Category Archives: Wayne Gretzky

Leftover Crumbs From the Big NHL Amateur Draft

Drafted 28th by the Phoenix Coyotes was a young fellow named Victor Tikhonov. Tikhonov is the grandson of legendary Soviet coach and taskmaster Victor Tikhonov, who we’re all seen over the years getting nasty with his Red Army and Russian National team players.

Grandpa Tikhonov was the cause of the bitter feud between Alexei Kasatonov and Viatcheslav Fetisov. Fetisov hated Tikhonov and everything he stood for. Kasatonov was a firm believer in the coach and the system. So the two, even though they were defence partners with the Red Army club and teammates in New Jersey, wouldn’t speak to each other. I don’t know if this bitterness still exists but it went on for years so it probably does.

Igor Larionov was another who never understood the drill sargeant techniques of Tikhonov. In fact, I think the majority of Soviet players thought he was a rotten bastard.

Tikhonov was once asked by a reporter about the Russian team in 1972 Summit Series, which he wasn’t a part of. “Why does everyone always talk about that team?” he asked, annoyed.  “Some of my teams were better than them.”

I personally was at a game in St. Petersburg between St. Petersburg SKA and Moscow Red Army, which Tikhonov was coaching. After the game I joined a bunch of people milling around him getting autographs, and he was smiling and as friendly as could be. Just like a kindly grandfather. Just like young Victor’s grandfather.

Victor Tikhonov (the grandson) grew up in California and of course speaks english with no accent at all. He didn’t even step foot in his mother country until he was a teenager. So although he played in Russia last year, and played for Russia in the World Juniors, he’s basically an All-American kid.

 

Montreal drafted a kid named Patrick Johnson in the 206th pick. Johnson happens to be the son of Mark Johnson, who captained the USA in the 1980 Olympics when they shocked the world by beating Victor Tikhonov’s Big Red Machine. Mark was also an NHL’er who played for five different teams. And young Victor is the grandson of Badger Bob Johnson, the much-loved coach of the Calgary Flames and Pittsburgh Penguins.

 

Montreal also took right winger Danny Kristo at 56th, a youngster who’s years away from playing in the bigs. He’s still playing high school, then going to college. Kristo’s favourite team before the weekend was Ottawa.

For their 86th pick, the Habs chose 6’3″ Steve Quailer of the Sioux City Musketeers of the US Hockey League.

At the 116th pick, Montreal chose a goalie, Jason Missiawn of the Peterborough Petes, who happens to be, are you ready for this, 6’8″ tall!

And at 138th, they chose Russian Maxim Turnev, who Habs scouts say reminds them of Sergei Kostitisyn.

 

Last but not least is all the brand new turmoil swirling around the Pittsburgh Penguins. Rental player Marion Hossa is going to bolt the team this year and become a hired gun somewhere else. That means, of course, that it was a huge mistake Pittsburgh made by trading away blue chippers Erik Christensen, Colby Armstrong, and junior star Angelo Esposito and a second round draft choice to Atlanta for Hossa.

What was GM Ray Shero thinking? He probably thought Hossa might be the final piece of the puzzle to win the Cup. He was wrong.

Pittsburgh might also lose Ryan Malone, and who knows about Evgeny Malkin. He’s apparently been offered a boatload of money from a Russian team, and he says he wants to stay in Pittsburgh, but who knows? Los Angeles also seems interested.

Instead of the Penguins looking like the young Edmonton Oilers of the 1980’s, they could end up looking like the recent Ottawa Senators.

Draft Day in the NHL. The Biggest Day Of The Year For Scouts: Montreal Grabs Alex Tanguay. Is Sundin Next?

It’s draft day in the NHL, in about three hours from now, and this post will carry on right through the day. I feel there’s no sense trying to predict who will go where because it’s always just a big guess. Lots of first rounders over the years have proved mediocre at best, and others, like Henrik Zetterberg, end up getting picked up in the hundreds.

 

So I’m just going to wait and see how it plays out. Gary Lupul told me once when he was scouting for the Canucks that this is the one day of the year when scouts get a chance to be stars.

