SIX MONDAY MUSINGS OVER A MAMMOTH WEEKEND
1. Not much more time for the likes of captain Ryan O’Reilly to be blaming himself for the genuine blues in St. Louis. You know where the finger points next. The Blues better win tonight in Boston or Barry Trotz’s phone may be ringing.
2. When it comes to Matt Tkachuk versus Jonathan Huberdeau, so far, it’s Matty all the way.
3. Give Jack (How Did I Get All This Dough) Campbell points for honesty. He calls his netminding for Edmonton so far “pathetic.” (He’s being too kind.)
4. One reason for the Devils winning nine of their last 10 games: You can’t hit what you can’t catch. Second Reason: Nico Hischier coming into his own as captain.
5. The demotion to the fourth line of Rangers ace Chris Kreider coincides with my finding a 2020 The Hockey News article with the headline, “Should Rangers Trade Chris Kreider?” My answer now, as then, is never. New York’s mistake was giving the captaincy to Jacob Trouba and not the more deserving Kreider.
6. The SOS white flags can now be removed from the Scotiabank Arena roof. But save them for playoff time. That’s when Kyle (I’m Still Not Punch Imlach) Dubas will be the flag-bearer.
WHY PATRICK KANE IS THE ALL-TIME BEST AMERICAN-BORN PLAYER
Our veteran analyst Alan Greenberg has been watching hockey longer than most critics. That’s why we asked him to go back in time and pick the 10 greatest American players. Last Monday, he selected six through 10 (Frank Brimsek, Neal Broten, Joe Mullen, Chris Chelios and Jeremy Roenick in that order.) Now, Greenberg brings us to the final five. You can bet that ‘Big Al’ will get some arguments about Brian Leetch. See if you agree.
5. Keith Tkachuk is worthy of a spot near the top of the list for being one of only four Americans to exceed 500 goals and, more than all others, to have played with a high level of snarl. In his 18 seasons, he played for few outstanding teams, which makes his accomplishments more noteworthy. In his years in Phoenix, after the Jets relocated from Winnipeg, he helped to establish the credibility of hockey in Arizona.
4. Phil Housley is the highest-scoring American defenseman. When he entered the league, he was billed as the second coming of Bobby Orr. He didn’t disappoint, registering 1,232 points in 1,495 games, putting him second to Mike Modano for most points in a career by an American-born player. (Brett Hull was born in Belleville, Ont.)
3. Brian Leetch was as smooth as they come as a two-way defender. A first-ballot Hall of Famer, playoff MVP, Calder Trophy-winner and two-time Norris winner, Leetch played 1,205 NHL games over 18 seasons. His defining moment was to register 11 goals and 34 points in 23 playoff games in 1994 en route to the Rangers’ Stanley Cup.
2. Mike Modano, who grew up in Michigan, is the all-time American-born NHL point and goal leader, with 561 goals and 1,374 points in 1,499 NHL regular season games. He did almost all for the Dallas Stars, including leading them to their 1999 Stanley Cup en route to earning his Hockey Hall of Fame selection.
1. Patrick Kane is No. 1 even though he is still playing. Kane still has a few productive years ahead of him and, if traded, may add another Stanley Cup to his resumé. When he hangs them up, he will more than likely lead all American-born players in games, goals and points.
Honorable mentions: There are many. It’s hard to talk about top American players without mentioning Tom Barrasso, Mike Richter, Doug Weight and Tony Amonte. When they retire, Joe Pavelski and Phil Kessel will also be high on the list. There are others worthy of consideration. My apologies in advance if I missed a favorite.
(Note: Alan Greenberg is a lifetime hockey junkie. He is the author of Confessions of a Government Man in which he discusses his lengthy public service career and reveals many hilarious stories about “funny happenings in high places of government.” Alan has dealt with presidents, congressional representatives, federal judges and industry leaders as well as garden variety con artists, all with a New York-style sense of humor. The digital edition is available for free download on Amazon through Nov. 8 where it says $0 to buy. Proceeds from the print edition are donated to cancer charities.)
DISASTER AREAS IN THE EAST
It’s not Glenn (I’ve Got No Shrink’s Degree) Dreyfuss’ job to send care packages to Washington or Pittsburgh, but he does have a right to worry. Here goes:
Within minutes on Saturday, Nov. 5, the Cup chances for both the Capitals and Penguins appear to have flatlined.
The evening started off magically for those intertwined generational talents, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. In Pittsburgh, Crosby notched his 900th assist, adding to a goal he’d scored earlier in the game. At the same time in Washington, Ovechkin scored his 787th goal, the most by any NHL player with one team.
By 10 p.m. eastern, though, both teams had fallen by eerily parallel circumstances, 3-2, at home, on very late goals by supposedly inferior opponents. The Penguins’ loss to the Kraken was their seventh-straight defeat. The Caps’ surrender to the Coyotes stretched their winless streak to four.
