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June 22, 2018

Hockey Hall of Fame: The Two Martys

The Hockey Hall of Fame meets on Monday to decide who will be honoured in the induction class of 2018.

Among first year eligible players, there are only two who will get serious consideration. Martin Brodeur is a guaranteed lock to get the call. Martin St. Louis has a strong case though he may or may not get in on the first try.

Other first year eligible players (essentially players who last played a professional game three seasons ago) include Sergei Gonchar, Martin Rucinsky, Slava Kozlov, Kimmo Timonen, Brendan Morrow, Eric Brewer, Scott Hannan and Evgeni Nabokov. All had strong careers and are likely to be honoured at their various national levels. But the likelihood of any of them making the Hockey Hall of Fame is remote.

So let's look at the two Martys.

Martin Brodeur

When the selection committee discusses the name Martin Brodeur, it will be a short session. He will be a unanimous honouree in less than five minutes.

After all, the man has three Stanley Cups, two Olympic gold medals, four Vezina trophies and holds pretty much every conceivable NHL record for goalies imaginable. Most games played, wins, shutouts, even goals scored, both in regular season and in playoffs, and both in terms of career and individual seasons.

Everyone in hockey knew that Martin Brodeur would be honoured by the Hockey Hall of Fame since about 2002.

The NHL is so confident they have already the New Jersey Devils playing in Toronto on the Saturday before induction night (November 12th), also known as the NHL's annual Hall of Fame game. Usually the team most associated with the highest profile inductee plays in Toronto that night, since Toronto is the home of the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Martin St. Louis

In in 1,134 career regular season games, St. Louis scored 391 goals, 642 assists for 1,033 points. The 40-year-old won the Stanley Cup and Hart Memorial Trophy with the Lightning in 2004. He is a two-time Art Ross Trophy winner and three-time recipient of the Lady Byng Memorial Trophy. He also won an Olympic gold medal in 2014.

Not bad for a player who was never drafted by any National Hockey League team.

I suspect Martin St. Louis gets in, though I'm not sure if he will be made to wait. The Hall of Fame is unintentionally created two levels of enshrinement - those who get immediately - aka the game's true greats - and those who get in eventually - aka those who some believe are on a lower tier.

Was St. Louis any better than Jeremy Roenick, Alex Mogilny, Theo Fleury, Daniel Alfredsson, Saku Koivu, Rod Brind'Amour or Petr Bondra? Because those guys, plus goalies like Tom Barrasso, Mike Richter and Mike Vernon, are the holdovers who are also looking for one of the three remaining spots to join Brodeur in the HHOF class of 2018.

I would say yes, St. Louis' career was stronger than any of those players. And since this is a relatively weak induction list, chances are strong he will be included in 2018.

The Holdovers

I just mentioned the list of holdovers still hoping to get the phone call from the Hockey Hall of Fame. I would be perfectly fine if none of those skaters make it into the Hall of Fame, though I suspect Daniel Alfredsson might have the strongest case. I am definitely one who believes the bar for skaters is set far too low as it is already.

I do believe the bar for goaltenders is set a bit too high. I believe both Barrasso and Richter in particular should get in. But it won't be this year. This will be Brodeur's night.

The Women

The Hall of Fame can induct as many as two women, and it is in separate category than the men altogether.

The selection committee has shown a lack of knowledge of the women's game over the years, failing to induct anyone some years. A few days ago I wrote up a list of women the Hall should be considering.

I think Jennifer Botterill and particularly Jayna Hefford have the strongest cases. The Hall of Fame likes to have a little symmetry when it does up these induction classes. Like Brodeur, both won Olympic gold medals in Salt Lake.

The Builders

The Builders category is always tough to predict. It's basically a lifetime achievement award, and there is no waiting period per se. An honouree could continue to be working in hockey and still get inducted. They wait too long in some cases, as they posthumously inducted Pat Burns and Pat Quinn in recent years.

One day Fran Rider has to be honoured for her work building the women's game, and Viktor Tikhonov for his developing of hockey in Russia. Given Igor Larionov's presence on the current selection committee, do not expect Tikhonov to get inducted any time soon.

June 21, 2018

McDavid vs Crosby

I have often said Sidney Crosby is a player of destiny. He is at his most brilliant when the spotlight is at it's brightest, scoring the defining moment goals at the Winter Classic, in the Stanley Cup finals, or in back to back gold medal games. .

From an early age he was pegged as "the Next One." And like a true generational talent (I hate how overused that term is right now) such as Wayne Gretzky or Bobby Orr before him, he is a prodigy who not only fulfilled his promise, but has had one of the greatest careers in hockey history.

Fast forward to the next generational talent. Sorry Leafs fans, I don't mean Auston Matthews. Yeah, he's good. Very good. But the only true generational talent right now is Connor McDavid. He is the best of his generation. He's already the best in the league.

