In the postgame, Dick Irvin asked him if he thought of passing. “No.” Why not? “Frank hollered shoot!”
There are 5 posts that served as the beginning of this look, and they are here. This continues the series, and for those who waited almost 4 years thanks for your patience.
- TOTAL ROOKIES OF INTEREST: 88
- WHY SO MANY: Two new NHL teams plus WHA doubled rookie crop
- BEST PLAYER AS A ROOKIE: Steve Vickers and Bill Barber had very similar seasons, with Vickers getting the nod from voters. Neither of them looked to be the player Rick Martin (from 71-72) appeared to be at the time.
- OLDEST ROOKIE: Connie Madigan was 38 when he made the NHL for the first time. He played well for the St. Louis Blues and continued his minor league career in the following seasons. He is perhaps best known for a small part in the classic film SLAP SHOT!
- OLDEST ROOKIE TO PLAY A LOT: Goalie Wayne Stephenson was 28 years old when he landed in the NHL (also with St. Louis). Stephenson tended goal in 45 games in 72-73 and boasted a solid 3.03 GAA. He had an .898SP. Stephenson was famous in Canada previous to his NHL debut due to his status with the Canadian National Team. He was part of the 1968 Olympic team and the nation’s World Championship entry in 1967 and 1969. Stephenson was on the Edmonton Oil Kings Memorial Cup entry in 1965.
- ANY MORE OLD ROOKIES: Sure, there were 88 guys who made their big league debut in 72-73. Ross Brooks–another goalie–was 35 years old when he landed a job with the Bruins. A career minor leaguer, he took advantage of some terrible asset management in Boston over the summer of 1972.
- MOST UNUSUAL STORY: Morris Mott came to pro hockey the same way as Stephenson and had expected to play minor league hockey in the AHL or old time WHL. However, Oakland had been raided so badly by the WHA that Mott won a job outright in the NHL. Henry Boucha was a legendary high school player (Warroad in Minnesota) and well known for his ability to play most of the game without rest. Boucha was a pretty good young player but his career path was impacted greatly by a terrible stick swinging incident with Boston Bruin Dave Forbes. Stan Weir enjoyed a strong career before emerging as hockey’s answer to Chuck Norris. Steve Durbano was a tough guy, I mean incredibly tough on and off the ice. He lived hard and died early and found peace only a few years before he passed. Chuck and Bryan Lefley were rookies the same year.
- ANYTHING ELSE? The NHL was finally getting good draft picks and rookies through to the expansion teams. Boston still got Gregg Sheppard and Terry O’Reilly, Montreal still got Larry Robinson and Steve Shutt, but Philly got Bill Barber and most of the newer teams had some good players make their NHL debut.
- ANYTHING ELSE ELSE? Both expansion teams plucked outstanding goaltenders in the summer expansion draft. NY Islanders grabbed Billy Smith and Atlanta chose Daniel Bouchard at the same time. It would have immediate impact on the NHL, as Boston–the defending champs–spent the winter trying to find goaltending after losing Bouchard in the draft.
- Longest NHL careers: Larry Robinson (1384), Don Lever (1020), Phil Russell (1016), Steve Shutt (930), Bill Barber (903)
- Most Seasons of High Quality: Larry Robinson was a freak, but Steve Shutt, Billy Barber, Daniel Bouchard and Billy Smith should also be included in this category.
- Most Seasons of Above Average Play: Don Lever, Phil Russell, Billy Harris, Terry O’Reilly
- Peak Value: Larry Robinson is an inner circle HOFer. Two Norris trophies in an era where giants played defense, 1 Smythe trophy and six end of season all-star appearances (3 first all-star honors). Durable, across the board talent and was lethal despite never taking close to 100 PIMs in a single season. Steve Shutt made 3 all-star teams (season ending variety) and once set a record for goals by a LW the same season he led the league in that category (60). Shutt was also a solid 2-way player and his 424 goals in 930 games is an impressive total, owing mostly to a tremendous shot. Bill Barber was also an impressive LW whose career ran alongside Shutt. He was perhaps less famous than Shutt as a 2-way player but can boast amazing consistency from the beginning to end of his career. Barber did great work shorthanded and he also manned the point very well on the PP. Billy Smith had a decade long run where he posted outstanding numbers for a great team and Daniel Bouchard matched him save for the fact his team was less impressive.
- DON LEVER: First Canuck we’ll talk about in these terms, Lever gets a mention based on longevity and a nice range of skills. I don’t think he was ever considered a strong contender for a major award and his career best in goals was 38, but he played well for a long time.
- BOB MACMILLAN: Won the Byng in 1979 and had one enormous season. Adding his NHL seasons to his brief WHA career I think we can cobble together enough evidence to mention him here.
- PHIL RUSSELL: As with Lever, Russell gets a mention based on consistency over a long period, with special mention for his early Chicago career.
- STEVE VICKERS: Won the Calder and followed through with some solid seasons but lacked the consistency of the HOF LWers of this era.
- TERRY O’REILLY: I don’t think he’s well remembered now but O’Reilly was an excellent forward in a lot of areas. Had some impressive offensive seasons and could play a complete game.
- GREGG SHEPPARD (in photo above facing off against Bobby Clarke): Had he been able to sustain the mid-70s level for a few more seasons I’d put him in without a throw. Sheppard was undersized but worked like a demon. Hell on the forecheck and PK, those first 6 seasons were outasite.
FROM THE 72-73 GROUP, WHO BELONGS IN THE HOF?
- LARRY ROBINSON: Incredible player over a long period of time. Robinson enjoyed the luxury of coming up and playing for an outstanding team but he was contributing in short order and by the time he’d been in the league few seasons emerged as a leader. I think he’s an inner circle HOFer, the best defenseman in the group we’ve looked at 67-72.
- BILLY SMITH: I can’t imagine keeping him out of the Hall. You could argue that he shared the starting job with Resch during the glory days and didn’t establish himself, but that’s denying the fact that in those years most teams shared the regular season duties. Billy Smith may have pissed off most NHL fans–he was well hated in Edmonton–but by save percentage, by wins, by GAA and anything you can name he makes the Hall easily.
- BILL BARBER: He had excellent peak value and did play over 900 NHL games (Barber was a mess when he was through but when he played delivered quality). Quick release, lots of PK ability and most of the things held against him (he was a whiner and a cheap shot artist, hurt Orr’s knee) have been long forgotten by everyone but me apparently. Without the knee problem, he would have cleared 500 goals and we might be talking inner circle.
- STEVE SHUTT: I have to confess to being a fan of Steve Shutt. I’d have him second on this list to be honest, right behind Robinson but have long since realized that he is not viewed by others as I saw him. For me, Shutt was a splendid 2-way winger who could score just inside the blueline with a heavy shot and also had a sixth sense in close. The term “garbage goal” came into my purview because of Shutt and the way he scored goals. He was very good at finding loose pucks but he could also scoot on the backcheck and did a lot of extra work on the Lafleur line because of the Flower’s “rover” mentality. I’ve got Steve Shutt safely in the hall but am prepared to discuss it.
FINAL QUESTION: WHAT ONE PLAYER WOULD YOU ARGUE IS CLOSEST TO BEING IN THE HOF WITHOUT MEETING THE REQUIREMENTS?
- DANIEL BOUCHARD: I would actually like to put him in my HOF but can’t find a way to make it work. Bouchard was an excellent goalie for a long time, over 10 seasons. He never played for an impact team but in Atlanta and a little later backstopped good to very good teams. Bouchard is long forgotten now but his career stats do not fade badly compared to other goalies of his era. Tough call, I’ll suggest he just misses but could be talked into including him.