Thursday, August 31, 2006

Happy Birthday, Gentlemen

On August 31, 1931, two great men were born. Both are turning 75 today.

One is a famous Habs player, one of the all time greats. The second is less well known and just as great. My father.

Beliveau racked up 507 goals and 712 assists in his career. Dad raced motorcycles, broke some bones, and took home lots of hardware and trophies himself on the way to winning his greatest prize, the heart of a wonderful woman I call Mom.

Dad and I watched Beliveau get his 500th goal with a hat trick against the North Stars. I was all of 9 at the time. A few weeks later he took to see my first live game. It was our hometown Royals against Guy Lafleur and the Quebec Ramparts. The game and final score are now a blur, I just recall the Guy filled the net that night.

I remember noticing that my favorite player, Bobby Orr, Beliveau and Lafleur all wore #4.

A few years later we saw GUY suit up for the Habs, scoring another hat trick as they lost to the L.A. Kings - Marcel Dionne managed three himself that night . It was special time all around.

Dad and I spent lots of time fishing, snowmobiling, and sharing the occasional golf game. He's a much calmer man than I'll ever be, but he taught me quite a bit about the virtue of common sense and perspective. Though he doesn't know it, he's still teaching me that one never stops learning.

Like Beliveau, he probably retired a bit too early. Le Gros Jean did go out in style though. Both are class acts!

When I was growing up, I too wanted to be as proud and full. To know how it felt to held such high in regard. To be that loved and appreciated by many.

Beliveau didn't do too bad either.

Have a great birthday, Dad.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Awarding Turkeys

"The individual awards and achievements are nice. It's something I will reflect upon once my career is over. Don't get me wrong, I am very proud of them, but this is a team game. For now all that matters to us is focussing on getting our names on the Cup".

The above quote / overused cliche can be attributed to every media savvy NHLer worth his salt.

Player awards have long been a great concept in pro sports as they simultaneously reward the individual while maintaining and promoting fan interest. To a point, the quote is very real in the sense that, in essense, it is all althletes tend to strive for. On the other hand, few will admit that these perks become negotiating levers in contract talks. Just ask Jose Theodore!

For fans of particular teams and players, these trophies are akin to feathers in a hat. It's something to cheer for, keep up to date on statistically, and eventually brag about.

I was surprised to find that the NHL has a total of 23 individual and team trophies and awards, including the 33 lb Holy Grail. Most are well known amongst hockey fans, such as the Hart (MVP), the Calder (Best rookie), the Norris (Best D), and the Conn Smythe (Playoff MVP). Other more obscure hardware comes by way of the Bud Light plus/minus and All Star game MVP awards, the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award (Best save %), and the NHL / Sheraton Road Performer award (Most pts during road games).

It has gotten to the point where there is practically a trophy, award, or merit for every statistical nuance in the game. It is probably not only my opinion, but I'd love to see a trophy awarded for the most penalty minutes accumulated in a season. Though I'm sure the Dave Schultz Trophy will never come to be, it's safe to assume that such a thing would hold more interest than the lame Lady Byng. It's the old adage that no one is interested in something you didn't do.

I have no problem with the statistically driven merits such as the Art Ross, the William Jennings, or the Maurice "Rocket" Richard trophies. Trophies awarded through a voting process, however, have a habitual recurrance of missing their mark. Not always - usually a general consensus of the Canadian and American hockey writers establishment manages to get it right. There is however an imbalance of voters geographically that tend to tilt the honours toward the East Coast upon occasion, including a scrum of New York scribes who focus mainly on their own microcosm. Like an American Toronto, these writers and voters aim their gaze away from much of what doesn't involve the usual Eastern rivalries.

Grave errors (relatively speaking) due to bad judgement, lack of complete information sources, dubious amounts of credibility, and plain old favoritism, have placed many a wrong name on a major award for the balance of time.

On a less serious note, award contestation can get real stupid at times, when based on matters of opinion with no statistical background to back them up. Witness all the pre and post Emmy or Academy Award hype to see how ridiculous the opinionated achievements can get.

Keeping all this in mind, it is now time to hand out EOTP NHL Turkey Awards!

Given to the givers as much as those recipients mistakenly rewarded and less deserving of the honours. No hindsight required here. These boobs were dead wrong from the get go!

1 - CALDER 1990: Sergei Makarov - Calgary Flames: This one came under almost universal derision and caused the rookie qualifications to be updated. Makarov was a 32 year old rookie and veteran of several international hockey tournaments for a decade. He was for all intents and purposes, not a rookie by any standard except the NHL stipulation. Before the next season, the qualifications were amended, thankfully, and now a rookie is described as a player who does not turn 26 before September of the eligible year. They should have done it after Peter Stastny won it in 1981. Mark Recchi, Mike Modano and Rod Brind' Amour were all more deserving of this one.

2 - SMYTHE 1994: Bryan Leetch - New York Rangers: No doubt Leetch had a great run scoring 34 points as the Rangers finally won the Cup. The story of that year however, was Mark Messier and how he captained and carried the Rangers to victory. Messier had 30 points, and cemented an already legendary career when he daringly proclaimed his team would win game seven versus the Devils in the previous round. "Guaranteed" shouted several NY area papers, as Messier went out and served up a hat trick while making good on his promise. Talk about delivering! Sport doesn't get more exciting than this. The writers saw it differently though, as Leetch was American born, and the series took on a U.S. versus Canada theme. Messier had already bagged a Smythe and that likely worked against him getting it a second time. Damn yankees.

3 - SMYTHE 2003: J.F. Giguere - Anaheim Mighty Ducks: Another amendment is needed here. The trophy given out "to the most valuable player to his team in the playoffs'' should read "winning team" point blank. Why do voters turn this pivotal award into a consolation prize is beyond me. Why not give it to the player " who was great, but not good enough to win?" Many teams who win the Cup have so many deserving players while the losing side has one particular individual who stands out. This should hardly rationalize it. Five times since its inception in 1965, it has gone to a player on the also rans. Goalies Ron Hextall (1987), Roger Crozier (1966) and Glenn Hall (1968) all put on amazing performances in those years. The Oilers (87) and Habs (66,68) teams they lost to were pretty much dynasties and loaded with worthy recipients. In 1976, Reggie Leach of the Flyers was given the hardware for his playoff record 19 goals, although his team failed to win a single game against the Canadiens, and Hall won no games in the '68 final. Wayne Gretzky had 34 pts in 21 games in the '87 playoffs and surely outplayed Hextall. Scott Neidermayer would have been the right choice for the Devils in '03 as he led the playoff scoring. In '66, '68, and '76, no Montreal Canadien players stood out offensively, but Dryden or Lafleur come to mind in '76 as being more than worthy candidates. Time to alter this one too.

4 - RICHARD 2004: Rick Nash - Columbus, Jerome Iginla - Calgary, Ilya Kovalchuk - Atlanta: This newest of NHL trophies honouring the great Canadien Rocket Richard is given out annually to the leagues leading goal scorer during the regular season. Now a three-way tie is one thing, but handing it out to players who missed the 50 mark is almost sacriledge to the Rockets legend. My solution is to award it only when the benchmark is met and in the event of a tie, use to playoffs as a tie breaker. Just don't let this happen again!

5 - NORRIS 1981: Randy Carlyle - Pittsburgh: Yes, the current coach of the Ducks was a halfway decent defenseman in his day. In '81 an 83 pt season fetched him the Norris to everybody's surprise. Ray Bourque's sophomore season yeiled 27 goals and Denis Potvin's NY Islanders went on to win the Cup, but for whatever reason, voters judged the Carlyle season a better one. That his Penguins were a 73 pt, 3rd place team, hardly seemed to weigh in the balance. For a spell in early eighties, the definition and pure righteousness of this award came under much questioning. With many defenders excelling in different ways at this time, it took the voters a few years to start getting it right again. In the spirit of Doug Harvey and Bobby Orr, the award is given "to the defense player who demonstrates the greatest all around ability at their position". Obviously, this seemed to leave out the strictly stay at home types every team needs, and it caused some consternation for some voters. A knee-jerk reaction to this school of thought would soon follow. Read on.

6 - NORRIS 1983-84: Rod Langway - Washington: Langway's trade from Montreal to Washington transformed the Capitals and they were playoff bound after years of stumbling. His play was solid enough to nab the back to back Norris'. Playing near 30 minutes a game, there was no doubt he was effective. Given the award is to go the defenseman with "the best all around ability", Langway hardly qualified. He managed 32 and 33 pts reapectively in his two winning seasons while the NHL was becoming more offensive than it had ever been. Doug Wilson of the Blackhawks had won it the previous year. It's hard to believe that Potvin (61-66-85), Bourque (66-73-96), Coffee (89-96-126), and Larry Murphy (66-62-79) were all shut out of the award during this three year span. Potvin and Bourque, especially, as they were equally adept as Langway on D while playing on superior teams and putting up double the numbers. The voters have since been more in mind of the "all around' qualities. It was as if the 20 other teams reporters got jealous of Coffee's offensive prowess or decided to punish him for a lack of defense on a team that didn't rely on much of it. A strange time indeed.

