- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 5, 2002

DETROIT The list of available candidates to coach the Washington Capitals continues to shrink, leaving Portland, Maine, coach Glen Hanlon as not only the leading candidate but perhaps the only one.
Sources intimately involved said yesterday that Brian Trottier, assistant coach of the Colorado Avalanche and a seven-time Stanley Cup winner, has reached an agreement with general manager Glen Sather to coach the New York Rangers next season.
The fact that the Rangers would lower themselves in their opinion to hire a former New York Islander, even one who is in the Hall of Fame, shows the desperation with which the organization finds itself out of the playoffs and saddled with an aging roster that may lose some players through unrestricted free agency.
When the Caps fired Ron Wilson last month, general manager George McPhee said he had a replacement in mind. However, that is the only bit of information he has volunteered, refusing to answer the most routine of questions concerning the situation.
The fact that McPhee has been able to keep a secret for longer than 24 hours in a league known for its inability to keep anything under wraps for longer than 10 minutes is considered a major coup. If the Trottier story is true, the Caps are the only team in the league without a coach.
McPhee has said he would like to have a coach by the entry draft later this month, but he also has said that was not really a necessity.
Dave Tippett, the Los Angeles assistant who turned the Kings' comatose power play into a deadly weapon, was believed to be high on McPhee's list but took the top job in Dallas. Trottier was considered a good candidate, at least in the press, because he was a close friend of Jaromir Jagr when both played in Pittsburgh, but he appears headed for Gotham.
Herb Brooks, who has coached several NHL teams but reportedly rejected an offer from the Rangers to stay retired, does not appear to be interested. Fired Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock landed in Philadelphia. Pat Burns, the former homicide cop, interviewed, but Washington seems to be looking for somebody with a gentler touch.
It is assumed Hanlon, the former NHL goalie, is a leading candidate simply because he has coached the Caps' top farm team in Portland, Maine, for the past three seasons. But McPhee has refused to even say whether Hanlon was a candidate or whether he had in fact already been hired.
Another name that has popped up is Barry Smith, the long-time Scotty Bowman assistant who worked with the late Bob Johnson in Pittsburgh during Jagr's first three seasons with the Penguins. But the Caps could not talk to Smith, 50, until they have permission and his team has been eliminated from the playoffs. That could be a reason the announcement has been delayed.

Pride of Southeast
Much is being made with tongue planted firmly in cheek of Carolina upholding the honor of the Southeast Division, representing the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. But the fact is, three current Southeast teams Florida, Washington and the Hurricanes have made it to the finals since the Panthers in 1996.
Until this year no team from the division had won so much as a single playoff round since the division was formed four years ago. And this is the first time in its 23-year history that the Carolina franchise (formerly located in Hartford) has advanced beyond the second round.


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