INTERMISSION - THE FANS SOUND OFF

 

I really enjoy getting e-mail from hockey and sports fans alike. What’s most satisfying is when some of you actually agree with what I have to say, which seems to be most of the time. As we get right into the thick of things in the NHL’s regular season, I want to share with you some of the questions and comments I’ve received over the past year. Thanks to all of you who send me e-mail on a regular basis (you know who you are), it is much appreciated and in many cases gives me the inspiration to continue writing. Primarily for security reasons, and secondarily to maintain column flow, identities will remain anonymous.

Many of you have asked about the title of the column “Puckin’ Around”, the what, the how, the why. Quite frankly, I think it’s self-explanatory.

I received this from a fan who had something to say about my last article entitled “Short Shifts”, particularly the last paragraph:

“I’ll bet you’d change that last paragraph if you could - the ‘lanche are one of the hottest teams in the league right now (w/out Joey Sakic!!) and they aren’t showing any signs of slowing down (w/ the exception of last nights loss to the Canucks). Great article, keep 'em coming!!!”

First of all thank you for the praise, I appreciate it. I initially wrote the column just as Colorado was just getting comfortably into their winning streak, and went on to agree on how Patrick Roy always seems to turn it up come playoff time. If you look at the last paragraph of the article, particularly the last line: “I'm predicting Colorado and Carolina will fall short in the end, UNLESS Roy can overcome the taunts of fans due to those Stanley Cup Rings he has behind his ears." Of course if you read between the lines you’ll see I was being both satirical and realistic. I know the Avalanche have great stretch runs and I expect this year to be no different. Roy doesn’t have to face Jeremy Roenick too much anymore either, which is a definite plus. Of course, the Avalanche will benefit from the return of their star captain Joe Sakic, and only time will tell if they have what it takes to make some noise in the West or if it really is time for Roy to hang up his skates.

Who stands the best chance in the Stanley Cup playoffs for 2003? Can Detroit repeat?

Detroit can, and may very well repeat. However, the Western Conference has become so strong this year it’s hard to guarantee the Red Wings a Final series berth. Last year there just wasn’t anybody who could skate with them (with the possible exception Colorado and Vancouver). Seeing the Red Wings go all the way have prompted most teams to add more depth in offense and defense, and as a result, most teams are ready for the Red Wings. Having said that, as I write this, the Red Wings lead their division by four points, place third in the Conference, and are only five points away from first overall. With Steve Yzerman back in their lineup, the stretch run will be very interesting, but the other teams in the conference are strong as well. Dallas, Vancouver, St. Louis and Colorado all stand a good chance in the West if they can get their act together. Pick Anaheim and Nashville as dark horses as they could sneak in the back door and make some noise early. It’s going to be very interesting to say the least.

In the East, there seems to be no denying the Ottawa Senators. They have challenged Dallas all season long for first overall in the NHL, and seem poised to clinch their first ever Eastern Conference title, along with a possible President’s Trophy. It’s kind of ironic for a financially struggling team to be poised to win it all once the playoffs roll around. I would not at all be surprised to see the Sens silence their critics this postseason and come out on top. I for one will be first in line at the Corel Centre to say I told you so. For all you non believers, I ask you to watch highlights from the Dallas-Ottawa game last week and tell me if you honestly believe this wouldn’t be the Stanley Cup final series to end all final series! Their main knock has been they aren’t tough enough, and for that they brought in Vaclav Varada from Buffalo, and rumors have them going after Brad May. Factor in Chris Neil, “the sheriff” Shane Hnidy, and 6’9” Zdeno Chara, and this team is making a statement they won’t be pushed around anymore. Question for Derian Hatcher, did you get the license plate number of the Volvo who hit you in last week’s game? For those who missed it, it was #11, Daniel Alfredsson. Go figure. Of course, the Senators will most likely have to contend with the likes of New Jersey, Philadelphia, and their biggest nemesis of all, Toronto, in order to make their first trip to the finals in their modern history. The key for Ottawa will be stay healthy. Look for one of either the New York Islanders, the New York Rangers or even the Montreal Canadians to attempt a Cinderella story of their own. Only problem is, they have to qualify first!

And with that, bring on the stretch drive!!

I have this for you from a fan living in an undisclosed area of Quebec (just so you Habs fans don’t get any ideas!)

Here's a wicked question about Montreal. Since Pat Burns left in 1992, how many coaches have the Montreal Canadiens fired, and out of those, how many of them have since been hired by other teams? Should tell you a little bit about their coaching choices! Unfortunately, Claude Julien isn't doing much better. Disappointing.

Well the answer to the question is four: Jacques Demers, Mario Tremblay, Alain Vigneault and Michel Therien. Out of those, only Demers was hired again, after his two abysmal seasons in Tampa Bay in 1998 & 1999. Of course, Pat Burns has gone on to coach two more original six teams, as well as the Devils, as Demers has gone on to be a hockey analyst for the RDS network. I’m not 100% sure we can entirely blame coaching for what has transpired in Montreal over the past few years. What did they have, like close to 550 man games lost to injury in one season alone? Not to mention the daily media scrutiny the players and management are under. I for one always think back to when Patrick Roy was still playing for the Habs and a particular game they played against Detroit where they were down something like 8-0 before the coach finally decided to pull him. An image of Roy walking straight up to the president where he told him how much he liked his hairdo is uppermost in my mind (actually that wasn’t exactly what he said, but you get my point). Next thing we knew Roy was off to Colorado and the Avalanche went on the win the Stanley Cup. To me this started the downward spiral which seemed to have been coming back around with last season’s rally behind Saku Koivu, but now the team seems to have come back to earth in a hurry. Time will tell if they can squeak into the postseason again. I say it’s not going to happen.