Management in Pittsburgh and Washington, as they should have, sacrificed the future to keep their Cup windows open. However, super sidekicks Evgeni Malkin and Nicklas Backstrom’s best days are behind them. And to paraphrase Simon & Garfunkel, Cup-winning goalies Braden Holtby and Marc-Andre Fleury have left and gone away.
Oh, ‘Sid the Kid’ and the ‘Great Eight’ may yet drag their teams into this year’s playoffs. No doubt, those two superstars aren’t done amazing us. But their teams are.
A BARRY TROTZ FAN WONDERS ABOUT HIS FUTURE.
The Maven’s vision of Barry Trotz someday standing behind an NHL bench is as clear as the Statue of Liberty on a sunny day. The only questions in my mind are where and when?
Suddenly, the guy I once loved on Long Island is making himself apparent. He’s doing interviews and saying arresting things such as his “intrigue” about coaching an Original Six team.
Trotz calculates every word he utters. He knows that the Original Six also includes Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Montreal and New York. He knows that each is coach-solid in one way or another.
Except, of course, in Toronto, where Sheldon Keefe is holding tight to his raft.
My roving correspondent Gus Vic solved Barry’s “eventually Toronto” equation by the process of elimination. No analytics needed, thank you.
“Check what’s happened in five cities,” said Vic, “and then notice how Sheldon Keefe’s shelf life is beginning to shorten. Then figure it out. First year in Beantown and Jim Montgomery has the Bruins with the NHL’s best record.
“Rookie coach Luke Richardson has the Blackhawks better than expected. In Detroit, Derek Lalonde is moving the team where Jeff Blashill could not. Marty St. Louis has the Habs playing surprisingly well, and the Rangers’ Gerard Gallant isn’t going anywhere soon.
“The bottom line is that Trotz is the perfect fit for the structure the Leafs have lost and can get back with Trotz behind their bench.”
(Perhaps, but the Leafs’ ownership reportedly won’t make a move until after the playoffs.)
WHO SAID IT? “I will match them insult for insult. I was just waving them on.” (ANSWER BELOW)
THE KRAKEN – SAME AS LAST YEAR OR SURPRISINGLY BETTER
Tearing himself away from the Pike Street Fish Market, our Seattle Seer, Glenn (Don’t Call Me Salmon) Dreyfuss, analyzes another big fish that’s spelled Kraken:
No one who saw Seattle look lifeless in early home losses to Vegas (5-2) and Carolina (5-1) could have imagined that three weeks later, they’d be shouting, “Break up the Kraken!”
Saturday’s 3-2 win in Pittsburgh completed a perfect three-game road trip, following a 4-0 shutout of the Wild and rallying for three goals in the third period to beat the Flames 5-4. Added to an earlier 3-1 home win against the Pens, Seattle is riding the franchise’s first-ever four game winning streak.
Most eye-popping of all was downing the defending champs in Denver 3-2. Seattle blunted the Avs’ speed, allowing just one shot on goal in the game’s final nine minutes. Combined with a 5-1 home dismantling of the rejuvenated Sabres, the Kraken have fashioned a 7-4-2 record, good for second in the Pacific Division.
“We’re playing as a team, and everybody’s contributing,” said Yanni Gourde after Saturday’s victory. “Taking the middle of the ice in the D-zone. We give up a lot of shots from the outside, but in the middle as of late, we’ve been doing a pretty good job.”
The Kraken have used the NHL’s seventh-ranked power play (26.1 percent) to bolster the league’s No. 7 offense. Four of Jaden Schwartz’s five goals have come with the man advantage. Schwartz and free-agent addition Andre Burakovsky lead Seattle scoring with 10 points apiece.
To be sure, there’s work still to be done, made clear by unexpected losses to Vancouver and Anaheim. Seattle ranks 23rd in goals-against, 24th on the penalty kill, and last in faceoffs.
It’s too early to say off-season acquisition Martin Jones (2.61 GAA, .901 SP) has brought stability between the pipes, though he’s won his last three starts, allowing just three goals. Jones has shouldered the goaltending load since Philipp Grubauer (3.77 GAA, .860 SP) joined Chris Driedger on the injured list on Oct. 25.
Seattle’s top picks from their first two drafts couldn’t be on more different trajectories. Matty Beniers, who turned 20 on Saturday, has put himself in the Calder conversation with five goals to date. His most sublime was a wise-beyond-his-years, no-look shot whipped from near the goal line that surprised the Sabres.
Fellow center Shane Wright, however, has almost as many scratches (six) as games played (seven). The 2022’s fourth overall pick couldn’t even crack the lineup when his grandparents came to Seattle in hopes of watching him.
