Leach next in line for the Miami job? …
Texas Tech athletic director Gerald Myers said talk of football coach Mike Leach pursuing the Miami job is speculation at this point.
The Miami Herald reported that Leach met with Miami athletic director Paul Dee in New York on Monday, citing two sources close to the situation. The Hurricanes are seeking a replacement for fired coach Larry Coker
"I have heard nothing from anybody from Miami," Myers said Monday night. "I was with Coach Leach [Sunday]. He has said nothing about this. As far as I'm concerned, it's still speculation from the media until I hear something from Coach Leach."
Leach, an offensive innovator with a 55-33 record in seven seasons at Tech, did not immediately return a phone call Monday night. He recently downplayed interest in other jobs, saying his focus was on recruiting and preparing the Red Raiders for their bowl. Tech (7-5) will play Minnesota (6-6) in the Insight Bowl on Dec. 29.
The New York Daily News is convinced that the Rangers are going to get Zito …please be right, please be right, please be right…
Tom Hicks has money to spend and Scott Boras has the highest-profile free agent on the market to shop. Six years ago that combination produced Alex Rodriguez's $250 million contract, and now there is every reason to think it will keep the Mets from landing Barry Zito.
Yes, the timing is all wrong for the Mets on this one.
You would think that Hicks, the Rangers' owner, would proceed cautiously in deals involving Boras clients, especially since he was once talked into believing that Chan Ho Park was the answer to his pitching prayers. But then again, Park's disastrous contract (five years, $63 million) finally has expired, and apparently Hicks is once again ready to write out a check at Boras' command.
After meeting with Zito and Boras last week in Texas, in fact, Hicks was quoted as gushing about the lefthander's intelligence, mental approach and how he matured into a leader of the A's rotation the last couple of years.
"I think he'd be a great fit for the Rangers," Hicks told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
A prominent player agent who has dealt with Hicks in the past chuckled yesterday
when told of the owner's comment. "If he's talking like that," the agent said, "you know he's going hard for the guy. If the Mets really want Zito, I'd say they better be prepared to pay top dollar."
Privately the Mets, who met with Boras last night, say they won't pay top dollar. Last week one of their decision-makers insisted the Mets were only interested in Zito if his reported asking price of $90 million over six years dropped significantly. "We'll wait," he said.
The Mets were hoping to employ a strategy similar to the one the Yankees used last year in securing Johnny Damon, another Boras client. But Hicks' very public interest in Zito probably means a bidding war, and the Mets don't want to go there.
Padilla is in the fold for a reasonable $33 million for 3 years …sarcasm alert….
The Rangers crossed off the first of their two biggest must-dos on their list when right-hander Vicente Padilla agreed to a three-year contract worth $33-$34 million with a club option for a fourth year and $15 million, sources said late Monday.
While there are a number of things the Rangers still hope to accomplish this off-season, the two most critical goals general manager Jon Daniels had for the winter meetings Sunday were to re-sign Padilla and add former Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito to the starting rotation. One down, pending a physical for Padilla, who was in Nicaragua as of Monday afternoon, one to go.
Earlier in the day, Padilla's agent, Paul Kinzer, said by phone: "That's where he wants to be, so we're trying to get it worked out."
The details were worked out later on.
Speaking before the deal was complete, Daniels said: "Getting the first domino to fall, whether it's Vinny or somebody else, is big, because it changes the framework a little bit of what you're trying to do."
Padilla fits for the Rangers more than most free agents because he has already pitched in Arlington and had success, going 15-10 with 156 strikeouts in 200 innings. He is not opposed to the ballpark or the heat. In fact, he prefers the weather in Texas as it is similar to that of his native Nicaragua. Kinzer said Monday that it was Padilla's preference to return to the Rangers despite strong interest from several other clubs.
With Padilla in the fold, the Rangers at least have more answers than questions in their starting rotation. They expect to have Padilla, Kevin Millwood (16-12, 4.52 ERA in 2006) and Robinson Tejeda (5-5, 4.28). Their greatest hope is that former Oakland A's lefty Barry Zito (16-10, 3.83 ERA) can front the rotation and one of their younger prospects can fill the fifth slot.
Daniels did not want to say too much about Zito, but acknowledged: "You know we're interested in him."
Zito will be pricey, particularly in this high-rent off-season, possibly getting a five- or six-year deal with an average salary of more than $15 million. Yet owner Tom Hicks is convinced that Zito is the kind of pitcher who can change the Rangers' fortunes. The 28-year-old is one of the most durable pitchers in baseball and has been among the most successful.
At the AAC, the Stars got a huge performance from Marty Turco. He has not always been one to steal a game, but last night, with everyone hurt, Turco got it done in huge fashion. He was greatness.
Modano hurt; Stars win 1-0 …
Mike Modano scored a power-play goal in the first period, but he left with a lower body injury early in the second period in the Stars' 1-0 victory over the Sharks at American Airlines Center.
Marty Turco stopped all 25 shots he faced for his 26th career shutout and 150th career victory. He is now 10 behind Eddie Belfour as the Stars' all-time winningest goaltender.
Modano looked to be wincing in the first period, but he was back on the ice at the start of the second. But less than two minutes into the period, Modano went off the ice and never returned.
Coach Dave Tippett said he didn't know the status of Modano, who left immediately after the game. Tippett said Modano will be evaluated today. Joel Lundqvist, who was called up from Iowa for Monday's game, centered a line but also took Modano's place for the rest of the contest.
"We had a lot of people nursing injuries, and we were nursing a win," Tippett said. "We had some guys doing some pretty good things."
