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Devante Smith-Pelly and the NHL's Waiver Wire

Devante Smith-Pelly cleared waivers on Thursday. Within 30 minutes of that the Washington Capitals announced that they had acquired Carl Hagelin from Los Angeles to take Smith-Pelly's roster spot, and Smith-Pelly was demoted to the minor leagues.

Less than a year ago Smith-Pelly was a strong member of the Capitals 2018 Stanley Cup championship even if from a bottom six role. While he has never emerged as much of an offensive threat like he was in junior, he really impressed as a strong forechecking winger who crashed the net. It paid off, too, scoring seven post-season goals including goals in each of games 3, 4 and 5 in the Stanley Cup final vs. the Vegas Golden Knights.

Fast forward to today and Smith-Pelly isn't even in the league any more. But I'm betting not for long.

There must be a contender out there that would like to add the grizzled playoff veteran before the trade deadline on Monday. Or maybe the Capitals make another move, or god forbid suffer an injury elsewh…
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Charlie Coyle Traded to Boston

Charlie Coyle always reminded me of Jim Sandlak.

For those who do not recall Sandlak, he was the 1985 World Juniors star who became a top pick of the Vancouver Canucks. So big they nicknamed him "House," Sandlak never lived up to expectations. But Vancouver refused to trade him. Why? Because they made arguably the biggest blunder in franchise history when they rushed a similar prospect out the door named Cam Neely. The Canucks always feared Sandlak would blossom somewhere else, making them look foolish again.

Coyle has long been a puzzle in Minnesota. In seven seasons the giant winger has been a solid player, but somehow always left you wanting more. It probably didn't help that the Wild traded Brent Burns to San Jose for a package including Coyle, who at that time was still a top amateur prospect.

I suspect Minnesota hung on to Coyle longer than they could have/should have simply because of Burns explosive success with the Sharks. Coyle had - and continues to have - so …

Questioning Bobby Orr's Status As Greatest Defenseman Of All Time

Hockey fans love to debate about pretty much anything. One of the most contentious debates is who is the greatest hockey player of all time? General consensus has Wayne Gretzky, Gordie Howe, Bobby Orr and Mario Lemieux as the top four, in varying orders.
But one order that almost never varies is the ranking of the greatest defensemen. It is not open for debate at all, actually. Bobby Orr outdistances everyone else - Raymond Bourque, Nicklas Lidstrom, Doug Harvey, etc - by such a wide margin that to question it is not only sacrilegious but gets you dismissed in the hockey community almost immediately.
Unless you are Stan Fischler that is. 
In 1983 Fischler wrote his epic hockey book Hockey's 100: A Personal Ranking of the Best Players In Hockey History. Many refer to this text as the original attempt to list hockey's absolute best in order. Bobby Orr ranks 13th, behind defensemen Eddie Shore (2nd), Red Kelly (3rd - he did play the 2nd half of his career as a centre), and Doug …

Ivan Was Not Terrible

There was an old-time New York Ranger press agent by the name of Herb Goren. It was his job to get the Rangers in the newspapers and capture a part of the entertainment pie in Manhattan. He would often hype up players in attempts to make them household names in the Big Apple.

Goren quickly dubbed Ivan Irwin as Ivan the Terrible. However it was never quite determined whether Goren was referring to his short temper and rugged style of play, or his lack of talent!

When Irwin was on the top of his game, the tall, balding defenseman was a sensational bodychecker, and played with a meanstreak that made other coaches envious. But when he wasn't on his game, Irwin was exploited by his poor skating abilities. Faster players would take their chances on getting creamed, knowing that if they could get the extra step on the less-than-mobile Irwin they could be in home free on the Rangers net.

Irwin was originally property of the Montreal Canadiens. After playing just 4 games in Montreal, he w…

Goal Getter: Mike Gartner

When you think of great goal scorers, one often forgets the name Mike Gartner. But year after year after year Gartner has racked up an overwhelming amount of goals that places him near the top.

Very quietly, Mike Gartner scored 708 career goals. Only Phil Esposito (717), Marcel Dionne (731), Brett Hull (741), Gordie Howe (801) and Wayne Gretzky (894) have scored more often. Mike Gartner scored more career goals than the much flashier and much more celebrated Mario Lemieux, Mark Messier, Steve Yzerman, Bobby Hull, Guy Lafleur and Mike Bossy.

Yet somehow Mike Gartner doesn't usually get the same accolades as all the pre-mentioned superstars. In 1997, when The Hockey News assembled a panel to determine the top 100 hockey players in NHL history, Gartner ranked 89th.

How is this so? Unlike his statistical peers Gartner never has had an explosive season of 60 or 70 goals that ranks among the great seasons in NHL history. In fact, Gartner only reached the 50 goal plateau on one occasion (19…

Shoebox Memories: Ron Hextall

As much as I cheered on Wayne Gretzky's Oilers in the playoffs back in the 1980s, an intriguing anti-hero emerged in 1987 and instantly became another hero of mine - Ron Hextall.

He was certainly a different hero for me, my first "bad guy" I really enjoyed. Maybe I was getting rebellious as I entered my teenage years, but until then everything was back and white, good and bad. I had never cheered for a bad guy before.

Hexy was bad. Slashing at Kent Nilsson. Later he would attack Chris Chelios and brawl with Felix Potvin.

Hextall, at least in those first few years, was fascinating to watch. You never knew when his temper would erupt like a volcano. But I do not think it was all the antics that really attracted me to Hextall's game. Above all of that, he was spectacular goalie to watch, and then there was his revolutionary puck handling, which led to his historic goal scoring.

Here's more on the career of Ron Hextall or watch this tribute YouTube video (set to bad…

American Beauty: Neal Broten

Minnesota is known as "The State of Hockey." With notoriously frigid winters and countless frozen lakes, ponds and streams to play on, hockey was as natural to Minnesotans as it was for Canadians. For the longest time, hockey in the United States was more or less affiliated with Minnesota. The life of smaller towns revolved around the rinks and ponds. High school hockey has as much interest as the pro game. And the college rivalries are as intense as any pro rivalry.

Like many families in Roseau, Minnesota, hockey was a birthright for the Broten family. Neal and his brothers Aaron and Paul would all be state high school and college stars, and go onto the National Hockey League.

But few would argue that Neal was not the best. In fact, in a state that has produced more hockey superstars than virtually every other state in the country, most consider Neal to be the best player the state has ever produced.

Neal had been skating and playing hockey since as long as he could remember. …