yankee hockey

MINE GOES TO ELEVEN

Posted in New Jersey, Retired Jerseys, Washington, What Going Right by yankhockey on December 31, 2008

The Capital’s retired Mike Gartner’s number eleven this week. He had a wonderful career, putting up over 1300 points, and many of his best years came in Washington. No one would ever say that Gartner doesn’t deserve accolades. In fact, I think he deserved a ton of accolades during his career, but he was often overlooked, even in seasons where he was scoring 50+ goals. He never once won an NHL award, never once a Stanley Cup, he was never even on a conference winning team. One of the tragedies of expansion is that many talented, deserving players, never went on to post season success thanks to the large number of teams they now had to contend against. It’s hard to see a player¬† who could score a hundred points in a season not even playing in a Stanley Cup game during the Original Six era, but with more teams comes more challenges.

Anyway, like I said, I would never say that Gartner doesn’t deserve accolades, but this seems to me to be yet another of the pointless retirements that we’ve seen this year. It used to be that you didn’t retire a number unless the player who wore it was not just (or even) exceptional, but a cornerstone of your team. Number retirements should be reserved for players who didn’t just shined in your arena, but defined an era. Gartner was probably the best player on the Capitals teams he played for, but there was nothing about his stay there that was especially significant.

You have to ask yourself: Was Mike Gartner a different player on the Caps then he was for the Rangers, or the Leafs? He was a role player, granted a very talented one with a knack for scoring a lot of points, but he never even captained a team!

Speaking of retired numbers, I was watching a game in St Louis today and there were six numbers in the rafters. What’s that about? Have they really had that many great players in there somewhat short history? I really feel that the only numbers retired this year that really deserve it are Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson in Chicago, and Trevor Linden in Vancouver. Those numbers represent players who weren’t always the best, even on their own teams, but who were leaders, definers, and monuments to their teams and their cities.

Or maybe I’m just really pissed off because the banner Washington lifted into the rafters is the ugliest creation in sports history!

WHAT’S GOING RIGHT:

The Brodeur-less Devils keep on a-winning without their all world goalie. It’s a testament to a team that competes every year. Maybe now people will stop giving as much credit to Brodeur. Just think about when he gets back how good this team will really be. They may well win the Atlantic. The Rangers are struggling, they’re already ahead of the Penguins, and Philly might give them some trouble, but with Brodeur in net who gives a damn about Philly. In fact, with Brodeur in net they have to be mentioned in any discussion about who will be playing for the Stanley Cup.

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CAPTAIN BLOOD

Posted in Retired Jerseys, Vancouver, Veterans, Washington, What Going Right by yankhockey on December 17, 2008

I would really like to delay this post, maybe skip today and do a special Thursday post, or wait until Friday’s, but with the Mats Sundin soap opera supposedly ending on Thursday there is just too much about to happen to delay today’s post.

I want to delay today’s post because the topic hasn’t occurred yet. Unless you’re reading it after seven on Wednesday the 16th of December in which case it’s certainly already happened, but not for me now in the present… Ok, temporal mechanics make everything more complicated so I’ll just stick with it hasn’t happened yet.

Tonight, before the Canucks take on the Oilers in Vancouver, the most worthwhile event to take place so far this year in the NHL will occur; the retirement of Trevor Linden’s number 16. For those of you unfamiliar with Trevor Linden he is possibly the most significant player in Canucks’ history. Yes, I’m aware of Pavel Bure and Alexander Mogilny, Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi, and Kirk McLean. They even had Mark Messier for a moment. But none of those players can hold a candle to Trevor Linden in Vancouver.

Trevor Linden was the second overall pick (after Mike Modano) in the 1988 draft. He quickly won the hearts of the fans with his skill, but more importantly, his heart and spirit for the game. At age 21 he was made their captain. In 1994, thanks in large part to his stellar post-season play and leadership, he brought the Canucks to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals, losing to the NY Rangers 3-2 (both goals being Linden’s). He gained the nickname “Captain Canuck”.

