There has been a lot going on in Red Wings land this week, with the recent announcement that ‘Mr.Hockey’ Gordie Howe suffered a severe stroke. Howe spent 25 seasons in the Motor City and is the greatest player to ever wear a Red Wings jersey, so the news was certainly shocking to hockey fans in Detroit, as well as around the world.
There are four games on a spooky Friday night Halloween schedule for the NHL, the biggest belongs to a match-up between the Anaheim Ducks – tops in the Western Conference with 16 points – and the Dallas Stars at the American Airlines Center in Dallas.
The squads feature formidable line-ups that include stars such as: Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf, but tonight’s big match-up will feature the top goal scorer in the NHL in the Ducks’ Corey Perry – who is tied with Rick Nash – and the Stars’ Tyler Seguin, who is tied for most points in the league.
By Dominik Luszczyszyn
They’ve been one of the league’s most dominant duos over the past few years and they’ve kept that going to start this season. The Ducks are one of the top teams in the league once again with an 8-3-0 record, and Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry both – with 12 points – are a big reason why. Together, they’re an elite force.
Over the last five years the two have played together for 4,618 minutes at 5-on-5. In that time they’ve dominated the scoresheet (57.8 percent of the goals) despite being just decent at dominating territory (51.6 percent of shot attempts). Superstars can do that because they can consistently outscore the average NHLer. So Getzlaf and Perry are great together. Duh. Apart is where things get more interesting and could show why the pair is so dominant. Read more
Well, there seems to be no shortage of outrage that Scott Stevens is being seriously considered for a post with the NHL’s department of player safety. That has something to do with the fact that if the department of player safety existed and had its current mandate when Stevens played, he would have been called on the carpet so often he probably would have had his own parking spot.
But to suggest Stevens played outside the rules is absurd. In fact, he played entirely inside the rules. The fact that the NHL’s rules, or lack of them, allowed players to take runs from the other end of the ice, lift their feet and drill their elbows into their opponents’ skulls when applying open-ice hits was not Stevens’ fault. The fact is Stevens was not a dirty player at all, he was a devastating open-ice hitter. He played 1,635 games and was suspended only twice for a total of four games. And of his 2,785 career penalty minutes, only eight of them were for elbowing penalties. Never once was Stevens suspended for one of his hits.
The league has its share of rambunctious players deciding now whether or not the guys on the ice will be suspended. The guy who runs the department, Stephane Quintal, was certainly no shrinking violet, with more than 1,300 penalty minutes. Chris Pronger was suspended eight times during his career and was one of the dirtiest players of all-time. And take a look who has run that department in recent years – Brian Burke, Colin Campbell and Brendan Shanahan – none of whom you’d like to meet in a corner.
But the department has also employed Brian Leetch, a skilled defenseman whose highest PIM total for a season was 67. And a big part of the decision making group includes Patrick Burke and Damian Echevarrieta, who have never played a shift at the pro level. It also includes hockey operations people Colin Campbell, Mike Murphy and Kris King, all former players.
So, yeah, if Stevens is added to that group it is a little top-heavy with guys who played a physical game. And there’s certainly nothing terribly wrong with that, but wouldn’t you for once like to see a guy like Mike Bossy or Pierre Turgeon be part of the decision-making process? You know, just to even things out a little. After all, if there’s always a place for guys with multiple suspensions and penalty minutes in the thousands, surely it could be balanced out with a couple of guys who won the Lady Byng Trophy and approached the game from a different perspective.
But that just doesn’t seem to be the way this league rolls. In fact, the department of player safety’s own mission statement reads this way: “We are committed to making the game as safe as possible for our players,” which is all good. But then it goes on to say, “while preserving the intensely physical, competitive and passionate nature of hockey.” Which is basically the NHL’s way of saying, “Yeah, we want the players to be safe, but make no mistake, we have no intention of turning this game into four-on-four ringette.”
Shouldn’t a department of player safety be concerned with making the game as safe as possible for all its players, full stop? Why does it need to be concerned with anything else. Decide whether a player’s safety was put at risk and whether the incident surrounding it broke the rules. That’s about it.
The league is capable of penalizing bad hits such as the John Moore hit on Erik Haula without fearing having hitting removed from the game. Case in point, was the Eric Gryba hit on Artem Anisimov. Anisimov was hurt on the play, largely because his helmet popped off, but the department saw the hit as a legal shoulder-to-chest hit that had a bad outcome. It decided no suspension was warranted and there’s no trouble with that.
