Archive by Author

Top 5 Biggest NHL Draft Steals of All Time

12 May

 

empty nhl draft arena

NOTE: This is an old article, formerly featured on hockeyquarterly.com.  All opinions and jokes are, unfortunately, mine, but are old.  So be kind.

 

As a general rule, NHL scouts aren’t known for their lack of thoroughness. Every NHL team has a vast network of scouts, plugged directly into other, lower level, vast networks of the hockey living/eating/breathing type. The whole thing combines into a extraordinarily large, complex and thorough net that catches just about everybody that plays in an organized hockey league.

But for all their thankless work (anyone want me to do a top five list of scouts?! *crickets*) and expertise, every once and a while a gem slips through cracks; and when they do, some GM somewhere is made to look very, very good. This is a catalogue of the five biggest mistakes scouts and GM’s ever made.

Limitations and Stipulations

In order to make this list manageable (and to avoid much of the unnecessary debate) a few concessions had to be made. First, players drafted from the Soviet Union/Eastern Bloc have not been included. Draft numbers of guys like Pavel Bure or Sergei Fedorov were artificially suppressed due to the politics of the day (i.e. it’s difficult to justify drafting a guy in the first round who, just in order to enter your

country, must break the laws of his own country and defect). Second, as with most of these types of lists, I’ve limited the time frame to the post expansion era. Since the draft only included a couple of dozen players until 1969, this is really the only way to go. Finally, I’m not including any completely undrafted players because, well, that would be an entirely different list.

So, with the formalities out of the way, I bring you, #5!

henrik zetterberg pavel datsyuk red wings

#5 – Pavel Datsyuk & Henrik Zetterberg – Drafted by Detroit in 1998 (6/171) and by Detroit in 1999 (7/210)

Combined Career Totals: 1248 GP | 451 G | 755 A | 1206 P

Using editorial license on the first item of a Top 5 list isn’t usually recommended, but these guys are too good of a story to pass up. Detroit has built arguably the most stable franchise in the league around the idea that really smart drafting can win you championships (smart drafting and not wasting money on high priced goalies, but that’s for another column) but even the Wings outdid themselves when they selected Datsyuk and Zetterberg in 1998 and 1999 respectively. Between the two of them, they have well over 1000 points, 9 individual trophies, 4 Stanley Cups, 2 Olympic medals (one Gold) and Henrik is the lowest drafted player ever to win the Conn Smythe. Often considered two of the smartest players in the game today, these two are so good for their draft position that the NHL featured them both in a commercial.

So, with that, I give you Detroit’s Dynamic Duo at #5.

Theo Fleury

4 – Theoren Fleury – Drafted by Calgary in 1987 (8/166)

Career totals: 1084 GP | 455 G | 633 A | 1088 P

The heart and soul of the Calgary Flames for 10 years, this Olympic/World Junior/Canada Cup Gold medalist only seemed to miss time when it was of his own devices; he played over 80 games in 10 of his 13 seasons (twice having played shortened seasons do to drug abuse problems).

Coming in at a generous 5 foot 6, it’s not really a surprise that Fleury was picked behind enough hockey players to populate a small mining town. Constantly being introduced as another one of those “too- short-to-make-it” success stories, he more than made it up for his…ummmm…short-comings, with a feisty temper (read: Punch up in Piestany and 1800+ career PIMS) and more skill than you’ll find in most second lines (read: over 1000 career points). But you can put all that aside, perhaps the most amazing part of Fleury being on this list is the fact that, due to his own personal demons, he had such a short NHL career, playing only 13 full seasons. But when you think of everything he’s gone through in his life, it’s amazing he ever made it to the NHL at all.

triple crown line

#3 – Dave Taylor – Drafted by Los Angeles in 1975 (15/210)

Career totals: 1111 GP | 431 G | 638 A | 1069 P

The only player on this list to be drafted below 200, Dave Taylor may not be as flashy as the other names mentioned here, but he was a rock solid player for years and years and years, was a member of the much feared (and awesome-ly named) Triple Crown Line (with Marcel Dionne and Charlie Simmer) and managed to play his entire career with the Kings. He’s also the lowest drafted player to ever score 1,000 points over his career and that’s enough to secure the #3 spot on the list.

