Stan Fischler is an award-winning writer and broadcaster who's covered the game since 1954. He been a contributor to The Hockey News since 1955 and you can continue to find his Strange But True features in almost every issue. He's also produced the hockey newsletter, The Fischler Report, for the past 20 years. Order Fischler's latest book, "Behind the Net: 101 Incredible Hockey Stories," on amazon.com.
* There’s only one super team in the NHL right now and, ironically, barring the goaltender, that club doesn’t boast a single superstar. It happens to be the New York Rangers who are destined for the 2016 Stanley Cup. The reasons are simple: 1. New York features more good — not great — players at more positions than any other squad. 2. Henrik Lundqvist is at least as good as — I say better than — Vezina-winner Carey Price. 3. The Blueshirts collective defense beats those of any other NHL club. 4. Too-often-overlooked Alain Vigneault is at the top of his coaching game and certainly an Adams Award favorite.
These Rangers remind me of the 1946-47 Cup Champion Toronto Maple Leafs who failed to place a single player on either the First or Second All-Star Teams. A season later — when Toronto won its second of three straight titles — the only Leaf to place either on the First or Second All-Star Team was goalie Turk Broda. Leafs boss Conn Smythe called that club the best Toronto team he ever managed. Next June, I predict, we’ll be saying that this is the best Rangers team ever, and with only one All-Star, Lundqvist.
* Mike Babcock’s idea for the NHL to widen the nets is nuttier than a fruit cake. Sorry, Mike, but there is such a thing as “tradition” in hockey and tampering with the four-by-six feet goal is sacrilegious, no more, no less.
* For starters, 1-0 games through the years have been among the best I’ve ever seen, way back to 1951 when the Rangers Chuck Rayner shut out Detroit’s Terry Sawchuk two 1-0 games in a row.
* But if you want more scoring there are three very harsh ways to bring it about, starting with equipment-cheating goalies. “I don’t want to say ‘cheating,'” Jonathan Quick observes, “but there’s been some trying to supplement their gear a little bit.” Ray Ferraro says, “The upper body gear is, in some cases, comical. The sizing on goalie pants is crazy.”
As unknown goalies go, Jack McCartan was right up there – or down there, if you will – at the start of the 1959-60 season. After three years at the University of Minnesota, he seemed more destined for hockey oblivion than stardom on a world stage. Certainly no New York hockey savant could in his wildest fantasies picture this St. Paul product dislodging Hall of Famer Lorne ‘Gump’ Worsley or Stanley Cup-winner Al Rollins from the New York Rangers net. But McCartan did.
Even more far-fetched was the mere suggestion Jack would spearhead Uncle Sam’s Olympic team to gold at the 1960 Winter Games in Squaw Valley, Calif. “Before we even hit the ice, everybody said we couldn’t possibly win gold,” said U.S. coach Jack Riley. “We were up against powers like Canada, Russia and Sweden.”
* Both the Blackhawks and Lightning slow waltz from the starting gate should not cause alarm. Both Joel Quenneville and Jon Cooper understand the Punch Imlach Theory: that is, the real NHL season doesn’t start until January.
* Whether it was a trip or a toe-pick on Connor McDavid, it’s senseless to suggest that there was any hint of a deliberate attempt to injure the whizkid. The tragedy of it all comes down to this — pardon the bromide — A Hockey Play Gone Bad. That said, the Oilers have to hope that Leon Draisaitl has the goods to at least adequately replace McDavid.
Imagine if the Pittsburgh Penguins announced that
management had sold Sidney Crosby to the Chicago Blackhawks for about $95 million in straight cash.
You say it couldn’t happen. Think again, because a genuine Chicago-Toronto deal of similarly outrageous proportions actually was consummated 53 years ago. After a week of negotiations, it caused massive cases of lockjaw around the NHL.
The Maple Leafs’ version of Crosby at the start of 1962-63 was an oversized left winger named Frank ‘The Big M’ Mahovlich. Having already helped his club in April 1962 to what would become the first of three straight Stanley Cups, Mahovlich towered above every left winger but one: Bobby Hull of Chicago. And at that they seemed equal. During an evening of drinking revelry with his Toronto counterpart Harold Ballard, Black Hawks owner James Norris proposed having Mahovlich wear a Hawks jersey, and Pal Hal liked the idea.
* Now’s the time for the Penguins to trade Sidney Crosby. The No-Longer-Kid is on the downside of his peak and won’t achieve his heroics of yesteryear. Still time for the Pens to cash in on a return. Who’d be realistic trade partners? How about the Canadiens, Maple Leafs or Kings?
* Anyone who says the Penguins never would deal their captain has forgotten that icons Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier once said au revoir to Edmonton. Only Edmontonians were unhappy.
* When the Rangers waived Tanner Glass, the move told the rest of the NHL that the Blueshirts could win without a certified tough guy. The trend continues. That, however, could change if Alain Vigneault decides to give Dylan McIlrath a regular turn on defense. Right now, Dan Boyle is in Dylan’s way.
* If The Hockey News ever publishes another wonderful “Jersey Issue,” I would include the star-spangled uniform worn by the U.S. Coast Guard Cutters (1942-44) in the thrilling, old Eastern Amateur Hockey League.
* Here’s the best reason for John Tortorella success prospect in Columbus from my pal Alan Greenberg. “He reminds me of my Army drill sergeant. I hated the S.O.B. but he made a better soldier of me!”
* I love Steven Stamkos but he should get it over with and sign already. This delay on his part is totally unnecessary and downright annoying.
* Put this in your ‘Guaranteed to Happen’ notebook: By April 9th Vladimir Tarasenko will have out-goaled and out-pointed Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin.
If there was one mutual hockey hate that never diminished over time, it featured an English-Canadian goalie named Lorne ‘Gump’ Worsley and a French-Canadian coach, Philipe Henri ‘Fiery Phil’ Watson. The minuscule netminder got his nickname because he closely resembled a popular comics page character named Andy Gump. Watson’s moniker also was well earned because of his temper.
The seeds of their eternal enmity were planted by Watson after Worsley – then a glistening Rangers prospect – was invited to the Blueshirts training camp in 1949. The very first Watson-Worsley bout curiously was an unexpected liquor-drinking event. “Phil pulled out a jug,” Gump remembered, “and said, ‘I hear you’re supposed to be quite a drinker. Let’s see if you can drink me under the table.’ We matched slug for slug and, finally, Watson wound up under the table.” Read more