A few years down the road there were problems for Linden in Vancouver. New coach Mike Keenan didn’t take to his presence and made things difficult for Linden. Then they brought in Mark Messier, who only a few years earlier had been instrumental in beating the Canucks for the Cup. Linden was forced to give up his ‘C’ to Messier, an act many fans saw as sacrilege. Then came what is still known in Vancouver as “The Trade”.

In 1998 Linden was sent to the Islanders for Bertuzzi and Bryan McCabe. This was a different Canucks team now. Bure wanted out, Linden and McClean were gone, and the shuffle would cost the Canucks in the short run. After a bunch of disappointing seasons finishing out of the playoff race, Keenan was out, Marc Crawford was in, and Markus Naslund was captain. Meanwhile Linden found himself captain again in Long Island, where he once again was a fan favorite. Still, his heart belonged to Vancouver, a city he adopted as his own. The charities he began there he continued to run, he continued to visit hospitals there, make appearances where he was needed like a super-hero. To Vancouver fans he was still a member of their family, still Captain Canuck.

The Canucks were doing well again, with Naslund-Bertuzzi-Brendan Morrison making up the highest scoring front line in the league, the West Coast Express. In 2001 Linden was playing for the Washington Capitals after coming over from the Montreal Canadiens, four teams in only four years. Having trouble finding his scoring touch in Washington, the Capitals were happy to trade Linden, something the Canucks took advantage of. Canucks GM Brian Burke sent a first round pick toward Washington, and in exchange got Linden back in Vancouver. To say Canucks fans were excited would have been an understatement, Captain Canuck was back in town!

Back in Vancouver his scoring touch returned as he began to light the lamp with more regularity then he had in years. You could tell he was playing the game where he was meant to be. He played five more seasons with the Canucks, setting records for goals scored, assists, games played, and playoff points. The highlight of his return may have been game seven of the 2006-2007 playoffs against Dallas. In a hard fought and stingy series (Turco shut out the Canucks three times) Linden came out skating in that seventh game, scoring two goals, including the series clincher. He was the hero of the Canucks, as if the fans needed to be reminded.

After a 2007-2008 season where he put up small numbers, and which everyone agrees he was under-utilized, Linden retired, announcing it in the dignified and humble manner he had always held himself during all the years he was playing.

Linden was more then just Captain Canuck, he was respected league wide. He was made president of the NHLPA, a title he held for nine years which still hasn’t been refilled. He has gotten accolades not just in Vancouver but around the league for his charitable work. There isn’t a player or coach in the league (well, maybe Mike Keenan) who wouldn’t praise him on his leadership abilities, not to mention his hockey skills.

Linden loved the game. That’s what he brought more then anything. Every team he played for he got outscored by other players. While Bure was scoring 60 goals, he was scoring 30, while he was struggling in Washington, Peter Bondra was scoring 81 points. Still, regardless of where he played people loved and respected him. The reason is he played with heart. You hear that a lot, especially from hockey fans. You want a guy who plays with heart. You wanna know why Boston traded Joe Thornton? He didn’t play with heart. You wanna know why gritty guys who are missing teeth and can’t score a goal to save their lives get played over talented AHL scorers? They play with heart. Heart is a good commodity to have in the NHL and Linden had it in bunches.

Vancouver isn’t a team with a lot of history. If you don’t count their very sad 7th Man promotion (which has already been discontinued for reasons of stupidity), they only have one number retired; Stan “The Steamer” Smyl. Of all the players that have played for them, other then Linden, only two other names come to mind for possible future¬† honors; The Russian Rocket Pavel Bure, and former scapegoat and holder of all their points records Markus Naslund. Linden deserves the honor more then either of them. More even then Stan Smyl, though Smyl certainly should be up there. Linden was the very spirit of Vancouver hockey, even when he was no longer playing in Vancouver. And don’t think that just because he is retired that that has changed at all. Vancouver fans still hold a torch for this guy, and I don’t see that changing any time soon. I’d go so far as to say that Linden is to Vancouver what Gordie Howe is to Detroit, or Bobby Orr is to Chicago. Linden is that guy in Vancouver, the guy you tell your kids you saw play, the guy whose jersey you still wear long after they are gone, the guy who you think of when you think of hockey. This jersey retirement isn’t a promotion, it isn’t a gimmick, it’s exactly what the entire process of retiring numbers was created for, honoring those who have done what no other player could ever do again. So congratulations Trevor Linden, and Vancouver fans everywhere.

