Hiring Mike Kitchen as assistant coach was a solid move by Jacques Martin and the Florida Panthers. The former Blues bench boss and ex-NHL blueliner will help the team’s youngish defense corps realize its potential.
Â• Farewell , Mike Ricci. Not only did you demonstrate that looks don’t count for much in the hockey world, but you also proved the lofty expectations heaped upon top prospects needn’t always be precisely realized in order to have a successful pro career.
In his days with the Ontario League’s Peterborough Petes, Ricci was heralded as one of the game’s Next Big Things, on par with fellow junior phenoms Eric Lindros and, um, Pat Falloon. The Toronto native never ascended to Hall-of-Fame-type heights, but over the course of his 16 years in the NHL, he developed into a valued all-around player, beloved teammate and Stanley Cup champion. That’s more than some Hall-of-Famers ever will be able to claim. (For more on Ricci, read Ryan Dixon’s opinion column.)
Â• On the flipside of the retirement coin is former NHLer Eric Weinrich, who announced the end of his playing career in 2006, but is on the verge of signing a one-year contract with the American League’s Portland Pirates.
Weinrich, who was raised and schooled in Maine, initially began his post-playing career as an assistant coach with the Pirates, but signed a 25-game contract in January to help teach the team’s developing defenders. And now, at age 40, he’s agreed to continue that role for the entire ’07-08 season.
Like Mike Keane in Manitoba, Weinrich will be riding buses for a relative pittance. When they talk about guys playing for the Â“love of the game,Â” these are the types they’re referring to.
Â• With sweet, sweet vacation only a couple days away, this will be my final blog entry until early September. Until then, my indomitable colleagues will be blogging (and answering Ask Adam questions) from time to time. Have a great and safe what’s-left-of-August.
Ricci is one of those forwards who should have won a Selke Award that was too often in his time given to the player who had a real good offensive season but was overshadowed by someone who had a great one
– Stephen J. Holodinsky