Mark Fraser has two points and 29 penalty minutes in 15 games with the Leafs this season. (Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
Author: The Hockey News
By: Hockey News
Feb 23, 2013
With Kevin Kennedy
I grew up in a place called Blackburn Hamlet in the east end of Ottawa. Like a lot of other Canadian kids, hockey was a sport I've always played and loved. I played house league for a couple years, then rep for a few years, all in Blackburn. My brother also played hockey, but no more than the average kid. My parents were both involved in my hockey experience and though my dad wouldn't really give me the gears on the car ride home after games, he definitely loved analyzing my play and the game.
It's hard to believe, but back when I was in peewee I was more of an offensive defenseman and I have some great memories scoring some overtime winners for sure. But most of my memories for minor hockey come from my time off the ice. I'm still good friends with a lot of players from that peewee team and I think that for most hockey players the time hanging out with your teammates is just as good as your time on the ice. A couple years ago I actually found my first ever hockey stick in my mom's garage, which was awesome. It was a wooden stick and that's something I'll hold on to forever.
If there was one coach who had the biggest impact on my career it would have to be Wayne Hughes who was my coach when I played Tier 2 with the Gloucester Rangers. As a 16-year-old, he allowed me to come in and be a big part of the team, and he really believed in me. He definitely came through for me on the ice, but also off the ice. I remember that something went sour between the coaching staff and management of the team and it quickly became an unhealthy environment for me to be in. At the time, I was trying to get an NCAA scholarship and Wayne had a connection with Kitchener Rangers assistant coach, Freddy Parker, and before I knew it, I was playing for Peter DeBoer in Kitchener.
I ended up getting drafted a couple years later from the Rangers by the New Jersey Devils and I'll never forget what Wayne did for me. Both on and off the ice, he was a guy that believed in me as a person and as a player, and to this day I try my best to lead by example.
Hockey was definitely not the only sport I played growing up. I think there was one year when I was 15 that I played seven different sports. I played football, basketball, volleyball, soccer, lacrosse, hockey, and I also ran track. I never played much baseball growing up. My brother ended up being more of a ball player than me, but I'm a big baseball fan and loved Juan Guzman when I was a kid, and I even have a Toronto Maple Leafs IBL baseball cap.
I had a few jobs as a teenager and my first was working at Sport Chek in a mall in Ottawa. It was great to be able to sell active gear that I was already interested in, but it was still a crappy retail job. Other than that, the rest of the jobs I had were all manual labor. For two summers I worked as a mover for my friend's dad's company. It was terrible work. After that it was a lot of landscaping. During the summers, even after I turned pro, my buddy and I had a little side project landscaping company and I would train in the morning and then we'd go do jobs for friends and family and whoever else wanted to hire us. I loved being outside and working with my hands so I just kept doing it. I loved the satisfaction of looking at a landscape after we'd completely excavated the land, laid down a foundation and then finished the job whether it was a patio, a walkway, or a garden. It was great to just work with my hands.
Team Canada can be better, much better, and that's a scary thought
By: Ken Campbell
Sep 27, 2016
Team Canada played arguably its worst best-on-best game since the 2006 Olympics and still came out on top by a comfortable margin. It won't happen again.
The stark contrast between Team Canada and Team Europe was not reflected in the flow of the play or in the score of Game 1 of the World Cup of Hockey final. It was, however, on full display after the game ended.
At one gathering in the media room, Team Europe captain Anze Kopitar had this to say after his team’s 3-1 loss to Canada: “I thought this was our best game so far in this tournament.”
Contrast that with Steven Stamkos and Drew Doughty right at the next pod. If you hadn’t seen the scoreboard, you would have sworn that they were on the losing end of the equation. “It wasn’t our best,” Stamkos said. “I think we all realize that. At this time of the tournament, a win is a win, so that’s a good thing.”
So there you have it. Team Canada played a terrible game, probably its worst best-on-best effort since the seldom-spoken-of disaster at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Torino. And it won. Team Europe, played the absolute best game of its very short, but illustrious history. And it lost. Which is pretty much what everyone expected before the drop of the puck.