7 - SELKE 1993-96: Doug Gilmour - Toronto, Sergei Federov - Detroit, Ron Francis - Pittsburgh: Much like the Norris losing focus in the mid eighties, the same happened with the Selke in the mid nineties.The award was commissioned originally to acknowledge the contribution of players such as Bob Gainey (who won it the first four years) who were so effective in checking roles they affected the outcome of games on a nightly basis. Described as awarded to "the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game", the award was aimed at the unsung hero whose role was somewhat diminished in the larger scheme of things. The term "best excels" seemed to highlight the fact that it would be anyone other than a teams top offensive forward getting the vote. It became clouded for a term why a player couldn't be both. It was a good argument, but it defied the original intent of the trophy. In these 4 years, it became a type of runner up to the major awards consolation prize as this trio of unlikely winners were all major cogs in their teams offensive arsenals. Gilmour had a career year (127 pts) when he won it. Fedorov in '94 and '96 had a 120 and 107 pts. In the shortened '95 season, Francis had 59 pts in 44 games. All three were perfect examples of complete players. All three hardly "best excelled" on defense. Complaints from many a worthy candidate got this awards feet back on the ground with Michael Peca winning it in '97.

8 - CALDER 2004: Andrew Raycroft - Boston: This might seem like a personal gripe, but it really isn't. It has much to do with how to assess a rookie goaltender. The fact that Raycroft suffered a miserable sophomore (soft more?) year has zero to do with it. No position player is more at the mercy of his teams overall quality than a goaltender. It often begs the question, "Who makes who look better?' In Boston that year, Raysoft played behind the stingiest of Bruins defenses. There is no stat that pertains to the quality of incoming shots on a goalie, but what the Bruins didn't block often came from the perimeter to Raycroft. His stats were awesome - his help outstanding! The proof may lie in the fact that the Bruins pitiful defense the following season exposed the same holes in his game as did the Canadiens in th '04 playoffs. Raycroft soon became an expendable third string goalie. This same theory holds true in the case of Tom Barrasso winning it over Yzerman in '84 and Ken Dryden beating out Rick Martin, who'd set a rookie goal scoring record of 44 with Buffalo in '72. Both the Habs and the '84 Sabres were tight defensively and their goalies, not to suggest neither were great, benefitted tremendously from the fruggleness of their staunchy play. When will a goalie on an average team take the honour? Well the Hart was awarded to Theodore four years ago, if that counts for anything! As with all awards being voted on at the end of the regular season, performance in the post season never figures into the equation. Patrick Roy and Cam Ward, not to mention a young Dino Ciccarelli, make good arguments to suggest it's time to alter this hardwares time frame. Did I mention the 2006 should have gone to Michael Ryder of the Habs. Just to make up for the one I'd remove from Dryden!

9 - STANLEY CUP: Carolina Hurricanes: Seriously! No Cup winner in my time has been more dubious. No voting breakdown settled this score, obviously. It had everything to do with timing, bad breaks, negligable rules, and blind referees. I'm not doubting that the Canes aren't a great team, it's just that the obstacles that fell out of their way at convenient times gave many, including myself, the impression that Carolina wasn't always the best team last spring. I found both Buffalo and Edmonton more worthy of winning the whole shebang than the wayward Whalers. For their sake, I hope somehow they prove the hockey minds wrong by returning to the final, but somehow I doubt they will.

I decided againt naming a 10th for fear of redundancy. There were a handful of honourable mentions. Some are of a frivolous nature.

Former 15 minute NHL president Gil Stein, who was vice president to John Ziegler for years before, tarnished his reputation a great deal in 1993. After he conspired to help oust Ziegler and move into the top dogs seat, he not only bagged the Lester Patrick Award (for outstanding service to hockey in the U.S.) he backroom shuffled his sorry ass into the HHOF. His deeds were quickly discovered in time to bannish him from the Hall election, but his Patrick still stands. Needless to say, his tenure as league boss was brief.

Jamie Storr was a promising goalie prospect with the L.A. Kings in the mid '90's, and he managed to do what no other rookie has ever done. By not appearing in the 25 game minimum, he got himself onto the Upper Deck All Rookie team in back to back seasons in 1998 and 1999. He had a strange but true rise into the bigs, appearing in 5 games in each of the 94-95, 95-96, and 96-97 seasons. Finally in '98 he saw action in 17 games going 9-5-1 and received the nod on the UD team. The following season, because he'd still not played in 25 games in one year, he again qualified. As no other rookie goalie of prominance bettered his stats, he once again was named to the All Rookie team.

A similar fate befell Pavel Bure in 1991-92. Although he did win the Calder and fully deserved it by a landslide, he was left off the UD Rookie team. The reason? No one seemed able to decide what wing he played having split the season on both flanks. It also split the votes, unfortunately. Bure probably had a good laugh over it. Tony Amonte and late season flash in the pan Gilbert Dionne got the honours. UD now places the top two vote getting forwards in the slot to avoid the same embarrassment twice.

Well at least some folks learn some of the time!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Time Capsule Time

Digging through a dust covered book bargain bin awhile back I uncovered this gem from years gone by called "Pro Hockey 1977-78" by HHOF journalist and Toronto Star columnist Jim Proudfoot.

I had dozens of these paperback precursors to the "Hockey News Yearbook" in my teens. In hindsight they probably had alot to do with why I ended up having a hockey blog.

If ever you see a chance to pick one of these up, grab it. It could be a treasure trove of long lost information and memories. The worst it could do is make you feel old.

The NHL has sure gone through a revolution of sorts in the almost 30 years since this book was published. I skimmed through it quickly and made note of things said concerning players we would all remember today. The book is filled with anecdotes, quotes, and stats on over 200 players.

In 1977, the NHL was an 18 team league and John Ziegler was beginning his reign as president. Four franchises that began the season are no longer with us. The Colorado Rockies (who were once the Kansas City Scouts) became the New Jersey Devils within 5 years. The Atlanta Flames soon moved to Calgary. The Cleveland Barons (originally the Oakland Seals), after this season would merge with a troubled Minnesota North Stars franchise that eventually found its way to Dallas. Curiously, Atlanta, Minnesoata, and Colorado, would all return to the NHL by the year 2000, and the state of Ohio is now represented on the NHL map by Columbus. The wayward Oakland Seals, (or was it the Los Angeles Oakland Seals of Golden California! - Hey maybe that woulda worked!) have their former territory taken up by the Sharks and Ducks.

For the sake of time travelling, the '77 season ended with the Montreal Canadiens winning the second of what would be four consecutive Stanley Cups. If you were a teenager at the time, it is likely you had a poster of Farrah Fawcett or Cheryl Tiegs on your wall, were enlisted in the KISS Army, and watched the Fonz ooze his cool on Happy Days.

Each team in the book has categories listing the previous years finish, predictions on the upcoming year, as well as naming the strengths and weaknesses for each team. For the Canadiens, it reads like this: Strengths - too many to list, Weaknesses - too few to mention, first place - Norris division, Stanley Cup.

Not exactly a bold call at the time.

Other strong teams in the league at the time were the Bruins, Sabres, Flyers, and Kings. The NY Islanders were piecing together their dynasty and were said to be in need of scoring punch. They were a year away from Mike Bossy.

In the 1976 season, legendary Bruins defenseman Bobby Orr was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks. Boston had basically given up hope on Orr's knees ever recovering from the multitude of operations they had undergone without success. He appeared in 20 games with the Hawks, registering 23 points.

There seemed to be some optimism for Orr, as he had just led Team Canada '76 to the Canada Cup win and was named tournament MVP. After the initial stint with the Hawks, Orr was headed back to the operating room for the sixth time. Reality was setting in on Orr, as he remained cautiously optimistic.

"They've told me I'll have to be on crutches a few months, then a cane and I'll have to stay off skates a year while I build up the knee, " Orr said. "After that - well you never know. Look at what Lowell McDonald did." (McDonald had to stop playing hockey in 1970 because of extensive knee damage. He took two years off to rehabilitate his legs and rejoined the Pittsburgh Penguins for the 1972-73 season. He's been a useful left winger for five seasons since that amazing comeback.)

"So I'm encouraged to believe there's at least a chance," Orr said.

In the meantime, Orr was expected to assist new coach Bob Pulford behind the bench.
He did make a valiant attempt to return in the 1978-79 season, appearing in only 6 games.

On November 8,1978, Orr announced his retirement from the game. President Ziegler said, "It is with sadness that we receive Bobby's retirement. Bobby's skill, competitiveness and determination are already legendary. The discipline and dedication that it took for Bobby to come back and play this year are probably unequaled in professional sport."

In Toronto, Roger Neilson was slated to become the Leafs new head coach. Things were definitely looking up for the Leafs who had a young nucleus formed of captain Darryl Sittler, Lanny McDonald, each with 90 points, and defenseman Borje Salming (78 pts) and Ian Turnbull (79 pts). The foursome seemed poised to lead the Leafs on to greater days.