 

The best thing about the draft is the general managers come relaxed, the stress on most of their faces is gone, and it’s always possible a really good swap could occur. I’m a bit mystified at this rumour of Pittsburgh moving Evgeny Malkin. Because unless the guy’s a major prick in the dressing room, why would the Penguins do this?

He turned it up last season when Sidney Crosby was out for a lengthy time injured. The team and the media have been raving about him all season. He just signed, or is about to sign, a contract worth more than Crosby’s.

It’s a mystery to me. All I can think of is that Malkin stunk in the playoffs. Or that it’s a completely false rumour.

 

It would be great if the Habs grabbed some kind of major star, even Marion Hossa. It showed in the playoffs that Montreal was missing a couple of final pieces of the puzzle, and maybe Bob Gainey can pull something off. If they would’ve made it to the Stanley Cup finals, there wasn’t a chance in hell that they would’ve beat Detroit. A top-notch power forward would be nice.

 

JUST ANNOUNCED

Montreal has been given permission by the Toronto Maple Leafs to speak to Mats Sundin. I don’t mind this at all. Sundin’s a tad old but he’d help the Habs.

This is something else that we’ll wait and see about.

 

ALSO ANNOUNCED:

Ottawa goalie Ray Emery cut loose. It’s going to be tough for him to land a job elsewhere, so he might want to think about applying at Scott Paper across the river in Gatineau. It pays a little over 20 bucks an hour.

 

ALSO ANNOUNCED:

A Russian team in the Continental League may or may not have offered Evgeny Malkin 12.5 million a year tax free to come and play. You see how oil can make some people over there very rich and can afford to make offers like this? If only these tycoons would throw some money to the old pensioners in Russia who are making about $50 a month and often sleeping in the streets, many of them old widows whose husbands died in the war. And over here, we’re paying a buck and a half a litre to help make people very rich.

That’s twice the money Malkin would make here. What will he do? 

 

AN HOUR TO DRAFT TIME:

 

DRAFT TIME!

Sarnia’s Steven Stamkos goes first to the Tampa Bay Lightening.

AND!   Montreal trades their 25th pick and a 2009 second round pick to Calgary for 28 year old Quebec boy Alex Tanguay. Tanguay’s a left winger, is 6’1, and also spent five years with the Colorado Avalanche before his two years in Calgary.

He’s a good, solid big leaguer (177 goals, 362 assists), and should be a big plus for the Habs. This is exciting. And Sundin’s a possibility too but may take a few days before we know.

Tanguay coming to Montreal has been a rumour for awhile now, long before the playoffs started, and now it’s happened.

 

The top ten picks went like this:

1. Tampa Bay – Steven Stamkos – forward

2. LA – Drew Daughty – Defence

3. Atlanta – Zach Bogosian – Defence

4. St. Louis – Alex Pieterangelo – Defence

5. Toronto – Luke Schenn – Defence

6. Columbus – Nikita Filatov – Forward

7. Nashville – Colin Wilson – Forward

8. Phoenix – Mikkel Boedker – Forward

9. Islanders – Josh Bailey – Forward

10. Vancouver – Cody Hodgson – Forward

And Chicago, with the eleventh pick, chose forward Kyle Beach who may or may not be a great pick. This guy has the potential to be an impact player, but has a history of being a major pain in the ass, especially off the ice. Will he be the next Sean Avery?

 

SIDENOTE:

Wayne Gretzky got a nice standing ovasion from the Ottawa crowd when he got up to announce the Coyotes’ pick. (Mikkel Boedker)

 

Now it’s time to wait out the Mats Sundin, Montreal rumour. I’m hoping this happens.

 

 

 

Does CBC Stand for “Coddling Bob Cole” Or “Conniving Budget Cuts?”

CBC’s strange yet true decision to axe the Hockey Night in Canada theme song shouldn’t really be a surprise, should it? It’s all about $500 a pop. In their world, 500 bucks is more important than tradition. Can you see ABC/ESPN telling football fans they’re moving Monday Night Football to Sunday to save money?  

You should see the digs the CBC is in in downtown Toronto. Just a stone’s throw from Gretzky’s eatery. With a lease arrangement for the property that must be through the roof. If they want to save money, forget the 500 bucks, just move to Oshawa. There’s a GM plant there that should be empty pretty soon.

