SAN JOSE – This is something that simply needs to be said. The Pittsburgh Penguins are on the verge of winning their fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history because of Phil Kessel. Now sit back and let that sink in for a minute. And if you’re a fan of the Boston Bruins or Toronto Maple Leafs, please stay a safe distance from sharp objects.
Since the Penguins last won the Cup in 2009, they were beaten out in the playoffs six of seven years by a team that finished lower than they did in the standings. What they failed to grasp is that superstars get shut down in the playoffs, so you need very good support players to succeed. And in Kessel, they might have one of the most talented support players in the history of the game.
Not many good ideas are born out of beer league hockey dressing rooms. Trust us. But Jake Mednick and Thomas McCole have turned what seemed like an off-the-cuff joke into a booming business.
That business is Babsocks – a unisex, one-size-fits-all sock in blue and white adorned with the animated, disapproving face of Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock. “For a reason I can hardly remember, I joked about Babsocks being something funny to create,” Mednick said. “While I was joking, Tom knew I was on to something and he hustled to get a prototype made. . .We have been coming up with creative and goofy ideas for years but this is the first time any thing materialized.”
So just how good is the consensus No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft, Auston Matthews? Well, he’s so good that apparently he can skate uphill.
When Peter Chiarelli and Stan Bowman, the two men most responsible for putting the North American roster for the World Cup of Hockey together, announced their initial selections for the 23-and-under team less than three months ago, Chiarelli declared that Matthews had an “uphill road” in his attempts to be on the roster. But with an impressive World Championship to his credit where he was one of the best players in the tournament, Matthews bucked the odds and will find himself part of what will easily be the most intriguing team in the tournament.
The London Knights are steamrolling the competition at the Memorial Cup and Toronto Maple Leafs prospect Mitch Marner is leading the way, just as he did in the OHL playoffs. All told, the right winger has 57 points in his past 21 games (13 in three Memorial Cup wins). Add in the 116 points he had during the regular season and you’ve got a weaponized threat on the ice.
The Knights have already clinched a spot in the Memorial Cup final thanks to a 3-0 record (in which they have outscored their opponents 20-5), so with one game left on the docket for the team, it’s hard not to speculate what Marner’s future holds next season.
So let’s speculate, shall we?
Legend has it that when John Muckler was running the Long Island Ducks of the old Eastern Hockey League, he traded John Brophy six times and traded back for him seven times. Things sometimes become a little blown out of proportion when it comes to these larger-than-life legends, but that one is pretty easy to believe.
That’s because you couldn’t have made this stuff up. Brophy, who died over the weekend at the age of 83, was a true throwback. He kicked around the minors as a player for 20 seasons and with 3,848 penalty minutes to his name, is one of the most penalized players to ever play the game. He retired in 1973 at the age of 39, not because he could no longer play, but because the league he was playing in folded. As a coach, he was behind the bench for nine teams, all of them in the minors with the exception of the Toronto Maple Leafs in the NHL and the Birmingham Bulls of the WHA, winning three ECHL championships and piling up almost 900 career wins.
The hockey world is mourning the loss of John Brophy, 83, who is one of the most iconic minor league coaches in the history of the game and one of the winningest bench bosses in professional hockey history.
In a statement released Monday, the ECHL, where Brophy coached for 13 seasons, announced his passing following “a lengthy illness.”
“The entire ECHL is saddened to hear of the passing of John Brophy,” said ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna in the release. “Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Brophy family. There was no greater competitor than John Brophy.” Read more
Should Phil Kessel continue his personal assault on the playoffs and be named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as tournament MVP, fans in Toronto and Boston should feel nothing but happiness for him. Wasting their time and emotional energy lamenting what might have been would be an exercise in futility.
And that’s largely because it never would have been. You see what Kessel is doing in the playoffs with the Pittsburgh Penguins? Never would have happened in either Toronto or Boston. Fans in Boston can be thankful for what they got in return for Kessel – Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton for a while – then Jimmy Hayes and three prospects they got when they dealt the players they got for Kessel. Fans in Toronto can watch as Kasperi Kapanen and Scott Harrington try to win a Calder Trophy for their minor league team and hope the first- and third-round picks turn into something nice.
So the Toronto Marlies are off to the Eastern Conference final in the American League as the executives with the big team tap the tips of their fingers together, their plan falling perfectly into place. Mitch Marner and his London Knights made a mockery of the Ontario League playoffs, Auston Matthews is leading USA in scoring at the World Championship and defenseman Connor Carrick, acquired from the Washington Capitals for Daniel Winnik, scored a goal to take over the AHL’s playoff scoring lead.
To be sure there were smiles and backslaps all around when the Marlies defeated the Albany Devils 4-3 in a darn entertaining Game 7 to win the second-round series and earn the right to face the Hershey Bears, the child team of the Capitals.