As you likely heard today (because for some reason I assume everyone does what I do all day, which is sift the hockey interwebs for interesting things), Jake Gardiner has been recalled by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
For the uninformed, Jake Gardiner is a 22-year-old Leafs’ prospect who…wait – do you still call a player with 77 NHL games-played and 30 NHL points as a defenseman a prospect? – I suppose you’re allowed to. Okay – Jake Gardiner is a 22-year-old Leafs prospect who has played 57 AHL games over parts of the past three seasons, scoring 36 points along the way. For clarity, that’s 134 pro games since he left college, and 66 points from the back end as a young kid, which is excellent output.
I’ve seen Gardiner play in person a few times, and to me, he falls into a certain category: some kids just aren’t going to miss unless something goes drastically wrong. There’s no guarantee that a player is going to be an NHL star or anything, but some kids, as much much as we love to pretend most do it all on hard work, are just too gifted to miss.
Jake Gardiner is an NHL player. And from what I’ve seen of guys like him that I’ve played with, I feel comfortable unequivocally stating that there’s no point messing with the psyche of guys in that situation. Bubble wrap over barbed wire. There’s no reason or excuse to potentially damage the relationship between player and organization when the latter is banking on the former being a key piece, or at the very least, a piece. You’re going to be roommates, so maybe try to avoid the fight for the good spot in the parking lot on day one.
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It’s not that black and white, of course, but were I the General Manager of the Anaheim Ducks, I would be actively pursuing a possible trade for widely-beloved offense-first Big Body Ryan Getzlaf, and possibly former Hart Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion Corey Perry (Jason Brough wrote the opposite on Perry here at Pro Hockey Talk). Both will be unrestricted free agents this summer – as in, they can sign with anyone – and neither seems to want to sign an extension before hitting the open market (though Getzlaf is apparently the more willing of the two). They could lose them both for nothing by taking a run at the Cup.
Let me explain my opinion here:
This is the Anaheim Ducks, not the Vancouver Canucks or Toronto Maple Leafs. That means that this isn’t a team who’s that far removed from winning the Cup (2007), so there’s less desperation. There is less clamoring for this team to Get It Done At All Costs from their fans and media, as much as they’d like the team to win it all.
This is also Anaheim, which again, is not Philadelphia or Chicago. That means that if their team is terrible for an extended period of time, there is no guarantee of continued attendance and interest. It’s not that California doesn’t love is its hockey, but even Californian hockey fans would note that it’s not the same there as it is in Canada or the big US markets (if they aren’t willing to, they’re wrong). It’s a niche sport in the state, it’s not The Sport.
What those things mean, is that maintaining a good club there matters, which is okay. That’s allowed. Peaks and valleys are less desirable in a 30-team league where there’s no guarantee of the peak, no matter how good you may be. And, the Ducks have enough good young talent that if they add to it, they can maintain a competitive team for many years to come, which has to be awfully appealing in the eyes of team ownership, and thus, for the GMs job security. Read the rest of this entry »
Last night I was watching a game between the Chicago Blackhawks and the Colorado Avalanche in which, get this, the Blackhawks pulled out a victory. Along the way, I couldn’t stop thinking about how much the way Matt Duchene handles the puck reminds me of the way Pat “The Professor” Kane handles it. (I’m going to keep pushing that nickname until it sticks.)
And in the past, I’ve mentally linked the way Rick Nash plays to the way Marian Hossa plays to the way Evgeni Malkin plays, so I figured it might be fun to see what type of star-labels I could come up with for forwards, and then figure out who would fit where.
I’ve narrowed it down to six groups, with a handful of guys falling under the “hybrid” label. Also, I used the expression “star” lightly, given that I’ve categorized like, 60 players.
Those “star” classes are as follows:
Long Bodies, Wizard Wands, Bombers, Big Boys and Lurkers, with “Workers” as the sort-of-dicey label for the last group. Read the rest of this entry »
Last night I had the distinct pleasure of attending a hockey game with some excellent seats, and over the course of the game, I thought some thoughts. Because I write for a living, I thought “Hey, maybe if I jot down these thoughts, I can write said thoughts in a post about my thoughts.”