How good is McDavid? Good enough to win the Lindsay Award as the best player in the league as voted by his peers for the second year in a row. Good enough that since he broke into the league three years ago I've been saying that not only is already a better player than Crosby almost immediately, but the most offensively gift player I've seen since Wayne Gretzky. Now that's saying something, as there have been A LOT of really amazing players in the last 30 years.

But my fear is that McDavid will not get a chance to have the career that Crosby did, or all of the other greats. Will McDavid be the next Marcel Dionne instead of next Gretzky?

What separated Dionne and Gretzky was championship success. Dionne never had the supporting cast to get anywhere. All the game's true greats - Gretzky, Orr, Richard, Howe, Crosby - were surrounded by a great group that pushed them over the top.

Oilers fans must understand my fear right now. On the same night that McDavid won the Lindsay, they watched former Oiler Taylor Hall win the Hart Trophy as the League's MVP. The Hart remains the most highly regarded individual trophy in hockey. Oilers fans could be watching McDavid and Hall together, except the Oilers traded Hall for a depth defenseman, and then unwisely used the salary cap space to overpay for a slow thug named Milan Lucic.

Oilers fans don't need to be reminded of all the other shortcomings in their roster. Aside from Leon Draisaitl, is there anyone on the current Oilers roster who can really help McDavid achieve his destiny? Their goaltending is weak. Their blue line is thin. The best player in the game can only take you so far - even one as good as McDavid.

Then you throw in the fact that McDavid may never get to have the international accolades others have achieved. Will McDavid ever get the opportunity to play in the Olympics? The Olympics played a huge role in defining Crosby's career, and Alexander Ovechkin's. And if the NHL does not return to the Olympics, does anyone really care about the mismanaged World Cup anymore?

I really want to see Connor McDavid fulfill his destiny to become one of the game's all time greats. I really do believe he is already better than Crosby, and there is some Gretzky in him - the only player I've ever said that about. I sincerely hope he gets the supporting cast he needs to achieve greatness.

June 20, 2018

Brian Burke, Bobby Orr And More Exciting New Hockey Books Coming

I recently learned Brian Burke is working on a book. I was instantly excited as Burke as one of the most compelling, entertaining and polarizing men in the game. The book promises to be a hit.

I took a look on Amazon's listings to try and get a hint of when to expect the book, but no word so far. We are likely waiting for the fall of 2019.

As many of you know I'm something of a hockey book freak. I have something like 1400 of them somewhere. I've even read a few of them.

So while scrolling through Amazon's listings I found a few more exciting upcoming titles.

Kevin Shea is back with what promises to be a fantastic new title for the Hockey Hall of Fame. It is the Hall's 75th anniversary of existence, and the 25th anniversary of their relocation to the historic Bank of Montreal building in downtown Toronto. To celebrate, Shea looks at the history of the Hall itself, as well as its honoured members and some of famed memorabilia.

Every Washington Capitals fan will want this title, as their first Stanley Cup championship is chronicled from the pages of The Washington Post.

Similarly, fans of the Vegas Golden Knights can relive their historic inaugural season as seen through the eyes of the Las Vegas Sun.

Bobby Orr is back with another autobiography, of sorts. I always enjoy these photo essay styled books and it is certain to be a hit.

155 pages on a 2 minute penalty way back in 1979. Alright, it is perhaps the most famous penalty of all time, if only in that certainly changed Don Cherry's life forever.

June 19, 2018

Florence Schelling Retires

One of the greatest hockey players retired this month, but barely anyone noticed.

While most of the hockey world was following the Stanley Cup final and now the NHL draft, free agency, awards and the Ottawa Senators scandal, Florence Schelling retired.

Schelling is arguably the greatest female goaltender of all time, and almost certainly the greatest female hockey player from outside of North America.

The Zurich born goalie had been a part of the Swiss national women's hockey team since the age of 14. At the 2004 World Championship the kid posted a 4-0 shutout against Japan and posted 30 saves in a 2-1 loss to Russia. She never looked back. 

Two years later she debuted at the Olympics. The 16 year old represented Switzerland at the Torino games. It was the first of four Olympic experiences for Schelling.

By the age of 18 she came to America on a scholarship to play at Northeastern University in Boston, posting 49 wins and 18 shutouts in 98 career games.

The highlight of her career came in 2014 as she spectacularly backstopped Switzerland to the bronze medal at the Sochi Olympics. She was named a tournament all star, tournament MVP and the tournament's best goaltender.

Schelling, who played professionally in womens leagues in Canada and Europe as well as a men's league in Switzerland, also played in 10 world championships. In fact she retires as the all time leader in wins, games played, tournaments played and assists by a goaltender.

