Price Moves Past Roy in Wins

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AGEING VETERAN PERSPECTIVE

It’s only fitting that Carey Price should pass Patrick Roy for second most wins by a goalie in the history of the Montreal Canadiens in a game against the Habs’ ultimate rival, the Boston Bruins. 

The game was what we’ve come to expect from these two teams: rough and brimming with hatred between the combatants. An early goal by Gallagher at 9:18 of the first opened the scoring. The Habs didn’t look back.  Max Domi continued his strong start to the season with a goal, and Jordie Benn sealed the deal with an empty net goal.

The night, however, belonged to Carey. He surpassed Roy on the all-time winner’s list in style – not with just a win but a shutout.  The Bruins looked to have scored one in the first, but it was called back on an offside, and Price stood tall and unbeaten for the remainder of the game. 

Price now sits at 290 wins, second only to legendary Jacques Plante who finished his tenure with the Habs at 314 wins.  It seems very likely, unless tragedy strikes the Canadiens, that Price should move into the number one spot by the end of the season.  He needs 25 wins, and with the surprisingly strong play the Habs have opened the season with it likely won’t be long until he occupies the first slot.

Price has averaged 24 wins per season over his career; however, that number includes his rookie season and seasons cut short by injury.  When Price has played a full season, that number has historically risen to well over 30.  Enough to get him to the top spot.

Price has already ensured he will go down in history as one of the Habs’ greatest. If he can manage to get a Stanley Cup before he ends his career, he will definitely go down as also one of the NHL’s best goalies.  He has every piece of hardware a goalie could ask for – except the cup.  Looking at the team the Habs have put together, it’s possible that within the next few years that they could make a push and ensure that Price gets his name into the Hall of Fame and ensure that he isn’t the only goalie in the Habs’ top 5 winners to never win a cup.

All Time Wins Leaders (Habs)

1)   Jacques Plante- 314

2)   Carey Price- 290

3)   Patrick Roy-289

4)   Ken Dryden-258

5)   Bill Durnan-208

The Day Gretzky Truly Earned The "Great One" Status

Wayne_Gretzky_1997.jpg

THE AGEING VETERAN PERSPECTIVE

Wayne Gretzky is known to all as The Great One.  His play on the ice is unrivalled. He has more assists than any other player has points, and his ability to read a play and anticipate what will happen is beyond any other.  

Yesterday marked the anniversary for when he truly set himself apart and earned the title of The Great One.  October 15, 1989, playing for the LA Kings Wayne Gretzky moved past Gordie Howe’s record of 1850 points.  The game was against the Edmonton Oilers, very fitting that Gretzky would become number 1 against the team he had played 9 seasons with.  He assisted the games first goal to tie Howe’s record, then in the third period he scored the tying goal to move himself into the top spot.  In overtime he scored again to win the game 5-4 for the Kings and move 2 points ahead of Howe.

The game was in Edmonton, but when Gretzky scored the goal to move past Howe, Oilers fans, who were quite used to seeing The Great One work his magic, erupted in an ovation for the now visiting player that lasted for 2 minutes. Truly a sign of his greatness and admiration in the hockey world. 

After the game Gretzky was front and center in a media scrum.  When asked about setting the record and moving past Gordie Howe, The Great One told the media “Gordie is still the greatest in my mind, and the greatest in everyone’s mind”.  This is a sentiment that he holds to even today.  Anytime he is asked whether he is the greatest of all time he repeats that it is Gordie Howe, aka Mr Hockey.  High praise from The Great One.  Howe was on record after the game letting reporters know how he felt about his record being beaten saying “if it was pardon the expression, some clown it would have bothered me, but not Wayne”.

Upon retirement in the 1998-99 season, Gretzky shared or held 61 records in the NHL.  He had 894 goals and 1963 assists giving him 2857 points in 1487 games played.   He sits atop the scoring standings by a large amount.  He truly is the greatest player to ever play the game.

1-Wayne Gretzky-2857 points

2-Jaromir Jagr-1921 points

3-Mark Messier-1887 points

4-Gordie Howe-1850 points

5-Ron Francis-1798 points

Svechnikov Scores His First But Not His Last!

  Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

THE AGEING VETERAN

It was a wild one in Raleigh last night; lots of goals, but one in particular stood out. Andrei Svechnikov scored the first goal of his NHL career.  It also proved to be the game winner in an 8 to 5 victory over the New York Rangers.  

 

Svechnikov went into the game with one assist. He added another assist at 5:01 of the third on Lucas Wallmark’s tying goal, and then at 10:44 he hit home and scored his first.  It was a nice deflection on a point shot from Justin Faulk following Svechnikov’s battle for position in front of the net.  Not necessarily the type of goal Carolina fans would have wanted for his first; however, I doubt anyone will complain. Beyond the two points he got last night - Svechnikov was looking very comfortable on the ice. The rookie was getting excellent chances and was reading the game well.  He ended with a plus 2, two shots, and one hit.

The Russian youngster played the game on the fourth line with Martinook and Wallmark, but they looked more like a 2ndline, scoring three of the team’s goals, which is probably why they were given a combined forty-one minutes of ice time.  Svechnikov, for his part, clocked in at thirteen minutes and seventeen seconds. Very respectable.  

Most people assume - rightfully so - that he likely won’t stay on the fourth line for long, especially if he continues to put points up at the rate he currently is.  Of course, it is the beginning of the season, and goals are historically scored at a much higher rate during the first quarter of the season. But number 37 was looking good in last night’s game, and he clearly has the tools to be a high-end offensive threat.  Thus far, he is definitely looking like the player Carolina desperately needed when they drafted him.

Once Svecnikov is moved up it will be interesting to see who he lines up with.  I would personally like to see what he could do beside Staal, even though the Staal, Foegele, and Williams line is looking good too.  I think Svechnikov and Staal could make a lot of things happen. They are both big bodies who play with lots of strength.

Whoever he lines up with, he is going to be an exciting player to watch and track this season.  If you managed to pick him up in your fantasy pool, he;s looking like a pretty solid selection so far.

Watch as Andrei Svechnikov gets his stick on a shot from Justin Faulk, resulting in his first career goal.

VIDEO BY SPORTSNET

Another Star Lost?

THE AGEING VETERAN PERSPECTIVE

The drama between the Habs and Max Pacioretty has been ongoing all summer.  For a moment it looked like he would be traded to LA during the draft, but that was quickly shutdown as Pacioretty declined signing an extension with The Kings.  His agent was quickly fired afterwards.  Pacioretty has stated again and again that he does not want to leave Montreal, and even though it has been rocky for the last few months, he would still negotiate with them to stay in Montreal for the long term.  The Hab’s position is that there will be no contract, and they will not negotiate anything further until after the season has begun.  Camp Pacioretty has come out saying that they will not negotiate with the Habs  - or any other team - once the season starts so it looks like there is a stalemate between the two sides.

I think what worries Habs fans more than anything is losing Pacioretty for a minimal return.  It seems highly unlikely that Bergevin will be able to swing things in his favour and “win” the trade - whenever it finally happens.  After the questionable Galchenyuk trade earlier in the summer, Bergevin really needs to bring something big back to the Habs.  Max Domi is a good player, but he isn’t exactly a goal-scorer.  Say what you will about Galchenyuk, but he had a great shot and could put the puck in the net.  Once Pacioretty is gone, the goal scoring pretty much leaves with him.

The most perplexing thing about this whole situation for me is the fact that Bergevin won’t commit to calling it a rebuild.  If he really is re-tooling, why is Pacioretty not part of his plan?  If Bergevin’s stance is that Pacioretty is too old, then why did he extend Carey Price’s contract for 8 years?  Price is older.  Of course, goalies’ careers last longer than most players, and they still play very effectively throughout the longer time period as well.  But Max isn’t exactly old; he’s 29.  Even a 7-year deal would bring him to 36 – also not decrepit.  He likely wouldn’t be scoring 30 plus goals at 36 but it’s a safe bet he likely will be for the next 4-5 seasons.  Look at his goal scoring since 2011-12. He has hit the back of the net 206 times.  More by far than any other Hab.  Why is Bergevin so eager to get rid of that scoring?  And where does he expect the replacement goals to come from?

