Catching up on ... Crosby in playoffs, Avs' front-office drama and Minny's future

June, 5, 2009

PITTSBURGH -- During the Stanley Cup playoffs, my contributions have been focused on our postseason coverage. Of course, there has been a lot of other stuff going on. I figure it would be a good time to catch up. Here's my take on a few recent events:

Give Sid a break!
On Monday, the off-day between Games 2 and 3 of the Cup finals, the Penguins decided to give the captain/league poster-boy Sidney Crosby a day off from his media chores. That created a stir among some of my colleagues, who must believe they need to hear Crosby's every waking thought. I guess there was an attempt -- a foolish attempt -- to compare Crosby's off-day silence to LeBron James' decision to blow off the press after being eliminated from the NBA playoffs. Those are two very different situations.

Personally, I didn't see the problem. In fact, I applaud the Penguins management and staff for taking control of the situation. They wanted to give No. 87 a day off and they made it happen. Good for them. Crosby has been available to the media on just about every day of the Stanley Cup playoffs. He earned the break. Oddly enough, the television, radio, web, newspaper and magazine coverage didn't collapse because we didn't get that precious sound bite from Crosby.

I have found Crosby to be a pretty accommodating young guy (especially when you consider the circumstances). In this case, I thought it was much ado about nothing.

After their month-long (or more) courtship with their former Hall of Fame goaltender Patrick Roy came to an unsatisfying conclusion, the Avalanche decided to promote little-known Greg Sherman to the GM post. The decision was announced Monday as a part of an avalanche of managerial changes that included the long-expected firing of coach Tony Granato.

It's hard to fathom why the club let the classy Granato twist in the wind for so long. It was obvious to everyone that he was going. His fate should have been announced months ago on the same day (April 13) the club fired ex-GM Francois Giguere. That would have been the right thing to do.

Instead, the organization let Roy lead them around by the nose. While he wrestled with the decision, the now-rebuilding franchise was stuck in neutral. When he eventually opted to pass on the offer to coach or manage or both, the Avalanche were left with egg on their face. Locally, the only saving grace was the Nuggets' surprisingly long run in the NBA playoffs. That pushed the Avs' mismanagement story to the back of the sport section.

The most interesting note in the Monday restructuring was the announcement that Eric Lacroix (the son of the club's longtime team president and former GM Pierre Lacroix) would rejoin the organization as the new director of hockey operations. I have to believe he's being groomed to someday follow in his father's footsteps. If things continue to go in the direction they've been going for the Avs, he'll someday step into a pretty lousy situation.

Hopefully, the elder Lacroix will quickly recover from complications from recent knee-replacement surgery. After losing so much time during the Roy chase, the franchise needs his experienced hand during the rebuilding process.

On Thursday, the club finally promoted their minor league/former NHLer Joe Sacco to replace Granato behind the bench. He brings little head-coaching background to a tough job. I'm sure Sacco is hoping new GM Sherman can upgrade the club's dismal goaltending situation. If he doesn't, it won't matter who's behind the bench.

Hmm ... is Roy available to play?

Wild about Chuck
After a supposedly extensive six-week search, the Wild hired Chuck Fletcher as their new GM on May 22. I say supposedly extensive because owner Craig Leipold had targeted Fletcher to be his new manager right from the start.

Sure, Leipold accepted the résumés of many interested parties and even conducted several "first" interviews for the position. But Fletcher was the only candidate he spoke to a second time. Without question, he was their man.

Fletcher has earned his opportunity. The son of Hall of Fame builder Cliff Fletcher, Chuck has worked in different roles for several organizations. Most recently, Fletcher served as the Penguins' assistant GM. He'll bring a different approach to Minny. That's the good news. There are, however, no guarantees when hiring a first-time manager. Some guys can hit the ground running. For others, it's a struggle.

Fletcher is currently working on his first big decision: hiring a coach. Sharks assistant coach/former University of Minnesota star Todd Richards is the front-runner. While many speak glowingly of Richards, I'm not sure a first-time GM and first-time coach is the way to go. Fletcher said he's going to take his time with the decision. That's a good move. It'll be interesting to see if he goes off the board for a more experienced bench boss.

E.J. Hradek

Senior Writer, ESPN The Magazine
E.J. Hradek is a senior writer at ESPN The Magazine, joining the staff prior to its launch in 1998. He began covering hockey as a writer/editor for Hockey Illustrated in 1989.




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