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NHL – Wayne Gretzky: Will he be as bad as Michael Jordan?

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Think of the most exciting thing about any team. If it’s not a player – you are in trouble.

Such is the case with the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team, who start this season with the sports’ best former player, Wayne Gretzky, as their head coach.

Now NHL is a special exception to this rule because 99 out of 100 Americans wouldn’t be able to name any hockey player. And of those who could, 9 out of 10 would name Gretzky, The Great One.

For the informed (and I consider myself barely informed when it comes to hockey and better informed when it comes to NBA), the answer to the headline above is, no, Gretzky cannot possibly be the like Michael Jordan when it comes to coaching. Because Jordan never coached.

Both were the best players in their sport, scaling new heights of achievement and then moving heaven and earth to build those mountains higher. Both have had championship success at the highest level across two decades.

They have since been humbled.

Jordan was part owner / part player of the Washington Wizards and by that time he was about as good at both. That is to say, not very.

Though his name alone – like Jordan before – can sell the sport, Gretzky’s line in the ice has yet to be cut.

The pre-season performance revealed blunted blades, as the Coyotes tracked a 2-6-0 record. But starting tonight, the games count as the league’s 30 teams all puck off for the start of the season. The Coyotes play the Canucks in Vancouver, Canada, tonight, and the Los Angeles Kings, in LA, Thursday.

Then they come home in a face-off against the Minnesota Wild.

Gretzky will continue as managing partner of hockey operations. In other words, like the Seahawk’s Mike Holmgren, Gretzky’s got no one else to blame if it goes wrong.

Well … maybe he could get away with pinning a little on another NHL great – 41-year-old Brett Hull, who joins the Coyotes this year.

Since June 2000 Gretzky has had his hands elbow deep in the broth of the Coyotes pot of mediocrity. That’s right, there’s been nothing special coming from the desertland ice rink. The team has finished out of the playoffs with a 22-36-18 record in the 2003-2004 season and a 31-35-11 record in the 2001-2002 season. The 2004-2005 NHL was to be the Coyotes inaugural stop at their new Glendale Sports Arena. Instead, the season was cancelled and so the team like every other team in the NHL got high-sticked and hemorrhaged money.

While the team plays away, their Arena will be visited by the Crüe’s Carnival of Sins and Neil Diamond. Perhaps it’s a coincidence that both have their best days days behind them. But they can still rock.

Wayne’s World. Wayne’s World. Ex-cellent.


About temple

Always been a writer, always maintained an interest in politics, how people communicate and fantasy worlds within photography and books. Previously wrote for Blogcritics back in 2005 and interested in exploring the issues and topics I'm interested - the changing landscape of entertainment. all from the POV of a creator first, consumer, second.
  • Tan The Man

    Coaching and managing are two very different and difficult things. Coaching is more hands on whereas managing can be more hands off. The risks/rewards of being a GM can take years to judge. But history has judged Jordan to have made some more Wizards decisions…

  • Yashin

    The trend in professional sports is for ordinary players to make great coaches.

    Sir Alex Ferguson (Man Utd), Fabio Capello (AC Milan), Vince Lombardi, Bobby Cox, Lou Pinella, Connie Mack, Tommy Lasorda,

    Very few great players have made great coaches.

    Johan Cruyff and umm…?

    Perceived wisdom has it that coaches who were themselves ordinary players generally display more patience in dealing with other ordinary players and consequently get more from them.

    Ted Williams was the prime example of a supremely gifted player who was frustrated by the task of coaching ‘oridnary’ players.

  • Matthew T. Sussman

    Joe Torre was an excellent player: .297 hitter, 9-time All-Star, once MVP.

    Mike Scioscia had a short career, but was a member on The Simpsons’ power plant baseball team.

    Frank Robinson was a great player/pretty good manager.

    It’s hard to do both.

    (And the ‘Yotes won their first game last night.)

  • MCH

    Lou Piniella was an “ordinary player.” Huh??

    **16 big league seasons
    **lifetime .291 batting average
    **six years over .300 – .301 in 1970, .312 in 1972 (second in league), .305 in 1974, .330 in 1977, .314 in 1978, .307 in 1982
    **1,705 career hits
    **179 hits in 1972 (second in league)
    **305 career doubles – 33 in 1972 (led league), 34 in 1978
    **.305 average in 18 post season games, 18-for-59
    **1969 American League Rookie of the Year

  • Temple Stark

    I love Lou (big mariners fan Looooooooou) – but that sounds pretty ordinary to me.

    Except post season.

  • MCH

    Than I guess we have a different concept of “ordinary.”

  • MCH

    You’ve got pretty high standards, dude, labeling a big league All-Star player and a 6-time .300 hitter as “ordinary.”

    FWIW, the post season I listed earlier were actually his ALDS and ALCS stats; in 22 World Series games, “Sweet Lou” hit .319 (23-for-72), with 10 RBIs.

  • Mike Kole

    Good luck to Wayne. His Coyotes are pretty toothless- and that’s not just a dig on Mike Ricci! Seriously, he’s probably better than 2/3 of his players.

  • Triniman

    I believe the media mentioned on several occaisions that most if not all NHL teams would actually save money by having the one-year lock out.

  • Yashin

    Temple’s article references Gretzky and Jordan – two extraodinary players. In comparison to those guys, Lou Piniella was in the ‘ordinary player’ category.

    But credit where credit’s due, maybe Lou wasn’t a great example of an ‘ordinary’ player. He was obviously a very good ball player, but he wasn’t Hall of Fame.

  • MCH

    I understand Yashin. Apparently the labeling of Lou Piniella as “ordinary” could be a matter of semantics. And I’m not arguing that he should be in the Hall of Fame. He should not.

    But Temple opined that he felt that 16 years in the big leagues, an All-Star selection, six .300 seasons and a .291 career BA “sounds pretty ordinary.”

    According to the Oxford Pocket Dictionary…
    “ordinary: regular, normal, usual; boring, commonplace; expected, common, customary, routine; humdrum, conventional, modest, plain.”

    Would it be safe to say that ordinary relates to average? For example, during Piniella’s era, if there were an average of 280 hitters in the American League each season, would the 140th batting average be ordinary, ie, finishing in the middle of the pack?

    According to the Baseball Encyclopedia, over his 16 seasons, Sweet Lou finished an average of 18th in the batting races, which equates to the top 6.6 percentile of hitters in the American League over that duration.

    Lou Piniella is not a Hall of Famer. But I agree with Yashin, that he was a “very good ballplayer.” And his peers no doubt knew what tough a hitter he was in the clutch. Hardly “ordinary.”

  • Temple Stark

    So have you been diagnosed MCH – cause “obsessive” comes to mind. (reminding people about war events in non-political threads also comes to mind)

    Remember I like Lou. I even love hearing him on the broadcasts lately.

    Your average example is a joke and he was above ordinary only in the sense that we have continued to hear of his name and not many others.

    Any argument that his Yankee teammates at the time helped his average a lot?

  • MCH

    Thanks for the insults, Stark, I appreciate it. Your labeling of Lou Piniella as an “ordinary” player says more about you than it does me.

    Since we’re getting personal, at what level did you play baseball?

  • Temple Stark

    At “Cricket.” :-)

    Sorry you were insulted. I used one word in a comment and it seems obsessive to continue. We can agree to disagree, right?

  • MCH

    Sure, we can agree to disagree, without recommending diagnoses. BTW, I think your example of how Lou is above ordinary is a joke, also.