Luc Robitaille

#2 – Luc Robitaille – Drafted by Los Angeles in 1984 (9/171)

Career totals: 1431 GP | 668 G | 726 A | 1394 P

Despite major junior numbers so good that they named a trophy after him, Robitaille was drafted mystifyingly low. Picked behind Darcy Wakaluk and several arena janitors that were mistakenly picked out of the crowd, Robitaille made a career out of crushing his skeptics, winning the Calder in his first year with the Kings and scoring over 40 goals in each of first 8 seasons.

Following in the footsteps of the L.A. King legend, Marcel Dionne, Robitaille continued a tradition of wildly underrated Los Angeles Kings hockey players. Whether it’s a compliment or not, through several trades, Robitaille was traded for Rick Tocchet, Petr Nedved, Sergei Zubov, Kevin Stevens, and a 2nd round draft pick.

Oh yeah, and he ended his career as the highest scoring left-wing in history, with 1394 points, not bad for a 9th rounder.

Brett Hull

#1 – Brett Hull – Drafted by Calgary in 1984 (6/117)

Career totals: 1269 GP | 741 G | 650 A | 1391 P | and one very illegal Stanley Cup winning goal.

Picked a few rounds ahead of our #2 selection, Hull boasts the most impressive resume of anyone on this list. A list that includes, but is in no way limited to: being 3rd all time in goals, 6th in playoff scoring, a World Cup gold medal winner, having the second highest single season goal total (behind Wayne Gretzky) and the second most career 50/50 seasons (behind Wayne Gretzky). He’s also 21st all-time in scoring and has an adorable smile.

But that’s not that’s not the only reason he’s here, Hull tops the list not simply because he has all-world numbers (which he obviously really, really does) but because of the impact he had on the world of hockey as a whole. To give you a taste of what Hull meant to the NHL, he ended his career with fewer points than our #2, Luc Robitaille, but how many people remember riding a “Lucky Luc Toboggan” as a kid? How many Theoren Fleury video games did you play? Brett Hull was a rootin’, tootin’, hockey hair havin’, slapshootin’ rockstar, and for that…he tops the list.

Honourable Mentions:

The Soviet Bloc: No question that these guys were ludicrously late picks but, as I mentioned, it’s impossible to say how much of it was due to the politics of at the time. Bure, Fedorov, Dominik Hasek

make it to the HM list based on the fact that two of them defected to the US to play in the NHL, the third had his NHL career shortened by the fact he didn’t defect. Great players, impossible to rank, sorry comrades.

We Hopeful Few: Players who have a shot at making this list in 20 years. Jaroslav Halak of stop sign t- shirt fame, was a 9th rounder…the draft stops at 7 now. Henrik Lundqvist might as well have been the last guy in the room at 205th overall! And rounding out what, for some reason, is a category dominated by goalies, Ryan Miller, the franchise goalie who Buffalo was lucky enough to scoop up in the 5th round. Good luck gents, see you in 20 years.

3rd Round’s the Charm: The third round seems to be a great hiding place for some of the greatest players in the history of the sport, and that’s just where you’ll find Nicklas Lidstrom, Patrick Roy and Mark Messier. Not just great hockey players, these three (all picked in the third round) went on to be, arguably, the greatest of all time at their respective positions. Unfortunately for them, the third round is a little too high to be considered for the list. 

More Goals, Fewer Arguments

10 May

WOOOOOO…Hockey Rules!! Oh wait…that logo is referring to actual rules?!? Well…let’s get this over with.

Ahem…since the dawn of time man has yearned to increase the overall goal totals in NHL hockey games and, for just about the same amount of time, man has argued about the rules of the game and why they can never be altered to allow such a thing to happen.  More recently you’ve heard the NHL toy with everything from soccer nets to a three-point-line in an attempt to increase scoring but, at the end of each cycle, they settle with a couple of flaccid, toothless minor equipment adjustments and some morally ambiguous “proportional sizing“.

