreed to join our club. He will be centering our 1st line as well as PP and PK this guy can do it all.
#3 Adam Creighton was a fill player who we will believe will play 3rd and 4th line minutes as well as PK. He will battle will with Olcyk and Keskinen but we think with his skill set he will be 3rd line C for most of the year.
Overall we are looking forward to seeing these guys in the Red and White!