MOURNING THE LOSS OF A WONDERFUL GUY – AND PLAYER
Peter McNab, who died this past weekend, was voted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame because he was one of the best Stateside stickhandlers to play in the NHL.
But Peter was a lot more than that. He was beloved as a teammate because he always was a team-first guy. He was admired as a broadcaster because he did that job better than most in the business. And he was revered as a family fan because he was a most admirable dad.
Having worked side by side with Peter – and the great Gary Thorne – on Devils broadcasts for many years, I can say without equivocation that McNab made everybody’s life a lot richer because of his humor, insights and all the qualities that made him a super mensch.
The rigors of chemotherapy kept Peter from attending the U.S HOF ceremonies last December in Denver. As an inductee – along with Paul Holmgren – I was honored to be in such company but sad that McNab could not be with us.
We all hoped that a winter, spring and summer would wipe out the cancer that was afflicting our pal who fought the good fight. Alas, the world has lost one of the best.
R.I.P. good pal.
THE FLAMES NEW ARENA PUSH CONTINUES
Ever-reliable sports-business guru Evan Weiner has the latest on Calgary’s need for a new home for the Flames.
They are back at the negotiating table. Calgary elected officials and negotiators from the Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation are talking about building an arena for the Flames. When we last left the city and the hockey team ownership at the end of 2021, the two sides broke off the engagement that would have seen the construction of an arena. Flames ownership did not want to pay for cost overruns of the construction – after all, Flames ownership agreed to pay half of the estimated $608.5 million Cdn cost. The arena project was dead, but arena projects never die.
This arena project is going to cost more money because of global inflation and higher interest rates than earlier arena proposals. Calgary politicians used a “deal structure advisor” to help them in restarting the talks. They could have saved some consulting fees and just restarted the talks. That is how the arena game is played.
Flames’ ownership has been pushing Calgary city elected officials to fund a building for years. Flames’ ownership wanted a revenue-generating arena but needed to get some public loonies from the city to subsidize the building’s cost.
In 2017, the Flames’ ownership threw in the towel and decided to end talks with Calgary elected officials and said they were going back to the old arena. Then-president of hockey operations Brian Burke said they would move the franchise, which CEO Ken King dismissed, but cooler heads prevailed and the two sides spoke again. In 2019, the two sides reached an agreement to build an arena. In 2021, the two sides hit a speed bump delaying construction. In July 2021, it was full speed ahead for a new Calgary Flames building. Then the project died.
The Flames’ ownership is still using the city-owned arena for its NHL, minor and junior league businesses. P.S. Flames’ ownership will eventually get the new building. Bet on it.
BIG QUESTION: Sportsnet asks, “Is Claude Giroux the difference-maker to put Ottawa in the playoffs?”
BIG ANSWER: No, sir. The one who will do it – if the Sens are lucky – is goalie Cam Talbot.
I’M JUST SAYIN’
* The Bruins have been playing so well without crack defenseman Charlie McAvoy, imagine what they’ll be like when he returns in December.
* Riding my stationary bike, I started reading Jeff Miclash’s Total Bruins, 1929-39. It’s easier to stop the bike than it is to stop reading Jeff’s historic masterpiece. (The photos are incredible.)
* It’s time we all agree that the Red Wings are for real.
* And the Canucks are not.
GOLDBERG STRIKES GOLD AGAIN
One of the most accomplished female hockey players on the continent, Chelsey Goldberg, continues to pile on the medals. Most recently, I watched her both star and captain Team USA in the Israeli-based Maccabi Games. Her latest prize was presented at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles. The fearless forward was named a “Legend of the Maccabiah,” which celebrates Maccabi USA athletes for their accomplishments on and off the playing field and ice. I asked Goldberg for a few words about once more reaching the pedestal. Here’s what she told The Maven:
“I’m extremely grateful to have been presented with this award and honor alongside an amazing group of legends. I wish I could have shared this with those who helped me achieve my goal of getting women’s ice hockey into the 2022 Maccabiah Games. I look forward to what the future has in store for women’s hockey. The event was incredible. Huge applause and appreciation to the Maccabi USA staff and everyone involved for the amazing ceremony.”
THIRTY-SECOND THIRD DEGREE WITH FLORIDA’S BILL ZITO
No question: the Panthers have become a franchise on the move – up, up and up. And the man making all this possible is GM Bill Zito. In an exclusive email interview, the former player agent addressed the following topics:
Bill Zito: Upon arrival in South Florida, I had two goals. First, to earn the status of a “destination franchise” where it is considered a privilege to be a Florida Panther on and off the ice. Where every player to don our jersey is proud to be a Florida Panther and where we would be a place players want to come to play.
Next, we needed to build a sustainable, on-ice team that can consistently and legitimately compete for the Stanley Cup.