Hopefully the Habs and Pacioretty can make amends and come to a deal to see him stay in the city he loves. It’s looking more and more likely that he will be suiting up for a new team sooner rather than later.

New Goalie Equipment Controversy

THE AGEING VETERAN PERSPECTIVE

Any time change is made in the NHL it spawns a lot of controversy.  This is especially true when the change has to do with goalie equipment.  Last year when the league announced that goalie pants would be changing, goalies, agents, and members of the media were very vocal. The change saw pads curving around the leg rather than flaring out and created more sizes for goalies to align with different waist sizes.

Now that we have seen more information regarding this year’s change to chest protectors, there is another controversy. Going into this season, chest protectors will feature a more streamlined neck and shoulder, creating a smaller overall size.  The thought was to decrease the amount of material being used purely for taking up net space.  I think this is a great idea as goalies have been looking gigantic in the net.  

Personally, I love low-scoring, defensively-minded games. Watching a 2-1 game or a 3-2 game is very exciting to me, but that isn’t what draws the casual fans to hockey.  More casual fans, or fans that are relatively new to the NHL, love watching goals more than anything else.  Making chest protectors smaller will absolutely lead to more red lights flashing.

The issue it seems, however, with the new chest protectors is that goalies do not believe they will adequately protect them during the games.  The original test footage for the protector featured former New Jersey Devils goalie Ken Appleby take a shot off the collarbone and have to stop the drills while he was attended to.  He was fine and had said he felt no pain afterwards, but the fear is that if he had to stop a practise drill due to a possible injury, how will goaltenders fair when faced with some of the elite shots the NHL will certainly offer them?

Luckily there is still time before the season starts, and the NHL has said they will continue to tweak the pads to ensure they achieve the smaller overall profile but are fully able to protect all the goalies in the league.  I think this minor change will ultimately be a good one, and all fans will enjoy the changes it will bring to the league.

Recent goalie equipment changes:

2011- Goalie pads restricted to 55% height of players thigh.

2017- Restrictions set to goalie pant size.

2018- Chest protectors streamlined around collarbone and neck.

Who Wore It Best? #1

THE AGEING VETERAN PERSPECTIVE

Every week I’ll go through my favorite player by jersey number, starting with #1.  The player can be historical or current.  Let me know in the comments if you agree or who you think was the greatest to wear the number.

 

#1

  Richard Bartlag  - flickr

Richard Bartlag - flickr

My pick is Jacques Plante.  Plante was a true All Star. He is regarded as one of the greatest goalies of all time and boasts seven Vezina trophies and one Hart Trophy.  He had six Stanley Cups with the Habs, including five in a row from 1955/56 to 1959/60. 

Plante is also well known for changing the face of goaltending by putting on his iconic mask against The Rangers on Nov, 1st, 1959.  He had taken a puck to the face and was covered in blood.  The mask kept him in the game and ushered in a new era of goaltending.

 

Agree or disagree, let us know what you think.

Will Kotkaniemi Play For The Habs?

THE AGEING VETERAN PERSPECTIVE

The Habs’ season last year was one most fans will want to quickly forget. After the painful season the bright side of things was the chance to win the lottery and draft Rasmus Dhalin. The Habs were lucky enough to improve their position by one spot, but they did not take that overall top draft spot. However, third place was not a bad spot to pick from.

The TSN rankings had Filip Zadina third overall, and it seemed like a natural choice that the Habs would select him, especially since they were planning on moving their captain Max Pacioretty. Zadina could possibly step in and provide much needed goal scoring to the Habs. Montreal did however do what some analysts thought they might - pick a center, Jesperi Kotkaniemi. At first many fans, and myself included, were shocked. Why pass up what seemed like a sure goal scorer? Well, if you take a look at Kotkaniemi’s resume it makes a lot of sense. Last season he played in Finland, suiting up for 57 games for Assat Pori in the SM-lilga. He had 29 points in those games - not huge numbers, but factoring that he was a 17 year-old playing against fully grown men and he mainly was playing on the 3rd line, those numbers seem quite a bit better. In the World Juniors he also had 9 points in 7 games.

