Sunday, May 28, 2000

Smith, Cichocki eager to return to Cyclones

Kirchhofer to make decision in week

By John P. Wise
Enquirer contributor

        The pain of postseason elimination has worn off. Now the Cyclones turn their attention to personnel matters.

        Many Cyclones contracts have expired, including head coach Ron Smith and associate head coach Chris Cichocki. Jim Rutherford, general manager of NHL parent Carolina, has said Smith shouldn't worry about his job with Cincinnati. Cyclones President Doug Kirchhofer, who makes that decision, isn't as promising.

        “Ron's done a good job,” Kirchhofer said Saturday. “He's a great guy, and he's well respected in the business. We'll sit down in the next week or two and evaluate everything.”

        Smith has been in Florida with the Carolina brass evaluating the organization, top to bottom, Smith said. Before he left, he dropped a little hint on Kirchhofer.

        “I spoke briefly to Doug (Friday) morning and told him I'm eager to come back,” Smith said.

        Cincinnati will no doubt lose several key players this summer. The contract of captain and leading scorer Gilbert Dionne remains in limbo. Linemate Todd Simon, one of the top centers in the IHL, also is unsigned for next season. Dionne said immediately after Grand Rapids' elimination of the Cyclones Tuesday he wants to come back. Simon wasn't so eager to make a similar statement.

        “But if the offer is right, sure I'd stick around,” said Simon, who keeps in touch with former Cyclone Todd MacDonald, now playing in Germany. MacDonald was quietly released by the team during the regular season, and according to Simon, likes playing in Europe.

        “He's enjoying hockey again; he has said he feels rejuvenated,” said Simon, who with his agent is now trying to decide between a new IHL contract or a job in Europe. “If I had to choose right now, I'd probably go to Europe.”

        Veteran defenseman Pat MacLeod, another non-Carolina employee, said he'd like to be a Cyclone next season.

        “I'd like to come back,” Mac Leod said. “Everybody's been good to me here. I haven't talked to my agent yet, but with the season having just ended, it's not an immediate priority.”

        Roster changes aren't expected for a while, as each NHL organization gears up for the entry and expansion drafts. One thing the unsigned Cyclones seem to agree on is their next moves will be dictated by what Carolina does in the offseason.

        “They could have three good young centers, or they could have none,” Simon said.

        Added MacLeod: “Obviously, as a player, the sooner you know things, the better.”

        Smith wants to know his status.

        “I don't want to do anything concrete until I know my own situation,” he said. “It wouldn't be fair to make promises to players until I know I'm going to be in charge again.”

        Cichocki said it's still too early to worry about an uncertain future. “I've put my name in for some head coaching jobs,” he said. “It's inevitable I'll be moving on some time. There's always turnover. But I don't want to just jump at anything.”


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