While the signings of Scott Gomez, Chris Drury and Ryan Smyth garnered much off-season attention, the hiring of Brent Sutter by Lou Lamoriello and the New Jersey Devils may have been the most significant addition in the summer of 2007. Sutter was the best coach outside of the NHL for a number of years now and had been pursued by numerous NHL organizations with appealing coaching offers. Finally, this summer the former Red Deer Rebels coach decided it was the right time to make the jump into the NHL coaching ranks and he could not have found a better dancing partner. New Jersey is the perfect fit for Sutter and vice versa. Sutter, a Stanley Cup Champion with the New York Islanders in the early 1980’s, coaches much like he played. His teams are known for being well-prepared, hard working, always willing to finish checks, never afraid to stand up for one another and an undeniable willingness to compete. Sutter’s opinions on the game almost mirror those of Louo, thus, making this a match that, is allegedly, made in heaven.
I would be remiss if I did not mention Lamoriello’s penchant for firing coaches almost annually; however, this situation appears to be completely different. Sutter is a coach who could have gone anywhere, and probably could have had full control over personnel decisions; instead, he took a job in New Jersey, a place many consider to be a death sentence for coaches. Sutter would not have taken this position without being confident in the make-up of the Devils’ roster and, more importantly, his ability to mesh with Lamoreillo.
Hiring Brent Sutter should result in New Jersey ascending significantly in the standings and producing more points than they did in 2006/07. Although the Devils may not be the most talented team in the National Hockey League this season, they will definitely be one of the most difficult teams to play against, and that, of course, is a Sutter calling card.
On to the morning papers:
- As Rich Chere of the Star-Ledger tells us, the Devils are concerned about Colin White after he was hit over the right eye in practice on Wednesday.
- Aaron Asham of the Devils is concerned about the new jerseys and the fact that they are coming apart at the seems; Mark Everson of the New York Post has the story.
- As far as Sean Avery is concerned, the Rangers are going to win the Cup in 2008.
- Head coach Tom Renney believes it is imperative for the Rangers to spend time at West Point to team build, but more importantly, to have the experience of spending time with people who sacrifice for their country.
- Gerard Gallant will be responsible for running the Islanders' powerplay writes Greg Logan in this morning's New York Newsday.
- After a season of struggles, Martin Gerber is motivated to reclaim the number one goalie title in Ottawa. Supriginsly (Writer's note: or not), after Gerber's impressive exhibition performance two night ago, Ray Emery was practicing for the first time yesterday testing his surgically repaired wrist.
- Mike Rathje injured his groin at Flyers' camp and will be out for at least the next week according to GM Paul Holmgren.
- Ken Warren of the Ottawa Sun details Patrick Eaves' attempts to stick on the top line at Senators' camp. The young forward has impressed coach John Paddock who has called him "one of the best players in training camp."
- The Coyotes are hoping power skating coach Mark Ciaccio can help both veterans and youngsters improve their overall game.
- Phenom Sidney Crosby could see himself playing on the penalty killing unit this season in Pittsburgh writes Shelly Anderson of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (Writer's note: I love this idea. The Oilers used to do this with Gretzky all the time. With Crosby's hockey sense and speed he would be a good penalty killer and, would also put pressure on the opposing team's defensemen on the point or make them put a defenseman on the point instead of their usual forward.)
- Nineteen players were assigned to Peoria of the AHL from Blues' camp on Wednesday. This group did not include youngsters Patrick Berglund and David Perron; Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Disptach has the story.
- Both Chris Gratton and Michel Ouellet went down to injury in the Lightning's pre-season opener against Dallas on Wednesday. Luckily, neither injury is believed to be overly serious.
- Instant chemistry? As Lance Hornby writes in this morning's Toronto Sun, it appears that the combination of Mats Sundin and Jason Blake have already taken a liking to each other's playing styles.
- Also in this morning's Toronto Sun, Hornby wonders why the NHL hasn't returned to Winnipeg yet.
- Damien Cox of the Toronto Star doesn't understand why the NHL is playing the outdoor game in Buffalo. (Writer's note: Amen brother)
- Tarik El-Bashir explains the reasoning behind Josef Boumedienne's attempt to return to the NHL.
- It is fair to say that Mike Keenan and Roberto Luongo were more than content not running into each other before last night's Flames/Canucks exhibition contest writes Grant Kerr of the Globe & Mail.
- Barry Macdonald has a complimentary piece on Alain Vigneault in this morning's Vancouver Sun.
- Exhibition or not, the Flames were out to set a physical tone against the Canucks on Wednesday.
- Kari Lehtonen may have been a top prospect but that does not mean he is getting a free ride to the starting goaltending spot in Atlanta this season. As Craig Custance writes, Lehtonen has to compete with Johan Hedberg for the starting spot.
- The Predators are excited by the potential of their last selection in the 2005 draft Patric Hornqvist. (Writer's note: More importantly, I just read that Paul Fenton is the Assistant GM in Nashville. Paul Fenton! The former Winnipeg Jet! If I recall, he wore number 11, but I am not 100% sure. If I am wrong, drop a line in our comments section.)
- The Bruins are not as easy to play against this season writes Fluto Shinzawa of the Boston Globe.
- According to Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News, The Stars will be pushing for a scheduel change at the November meetings.
- Jared Boll was playing like a house on fire in the Jackets' exhibition contest Wednesday against the Blackhawks.
- After an off-season of spending, expectations have changed in Colorado heading into 2007/08.
- Teppo Numminen is understandbly nervous for today's open-heart surgery.
- The Hawks had an eventful night as Patrick Kane struggled in his first taste NHL action and Jonathan Toews broke his finger in his second NHL exhibition contest. Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune has the details.
- Luke Decock has a good piece on Brandon Sutter in this morning's News Observer.
- Jimmy Howard has matured significantly since being drafted in 2003 writes Helene St. James in the Detroit Free Press.
- The Slovak combination of Nagy and Handzus carry with them high expectations heading into 2007/08 with the Kings.
- As Michael Russo writes, GM Doug Risebrough can't seem to shake Benoit Pouliout's inconsistent performance in the AHL last season.
- Pat Hickey of the Montreal Gazette tells us that Yan Dannis's stock is on the rise at Habs' camp. (Writer's note: The Habs have so much depth in goal it is bordering on ridiculous.)
- Miikka Kiprusoff was sharp in Wednesday's exhibition contest versus Vancouver. Randy Sportak has a player-by-player report card of Wednesday's contest.
- Fernando Pisani may not return this season but his stall remains open as his teammates hope for the best.
- The Oilers have been bitten by the injury bug in camp.
For Illegal Curve, I'm Richard Pollock.