Sitting in his office at Disney Ice in Anaheim, Pierre Page
considers the advantages of his new job as coach of the Mighty
Ducks: He's working for a longtime ally (general manager Jack
Ferreira); he has a team that includes two of the five most
dynamic players in the game (wingers Paul Kariya and Teemu
Selanne); and after years of living in places where snow piled
high for months on end, he's about to spend a warm winter
preparing to chase the Stanley Cup. "I figure that after all my
time in the NHL," says Page, "this is where it will finally pay
Anaheim fans, still bewildered by the dismissal of former coach
Ron Wilson, certainly hope so. Wilson led the fourth-year Ducks
to the fourth-best record (36-33-13) in the Western Conference
last season. He guided them to the first playoff-series win in
franchise history, and his overmatched team played the eventual
Stanley Cup champion Red Wings tough in the second round. All
that came after Wilson led the U.S. to an upset win over Canada
in the 1996 World Cup. But on May 20 Wilson was fired because he
and the front office had philosophical differences. Says
Ferreira, "The decision was not about wins and losses."
Neither, apparently, was his hiring of the 49-year-old Page.
Intelligent and driven, Page was brilliant rebuilding
downtrodden franchises in Minnesota and Quebec in the late 1980s
and early '90s. Both teams, however, thrived only after Page had
moved on. Page, now coaching his fourth team in eight years, has
a 227-258-69 record that includes only one winning season. He
has never won a playoff series. "I have a history of getting
things started and then not being around at the finish," he says.
To take another step toward the league's elite, the Ducks need
big performances from players besides Kariya (he scored 44 goals
in 69 games last season, but he is an unsigned restricted free
agent and had not reported to camp as of Monday), Selanne (51
goals) and Guy Hebert (2.67 goals-against average). Page may try
newly acquired veteran wingers Tomas Sandstrom and Scott Young
with rookie center Espen Knutsen on the second line, and he
plans to make up for average talent with an aggressive checking
style he likens to "Rick Pitino-style basketball."
Now all Page has to do is win like Rick Pitino.