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WEEKES ON THE WEB
Posted On Thursday, 12.29.2011 / 11:59 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Weekes on the Web: Winter Classic moment

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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 3:20 PM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Weekes: Keep open mind when judging players, teams

Sometimes our preconceived notions about players and teams can hurt us when it comes to enjoying the game and seeing who the best players and teams truly are. This was something I first learned about as a teenager, working my way into the NHL.

It's about performance vs. perception.

The biggest thing I had to learn once I started skating in the NHL was the gap between performance and perception. By that, what I mean is there are so many unheralded players. I had to get adjusted. The guys who received all the hoopla -- guys like Doug Gilmour, Eric Lindros and Curtis Joseph -- are completely unbelievably great players.

Then there was a guy like Steve Thomas, who was an unbelievable player, excellent player. I thought he was just as dangerous as those other guys, yet no one ever talked about how great he was or mentioned him in the same breath as the other guys.

Why does that happen? The average person that covers the game or a fan won't see how good a player like that is, or if they see it, they won't accept it. Part of that stems from hero worship. Someone will see a guy like Steve Thomas and think, "He can't be as good as these other guys."

When I ran track in high school, the fastest guy always ran the anchor leg. There were no opinions leading to the decision. It wasn't about where someone was from or their pedigree. It was about who was the fastest, and that person ran the anchor leg. That's how it went every time.

But that's not the case in sports. I had to learn to adjust to that.

The extension of that is, when we watch teams play, we let our perceptions influence us. We watch teams that we've already decided aren't good and think, "This team can't be a good team from here. No way the Wild or Panthers can win. Why? Because we're from Toronto or New York and that shouldn't happen." Who cares if the Wild have the best record in the NHL or the Panthers have been leading the Southeast Division for almost three months?

When people judge players or evaluate teams based on what they want them to be rather than what they are, it hurts them and it hurts fans.

All the while, you end up missing some pretty good things just because it's not what you want it to be. You can't appreciate the performance. Forget players and teams. The same thing can happen with cities, too.

Last year's All-Star Game in Raleigh is a great example. People went into it thinking it was going to be a bad time because it wasn't a traditional hockey city. Yet you had so many people who were out in Raleigh saying, "This is unbelievable, they know the game, they know how to party, they did it right." People got blown away. People were pleasantly surprised.

If they came in with an open mind, there wouldn't have been any unwarranted negativity toward going to Raleigh.

About 15 years ago, people were asking, "Who is this Dominik Hasek guy? I don't like his style or how he looks in the net." I'll tell you right now -- he's the best goalie I've ever played against. He's the most dominant goalie of all time in terms of being able to influence a game by himself.  Yet, no one wanted to accept that for a long time.

How does it happen? It's coaches and GMs saying things like, "Well we didn't we earmark him, we earmarked someone else. I can't relate to where he comes from, so that's why I'm not open to accepting that guy has talent. I didn't draft him. A friend from his hometown played with him and recommended him and it wasn't my call." That's why a lot of those guys are like that. They're so resistant. "We got Jack Campbell in the first round. Who's this Richard Bachman guy?" That's not how Joe Nieuwendyk thinks. He's cerebral, open-minded, a Cornell guy. I have lots of respect for him. But oftentimes, that's how people think. It impacts the thought process when judging performance.

It's the same thing with college players, or how people still say Europeans will disappear in the playoffs. Has anyone ever watched Marian Hossa? Nicklas Lidstrom? Johan Franzen?

Size to this day also influences how a player is judged even if he's performing well. Martin St. Louis is begging for ice time as a fourth-liner in Calgary, now he's an NHL MVP and wins the Stanley Cup and now he's playing nationally for Team Canada, for the same guys who said he was too small, his legs were too short, and he played in college.

Same thing with Tim Thomas, who went to Vermont with Martin St. Louis. "I don't like how he makes saves, he doesn't play like that guy, he's from Michigan." I love when people say he's a journeyman. Aren't we all on journeys? Quite often, that's said in a condescending way. But if it's a guy they like, they change the terminology. "Mike Sillinger, he's a guy everybody wants in their room. He's well-respected, he plays hard, a heart-and-soul type guy. Dean McAmmond, Prince Albert Raiders, high-character guy."

But if it's Mark Parrish, he's a vagabond. Wayne Gretzky, Brett Hull and Paul Coffey all played for a lot of teams. So did Mark Recchi.

I just don't understand how so many people come in closed-minded when it comes time to judge talent. Far too often that happens when the performance is there. That's why they say perception is reality.
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Posted On Thursday, 12.08.2011 / 5:03 PM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

8 Goalies a Weekes: Best of November

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.30.2011 / 6:04 PM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Weekes: Burke adjusted in retooling Maple Leafs

When Brian Burke first came onto the scene in Toronto, he pledged to build a tough team, one that would be able to stand up to anyone physically. That plan didn't work out, however, as the Leafs have yet to taste the postseason with Burke as GM.