It’s a little like 2005 when they fired one of hockey’s best play-by-play guys, Chris Cuthbert. It was budget cuts, they explained. Viewers were livid, wrote nasty letters, and swore they’d never watch hockey again. But head sports lady Nancy Lee didn’t care. Chris Cuthbert goes and Bob Cole stays. The decision was made, regardless of the possibilty that Ms. Lee might have been on a major acid trip at the time.

CBC didn’t care then, and they don’t care now. They’re saving 500 bucks a week. It’s all about the bottom line, as small as it might be. It was a choice. 500 bucks, or music that heralded our hockey game on Saturday night for the last 40 years. The 500 bucks won.

And they figure because we’re Canadian, we’ll put up a fuss now, complain until the season starts, hate the new prize-winning song the first week, then it’ll all be forgotten, we’ll move on, and live happily ever after.

You know, they’re probably right.

All Of A Sudden, After A Long Night, There’s A New Feel To The Finals

Is it possible this could be a dream series after all?

Is it possible that one team, although badly outshot in the series, down three games to one, with one young star, Evgeny Malkin, asleep at the wheel, and the other young star, Sidney Crosby, not behaving like the new Wayne Gretzky, can now make this a real series like we all thought it would be, on the strength of Petr Sykora’s overtime goal in game five that now makes it three games to two.

This absolutey can be a series to remember, although not the way we thought it would be. We thought it could go either way before it started. But Detroit’s been too good and it should be over but it’s not. Now, Wednesday’s tilt in Pittsburgh should be a real beauty.

Although we’ve been fooled before.

 

There’s nothing worse in professional sports than a final series sweep, or even a five game series.  In a perfect world, the showcase stretches out, with drama and heartache, and ending with sheer ecstacy for one team, with one player who creates a legend for himself by hitting that ninth inning pitch into the bleachers, nailing that last second three-pointer or Hail Mary, or notching a game seven overtime goal.

It’s drama. It’s what most of us want. Not some lacklustre, one-sided four game sweep. It’s not good for anyone, except the winning team.

Now we’ve got a series. Maybe.

In the last few hours I’ve talked to people who feel Pittsburgh can now win the whole thing. I’m not sure I feel this way, but they do.

And how can this be? The Penguins have been outplayed, outshot, and outclassed. But goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is starting to play like Martin Biron did in the Montreal-Philadelphia series, which is not something I’m particularly thrilled to remember.

 

Game Note.

When Maxime Talbot tied the game up late in the third period, it was originally announced as having been scored with 34 seconds to go. So I planned on mentioning that this would be the biggest goal with 34 seconds to go since Paul Henderson’s in Moscow in 1972.

Then the official time became 35 seconds to go. So never mind.

 

 

 

 

 

Sidney Crosby Takes The Bull By The Horns And Wakes His Penguins Up

The good news for the Pittsburgh Penguins is their three big guys, Crosby, Malkin, and Hossa, played well. The even better news for the Penguins is that they won game three, and are now pretty well back in the series. But not quite.

Sidney Crosby did what all great stars throughout the years have done. Stepped forward and scored huge goals in big games. Like Orr did, And Richard, Howe, Messier, Lemieux, Gretzky, and all the great ones over the years did.

Tonight, he netted the first two of the game, which broke the team goal drought, and which got the Penguins going.

That’s why he’s a star. He acts like one.

The Penguins barely won game three, though, hanging on for dear life through the third period. And all they have to do is win the next three out of four games.

So I’m not going to predict anything. I’m not Kreskin. It’s sort of possible that Pittsburgh could come all the way back and win this series. I doubt it, but it’s possible.

And like Toe Blake said, “predictions are for gypsys.”

One thing I feel though. Penguins defenceman Hal Gill should be read the riot act. What guys like Gill are known for are silly physical penalties that happen because the skill level isn’t quite up there. He can cost his team the game, which almost happened tonight.

One other note regarding tonight’s game on CBC. Pittsburgh cameras are placed alnost as high up as they are in Tampa. These cameras should be down at least fifteen feet. Detroit’s are. Lots of teams are. Although lots aren’t. I don’t know why. 