Flyers captain, Bobby Clarke, called Sittler "the best center in hockey", while Bruins coach Don Cherry added " if I were to build a team, from all the centers in the league, I'd take Sittler first.

Sittler's outlook on the Buds hopes were on the up and up. The previous season, the 27 year old set an NHL record with 10 points in a single game and tied another with a five goal game in the playoffs. The man who scored Team Canada's tournament winning goal stated, "While I'm proud of all accomplishments, none of it is going to mean much until we win the Stanley Cup. With the club we have here, I think it is only a matter of time before that happens."

In Vancouver, sophomore Rick Blight (I don't remember him either!) led the Canucks with 28-40-68 totals. Derek Sanderson, a renegade of a cowboy, with a multitude of ongoing issues and addictions was traded midseason to the Canucks and responded with 16 points in as many games.

Sanderson's lifestyle of sex, drugs and rock and roll, had caught up to him in several ways, and was constantly threatening to derail his career. In 1972 he had jumped to the WHA (playing all of 8 games for the Philadelphia Blazers) at the lure of millions only to come crawling back to the NHL, broke and with his tail between his legs. After failing in Boston, New York and St. Louis, Sanderson rolled out his overused cliche of remerciments to the Vancouver organization. For the third time in as many seasons, he strolled out, "These people here has stuck their necks out for me, so it's up to me to do the job for them". Canucks GM Jake MIlford countered, "There's no question what a player like Sanderson can mean to a team. He can take us a long way if he feels like it". In the end, the cowboy would be Milford's guillotine - Sanderson did not make the team in 1977.

Bruins rookie defenseman, Mike Milbury was about to enbark on his second season with the Bruins. The book reveals that the future genial GM of the Islanders got a late start in hockey, only learning to skate for the first time at age 13. His progression, if you will, was somewhat rapid from there. After being recruited by the Collgate University football team, he then switched to the hockey program after two years. He played two years with the Bruins AHL affiliate where he was coached by Don Cherry.

The book details how Milbury worked hard on his game to remain an NHL regular.

"Coach Cherry told him he had to learn how to wheel and skate back into corners of the rink, and that was something he finally mastered in private workouts, getting his wife to shoot the puck past him into the end zone."

The book does not detail whether Mad Mike actually had to fend her off the puck or not.

The black and white picture featured at the top is a shot of Milbury, as Bruins coach, clubbing a fan with the same shoe he'd tossed at the coach seconds earlier. Believe me, I couldn't resist!

Grab a dusty old book sometime. You never know what you'll learn.

Grabovsky Grabbing Attention

The Canadiens have recently signed Belarusian prospect Mikhail Grabovsky to a three year contract and the swift and sleek winger is eliciting a ton of excitement amongst Habs fans. The highlight reel evidence surely speaks well for his offensive prowess. The juice on Grabovsky reads like a list of hockey terminology superlatives. He is listed as 5'11" and 174 lbs and different information sources lead one to believe he has grown and put on weight over the course of the last two seasons in which his numbers have also increased. The fact remains his toughness will be questioned until he proves otherwise. What is much less in doubt are his puck pursuit skills and his tenacity and speed. Time will tell whether he is the real deal or just another Oleg Petrov.

Here is how one site rates him.

A capable skater with good form and an above average top speed. He has very good acceleration and skating is definitely one of Grabovsky’s top strengths. He doesn’t hesitate to skate through traffic, but at times has trouble staying on his feet under pressure.He has as an array of shots in his arsenal including an above average wrist shot with a quick release. Grabovsky has a precise slap shot with a quick release, but needs more power. He doesn’t use the back hand as often. He doesn’t hesitate to shoot most of the time, but on some occasions still needs to shoot the puck even more instead of trying to make the perfect play. A gifted player with strong puckhandling skills, he is very effective in one on one situations with opposition players. He is imaginative with the puck and makes precise passes on the tape as he uses his linemates well. One of his favorite moves is to fake a shot and then make a quick feed to an open player. Grabovsky possesses an impressive vision of the ice, seeing plays developing and creating scoring chances for himself and his linemates. He has good hockey sense sound decisionmaking with the puck. Returns to help out in his own zone and at times is even deeper in the defensive zone than some of the defensemen. He works to harass the opposition but is not very effective in the corners and on the boards due to his average size. Although he is aggressive and works hard he has trouble handling bigger opponents. Enjoys and thrives in the open ice environment but has difficulties battling against physically more gifted opponents in the corners and on the boards. Mikhail Grabovsky is a talented scoring line forward who has speed, vision, skill and shooting ability as his primary strengths and his lack of size and ineffectiveness in physical play as his primary shortcomings.

To read the full profile on Grabovsky, click here.

Thursday, August 24, 2006


l to r: Carey Price, Guillaume Latendresse, Kyle Chipchura, Andrei Kostitsyn

The analyzing of a teams top prospects is often a slippery proposition. Many circumstances come into play regarding their initial evaluation, the learning curve of the progression they are making, and the potential it is believed they can achieve.

At the risk of seeming overly optimistic about the Montreal Canadiens prospects as a whole, it should be noted that what is most impressive about them is not so much the quality of the talent, but the sheer numbers of very good players in the pool.

This group has alot of upside. There is much talent, grit, and leadership amongst them. These future NHLer's will, in a matter of years, become important contributors to the Canadiens plans.

Other teams in the league such as Pittsburgh, Washinton, Anaheim, and Chicago may lay claim to having better rated top prospects, but the depth and numbers of which Montreal can boast of is to be admired.
Make no mistake, the Habs have no Evgeni Malkin's, Bobby Ryan's, or Jonathan Toews to offer. Of the players mentioned below, only goaltender Carey Price may be of the future superstar variety.

Having followed the team all my life, I can only recount one such period where the prospects were as thick. I can confidently state that this group comes the closest to the mid eighties when such bona fides as Roy, Chelios, Richer, Corson and Claude Lemieux were all within launching distance of the Habs lineup.

Again, unearthing the second coming of Roy or Chelios seems highly unlikely, even considering both those players were in fact second round draft choices.

In this listing, I have ranked the prospects below, not in order of potential, but in the order I believe they will appear in a Habs jersey to stay. More recently drafted players are obviously further away for the most part. Some as much as three to four years.

I have employed several databases as information sources regarding each prospect. Follow their backlinks for stats, ratings, and resumes on each. Keep in mind that certain sources are in continuous update mode.

1 - Kyle Chipchura: Evidently not the most talented player by any measure on this list. Chipchura's work ethic and leadership skills however, are second to none. He is often mentioned as the most NHL ready of all Habs prospects in regards to maturity and willingness to accept whatever role given him. Will never dominate, but can be extremely useful in defensive situations such as penalty killing and faceoffs. At best, this center is a potential 20 goal man. Chipchura captained Team Canada's entry in the last WJT. No small feat considering the team lacked star power yet still went undefeated. A good bet to make the team in 2006.

2 - Andrei Kostitsyn: This highly skilled right winger appeared in 12 games with the Canadiens last season, notching a pair of goals while giving fans a glimpse that is best described as a tease to what his talents hold. With the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Habs farm team, he demonstrated consistant progression in accentuating roles. With the right centerman, Kostitsym has 40 goal potential. With his defensive game needing attention, he will be brought along slowly. Kostitsyn is the most highly skilled and best skating prospect in the Habs fold.

3 - Alexei Emelin: May be this training camp's biggest surprise. Emelin (often mistakingly named Yemelin) is a pest of a defender. Though his size is still filling out, he has developed a reputation as a hard hitter with a Darius Kasparitus style game as his biggest asset. Though he has often been described as a stay at home type, his greatest strides this past season have involved an increased ability to clear his zone of the puck and leading breakout rushes. The evaluation on his upside continues to grow. Don't overlook him.

4 - Yann Danis: This late blooming goaltender saw action in a handful of games for the Canadiens last season and performed admirably. With Cristobal Huet, the goalie for now, and Carey Price touted as the Habs future puckstopper, Danis' stint with the big team may be brief. Having posted a shutout in his first ever game surely didn't hurt his stock value. A good insurance card should backup David Aebischer be dealt. Danis may well follow the career path of onetime Hab draft pick Tomas Vokoun.

5 -Guillaume Latendresse: If the Quebec media had it's way, this burly winger would be fast tracked to the Habs starting lineup come October. Reality and the NHL's need for complete player play however dictate a different story. Gui is pure gold in the offensive zone, with solid hits and a blistering shot. In his back end, he tends to become the invisible man. Health issues have made his past a checkered one. This could be dynamite or simply pissing on a fuse.

6 - Carey Price: Drafted high at #5 in 2005, the 6' 3" Price is a sizeable commodity. In the opinion of many, he will be Canada's WJT goalie this season, after just missing by inches last year. Price has a reputation of making weak teams competitive. He has yet to be evaluated fronting a stronger team. The high draft selection reflects his abilities as a goalie of size to be acrobatic yet remain square to most shooters. He looks to be a keeper big time, but his best assessment may come one year from now. Had an awesome showing at last seasons Habs camp. No less is expected of him come October.