This year, things have been different.

There's no unnecessary roller derby on the ice. When Burke first got to Toronto, it was all about truculence. What is this, UFC? This isn't 1974 hockey. The good thing about it is he recognized he was wrong and adjusted. I give him credit. He couldn't put a UFC team together and win. Having a bunch of bruisers who couldn't play the game wasn't helping in the standings.

So Burke made adjustments. He went out and got players with high hockey sense. One of the reasons why the Leafs are scoring more is they think game better. From the top to bottom, the Leafs are vastly improved in the hockey smarts department.

The No. 1 guy to key on is Dion Phaneuf. It's not that he didn't have hockey smarts before, because he had some nice years in Calgary. But he also had some bad ones. To me, what happened, maybe Dion started reading his press clippings. He started to play with a nastier edge that he thought he needed.

In Toronto, his biggest adjustment is he's not running out of position to make plays or to hit someone. That keeps him in better position to defend and attack. His timing is better and his reads are better, and that is having a huge impact on his game and the Leafs' game.

I think the D as a whole is vastly improved and far smarter. I love the move to get John-Michael Liles and I love Jake Gardiner. Their ability to transition the puck is excellent. I love the way the Leafs' defenders have gone from running and chasing to make hits to having D to move the puck. They're making better choices in the O-zone. They're getting shots through, more passes down low and not backing off the blue line like they did in the past. That's been one of the biggest improvements.

Burke has made adjustments from physical to finesse.

Another guy who deserves a ton of credit is Joffrey Lupul. Everyone thought when Burke acquired him, it was just a salary dump. The good thing for him is he didn't pay attention to all that and maybe didn't know how close he was to having his career end. All the working out he's done to get back in shape has made a major difference. I talked to him a couple times before the season and came away very impressed. His mind was in the right place and he's been awesome this season because of it.

Phil Kessel is leading the League in goals, and if you're not watching him, you probably assume it's all off the rush like it has been in the past. I've seen at least six or seven goals this season when he's been down around the net, battling for loose pucks in heavy traffic. He's made adjustments, too.

With James Reimer out, the Leafs' goalies have also found a way to get it done.

I know it's been tough for The Monster, but he's come a long way. I think the expectations were unrealistic for Jonas Gustavsson. The Leafs definitely overvalued him, but so did a lot of teams who were fighting for his services. But I give him credit for starting to find his game at the NHL level. The main thing for him is he's become mentally stronger, but I think he needs to be stronger in the gym. He's just a long, tall, lanky frame. You need to be in shape to bounce back after hard practices and tough games, and there's room to grow in that area. But he's stayed mentally strong during this stretch.

With Ben Scrivens, it's a good situation for him and for the Leafs. To be able to go from the ECHL to the show, it's a good thing. He has made a nice impression. I had a chance to meet him, too. He had a good head on his shoulders.

I think the Leafs can play with anybody. I know Boston has owned them, but the Leafs have a shot tonight. I think the biggest thing for the Leafs is to find that sweet spot in terms of balancing the offense and defense.

By and large, I love the Leafs' transformation.
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.29.2011 / 4:16 PM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Weekes: The art of the head save

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Posted On Wednesday, 11.23.2011 / 12:00 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Weekes: Young Oilers are getting the message

The game Saturday night between the Chicago Blackhawks and Edmonton Oilers is a great example of what a young, talented team can do if it isn't in awe of its competition.

The Blackhawks rolled into Edmonton as the League's best team. They were coming off a bad loss to the Calgary Flames the night before, so all signs pointed toward a deep, complete, experienced team rolling through the Oilers. After all, the Blackhawks had just beaten the Oilers 6-3 in Chicago six days earlier.

The Oilers weren't showing any reason to think they'd be able to withstand the Blackhawks attack. Their blue line was decimated, with Cam Barker, Andy Sutton, Corey Potter and Ryan Whitney out with injuries.
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Posted On Thursday, 11.17.2011 / 5:52 PM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

'Glue guys' invaluable resource to youngsters

You know that dependable pair of jeans you own? They're versatile, they feel nice, they fit just right. You can wear them anywhere and they never do you wrong.

The NHL's version of those jeans are a team's glue guys -- Ryan Smyth and Shawn Horcoff in Edmonton; Matt Cullen in Minnesota; Ray Whitney in Phoenix; Sheldon Souray in Dallas; Mike Knuble in Washington; Andrew Brunette in Chicago; and even a superstar like Jaromir Jagr in Philadelphia can fall into that category at this stage of his career.

