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Spanning the globe

by Phil Coffey

This year's festivities prior to the Hall of Fame game between the Rangers and Maple Leafs were quite
memorable and a great tribute to all Veterans.
E-mails have arrived from all over this week, talking about a multitude is subjects. So let’s start chatting.


I watched the N.Y. Rangers vs. Toronto Maple Leafs Hall of Fame Game. That it took place on Veterans Day/Remembrance Day weekend made it all the more special. I admire the way Canada honors its veterans. As someone who served in the U.S. Army National Guard (albeit briefly) and whose father served in the U.S. Army and whose grandfather served in the British Army (he was a British subject) as an infantryman for the entire length of World War I, honoring veterans is near and dear to my heart.

I was also reminded of the Canadian lives lost in Afghanistan and realized how fortunate the U.S. is to have such a stalwart friend as our neighbor. I know this may not be the place, but thank you Canada for being there. And of course, thanks for giving the world hockey.

-- Tom Byrne

Thanks for the nice thoughts Tom. The pre-game ceremonies for the Hall of Fame Game were indeed wonderful and moving, a classy testament to all the men and women who have served and those who made the last full measure of devotion in the words of Abraham Lincoln.

Here is a link to a marvelous photo that was taken after Saturday night’s game in Edmonton showing thousands of Canadian servicemen and women who were able to attend the game thanks to the generosity of Oilers fans who donated tickets. It's a great sight.

*** is obviously biased against the N.Y. Rangers. You barely see anything about them on the front page of the site. They just took over 1st place in their div. and not even a reference. It's a Monday night and they are playing an Arch Rival (NYI) and you advertise Tampa Vs. Atlanta ???? An exciting Overtime win over the Penguins and Sidney Crosby and no mention ... all the goals scored by the defense and nothing? Never one of the 3 stars either is because of the Lawsuit. It's not fair to The NY Rangers or the fans of the game.

-- Jeff Curci

Of course Jeff, you failed to mention the Brandon Dubinsky feature story we recently ran on the front page, or the Scott Gomez story, or the featured area of the Atlantic Division Notebook on Henrik Lundqvist, or the feature story on rookie defenseman Marc Staal or the frequent mentions in Ice Age’s quotes section of both Tom Renney and Brendan Shanahan. No, of course, you wouldn’t mention them because it shoots your argument to pieces.

As the name implies, covers the entire NHL. That’s all 30 teams; so, no the Rangers will not be the featured game each time they play. No one team will. You bring up the Tampa Bay-Atlanta game. Why would we spotlight that game? Perhaps because two of the League’s top goal scorers -- Vinny Lecavalier and Ilya Kovalchuk were going head-to-head? Yeah, that might have had something to do with it.

The funny thing about your note is such notes come in all the time, just change the name of the team. “Why aren’t the (insert name of team here) in the top box more?” Because we shine the spotlight across the full spectrum of NHL teams. For in-depth coverage of specific teams, the Network has all 30 teams sites. See, the best of both worlds.


Hey Phil,

Glad to see the mailbag back -- at least for a little while.

In response to Rakesh’s email about a trophy in honor of Wayne Gretzky for the top assist-getter, I think the reason we haven’t seen it is redundancy. In the current decade, only twice has the leading points-getter not had the most assists. Last season, Sidney Crosby won the Art Ross by a margin of six points, but Joe Thornton had 92 assists, Crosby had 84 and the next lowest, Marc Savard, 74. The other instance was in 2001-02 when Jarome Iginla won the scoring title, but had 17 players with more assists -- the most was 20 higher than Iginla’s 44. With the exception of a few anomalies, most of the time, the top assists-getter will be the recipient of the Art Ross Trophy. For that reason, I think, the Maurice Richard Trophy was created. Goals are extremely important, and only one winner of the Richard Trophy has won the Art Ross in the same year, Iginla in 2002, so giving goal scorers a trophy seems like a pretty good idea. Also, one final thing to look at is Gretzky is still too involved in hockey. Trophies are an immortalization of sorts, and while Gretzky may be deserving; I don’t know that this is an honor that should be bestowed upon someone still so close to the game, less than 10 years after his retirement from playing. Though, if anyone deserves an honor like that, I suppose Gretzky fits the bill.

