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NHL Insider

Grand finales: Top farewell seasons by NHL players

Tuesday, 09.04.2012 / 9:55 PM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

The only certainty in an NHL player's life is that at some time, he won't be an NHL player anymore.

For some, the end is just a matter of the years catching up to him. For others, it's related to injuries. Still others may opt to play elsewhere -- or have the decision made for them. But while some players' skills may have eroded to the point that there's no question their time is done, others leave while they're still capable of being solid contributors, if not stars.

Here's a look at some of the best finales in NHL history:

Mike Bossy

Final season: 1986-87 (38 goals, 37 assists, 75 points in 63 games)

Bossy began what turned out to be his final NHL season having scored at least 50 goals in each of his first nine, helping the New York Islanders to four straight Stanley Cups and a fifth straight trip to the Final. At age 30 and coming off a 61-goal, 123-point season, he was on course to pass Gordie Howe as the greatest goal-scorer in NHL history.

But in '86-87, Bossy's back decided it no longer wanted to cooperate. He felt a twinge in the back at training camp, and the injury got worse during the season, forcing him to miss 17 games and hampering him in several others. He had a career-low 38 goals, then was able to play in just six of the Isles' 14 playoff games and scored only twice.

Follow the leader: The NHL's 10 best captains

Saturday, 09.01.2012 / 8:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

There's more to being a leader than merely wearing the captain's "C" on your jersey. Leadership is knowing how to push your teammates to levels they didn't know they could reach, making sure they don't accept anything less than their best on the ice -- and off.

"I think in the end, it's just trying to help people realize their potential and figure out how to motivate them," Hall of Famer Mark Messier once told a writer. "You have to get to know a player on a much deeper level than just hockey. … In the end, they have to know that the only thing that matters to both of you is trying to find a way to win, and that you don't have any ulterior motives against them. You're just trying to find out how to get the best out of them, and they respect that."

Here's a look at 10 of the NHL's all-time best in providing the leadership that got the most out of their teammates.

Back-to-back Cup winners like Kings' chances

Thursday, 08.30.2012 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Tal Pinchevsky - Staff Writer

The 2012-13 NHL campaign will mark 15 years since the Detroit Red Wings became the last team to repeat as Stanley Cup champions. In the 13 postseasons since the Wings went back-to-back, 11 different clubs have won the Cup, with Detroit and New Jersey being the only clubs to win it more than once. But with the Kings' entire championship roster returning this season, a couple of notable names like their chances to repeat.

"I think their chances are very good. It's becoming tougher and tougher [to repeat]. You need to try to avoid the hangover of the celebration. They're the champions and someone's got to knock them off the hill," said Bryan Trottier, who won the Cup six times as a player with the Islanders and Penguins and is one of only two players in the past 30 years -- along with Larry Murphy -- to win consecutive titles with two different franchises. "I know our first [Islanders] championship, we weren't the best team in the League during the season. But the next year, everyone was ready for us and prepared for us. We had to show up and we had to earn our stripes."

Rookie Showcase unites next wave of potential stars

Tuesday, 08.28.2012 / 5:04 PM / NHL Insider

Ben Raby - Correspondent

TORONTO -- Edmonton Oilers prospect Justin Schultz was about to be photographed for his first hockey card when the 22-year-old took in his surroundings and realized how much his life has changed in 12 months.

"I think a year ago this week I would have been traveling back to Madison and just loading up on textbooks and getting ready for the fall semester," the former University of Wisconsin defenseman said. "It's a lot different today, that's for sure."

Schultz signed with the Oilers in June after being courted by several NHL teams, and Tuesday in Toronto he was one of 29 prospects decked out in an NHL uniform for photo shoots and promotional purposes as part of the NHLPA's 2012 Rookie Showcase.

The fourth annual event provides Panini America and Upper Deck -- the two official trading card partners of the NHL and NHLPA -- with the opportunity to photograph top prospects for the first time in their official NHL team uniforms. The photos are used for trading cards and memorabilia launches.

Training made Tavares one of League's top skaters

Monday, 08.27.2012 / 12:14 PM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

In three seasons since the New York Islanders made John Tavares the first pick in the 2009 NHL Draft, the center has gained a reputation as one of the strongest skaters in the League. He's blowing by defenders because of his proper posture, long stride, great power and improved speed.

Tavares has effectively married his skating with his skill to become one of the League's top-10 scorers and an All-Star -- one of the best overall players in the game.

Success so early in his career probably shouldn't come as a surprise considering the almost unfathomable amount of hype that followed Tavares into the NHL. However, for people who remember watching him closely when he was a teenager, there may be a twinge of shock only because Tavares was never one of the strongest or fastest skaters in any game he played.

NHL stars seek out Gary Roberts' tough training

Monday, 08.27.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

TORONTO -- Gary Roberts is standing below a life-size poster bearing his image as he peers over Steven Stamkos' left shoulder. In a matter of seconds the Tampa Bay Lightning's 60-goal scorer is in a dead sprint on the incline treadmill, the one that echoes throughout the workout facility created by Roberts to test the limits on players and provide them the tools for greatness.

Roberts, dressed head to toe in blue-and-black Nike apparel, watches Stamkos push his legs. He is running faster than he ever thought possible before he started training in Roberts' home gym four summers ago.