These two teams clearly were not playing to sell tickets, as evidenced by the shocking number of empty seats in the Air Canada Centre, the bargain basement prices for ducats on the secondary ticket market and the almost as shocking dearth of people gathered in Maple Leaf Square outside the arena. And they weren’t playing to entertain, as evidenced by the fact that this gave the Sweden vs. North America semifinal a very spirited run for its money as the most turgid game of the tournament. (It also, by the way, affirmed this columnist’s long-held notion that the better the players, the worse the game from an entertainment standpoint.)
So here Canada sits, one win away from capturing the World Cup, which is essentially where things figured to be at this point in the proceedings. Canada displayed, more than any other time in this tournament, that it is simply too good for all the other countries - and in some cases combination of countries – in the world. There is no expecting Canada to let up here. So now it’s up to the other countries to start getting better. Dynasties usually inspire those chasing them to be better. We’ll see in coming years whether that is indeed the case on the world stage. It certainly hasn’t been the case in women’s hockey, so it’s hardly a given that Canada is going to relinquish its stranglehold on the hockey world anytime soon.
(As an aside, it would be really nice to see a country like Sweden realize that it is producing some outstanding and creative players and start playing like it, instead of relying on the passive style they played in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s when they had almost no hope of defeating the Soviets.)
Team Canada coach Mike Babcock had to be pleased with the victory, but not the way it was chalked up. His team looked uninterested in competing through large swaths of the second period. There were uncharacteristic turnovers all over the ice surface and on the first shift, Team Canada was caught watching the game while Team Europe blew by, drawing a penalty on the first shift. By the same token, when Team Canada made the decision to dial in – usually when Sidney Crosby’s line was on the ice – the game was not even close from a possession standpoint. As bad as Team Canada at times, Team Europe was even worse on turnovers that led to goals. The problem is that Team Europe needs about five 10-bell chances to get a goal, while Team Canada only needs one or two.
“We got two points, we had a good third and we scored timely goals on their turnovers,” Babcock said. “I thought they were better than (we were) for large stretches of the game at times. I thought they executed and played fast. I didn’t think we moved the puck at all at times. They looked quicker than they probably were and we looked slower than we probably were. We need more guys on deck than we had tonight. We just weren’t as good as we have been and we’ll be a lot better next game.”
And that’s what’s so scary about this. Babcock is exactly right. Team Canada will almost certainly be better in Game 2 than it was in Game 1. And that is terrible, terrible news for a Team Europe that might have just inadvertently poked the bear a little too much.
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season. Today, XXXXXX.
THN's Prediction: 5th in Central, wildcard team
Stanley Cup odds: 29-1
Key additions: Patrik Laine, RW; Shawn Matthias, LW; Brian Strait, D
Key departures: Grant Clitsome, D
-Was Mark Scheifele's breakout for real? The Jets have a superstar No. 1 center on their hands if we accept Scheifele’s performance over the season’s final two months as legit. He ripped off 16 goals and 32 points in 25 games after Bryan Little’s season-ending back injury.
That Scheifele’s performance improved when he was thrust onto the top line, facing tougher defense pairings without Little to insulate him, bodes extremely well. Scheifele also has first-round draft pedigree. It’s hardly a stretch to imagine him as a top-10 scorer in the league as soon as this season.
-Will Patrik Laine take the NHL by storm? It sure seems like Laine will light up opposing goalies as an 18-year-old rookie. His powerful, dynamic sniping game reminds scouts of a young Alex Ovechkin. It’s no guarantee Laine immediately excels and wins the Calder, but would you bet against it? He has an NHL body and was named MVP of the Finnish League playoffs last year, facing grown men every night. He’s ready. He’ll make the Jets’ power play deadly with his wrist shot and one-timer.
-Who will be Winnipeg's No. 1 goalie by year's end? Winnipeg still pays Ondrej Pavelec, its third-best goalie, a $3.9-million AAV. The Jets handed No. 2 stopper Michael Hutchinson a two-year extension. Meanwhile, their best netminder, Connor Hellebuyck, may have to start the year in the AHL. Hellebuyck looked like he belonged when the Jets called him up to the NHL last year and really should be starting for them now if they want the best chance to win. But it may take a trade or injury to give him the shot he deserves. Hellebuyck remains a good bet to win the job once and for all by season’s end.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
As is the case every season, the Winnipeg Jets have one very significant problem holding them back from contending, and it’s in net. In previous seasons there weren’t exactly many better options, but this year is different as heir-apparent Connor Hellebuyck has shown he’s ready for NHL duty after a brief stint last season. It’ll be difficult for him to get playing time because of the three goalie’s contract statuses, but it’s pretty clear he’s the best of the three.