Personally, I’d like to see a Bobby Orr Trophy for the most offensive defenseman be created first.

-- Matt, Raleigh

Hey Matt. While there might be some redundancy between the Ross and the “Gretzky”, I still think there is a place for honoring playmaking, and if you’re going that route, you have to name it after Gretzky since he was a peerless playmaker.

And I don’t have a problem with an award named after Bobby Orr, either.


Another fine installment of Ice Age, Phil. I often don't have the time to read all the news each day, but I can always count on Ice Age to keep me abreast of the most interesting aspects of the league.

My being a die-never Habs fan, and a goalie, I see only one rookie of interest, that being Carey Price. Of course, unless he were to become the No. 1 full-time goalie ahead of Cristobal Huet, which I doubt, he will be hard pressed to win the Calder Trophy ahead of the fine crop of skating rookies this year. He does, however, give the Canadiens one of the top goaltending tandems in the NHL, and justifies the faith that coach Carbo had in keeping him up with the big club. We may be seeing the beginning of another legendary backstop in Montreal.

Canadiens' rookie netminder Carey Price has
already shown he has what it takes to be a top goaltender, and should get some consideration
for the Calder trophy at the end of the season.

Hats off to the current President of the Goaltenders Union, Martin Brodeur, on 500 wins. I see that his number comparisons with Patrick Roy may eventually have many saying that Marty was the best ever. ( I consider save percentage as the truest indicator of goaltending talent, as most other statistics such as goals against are affected by team play ) Goaltending records may be the only ones that we see broken, what with “The Great One” putting most of the scoring records in the never-never reaches of achievable.

Having a trophy of any kind named after Wayne Gretzky would make sense and, with the large number now awarded each year, adding one more for top assists shouldn't be asking much. Ron Francis' father did say in Quoteworthy, that setting up a goal was as important as scoring it. Gretzky standing in his "office" behind an opponents net with the puck was the beginning of many a scoring play by another player.

-- Mark, Lebanon, Missouri

Hey Mark. No question a goaltender has a tougher road to the Calder than a forward. The rigors of being a goaltender, especially a rookie, are so demanding that it takes a goalie longer to mature into a top-flight player. That being said, Price has shown enough potential to make the Canadiens excited about what’s ahead.


Hey Phil,

I have a question about how the playoff seeding worked in the 1970s and early 1980s.

For reference, I was born in 1983 and the first I remember was the four divisions (Adams, Patrick, Norris, Smythe), with the top four teams in each division making the playoffs, 1 vs. 4, 2 vs. 3, then the winners, then the Adams winner would play the Patrick, then the East winner played the West.

I was looking at a recap of the 1980-81 season and it looks like it was completely random, where everyone was ranked 1-16 then faced off against each other like they would in college basketball. For example, the Rangers played L.A., St. Louis, then the Islanders, and the Islanders’ road to the Cup went through Toronto (then in the West - the Campbell Conference), Edmonton, NYR, and the North Stars.

I figured I'd ask you because you seem to be a historian of some sort, and all I can do is search Wikipedia for some answers which probably aren't there. So, how did this work? Did divisional seedings mean nothing and only the top 16 teams make it?

-- Zach, New York

Hey Zach. The format you are referring to was instituted in 1979-80 when the Edmonton Oilers, Winnipeg Jets, Hartford Whalers and Quebec Nordiques joined the NHL.

There were 21 total teams and 16 made the playoffs. The four first-place teams in the four divisions automatically earned playoff berths. Among the other 17, the top 12, according to regular-season record, also earned berths. All 16 teams were then pooled together and seeded No. 1 through No. 16.

The eight advancing teams were then seeded according to regular-season record and played in the quarterfinals. The quarterfinal winners were then ranked No. 1 through No. 4, again, according to regular-season record advanced to the semifinals.

