Hall of Fame winger and Toronto Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan took questions from hockey fans for a Mailbag post at the Players’ Tribune, with a range of topics from rebuilding the Blue & White to tales from his playing days.
Of particular interest was a question about the worst on-ice chirping attempt he ever witnessed as a player. It involved one of the game’s all-time trash talkers, Sean Avery.
Avery once attempted to fire some trash talk at Hall of Famer Joe Sakic, but was promptly shut down by his former Detroit Red Wings teammate Brett Hull while Shanahan looked on.
I remember when I was in Detroit, Sean Avery stood up as Joe Sakic was skating by our bench. Sean was a young, enthusiastic hockey player who was well liked by us old guys, and as you might know, was known for trash talking. But when he stood up and yelled, “Hey Sakic!” Brett Hull grabbed him by the back of his sweater and yanked him down on the bench. Then he said, and I’ll never forget this, “You are not allowed to speak to Mr. Sakic.” And then Sean looked down the bench at the rest of the boys and we all just sort of nodded.
Let’s call it Hull looking out for Avery’s best interests. It wouldn’t be the last time, as Hull signed the former super-pest to a four-year, $15.5-million contract when he was co-general manager of the Dallas Stars in 2008. Avery was bought out just 23 games into his tenure with the Stars after serving a six-game suspension for crude remarks about fellow players.
Shanahan’s mailbag offers several interesting nuggets including his thoughts on the legendary Red Wings-Avalanche rivalry, “the code,” and the role of analytics in player evaluation.
I would say that I don’t think anybody should know precisely what any club is doing to evaluate talent. Whatever you want to call information — whether it’s traditional or analytics — it’s only as valuable as the people who dissect it. To me, all information is good information, and to turn a blind eye to any of it out of some sort of bias towards “old school” or “new school” would mean you’re not doing your job. I’m a big believer in having whatever data you can have available to the organization, while also ensuring that you have a diverse, open-minded group to determine how to interpret that data. Basically, you need to have people in place who can look at a lot of information and determine what’s actually going to help your club and what’s a waste of time.
Shanahan totalled 656 goals and 1,354 points in 1,524 career games with the New Jersey Devils, St. Louis Blues, Hartford Whalers, Red Wings, and New York Rangers.
Read Brendan Shanahan’s entire Mailbag for the Players’ Tribune here.