Not that you can blame them, hockey fans are notoriously hard on their sport and that goes doubly when they’re aiming their derision at the men in suits. So, since I tend to pull for the underdog (and it doesn’t get much more underdoggy than the guy who looks like The Penguin’s little brother and gets booed literally everywhere he goes, including when presenting the Stanley Cup to a home town team), I thought I’d give Gary Bettman a hand and give him a few juicy rule changes he can use to pacify the masses…I present you with the….rules you’d be stupid not to implement (working title).

1 – Let Them Play…..the puck.

Get rid of that ridiculous “trapezoid”.  I’m not convinced that stopping goalies from playing the puck every once and a while is really having the affect the NHL wanted, not too  mention how incredibly rude it is take away this part of a goalies game and, more importantly, it’s incredibly frustrating having to explain seemingly pointlessly complicated hockey rules to non-hockey fans.

And let’s be honest, we’re only one broken leg away from no-touch icing anyway, which will make these even more useless.

The only argument I need: Hockey rules should not double as great geometry exam questions.

2 – Goalies as Fair Game.

Let them play the puck, but make them think about it.  OK, so maybe not truly fair game, but fair enough that you don’t have to act like you’re taking communion from the Pope when all you’re trying to do is get a puck away from Reggie Lemelin.  Also, a little more freedom when rushing a goalie could go a looong way to creating more of those goalie bloopers we all know and love.

NHL goalie being checked

Another poor goalie, accosted by a brutish Atlanta Thrasher forward.

3 – Make all Curves Legal.

Good god, is it not time for this? It’s basically accepted that Ovechkin is using an illegal curve. If it’s good enough for the best shooter in the world today, it’s good enough for me.  Even without that argument, what reason could we possibly have to keep it? Leave some common sense clause in there that stops Sean Avery from walking out with a blade that looks like a pair of BBQ tongs lying on the ice and BE DONE WITH IT.

Alexander Ovechkin Curve

Ovechkin's stick blade, bent like a warm piece of licorice.

 

4 – Change Implementation of  the Too Many Men Rule.

This is my pet cause…to be honest, this whole article is written to house this one complaint.  It’s simple…at no time can there be more than 5 pairs of skates on the ice.  No more of this as-many-players-as-you-want-as-long-as-they-dont-touch-the-puck bullshit.  I don’t know what it is people don’t get about this, the argument is always the same, “he’s not playing the puck”, well get ready, because your logic is as cloudy as the ice at a Dallas Stars triple-OT playoff game and I am the Zamboni of truth; IT DOESN’T MATTER IF HE TOUCHES THE PUCK, he’s gaining a position, it affects the game the just as much as actually physically touching the puck!  Therefore, it should be illegal.

You force players to change properly and you have more space, more odd-man rushes, more stretch pass breakaways, longer shifts resulting in tired defencemen and therefore….more goals.  End of story.

 

It should be noted, I’m not necessarily in favour of increasing scoring, I think a 1-0 double overtime hockey game is one of the greatest things a man can enjoy on this planet, and therefore I’m not necessarily advocating any of these rules (except the too many men rule, that would just be too kick-ass).

 

 

OH YEAH!?!?!

6 May

We’ve all met these guys, there are two things they want more than anything in this world;

1 – To make you think they want to fight you and….

2- To not fight you.

I can’t top Grapes on this one….take it away Don….


Hockey Fighting, or not by PrimitivePuck

 

Bravo! Two, Zero.

3 May

I keep moving to write an article about the goaltending situation in Philadelphia but I’m waiting for them to go one full game without pulling their goalie, so in the meantime….

Some quick thoughts on round two so far….

2 – 0 – We’re five days into round two of the Stanley Cup playoffs and we already have three surprise two-nothing leads, San Jose over Detroit, Boston over Philly and Tampa Bay over Washington. I don’t have anything to say, I just had a kick-ass title for this post and needed to use it.

Tampa Bay – I guess it’s easy to lead a series 2-0 when your power play is firing at a higher percent than an honour student’s math test.

Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis

BFF's

Boston – Philadelphia gets more shots on net in a period than some teams get in a game (and set a record in the process) and they don’t score a goal. In the meantime, the Flyers have changed goalies in each of the past five games. Pretty easy math. Speaking of…

Boston Goaltending, your dad had another great game.  Hope you don’t have plans this summer, because when Thomas wins the Vezina this year he’s going to ask you to help him build a trophy case in the TV room as a sort of Father-Son project.

 

Tim Thomas mustache

"You know son, whatever it is that's bothering you, you can talk to me about it. Now what do you say we go get an ice cream?"

JVR – is turning into the Claude Giroux of this year’s playoffs. Unfortunately for him, it may end two rounds earlier than Giroux’s run last year.

JVR at the draft

The next thing in power forwards or the next thing in Degrassi Junior High cast members?

San Jose – This is just a bad match for Detroit. San Jose beat them down last year and look to do the same this year.  San Jose will be tough for anyone but for whatever reason, they’re great against the Wings. Something that not many teams can say. I suppose it may have something to do with the fact that…
Johan Franzen – ….is clearly injured. He sat out a game at the end of the Phoenix series and hasn’t had a sniff since then, registering a paltry 4 shots and 1 hit in 2 games against San Jose.

Crank’s Corner – Q&A

30 Apr

Two NHL Referees

"Two Zebras surveying the game they're about to ruin." - Crank

The Crank takes time out of his busy schedule (yelling at the ducks in the park and trying to teach his dog to bark at that neighbour he doesn’t like) to answer your questions/comments/email about his Last Column.

Your last article was typical “my era was better than yours” bullshit. This is hockey now. Maybe youd like the players to stop wearing their helmets?

NO, this has nothing to do with ” eras “. I happen to think that the hockey being played now is the best of all time. My main gripe is and has always been that the main shortcoming of the NHL is the officiating. It is an embarrassment to be the best league in the world at your sport, the ”showcase ” for professional hockey, and have officials who can’t show enough consistency to make the same call on two basically identical plays. There are many reasons for this but the main one is the NHL itself has pretty much stifled any criticism of the chosen few they deem good enough to officiate their product. They fine anyone who dares to question a call in any way other than a roundabout statement, i.e. ”I didn’t see it that way “.
They allow the referees to decide when an infraction is or isn’t a penalty, based on many different factors like what the score is; who the guilty party is; who the recipient of the infraction is; what the time in the game is; is the team already shorthanded; do they “owe you one ” for a previous bad call; do they “owe you one ” for a previously missed call; what the penalty count in the game is (they seem to think that as long as the count is close they have done a good job) and the list goes on and on.

This leeway granted the men in stripes is unfortunate for many reasons, but the most significant is that it allows them to be instrumental in determining the outcome of the games. This means that not only playoff match ups are changed, but actually making or not making the playoffs can be determined, especially in today’s NHL where positions are often not known until after the final whistle in the final game (read: PHILLY and NYR last season). This also spills over all the way to actually affecting the individual performances of the players themselves. With the number of power play goals being scored each year, imagine the change as a result of two or three (and I’m being conservative) different calls per game. The scoring race is affected, the goalies stats are affected and as a result all of the major individual trophies are affected, not to mention the individual contracts of the players themselves. Many have bonus clauses for reaching certain levels of achievement.

Bring it home Crank…..we won’t have time for any more questions!

So this has nothing to do with which era of hockey you like more, as this has been the case in the league for as long as I’ve been watching hockey. What it deals with is the inability of the officials to do their job in an unbiased and fair, just way. A penalty is a penalty whether the score is 10-0 or 1-1, whether it is 8:04 in the first or 19:55 of the third, whether it is 5 on 5 or 5 on 3,etc. It would appear that the league has even instructed the networks to limit their criticism of these employees in stripes as you rarely if ever hear anything but occasional mild questioning of a call from the numerous analysts on the many different shows. Even the “decider of discipline” himself, Colin Campbell, shows no consistency in his handing out of suspensions. Because of this you have the best player in hockey sitting out three months of the regular season and the playoffs because the league didn’t want to tarnish their “showcase” called the winter classic by handing out a suspension for the infraction that was seen over and over by true fans for what it was,a cheap shot, but handed out countless games after that hit for deeds no more vicious.