WHAT’S GOING RIGHT:

I’m sorry all your loyal Canadian (not Canadiens) fans out there. This argument has to stop, and I know you won’t like the result. Alexander Ovechkin is better then Sydney Crosby. I mean, like, WAY better. Crosby is a phenomenal player, he’s incredible. He reminds me very much of the man he used to play with, Mario Lemiuex, who is certainly in the top ten all time. But Ovechkin is just incredible. He’s more exciting, he’s more dynamic, he’s a bloody powder keg that can skate like Bobby Orr, shoot like Joe Sakic, hit like Scott Stevens, and stun you like a modern day Maurice Richard. I watched his team play the Islanders last night. He scored a gimme goal earlier in the game which looked like it would be the game winner until the Islanders tied it up late. Then in overtime he pushed his way just below the face-off dot and let loose a powerful and sneaky backhand that just went off the post and out. “Wow,” I thought, “What a play.” Then, less then a minute later he was back in. He slid into the middle and snapped a shot into the upper part of the net I just couldn’t believe. And the scary part is… he does that kind of stuff all the time! It’s not lucky or a fluke, he’s good. He’s really good. I’m willing to put forth that he is the best. Sorry Crosby, you’re just not that good.

WHOLE LOTTA SHAKIN’ GOING ON

Let’s see, what’s happened since the last post I wrote. Ok, we got five jerseys unveiled, two numbers retired, two devastating injuries, and a partridge in a pear tree. God, where to begin? Frankly, I don’t want to start anywhere because all of these occurrences just make me mad. The jerseys are horrible, one of the retired numbers doesn’t make any sense, and the injuries could cause their teams all kinds of troubles this season (for Dallas losing Morrow it could mean the deepest part of the sewer, for Vancouver and Luongo it may mean missing the post season). But, I am a hockey writer, and as a hockey writer I must remove my own misgivings to properly cover the news of the game, so let’s get on with it. Because of the length of today’s entry there will be no questions at the end.

IF INGESTED, USE THIRD JERSEY TO INDUCE VOMITTING:

In the weekend of weekends for third jersey fans five new jerseys were introduced. The Sharks started things off with their new horrorshow of a sweater. It even has a name: BlackArmor. That loud banging sound you hear combined with a throbbing pain in your forehead is you hitting your head against your desk. Don’t be alarmed, it’s a reflex like sneezing, yawning, or laughing at people who buy this jersey. I’ve never thought San Jose had a particularly good jersey scheme, but it has seemed to work if their continued use of teal is any indication. But this is so very lame. Not Dallas Stars lame, but pretty sad for a such a great hockey market. I mean, is black a theme or something? And giving it a name? Ugh. The logo itself looks too much like an AHL or ECHL logo for my tastes. Well San Jose, you didn’t do any worse then anyone else this year.

After the Sharks it was the Ottawa Senators’ turn to show how not to spend money. Also, is it just me or does Dany Heatley trying to look intimidating just look silly. The guy is a great hockey player, but he still looks like he’s eighteen. Wow, it’s black, and it says “SENS”… incredible. It must have taken a six year old four minutes with a crayon to work that one out. And what’s in this “Back in Black” campaign? I realize that the Senators have had black in their jerseys forever, but I thought the main color was always red. Am I wrong about this? Did they have a period of time when they wore primarily black? Whatever the case, I hates it.

Then the Coyotes came out and said “We want to do something different.” And something different they did. I’d like to take a moment to thank the Coyotes for doing something that’s been sorely missing from this alternate jersey season: create something entirely new. Oh, it’s plenty ugly, but it has a new main logo, new shoulder logo, and “Coyotes” script mark on the pants. I don’t know what’s up with all the black, I actually really like the Coyotes’ red. I lived in Phoenix for a time and I could say with confidence that the earthen red they wear suits the city. Overall the jersey is totally unremarkable though. The main logo is way to small, the little red sleeve forearms look pathetic, and seriously what’s with the black?

