A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep.
1. When the NHL unveils the remaining 67 of its 100 greatest players Friday night, I’m preparing for Jarome Iginla to get overlooked.
I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong.
He’s on the bubble, but I fear his lack of a championship ring, his spending prime years on mediocre teams, and his fizzling in Colorado may have harmed his status in the voters’ minds.
Iginla is the 16th most prolific goal scorer in the history of the league. This, while playing a knuckle-hard brand of hockey. More than 1,500 games, more than 1,280 points, more than 1,000 PIMs. Seventeen seasons in which he put up between 20 and 52 goals.
“He should be right up there. He’s got the numbers to support it, that’s for sure. I don’t want to disrespect anyone who played in a different era, but he should be there,” Giordano said.
“It’s such a tough question for me to answer because I lived in this era. I played with him for a long time. He’s a big-game player. Usually a lot of his goals are down the stretch in big games, and in the playoffs you see what he can do.”
You want clutch? Iginla’s 97 game-winning goals (and counting?) put him sixth all-time, ahead of GOATs like Gretzky, Messier and LaFleur (granted, Iginla had more OT opportunities). Everyone above of Iginla on that list — Jaromir Jagr, Phil Esposito, Brett Hull, Teemu Selanne and Brendan Shanahan — will probably make the 100.
I’m ready to call shenanigans if you don’t get in, Jarome.
2. Shoot it, Mitch!
Mitchell Marner leads all rookies and all Maple Leafs in assists (28) but ranks fourth on the club in shots fired, despite having plenty of time with the puck on his stick.
Coach Mike Babcock wants the kid to quit hesitating and pull the trigger already.
“In junior, you can stickhandle around one more guy and get a little closer. In the NHL, you can’t stickhandle around that guy,” Babcock said Monday.
“Last game when he had those opportunities, he passed on them. Most goals in the National Hockey League are scored on second chances. In order to get a second chance, you gotta shoot the first one.”
That night, during the first period of Toronto’s victory over Calgary, Mitchy Slick made a great hustle play leading to a partial breakaway with defender Dougie Hamilton coming back. Instead of firing against a struggling Brian Elliott when he had time, Marner tried to deke Hamilton. No dice:
"No." – Dougie to Marner on that partial break #CGYvsTOR
— Calgary Flames (@NHLFlames) January 24, 2017
Marner has made breaking an old habit his No. 1 improvement focus.
“Just throwing the puck in more, putting myself in better shooting situations,” says the 19-year-old. “Just not throwing the puck away and getting it on net more. That’s what I kinda got to get in my head.”
3. Buffalo’s Ryan O’Reilly is one of the best faceoff men in hockey, period. (One of the reasons Team Canada coach Mike Babcock wanted him as a replacement for the World Cup).
Who worries O’Reilly most when he glides into the dot?
“Patrice Bergeron,” he said, not needing long to think about it. “I don’t take a lot against righties, and he’s similar to me. He takes them on both sides. He’s one of the tougher guys. I’m like, OK, I gotta be on tonight. There’s never an easy draw. Never a clean win. It’s always get in there strong, battle, and it’s always a second-effort win against him — if I even win it. He’s the toughest guy for me.”
Both Bergeron and O’Reilly are hovering around the 58% success rate this season, and no one in the East has won more draws than Bergeron’s 635.
4. I’ve made a couple jokes about Wayne Gretzky’s omnipresence this centennial season, but he was my childhood hero and if he’s doing an interview, I listen.
Like any human, he’ll fall back on some safe, go-to answers and anecdotes. That said, Gretzky’s fill-in-the-blanks, rapid-fire Q&A on ESPN’s Dan Le Batard Show this week was fun.
Great lines on Theo Fleury and getting benched by Glen Sather. Watch:
5. Here’s the upside of the debacles in Arizona and Colorado, who recently shut down Semyon Varlamov for the season: At least they know where they stand.
With so many Eastern Conference clubs technically alive and in the race — Doug Weight to the rescue! — the Coyotes and Avalanche should be able to drive up the price on their players for sale and we may actually see a big name like Matt Duchene get traded.
Big test for young John Chayka, who made some interesting comments Wednesday about UFA Shane Doan‘s availability.
“I’ve had some discussions,” Chayka told Arizona Sports 98.7. “But at the same time, talking to Shane, I don’t get the sense that this is the time to have that type of discussion.
“It’s been a bit overblown. Not in the sense a player who is maybe in the last year of his career would have thoughts that if a team is not trending toward the playoffs, which we don’t appear to be, that maybe there’s another opportunity out there for him. So that part’s not overblown. I think Shane has had some thoughts, and that’s natural and organic for his situation.