7 - Sergei Kostitsyn: The younger brother of Andrei put up interesting stats for an OHL rookie this past year. In the regular season, he had 26-52-78 in 63 games while the playoff totals were 13-24-37 in only 19 games. Could Sergei be a draft pick dark horse? It remains to be seen. He did play on a somewhat stacked London Knights squad and seemed to be leader more than simply a follower. This season should be more determining. As a 19 year old leader on the team, much of what it accomplishes will be up to him. As with many kids his age, his overall game seems tobe the biggest concern.

8 - Corey Locke: This smooth and slick former Ottawa 67's center has had a rough adjustment to the AHL.. The Habs 4th round pick in 2003 has knocks on him due to his size ( 5' 9 ", 170 lbs ) but has made slow but steady progression on the farm. Locke is a former two time OHL MVP and one time Canadian Major Junior Player of the Year. His junior stats in 2003 were an awesome 63-88-151. This will be a make it or break it year for Locke on the Habs farm. If he does not achieve a point per game ratio, he will unfortunately be cut loose.

9 - Mikhail Grabovski: This Belarussian prospect may need refining in the minors in much the same way as Locke. This left winger made great strides last season while participating in the highest level of tournaments. He is a late bloomer that has many a critic raving. Some astute thinkers have him pencilled into the Habs fall roster come October. He is more likely hamilton bound with agreat season ahead of him.

10 - David Fischer: The Canadiens first pick (20th overall) in last seasons draft, has quite an upside according to scouts. It will not hurt his developement that he will likely be paired with Erik Johnson ( the St.Louis Blues 1 overall pick in last years draft ) at the University of Minnesota. Fischer's game is dscribed as a complete defenders bag of tricks and skills. This 18 yr old has a bright future as an NHLer ahead of him. His maturity and composure is impressive. May well be the real deal.

Other Habs prospects still on the radar include Duncan Milroy, recently signed Matt D'Agnosti, Mathieu Aubin, Ryan O'Byrne, and J.P. Cote.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Bob Gainey's Hot Potato

(RC Note - This article is a translation of an editorial by Le Journal de Montreal's Bertrand Raymong that appeared in this morning's paper. Bert always likes to put Gainey's shoes on and get in his head. He is in the HHOF as a longstanding and quite reputable journalist. Good or bad, he rarely minces his thoughts. Bottom line is, he always tells it like it is!)

When Bob Gainey declared in the most serious of tones, at seasons end, that no other city in the league could offer the same advantages and atmosphere as Montreal, that this particular ambience was exactly what players desired, and that it is wrong to assume french canadian hockey players want nothing to do with the pressure of calling the Bell center home, manypeople shook their head and wondered where he'd gotten this information.

Either the Canadiens front office suddenly became overtly naive or they were trying to put the fan base to sleep using hypnosis.

In my view, I'd suggest that Montreal certainly does have lots to offer, if not exactly everything to lure star players to make it their permanant address. There is however no shortage of french players who have no interest in playing in the pressure cooker that is Montreal.

Gainey was oblivious to it at the time, but J.P. Dumont, because of the statement made by the GM, would become his hot potato of the summertime.

In Dumont, the Canadiens could find that rare pearl of a native Montrealer, whose best friend is the Habs Steve Begin, and is prepared to go through a wall to play for the red, white, and blue. To top it off, Dumont is young enough to still be considered in the prime of his career.

There's not much debate that he isn't worth the almost three million per year salaray awarded him through arbitration, but that's another story altogether. That situation could have been easily resolved had Gainey stated that Dumont fit perfectly in the teams plans.

But alas, the GM's whose every decision is regarded as a genial strike of lightening by Habs brass, decided that it may be smarter to hang onto the remaining 2.5 million in cap for the purposes of a player who may fall into his lap at a later date. Just who that player could be is anybody's guess.


The Canadiens, who have four Quebec born players on the roster, presently feel they are not positioned to afford a fifth.

Whose fault is it then, that center Mike Ribeiro was given an exaggerated pay hike of $700,000 that no one seems able to justify?

Who went out and traded for, third line forward Mike Johnson at a cost of 1.9 million annually? Here's hoping Johnson can contribute his usual 20 goal production.

Who made Radek Bonk, a player who doesn't know the meaning of second effort, and who is of no interest to 29 other teams, a multi millionaire.

After allowing the Dumont camp sufficient time to find a taker on the open market, gainey had the teams financial adviser Julien Brisebois give a call to Dumont's agent Yves Archambeault.

This seems to have been done, without a doubt, to avoid questions regarding the Habs disinterest in the player who scored 20 goals in 54 games last season. The call it seems was not an inquisitive one. Brisebois made no inquiries into salary demands and in no way stated what the Canadiens were offering. It was a simple courtesy call designed to save face on a marketing front. Archambeault isn't quite sure why the Canadiens called. They have not called back. He stated that he "didn't believe the Canadiens were in a position to tender an offer. Kind of like someone who drives through a car lot without getting out of their car".

When asked of Archambeault if he thought the Canadiens seemed disinterested, the agent hesitatingly offered, "there are no qualms with the team. Steve Begin is also my client and we have also gotten on good with them. In this case, they are simply not in the running, point blank.


Dumont is quite capable of generation sparks on the power play. He is quick to jump on loose pucks in the slot and bury them. He can play right or left wing with ease. Former junior coach Gaston Therrien, who had Dumont for two years as a member of the Val-d' Or team suggest that the pressure would hardly bother him. To the contrary, he say, it would spur him on.

It's hard to assess Dumont's worth in a sport that has begun again to spend foolishly. All that I am sure of, is that the Canadiens are a better team with him in their lineup.

This hot potato will find a taker. The player and his agent were on the verge of signing on the dotted line with one team when another organization jumped into the mix. This GM has apparently called them no less than eight times over the weekend. Another team was asked that they may buy a little time before stepping up.

In order to make room for a player who suddenly comes on the market in this way, teams need to clear room at this point.

In Montreal, if they really wanted Dumont, they could have found some ingenius way of making it happen. For example, they could have put forth a lower offer for one year with promises to compensate for it at a later date thanks to the salary sacrifice made by the player If and only then, the trick hadn't worked, then the Canadiens could unequivocally state the their interest was in fact a strong one.

This season, if Dumont bursts into a 30 goal scorer somewhere else, it will be remembered that the Canadiens did little to try to attract him to the city.

At the end of next season, Gainey will be forced to come up with a new spin on why it is the Habs don't garner interest from star players.


When Dumont finally decides his future, he will surely opt for the team which best suits his needs. It will be a team that has room for him on the top two lines, where he can smoothly transfer his young family that has just added a newborn.

Dumont evidentally knows that the awarded 2.9 million will be out of reach for now. I'm sure he can live with that fact. Several teams have approached him, including his former Buffalo employers. He has also received a very good offer from the Detroit Red Wings. The agent confirmed that the red Wings are in the mix.

It must be beleived that the offer couldn't have been all that, Or Dumont would have pulled the red and white jersey over his shoulders already. Who would refuse to go to Detroit under such circumstance, and why?

Take A Picture Of This

Sometimes when I'm creating a post, I go to Google or Photobucket looking for just the right pic to accompany the story being worked on. Quite often I won't find exactly what I'm hoping to get. On occasion I'll reel in something that can change some of the context of a post. Sometimes pictures inspire a particular idea. Then there are those that I just hang onto waiting for inspiration or six Molsons to kick in.

Now's the time to clean out the closet, so to speak, and let these gems do their own talking!

Here's a few notes on where these ideas may have been going at one time or another.

Notice the bodily imprints on the blue car. Could this Volvo (?) belong to one Mr. Pronger?

That's Paris Hilton being so gayly groped by some wannabe Survivor Fruit Island contestant. Ingmar did some nice work trying to keep rich bitch heiress incognito but the Theo mask gives her away.

Paulina Gretzky - Collecting Dust. Geez, what can add to that? Is there a Tie Domi rap disc on the way?

The "O" jersey is an old Senators 1926 edition. If worn today, the letter would be misconstued as a number.

A Stanley Cup made on a lathe. From a Leafs fan to the troops. I'd love to know the story behind this shot! reminded me of former Leaf, Randy Wood, who owned the NHL's best hockey player / porn star name ever!

A different retro Canucks jersey. The sleeve V's looked nicer on the home whites.

The Leafs new road duds? An outtake from "Deliverance"? allkidding aside, it's Zanstrom's Mom.

Those banners! I must have attended 50 differents events at the old Forum and the Bell center. Eyes are always drawn to the ceiling by those. Not a Conference Champion banner in sight!

A Tragically Hip jersey - cool! Bill Derlago disappeared...

"So ya think it was pure luck and bad calls that won us the cup huh? Well fu..."

