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Fischler Report: The Crowded Race That Not Even You Can Figure Out

The toughest awards race to call in the NHL right now is for the Adams Award as coach of the year. Stan Fischler gives his top choices and more in this week's Fischler Report.
Dean Evason

The toughest race to call now is for the Adams Award as coach of the year.

Take a gander at some of the entrants and then pick a winner for me: Mike Sullivan has done astonishingly good things with a seemingly always decrepit Penguins sextet. Rod Brind'Amour continues to energize the Canes in his image; a winner.

Sheldon Keefe has Toronto right up there where the Maple Leafs belong.

Alley Ovechkin, appropriately, gets the headlines but Petey Laviolette keeps the Caps capitalized.

Then, there's the Bruce Boudreau miracle of Vancouver; Jon Cooper's Champs, the Calgary Sutters, Roll The Dice DeBoer and Dallas Eakins' daffy Ducks. And that's just to name nine.

But the least mentioned mentor, so far, finally is finding the limelight. The Pride of Flin Flon, Manitoba, Dean Evason, won a three-year extension from Wild GM Bill Guerin as Minny's head coach.

Good for Billy G for proving the bromide, genius will out. Facts are facts. When Dean put pen to deal, his record was an admirable 62-29-7. And we're talking about a team that originally was fingered for fifth in the Central.

Fifth, schmifth. "Success is the Stanley Cup," says Evason, "and the Stanley Cup is our goal."

Even though Cup odds are 32/1 for a St.Paul Cup swigging, there's a ton to like about the Wild, starting with the man behind the bench.

"Dean is a great communicator," Guerin said. "He's up front and center with his guys. He's got passion and compassion. I like his fire."

Plus, Evason does well with the material he's received from Billy G.

Most of all, I like Kiril Kaprizov, old-buddy-from-Broadway Mats Zuccarello, underrated Cam Talbot, Ryan (from Hilton Head, South Carolina), Hartman and Alex Goligoski.

This is a nifty, still-in-the-shadows Minnesota club, but if Evason can push it far, hey, you never know. A Cup is still a long shot; but an Adams? Why not?

EYE ON OTTAWA: The Senators should be a better team than it's shown over the past three months; but how much better? A couple of my chums are bullish about second-half chances. So am I, especially if Brady Tkachuk is fully engaged and, somehow, Matt Murray re-finds his game. And, if not, hopefully, Anton Forsberg continues the superior netminding play he displayed before the break.

Young talent – Josh Norris, Connor Brown, Drake Batherson – will mature into the homestretch but – for my moolahs – the best, bust-out guy from here on should be Tim Stutzle.

That said, the bad Ottawa news is that the pre-season hype about a possible Sens return to the playoffs has disappeared like smoke rings in the air.

WHO SAID IT? "If you find you can push someone around, then you push him around." (Answer below.)

I'M JUST SAYIN'

1. DON'T ROAST THIS BOAST: The soon-to-return Gino Malkin says that his Penguins still should be contenders for the Stanley Cup. The odds are 34-1 against them. But that could change with first-rate goaltending.

2. MAN, OH, MAN, THAT BREAD MAN: Contemporary NHLers regularly are displaying super skills we've never seen before. Exhibit A last week was Artemi Panarin's between the legs pass to himself and follow-up goal vs. Sergei Bobrovsky. That's Bread on toast!

3, PUTTIN' ON THE FRITZ: After a high-level conference, Russian leader Vlad Putin invited his Belarusian counterpart Alex (Fritz) Lukashenko to join him in a hockey game. Putin scored seven goals and Lukie got a pair. Nobody complained; not even if Putty was offside!

4. THE PRE-KRAKENS: Before the NHL arrived in the Great Northwest, Seattle had the following hockey teams. Metropolitans, Eskimos, Sea Hawks, Olympics, Ironmen (my favorite), Bombers, Totems and Americans. Keith Allen, Fred Shero, Cat Francis, Pat Quinn and Tommy McVie all played for the Totems (1958-75). By the way, the Totems were three-time Western Hockey League champs. (Thank you, Glenn Dreyfuss.)