Anyway, the game was between the New Jersey Devils and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
These are those thoughts.
I can’t help but think how absolutely overwhelming (and awesome) it must be for the boys and girls who get to skate out before the game, cut a lap with the flag, and stand on the blueline for the national anthems in Toronto (or anywhere). I played in front of some sizeable crowds over the years, and I gotta say, I never really got over that part. It’s always cool. You can hear the whole crowd sing along to the anthem, which is better than being in the crowd, in which case you can only hear the terrible person behind you. Also, you get to rock on your skates, which is a pretty fun habit to get into. (Just don’t forget to take off your helmet like I did in North Dakota, cage and all. I was a little preoccupied thinking about my first shift.)
Has to be a lifelong memory for those kids.
The Grocery Stick Skate during TV timeouts
For those of you who don’t know, “grocery stick” refers to a player who gets off after a shift, shuffles towards the middle of the bench as players roll out, then doesn’t get his number called for a long time, so he ends up just being the divider for the d-men and forwards.
Anyway, Read the rest of this entry »
Every sports fan has “that game.” The lucky few of us have more than one “that game.” I live in Toronto so I only have one. Thankfully, my “that game” is the shared by almost the entirety of Canada. I am speaking, of course, about the 2010 Gold Medal game between Canada and The United States. Three years ago today the game was played. Three years ago today I became a Sidney Crosby fan. I remember…most of it. A lot of people point to game 2 of the 1987 Canada Cup as the greatest hockey game ever played. I get that but I’ve watched that game recently and, with some distance and hindsight, I can pretty safely say that 2010 topped it. Maybe it’s the being there aspect but, for my money, there has never been a greater game than the one that was played on February 28, 2010.
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I am going to do my very best to not turn this into a screed against Don Cherry as I really don’t intend it to be one. Okay, I kind of do. But, still, bear with me. I have made it known in no uncertain terms that I am not a fan of Cherry. I think he’s a xenophobic, semi-racist, ignorant, militaristic, and possibly slightly senile old man who once served a purpose but is now just a beacon for ratings and money. And that’s kind of my point.
On Saturday, Cherry went on another one of his patented tirades that don’t make any sense claiming that there is no crime nor drugs in hockey because of the level of respect that is prevalent in the NHL. And because hockey players wear ties to the rink. Or something. I’m not going to get into the depths of how factually untrue this statement is as it ignores decades of hockey players with drug abuse problems (Derek Boogaard and John Kordick spring immediately to mind and the rest of the list is a long one), we’re used to Cherry saying ridiculous and false statements. At this point, the exercise of slamming Cherry or calling him ignorant or pick your adjective is an exercise in repetition. We know. The interesting point to come out of all this comes from our own Drew Fairservice who tweeted this on Saturday night:
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Image: The Associated Press
I’m no goalie expert, so when I heard that the tender being called up to start for the Calgary Flames – Danny Taylor – wears his gear differently from others, I was intrigued and reached out for an explanation.
Justin Goldman is the Director of Goalie Scouting for McKeen’s Hockey, a weekly contributor for NHL.com, and the founder of The Goalie Guild. You can follow him on Twitter @TheGoalieGuild.
-by Justin Goldman
To say that NHL goaltenders are particular about their equipment would be a major understatement.
Try more like obsessive-compulsive.
If you were asked to stop slappers from Shea Weber and Zdeno Chara, you’d be a bit neurotic about your gear, too. And like all pro hockey players, as goalies get older, they gain an intimate comfort level in certain brands and modifications that allow them to use their tools of the trade with full confidence.
“Look good, feel good, play good,” is easily one of the most popular mottos spoken by goalies across the globe; these days, style and swagger seem like they might be as important as protection.
For Calgary Flames goalie Danny Taylor, not only is his style unique, but so is the way he wears his gear. Read the rest of this entry »