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Line of Succession May Be Long

Mighty Ducks: Former King coach Ftorek one of many potential candidates to replace Wilson.

May 21, 1997|HELENE ELLIOTT | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's a safe bet that within hours of the Mighty Ducks' announcement they will not rehire Ron Wilson as coach, General Manager Jack Ferreira began receiving phone calls and resumes from hopeful replacements.

Reportedly, Mike Keenan contacted the Washington Capitals to inquire about the general manager's job before the news of David Poile's dismissal was official. For a job with an up-and-coming team like the Ducks, applicants are sure to act just as quickly--and to be more plentiful.

The early favorite appears to be Robbie Ftorek, an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils and former King coach. A New England native, as are Ferreira and Duck President Tony Tavares, Ftorek is gruff in manner but is considered a good teacher with a good hockey mind. He coached the Devils' Albany (N.Y.) farm team to the American Hockey League title in 1994-95 and joined Devil Coach Jacques Lemaire behind the bench this season for his second stint as an assistant coach. He has been with the Devils for six years.

Tavares has spoken admiringly of Ftorek, who has an escape clause in his contract that would permit him to leave the Devils for a head coaching job. However, it's believed the Devils would ask steep compensation as the price for his release.

Walt Kyle, a Duck assistant who survived the coaching purge--unlike fellow assistant Tim Army--also must be considered a candidate. He previously coached the Ducks' minor league team and knows the team well. He does not have a high profile but would not command a high salary, which would appeal to the bottom line-oriented Ducks.

Another possibility is Shawn Walsh, who coached Duck winger Paul Kariya at the University of Maine. Walsh, however, has no NHL coaching experience but is eager for the chance.

Al Sims, who left an assistant coaching job with the Ducks to become coach of the San Jose Sharks last season but lasted only a year, is another potential replacement for Wilson.

The field of potential replacements includes several veteran coaches.

The Buffalo Sabres last week fired general manager John Muckler but did not determine the future of Coach Ted Nolan, who won acclaim for taking an under-talented team to the Northeast Division title and the second round of the playoffs this season despite tension with Muckler and the suspension of goaltender Dominik Hasek for striking a reporter. Nolan could become a free agent July 1 and certainly would be sought after.

Pat Burns, the former policeman who became coach of the Montreal Canadiens and Toronto Maple Leafs, has been interviewed by the Boston Bruins and reportedly will be appointed coach this week. An authority figure, he was judged too harsh by some players.

Keenan, fired earlier this season as coach and general manager of the St. Louis Blues, is also pursuing coaching jobs. He was ruled out by the Bruins but is said to be interested in the Coyote job. Keenan, who has been more successful as a coach than as a general manager, won the Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers in 1994. He is a taskmaster and has a history of alienating star players, but he also has been credited by many players with getting them into the best physical shape of their careers.

Dave King, former coach of the Calgary Flames and the Canadian national team, has applied for the Montreal job. He's a good teacher but had problems motivating professional players.

Butch Goring, who coached the Boston Bruins and most recently has coached Utah of the International Hockey League, expressed interest in coaching the Coyotes. He did not have much success as an NHL coach, but he has done well in the IHL and his name is often mentioned when NHL coaching jobs become vacant.

Longer shots are Don Hay, who was fired by Phoenix and is expected to return to coaching in the Canadian junior ranks, and Barry Melrose, the former King coach turned ESPN commentator.

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