My plea would be to the so called hockey experts like Bob McKenzie, Dave Hodge, Don Cherry, Ron Maclean, and all the other numerous panelists on the shows to show some balls and unlike the referees, call ‘em as ya see ‘em. Lets start holding these employees accountable for their incompetence, or admit that they are only following the leagues mandate by calling the games as they are told.

If, after doubling their staff per game, a player carrying the puck can lose two teeth and leave the ice bleeding from a high stick, and no penalty is called, then what the fuck is going on? Oh yeah, his team was leading 6-0 and he had reemed out the ref earlier for another missed call.

There you have it, who would have thought that the subject of referees would have set The Crank off on such a rant. I guess all of us. Until next time!

When Five and a Game is Enough.

27 Apr

Milan Lucic Celebrate no Suspension

Milan Lucic, obviously happy with the league's decision.


As I predicted (though admittedly it wasn’t a very tough call!) Lucic will not be suspended for Game 7 versus the Habs. This is doubly concerning for Montreal because it means Lucic will be the most rested player on the ice tonight, and we’re playing back to back games with travel in between. I, for one, am glad we don’t have to worry about a questionable suspension heading into what should be an amazing hockey game. Also, and this is equally noteworthy, people seem to happy with the league’s decision!

Now Boston has to hope that regular Season Lucic shows up tonight, not playoff Lucic.

Agree, disagree? Have a look.

The Luongo Dilemna

25 Apr

Luongo Beachball
When the decision to play Cory Schneider was announced last night, most people were asking themselves “what happens if Vancouver loses?”, but the I think the far more important/intersting question is “what happens if Vancouver loses and Schneider plays really well?”. It’s Schneider’s solid play (minus a few puck handling gaffes) that has everyone wondering what will happen next. There are a few things that Canucks coach Alain Vigneault needs to consider…

1 – As goes this series, so goes your job….most likely. You lose this series and the public pressure (which is huge this year may just be too much for you to keep your job.
2 – The “Live with your best, die with best” theory. It’s hard to blame a coach for playing a goalie that’s being nominated for the Vezina. It also takes a lot of pressure off the shoulders of the coach, as you don’t have to actually make a choice, you can just spout a cliche….while you’re looking for another job.

3 – How does Luongo feel knowing that you didn’t have enough confidence in him to play him in the last game? How awkward is that team lunch going to be!? Luongo has always struck me as a…. temperamental player, how will he feel about working with Alain Vigneault in the future?
4 – Whatever logic you used to decide to start Schneider in game 6, how could it not apply to game 7? What WERE you thinking? Chicago is in the head of Luongo? The Canuck players have lost confidence in their goalie? You’re getting pressure from management/fans (unlikely)? Whatever it is, it still applies; Luongo isn’t going to suddenly gain his confidence back, nor are his teammates going to start believing he can win against this team.

Of course, none of this matters if Vancouver wins it’s next game (except for NHL’s marketing department of course). Funny that.

A Tale of Two Saves

24 Apr

The Boston v. Montreal double OT game obviously comes packed with highlights but, as you’re walking down the hall towards your local water cooler, there are only two you need to remember.

These are two spectacular save that combine for not only a game/series changer but, if the Bruins end up winning this series, are complete playoff changers. All of a sudden you have a healthy, confident Bruins squad heading into the second round with very little physical damage. They still have one more game to win, but if they manage it, you can bet these saves will each get their own “history moment” commercials.

Michael Ryder saves the lead.

Timmy Thomas saves the game.

“It’s Teeth”

17 Apr

The other day Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning said something that could only have come from a hockey player. When asked about what he thought of having to have a double root canal after having his teeth fractured by a Penguins stick he replied “It’s teeth, it’s not a shoulder, it’s not a knee, it’s teeth”.