She is also the all time leader by female goaltenders for wins at the Olympics.

June 18, 2018

Top Female Candidates For Hockey Hall of Fame

The Hockey Hall of Fame has been inducting female hockey players since 2010, yet somehow only five players have been so honoured:

  • 2010 - Angela James (Canada)
  • 2010 - Cammi Granato (USA)
  • 2013 - Geraldine Heaney (Canada)
  • 2015 - Angela Ruggeiro (USA)
  • 2017 - Danielle Goyette (Canada)
The same group of NHL-centric hockey experts decides the women's fate, even though they are not usually all that knowledgeable on the women's game. There should be a separate committee for the women, but that's for another article. 

Let's look at some of the top female candidates for enshrinement in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Jennifer Botterill
Eligible Since: 2014
NCAA Stats: 113GP - 157G - 183A - 340P / 3.01PPG
Team Canada Stats: 61GP - 30G - 44A - 74P / 1.21PPG
N/CWHL Stats: 164GP - 128G - 144A - 308P / 1.88PPG
Awards: Olympic Silver (1998), Olympic Gold (2002, 06, 10) World Championship Gold (1999, 200, 1, 04, 07), World Championship Silver (2005, 08, 09)
Jennifer Botterill was a key member of every team she played on and was always an offensive leader.  She averaged 3 points per game in the NCAA, almost 2 points per game in league play, and over a point in international play. As a star player for Harvard University, she was the only player to win the Patty Kazmaier Award, NCAA women’s hockey MVP, twice.
Jayna Hefford
Eligible Since: 2017
CIS Stats: 12GP - 23G - 11A - 34P / 2.83PPG
Team Canada Stats: 86GP - 53G - 60A - 113P / 1.31PPG
N/CWHL Stats: 329GP - 352G - 284A - 636P / 1.93PPG
Awards: World Championship Gold (1997, 99, 2000, 01, 04, 07, 12), Olympic Silver (1998), Olympic Gold (2002, 06, 10, 14), World Championship Silver (2005, 08, 09, 11, 13)
With Hayley Wickenheiser and Florence Schelling not yet eligible for consideration, Jayna Hefford has probably the strongest resume among the ladies.  A player for the Brampton Thunder since 1998, Hefford has been a mainstay in the original NWHL, the CWHL and Hockey Canada. Her all-time points total in the original NWHL is almost 300 points above her nearest competitor. Add in her international career which was highlighted with one of the most famous goals in Canadian Olympic hockey history, and it's amazing she was inducted last year.
Karyn Bye-Dietz
Eligible Since: 2005
Team USA Stats: 51GP - 47G - 37A - 84P / 1.65PPG
Awards: World Championships Silver (1992, 94, 97, 99, 2000, 01), Olympic Gold (1998), Olympic Silver (2002), IIHF Hall of Fame (2011), USA Hockey Hall of Fame (2014)
An IIHF Hall of Fame member since 2011, Bye-Dietz was an early star for USA Hockey’s women’s team, sharing the scoring lead with Hall of Famer Cammi Granato in 1998 as they won the gold medal. She has been working with the Minnesota Wild in retirement. 
Manon Rheaume
Eligible Since: 2012
IIHF Stats: 30GP - 1.65GAA - .903sv%
Awards: World Championship Gold (1992, 94), Olympic Silver (1998)
Most well known for playing pre-season games with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 1992/93, Rheaume spent her life trying to play at the highest tier possible. She became the first woman to play Major Junior hockey, playing a game with the QMJHL’s Trois-Rivières Draveurs. After exhibition games with the Lightning Rheaume played 24 games for several IHL teams, and stopped playing in minor men’s leagues in 1997, but continued to play in exhibition games and tended net for women’s teams, going to the Clarkson Cup with Minnesota in 2009 before falling to Montreal.
Kim Martin Hasson
Eligible Since: 2018
NCAA Stats: 99GP - 1.53GAA - 0.942sv%
Team Sweden Stats: 129GP - 2.65GAA - 0.917sv%
Awards: Olympic Bronze (2002), World Championship Bronze (2005, 07), Swedish player of the year (2004), Olympic Silver (2006), Olympic Best Goaltender (2006), NCAA Championship (2008), SDHL Champion (2014, 2015)
Kim Martin Hasson was the goalie for the Swedish women’s Olympic team that won silver in 2006, the only European women‘s hockey team to win an Olympic medal better than bronze. Four years earlier, at the age of 16, she led Sweden to their first bronze medal. 
Maria Rooth
Eligible Since: 2013
NCAA Stats: 124GP - 119G - 113A - 132Pts / 1.07 PPG
Team Sweden Stats: 181GP - 80G - 83A - 166Pts / 0.92 PPG
Awards: NCAA Championship (2001, 02, 03), Olympic Bronze (2002), World Championship Bronze (2005, 07), Swedish player of the year (2005), Olympic Silver (2006), SDHL Champion (2009)
Maria Rooth was the top scorer for Sweden’s “Mirakel” team in 2006, leading her team in both goals and assists. She still holds the University of Minnesota-Duluth‘s all-time record for goals scored. She’s already a member of the IIHF Hall of Fame.