Hockey Enemy # 1

Former hockey coach and agent, David Frost, who was said to be the intended target of a bizarre murder-for-hire scheme, has been arrested and charged with sexual exploitation and assault. I think many poeple saw this coming as ongoing investigations into Frost's background had authorities on alert for quite some time.

Frost was arrested and charged with exploitation and assault.The incidents are alleged to have occurred in two Ontario communities where Frost once worked in minor and junior hockey as a coach. An investigation has been under way for more than two years, after complaints were made to police.
The incidents are alleged to have occurred between 1995 and 2001 in the Deseronto and Napanee area, but police won't say if they are connected to a hockey team.

Police say there were seven victims: Four male and three female, between the ages of 14 and 16 at the time of the incidents.

For the rest of this report, follow this link.

This story sickens and repulses me to no end. As a father of a youngster playing hockey, I beleive no amount of precaution is too much for leagues taking measures to ensure this doesn't ever happen again. With this country's justice system, it's hardly likely. It should be pretty much a concrete fact that sexual predators cannot be rehabilitated. No evidence has ever been proven true to the contrary. Beleiving that medication for these people is a cure is the biggest falacy I know of.

I'm no psychologist when it comes to these matters, but it has always been my understanding that these predators were once abused themselves. It seems to cause some sort arrested development in their minds with regard to youthful desires. As they grow into the bodies of adults these longings do not move forward. As an adult they can easily manipulate certain vulnerable youth, and this nightmare turns into viscious cycle. Trying to understand and comprehend it, is one thing - dealing with it however, is an altogether different matter.

The bleeding hearts (usually lawyers and judges) will always argue that a predator's background and childhood had everything to do with how they turned out. They use this to bargain down sentences, as if it's done in anyone's best interest! There is no denying the fact their background plays part, but it doesn't help solve the issue.

As these crimes rob children of their youth and kill their innocence, I feel a punishment of life in prison is the only cure for society. In my eyes, there has been a murder committed. The body may still breathe, but the soul is damaged usually beyond repair. Preventing the deviants from reoffending in society is the only matter at hand. The only protection society can have, is the complete and terminal incarceration of the individuals committing these despicable acts. Until a more cut and dried approach is taken, society will continue to bare the brunt of the burden in this issue.

As long as these mental deviants are returned to society, youth sports leagues around the world must also be on guard to filter all applications for volunteers with extremely tough background checks.

The world has known these types - from Michael Jackson to Graham James - both of whom are still at large in the world. There will surely come a time when both reoffend.

Having been around hockey dressing rooms for years, I've seen how just the notion of such things can alter what should be a fun time.

In my third year of coaching, I drafted a young fellow who'd been involved in an incident of this nature two years prior. I wasn't privy to the private details the player and family endured. I was told that fortunately, it wasn't an extreme case of abuse. However minor, it did affect this individual. The perpetrator had unfortunately done worse with others. He was banned for life by the hockey association and eventually found guilty of his crimes. He served a total of five years punishment. Last time I saw him, he worked at a corner store in the neighborhood for a month until it was revealed publicly what he'd done. Where he went off to from there, no one really knows. Not too comforting is it?

The player in question took to arriving at games fully dressed from helmet to skates. He walked to and from his fathers car with skate guards on. After his father requested to be in the room before and after games, I offered him a trainers position so the other kids on the team wouldn't wonder why the usual no parent code was being broken for one player. In the year I coached, he barely spoke a word to anyone. It was one of the saddest things I ever witnessed. He was great at the game, but he just couldn't seem to get any fun out of it.
When my daughter was in her fourth year of hockey, an aquaintence of mine, who'd watched her play many times asked if he could come to a game. This man had dealt with some emotional and mental issues of his own for a time, manic depression being one of them. I was not altogether eager to have him come by for the 7 a.m. game. I never deduced that there were any issues revolving around children and abuse. To this day, there has never been anything on him of the sort. I have known him pretty well for years and he had been a trainer and coaching assitant for me also.

On the morning of this particular game, I had conveniently forgotten to pick him up. As he had known several parents on the team from his asociation with me, he wasn't an uncommon sight around the hallways and dressing rooms of the team. When I arrived at the arena that morning, there he was in the dressing room taking pictures of a few kids in different stages of putting their equipement. I flipped and lost it and hustled him out of there as quickly as possible. Later in the day, I paid him a visit and confescated his roll of film. In the end, there was nothing harmful to be found - two pictures of one girl tying her skates. I had gotten there just in time, possibly.

The whole scene caused the team to instill rules of dressing room conduct. The girls aged 8 and 9 were encouraged to come to arena with adequate underclothing. No fathers were allowed inside until only skates needed to be tied. Mothers and sisters became the only relatives allowed to assist in the dressing of the kids. Smart moves. I was completely humiliated and embarrased by the whole ordeal. The fact that nothing was found in his camera was irrelevant in my eyes. The team had acted properly. It was beyond me how someone with some coaching experience could be so blatantly stupid, and I told him so.

In the years since that day, I have heard a few rumblings about his views on children and it has made me feel uneasy. Again, there has never been anything solid on him.

Four times in that span, he has, without asking, used me as a reference to get back into coaching. I'm always glad I'm around to take those calls. I don't mince my feelings. Four times he was not given a call back.

For a link to a previous post on Mike Danton click here. Keep in mind it is somewhat tongue in cheek.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

THE OVERALL STANDINGS - The Only Count That Matters

Here are the current totals of Stanley Cup wins per franchise since the trophy was first awarded in the 1892-92 season.

In 113 years, 32 different teams clubs have won the trophy. You may notice that the overall totals do not quite add up. The reason for this, is that in the trophy's inaugural years, it was a challange cup. Once a team had won it, they often had to defend it. Most did, but upon occasion, it resulted in two teams winning it in the same season.

Below the first 32 teams listing is a total of cups won per city in the trophy's history.

24 - Montreal Canadiens
11 - Toronto Maple Leafs
10 - Detroit Red Wings
7 - Ottawa Senators*
5 - Edmonton Oilers
5 - Boston Bruins
5 - Montreal Victorias
4 - New York Rangers
4 - New York Islanders
4 - Ottawa Silver Seven
4 - Montreal AAA
3 - New Jersey Devils
3 - Chicago Black Hawks
3 - Montreal Wanderers
3 - Winnipeg Victorias
2 - Colorado Avalanche
2 - Pittsburgh Penguins
2 - Philadelphia Flyers
2 - Montreal Maroons
2 - Quebec Bulldogs
2 - Montreal Shamrocks
1 - Carolina Hurricanes
1 - Tampa Bay Lightening
1 - Dallas Stars
1 - Calgary Flames
1 - Toronto St. Pats**
1 - Toronto Arenas**
1 - Victoria Cougars
1 - Seattle Metropolitans***
1 - Vancouver Millionaires
1 - Toronto Blueshirts
1 - Kenora Thistles

* no relation to franchise formed in 1992
** both the St. Pats and Arenas would evolve in the Toronto Maple Leafs
*** In 1918-19 no Stanley Cup was awarded. The Seattle Metopolitans were tied with the Montreal Canadiens, with each team having won two games and tying one ( 0-0 ). The death of the Canadiens Joe Hall (due to the Spanish Influenza flu), cancelled the final. After five games, Seattle had outscored Montreal 19-10.

Stanley Cups by city

40 - Montreal (Canadiens, Victorias, AAA, Wanderers, Maroons, Shamrocks)
14 - Toronto (Maple Leafs, St.Pats, Arenas, Blueshirts)
11 - Ottawa (Senators, Silver Seven)
10 - Detroit (Red Wings)
8 - New York (Rangers, Islanders)


It's August 22, 2006 - my 14th wedding anniversary - and I'm thinking, "What better time to talk about the Stanley Cup".

Hey, it's what this blog pertains to be about. The focal point of "Eyes On The Prize" is the pursuit of the Cup, and what it takes to win it.

Why you ask? Why is it, that it's all about Lord Stanley's mug? Why is it all that only truly matters?

My simple answer to that is, that it is one of the most beautiful things in life I've seen. The Cup is a sight I will never get over. After my wife, on this day 14 years ago (and everyday since), and the two gorgeous girls she's given me, that 33 lb trophy shines a beauty few things in life can compare to.

The Stanley Cup is the hardest championship trophy to win, and keep, in all professional sports.

With that in mind, this will be one of the first of many in a series of articles in EOTP to focus on the winners of the Cup itself.

My greatest personal hockey moment involved coaching a Bantam team to a triple overtime championship win. I was never able to compete for the Stanley Cup. Nonetheless, my name is on it, (surname in 96, proper name too many times to list).

With that thought at heart, I thought it appropraiate to begin with highlighting those who have gone long without winning the Cup.

Between 1968 and 1988, only five teams have gotten to engrave their names on the silverware. Since then, 10 more teams have added their names. With a salary cap in place, and parity easier to achieve, winnng it will no longer be the domain of dynasties.

On that regard, here are the longest standings droughts, as of 2006.

In reverse order, this is the suffering in years. The date in brackets refers to the last time a particular team made the finals, win or lose.