Our friend from Quebec further goes on to ask me a mind blowing question which had me checking the hockey archives for the better part of a Sunday afternoon. I don’t know if he actually knew the answer and was testing my hockey knowledge or if he was just wondering if he’d thought of a rare unheard of statistic. Think about this one for a minute before you scroll down to the answer, because it’s a good one!

We all know defensemen such as Ray Bourque and Bobby Orr were able to lead and win scoring titles with the best of forwards, but here’s an interesting stat. Andy Delmore of the Nashville Predators currently has 18 goals, 13 assists, and is on pace to break the 20 goal plateau by season’s end. If he does this, he may very well end up with more goals than assists, which is unheard of for defensemen. Has this ever happened before, where a defenseman scores 20+ goals in a season and ends up with more goals than assists?

Now think about that one for a minute.

I would have thought the highest scoring defensemen of all time would have accomplished the feat, but it didn’t happen. Then I looked up statistics for some of the most prolific defensemen of all time. Bourque, Orr, Paul Coffey, the list goes on. None of them ever scored more goals than assists in a season. It’s a feat that has happened a few times in the minor leagues, but has only happened eight times, ever.

The most recent players to do it were Adrian Aucoin and Sergei Gonchar in the 1998-99 season. It hasn't been done since. Aucoin scored 23 goals 11 assists and Gonchar scored 21 goals 10 assists.

Phil Bourque actually did it twice with Pittsburgh in 1989-90, 22 goals 17 assists and in 1991-92 20 goals and 14 assists.

Carol Vadnais did it for the Oakland Seals in 1969-70 with 24 goals and 20 assists. Vadnais played 19 NHL Seasons with Boston, New York Rangers, Oakland, Montreal, and New Jersey.

Ebbie Goodfellow did it in the 1930-31 season with the Detroit Falcons (who would change their name to the Red Wings 2 years later). He scored 25 goals and 23 assists in only 44 games. Goodfellow played 14 NHL seasons, all of them in Detroit.

Aubrey "Dit" Clapper played twenty seasons in the Original Six NHL with the Boston Bruins. He managed the feat two years in a row and again four seasons later. In 1929-30 he scored an amazing 41 goals and 20 assists in only 44 games, and in 1930-31 scored 22 goals 8 assists. In 1934-35, his third time to do it, he scored 21 goals 16 assists. I would call him the king of the magical feat since he did it in less games and with more archaic equipment (or lack thereof!!)

Ken Houston played 10 NHL Seasons and did it twice and tied once. In 1977-78 he scored 22 goals 16 assists in 74 games with the Atlanta Flames, then with the same Flames in Calgary in the 1981-82 season tied, as he got 22 goals 22 assists. He would outdo himself the next season as a member of the Washington Capitals as he would score 25 goals 14 assists in 71 games.

And then there was Doug Mohns who played twenty-three NHL Seasons, all with Chicago, and did the feat in 1968-69. In 65 games he scored 22 goals and 19 assists.

I told you it was an interesting stat, one which doesn’t get mentioned a whole lot, if at all. Good luck to Delmore as he tries to become just the ninth defenseman in NHL history to do it, all the while trying to help his team make it into the playoffs for the first time ever. And thanks to our friend from Quebec who is a regular contributor to my inbox. I look forward to more of his insight in the future!

And finally, a few of you have asked about some of the videos I mentioned in one of my pre-season articles where I talked about how to combat hockey withdrawal. I’ve had questions about Don Cherry videos, video games, and most notably, the “Boys On The Bus” video which was made in 1987 after the Edmonton Oilers won their third Stanley Cup. It documents the 1986-87 season, and how the team came together to win another championship after everyone was saying the two previous championships were flukes. It was kind of how everyone said the Oilers would never win the cup again after Gretzky left. We all know what happened next. It’s a very good video if you’re a hockey fan, and perfect for the Oilers fan in your life. I actually found it at a garage sale if you can believe that, but have also seen it posted on Ebay and at amazon.com. You can also order it from the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto www.hhof.com. As for the Don Cherry videos, they are distributed by Molstar Entertainment, and can be found virtually anywhere movies are sold. They also are available at the hall of fame. I hope this helps those few of you who have asked me time and time again how to get your hands on these great videos. A couple more recommendations I have are “Gold Rush 2002”, all about Team Canada’s triumph in Salt Lake City, and “Canada Team of the Century 1972”, every game from the 1972 Summit Series restored for your viewing pleasure. Bear in mind, the quality of the broadcasts at the time were not the best due to technology available at the time, but they’ve been restored to a point where they are least viewable. As for movies, “Slap Shot” and “Slap Shot 2” are great if you’ve never seen them, and for you action buffs, get your hands on “Sudden Death” with Jean-Claude Van Damme.  In one scene, Van Damme impersonates a goalie and makes one of the best breakaway saves I’ve ever seen. You can find these at your local video store.

It truly is gratifying to know there are hockey fans who enjoy the game as much as I do and are out there reading this, and I thank each and every one of you for taking time out of your day to give me a chance to share my insight. Writing Puckin’ Around has been and continues to be a lot of fun and I can assure you I have more coming, so stay tuned!

The trading deadline is coming fast and furious and we’ll be there to analyze all the wheeling and dealing. Until then, last one off the ice has to wash all the jerseys!


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