Oilers at Penguins, G70 ’10-’11

This is Les Binkley. He couldn’t see very well but the man could tend goal. From his biography:  Les was buried in the minors for many seasons and didn’t make his NHL debut until he was in his thirties. Les actually began his life in hockey as a trainer. The reason – his eyesight was poor. A strange twist of fate got Binkley into the nets of the Cleveland Barons of the AHL. An injury to their regular goaltender thrust Les into the nets and he never was a trainer again.

Early expansion–and the WHA–have all kinds of stories like this one. From all accounts of the day, Binkley was among the best expansion options during those first seasons after the NHL doubled in size.

The Penguins after expansion were not a winning organization. They had one outstanding scoring line in the early to mid-70s (Syl Apps Jr centering Lowell MacDonald and Jean Pronovost) but they mostly traded away high draft picks for fading stars. At one point in their history, the Penguins main claim to fame was that their star winger (Greg Polis) would go to the All-Star game and win the car as MVP.

The current Penguins have a lot of horsepower but most of it is in the shop for repair. The club is playoff bound, but heart and soul Penguin Sidney Crosby has been out for two months with a concussion. He still leads team scoring by a whopping 20 points and this team has gone just 3-3-4 in their last 10.

The Oilers are 4-5-1 in their last 10 and played well against Detroit in their last outing. The Oilers leading active goal scorers at this point (Jordan Eberle and Ryan Jones) are tied with 15; the Penguins current leader (Chris Kunitz) has 18. This may end in a 0-0 draw.

One of the things I’m waiting for is the recall of Teemu Hartikainen. The big Finn’s first NHL action will be a late season story worth following. Hartikainen is tracking well compared to other Oiler 20-year old forwards making their AHL debut over the last decade:

  1. Rob Schremp (06-07 SWB Penguins) 69gp, 17-36-53 .768ppg
  2. Jarret Stoll (02-03 Hamilton Bulldogs) 76gp, 21-33-54 .711ppg
  3. Marc Pouliot (05-06 Hamilton Bulldogs) 65gp, 15-30-45 .692ppg
  4. Jean Francois Jacques (05-06 Hamilton Bulldogs) 65gp, 24-20-44 .677ppg
  5. Teemu Hartikainen (10-11 OKC Barons) 66gp, 17-25-42 .636ppg
  6. Kyle Brodziak (04-05 Edmonton Roadrunners) 56gp, 6-26-32 .571ppg
  7. Jani Rita (01-02 Hamilton Bulldgos) 76gp, 25-17-42 .553ppg
  8. Slava Trukhno (07-08 Springfield Falcons) 64gp, 14-21-35 .547ppg
  9. Ryan O’Marra (07-08 Springfield Falcons) 31gp, 2-7-9 .290ppg
  10. Zack Stortini (05-06 Iowa/Milwaukee) 64gp, 2-8-10 .156ppg

All of the men who made it in the NHL either had a wider range of skills or developed them. This bodes well for Hartikainen because he’s a big body who can handle himself in front of the net and along the wall. He’s also healthy, and injuries claimed Pouliot and Jacques from this list.

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