If Scott Gomez and/or Tomas Kaberle make the New Jersey Devils this season and contribute in a meaningful way, GM Lou Lamoriello will be able to claim another feather for a cap that is already bursting with plumage. The veterans are reclamation projects, looking to revive careers that are ever-so-gently flickering.
Barring the spectacularly unforeseen, however, those potential additions won’t be able to match the magic Lamoriello performed 23 years ago.
In this edition of Throwback Thursday, we remember the incredible summer of 1991, when the Devils acquired Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer via a series of head-scratching events.
At the risk of sounding blasphemous, Mike Cammalleri’s deal with the Devils was all about faith. He chose the team that believed in him most and the team he believed in most.
Calgary fans were disappointed but not surprised when he left in free agency after a resurgent 26-goal campaign. After all, team president Brian Burke retained Cammalleri’s expiring contract at the trade deadline. Burke tried to deal his veteran, but he felt the offers weren’t good enough. He decided to risk losing Cammalleri for nothing and stated his desire to keep him.
Burke and new GM Brad Treliving made offers this summer to Cammalleri for a long-term pact, but they couldn’t compete with what Lou Lamoriello and the New Jersey Devils tabled: five years and $25 million for a 32-year-old who’s missed 15 or more games in four of his past five seasons and is six years removed from his best numbers.
That didn’t matter to Lamoriello, who says he followed and admired Cammalleri’s game all the way back to the University of Michigan.
“He played with an edge and had results,” Lamoriello said. “He’s very diligent and he competes. When you see that in a player, it naturally sticks out. When we were looking at the potential free agencies and the type of player we needed, we felt we needed a scorer. Mike stood right out, and he was one of the top players we looked at, if not the top player.”
From blockbuster trades to harrowing human dramas, there was a lot to remember in 2013-14. And that’s not even counting the fact the schedule got a bit squished thanks to a
little ol’ tournament called the Olympics. Here’s a look at the top 20 moments that defined the greatest hockey league in the world this year.
Tomas Hertl’s four goals vs. New York, Oct. 8, 2013
In just his third NHL game, the rookie Tomas Hertl put up his statement performance with four goals in 11 minutes of playing time against the Rangers. Hertl’s final goal was a breakaway between-the-legs instant classic that drew gushing reviews from most of the hockey world and the occasional dissenter, such as then-Washington coach Adam Oates, who said the move was disrespectful. Nonetheless, Hertl became a frontrunner for the Calder Trophy from that game until mid-December, when he required knee surgery after being hit by L.A.’s Dustin Brown. Marty Biron, the goaltender who gave up Hertl’s famous goal, would play just one more NHL game before retiring.
2. T.J. Oshie’s shootout heroics vs. Russia, Feb. 15, 2014
It was the most anticipated matchup of the Olympic round-robin, a Cold War classic starring the United States and the host Russians. Controversial Russian President Vladimir Putin was even in the building as the two rivals went at each other for 65 minutes without resolving matters. So with the score tied 2-2, the game went to a shootout where, under IIHF rules, only the first three shooters had to be different. So with the score still tied, Team USA sent out Blues winger T.J. Oshie five additional times in a row, while Russia countered with Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk. Oshie finished with four goals to win the match for America and earn the nickname ‘T.J. Sochi’. Read more
Despite its recent run of success, Los Angeles wasn’t always a prime destination for NHLers. These days, it’s atop the list of preferred places to play for many free agents, but there once was a time when it was a league backwater that had won all of bupkis and had zero NHL neighbors.
So you can forgive former King Mike Krushelnyski for not wanting to go there when his lawyer called him Aug. 9, 1988.
“He said, ‘Are you sitting down?’ And I’m like, ‘Why?’ He goes, ‘You better sit down,’ Krushelnyski said. “There was some talk of trade prior to that, and I said, ‘I’ll go anywhere except L.A.’ ”
At the time, Krushelnyski, now 54, was on top of the hockey world, having won his third Stanley Cup with Edmonton and entering the peak of his career at 28 years old. ‘The Trade’ changed that. The Oilers shipped Wayne Gretzky along with Marty McSorley and Krushelnyski to the Kings for Jimmy Carson, Martin Gelinas, a trio of first-round picks and a whole heap of California cash.