In Montreal news.

Guy Lafleur has apparently said that when Saku Koivu and Alex Kovalev become free agents in 2009, the Habs should concentrate more on signing Kovalev. He said Koivu is too serious and business-like in the dressing room, too demanding of his teammates.

What the hell is wrong with that? That just tells me that Koivu is about winning, is about making sure he and his teammates give their all. This is the way Mark Messier was, and Ted Lindsay years ago, and so many other great leaders. These guys have all summer to relax, joke around, have a good time. During the season, they’d better perform, better take it seriously. They’re being paid enough money.

If Koivu’s teammates, and there’s probably only a couple if any, don’t like his hard-core expectations, they should take up ballet instead.

Of course, this could be just one more case of Lafleur saying things that maybe he shouldn’t be saying. He’s been doing this for more than thirty years.

I say the team should concentrate on signing both. They’re equally important in the scheme of things in Montreal.

But I honestly do like the tough approach from the captain.

Pittsburgh and Detroit Go For The Cup. This Is Good, I Suppose.

Two real good teams are going to tangle for the Stanley Cup. I’ve got no complaints about this. It’s not like it’s the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricane, or Tampa Bay Lightening. Or even, dare I say, the Anaheim Ducks.

No, the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings are a solid matchup and two good hockey towns to boot. Pittsburgh had an NHL team in 1925, the Pirates, which lasted until 1930, and the city’s had the Penguins since league expansion in 1967.

Detroit’s been in the league since 1926 when they took over the Victoria BC franchise. The city and team like to call itself Hockeytown, which is a little off. If Detroit’s Hockeytown, then Montreal and Toronto must be Hockeycities.

And if the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit doesn’t start getting more fans in the seats, the nickname might have to be changed to ‘Used to Be Hockeytown.’

This leads me to my second complaint. It’s fine that Gordie Howe is called Mr. Hockey, but isn’t that for others to label the man? My personal opinion is, he shouldn’t be signing autographs as “Gordie Howe, Mr. Hockey.” Doesn’t that make him just a little bit full of himself?

Gordie Howe is considered by not all, but many, as the greatest ever. Greater than Gretzky, Orr, Richard, and Lemieux. It’s a judgement call. Hall of Fame goalie Glenn Hall told me Howe was the best there was.

He doesn’t need to blow his own horn. Let others do that for him. Let others call him Mr. Hockey.

And I say this with the utmost respect for Mr. Howe.

Am I wrong for thinking this? I’m pretty sure Mario never signed as Mario “The Magnificent One” Lemieux, or Orr as Bobby “The World’s Greatest Defenceman” Orr, or Maurice “Hero of a Province” Richard.

This year’s final is a sexy affair because of so many stars involved. Crosby, Malkin, Hossa, Staal, Malone, Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Franzen, Lidstrom, Draper. And the guy who played on the original 1926 Wings, Chris Chelios.

It’ll be good. I may even watch some of it.

The thing begins Saturday in Detroit.

There’s A Lot Of LA Kings Fans Out There: But I’ve Only Met One

Last year while at the airport in Frankfurt, I got talking to a Russian father and son who now live in Los Angeles but were traveling back to the old country for a visit. The son, who was about 16, didn’t want to talk about Russia at all though. All he wanted to talk about was his favourite team, the Los Angeles Kings.

And you know what struck me? The fact that unless you live in California, there are probably very few LA Kings fans out there. I’m pretty sure about this. This kid was going on about his favourite player, Alexander Frolov, and it just seemed slightly odd, that’s all.

The Kings were in the very first group of six teams in the 1967-68 expansion that saw the league double from six to twelve teams. They were joined by the California Seals, Pittsburgh Penguins, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, and St. Louis Blues.   kings1.jpg

Along the way, there’s been some sorts of interest involving this team. In the late ’70’s, early’80’s, the line of Marcel Dionne, Charley Simmer, and Dave Taylor were a top line in the league. In 1988, Wayne Gretzky was traded from Edmonton to LA, which sparked interest in hockey in southern California. And later on, owner Bruce McNall did time in prison for shady business deals.

