Votes of confidence, Kovalchuk’s opinion, Thrashers settlement

Some things of note on the day that the Devils fire John MacLean and bring back Jacques Lemaire for his third stint behind the Devils bench:

The Bruins have lost 4 of 5 and another former Habs coach, Claude Julien, has been rumored on the firing line in Boston. However, Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli told a Boston radio station yesterday that Julien wasn’t going anywhere. Asked if the coach’s job was safe, Chiarelli said (quoted in The Boston Globe), “That’s my preference and that’s my recommendation. This is a
collective thing that we do on these matters. I have full confidence in
Claude and his staff to figure it out.’’

Another coach who has been rumoured on the way out is the Capitals Bruce Boudreau, whose club recently broke an eight-game losing streak. Last night on HBO’s “24/7” episode chronicling the run-up to the Winter Classic, Caps GM George McPhee expressed his support for the coach, explaining he knew the team was going through a rough stretch but he would be patient and allow his club to work things out.

McPhee also had some very pointed words for those who spread hockey gossip, specifically about Boudreau’s job status: “When you’re having a tough stretch, this is when there are too many
reactionaries out there,” McPhee said. “All the experts come out, all the pundits come
out with their opinions, and the truth of the matter is if that they knew
anything about the game, they’d be in it. I don’t usually comment on
job status and that nonsense because people, whatever you say, will read
between the lines and parse words.”

Boudreau also commented, “It’s not coming from someone you trust as a hockey person.”

*    *    *

Ilya Kovalchuk told reporters today, “I’m not the reason (why MacLean was fired). Don’t worry. Everybody has their own opinion, but in the situation that we
are, (a coach gets fired). It’s unfortunate, but we have to live with it
and move forward.” (quoted by Tom Gulitti, blogging for The Bergen Record)

A six-time 40 goal scorer who hit the 50 mark twice, Kovalchuk has eight goals, 10 assists and a minus-22 rating (second worst
in the league to teammate Andy Greene’s minus-23) in 32 games. This year. In his 27 regular season games under Lemaire last season, Kovalchuk had 10 goals and 17 assists.

“We’ll see. Maybe it’s going to start tonight,” Kovalchuk said. “We
played a different style of hockey last year and it seemed like it was
working for us. So, I’m sure he knows what he’s doing and he will help
us to go through a tough time.”

*    *    *

The Thrashers, who are battling the Caps for first place in the Southeast Division, are one of the better stories of the first half in the NHL, and one big problem facing the team in their quest to gain acceptance in the “Capital of the New South” has been a prolonged lawsuit between a group of seven partners in ownership and one other owner, Steve Belkin, who owns a 30 percent stake in the team.

Now, The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that lawsuit has now been settled and the seven partners have bought out Belkin as part of the agreement. 

Two members of the gang of seven, Michael Gearon and Bruce Levenson will serve now as managing partners for the Thrashers as well as the NBA Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena. Speaking to the media yesterday following the settlement, Levenson said, “I think if you talk to anyone in either organization, they will tell
you that this lawsuit has had zero impact. Zero.”

Perhaps, but the team has long been trying to attract new partners to join them and inject some needed cash into the operation but no one would pony up as long as the litigation was ongoing. Instead, the seven kept having to put more of their own money into the operation.

The new ownership stability could be one reason the Thrashers have begun negotiations on contract extensions for captain Andrew Ladd and popular Dustin Byfuglien, who came over from the Blackhawks over the summer and have played major roles in the team’s recent success.

“It’s something as an organization we’ve had a
tendency not to do in the past. But when you get good, you have to talk
to your players,” GM Rick Dudley told The Sporting News. Both could be restricted free agents this summer.
Byfuglien, who also played forward for the Stanley Cup champs last season, leads all NHL defencemen in scoring with 12 goals and 36 points.

The Thrashers were recently targeted by fans in Quebec as a potential franchise for relocation to the provincial capital, as over 1,100 bussed to Long Island in a show of support to the NHL about their desire to have the league return there.

But, Gearon and Levenson have repeatedly stated they are committed to
keeping the Thrashers in Atlanta and told reporters Wednesday night that “no
other changes are planned.”

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