One of them spent his career as one of the two or three best skaters in the game. That beautiful stride along with incredible balance made him breathtaking with the puck. He could turn on a dime, made butter passes and when he had possession you’d have to look long and hard to find negatives.
Defensively he was error prone because he took all kinds of chances, challenged oncoming forwards with low percentage plays and generally pissed off pretty much all the coaches he played for by doing things that are/were verboten in the game of hockey defense. Of all the great defensemen in NHL history you’ll find more scathing comments from coaches about him than any other.
As a fan, I loved watching him play. It didn’t matter if he made a mistake in the first period because he was going to score 2 more in the second period. The problem with that usually comes in the playoffs and Paul Coffey saw his minutes cut back in a few playoff games over the years. When Scotty Bowman traded Coffey, he told the media “you can’t win playing like that.”
Charlie Huddy was never drafted. It’s a little misleading because the year he was eligible (1979) also happens to be the year that the NHL decided to cut back the draft by many, many rounds. In 1979 the NHL 126 drafted kids, but in the season before they’d selected 234 and in 1980 the NHL drafted 210 men. The fact that the Oilers signed Huddy September 14, 1979 which was a month after the 1979 draft (it was held very late, August 9th, because the league had to figure out a way to fold in underagers like Mark Messier while keeping out other kids his age) tells me they had him rated right behind Blair Barnes.
Huddy on defense was a warm blanket on a cold winter night. He was solid, secure, stable, reliable, balanced. A coach’s dream. He read plays very well, broke up 100,000 trips across the blueline with his intelligent plays, and generally played hockey like a middle linebacker. Read, react and execute.
The Edmonton Oilers have Charlie Huddy and they could use a younger version on their blueline. Still, beggars can’t be choosers and I’m happy with the one we’ve got. Huddy gave an interview with Dan Tencer (on the Oilers site) today and gave his wish list for the D pairings:
- Sheldon Souray-Steve Staios
- Lubomir Visnovsky-Tom Gilbert
- Ladislav Smid-Denis Grebeshkov
- Jason Strudwick
Huddy also talks about Joni Pitkanen with reference to Paul Coffey and looks forward to a life with Lubo. It’s an interesting article and the pairings are certainly worthy of conversation. That defense needs a Huddy.