But no Stanley Cups. Just a lot of sunburns, golfing, Hollywood parties, and pretty darn good crowds at the Staples Center, or Fabulous Forum, or whatever name they’ve used over the years.

Now today, March 8th, the Habs are in town for a game which is big for them but not so much for the Kings, who don’t have a sniff at a playoff spot. Hopefully though, the young Russian fellow will have his ticket and cheer like crazy for his team.

Watching In Style As Montreal Wins In Phoenix

Three big things happened in the last little while. Montreal beat Phoenix 4-2, they grabbed first place in the east again because of this win, and I watched the game on my brand new TV.

And not only did I watch the game on my new TV, but I also watched it on RDS French which shows every Habs game but you need a a box or digital cable to get it, which I now have.

And even though I don’t speak a lot of French, it’s no problem watching hockey on a French network. The players names are the same, and the puck does the same thing. Any hockey fan worth his or her salt can enjoy a game even if they don’t understand the announcers.

So it was interesting to see a game in Phoenix. I’m not sure if I ever have before, and the big thing that sticks out is there were a serious number of Habs fans there, with Montreal jerseys all over the place. Phoenix, of course, gets a lot of snowbirds, so the rink was packed with Canadians seeing their Canadiens.

I also thought Wayne Gretzky had a pretty expensive-looking suit with snazzy cream- coloured tie.

It wasn’t good that the Habs gave up 39 shots, but it seems like Carey Price rebounded just fine from his weak performance in San Jose. However, I’m really hoping Carbonneau plays Halak in Los Angeles on Saturday so the guy can get some work under his belt.  

After Los Angeles on Saturday, the boys get a real test Sunday in Anaheim against the Ducks. (Isn’t ‘Ducks’ a really stupid name?)

But for now anyway, the team’s in first place in the east and my new TV, which is way bigger than my old TV, is pretty darn fantastic.

A Loss Like This To The San Jose Sharks Means There’s Still Work To Be Done

It’s not so much the loss tonight in San Jose that bothers me. Teams lose, whether they’re the 1958 Montreal Canadiens, the 1985 Edmonton Oilers, or the 1979 Soviet National team. No team can go forever without losing. It’s impossible, like robbing bank after bank and never getting caught.

But Monday night in San Jose, Montreal didn’t just lose, they lost ugly. They lost by giving up 39 shots and 6 goals, which is unacceptable in anyone’s books. Ordained number one goalie Carey Price, coming into tonight’s game, had given up a stingy four goals in three games. Now tonight, it’s six. Hopefully this one game won’t blow his recently regained confidence.

39 shots on goal is not at all what the doctor ordered. Granted, the team kept it close all night, staying within a goal for most of it, but in the end this 6-4 loss is a loss is a loss. 

At least Ottawa fell to the Anaheim Ducks on this same night, losing 3-1 and stays behind Montreal in the eastern standings.

So now it’s time to rebound. It’s time to get stingy again, to tighten up, to score more on the power play, to win big.

Thursday night in Phoenix, let’s show Wayne Gretzky and those desert dogs that the Montreal Canadiens mean business. 