0 - Carolina Hurricanes
2 - Tampa Bay Lightening (W-2004)
3 - New Jersey Devils (W-2003)
4 - Detroit Red Wings (W -2002)
5 - Colorado Avalanche (W-2001)
6 - Columbus Blue Jackets
7 - Dallas Stars (W-1999, L-2000)
8 - Nashville Predators
12 - New York Rangers (W-1994)
12 - Anaheim Ducks (L-2003)
12- Florida Panthers (L-1996)
13 - Montreal Canadiens (W-1993)
14 - Pittsburgh Penguins (W-1992)
15 - San Jose Sharks
16 - Edmonton Oilers (W-1990, L-2006)
17 - Calgary Flames (W1989, L-2004)
23 - New York Islanders (W-1983, L1984)
27 - Phoenix Coyotes*
31 - Philadelphia Flyers (W-1975, L-1997)
32 - Washington Capitals (L-1998)
34 - Boston Bruins (W-1972, L-1990)
34 - Atlanta Flames/Thrashers**
36 - Buffalo Sabres (L-1999)
36 - Vancouver Canucks (L-1994)
38 - Los Angeles Kings (L-1993)
38 - St.Louis Blues (L-1970)
38 - Minnesota North Stars/Wild**
39 - Toronto Maple Leafs (W-1967)
45 - Chicago Black Hawks (W1961, L-1992)
79 - Ottawa Senators W-1927)***

* Phoenix includes initial 17 seasons as Winnipeg Jets
** Atlanta and Minnesota refers to date of city's original franchises - Hey, a drought's a frought!
** Ottawa Senators retained original franchise's name from 1927. Years in between constitute a drought in my eyes!

Sunday, August 20, 2006


The picture on the left is Craven Morehead, Leaf fan since for ever. He went on a hunger strike in May of 1993 in protest of the Leafs then 26 years drought between Cups. Sensing that his Leafs would soon topple the L.A. Kings and proceed to dismantle the Canadiens in the final, he added himself to the Buds worthy cause figuring he would not be left to die in vain. He survived on water and bird droppings to find out 12 months later that the New York Rangers ended their 40 year curse. It gave him some hope. He added worms to his diet and took on a little strength, but took a turn for the worse when the Red Wings achieved the 95 final. By the time the Devils had swept the Wings, Craven was despondant. His friends (Okay, three pidgeons and two seagulls) had tried to persuade him to give it up, telling him it was only a game. It was too late. By October of the next season, he was goners. That's when the crows got to him. Thankfully, they had no appetite for the Darryl Sittler retro jersey!

The second picture is 39 years old Bower Stanley, named after the Leafs great goalie of the sixties. He was born a week after the Leafs last cup was won. Tired of waiting for the Leafs to make his dreams come true, he switched allegiances as a 7 year old, and became a Flyers fan. Next year, Philadelphia won the Cup.

Is there a lesson in this? Yes, you guessed it - eating bird droppings will kill you!

Here's hoping that the master of photo clip art, the one and only Ingmar W. Bergman, can crop Mr. Morehead's bony picture into a proper logo for a Waiting For Stanley jersey. The suggested jersey # of Mr. Bower's would look more than appropriate on the reverse. Good luck men!

THE "KILLER" - Remembering Doug Gimour

If I were to make a list of my all time favorite hockey players, up there with Gretzky, Lafleur and Orr, I would surely place soon to be Hall Of Famer, Doug Gilmour.

Dougie was as passionate a player of the game as any I'd ever witnessed. Raised in a Habs household, my father regaled me growing up with tales of Rocket Richard and his piercing stare. In my generation, I'd only seen those eyes in two players. One was Mark Messier, the other was Gilmour. He was as fierce a competitor as they came.

Doug played his junior hockey with my hometown Cornwall Royals, and I must have seen him play a good 50 times.

As a 17 yr old Gilmour arrived at the Royals camp. He wasn't given much chance of making the team. Described as a solid defensive player with excellent offensive aptitudes, at 5' 9" and a soaking wet 150 lbs, he was thought to be in the wrong league.

Due to injuries, Gilmour was limited to 35 points in 51 games, in his initial junior season, which saw the Royals surprise all hockey experts by winning their second straight Memorial Cup. He followed his rookie season up with totals of 46-73-119. He was drafted by the St.Louis Blues in the 7th round, 134th overall. NHL GM's still thought his size to be a concern. Gilmour was returned to the Royals for a final season of junior.

As a 19 yr old, Gilmour added two inches to his height, and began to tip the scales nearer to 170 lbs. The Royals had transferred from the QMLHL to the tougher and more defensive OHL. The change had no effect on Gilmour, as he registered league leading totals of 70-107-177 on route to becoming the OHL player of the year. Along the way, he recorded a 55 game point scoring streak, a canadian major junior record broken only by Mario Lemieux two seasons later.

At training camp with the Blues in 1983, Gilmour was about to spurn their best offer and play in Germany, when injuries conspired to up the Blues offers. Gilmour signed and made the team.

Years later, Blues coach at the time, Jacques Demers, recalled his first meeting with Dougie. During training camp, he had invited the rookie out to a one on one lunch to get to know his player. Seated in the restaurant for only minutes, the brash youngster, got up and went to the bar, and returned with a brew in each hand for himself and his coach. Demers was stunned and somewhat delighted by the nerve of this green rookie to do such an unabashed thing, having just met his coach. Demers instinctively knew, Gilmour was a player who could walk the walk.

Gilmour went on to the career we all know, a Cup in Calgary in 1989, five seasons in Toronto and then on to New Jersey, Chicago, Buffalo, and finally Montreal.

Gilmour played his best hockey as a Leaf. He was alternately a pesky defensive forward, fearless in his checking role and the offensive focal point of an improving team. He set a franchise record with 127 points in his first full season with Toronto in 1992-93. He became only the second Leaf to register 100 points in a season, leading the team within a game of the Stanley Cup finals. He placed second in playoff scoring and led the league with 25 assists. He finished second to Mario Lemieux in the race for the league's MVP and won the Selke Trophy as the top defensive forward, a remarkable achievement for a player with such offensive numbers.

Gilmour had 111 points the next season, and once again led the Leafs to the semifinals in the playoffs. Gilmour became team captain in 1994-95 before the shortened season, and remained a popular player in Toronto even as the team began to struggle. The Leafs went into rebuilding mode midway through the 1996-97 season, and Gilmour was sent to the Devils with Dave Ellett for Steve Sullivan, Jason Smith, and Alyn McCauley. He spent one full season with the Devils and was signed as a UFA by Chicago in 1998 for a whopping 18M over 3 years.

Before his third Blackhawks season, Gilmour returned to Cornwall to participate in an alumni reunion for the Royals. My best friend Shawn called me at 8 p.m. that night telling me to get my tail down to the corner bar. It was July 7th, 2000, and lo and behold, Doug Gilmour was there shooting pool.

I grabbed a stack of hockey cards and ran right over. It wasn't a crowded night at the bar, and we got a chance to chat with Dougie about a bunch of stuff. We talked to him about his time playing in Cornwall, and joked that the Memorial Cup win allowed me to go easy on him for undoing my Habs in '89.

He began talking about coaching junior players one day (owning a franchise) and how he would like to end his playing career. He admitted to a desire of finishing off his playing days in Otttawa or Montreal. I told everybody I knew about this. Not many figured it likely.

That season, the Hawks dealt him to Buffalo. A year and a half later, he became a free agent and signed with the Canadiens.

Gilmour was, for all intents and purposes, the Habs captain that season. With Saku Koivu missing the entire regular season with stomach cancer, Gilmour wore the "A" on his jersey and guided an injury depleted Canadiens team into the playoffs. Koivu had promised Gilmour that if the team made the post season he would be there. The "Killer" said Koivu's rehad and quick return to play was the most courageous hockey story he had ever witnessed.

Gilmour then resigned on as a free agent with the Canadiens and went on to play one more season with the Habs before he was dealt back to Toronto at the trading deadline in 2003.

In his first game back with the Leafs, Gilmour injured his knee and his season and career came to an abrupt end.

In the summer of 2003, Gilmour had booked icetime to rehab his knee injury and showed up to find it cancelled by Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr. It was the GM's way of showing the Leafs had no more interest in Gilmour.

To amend the situation, the Leafs honoured him with "Doug Gilmour Night" in a game against Edmonton, completely ignoring the fact that his team of the past two seasons, Montreal, were in town to play the Leafs only days later. No one was impressed!

Over the course of his distinguished playing career, Gilmour registered 1414 points on the strength of 450 goals and 964 assists.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Dubious, The Incompetant, and the Outright Judgementally Impaired ! - 5 General (mis) Managers worth Forgetting

5 - Rejean (Pinote) Houle - Montreal: Until Garth Snow's resume is up, Houle will likely stand as the most unqualified of the unqualified. Essentially, Houle was a puppet of president/control maniac Ronald Corey's puritan whims. Corey thought the Canadiens image a saintly thing, not recognizing the fact that the Cup is usually won by the most unsavory group of antagonizing bastards. Corey has heave-hoed the likes of Chelios, Corson, Claude Lemieux and finally Patrick Roy when their public personas become detrimental to the presidents preferred squeaky clean Hab dream. Once Houle took a whopping three days worth of upping antes on Roy he shuffled him off to Colorado, basically handing them the Cup. The bad deals snowballed from there to give the Habs their worst decade in a hundred year history. I could go way beyond this, but it's torture! Lesson: Owners and Presidents should never mingle with the running of teams.