He is touted as having an exceptionally high hockey IQ, a dangerous shot, and at 6’2 and 188 lbs, he is big enough to not get pushed around in the faceoff dot. Analysts have likened his game to that of Anze Kopitar’s which would be incredible for the Habs if he could develop into that kind of player. The Habs have needed a true center for quite a long time. Something Habs fans are beyond tired of hearing about. It seems as though they may have finally found one. The question is what should they do with Kotkaniemi this season? Lots of fans would love to see him with the big club right away. Earn his place, get some excellent experience.

He will likely spend the first few games in Montreal, but it is very possible he will be sent back to Finland to play for his home team. In Finland he has been moved up to top line center and in the first game they played he had 2 assists. It would be much better for his overall development this year to stay in Finland, learn the role of being a number 1, and hone his skills to ensure he is properly matured when he suits up full time for the Habs. I don’t think anybody wants to see this pick go the same way of the last third overall center that the Habs drafted..

The Trade

 Picture: Edmonton Journal

Picture: Edmonton Journal

The Ageing Veteran Perspective

August 9, 1988.  The day of “The Trade”.  The hockey world was reeling as the news broke that The Great One had been traded.  Thirty years has passed, and it is still a topic that is discussed.  Any time a big name in the league is involved in a trade rumour, the answer is always “if Gretzky can be traded, anyone can be traded.”

Think about how much has changed in the reporting world of sports.  Social media has provided unprecedented access to behind the scenes and goings on within teams.  Would modern technology have perhaps made that trade look different or even impossible?  Imagine logging into your favourite hockey blog, naturally wheelhousehockey.org, and reading that your Oilers were about to trade Gretzky.    Look at how much hatred is filtered toward Melnick regarding the possibility of trading Karlsson, and - no insult to him - but that’s not even close to comparable in terms of what Gretzky meant to the Oilers or the city of Edmonton itself. Current fans and the media have unprecedented access to the teams and players – who knows exactly how things would have shaken out in 1988 had that level of player exposure existed then.

Shortly after ‘The Trade’ things didn’t seem so bad for Edmonton; the Oilers won the cup two years later in 1990. But soon after there really wasn’t much to brag about.  The Oilers were dismal other than an almost miracle run in 2006.  Finally things seem to be turning around for the team thirty years later under McDavid’s captaincy.  They’ve had more chances than any other team, and clearly made many mistakes, but it seems they didn’t miss at last. 

 

Will we ever see another trade close to the impact of “The Trade”?  Could history repeat itself in Edmonton and another generational talent moved?  With the salary cap in place, and how trades currently play out it seems very unlikely.

But if Gretzky can be traded, anyone can be traded.

Does Cap Punish Good Management?

The Ageing Veteran Perspective

Lots of teams get themselves into cap trouble. Many face issues with overpaying for players on July 1st, or trading for players with high price tags who don’t work out. When this happens, there is very little sympathy for the team and the GM - rightfully so. But what about teams that find themselves in cap trouble by drafting and developing high quality players? Take the Chicago Blackhawks. They had a forty-nine year drought before they hit home and won the cup in 2010. They made good draft choices, had excellent coaching, and a system that bred success, giving them two more cups in five years. As a result of doing everything right they are in cap trouble now, too.

As much as the Salary Cap brings parity to the league, it also punishes good work. When you have players like Toews, Kane, Keith, and Seasbrook there is no option but to sign them to type of long-term, high salary contracts that they’ve earned. Without them, the Hawks would not have had three cups in six years; however, with them on the roster, we have see a team that struggled last season and missed the playoffs.

They very well could have a bounce back season and climb back into contention. Personally, I hope they do, but without the ability to bring in and retain new, talented players with a lot of their cap tied up by the current roster, this does not seem likely. And, with teams in their division gaining steam, things look very difficult for the current Hawks.