Then it was time for the Kings to do something completely different. They said “We want to stand out from the crowd, be unique.” And so they went with black… Ok, maybe they did what everyone else did but they must have had a unique slogan…. right? Seriously… did all these teams hire the same damn people? I mean, is black the new black or something? Are they planning on rescuing some hockey players captured by the Vietcong in a daring midnight raid? The new logo is decent I guess, it’s more of a mish-mash of previous logos then something totally unique but it looks fine. I just swear, if I see one more black jersey I’m gonna punch Gary Bettman.

So then, on Sunday Tampa Bay ended the parade (well, not really, since the Bruins will be unveiling theirs later today). And all I can say about it is I LOVE IT! Sure, there’s a little black on the sleeves but look at all that blue! And if I’m not mistaken there’s a little bit of silver in there too. And white. Who cares if it’s the most boring piece of crap I’ve seen since Manos: The Hands of Fate, the colors make me feel so alive.

Alright, I’m done with that charade, it sucks, they all sucked, looking at them just makes me mad. So let’s move on to something more positive.

IF YOU DIDN’T REVEAL A THIRD JERSEY, RAISE YOUR BANNER:

On Sunday the Maple Leafs raised the number of former captain and home town favorite Wendell Clark. Cap’n Crunch’s number 17 went up into the rafters in Toronto to take it’s place amongst some of the games greats. He got the name Cap’n Crunch because of his brutal hits, as well as his awesome ‘stache. He was a scrapper, a body checker, and a bruiser. He could score some goals too, over 40 in ’93, but his role was the adrenalin gland of the Leafs. This number retirement is exactly what the whole concept was meant to represent. Clark is no hall of famer, he wasn’t the best player in his era. Hell, he wasn’t even the best player on his team. It wasn’t his point totals that retired his number, it was the love from his city, and his love back. This leaves Maple Leaf nation with a good feeling, they love Clark there, and have even after he left for other teams. That his number joins Ace Bailey’s is an honor well deserved.

In a more questionable retired Saturday, Montreal retired Patrick Roy’s number 33. We all should know enough about Patrick Roy to understand why they might do this, but for those new to the sport, let me give a brief history. Roy came into Montreal as a rookie and won the Stanley Cup right off. He won a bunch more games for them including another Stanley Cup (the last they have won). And then it all fell apart in one game. After letting in 9 goals in a period and a half Roy was finally pulled from the game. Feeling like his coach left him in just to humiliate him (they didn’t have a good relationship) Roy demanded and trade and never went in goal for the Canadiens again. He was traded to the Avalanche where he won two more Stanley Cups, became the winningest goaltender in NHL history, and uttered one of the best sports quotes of all time.

I can understand why anyone would want to retire Roy’s number. Colorado already has. The thing is… they hated Roy in Montreal for demanding that trade. After that trade the Canadiens had no success in the post season at all, if they even got there. It’s great that they are able to forgive, but you shouldn’t forget. A guy should go from arch-nemesis to in the rafters just cause his numbers are huge. Granted, he did a lot for that team while he was there, but he spit in their faces and stormed out. There’s no going back from that, or at least, there shouldn’t be. But, I guess love is blind and Patrick Roy is a French-Canadian hero. Just look at all the goaltender’s he’s inspired; Jean-Sebastian Giguere, Roberto Luongo, Jose Theodore. Ok, I’ll let this pass this one time, but don’t be doing anything like it again Montreal!

ALWAYS STRETCH BEFORE EXERCISING:

Ok, I’ll be brief. Brendan Morrow and Roberto Luongo both left games on Saturday with injuries. Morrow’s requires surgery and he is done for the year. Luongo’s is still undetermined, he will be having an MRI on Monday, but walked unaided to a press conference after the game so it doesn’t look too bad. Of the two Morrow’s is by far the most damaging to his team, and not just because it’s for the entire year. Dallas needs leadership and scoring, and Morrow brings them both. Without him they will be completely disheveled, like the Lost Boys without Peter Pan. The Canucks will miss Luongo, he’s one of the best goaltender’s in the league. But in his place Curtis Sanford won his second game in a row, and the Canucks have an amazing prospect by the name of Cory Schneider who not only rocked the pre-season, but is making complete fools out of AHL shooters posting a record of 10-1 with a .945 SAV% and a 1.37 GAA. Frankly, I’d really like to see what the kid can do in the big show, and I think Canucks’ fans will too as soon as they stop hyperventilating.