4 - Gord Stellick - Toronto: Managed to make a last placed team worse through a series of debungles that included trading Russ Courtnall to Montreal for soon to be corpse, John Kordic. Stellick was the ultimate organizational kiss-ass, starting in the Ballard years as a photo copy boy and working his way up the cracks and crevises of the Leafs front offices. His tenure was mercifully short, lasting less than a season. His few acts, however, kept the team sunk for a few more years. Lesson: Your best brown noser is your worst GM candidate.

3 - Craig (Belly) Button - Flames: Button's buffoonery still looms large over the spectre of the Flames future. He rid the Flames talent pool of draft picks youngsters the likes of J.F. Giguere (his 1st move), Martin St.Louis, and Marc Savard for a book of matches. He then burned himself by signing Jarret Stoll five minutes too late, allowing him to re-enter the draft and become and Oiler. He then mistook Roman Turek for Vladislav Tretiak and rewarded him with a contract of noose like proportions. Button went on to be the head scout for the Leafs. Lesson: If his shoes are brown and his pants are blue - he don't have a clue!

2 - Mike O'Connell - Bruins: This Bruins GM is easily displeased and changes his vision like disposable contacts. In six seasons he waded through five coaches, including himself. He came on board with three time Jack Adams Trophy winner Pat Burns at the helm only to meddle with his coaching style and derail the team from the get-go. His solution: Replace Burns with a coach of identical tactics, teachings and theory - Mike Keenan. To compound ridicule, he lays out bonus for Keenan to achieve ( a + .500 record), which he does, but fires him for missing the playoffs. He then triplicates his original error by getting another coach of whom bastard is the highest qualification. Robbie Ftorek lasts a season and a half before the GM cans him also. Ftorek had become known as a coach who cannot take 1st place teams beyond the first round. Read the resume Mike! He then hires the successful but inexperienced Mike Sullivan over his own Peter Laviolette. Sullivan duplicates Ftorek's career downturns by blowing a 3-1 series lead over a gagged and bound Habs squad. O'Connell then blows mucho big bucks on a cast of unwanted yesterdays heroes such as Bryan Leetch, Martin Lapointe, and Alexei Zhamnov and the teams collective playoff hopes go wayward by December. To rectify that matter, he concludes he must trade his only superstar and rebuild. This, after fussing over salary with Thornton all summer. Big Joe thanks him for the change of address by winning the Art Ross with San Jose - the only time in history a traded player has done so. Brilliant move. His final act of desperate desolution to save his own ass is the firing of the seemingly competant Sullivan. In a move reminiscant of his entire tenure, O'Connell announces his termination just as the Bruins see a final flicker of playoff hopes, being 8 points out with all of ten games remaining. To compound the shroud of his mysterious ways, the GM states that the coach, although fired, will remain in place until the seasons end. Lesson: Being decisive and patient are prerequisits of any GM hiring.

1 - Mike Milbury - NY Islanders: Of course, who else but Mad Mike in the #1 spot. Milbury is to hockey knowledge what axe murderers are to tender love. This master of disasters resume of fuckups reads longer than a Rita McNeil grocery list. He has traded away, over the years, Luongo, Bertuzzi, McCabe, Chara, and Spezza, to name but the most obvious and infamous. At the draft, he has passed over Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik for Rick Dipietro when he already had Luongo. He has given up too early on Raffi Torres, Eric Brewer, and Tim Connolly. Ironically Milbury has done some good work. Inexplicably he has undone most of it himself. After missing the playoffs for seven straight seasons, he finds a coach in Peter Laviolette who gives him back to back playoff spots. As a reward - he fires him! Within two years Laviolette's name is on the Stanley Cup! In his final act as man of all messes for owner Charles Wang, Milbury assists in choosing his successor and the teams next coach - not letting the new GM do his own thinking - that would be foolish! As testament to his complete lack of hockey wherewithall, this Gilligan of smooth sailling lands two of hockey best known exiles in GM Neil Smith and the presumably blacklisted backstabber Ted Nolan as coach. Not only are duo unlikely, they are also completely incompatible. Just as Smith begins to piece together what appears to be a solid lineup - he is fired 40 days into his contract. One can only assume that the vision threw off the entire organization. Lesson: Pick one!

Cops and Robbers, Kids being Kids, a Jersey, and Something Cheesy

There are weird stories and then there are hoodoo voodoo tales, those of the variety filled with such coincidental occurances, it makes one truly believe that at times there is a greater karma at work in our lives.

The mention of Mario Lemieux at the Waiting for Stanley blog got me thinking about such a weirdness that all came together a few months back. This story is right up Tapeleg's alley, as it has to do with a particular jersey my daughter received as a gift. Given all the coincidental twists this story has, I wouldn't be surprised to find out that Tapeleg and the giver of this gift have done business somewhere back in time.

There are a few back threads to unravelling this tale. Blindsided events back thru time that made everything oddly connect one particular morning. I'm rarely at a lost for words (insert joke here!), but I was on this day.

It starts when I met Thom Racine about 15 years ago. He is a well respected police officer with the Cornwall Police department. I know Thom just a little but he is very well known and much liked about town. He is quite active within the community doing a wide variety of activities. His father, Moe "The Toe" Racine was an excellent place kicker for the Ottawa Rough Riders in the 1960's. His brother Bruce was an NHL goalie for a time. Thom has done play by play on radio for the Cornwall Royals, been the house announcer for the Comets, hosted a sports card show on the community TV channel, and participated in dozens of other activities involving sport and community events. Among his most treasured passions is one wicked hockey memorabilia collection, with an accent on jerseys.

I didn't know this much about him when he knocked on my door all those years ago. He was at my home on a matter of police business. Back then I was heavily into the hockey card collecting and trading hobby and had a prized possesion stolen from right under my nose. My Mario Lemieux Rookie Card.

I had a neighbour with whom I exchanged cards with on a daily basis, and often she would send her son to pick up and deliver. One day, this boy was over to collect some trades, when the phone rang calling me to another room. Apparently this was when the boy lifted my card. I only noticed days later and was very hesistant to approach a friend to suggest her son had stolen from me. I managed to ease into the situation and find out that it was in fact he who'd stolen it. My friend had had enough of her sons sticky finger antics and wanted the police called. How Thom taught the boy a lesson without charging him was quite unique. He made him collate in numerical order a complete vendors case of 1990-91 O-Pee-Chee Hockey Cards. A set of 396 into likely 40 or so sets. I'm sure he never wanted to see, let alone touch, another hockey card for quite a long while after.

This was the circumstances under which I got to know Thom. Over the years we would run into each other periodically and reminisce over that day.

At some point, Thom began making the rounds of primary schools with parts of his memorabilia collection. It was always an entertaining day for the kids, who got to check out some cool hockey stuff and connect with a local officer. He stopped by my daughter's school two years ago for one such day, and the school principal decided it would be a neat tie-in to have prizes and a trivia contest.

Thom complied by bringing out 3 members of the Cornwall Colts team for autographs and questions. I found out all of this much later. At the time I had no idea that Thom was even involved. My daughter had only refered to him as "some guy with lots of stuff".

A contest was part of the fun day. All the questions had either a local sports angle to them or be somehow connected to the Habs, Leafs, or Sens, thus simplifying the kids search for correct answers. The principal was Kennedy McDonald, younger brother of former NHLer Blair McDonald. Blair was the beneficiary of some smooth Gretzky passes in 1979-80, accounting for 48 goals. That was question #1. Kennedy did not want anyone to get all the questions correct, so he loaded a trick answer to one of them, so no one would score 25 out of 25. Parents were of course allowed to help. Since no one would get all the right answers the first prize would be drawn from a hat filled with all 55 participants.

Yours truly, saw to it that the hat had but two names in it!

Yes I got all 25 right. I knew 19 of the answers off hand, and did net searches on the rest. Both my daughters scored perfect. As far as the tricky trivia questions goes, it had to do with which year the Ottawa Senators won their first Stanley Cup in the NHL. Most answered the first year that they'd won it, in the NHA instead.

What ensued was the stuff of a kids comedy show. My oldest daughter badly wanted the signed Colts jersey, my youngest had no idea what was of any value. She had her young eyes on the collections of McDonald's NHL replica trophies. The principal drew her name to go first (my oldest didn't get to go second) and she went straight for the shiney little plastic toys. My oldest was fuming, "Daddy would have wanted that sweater!" "Would have" is right. Today,I wouldn't trade it for this annecdote. My daughter never quite got over it though.