Roberts is eying Stamkos' speed and time. Lighting teammate Brett Connolly is on the other treadmill. Carolina Hurricanes center Jeff Skinner is waiting to go next. New York Rangers prospect Christian Thomas and St. Louis Blues prospect Anthony Peluso are wiping sweat off their foreheads, back into their hair as they gulp down water and try to recover from the ferociously fast sprint they just completed.

School is in session. Roberts is in charge.

"He could probably have 500 people in here training if he wanted to, but that's not who Gary is," Stamkos told during a recent visit to the Gary Roberts High Performance Centre at Fitness Institute in North York. "He wants to take guys that he knows are good people, he knows are going to work hard and stay true to the program in the gym and through the nutritional aspect."

Stamkos gets boost from Gary Roberts' training

Monday, 08.27.2012 / 9:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

TORONTO -- It's not easy to put Gary Roberts out of commission. Steven Stamkos almost did it in with one powerful squeeze this summer.

Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning center, was playfully roughhousing with Roberts, a man 24 years his elder but one many consider to be among the toughest to ever play in the NHL. Stamkos put a vicelike grip on Roberts' bicep, and Roberts' arm started to throb, threatening to at least temporarily ruin his plans for golf that day.

Instead of anger, all Roberts felt was pride. After all, Roberts and his training methods are ultimately responsible for Stamkos' surge in strength during the past four years.

"If you eat properly and train right at a young age, your body goes through the roof, and that's why Stammer can grab my bicep and I can't golf that day," Roberts told during a recent interview at his gym in North York. "I was like, 'My goodness, that's how strong he's gotten.' He's still 22 years old. He's got three or four years left of good quality years of training. He's still got an opportunity to improve.

"That's scary."

Diet, training regimen have Subban in peak condition

Monday, 08.27.2012 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

Dan Rosen - Senior Writer

TORONTO -- Montreal defenseman P.K. Subban reads off his breakfast menu without a single change in his facial expression. For him, barbecuing a steak at 7 a.m. and pairing it with freshly blended vegetable juice, fish oils, Vitamin C and various other multi-vitamins is absolutely normal.

Patrick Holland
Goals: 7 | Assists: 29 | Pts: 36
Shots: 205 | +/-: 9

No eggs. No toast. No potatoes.

"I eat a lot of protein -- steak in the morning, steak in the afternoon, fish, chicken," Subban told during a recent trip to his training facility. "At the start of the summer I order a whole cow from a grain-fed farm. I have it at my parents' house and my mom will season [the butchered meat], and I'll pick them up to have steaks for the week."

Jokes aside, Subban actually does eat the whole cow he orders each summer.

It's all part of a nutrition plan designed for him by his personal trainer, Clance Laylor, who has eliminated all grain, wheat and dairy products from Subban's summer diet.

Slap shot the weapon of hockey's hardest shooters

Sunday, 08.26.2012 / 3:00 AM / NHL Insider

John Kreiser - Columnist

From the early days of hockey until the late 1950s and early '60s, coaches frowned on the slap shot -- it took too long to get off, they said. The big windup let the goaltender get set. It missed the net too often.

Fast-forward to the present era and it's impossible to imagine hockey without the slap shot. It has become a lethal weapon and changed the way the game is played, forcing goaltenders to don masks and compelling teams to adopt strategies to keep big shooters from getting the chance to blast away.

Players are bigger and stronger now, and composite sticks have all but replaced the "twigs" of old, making it difficult to compare shooters of different generations. Today's shooters can be clocked on speed guns in a way that those of previous generations could not be.

But the anticipation in the stands when a player tees up a slapper -- the knowledge that the game could change in an instant -- is every bit as prevalent today as it was decades ago.

Carter's day with Stanley Cup typically low-key

Friday, 08.24.2012 / 7:26 PM / NHL Insider

Dave Lozo - Staff Writer

LONDON, Ontario -- Quiet, reserved and private are three words that aptly describe Jeff Carter, so it was fitting that they summarized his day with the Stanley Cup just as appropriately.

Jeff Carter raises the Stanley Cup in London, Ontario, while wearing his childhood hockey jersey. (Photo: Hockey Hall of Fa)

Surrounded by friends, teammates from his junior days with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, along with immediate and extended family in his parents' back yard, Carter reaped the benefits of his first championship with the Los Angeles Kings just two years after falling two games short as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers.

The shock and sadness Carter felt after his trade from Philadelphia to the Columbus Blue Jackets 14 months ago was something he and his family talked about Friday, but everyone acknowledged that the situation couldn't have unfolded any better for the 27-year-old.

"This is what it's all about," Carter said. "You look back on it now, and obviously at the time, it was tough to take. I loved where we were at and I never wanted to leave. But we're sitting here today with the Stanley Cup, so it's pretty unbelievable."

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Life's about opportunity and how you respond to that opportunity, and obviously he must have some swagger about him, some confidence about him, because he was solid. He made some good saves. He was 6-foot-3 on every shot, which is a good thing for a goalie. He played well. We got a win.

— Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock on rookie goaltender Garret Sparks, who made 24 saves in his first NHL start, a 3-0 win vs. Oilers
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