These projections are based on all three getting their fair share of games, but the trio’s playing time is by far the hardest to predict of any team. With that in mind, here’s their playoff chances based on a few other games played scenarios.
The results are unsurprising, but they do show that a good team is being held back by Pavelec. With Hellebuyck starting (or with Hutchinson), the team is more likely than not to make the playoffs while the opposite is true with Pavelec starting (or with Hutchinson).
That the team is playoff calibre shouldn’t be a huge surprise given the rest of the roster. The team boasts five first line forwards – a tie with Florida and St. Louis for the league lead – according to this model and it’s possible rookie Patrik Laine (underrated here thanks to a low NHLe from the Finnish league) can jump to that level, too. The bottom six isn’t great which could be an issue.
The defense here is solid led by Dustin Byfuglien who is easily among the league’s best and most under-appreciated D-men. Jacob Trouba is a decent number two D-man with room to improve further. After those two, the core is okay, but nothing special. Tyler Myers has bounced back from those rocky Buffalo years while Tobias Enstrom has declined a fair amount over the last few years. The bottom pair is a question mark as to who actually plays on it, but if it’s Mark Stuart the Jets will take a big hit on the backend.
The Jets aren’t an amazing team, and probably not a contender yet either, but they’re on the cusp of something very good. If they play their best man in goal they have a very real chance at getting back to the playoffs.
Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky celebrate the Game 2 overtime winner at the 1987 Canada Cup.
Author: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Down Goes Brown: What was the best Game 2 in World Cup history?
By: Sean McIndoe
Sep 28, 2016
Five out of seven World/Canada Cups have been best-of-three finals, so let's take a look back at those five games, and rank them from worst to best.
Tuesday night's Game 1 of the World Cup final, which saw Team Canada earn a 3-1 win over Team Europe, sets up a do-or-die Game 2 Thursday night. A Canada win would end the tournament, and the trophy will be in the building, unless the league has come to its senses and thrown that ugly thing into a raging bonfire instead.
There have been seven World and Canada Cups in international hockey history, but we didn't get to see a Game 2 in all of those. Twice, in 1981 and 2004, the format called for a one-game final. But it's been best-of-three in the other tournaments, which gives us five Game 2 to work with. So today, let's take a look back at those five games, and rank them from worst to best.
As always, this is opinion only, and if you disagree, then you're wrong.
No. 5 – 1984: Canada 6, Sweden 5
The road there: Canada stumbled through the 1984 tournament, going 2-2-1 through the round robin and barely making the playoff round as the fourth seed. But Team Canada earned a trip to the final thanks to an overtime win over the Soviets in the semi-final, and they were facing an upstart Swedish team that had beaten them in their round robin meeting and had just embarrassed the Americans with a 9-2 blowout. The Canadians took the opener by a 5-2 final, but the second game proved closer.
Game 2: The game looked like a laugher early on, with Canada scoring four times in the first seven minutes and adding a fifth before the first period was over. A Paul Coffey goal early in the second made it 6-1, setting the stage for a furious Team Sweden comeback. They scored three unanswered goals to close out the second period, and draw to within 6-5 early in the third. But that was as close as they came, as Canada held on for the win and the series sweep.
The aftermath: This turned out to be the first of three straight Canada Cup wins for Team Canada, and remains the only finals appearance by Team Sweden.
The bottom line: What looked like a laugher wound up being a reasonably entertaining contest. But the game everyone remembers from the 1984 Canada Cup will always be that semi-final thriller with the Soviets.
No. 4 – 1991: Canada 4, USA 2
The road there: Coming on the heels of the 1987 tournament, fans were probably hoping for yet another final between Canada and the Soviets. But with the team in turmoil, partly due to the political situation back home, the Soviets failed to even make the playoff round. That left Canada looking for a new challenger, and the Americans were happy to step in for their first ever Canada Cup final appearance. The two teams met in the round robin, with Canada winning 6-3 to hand the Americans their only loss of the stage, and Canada followed that up with a 4-1 win in the opening game of the final.
