Archive for the ‘Lists’ Category

HC Davos' Robbie Earl poses with the trophy after winning their final game against Dinamo Riga at the Spengler Cup ice hockey tournament in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos December 31, 2011

HC Davos’ Robbie Earl poses with the trophy after winning their final game against Dinamo Riga at the Spengler Cup ice hockey tournament in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos December 31, 2011 / REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

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There are literally thousands of reasons why some amazing young hockey players never make it. Some are from the genre of BS that your Dad’s buddies tell you to explain why they fell short (knee injuries, coach hated them, relationship issues), some are legit (knee injuries, coach hated them, relationship issues), and some just…are. There’s a lot of luck involved with fringe players, and sometimes the dice roll comes up snake eyes.

Whatever the case, we all have dozens upon dozens of stories of players that we thought were virtual locks to make it to the bigs, and for whatever reason things just didn’t go as planned.

I was thinking about a couple of those guys the other day when I threw it out on Twitter: who’s the best player you’ve ever seen in major junior or college hockey that didn’t make it? I got a ton of feedback, so I thought I’d compile a list. (If you’ve got a name that’s not on here, add it in the comments.)

Obviously my bias is going to be skewed towards more recent years (if you go back too far points get way skewed), and in my case, heavily from the WCHA (NCAA), so again: I call on you to help us fill in the blanks. Also, I’m going to be using the definition of “never made it” loosely. While impressive in its own right, I’d say under a 100, 150 games or so total is a decent loose definition of a guy who never established himself in the NHL.

Notes:

* The list is predominantly forwards, because nobody has any idea how to judge d-men and goalies without watching them and #points are #neat

* You know how to read stat lines, but a reminder:

Games Played Goals Assists Total Points Penalty Minutes Plus-Minus

* The list starts with more recent players that I’m more familiar with, and gets older (and more major junior-centric) as you work downward.

* Teams like Atlanta, Carolina, Nashville, St. Louis and Toronto seems to come up a lot amongst players who fell just short, for whatever reason.

* This isn’t to embarrass the guys who were so close for not making it, or to call them out – it’s more to admire how great these players were/are, and to drop our collective jaws in awe at the incredible things they did in the sport and it still wasn’t good enough. It’s just good context for how hard it is to really make it.

Lets dive in.

Robbie Earl

Best season:

2005-06 U. of Wisconsin WCHA 42 24 26 50 56

Career peak: 47 NHL games with the Minnesota Wild.

Current status: Playing for Zug, Swiss-A league. Point-per-game guy there.

Comment: It’s mind blowing to think that Robbie Earl didn’t make it. He might be the best skater I’ve ever played against, he had a great shot, and even hit hard. I would not have predicted Joey Crabb having a longer NHL career than Robbie Earl back in college (no offense to Joey). Read the rest of this entry »

fights

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Look, I get it.

Fighting is on the way out in the NHL.

Fighting in neanderthalic (not a word, whatever).

But if you’ll allow yourself, on a Friday, to climb down from your high horse and accept that two humans have agreed to a contest of face-knuckling – grown men mind you, making their own decisions – and enjoy it for the basic entertainment that it is, you might just enjoy this list. Also, I only chose fights where nobody was concussed, so sleep easy.

If you pay close attention, in one of the fights one of the guys uses his fist to hit the other guy’s face. It’s fascinating.

#5

Colton Orr vs John Erskine

“Here come the jackhammers.” Read the rest of this entry »

mafff

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It’s part of being a sports fan – certain narratives are built around certain guys, and that label becomes who that player is perceived to be for the rest of their career. It happens.

Most of the time we don’t bother changing the narrative despite being presented with new evidence. People can change the way they play, and often do, but we tend to get stuck thinking about players in a certain way.

I thought I’d use today to highlight five guys that I believe get talked about the wrong way. Feel free to add your opinions in the comments below. Read the rest of this entry »

This picture has nothing to do with the post, outside of being commentary on genetics.

This picture has basically nothing to do with the post, outside being commentary on genetics. John Scott/Nathan Gerbe

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Some humans are just built for athletic competition, which is sort of unfair for the rest of us. But the same way some people win the money lottery, some people happen to win the genetic one. Lebron James runs like a gazelle, jumps like an Olympian, and, y’know…

lebron ripped

…he happens to be 6’8″ of chiseled muscle. If he was only allowed to touch the ball with the back of his hands he’d probably still be in the NBA.

The NHL is not without its share of Lebron-esque mutants – the people who were born with all the tools to succeed at the sport of their choice. They almost couldn’t mess it up. Similar to what I said about Lebron, they could use a wrong-handed stick and NHL teams would still consider taking them on board. This isn’t to minimize their accomplishments, but man, they were given some head start in the race to riches.

This isn’t a list of the 10 best players in the league, it’s a list of the 10 current players who started the race farthest ahead of everyone else. Eric Lindros is example 1A. Mario Lemieux might be 1B.