“The press got the trade all wrong,” Krushelnyski jokes. “ ‘Gretz’ went for the three first-rounders, Marty went for Gelinas and I was the guy that went for the 15 million bucks. Let’s clarify that right now.” Read more
Sometimes covers don’t have the staying power they’re supposed to. Sometimes, in hindsight, they can look pretty hilarious.
Take our cover from Oct. 27, 1978 as an example. The cover image was a 17-year-old Wayne Gretzky skating for the WHA’s Indianapolis Racers with the headline “Gretzky Big Hope for WHA’s Future.” The previous summer, Gretzky had signed a seven-year personal services contract with Racers owner Nelson Skalbania and was about to set off on his first season of professional hockey. The inside story focused on the young Gretzky’s stand-out talent, compared him with basketball great Oscar Robertson and enthused about the bright future ahead.
Here’s part of the story: Read more
The Maple Leafs’ hiring of Kyle Dubas as their new assistant GM Tuesday, and the ensuing debate and discussion about the advanced statistics revolution Dubas is a part of, has intriguing parallels to a similar hiring in Toronto 37 years ago. Back then, another young (although not quite as young as the 28-year-old Dubas) hockey mind with a different approach was brought into hockey’s biggest fishbowl to test out his theories.
That man was the late Roger Neilson, hired as Leafs head coach July 25, 1977. His name isn’t referenced nearly enough in the advanced stats debate, but Neilson must be considered, if not the granddaddy of the advanced stats movement, then one of its founding fathers. And THN’s archives provide ample evidence of how nimble and creative Neilson’s mind was when it came to seeing the game through a new prism – and the baseless backlash it triggered in the inflexible, conservative hockey establishment.
In 1978, THN columnist Frank Orr wrote about Neilson being viewed as “slightly bonkers” because of his “slightly unorthodox approach” and the “assorted gimmicks he employs”. Read more
There was a time not so long ago when NHL executives thought a player’s worth could only be evaluated by two eyeballs at the rink in the form of a scout whose belly was full of coffee and cold pizza. When the Buffalo Sabres scaled back their scouting staff and decided to do more video scouting, they were scoffed at by old-time hockey guys.
Now, though, video is as important a tool to NHL teams as a composite stick or a skate-sharpening machine. Every team employs video on a daily basis to the point where some coaches have iPads on hand to show a player what he did wrong during his most recent shift. If a team wants to sign a prospective free agent, there are companies out there that provide them with footage of every shift he took the previous season.
And that’s about where we are right now in the evolution of advanced statistics in hockey. Those who run NHL teams, generally speaking, see value in them, but there’s still some skepticism. Most GMs are smart enough to know any tool that gives them more information is a good thing, but they’re all still feeling their way around this new phenomenon. Read more
The NHL draft, as we all know, is a reverse meritocracy. The worse you do the previous season, the closer you get to sit to the podium and stage. And with 30 teams, things are always arranged so nicely: five rows of six teams each, with the teams finishing 25 through 30 having the best seats in the house and the highest picks in the first round. Picking in those spots is kind of like being declared the winner of The Biggest Loser. The prize is great, but you’re only up for it because you really let yourself go.
Newly minted Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray was up close to the action at this year’s draft. And he figures to be in the front row in 2015 when the draft is held at the home of the Florida Panthers. (A team that will probably be right there with the Sabres.) It’s a badge of honor for those who run drafts to move out of the front row, and Murray, 50, figures to be a little deeper into the queue by 2016.
To be sure, he doesn’t want any part of being a permanent fixture on the draft lottery show – previously known as Fireside Chats with Steve Tambellini – for an extended period of time.
“I don’t want to be going back to the draft lottery in four years. I just don’t want that,” says Murray. “I’m going to work extremely hard not to be there. We know we need a couple of drafts under our belt, but after that I want to be competitive. I want to be a hard team to play against and I don’t want it to be an automatic two points (when a team plays us). And I do not want to go back to the draft lottery.” Read more