The format changed in 1981-82, when the first four teams in each division earned playoff berths and the first-place team would meet the fourth-place team. The two division winners in each conference would then square off in the conference finals with the winners advancing to play for the Stanley Cup.


Hello, Phil,

This is my first time writing to you. I'm glad the Senators have recovered from their disappointing play in the Final against the Ducks. I hope they can maintain their play. I know there is a controversy brewing in goal with Gerber and Emery. Gerber has been playing out of his mind, but he has never proven to be a number one goalie. Gerber had his chance in Carolina, but wilted and subsequently Cam Ward won the battle.

It would be in Bryan Murray's best interest not to trade Ray Emery at this juncture. I'm sure Emery isn't pleased with being the backup, but a true teammate does whatever it takes for the sake of the team.

I don't believe Eric Lindros should ever be elected to the Hall Of Fame. I heard Ron MacLean and Don Cherry defend Lindros because of what Lindros did as far as playing for Team Canada as a junior as well as a professional.

Lindros, in my mind, has to go down as one of the biggest busts in NHL history. No, I wouldn't put him in the same category as Brian Lawton or Doug Wickenheiser because they had no business being number one picks overall. Lindros, on the other hand, came into the league with all the hype as being the "Next One," behind Gretzky and Lemieux, yet his career numbers paled in comparison to their numbers, but comparable to the numbers of Bill Barber, a player who is only in the Hall because the only worthy player of election in that year was Gil Perreault in 1990.

Lindros never won a Cup and made an ass out of himself (with help from his parents) when he was drafted by Quebec in 1991, where he refused to play, thus forcing a trade to Philadelphia for the likes of Peter Forsberg, who helped Colorado win two Cups.

I feel that Forsberg should be in the Hall Of Fame one day. I can't say the same about Lindros.

Thanks for the time.

-- William Brooks

Hi, William. I just don’t see the Senators trading either one of their goaltenders unless Bryan Murray is just bowled over by an offer. Bryan is a smart guy who knows the value of goaltending, so he isn’t going to make a trade simply to make a trade.

Regarding the Eric Lindros argument, I think people at this point are focusing too much on the latter stages of his career when injuries really kept him from reaching his full potential.

During his first five or six seasons with the Flyers, he was the total package. A strong scorer and playmaker who scared the bejeebers out of the opposition.

Your point that he never won a Cup is indeed true, but when the Flyers reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1997, Lindros scored 12 goals and 14 assists in just 19 postseason games, so he was a force with which to be reckoned. Whether his career as a whole makes him Hall of Fame worthy will be decided by others, but I think it’s important to look at his career as a whole -- and not just the last three seasons when injuries wrecked havoc with his game -- when talking about his credentials.


I don't know if you are interested in this year’s rookies, but here in Tampa young Mike Lundin is making quite a stir. Most of your readers I am sure will mention Colorado's outstanding Paul Stastny and rightly so, but Lundin when he arrived at training camp had no expectation of making the squad and when Dan Boyle's injury opened up a slot, he took advantage of the opportunity. If being a smart player who has quickly learned the Lightning system without the advantage of minor-league experience (came right from the University of Maine) and playing extremely well, then Lundin rates some press. Thanks for your good work.

-- Guy Campbell


Without a doubt, here in Tampa it's Mike Lundin. A virtually unknown defenseman who has caught on to the NHL standards of play and makes his presence known on the Lightning blue line.

-- Big Dog

When I get two notes in the same mailbag extolling the virtues of one player, and one of those notes comes from a guy named Big Dog, I pay attention. Your recommendations have been passed along to Dan Rosen who handles our Rookie Watch feature here each week.


Been a lifetime fan of the Canadiens and am wondering why Bob Gainey gets so much praise for a team that has missed the playoffs five out of seven years, including last year’s fold. There is no size on this team, it needs a big center and power foward that can score, and its free-agent signings are terrible. A fact that many people overlook is that from 1989-2001, the Habs had 10 first-round picks not make the N.H.L. or that they needed skill players with size to complement Koivu, and they passed up on Kopitar, Stasny and Getzlaf in recent drafts. Maybe an article about these bad decisions is in order.