We have certainly progressed on both fronts. When I arrived in 2020, some star players told me they were sick of losing and were not sure they wanted to be here if we didn’t convince them we could win. Sasha Barkov re-signing here was a huge for our franchise. Matthew Tkachuk wanting to be here and signing was huge.
Players are starting to want to come to the Panthers – and want to come here for the hockey, not simply the lifestyle.
The regular season has been pretty good for us. We have begun to learn how to win and how to win different ways in different situations. This is a process that obviously we need to continue along. But the truth is that we have only won one playoff round.
Not good enough. Given the goals we established, we haven’t accomplished anything – yet. But we are on the way. There is a plan. There is a strategy in place for the roster, the cap, the draft, free agency, player personnel, etc. Of course, there will be curveballs. And I think the key to the whole thing is how we approach our processes. If we continue to look at every day and controlling the things we can to the best of our ability, we will get there.
FORMER AGENTS BECOMING SUCCESSFUL GMs:
Zito: The backgrounds and experiences of the people who had been agents prior to being GMs is pretty varied. I don’t think there is any recipe or formula.
One overlooked aspect of the agent experience is the ability to peer into the front window of respective organizations and learn about them through the experiences of one’s clients. In addition to the obvious interactions with the GMs, an agent can learn the specifics about how teams develop, teach, treat their players, run the practices, travel, enforce rules, and so on.
It can be pretty granular all the way down to what questions they ask kids at draft prep interviews. If an agent is so inclined, one can learn a great deal about how different organizations operate and compare and contrast. This information can be a great benefit when running an organization.
FOLLOWING THE TAMPA BAY SUCCESS STORY:
Zito: I’ll be very clear, with respect. We are the Florida Panthers. We’ll write our own story. And the media have been great. Hey, you are covering us!
South Florida is a hockey market. The fans care and they come out and support us. We had the best-attended media day in a long time. So, I think we are getting the support.
We just have to continue to deliver by winning. We have to earn the trust that we will both build for the next several years, and we will make ad hoc decisions for a playoff run when it’s called for. We are doing that. But there are loyal fans here. A lot of them. They just need to know we are all in, and I think the Viola’s have made it very clear that we are.
CRITICISM OF OFF-SEASON MOVES:
Zito: I have made the decisions I believe are in the best interests of the Florida Panthers. Period. The biggest mistake I can make is to color my behavior because I worry about personal criticisms I might endure for unpopular decisions. That is a recipe for disaster.
My hardest critic is myself.
There is a second critic that is even more harsh: the standings. They are unyielding. Our job is to win and to build the franchise. The standings tab at NHL.com gives you a pretty good idea every night as to what is justified and what is not.
LONG-TERM OUTLOOK FOR THE SEASON:
Zito: I am excited, optimistic and looking forward to seeing where we go. We will face some tough teams – our division is strong. Our first task will be to evaluate our team as it learns the new systems, the new coaches and expectations. Then we will have to see what tweaks we need and which ones we can realistically make.
Zito: Probably every night, I don’t sleep a lot. It’s not “worry” but trying to anticipate the next move or contemplate respective options. Maybe it’s coveting a certain player and thinking about “how could we acquire that guy?” Nonetheless, not a lot of sleep, that is for sure.
YAYS AND BOOS:
YAY TO ALEX OVECHKIN for reaching milestones on top of milestones.
BOO TO THE BRUINS for signing Mitchell Miller to an entry-level contract, and Don Sweeney knows why the across-the-board public slamming is in order.
YAY TO JOHN TORTORELLA for keeping the home fires burning on Broad
Street. (Man, oh, man, how Eddie Snider would have loved you.)
BOO TO CONNOR MCDAVID: How dare he not score at least a goal in every single game? (Yeah, but he did get an A against The Big D, as in Dallas.
JOE COHEN MAKES THINGS HAPPEN
When Madison Square Garden wanted its TV networks turned into the best in the business, the MSG folks turned to Joe Cohen, and he did the trick.
And when the Rangers and Knicks needed a new training facility, it was the very same Joe who designed the superior workout center in Greenburgh, N.Y.
The one-time L.A. Kings owner never stops.
His latest gambit is Brand Velocity Group which recently was featured in Sports Business Journal with dapper Cohen featured alongside former Football Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
What’s Joe up to nowadays? For starters, Brand Velocity Group has branched into the sports realm, and that could include hockey.
Cohen – he’s also chair and CEO of media consulting firm West Ridge Associates – also does some fine charitable work.
Last Saturday, Joe and his lovely wife, Rita, were Hall of Fame inductees for Joe Torre’s “Safe At Home” organization. The Cohens were honored at a dinner at Manhattan’s Gotham Hall. (Safe At Home’s mission is to end the cycle of domestic violence and save lives.)
ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT: Islanders goalie Billy Smith on giving the finger to the Rangers’ fans.