Brian Costello joined The Hockey News in 1990 when the likes of Bruce Boudreau, Randy Carlyle and Joel Quenneville were players, not coaches. Costello covered major junior hockey for five seasons before getting called up to THN. He likes to focus his attention on pre- and post-NHL careers, following closely the progress of the draft, up-and-coming prospects and fancying himself a Hall of Fame expert.
The documentary Swift Current was a big hit at the Rendevous With Madness Film Festival in Toronto earlier this month. “The house was packed,” one observer said afterwards. “And there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.”
The film, which will reach a mass audience on Global on November 21, profiles the life of Sheldon Kennedy, the former NHLer who for years as a teenager was sexually assaulted by junior coach Graham James in the 1980s. It chronicles his decision to go public with the allegation in 1997 and follows his tumultuous emotional struggles in the ensuing decade and his subsequent rise to the point he received the Order of Canada in 2015.
If you don’t know the Sheldon Kennedy story, it’s about as griping as real-life adventure gets. The Elkhorn, Man., native was also 17 when the Swift Current Broncos bus went off the TransCanada Highway in 1986 and killed four teammates.
If you are familiar with the Kennedy saga, you see the story pushed further along to the good work the 46-year-old is doing today.
These are the salad days for the Hockey Hall of Fame. Its list of inductees the past four years is a who’s who of NHL superstars from the turn of the century. The 15 players inducted between 2012 and 2015 represent a four-year run of inductees the Hall has never seen before.
In fact, I rated the top 10 induction classes from 1966 to this year and found each of the past four years to be worthy enough to be on that list. I picked strictly the post-expansion era because that’s when the HHOF reduced the number of inductees each year from unlimited down to three, then later four in the players category.
While this weekend’s Hall of Fame celebrations – and Monday’s induction ceremonies – are an opportunity for hockey fans to reflect and appreciate the exploits of these greats, there’s also a wedge of bitterness to go with all those sweet memories. After all, this crowning achievement in their careers also serves as a reminder we’re no longer blessed with watching them play.
This year’s class of Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Fedorov, Chris Pronger and Phil Housley rates as the third best class of all-time, by my assessment. But this is one of these subjective evaluations when I don’t mind being overruled by the savvy eye of the everyday hockey fan – yourself. Let us know what you think.
For the second summer in a row, the Vancouver Canucks are sending a proven playoff performer down the Pacific Coast to Anaheim. The Ducks acquired 34-year-old defenseman Kevin Bieksa from the Canucks for a second round draft choice in 2016.
Last summer, the Canucks sent Ryan Kesler to the Ducks for a package the included Nick Bonino.
Vancouver GM Jim Benning has been trying to deal Bieksa since the end of the season and was thought to be close to a deal that would send him to San Jose. Winding up in another part of California was just fine for him.
Phil Housley retired as the fourth-leading defenseman scorer in the history of the NHL. Only Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey and Al MacInnis had more points from the blueline than him. So why did it take him 10 attempts to get voted into the Hockey Hall of Fame?
There are a couple of theories. The first is Housley spent a good chunk of his early seasons with the Buffalo Sabres playing forward and racking up points. That’s a misconception. Housley made the massive jump from Minnesota high school to the NHL as an 18-year-old (after being selected sixth overall by Buffalo in 1982) and managed 19 goals and 66 points in 77 games as a rookie defenseman. Sure, it was the live puck era, but it was a celebrated feat nonetheless.
Just a couple days after seeing his playing rights traded to Arizona from Philadelphia, Chris Pronger will be in the spotlight again when the Hall of Fame announces he and Nicklas Lidstrom are two of this year’s inductees.
The Hall of Fame’s 18-member selection committee is meeting today to discuss this year’s candidates. Former players and builders need at least 75 percent approval (or 14 favorable votes). Pronger, who last played during the 2011-12 season and has been on the Flyers long-term injury ever since, is as sure-fire a candidate as you’ll see. So is Lidstrom, the most decorated defenseman in the history of the NHL not named Bobby Orr.
Pronger, of course, was a brilliant two-way defenseman who was a major player in Anaheim’s 2006-07 Stanley Cup triumph. He also was a key cog in two other teams getting to the Cup final, the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers. Pronger had 157 goals and 698 points in 1,167 games over 18 seasons. He won both the Norris Trophy and Hart Trophy in 1999-2000, while with the St. Louis Blues, one of five teams he played for.
There’s a 10-year chasm of futility in the Vancouver Canucks draft record that explains why the development system has been a world of hurt in recent seasons. Between the selections of Alexander Edler and Jannik Hansen in 2004 and the choice of Bo Horvat ninth overall in 2013, the Canucks don’t have a single draft pick playing for them. Sure, Cody Hodgson yielded Zack Kassian, and Frank Corrado is still a good prospect, but that’s nowhere near good enough.
Round 1, pick 23
Round 4, pick 114
Round 5, picks 144, 149
Round 6, pick 174
Secondary scoring has always been an issue in Vancouver. Sooner or later, the Sedin twins will start lagging. The issue will become more acute if Shawn Matthias, tied for third on the team with 18 goals, moves elsewhere as a UFA. Read more
Years of frustration have come crumbling in on the Sharks. Despite a top-four group of forwards that’s as good as any other team in the league, the Sharks fell apart in the second half and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2003. It’s only the second time in the 17-year career of homegrown talent Patrick Marleau that he’s gone home in early April without playing any post-season games.
Round 1, pick 9
Round 2, pick 39
Round 4, pick 106
Round 5, picks 130, 142
Round 6, pick 160
Round 7, picks 190, 210
San Jose needs a top-flight goalie in the worst way. Antti Niemi has had some good seasons and some very good seasons in his five years with the Sharks, but he never rose to the occasion in the playoffs, and the team is sure to let the 31-year-old Finn walk as a UFA. The Sharks also need depth among the D-corps.
The analytics crowd are quick to point out the possession-dominating Kings missing the playoffs was a stats anomaly. The purists say possession stats mean nothing if you don’t possess a playoff spot after 82 regular season games. What can’t be argued is Los Angeles played a league-high 64 games the past three playoffs. The time off this spring will do their bodies good.