Montreal Canadiens head coach Bob Gainey is not to blame for the draft woes
the team has endured prior to his arrival.

-- Guy Smith

OK, let’s be fair here. If we’re going to assess Bob Gainey, then you can’t saddle him with poor drafts that happened before he was hired. He took over prior to the 2003-04 season, so that will be our window of analysis.

The 2003 draft brought Andrei Kostsitsyn, who is with the team now, center Cory Urquhart, who put up decent numbers in the ECHL and AHL in 2006-07 and who is playing for Hamilton (AHL) this season. Maxim Lapierre, taken 61st overall, has spent time in Montreal and has seven goals and seven assists in 17 games there this season. Defenseman Ryan O’Byrne also is playing for Hamilton. Ditto Corey Locke.

In 2004, Kyle Chipchura and Mark Streit are with the Canadiens. The 2005 top pick, goalie Carey Price looks like a keeper and right wing Guillaume Latendresse was taken 45th overall. In 2006, defenseman David Fischer was a solid first-round pick. So, the draft picks are being developed under Gainey’s regime. Hamilton has won an AHL title under Gainey, too. And, at 12-8-3 as I write this, the Habs have gotten off to a good start.


Hi Phil,

I want to talk about a number of topics today. Mainly, how a new generation of players will help the U.S. national team. But first, Devin Setoguchi. He has only played in 10 games this season, but has scored 10 goals (actually, seven goals in 11 games). This pace would put him at about 50-60 goals by the end of the season. Not only is he a Rookie of the Year candidate, but if he can keep this pace up, he might score the most goals, too. I was wondering. Has a rookie ever scored the most goals in a season before?

I am a big U.S. hockey fan, and I am still a little bitter about our disappointment at the 2006 Olympics. I have some questions regarding the shape of U.S. hockey in the future that I hope you can answer. Of the three U.S. goalies at the last Olympics, two were relative newcomers, Rick DiPietro and Ryan Miller were relative newcomers in the NHL. I think because of that inexperience, it was the big reason we got knocked out in the second round. But now that DiPietro has more experience (including an appearance in the playoffs) and other rising U.S. goalie stars like Ryan Miller and Tim Thomas. Do you think that the U.S. will be more solid in goal from now on? Also, do you think the U.S. will be more solid up front as well? With a new generation of players like Paul Stastny, Christopher Higgins, Phil Kessel, Ryan Kesler, David Legwand (although he has been around for a while, he is still 27,) Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Drew Stafford, and R.J. Umberger. On defense we have Matt Carle, Matt Greene, Jordan Leopold, John-Michael Liles, Ryan Suter, and Ryan Whitney. And of course two promising rookies who are the first Americans to be taken 1 and 2 in the same draft, Patrick Kane and James vanRiemsdyk. Kane has already become a big goal scorer for the Blackhawks this year and is a top candidate for Rookie of the Year. Do you think American hockey has a good future? (by the way, what ever happened to Robert Esche?

I also want your opinion on two former American goalie greats, Mike Richter and Tom Barrasso. Although both won Stanley Cups, neither seems to have been talked about much for a shot at the Hall of Fame. Both had outstanding careers with big-name franchises. Tom won two Stanley Cups with the Penguins, and Richter won a Stanley Cup with the Rangers. Usually when they had sub-par seasons it was because they had a weak team up front. Richter was also THE goalie for the US national team and excelled at international play. I wish they would get the attention and respect they deserve. What do you think?

Lastly, I have a problem with the timing of the Hockey World Cup. Why do they hold it at a time when the world's best players are fighting to get in and stay in the playoffs. I think it should be held when the playoffs are over. I hardly recognize any of the names on any country's roster. I am sure many players would jump at the chance to represent their country and sacrifice a little vacation every couple years.