5. NEW YEAR'S HOPE: Interviewed by The Athletic's Pierre LeBrun, NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly offered this hopeful thought: "By the middle to end of January we'll start to see a more normalized setting, a more normalized schedule and we'll be in OK shape."

6. GOOD INTERVIEW: By the way, LeBrun mentioned to Daly about the Brad Marchand-plus disappointment at missing the Olympics. The Deputy Commish summed up what the league and union boss Donald Fehr agree on regarding the Olympic nix: "At the end of the day it just wasn't in the cards." Period. End of discussion.

7.COMEBACK KID: Not that long ago, a lot of us figured that Kyle Okposo's career was flat gone. Wrong! This very good fellow is one of Buffalo's best forwards. Thus, a big YAY for Kayo!

8. A 'SCOOP' RACE IN 2022: It's a trick trying to keep up with those first-rate

"Insiders" such as Elliotte Friedman, Darren Dreger, et. al. in their race to out-scoop each other. And kudos to them and their ferret-like colleagues who make every day more interesting with their hustle to get the very latest "beat" on the next signing. Their 12-month sprint is close. Who wins this year?

9. TERRIFIC TALENT-PLUS: Players to watch in 2022: Connor Bedard, Matvei Michkov, Maxim Strbak and Dailbor Dvorsky, all in the 2023 Draft.

10. A QUOTE DIRECTED AT BRAD MARCHAND: "The thing that happened at the 2006 Olympics, that we all feared, actually happened with Dominik Hasek getting hurt. You don't have a lot of chances to win a Stanley Cup. That was our (Ottawa Senators) year, and that was our chance and it was taken away from us." Sens owner Eugene Melnyk. Ergo: No Hasek; no chance! (Owners don't forget and why should they?)

BOB MCCAMMON ON HERB BOOKS: The recent passing of Bob McCammon ignited some amusing stories about this jolly fellow, especially when Mac coached the Flyers against his friendly foe, Herb Brooks, then running the Blueshirts bench.

Herbie's Rangers featured several small, but very gifted players who Bob labeled as "Smurfs." The Blueshirts got their revenge in one playoff when the Smurfs knocked off Bob's Broad Street Bullies.

Never one to miss a retort, McCammon fired back: "If Herbie ever decides he doesn't want to coach hockey anymore, I'm sure he can get a bathing suit and coach the Olympic diving team. He certainly taught those players of his how to take a dive or two!"

THE 'GREAT ONE' OF THE MINORS: Guyle Fielder is one of only five pro hockey players to have totalled more than 2,000 points. Almost all of them were tallied in the minors although Fielder had a cup of coffee with the Red Wings and failed despite briefly playing on a line with Gordie Howe and Ted Lindsay. Still hale and hearty, Fielder recently was featured on Paul Patskou's "Hockey Time Machine" and also was interviewed by Glenn Dreyfuss.

Fielder confessed that in addition to his WHL hockey exploits, his off-ice talents included golf and shooting-pool-for-money – and mostly winning. Here's what he told Pal Glenn:

"When we played in Edmonton, they had a good pool room and I'd play all day until six in the evening. Then, I'd grab a cab and a hot dog and head to the rink and play hockey. Then, I'd head back to the pool room and shoot some more pool and make more dough!"

NEW RINK OR NOT FOR THE FLAMES? Since 2019, when an agreement between Calgary city officials and team owners seemed secure, there's been hope that the Flames eventually would get a high-tech arena to match rival Edmonton. But, according to sports business columnist Evan Weiner, in 2021, "the two sides hit a bump delaying construction. In July it was full speed ahead for a new building." The question again revolves around reality. When will it happen?

"The Flames ownership will eventually meet with city officials," Weiner concludes, "and reach a deal in the arena game. Because that is how it is played."

ANSWER TO WHO SAID THAT? Gordie Howe. 

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