The salary cap was brought in to bring level the playing field in the league. To bridge the gap between super rich teams and the struggling ones. It has certainly done that, but we now are seeing the other side of it. Teams like Chicago who manage their organization well suffer in the long term. Poor management results in a high draft pick; quality management wins you cap issues and forces a team to trade the assets that they have put time, energy and money into developing.

That is the new NHL, I guess.

Senators Trouble

The Ageing Veteran Perspective

It’s no secret that the Ottawa Senators are in a world of trouble. Their captain is likely leaving, their top goal scorer was involved in a scandal that saw him traded to the Sharks, then to the Panthers, and their owner is more hated in the city of Ottawa than Gary Bettman. This would be enough for most teams to hit the panic button, but it is just the most recent issues in a long list for the Sens organization.

My question is – even if the Sens manage to keep Karlsson, will they be able to turn things around?

The Ottawa Senators hold the 20th spot on the Forbes’ list of NHL most valuable teams. Not a great ranking for a Canadian market. Eugene Melnyck constantly says the Sens are a budget team, and they are seeing steep declines in ticket sales. All things considered, one player remaining in Ottawa doesn’t seem as though it could right the ship.

I have been fortunate enough to go to many games over the years in Ottawa. Not all the games have been sellouts, though whenever the Maple Leafs or the Montreal Canadiens are in town, the building hits capacity. Over the last two seasons, even when the aforementioned teams roll into town, there are many seats left open. The declining ticket sales really hit me when Austin Matthews played his NHL debut in Ottawa’s 2016 home opener. When the game started, many empty seats could be seen in the stands, and a significant amount still remained as the first period rolled into the second – more than any arena in the NHL should see on an opening night.

In a poor attempt to appear as though games were selling out, the Sens organization removed 1500 seats by placing large leather covers over top of them. Out of sight, out of mind. As expected, this did not help sellouts happen!

In order to really draw people into the Canadian Tire Center, the team will have to do a lot more than simply keep Karlsson. But with the budget Melnyck has in place, and the turmoil in the dressing room, it seems highly unlikely that anything short of a completely fresh start – new owner and all – will garner real progress in the nation’s capital

Bounce Back For Carey Price!

The Ageing Veteran Perspective

There are many question marks in the Hab’s organization this summer. One aspect of the team that no one wants to see in that category is Carey Price. Price has been far and away the brightest light in Montreal for years. Last season many began to openly wonder whether that is all in the past. It is a theme that we have seen before a few times in his career. And one that has never stretched beyond the off season.

The 2015-2016 NHL season saw Price with an injury that his underwhelming performance can be attributed to. Fans don’t like to think about the injury that ended the previous season’s playoff run in the offseason, either. Last year, however, there wasn’t an injury to pin his lack luster performance on. For stretches of the game here and there, he would appear to be the Carey Price fans know and love, but when the team needed a big save, the puck never seemed to stay out of the net. Price ended the season with a .900 save percentage – the lowest of his career. There were many aspects of the Canadiens that underperformed; however, Price’s save percentage made it all the more apparent when in previous years Price’s play would cover up many of his teammates’ mistakes.

Taking a look back over his career, when he has previously had what is considered a “poor” season, the next year he returns to form and proves why he is considered one of the best. In 2008-2009, he finished with a .905 and had many fans asking whether he was the real deal. The following season, he backed that up with .912 and .923 the season after that. When fans and the media were questioning him about his play in 2010 preason, he famously told everyone to “relax, chill out”. And his play that season made everyone do just that. That season was filled with highlights and ovations from adoring fans, screaming his name in the Bell Center.

In 2012-2013 he played a limited 39 games, but again didn’t have great numbers. In 2013-2014 he was back with .927. Following that season he was crowned the NHL’s best, finishing with .933 and taking home The Vezina, Heart, Jennings and Ted Lindsay awards.

An off year for him does happen, but given his past, we should expect nothing but greatness from him going forward this season. Whether the team as a whole bounces back is a different story, but with Carey Price shutting down the league’s top scorers and sending the fans in Montreal into a frenzy, anything is possible.