That included Turco. He had his second consecutive great start and was especially
stellar in the third, when there were some close calls. Turco made a good save on a shot by Jonathan Cheechoo late in the period, sliding over to stop it near the line with his pad.
Officials reviewed the play, but no goal was allowed. Turco also stalled the Sharks when they went with six men with two minutes remaining; that included about 48 seconds of 6-on-4 time to end the game when Turco committed a tripping penalty.
"That's my job, that's what I'm supposed to do is play well," Turco said. "If we have to win like we did [Monday], so be it. It is all about the wins and giving this team a chance."
The Stars didn't take a ton of shots -- they didn't get No. 10 until early in the third period. But Monday's game wasn't so much about what the Stars did as what they didn't let the Sharks do.
Mavericks lose their streak to Washington …
Johnson knew the Mavericks had plenty to handle just playing Washington, a dangerous offensive team he felt was much better than its record.
The Wizards didn't look like a team struggling to sniff .500, as Washington stomped out the Mavs' 12-game winning streak 106-97 Monday night at the Verizon Center.
"They were really ready to play," Johnson said.
The Mavs (12-5) weren't, and suffered their first loss in nearly a month (Nov. 8) to fall two victories shy of tying the franchise record for consecutive wins.
"The streak is great, but that doesn't mean anything in November or December," Dirk Nowitzki said. "You want to get as many wins as you can, but the good thing about this league is we've got a game tomorrow. Hopefully, we'll start a new one."
That sentiment was echoed by his teammates. Though disappointed, the Mavs were hardly distraught by the first loss in 13 games.
"It's over," Jerry Stackhouse said. "All good things must come to an end. Time to start building another one."
Tonight, The Blues retire the great #16 …
Tonight at Scottrade Center, the Blues are retiring the number of another future Hall of Famer, Brett Hull. Hull's No. 16 will be raised to the rafters at 7 p.m. before the start of the Blues-Detroit game. While Hull will be the focal point of the evening, the Blues are hoping once again to use the platform to infuse new life into the club.
"It will be great for our players and it will be great for Brett," Blues coach Mike Kitchen said. "We've had some pretty tough crowds of late, and it gives us a chance to show our product to a sold-out building."
Most of the Blues felt the same way Monday.
"I'm really excited," captain Dallas Drake said. "It will be a real special night for Brett and his family and it will be a nice to be a part of it. It's always exciting and emotional when you get to play in front of a full house. If they're energetic and loud, it definitely helps our team."
"It will be nice to see a sold-out crowd," defenseman Barret Jackman said. "It takes somebody like Brett Hull to come back and get fans excited again. Hopefully, we'll put on a good show."
Tonight's opponent adds extra intrigue to the festivities. Hull played three seasons with Detroit and won a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2001-02. He still has friends on the team.
"He would always say, 'If you could see my stick, I'm open,'"‰" Mathieu Schneider said. "It was the truth. He could get off the shot from anywhere, any angle. That was the biggest reason he was able to score so much. He was just deadly out there."
Detroit coach Mike Babcock played against Hull at one point in their careers.
"At that time, you could never have convinced me in a million years that he was going to be a Hall of Famer and shoot the puck in the net like that," Babcock said. "Obviously, he had good genetics and made the most of his talent."
When the puck drops tonight, the Red Wings will be looking for revenge. Eleven days ago, the Blues waltzed into Hockeytown and left with a 3-2 shootout win. Former Red Wing goalie Manny Legace made 41 saves in that game and stopped both shootout attempts.
Things haven't been going as well lately for Legace, who will start tonight. Since the win over Detroit, he is 0-3 and has allowed nine goals on 71 shots. But he's hoping to receive some good luck from Hull tonight. When Legace came to St. Louis, he had Hull's No. 16 painted onto his goalie mask.
"As soon as I heard they were going to retire his number this year, I put it right on top of my helmet to honor him," Legace said. "He's one of the greatest players who ever played. It's going to be fun to be a part of it. To have the Red Wings in here, where he won his last Cup, it's going to be special for those guys, too. I know that for a fact."
Great reading on Hull in St Louis …
After the Blues decided to not re-sign Hull and to let him leave as a free agent, the word on the street was that “you can't win with Brett Hull.” Boy, was that ever wrong, and Hull reveled in reaching the Stanley Cup finals in his first season with the Dallas Stars after the Blues cast him aside. And one of the teams that the Stars had to beat en route to the 1999 Cup was the Blues.
“If we wouldn't have gotten to this point, the innuendo that would have gone along with it, people saying, `See, I told you. See, I told you,' would have driven me crazy," Hull said before Game 1. “The pressure that was on me to get to this point with this team . . . damn, it wore on me. . . . To get here and shut everybody up is more than a weight off my shoulders. ... Put a good team together and you can win with Brett Hull. How's that?”
As for critics who suggested otherwise, that you can't win with Brett Hull, he
said: “Well, they can stick it. The worst thing is that people saying it are morons, and they have no idea about anything."
Hull scored the winning goal in the 1999 Cup finals, on a bum leg in triple overtime of Game 6. Though controversy surrounded the goal because Hull's skate was in the goalcrease (an apparent infraction of the rules that was trumped by the fact Hull had control of the puck in accordance with the rules), Hull reveled in silencing his critics.
“This is all I've envisioned since the day I signed,” he said. “I don't think there could have been any other outcome for Brett Hull and the Dallas Stars and not have everybody be naysayers.”
Hullie on Hockey Night in Canada
Brett and Bobby Hull sell Syrup
The story of Clint Malurchuk's neck