“But this kind of narrative that comes out that there’s some issues with how he feels he’s being used or not used, or that we had some long, drawn-out, confrontational-type discussions in the summer – I mean, those are the things that are just frustrating because they’re not true. It’s not fair to anyone. It’s not fair to Shane. It’s not fair to [Dave Tippett]. I think he takes a lot of the brunt of this stuff and it’s not fair to him or ownership.
“Again, I think it’s a player that’s looking for if there is an opportunity out there that makes sense for himself and his family at some point to try and win a Stanley Cup. But this kind of, again, narrative that comes from people’s opinion that are then written as fact – I think that’s untrue and unfair for the situation.”
6. After winning Saturday’s Battle of Ontario via the skills competition, Guy Boucher gave strong quotes on the shootout.
“I never watch shootouts,” Ottawa’s coach said. “Two reasons. One: I hate it. I think it’s a team game and it should be decided with team play, but I understand the game has got to end. The other thing: I got in the habit of not looking. Makes no difference if I look or not, so I let the guys do their thing. I used to get involved and talk to the guys. You could do this and that. Now I stay out of the way.”
If you don’t watch, how do you know if you won?
“When our boys start screaming on the bench, you get the reaction pretty quick.”
Boucher had got in the habit of turning to three names he trusted to take the shootout. Big-money guys for a big-pressure situation: Erik Karlsson, Bobby Ryan and Kyle Turris.
Sens goalie coach Pierre Groulx kept bugging Boucher to call depth forward Tom Pyatt‘s number instead. Pyatt kills it in practice. When the shootout in Toronto went to a fourth round, the coach finally pulled on his blindfold and pulled out his secret weapon.
“I’m not smart, because I could’ve done it before,” Boucher said. “You don’t tend to send those guys. You have big names… Your best hockey player might not be your best shootout guy, [but] you’ve got to know your people.”
7. Yeah, they’re bosom buddies, but my ears perked when Calgary rookie Matthew Tkachuk just casually threw Auston Matthews in the same breath as Connor McDavid and Sidney Crosby. High praise.
“It’s fun keeping tabs on him. Every time I look [at highlight shows] he’s doing something special. A guy like that, you can’t really contain,” Tkachuk said.
“Guys like him, McDavid and Crosby, the best players in the world, you gotta stay above them and limit their chances.”
8. I asked Giordano to make the case for Tkachuk’s under-the-radar Calder Trophy hunt.
“He’s playing against literally the best line on the other team every night and doing a great job,” the captain said.
“Not a lot of 19-year-olds come in and do that. His line has been good all year, and he’s been a big part of that. Getting in people’s faces. Being feisty. He deserves to be talked about right up there with those other rookies. I know they might have better numbers, points-wise, but if you look at defensive play and 5-on-5 play, he’s right up there.
“Little things stick out. I haven’t seen a young guy ever play with the poise he has and win the battles along the walls and around the net. He’s smart. He’s obviously big and will get stronger as he gets older, but he’s a smart, smart player with the puck. Undercover skill. Good hands in tight. Doesn’t risk the puck or turn it over a lot, so he deserves a ton of credit.”
Moves like this one gotta go, though:
9. Shocked Brad Marchand, a notorious repeat offender, only got a $10,000 fine for this dirty trip on Nicklas Kronwall. Anyone remember the last time a hearing resulted in only a fine?
Marchand is an all-star, the best skater on his team. Edginess is what all teams want, but this is just unnecessary:
Marchand's fine equivalence is $100 for somebody who makes $50K.
— Winging It In Motown (@wingingitmotown) January 26, 2017
10. Pittsburgh sophomore Conor Sheary is going to cash in huge. Six goals and nine points in a four-game stretch — including the OT winner in that wild Penguins-Capitals river hockey game earned him First Star of the Week honours.
Helps when you play with the best in the world. Sidney Crosby says he and his linemate have placed and emphasis on speed and turnover creation.
“Shears has been hot around the net,” Crosby told the club website. “When that happens, you try to keep finding him, and he keeps putting it in.”
The undrafted Sheary, 24, is making an NHL pittance ($667,500) this season and already has 17 goals and 34 points. He’s a restricted free agent in line for a monster raise. No sense messing with Crosby’s chemistry.
11. This is what it looks like when one of the big four team sports starts stitching ads on jerseys. Interesting that the NBA is beginning this new world order by stamping a historic uniform like the Boston Celtics’ with GE in 2017-18. How comfortable would you be to see a corporate logo on an Original Six sweater?
Gary Bettman has always maintained that the NHL wouldn’t be the first to do it.
12. Bravo, Nashville Predators. The team has united with the MEND program, pledging $500,000 to help eliminate domestic violence through education.
P.K. Subban, Ryan Ellis, Austin Watson and Mike Fisher appear in the promotional spot: