Wednesday, September 19, 2007

An ugly year for the Great One

The question, needless to say, is how much failure can Gretzky stand, or withstand. He's in only the second year of a five-year contract, but his buddy Mike Barnett was cashiered as general manager last season and the Coyotes ownership made it clear in hiring Maloney that they were avoiding any and all hockey people with direct ties to Gretzky.

Could he be fired if the Coyotes stink? Possible, but unlikely, particularly given that he still has an ownership stake in the team.

But it's equally hard to imagine he'll just hang in there if this season turns out to be utterly miserable. Perhaps there will be a resignation, or some other kind of face-saving way out.
This is becoming a well-worn theory of late, that this will be Gretzky's swan song because of how awful the team will be.

But I can't honestly believe that this isn't a scripted collapse for the Coyotes, who are icing one of the worst rosters of the past decade this season, and Gretzky has to be in on the ploy. The fact is, there was absolutely no way for Phoenix to rebuild without tearing the mess that was there down, and the unfortunate thing is that this wasn't the strategy in his first season as coach coming out of the lockout.

Better late than never I suppose.

But to suggest that, as the Coyotes predictably sink into the Western Conference basement this year, Gretzky will exit, makes little sense to me. Of course they'll be bad: Beyond the first line of York-Reinprecht-Doan, there's almost zero NHL experience on the forward lines. The defence is virtually unchanged from last season (Phoenix allowed the third most goals against last season) and the only goaltenders brought on board were those no one else was willing to sign (Aebischer and Auld).

This will also be the most rookie-laden lineup in the league, with Martin Hanzal, Peter Mueller, Dan Carcillo and Bill Thomas all expected to play on the top three forward lines. Kyle Turris is probably joining the baby patrol next season.

Gretzky has to know and be prepared for what's in store this year, or else he would have checked out by now. As hard as it is to believe, he's in this for the long haul, however ugly that appears to be.

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At 2:45 PM, September 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

They'll challenge the expansion Capitals and Jets for worst-ever single-season W-L record. Check the sked. I challenge anyone to find 10 games they can win.

At 3:00 PM, September 19, 2007, Blogger FAUXRUMORS said...

1) Gretzky will NEVER be 'fired' from his job. He may "step down' at some point, but they wouldn't want the PR nightmare of firing the greatest player of all time
2) We too doubt he will go if he's the one making that decision.

At 3:24 PM, September 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It'll be especially tough for them when Jovo and Reinprecht are injured for their customary one-third to one-half of the season.

At 11:49 PM, September 19, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

How close are the Coyotes to the salary floor? And what if Jovonoski has a good year and teams are looking for a defenceman at the trade deadline? Will the Coyotes have to refuse the offer to stay above the minimum salary level?

At 12:08 AM, September 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If they wanted to dump Jovo, couldn't they just sign Gretzky to a player's contract for the equivalent dollar value and throw a jersey over him behind the bench?

At 12:29 PM, September 20, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Coyotes are just over the cap floor and I think that Mueller should be pivoting the 1st line and have Reinprecht play with Hanzal.

If someone starts sniffing around Jovo for a playoff drive(feel free) the Yotes can take expiring contracts in a salary dump.

I just wish the Coyotes had some more high energy wingers who will get their nose dirty and drop the gloves once in a while(think Adam Graves pre back problems with the Rangers). There's a reason why their record was so much better when Gratton was in the lineup. They tried it with Laraque, but his disappearance was right up there with Amelia Earhart.

At 2:00 PM, September 20, 2007, Blogger Doogie said...

Gretzky will NEVER be 'fired' from his job. He may "step down' at some point, but they wouldn't want the PR nightmare of firing the greatest player of all time

This is very true. When the Nordiques faced with the same issue in '72, they pretty much let the Rocket take himself out of the situation. Of course, he did it after a game or two, and this is going into its third season, but the concept remains the same.


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