Is size an advantage? Here’s some of that. Skill helps? Here’s a big heaping helping. Speed’s good? Take all you like.

Read the rest of this entry »

g Dallas Stars

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Not every team is built to win the Stanley Cup. That’s obvious, but what I’m saying is, not every team is built trying to win the Stanley Cup. A good number of teams are self-aware about what they are, and would be more than happy just cracking the playoffs, or winning a round or two, depending on their history/roster/pre-season expectations and all that. And, of course, some teams are serious about the big prize.

Now that we’ve got the World’s Most Obvious Paragraph out of the way, what we’re doing today is looking at the teams who are legitimately just a move, just a tweak away from getting to their next level. The teams who could actually benefit this season from being active at the deadline.

So, with the preamble licked, let’s get to it. Here are five teams that can take their next step with one addition.

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TEAM

New York Rangers

g new york rangers

CURRENT STATUS

3rd in Metro, 7th in the East, 69 points in 62 games. Two points from being out of a playoff spot entirely.

WHAT THEY’D CONSIDER A SUCCESS

Making it to the Eastern Conference Semifinal (as in, winning a playoff round), Conference Final would be huge.

NEED

A top-six forward, preferably top-three.

GO ON…

Let’s say the Rangers managed to acquire that one player. Let’s say…gasp…they end up being the team who lands Ryan Kesler. How much more of a threat are they in the East?

Honestly, I’m surprised they’ve struggled as much as they have this season. We know Henrik Lundqvist is a better goalie than he’s shown so far this year, and nobody would be surprised to see him play out of his mind come playoffs. So…Lundqvist gets better, they add a little bit more scoring punch (and if it comes in the form of Kesler, a two-way top minutes player), and suddenly they look around and notice that outside of Boston and (maybe) Pittsburgh, they might be the next-best team in the East. Hmm.

Couldn’t you see them climb the East ladder, get a doable first round draw and be a tough out from there?

Read the rest of this entry »

Phil Kessel knee

Yesterday my Twitter feed flared up after the release of a column about Phil Kessel and how he looked “sluggish” in his return to practice for the Toronto Maple Leafs post-Olympics. I’m not a huge fan of promoting stuff I think isn’t very good (for what should be obvious reasons), but I can’t deny the concept was pretty silly. The guy was probably right, by the way, but it was oh-come-on-able for other reasons.

The NHL’s hottest player in 2014 goes to the Olympics and looks electric while leading the tournament in scoring, then flies home from Russia for his first practice back (which he wasn’t yet obligated to attend), and gets a column written about how he didn’t look up to par.

So fine, silly.

But even if Phil hadn’t just done all those things I rattled off above, he would have to practice in a beer helmet filled with umbrella drinks to get singled out for his work ethic. Not only is he the team’s best player, he’s one of the league’s best, and he works his tail off in games. There’s a reason Allen Iverson was all shocked in his infamous PRACTICE? interview. He was a rare talent who consistently brought it in games. And you wanna ask him about PRACTICE?

Unfortunately for the rest of us mere mortals, we don’t all get the No no no, you take it easy, as long as YOU’RE happy treatment. Kessel is a rare case, one of maybe 20 guys in the league who basically have immunity from their coach’s occasional lack of diplomacy. On the other side of the coin, some guys have the privilege of becoming the coach’s whipping boy, and whooo doggy is it a long season when you earn that title by (I see you, Drill Wreckers).

So without further ado, introducing EPE, or Expected Practice Effort. Let’s look at what coaches generally expect for effort in practice out of each type of generalized player, and how one becomes a coach’s target. …Generally.

Read the rest of this entry »

Nail Yakupov

Sometimes relationships just sour. In hockey, in business, in real life…it happens. In most cases it’s tough to admit to yourself when you’ve reached that point. Sometimes you find yourself existing within a constant struggle, passing off the trials and tribulations as one-offs because of a particular situation, when the reality is that things would get a whole lot easier if you just cut ties and moved on. Sometimes the situation isn’t working because it’s unfixable.

We see this in pro sports all the time – Misused or Miserable Player A gets dealt somewhere new, gets some new linemates, a different colored sweater and a few more minutes, and poof: Mikhail Grabovski suddenly has exactly double his point total in the same amount of games just one year later. And (for some reason) the Leafs don’t seem to miss him either.

So, with the talk of a “double trade deadline” this year, we can expect to see some players get some new homes. Here’s 10 guys who need the fresh start most.

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ryan milller profile#10

Ryan Miller

Salary sitch: $6.25 this year, pending UFA

Stat line: 36 games, .926 save percentage

Miller is an easy one. The poor guy was stellar for the Sabres during the years they were relevant, and had a couple fairly good playoffs runs (05-06, 06-07). Since then he’s seen a couple first round exits, the organization blow the team up with grenades, and more black rubber than a Goodyear factory. He’s 33, is having a tremendous year, and doesn’t deserve to spend his remaining years as a quality tender as part of a rebuild. He’s too competitive. Read the rest of this entry »