Brett Hull spent last season working for NBC and entertaining hockey-loving couch potatoes with a couple quarters worth of insight rather than the two cents required by contract. He was a natural for television commentary because the future Hall of Famer on any stage is credible, witty and brutally honest.
Hull's name is mud around here because of that little foot-in-the-crease incident, but he's a terrific guy, a rare down-to-earth superstar. He left TV because it was too stuffy and became an adviser to the Dallas Stars. Talk about low-pressure gigs. He turned Tom Hicks' ear into a suggestion box, filled it to the brim. In fact, Hull said so much that now the pressure is on him.
Hull was named interim co-general manager of the Stars last week in a move certain to infuriate hockey people who have been forced to climb the tall corporate ladder while he took the express elevator to the top. Ex-TV personalities don't become general managers. Ex-general managers become TV personalities.
"I know one thing," Hull said. "Now I have to put my money where my mouth is and go out and do the things I've been telling everybody else to do. It's a challenge, but it's a great challenge. It's something I'm really looking forward to."
If anything, Hull's ascension was a refreshing example of an owner thinking outside the box. Hicks didn't even tell Jim Lites, the team president, of his decision to fire Doug Armstrong and pair Hull with Assistant GM Les Jackson until the moves were completed. Stripped of his power, Lites reassigned himself.
Hull could wind up being precisely what the Stars need. People snickered -- guilty! -- when backup goalie Garth Snow suddenly became the New York Islanders' general manager, but he's done a very good job. And didn't Bob Clarke hold the same post in Philadelphia for 16 uneventful seasons? Yes.
Managing isn't the easiest job, but it's not rocket science, either. Too often, the message GMs send to owners and front-office types is just as distorted as the one they send to fans. People eventually become brainwashed into buying the company line. By the time an organization realizes it has become stale, it needs an overhaul.
Hicks can expect the truth and a few common-sense ideas from Hull, who hasn't been working upstairs long enough to know the company line and wouldn't swallow it if he had. He's an independent thinker who has the security, financial and otherwise, to do what he thinks is right.
That's what made him an effective commentator, and that's what will best serve him in his new job. Hull, who had 741 career goals, already is scouring NHL rosters for a scorer and was anxious to make a move. We'll see whether he and Jackson are successful over the final 65 games, but it will certainly be interesting.
"As an owner, I have to be responsible for one person in hockey operations, and that is the general manager of the team," Hicks said. "I thought that the team needed a change in direction. I know that change can be healthy."
Carney on the move
The Wild are expected to start shopping Sabres alum Keith Carney now that Sean Hill has returned from a 20-game suspension for violating the NHL's substance-abuse policy while with the Islanders.
Carney, 37, who was Buffalo's third-round pick in 1988, played just 3:25 against Calgary last week before taking residence in coach Jacque Lemaire's doghouse. The defenseman entered the weekend with a career plus-161 rating over 15 seasons but was a healthy scratch 10 times in the first 18 games.
Hill was suspended in the playoffs last season before the deciding game of the Islanders' first-round series with Buffalo and served the remaining 19 games this season. He gives the Wild eight defensemen, one more than they need. Carney was 33 games away from reaching 1,000 in his career.
"I'm not planning on [trading Carney], but I think I've always demonstrated that I'd move somebody to give him an opportunity," Wild GM Doug Risebrough said. "But I wouldn't trade him at the expense of the team."
Tlusty bares all
Even from the celebrity gossip Web site isthishappening.com, you couldn't help but ask yourself: Is this happening?
For some reason, such as stupidity, Leafs rookie winger Jiri Tlusty came to the conclusion that posting naked pictures of himself on the Internet was a good idea. He took a full-frontal photo of himself on his camera phone last season and shared the images on his Facebook site and with a woman he met online.
No need to chuck the newspaper and sprint to the computer to confirm his lack of, um, judgment. The images were removed from both sites.
"I have learned a valuable lesson," Tlusty said in a statement released by the Leafs last week. "It will not happen again and I have no further comment."
No problem, Lusty Tlusty, a picture says 1,000 words.
Bryzgalov cut loose
The Ducks' decision to waive Ilya Bryzgalov on Friday had very little to do with the goalie himself and everything to do with his future. They tried trading him but couldn't find a taker, presumably because he'll be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
Bryzgalov is making $1.36 million this season and has been backing up J-S Giguere, who led the Ducks to the Stanley Cup and signed a four-year contract worth $24 million that includes a no-trade clause. Anaheim also has a good prospect in Jonas Hiller.
"We're making this move, first and foremost, to give Ilya Bryzgalov a chance to play," GM Brian Burke said. "He's a good guy who's played well for us, but we've committed to [Giguere]."
Chris Drury was getting partial credit for the Rangers' 4-3 victory over the Flyers last week after pulling goalie Hendrik Lunqvist aside before a shootout for a little chat about none other than ex-teammate Daniel Briere.
Lundqvist, after hearing about Briere's tendencies, stayed back in his net before knocking the puck off the center's stick. The Rangers won the game and took over first place in the Atlantic Division.
"I got an inside tip from Drury that [Briere] likes to go in really close," Lundqvist said. "I took a chance on a poke check."
You can bet Briere shared the fact that Drury likes to camp at the bottom of the left circle and fire wrist shots high, short side. Just a guess.
Out of left field
Senators goalie Ray Emery's wrist is fine, but he was forced to leave practice last week after suffering from back spasms. Or maybe it was brain spasms. Emery aggravated previous back problems while throwing pop flies on his day off.
"We went out and threw the ball around playing baseball because it was a nice day," he said. "I guess I'm not in baseball shape. I always make fun of baseball players because I don't think they have to do much, but now that I've got a kink in my back, I guess I will have to stop."
Blue Jackets winger Rick Nash after fighting Blackhawks defenseman Jim Vandermeer to complete his second career Gordie Howe hat trick: "It's nice to get punched in the face every once in a while. It felt good."
Around the boards
One rumor making the rounds in the Western Conference had Jay McKee being shipped back to Buffalo in a swap that would include Maxim Afinogenov. Said Blues boss John Davidson: "Complete fabrication." McKee was a healthy scratch Tuesday against Detroit. Why Afinogenov hasn't been kicked into the press box is a mystery.
The Predators' sale to local investors has been slowed by a provision in the contract that the City of Nashville would review certified financial statements of the new owners. Prospective buyers were uneasy because their private finances would become public record. After all, they argued, the Predators are a private company.
Canadiens coach Guy Carbonneau finally ran out of patience with Michael Ryder, bumping the winger down to the third line with Steve Begin and Bryan Smolinski. Ryder, who had back-to-back 30-goal seasons after the lockout, had just two goals in 17 first games despite playing with Saku Koivu and Christopher Higgins.
Thrashers GM Don Waddell has postponed his search for a new coach and plans to continue double-duties for the foreseeable future. He had an 8-4 record going into the weekend after firing Bob Hartley six losses into the season. "We don't want to change anything," Waddell said. "My future, long term, is not to coach in the NHL."
It looks like the Panthers are up to their old tricks. The team that lost 10 leads last season in the final minute has already lost three games in the final 70 seconds this season. It doesn't include Atlanta's win last week in which the Thrashers scored on the power play with 2.6 seconds left in regulation and won in overtime.
Retired center Darby Hendrickson has opened up his home for James Sheppard, a 19-year-old rookie playing in Minnesota. "We had just met him, and within 24 hours, he dented my truck the first time he drove it," Hendrickson said. "I loved it. Trust me, I don't care about the dent in my pickup."