Like the Energizer bunny ... it keeps going and going and going. Verizon's ... can you hear me now? Wendy's ... where's the beef?
But if you're an NHL coach, one of those famous, can't-get-it-out-of-your-head lines was repeated often enough last spring as the Detroit Red Wings rolled to their fourth Stanley Cup in 11 years: "When you look at that team, you notice right away that their best players are also their hardest workers."
In this case, the message was clear: Pavel Datsyuk. Henrik Zetterberg. Nicklas Lidstrom. Hard workers. Leaders. And, well, the rest of that team just follows, not by osmosis or luck, but because that's been the Red Wings' way of doing things through their remarkable run of success that has covered way more than one decade now.
"Pav and I came into the League and looked around the locker room and saw Hall of Famers all over. Steve Yzerman, Brett Hull, Brendan Shanahan, Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Chelios, Dominik Hasek," Zetterberg told me recently. Then he laughed and continued, saying, "You learn to keep your mouth shut and your ears open ... work hard ... and just wait for your chance to show off your skills."
"Those two are game-breakers at both ends of the rink," teammate Dan Cleary said. "They work so hard, you just have to work as hard as they do.
"Can I see other teams trying to find the kind of formula we have where I best players are also our hardest workers? You bet. You don't have to look any farther than Chicago, where Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane are their hardest workers and leaders."
Can you hear me now? Good.
A quick peek at some of the more meaningful games we've seen in the last couple of weeks -- Detroit at Pittsburgh, San Jose at Boston, Washington at New Jersey, Chicago at Anaheim, Philadelphia at Boston and then back in Philly -- have shown us that more than a smattering of coaches are smart enough to have followed that better-players, hardest-workers message.
Boston's Claude Julien inherited stars Zdeno Chara and Marc Savard and he's made them and the rest of the Bruins better by hammering away at Chara and Savard how the team needs them to be the hardest workers and then the likes of David Krejci, Phil Kessel, Michael Ryder, Blake Wheeler, etc., will follow. Look at the remarkable heights Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau and newcomers Dan Boyle and Rob Blake have helped San Jose reach with coach Todd McLellan bringing Mike Babcock's message from Detroit.
Washington's Bruce Boudreau is a smart cookie, and you can see the Red Wings' mentality in the performance of Alex Ovechkin and Mike Green and the rest of the group every day, can't you? Ditto Philadelphia coach John Stevens and the energy he seems to draw from with young centers Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Chicago? Joel Quenneville has stepped up the learning curve and given YoungStars Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith the green light to be creative and show the rest of the NHL where's the beef.
Best players are also the hardest working players. Think about it for a moment. It's not a complicated formula. In fact, it's a simple philosophy for the coaching fraternity.
And bottom line: Detroit has proven it works ... and the rest of the NHL seems to be trying to copy that successful formula.
A different Joe, well -- Joe Thornton still makes those great passes. He still uses his “Jumbo Joe” body to his advantage when he needs to. But Thornton's successful San Jose 5-2 win in Boston on Feb. 10 may not have looked any different to Bruins fans who wanted that power forward mentality from Joe all the time.
"He's different this year," Sharks defenseman Rob Blake said. "Oh, we still yell at him to shoot more, but he's been a great, great leader for us. But he's not always along with the sideboards now making those great passes. He's showing more net presence, particularly on power plays. He's got a lot more movement to his game -- and it makes him a tougher player to play against."
From Ottawa with love -- GM Bryan Murray wasn't with the Senators when they let defenseman Zdeno Chara go to free agency and Boston a few years ago. Sounds like that's the one move Ottawa regrets the most now.
"A player like ‘Z’ gives you a presence that is irreplaceable," said Murray. "He has toughness, size, and great mobility. He is a fitness fanatic. He can play 20 or 25 minutes a game. He's one of a kind. His leaving was pivotal."
Defense of a different kind -- Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green extended his goal-scoring streak to seven games with a pair of third-period goals in the Capitals' 3-1 win over the Panthers on Feb. 7 and two more in a shootout loss to the New York Rangers on Feb. 11 -- tying the NHL record for defensemen set by Mike O'Connell in January 1984. At the same time, Green reached the 20-goal plateau in his 42nd game of the season. Only three other defensemen in NHL history needed no more than 42 games to hit the 20-goal mark in a season: Bobby Orr (30 games in 1974-75, 37 in 1973-74), Paul Coffey (37 in 1981-82, 41 in both 1983-84 and 1985-86) and Denis Potvin (42 games in 1975-76).
Said Caps coach Bruce Boudreau, "It must be a little bit like a baseball player that's in a groove, just hitting everything they throw to him."
More than 30 reasons -- When Marian Hossa scored 30 goals for the seventh time in his 11-year NHL career, he only briefly considered he might have a chance to reach 50 goals for the first time before changing topics.
Said Hossa, "Thinking 40 or 50 is kind of a bonus. But that's not why I came to Detroit. I came here to win a Stanley Cup."
A chemistry lesson? -- The $5.6 million free agent experiment with Mats Sundin looked dismal until coach Alain Vigneault put the veteran center between former centers Pavol Demitra and Ryan Kesler. Voila! The threesome combined for 8 goals and 14 assists in consecutive victories against Carolina, Chicago and St. Louis.
"It's weird, sometimes you have chemistry with guys and sometimes you don't," said Kesler, who went from checking center to scoring right winger and accounted for 4 goals and 8 assists in those three games. "With those two guys, they see the ice really well and they're strong down low. It's an easy game to play when we're all working hard."
Turning a new Leaf -- Earlier, Toronto GM Brian Burke said he wouldn't ask either Pavel Kubina or fellow d-man Tomas Kaberle to waive their no-trade agreements. Burke, however, says that Kaberle's agent told him he'd be getting a list of teams that Tomas would agree to be traded to.
The obvious follow-up to Burke? Any untouchables?
Said Burke, "If someone offers me 10 first-round picks for Luke Schenn he is on the next plane. But he is as close to an untouchable as we have."
Check the birth certificate -- For those who wonder how much pressure kids can take in this free-flow game, look no further than Columbus, where rookie goaltender Steve Mason leads the NHL in shutouts with seven and fellow rookie Dan LaCosta made just his second start and backstopped the Blue Jackets to a 3-0 victory against Colorado on Feb. 10.
"Mase is day to day (recovering from mononucleosis) and I'm day to day," said LaCosta, who 14 months ago was rehabilitating a badly damaged right ankle after a bus crash involving the Elmira Jackals of the ECHL. "When you get a chance, you've got to run with it."
The Jackets' eight shutouts by rookies are the most in one season by an NHL team since Montreal had eight, all by Ken Dryden, in 1971-72.
The Petr Principle -- Pittsburgh's Petr Sykora has proven he can put up numbers whether he's playing in New Jersey, Anaheim, with the New York Rangers, Edmonton or the Penguins. He's tied with Jarome Iginla for the most consecutive 20-goal seasons by an active player. He had 28 goals last season and should top 30 for the third time in his career this season. Knowing of his latest success, it would seem unlikely that Sykora would want to test the free-agent waters with the magic he and center Evgeni Malkin have had with the Pens the last two seasons.
Said Sykora, "Geno and I worked pretty good together, no?"