-- Daniel Zickuhr, San Jose

Hi Daniel. Dan Rosen just got off the phone with Devin Setoguchi, so he will be the subject of a Rookie Watch feature in the near future, so I’ll let him address things in his story.

As for the Team USA questions, here goes.

I can’t imagine DiPietro and Miller not being mainstays in goal for the U.S. for the next decade. Both are excellent goaltenders who will get better as they mature. They are the foundation.

You mentioned quite a few possibilities for the Team USA defense in the future, but what about Jack and Erik Johnson? Both figure to be mainstays on the blue line for Team USA for years to come.

Up front, the changing of the guard is under way, with guys like Mike Modano, Bill Guerin and Jeremy Roenick giving way to players like Zach Parise and Scott Gomez. It is an inevitable changing of the guard, but one that appears to have plenty of promise. And keep in mind the National Development Program has been producing plenty of first-round draft picks to fuel the program.


Hello Mr. Coffey!

I very happy that now I can write to you again. I had some problems with PC, but now it’s all OK and works as a Swiss clock!

It’s splendid that Larry Robinson’s number is now retired by the Canadiens, but why didn’t it happen earlier? I did not see Larry Robinson in action, but I heard a lot about him. It’s very sad that time is passing away fast and we (I mean all people) can’t return in time and relive some event again. I very happy that in North America people have a lot of videos and DVDs about hockey’s past. It says so much about people’s attitude to sport and it heroes.

An important thing happened this September. My dad and I were watching SuperSeries 72, all eight games! It was luck that we found this Canadian DVD. It’s a miracle! I’m 25. I live in Russia. My generation never saw all games of Super Series 72. Russian TV officially showed only two games of the eight, the first in Canada and the last in Moscow.

Unfortunately, situation with NHL in Russia still hard. Only one channel shows “NHL on the Fly” program. It’s not right. Many good Russian players played and play now in NHL, but in their homeland, nobody sees them play. A whole generation of Russian NHL players Pavel Bure, Alex Mogilny … they like disappear. Nobody in their homeland saw them play.

I want to share my impressions from SuperSeries 72 with you. It’s superb hockey. I saw a high speed and aggressive play, I saw perfect Canadian skating, pass, positional hockey, dekes and multifarious attacks. I saw real hockey and I think that while time has passed, SuperSeries72 is still interesting today. I more like Canadian part of the series because it been on NHL hockey rink and the games was like in NHL with high speed, with hits and better judging. In all games in Moscow judging was terrible, Soviets play in transverse, low speed, much whistles, refs mistakes with off-side killed start of many good Canadian attacks.

I saw in this series from Canadian side: real NHL hockey which is not changed with time. I now know that many things that I heard in USSR about Canada, and tells about Series72 - was not true, some myths still live in Russia.

For example: “Canadian hockey style changed under influence of European hockey.”

”Soviet and European players always was more skilled, better skating.”

Phil Esposito was big, not a team player, fight instigator and played like cad from tram.”

”Canadians always start they attacks from puck dumping.”

Sure, it’s all rubbish, but some people believe it because they didn’t see all the games of the SuperSeries 72. I saw that Canadian hockey has stayed the Canadian hockey which we know today. … From this series I saw that Canadian hockey players always been skilled, smart, power, high in spirit, and creative guys. I saw Phil Esposito for the first time in life and I like him very much. Team Canada played better and better from game to game and the Soviets looked worse from game to game.

-- Richard, NHL hockey fan from cold Russia

Hey Richard, I was wondering where you disappeared to. Glad to hear the computer is working again.

The 1972 SuperSeries is not only great sport, but tremendous theater with the politics and tension at the time. Believe it or not, I was actually pretty young back in 1972 and living in the United States made it hard to keep track of what was going on. But there were plenty of stories in the hockey magazines from the time and I remember devouring all the stories I could. The advent of the video recorder and now the DVD has made all this so much easier and it’s great that the whole series is available for everyone to see.

I tend to stash this stuff away for the summer, so I can sit back and enjoy them when things are less hectic.


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