The NHL / Chris Baker : It's a Four-Way Battle for Coach of the Year

Writers and broadcasters will have a difficult decision voting for the Coach of the Year in the National Hockey League.

King Coach Pat Quinn has done a good job, guiding the Kings to their first playoff berth in three years.

But Quinn has stiff competition from Jacques Demers of the St. Louis Blues, Bryan Murray of the Washington Capitals and Mike Keenan of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Demers has his club, picked to finish no higher than fourth, in first place in the weak Norris Division.

St. Louis was in bad shape two years ago, when the club was almost moved to Canada.

The Blues didn't even take part in the 1983 draft. But Beverly Hills businessman Harry Ornest bought the club and kept it in St. Louis. Demers, a former coach of the Quebec Nordiques, has turned the Blues into winners this season.

The Capitals failed to make the playoffs in their first eight years in the league, but Murray led them to the playoffs in 1983. Last year, he was named Coach of the Year after leading them to the Patrick Division final.

The Capitals seemed like a good bet to reach the Stanley Cup final series until they hit a slump recently.

Keenan, in his first year as an NHL head coach, has guided the Flyers to the best record in hockey.

There seems to be a jinx that goes with winning the Coach-of-the-Year award. Four of the last five winners have since been fired.

The Kings plan to push goalie Bob Janecyk for the Calder Trophy, which goes to the Rookie of the Year. However, center Mario Lemieux of the Pittsburgh Penguins figures to be a runaway winner in this category.

Wayne Gretzky of the Edmonton Oilers should win his sixth straight Hart Trophy, which goes to the Most Valuable Player.

However, columnist Steve Simmons of the Hockey News has started a campaign for defenseman Rod Langway of the Washington Capitals.

Simmons argues that Langway has been more valuable to the Capitals than Gretzky has been to the Oilers, and that Edmonton had so much depth that it could have won the Stanley Cup without Gretzky last season.

Although Langway probably won't get the Hart Trophy, he seems to be a cinch to win the Norris Trophy as the league's best defenseman.

Edmonton Oiler Coach Glen Sather said he was taking a week off earlier this month to go to Europe to scout players.

An Edmonton writer discovered that instead of going to Europe, Sather took a vacation in Hawaii. Wonder if he scouted any players?

Sather hadn't taken a vacation since before last season.

After the Oilers won the Stanley Cup last season, he began preparing for the Canada Cup tournament. And he went right to training camp after leading Team Canada to the championship.

Most coaches were able to take a few days off during the All-Star break, but Sather had to coach the Campbell Conference squad.

So, perhaps he was entitled to a few days off. But why did the Oilers have to lie about where Sather was going?

When Dave (Tiger) Williams was traded from Detroit to the Kings, he brought a suitcase full of books with him.

Williams' autobiography, "Tiger, a Hockey Story," did so well in hard-cover that it is going to be published in paperback this fall.

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