I still collect memorabilia odds and ends. At my Kraft workplace this past winter, the company was running a national promo called "Skate With The Greats". We have a small store on my way out of the plant, and they had two large cardboard cutouts of players featured in the promo along with booklets of contest rules and product tie ins. One immediatly caught my eye. It was one of Dale Hawerchuk and Darryl Sittler. I went in to put my name on it, but it had already been taken. A second one featuring Steve Shutt and Yvan Cournoyer became my possession three months later when the promo ended.

It was so huge that I had to put both the back and front seats down in the car just to haul it away.

I was planning to give it to a friend of mine for whom I'd gotten others for, such as a Don Cherry cutout, a Gretzky and a Muller/Gilmour silhouette. He didn't want it.

His apartment was now too small. I placed it in the darkness of friend restaurant owners office in order to spook him into keeping it. He didn't want it.

He offered to find a home for it for me, and kept it in his office to wake himself up in fright each morning and it sat there for weeks. I offered to take it off his hands but he really wanted to be the one to give it away. He had somebody in mind. They didn't want.

All said "Thanks, but no thanks" - it was way too huge to place anywhere!

When the Canadiens played the Hurricanes in game six of these past playoffs, I watched the game on the big screen at this restaurant and went to get the cutout. I thought that placing it next to our table would provide good luck to my Habs, with Shutt and Cournoyer looking on. I got the night shift manager and we snuck quietly into the darkened office and there it was - gone! Needless to say the Habs were eliminated that night.

I found my owner friend two days later and asked who finally had found room for the cardboard monolith. No it wasn't the kid that ripped off my Lemieux RC, but close. It was someone named McDonald - who giving it to their Dad! Hmmm!

Round about this time, a senior sports writer in the city had passed away. He was well known about town also and had once written a book on the Cornwall Royals called "The Frozen Stage". He had a small sports column in a local weekly and when he passed, I saw myself filling his shoes. I applied, was given some consideration, but the job in the end landed in the hands of one Thom Racine.

After he had published a few columns, I used his e-mail address to contact and congratulate him. I asked him a question or two, and after all these years he remembered me from the stolen card incident. We were e-mailing each other for a bit after that as he was on holidays at the time. One day he sent me some awesome pics from his basement collection. I showed them to my oldest daughter who immediatly said " That's the guy who was at school with the Colts jersey I didn't win!" I explained to her how I knew him as she told me that she'd seen all that memorabilia at her school.

Next day when I e-mailed Thom and told him all this, he laughed and said he remembered that day, and those two kids, very clearly. He thought the story of how we missed out on the jersey was funny as hell and agreed it was more special than the sweater itself. We were throwing trivia questions back and forth at each other for a bit when suddenly he was no longer responding.

A half hour later there is a knock at my door. There is Thom and he's pulling a jersey out of a bag. "Here", he said, "give this to your daughter. Maybe she won't be so sad anymore about losing the other one."

At first I thought he was pulling out a Colts jersey, but instead he hands me this beauty:

Funniest thing was, he had no idea I worked at Kraft. I asked where he'd gotten it and he said it was from a Kraft plant manager who was a friend. I asked if he worked at the same location as I did, and he said that he worked out of Montreal. He asked me not to tell anyone about it (Shhh! It's just between us!) As it was way too large for my daughter for now, I wore it to work the very next day.

When I arrived at work I found I was scheduled for a one hour meeting/seminar prior to heading off to my line. I walked into the makeshift classroom office when a gentleman walks in, puts his books down on the desk, takes one look at me and says, "Hey cool sweater, I just gave mine away to a dear friend last week!"

Thursday, August 17, 2006


I once read somewhere that pre-season predictions were for arrogant idiots! Well I'd say that qualifies me in the month of August with a case of 12 within arms reach! We'll see what happens, I guess. I have to say I felt pretty good after making these picks, and i know damn well it wasn't just the beer.

Still, I have never finished last in a hockey pool draft. Pro line still kills me on a daily basis. The best prediction I ever made was in the purchase of hockey cards. I spent the summer of 1992 buying every Teemu Selanne RC I could find at 0.75 cents each. I got 37! By March I was selling them off at ten bucks a crack to people I'd bought them from. They all wanted to know what it is was I knew that they didn't. Truth was, I pegged him as a 35 goal man. I was way off in a good way!

With these crystal ball visions filtered through the brown glass of a Molson's bottle, keep in mind how tight playoff races usually are. A fifth place team may be a single point from second place. A golf course bound team could be a shootout goal away from saving a coaches ass.

For comparison sake, I placed my picks between ones from the Hockey News and Zanstorm at "Waiting For Stanley". My picks are justified by the comments in italics on the right. For good measure, or ridicule, I added in my divisional final standings, a top 10 scoring list, and some award winners just to up the ante. I imagine I'll get blasted for much of it. Bring it on! The truth is a long 9 months away. Enjoy!

THN / RC / Zanstorm

Carolina/Carolina/Ottawa....Canes lost little of their nucleus
Ottawa/Montreal/Carolina....Habs are much deeper than you'd expect
NY Rangers/New Jersey/Philadelphia....Finished on a tear last year and have made few changes
New Jersey/Buffalo/Buffalo....Had they been able to keep a couple of RFA's, I'd have picked them for first
Buffalo/Ottawa/Montreal....A 100 pt season, maybe a win away from top spot
Philadelphia/NY Rangers/Florida...Jagr will continue to dominate and lead
Montreal/Tampa Bay/.Boston....Great top two lines and better goaltending
Atlanta/Philadelphia/NY Rangers....Too much depth to miss playoffs but they're slow and getting old fast
Tampa Bay/Toronto/New Jersey...Some good upgrades but not enough in the right places
Toronto/Boston/Tampa Bay....Better overall balance but still a bit too thin
Florida/Atlanta/Atlanta....Lack of depth, a #1 center and net questions keep them out
Boston/Pittsburgh/Toronto....Improved but not there yet
Pittsburgh/NY Islanders/NY Islanders....If coach Nolan can light up Yashin, this rank will change
NY Islanders/Washington/Pittsburgh.... Competitive team nightly remains a one man show
Washington/ Florida/Washington...Some good aging vets but no depth and no direction
Anaheim/San Jose/Anaheim.....The best 1-2-3 punch at center with Thornton, Marleau and Bell
Nashville/Calgary/Calgary....Same great defense with some added scoring punch
Calgary/Detroit/Nashville...Still a solid nucleus, Detroit will suffer some but finish high in the weak Central
San Jose/Anaheim/San Jose...Intense leadership and youth stockpile has them missing 1st overall by a win
Dallas/Edmonton/Dallas....Lessons learned in playoffs pay dividends. A very fast skating team
Detroit/Phoenix/Detroit...Made some of the best off season additions and upgraded D immensely
Minnesota/Minnesota/Colorado...Added scoring punch to an already dound defensive squad
Columbus/Los Angeles/Edmonton...Coach who turns teams around, sound organizational commitment
Phoenix/Dallas/Vancouver...Lindros cancer throws all plans out of wack. Close but no cigar
Los Angeles/Vancouver/Minnesota....A good second half under Vigneault won't be enough
Vancouver/Colorado/Los Angeles.... Losses of Blake and Tanguay are too much to recover from
Edmonton/Nashville/Phoenix....Lost way too much in the off season. Vokoun a question mark
Colorado/St.Louis/St. Louis...Got better, got older, still miles away
Chicago/Chicago/Columbus...Made great steps sideways - still going in circles
St. Louis/Columbus/Chicago... Sacrificed goaltending for punch with backchecking. Nice #1 pick coming


Northeast - Mon, Buf, Ott, Tor, Bos
Atlantic - NJ, NYR, Phi, Pit, NYI
Southeast - Car, TB, Atl, Was, Flo
Central - Det, Nas, St.L, Chi, Clb
Pacific - SJ, Ana, LA, Pho, Dal
Northwest - Cal, Edm, Min, Van, Col

TOP 10 Scorers

1- Thornton
2 - Jagr
3 - Crosby*
4 - Ovechkin
5 - Cheechoo
6 - Marleau
7 - Iginla*
8 - Richards
9 - Alfredsson
10 - Spezza

AWARDS ( 1-2-3- finish)

Hart Trophy - Thornton/Huet*/Neidermayer
Art Ross - Thornton/ Jagr/ Crosby
Calder - Malkin/ Wolski/O'Sullivan*
Norris - Phaneuf*Neidermayer/ Pronger
Vezina - Brodeur/ Huet*/ Kiprusoff
Byng - Kariya/Sakic/ Whofuckincares
Selke - Iginla*/Richards/Madden
Smythe - Thornton*/ Cheechoo*/Marleau*
Jennings - Kiprusoff/Brodeur/ Huet*
Adams - Laviolette/ Carbonneau*/Wilson

So there you have it, a fool out on a limb. There are always surprises. I suggest a top 10 breakout players of the year. Good news is, if I fall flat on my face, I have a case of Molson to break my fall. Bring this season on, damnit!
* Go ahead make fun of me!