Game 2: This game may best be remembered for who wasn't playing. Team Canada captain Wayne Gretzky was knocked out of action in Game 1 on an ugly hit from behind by Gary Suter. The check left Gretzky unable to suit up for Game 2, and contributed to the back problems that slowed him down for much of the early 1990s.
Looking for the sweep, Canada jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Americans clawed back with a pair of second-period goals. But Steve Larmer earned some revenge on Suter by stripping him of the puck during an American powerplay and then scoring on a breakaway for the winning goal.
The bottom line: This game, much like the 1991 tournament itself, was an entertaining one that for some reason isn't all that well remembered by many fans.
No. 3 – 1996: USA 5, Canada 2
The road there: The Americans swept through the round robin with a perfect 3-0-0 record, including an impressive 5-3 win over Canada that featured a wild early brawl. That win earned them a quarter-final bye, and after knocking off the Russians 5-3 in the semis, Team USA came into the final looking like they had a real shot to wrestle the international crown away from Canada. But Steve Yzerman's overtime winner in Game 1 in Philadelphia handed the Americans their first loss of the tournament, and left them needing a pair of wins in Montreal to take the tournament.
Game 2: Team USA jumped out to an early lead, but Canada came back to tie the game before the first intermission. Goals by John Leclair and Brett Hull gave the Americans a 3-1 lead, and Mike Richter stood on his head to keep it that way until a late powerplay goal by Joe Sakic made it 3-2 with five minutes to play. That was as close as they came, and a pair of Team USA empty net goals padded the final score to 5-2.
The aftermath: Team USA completed the comeback in Game 3, winning by another 5-2 score to capture their first (and so far only) best-on-best championship.
The bottom line: Despite the two empty netters making the score more lopsided than the game was, this was a fun matchup that featured lots of star power, some bad blood, and a raucous Montreal crowd. You can watch the highlights here.
No. 2 – 1976: Canada 5, Czechoslovakia 4 (OT)
The road there: Four years after the legendary Summit Series, the Canada Cup was born in an effort to create the first true international best-on-best tournament. There was no semi-final back then, with the top two teams heading directly to the finals. Canada grabbed one of those spots, finishing first in the round robin with a 4-1-0 record. But while many had expected a Summit Series rematch in the final, the Soviets were edged out of a spot by Czechoslovakia.
The opening game of the final was a blowout, with Canada earning a relatively easy 6-0 win. Game 2 ended up proving to be a bigger challenge.
Game 2: Canada grabbed a 2-0 lead just two minutes in, but Czechoslovakia fought back to tie the game early in the third. A Bobby Clarke goal restored the Canadian lead, but two quick Czechoslovakian goals gave them a 4-3 lead with four minutes to play. Bill Barber tied it with two minutes left, and that set the stage for Darryl Sittler to deliver the first ever Canada Cup with what still stands as one of the most famous goals in the tournament's history.
The aftermath: To this day, Sittler and Team Canada assistant coach Don Cherry are still arguing over who's idea that move was.
The bottom line: You could make a great case for this game being No. 1 on the list. I think it’s a coin flip, but I'll take the game that directly led to one of the greatest moments in hockey history.
1987: Canada 6, Soviet Union 5 (2OT)
The road there: Canada and the Soviets finished in the top two spots in the round robin, then knocked off Czechoslovakia and Sweden, respectively, in the semi-finals to set up the first best-on-best multi-game series between the two rivals since the 1972 Summit Series.
Game 2: With the Soviets looking to clinch their second Canada Cup in three tournaments, the series shifted to Hamilton for the second game. The two teams resumed the all-out offensive pace, with Canada leading 2-1 before the game was even four minutes old. Then it got better.
Canada took a 3-1 lead to the first intermission, but the Soviets tied it in the second before Mario Lemieux quickly restored the lead. The Soviets tied it again early in the third, but Lemieux scored again midway through. That set the stage for a frantic end to regulation that saw Valeri Kamensky score with a minute left to send the game to overtime.
With the trophy on the line, the two teams went back and forth through one scoreless extra period. But midway through the second overtime, Canada finally ended it. Guess who.
The aftermath: This game was so good that the hockey gods decided to re-use the same script for Game 3: A back-and-forth thriller that ends with a 6-5 Canada victory on a Mario Lemieux winner.