3’S COMPANY plus VANCOUVER GOES BACK IN TIME

Posted in Chicago, Players, Retired Jerseys, Surprise of the Week, third jersey, Vancouver, Veterans by yankhockey on November 14, 2008

On Thursday the Chicago Blackhawks lifted number 3 into the rafters. They did this to honor two of the great defensemen in their history, Pierre Pilote and Keith Magnuson. Pilote played 13 seasons with the Blackhawks, and Magnuson 11. In total they scored just 637 points in the NHL, but that only proves that statistics tell only part of the story.

Pilote was an incredible defensemen, one of the best of his day. He won the Norris trophy three years in a row, and in an era of low scoring defensemen put up decent point totals his entire career. In 1961 he helped his team win the Stanely Cup. The next year he was appointed captain, an honor he would have for the next eight years. He was considered, even during his time, one of the more epic defensemen the game had seen. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1969.

Magnuson was less of an offensive threat, he was really just a threat. In a period of play where big bruisers dominated the game, he was one of the most feared. He had only 14 goals in 11 seasons, but a whopping 1400 penalty minutes. His gutsy play, and leadership on and off the ice led him to be named captain in 1976, a title he would hold for three years. Though he never won a Norris trophy, nor a Stanely Cup, he helped the ‘Hawks reach the finals twice, and defined an era of Blackhawks’ hockey.

Pilote was there for the honor, unfortunately Magnuson was killed three years ago in a car crash. Both of these men were loved in Chicago, heroes in their own right. It is not for me to say anything bad about these two, or to imply that this honor was not well deserved. However I feel that the tradition of retiring numbers has become less and less exclusive these days. If you look at the history of retired numbers, until the 90s you didn’t get too many a year, if at all. Suddenly we’re having them by the truckload. This season we are having seven numbers retired. SEVEN. How can anyone feel like this is a truly exclusive, rare honor, with so many numbers going up into the rafters. Certainly these men do deserve to be honored, and Magnuson’s memory especially, but the last time either man played for this team was 1980, 28 years ago. You’d have to think if Blackhawk nation really felt that 3 should go up to the rafters that they would have put it up there already. Well, it’s made many Chicagoans happy so there’s just not much to criticize.

THIRD JERSEYS KEEP-A-ROLLIN’ OUT:

Vancouver released their third jerseys last night, and I wish there was a lot to say about them, but we’ve seen it all before. I feel for Vancouver, I really do. In the entire history of this franchise they haven’t found one decent logo. They love the stick-in-rink logo because it’s the closest thing they’ve had to a worthwhile insignia. The colors are great. I really think the blue and green says Vancouver, as well as being acceptable colors for hockey anyway. The logos they’ve trotted out over the years? Not so much. How great would they look with just a V? And I don’t mean that horrible black orange and yellow garbage they put out in the early 80s. I mean like the old Vancouver Millionaires that won the cup way back in the teens. Not only that, but burgundy and white are cool hockey colors too. There is actually one really awesome thing that came with these jerseys: Luongo’s new helmet (scroll through at take a look). Holy shit that looks awesome! He needs to wear that all the bloody time.

WHAT THE HELL ESPN:

Remember that article I wrote about goal scoring being up? Well it appeared on the ESPN hockey homepage yesterday with Pierre LeBrun as the author. Check it out. Not only is it the same subject, he even notes the exact same reasons I did for why hockey scoring has been up this year. He has one advantage, he gets to actually interview hockey players so he can quote them saying what I said. Like I said ESPN, if you want to use my writing on your site, just hire me. I’m sure I come cheaper then Mr. LeBrun.

