LOS ANGELES - Unmet expectations. That's the epitaph for Chris Higgins and Ales Kotalik. Higgins, a Smithtown native, came from Montreal in the Scott Gomez trade. Kotalik, a free agent, spent most of his career in Buffalo and was signed to a three-year, $9-million deal last summer.
"I was playing Higgy 18 or 20 minutes," coach John Tortorella said, "and he was doing all the other things. We'll miss that. No matter if he wasn't scoring, he'd kill penalties, I used him late in games, checking. He did all the stuff on the wall. I loved everything about his game, he just struggled scoring."
Higgins, with more than 20 goals three times in Montreal, had just six goals and eight assists in 55 games.
"Higgins was a good soldier," general manager Glen Sather said. "He did everything he possibly could . . . For some reason, he lost his scoring touch. Even when I talked to him last night, he said he wished he could've scored more. It's not as if he didn't have the ice time or the chances . . . He started real well and his scoring just started to disappear and he starts to press; really the same thing happened with Kotalik," who was brought in for his booming point shot but scored just eight goals. "It was pretty obvious we were going to have to do something."
Tortorella made Kotalik (minus-18) a healthy scratch for eight of nine games before he was sent to New York on Saturday to await the trade.
"I didn't think he was doing enough of those small things; Higgy was," Tortorella said. "My expectations, I don't think, were met, and I'm sure his expectations of me weren't met. It wasn't a personal thing; Sometimes it's a chicken-and-egg. He felt he needed more ice time; I felt we gave him opportunities and it just didn't work out. I wish him the best. I hope he lights it up. I know he's been frustrated and it hurt him this year."