GP W L   OT Pts GF GA Home Away L10
1 Pittsburgh Penguins* 67 37 23   7 81 198 185 19-10-5 18-13-2 5-3-2
2 Montréal Canadiens* 67 36 22   9 81 213 190 16-12-5 20-10-4 7-3-0
3 Carolina Hurricanes* 68 34 29   5 73 203 213 19-12-3 15-17-2 7-2-1
4 New Jersey Devils 66 37 23   6 80 172 156 21-12-1 16-11-5 6-2-2
5 Ottawa Senators 67 37 24   6 80 217 202 20-12-3 17-12-3 3-5-2
6 Boston Bruins 65 35 24   6 76 179 180 17-12-3 18-12-3 7-2-1
7 New York Rangers 66 34 24   8 76 175 164 21-13-0 13-11-8 7-1-2
8 Philadelphia Flyers 66 33 25   8 74 203 189 14-12-6 19-13-2 3-4-3
9 Buffalo Sabres 66 31 26   9 71 200 192 17-12-4 14-14-5 4-5-1
10 Washington Capitals 67 31 28   8 70 197 202 17-14-3 14-14-5 4-3-3
11 New York Islanders 67 31 29   7 69 164 193 17-15-3 14-14-4 6-4-0
12 Toronto Maple Leafs 67 29 28   10 68 186 208 16-12-5 13-16-5 6-3-1
13 Florida Panthers 68 29 31   8 66 181 196 12-13-7 17-18-1 3-4-3
14 Atlanta Thrashers 67 29 31   7 65 178 219 16-14-3 13-17-4 3-4-3
15 Tampa Bay Lightning 65 26 32   7 59 183 213 16-16-2 10-16-5 3-5-2
Western Conference
Rank GP W L   OT Pts GF GA Home Away L10
1 Detroit Red Wings* 67 43 18   6 92 209 150 21-8-2 22-10-4 2-7-1
2 Dallas Stars* 69 41 23   5 87 207 171 21-11-2 20-12-3 7-3-0
3 Minnesota Wild* 66 37 24   5 79 179 177 19-10-3 18-14-2 5-4-1
4 Anaheim Ducks 68 38 23   7 83 173 165 22-8-4 16-15-3 9-1-0
5 San Jose Sharks 66 37 21   8 82 176 159 15-13-5 22-8-3 6-4-0
6 Calgary Flames 66 34 23   9 77 186 185 16-10-8 18-13-1 6-3-1
7 Vancouver Canucks 65 32 23   10 74 172 167 17-11-5 15-12-5 5-2-3
8 Colorado Avalanche 66 34 26   6 74 183 180 19-11-2 15-15-4 4-5-1
9 Nashville Predators 66 33 25   8 74 193 190 20-10-4 13-15-4 5-3-2
10 Phoenix Coyotes 66 33 28   5 71 176 176 14-15-3 19-13-2 5-4-1
11 Columbus Blue Jackets 67 30 27   10 70 164 176 16-10-6 14-17-4 4-4-2
12 Chicago Blackhawks 65 31 28   6 68 187 188 17-13-1 14-15-5 7-3-0
13 Edmonton Oilers 66 31 30   5 67 182 200 19-14-1 12-16-4 6-4-0
14 St Louis Blues 65 28 27   10 66 161 180 18-13-5 10-14-5 3-5-2
15 Los Angeles Kings 67 26 36   5 57 193 224 14-17-2 12-19-3 3-5-2

x – clinched playoff spot

Dramatic Win Against The Devils. Up Now, A West Coast Road Trip for the Habs.

palm-trees.jpgMontreal showed the hockey world tonight that they can play any style, against any team, and are a team to be reckoned with as playoff time draws closer.

A close, well-played 2-1 win against the tight-fisted Devils just may have finally woke up those on the TSN panel and elsewhere that Montreal needs to be included in the elite pack who could win the Stanley Cup. After all, Les Canadiens now are the proud holders of first place in all the east.

I was just as proud of my team tonight as I was the night they came back from 5-0 against New York to win 6-5.

After tonight’s game, the boys hop on a plane and fly to sunny California and Arizona for games Monday in San Jose, Thursday in Phoenix, Saturday in LA, and Sunday in Anaheim. Ryan O’Byrne will be in bed reading his Gideon’s bible by 10 PM every night during this road trip.

nabokov_playerimage.jpg      gretz.jpg    kings.jpg    rubber-duck.jpg    beer.jpgOf course every game’s a big game, and it’s great that the team can get out of Montreal where there’s been so much snow and deepfreeze, but these warm- climate trips can often be a problem. Montreal’s record in Florida over the years has been less than stellar, and the latest escapade in Tampa Bay with O’Byrne capped it. And California hasn’t always been kind to our guys either.

It’s pretty hard to concentrate on the task at hand when there’s pool-side sitting, bikini- watching, and golf-playing to be had. The home teams down in these areas are used to this less-than-hockey world lifestyle, but for the Habs coming down from the great white north, it’s like a kid in the candy store.

I hope it rains, a hurricane comes up, a tornado blows in, hail falls, sleet whips across, and the south-west experiences the coldest March in history. Just so they don’t lose focus.

Maybe Jean Beliveau will come along and babysit. But I don’t believe they’ll need it. Montreal’s on a mission. I haven’t seen them play this well in years.