THIS WEEKS SURPRISE:

I’d love to say Brian Burke stepping down as GM of the Ducks is a surprise, but anyone who follows hockey has seen that coming since summer. Roberto Luongo setting the franchise mark for shut-out minutes? No, that’s not a surprise, he broke his own record he set last year. How about the fact that so far, since they began testing, five players in the KHL have been found to have heart defects? That’s a helluva lot of players. I wonder if the NHL does similar testing. You can’t assume this is a local phenomenon in Russia, certainly some players here must have some possible problems as well. Of course, the danger is, can you allow someone with a heart defect to continue to play hockey? Certainly there have had to be many players, many good players too, who have played entire careers with heart defects. It’s very hard to say exactly what kinds of problems a heart defect can cause. There are different levels of heart defects, many of them somewhat benign. There are a lot of us sitting at our computers reading (or typing) this right now who were born with minor defects we aren’t even aware of. This will become on issue of rights of privacy because insurance companies will be wary of insuring hockey players with defects, even if those defects would never cause a life threatening condition. But at the same time, are we obligated to protect our players? We can only hope we won’t see any more deaths or the end of any careers, because if we do there may be sweeping changes that began to infringe on the rights of our hockey players.

CANUCKNUCKLEHEADS

Posted in Retired Jerseys, This Weeks Questions, Vancouver by yankhockey on October 26, 2008
Canucks Retire No. 7 on Saturday Night

Canucks Retire No. 7 on Saturday Night

I’ve been planning on spending an entry for each jersey retired this year, and as such have the unfortunate responsibility of writing about what the Canucks pulled on Saturday. After a lot anticipation on the unveiling of the mysterious “7th Man” in Vancouver, they managed a beautifully choreographed pre-game disappointment. As everyone was anticipating, Vancouver’s seventh man is their fans. But don’t underestimate the ability of Canucks’ management to make questionable decisions. With the help of former No. 7 Cliff Ronning (whose game used signed stick sits next to my computer), the Canucks “retired” No. 7.

I’m not kidding folks. They even unveiled a banner with the slogan “We Are All Canucks” on it. Still don’t believe me? Here’s the video of it here (sorry, tried to embed the thing, but wordpress says no). The story is that, given the sellout streak at GM Place going back nearly five years now, that the organization wanted to pay respects to the fans they feel are the best in the league. It’s hard to argue when all the seats have been filled, even when Bertuzzin, Naslund, and Morrison stopped playing like the West Coast Express and started playing more like the The Amtrak Delay. Really, there are many ways to celebrate a great fan base, giving a fake number retiring ceremony seems kinda… I dunno… silly?

Two things come to mind: first, the Seattle Seahawks did it first, and it was stupid then. Second this is the most gimmicky thing I have ever seen in a hockey rink. Luckily the Canucks management isn’t completely off their rockers, the number is only “retired” until the end of the year, but that doesn’t make it any easier to swallow.

Give the Canucks some credit, they played a great game on a jersey reitrement night, beating the Oilers 6-3 (no points for the seventh man, though they were +2). The seventh man in the stands certainly got into the game, cheering and chanting. In fact, some fans got a litle too into it, having to be escorted out for throwing objects onto the Oilers’ bench. The Canucks deserve this type of game December 17th when they retire Linden’s No. 16, a well deserved retirement.

I wish there was more to say on the subject, but it’s impossible to go back and look at the career of a teams fans. The number 7 has been worn by some good Canucks players like Ronning, Andre Bourdrias, and of course most recently Morrison, who I’m sure would have loved to be there. Retiring No. 7 for the fans though? It’s something I could see happening in Atlanta or Phoenix, but the Canucks like to think of themselves as one of the classy teams of the league, and this just isn’t classy, it’s cliche.

THIS WEEKS QUESTIONS:

When will the Oilers stop their skid? Will the Flyers continue their sudden winning streak? How many goalies will St. Louis lose, and will even prevent them from winning? Will Marian Gaborik be healthy in time to be traded? Will either of the Sedin twins ever score another goal? Will Keith Tkachuk ever be kept off the scoresheet? Will goal scoring in the NHL continue the trend that saw a 6.5 goals-per-game average on Super Saturday? And, the most important question of the week: Will the Islanders be bringing back the fishsticks jersey tonight!?

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