The bottom line: The series finale was quite possibly the greatest international game ever played. And it was made possible by this one, which was almost as good. That's enough to earn it the top spot on our list, narrowly ahead of Sittler's fakeout.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
It was good start for the modern incarnation of the World Cup of Hockey. What lessons can we apply from 2016 to improve the format in 2020?
The World Cup of Hockey was what we thought it was, at least among the level-headed crowd who didn't foolishly decry the idea as a crime against humanity. The stakes weren't high enough to rival the thrill of Olympic competition, but even the grumpiest detractors must admit the hockey was good. That's what happens when you get 184 of the best players on Earth competing in the same tournament. It was impossible for the product not to be entertaining as heck most of the time.
Technically, 2016 marked the third World Cup, but since it was the first in 12 years, it felt like a franchise reboot. And with anything new comes a few bugs to work out. The tournament was fun but not perfect. I've spent the last few days pondering tweaks to improve the format in 2020. The NHL has already announced plans for a followup event then, so why not explore how to make it even better?
1. START THE PLAYOFF ROUND WITH A QUARTERFINAL, NOT A SEMIFINAL
Call it the North America Rule, and it's not just because the team was so darned exciting to watch. The North Americans played very well throughout the 2016 World Cup, beating Sweden and Finland and losing a nailbiter to Russia. The kids looked like a top-three team in the tournament and had a .667 win percentage yet didn't even qualify for the playoff round because only two teams from each group made it. That was unfortunate, especially since the North Americans, being the fastest and most unpredictable team in the field, might have given Canada its toughest test.
Next time, let's transition from the round-robin to a quarterfinal instead of a semifinal. It would feel too warm and fuzzy, however, if all eight teams qualified and the last-place finisher got a chance to upset the first-place team. Instead, how about the second- and third-place teams from each group advance to a quarterfinal while the two group winners get byes to the semifinal? Or, better yet…
2. EXPAND THE FIELD TO 12 TEAMS
The World Cup and the Olympics are different beasts, but the IIHF was still involved in organizing the World Cup, so what's wrong with duplicating the Olympics' tournament format? Let's go with 12 teams, with three groups of four in which each team plays a three-game round-robin. Under this format at the Olympics, the bottom eight teams play qualification matches to earn berths in the quarterfinal against the top four teams. Maybe a pre-playoff round is too much hockey for September, so how about the top eight teams straight-up qualify for the quarterfinal, with no byes handed out, while the bottom four head home?
And if this setup still apes the Olympic tourney too closely for your taste, not to worry…
3. DON'T JUST KEEP THE UNDER-24 TEAM…ADD ANOTHER UNDER-24 TEAM
Team North America made the World Cup must-see TV. The likes of Connor McDavid, Johnny Gaudreau and Auston Matthews dazzled viewers so much that it felt like many fans were cheering for the kids over their own countries. It would be silly to scrap that idea for 2020, as gimmicky as it was. How about double down and insert an under-24 Euro team? A similar setup in 2016 would've created a squad featuring Patrik Laine, Jesse Puljujarvi, David Pastrnak, Leon Draisaitl, Nikolaj Ehlers and Ramus Ristolainen, among others. Like with Team North America, the Euros 2.0 will be allowed to draw from every nation on its continent, meaning young Finns, Swedes, Russians, Czechs and so on will have to play for this squad.
4. ELIMINATE THE CURRENT VERSION OF TEAM EUROPE FROM THE FIELD
'Team Europe' still exists in my proposed format, but only in the same sense as Team North America, as Europe 2.0 will be a young-stars squad. My timing is odd for this suggestion, sure, as Europe just reached the tourney final, legitimizing the team's concept and skyrocketing Ralph Krueger's stock as a coach. But when this tournament concludes, how many of us will look back and marvel at the way Team Europe captured our hearts and brought us to our feet? Team North America won the unofficial Gimmick Bowl. And while the Euro players have banded nicely together under Krueger, most or all would rather suit up for their individual countries. So let's imagine a group layout looking something like…
Europe (23 and under)
North America (23 and under)
More teams, more countries represented, more playoff rounds, plus all the gimmicky fun that stole the show in 2016. How about it for 2020?