June 17, 2018

The Days Ahead

Hockey returns to the news for the next couple of weeks with several important dates.

The NHL Draft (June 22/23rd) is first and foremost, though fans do love the opening of free agency (July 1st), too. But in reality the draft is they key. It will take several years after the fact, but that is the day Stanley Cups are won. Name the last big ticket free agent signing who was a core member of a Stanley Cup champion. It's tough isn't it? But if drafted and developed properly teams are set through the draft.

A curious thing happens on June 19th as the first ever NHL gaming world championships final will be played. Video games are huge business, though I don't totally understand the NHL's direct involvement in it all. It will be interesting to see where this goes over the next number of years.

The NHL awards will go on Wednesday, June 20th. Even with the show again in Vegas, it is a hit-and-miss "spectacle." I tend to just note what happened rather than endure it. But with so many trophies featuring so many worthy candidates, there is more interest this year than others for me.

A big date for me is June 26th when the Hockey Hall of Fames meets to decide the induction class of 2018. Martin Brodeur is a certainty. Martin St. Louis is another strong first year candidate, but I suspect he might be made to wait. That opens the door for someone who has been waiting a while already like Daniel Alfredsson, Alexander Mogilny, and Jeremy Roenick. On the female side Cassie Campbell Pascal and Manon Rheaume are overdue. I wonder if there is any chance they just waive the waiting period for Hayley Wickenheiser?

June 08, 2018

Washington Capitals Win 2018 Stanley Cup

One day shy of the 46th anniversary of the franchise being granted entry into the National Hockey League, the Washington Capitals have finally won the Stanley Cup.

The Capitals' greatest player, Alexander Ovechkin, has waited 13 years. That's but a fraction of the suffering the long time Caps fans have endured, but for a superstar like Ovie, it is an eternity.

The term superstar is used far too liberally these days, but Ovechkin truly is just that. Seven times he has led the NHL in goal scoring. Three times he was named as MVP. Eleven times he has been named to the NHL's First or Second All Star team, including twice in 2013 when he somehow made it as a left wing and again as a right wing. He is by far the most dominant goal scorer of the generation, and the greatest Russian player of all time.

And now he is a Stanley Cup MVP and, most importantly, a Stanley Cup champion.

His resume is just too strong to be denied acceptance as exactly what he is - one of the true all time greats. Now there can be no disputing it.

While in so many ways this championship is about Ovechkin, let's not forget the amazing supporting cast. Nicklas Backstrom and Evgeny Kuznetsov are unbelievable talents. Tom Wilson became a true impact player. T.J. Oshie, Lars Eller, John Carlson, and of course goaltender Braden Holtby took their turns in the spotlight, while players like Brett Connolly, Devante Smith-Pelley and Jay Beagle all earned our respect as playoff warriors.

Congratulations to the Washington Capitals, deserving winners of the 2018 Stanley Cup!

June 05, 2018


With a 3-1 series lead, it is safe to say the Washington Capitals have a stranglehold on the Stanley Cup final. Vegas faces adversity not only for the first time in these playoffs, but seemingly for the first time in franchise history.

The schedule maker and, more specifically, the long break between series really did Vegas in. 

Vegas defeated Winnipeg in five games, while Washington took a full seven games to defeat Tampa Bay. But then the NHL not only inexcusably eliminated Vegas' earned advantage by delaying game one of the Stanley Cup to May 28th, but punished Vegas for advancing to the final so efficiently.

The May 28th start gave Washington 5 days off, giving them ample time to rest and recover. Not only did that cancel Vegas' advantage, but punished them unfairly. Vegas ended up with an unheard of nine days off between games, just enough time to lose their mojo that has taken them so far in these playoffs.

Because of this it should have been quite predictable that Vegas would be behind the eight ball early in this series. With a bit more puck-luck early on, game four could have had a much different story. Perhaps the thunderous Vegas home crowd will help them get untracked for game five and force a game six. The Vegas Golden Knights have never lost four games in a row all season.

Regardless, it sure looks like Washington has a stranglehold on the Stanley Cup right now. After all, Teams that hold a 3-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Final own an all-time series record of 32-1 (97.0%) since the Final went to the best-of-seven format in 1939. The lone exception came in 1942, when the Maple Leafs rallied from a 3-0 deficit to defeat the Red Wings in seven games.

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