But it would indeed be nice if the people making those decisions weren’t tilted so heavily in the direction of the guys who used to make those kinds of hits rather than receive them.
Move over, Randy Moller. There’s a new goal call in town.
Moller, the Florida Panthers radio play-by-play man, is known for his boisterous, pop-culture laden goal calls. In his own way, he injected fun into the broadcasts and made each individual tally notable. That said, not even he could have touched this.
It took the Panthers first radio broadcast in Spanish to change hockey goal calls forever: Read more
What happens when you’re caught between man among boys and boy among men?
It’s a question Jonathan Drouin had to answer a year ago, and it’s the same one Buffalo mega-prospect Sam Reinhart faces now. The Sabres announced Friday they were returning Reinhart to the Western League’s Kootenay Ice. At 18, he’s far from eligible for the American League, and he’d played his ninth NHL game, meaning one more would burn a year of his entry-level contract.
And the truth is Reinhart belongs in junior. Taken second overall in last June’s draft, he’s an oustanding prospect, a heady two-way center who can make everyone around him better. His superb hockey sense made plenty of scouts call him the draft class’ most NHL-ready player, but watching him this season suggested otherwise. His 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame isn’t quite ready to do battle against grown men. Tuesday when the Sabres visited Toronto, it was one of those games that had you checking the box score afterward to make sure he played. He was a non-entity, registering one shot and little else in 12:41 of ice time. That was largely the case through Reinhart’s first nine NHL games, in which he averaged 10:21 and managed one assist and three shots. In that tiny sample, his 31.1 Fenwick Close rating was 565th out of 568 qualifying NHLers.
Those numbers aren’t meant to harp on Reinhart. He has an outstanding career ahead of him. They do, however, suggest the Sabres were smart to send him down. And, to his credit, he gets it. I spoke with him after Tuesday’s game in Toronto. The elephant in the hallway was that he had one more game until his probable return to the WHL. In his short stay, he learned plenty. He lists veterans Brian Gionta, Cody McCormick, Matt Moulson and Josh Gorges as hugely helpful with their day-to-day advice. And game situations opened his eyes as well.
“Obviously you knew it was going to be a challenge,” Reinhart said. “It’s the best thing in the world, and to try and make the jump is difficult. The biggest thing I’ve tried to focus on and learned is the pace and intensity. It’s not as much the speed skating up and down the ice – it’s the overall speed and intensity with the puck. To want the puck, that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned.”
When Marian Hossa scored the 1,000th point of his career Thursday night, my first inclination was to put him in the Hockey Hall of Fame. After all, he already has two Stanley Cups (and possibly more to come) and he’s one of the best two-way players of his era.
Good enough for me. But then again, the Hall of Fame should be for the truly special players, not just the very good ones. And that’s where the decision around Hossa becomes a little more vexing.
Is Hossa a very good player, or truly a great player? As THN senior editor and Hall of Fame expert Brian Costello points out, 1,000 points is now more of a milestone than a Hall of Fame barometer. And there are currently 19 Hall of Fame eligible players who scored 1,000 points during their careers and who are not in the hall. With 466 career goals so far, Hossa is a shoo-in for the 500 mark and that’s where it starts to get a little more interesting. There are only seven players who have scored 500 who are eligible for the Hall of Fame and are not in there. Read more
The St. Louis Blues are in the conversation as frontrunners to win the Stanley Cup this year because management has built the roster the right way: patiently and methodically, with a primary reliance on drafting and development and trades/free agent signings to augment the lineup. But what has happened to them in the early goings of this current regular season – first, losing marquee off-season addition Paul Stastny to a shoulder injury Oct. 18; and now, without forwards David Backes and T.J. Oshie, who suffered concussions in Tuesday’s 4-3 win over Dallas – is out of anyone’s control. It should go without saying they’ll be a far less dangerous team with three top forwards on the sidelines, and all head coach Ken Hitchcock, GM Doug Armstrong and Blues brass can do is focus on the group treading water until it’s got all key components back.
If it makes you happy, you can talk day and night about the organization’s young players (for instance, blossoming 22-year-olds Vladimir Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz) picking up the slack in the absence of the three veterans, but if Backes isn’t healthy in time for the post-season – and given his history of concussions, this should be a concern – St. Louis is going to have great difficulty winning more than one playoff round. Because the Blues aren’t built around a generational superstar the way the Lightning are with Steven Stamkos or the way the Penguins are with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, they’ll need all hands on deck to win in the highly competitive Western Conference. Read more