What exactly is a glue guy? You hear that term a lot from hockey players. Glue guys are the players who aren't necessarily superstars, but are the veterans who can keep a team together by doing the little things that go unnoticed. All of these guys I mentioned aren't just glue guys, but they are producing on the ice as well. There isn't a more valuable guy you can have on your team than a glue guy who can still get it done on the ice.

Sometimes teams are in a rush to get rid of the glue guy, that old, reliable, perfect pair of jeans that have never done you wrong. But before you throw out those jeans and buy a new pair of G-Stars because those are the cool, new, expensive jeans everyone is wearing these days, just remember what happened with the Bruins and Mark Recchi last season and what he meant to that team.

Whether it's finding a restaurant on the road or handling ticket requests from family members, or things on the ice like getting advice on opposing goaltenders or defensemen or how to handle things like a scoring slump, these guys are super important.

There's nothing that prepares you for playing in the League like being in the League, and that's why these guys mean so much to all the young players who are getting to the NHL quicker than ever. The best thing you can have if you're someone just breaking in are guys like this to lean on. A player who is in the middle of a long career is a great resource for a young kid just getting his feet wet.

I would say this to a lot of the GMs and coaches: beware. I know you're itching to show off your shiny new toys -- your brand new pair of G-Stars -- but you still want to make sure you complement these guys with good pros. If nothing else, they are great resources to learn from. If you look at the Cup winners, you have a lot of glue guys that are a part of their team.

Yet some GMs want to throw a ton of money at young guys who are still just RFAs to avoid offer sheets and get them tons of minutes right away. Now you force feed them minutes and they struggle and you're surprised?

These glue guys are a hockey encyclopedia. It's all about the details. Some kids may not want to get a massage after a game or practice. You think Teemu Selanne is doing that now? If Selanne's hip flexors are tight, he's going to take the time to do stretches, then get up on the massage table. It's all about having a maintenance plan, and it's never too early in your career to start that. It's all these little things that help you practice, recover, rehab. They are tools you need to be a long-standing pro.

People think development stops when you reach the pros. Guys that are smart, they get it. Guys like Joe Pavelski spend the offseason working on their skating. It's not about going back to your hometown during the summer and shinnying it up with your friends and laughing. Evgeni Malkin said this year he vowed to be a better pro and spent his summer working his tail off, and he's won a Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup!

I played for a lot of teams, so I got to learn from a lot of different players about what it takes to be a pro. Guys like Rod Brind'Amour, Ron Francis, Kirk Muller, Brian Skrudland and Mark Messier.

When it comes to reaching a point in your career when it's time to start dispensing advice and being an example, everybody is a little different. Some guys are more natural and come out and tell you to focus on this or stop doing that. Some guys are more vocal, but a lot of guys want to see that guys are hungry. They want to see young players come to them and show they have a desire to get better. Just because you tore it up in Lethbridge and Kitchener, that doesn't mean it translates to the NHL. It might not translate to your role or the team you're on. Even if it does, a lot of these guys have knowledge.

Some young guys are receptive and some don’t want to listen. They look at veterans like they don't care, like they have everything figured out. My advice is listen to the people that have done it already. They can help you.

Even if it isn't a veteran player, there are assistant coaches on teams that can give advice on playing today's game too. You don't want to talk to Teppo Numminen in Buffalo? You don’t want to ask Charlie Huddy in Winnipeg about what it was like to play with Paul Coffey? The Devils have Scott Stevens and Adam Oates. That's endless amount of knowledge!

All smart players who have long careers will give credit to the players that helped them along the way. Young guys today should notice that and be smart. There's knowledge to be passed down, and it's right there in the locker next to you.
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Posted On Monday, 11.14.2011 / 11:04 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Weekes' favorite Hall of Fame goalies

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Posted On Thursday, 11.10.2011 / 11:14 AM

By Kevin Weekes -  NHL Network Analyst /NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Weekes: Praise for the backup goaltenders

Let's talk about life as a backup goalie. We've seen a lot who have been outstanding this year, yet fans and even some GMs don't want to give them the proper respect.

Before we get started talking about the guys like Josh Harding, Brian Elliot and Johan Hedberg, let's look at this in a different way.

Would anyone feel comfortable getting on a plane if there was no co-pilot? Does the co-pilot not matter? When you go out to a nice restaurant, do you think there's just a chef? Do you think there isn't a sous chef back there helping the head chef? Since Joe Biden is a just a vice president, that means he's not important?
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Posted On Tuesday, 11.08.2011 / 1:44 PM

NHL.com - Weekes on the Web

Kevin Weekes' 8 Goalies A Weekes

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