So, with that in mind, I bring you 5 great “It’s teeth” moments.

Bobby Baun
Bobby Baun

Everyone knows this story by now…but Bleacher Report sums it up nicely.

In Game 6 of the 1964 Stanley Cup Finals between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings, Leaf defenseman Bob Baun fell to the ice in excruciating pain after blocking a slap shot off his ankle late in the third period.

Baun was carried off on a stretcher and was presumed to be out for the remainder of the series. During the intermission, Baun refused to have his ankle X-rayed. Instead, he insisted it be frozen and, miraculously, he skated out for the overtime session.

The Maple Leafs, facing a three games to two deficit at the time, were in need of a hero to keep their Stanley Cup dreams alive. At the 1:42 mark of overtime, Baun drilled a shot from the point that beat Detroit netminder Terry Sawchuk, giving the Leafs a Game 6 victory.

Inspired by his heroics, the Leafs easily won Game 7, 4-0, giving the team a third consecutive Stanley Cup victory. It was not until after the series that it was discovered Bob Baun had scored that overtime winner on a fractured ankle.

Rick Tocchet

On March 15th, 1992, Tocchet suffered a fractured jaw in the first period. Not only did he continue to play that night, but he scored two goals including the game winner. To Tocchet, it is just part of the game. “We were .500 at the time, you want to play and you want to try to win.

Zdeno Chara

This article speaks for itself.

Ian Laperierre
Ian Laperriere Puck face

On November 27, 2009, Laperrière was hit with a slapshot in the mouth while killing a penalty at the end of the first period against the Buffalo Sabres. After missing the second period in order to receive between 50 and 100 stitches (and probably have the shards of his 7 broken teeth removed from his mouth) he returned and played the third period. Enough said.

Oh and it happened again later that year….

Paul Karya (Ballsy, but not recommended.)

During the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals, New Jersey defenseman Scott Stevens delivered one of the most devestating checks of his career on the unsuspecting Kariya who was knocked unconscious. You’ll remember this game as the one where Kariya later returned and scored a goal later in the game to help the Mighty Ducks force a game seven.

Crank’s Corner

16 Apr

Here at Primitive Puck we have a few…..friends, who have some things to get off their chest. The man known only as Crank is one of these friends. At first I thought about asking this guy to start his own blog, but then I remembered I have a pickup game with him next week and I’m running out of my own teeth. So, without further ado, I bring you….Mr. Crank.


The Linesmen.

NHL Linesman

"NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!"

WHO ARE THOSE GUYS??? Can any of you hockey fans out there name your all time favorite linesmen? I didn’t think so. Is that the reason that all of the present day linesmen seem to have a distinct hankering for the spotlight? There was a time when their main job was to call offsides as close as possible, even when no advantage was being gained and a delayed offside was a better option. Well now they have found a way to elongate their moments in the spotlight by refusing to drop the puck until the camera has been on them for a minimum of ten seconds. If things are lined up correctly before they get their face time, they simply kick one center out of the circle. This happens over and over during every game but, oddly enough, only ever happens one time per face off. You see, there is a rule whereby you must assess a penalty if someone from the same team is banned from the circle twice at the same face off. How quickly and obediently todays hockey players learn their lessons!! These same players who scrum after every freezing of the puck and are admonished repeatedly for it, not by a lowly linesman but by a red striper, and are repeatedly sent to the box for all sorts of other infractions apparently fear the dreaded face off penalty more than any other, because they never commit it. How can it be that so many times in every game they dare to line up incorrectly, not place your stick just so, have a skate over the line, or commit one of what must be a huge list of indiscretions ONCE, BUT NEVER TWICE. The only explanation is the linesmen want more recognition and this is their way of getting it. Apparently yelling out non infractions such as NO ICE or OKAY when a play is NOT offside isn’t getting enough people to talk about the job they are doing so poorly.

I LONG FOR THE DAYS WHEN A LINESMAN WAS ONLY HEARD FROM WHEN HE BLEW HIS WHISTLE, AND NO ONE KNEW THEIR NAMES.