Saturdays as a kid meant watching the HNIC at my Grandpa’s house. My Dad would be there, along with warm beer (Grandpa liked his beer room temp) and the room was filled with light from one strong bulb that spread shadows and created weird images on those plaster walls that featured rough surfaces no one under 30 would remember. The Leafs would usually roar ahead and as the third period rolled along the adults would begin the prep for cards while I would start thinking of ways to stay up (it was an epic fail, 60s parents were kind of communisits–speak when spoken to, it’s bedtime because I said so–that kind of thing).
The Toronto of my youth was the one in my imagination–the words and drawings in the ‘Art Linkletter Encyclopedia‘ and the hockey Leafs. Big Frank Mahovlich was a powerhouse, you could hear the fans rise as the Big M wound up and passed center on his way into the offensive zone. My favorite player was Dave Keon, he was kind of, well, perfect.
That video shows some nice footage of Keon, George Armstrong and Jacques Plante, along with young defensive tomfoolery from Jim McKenny. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been compared to a lot of great players (Datsyuk!!!!) but the first player of this type I remember was Keon. A wonderful penalty-killer and defensive center, Keon’s footspeed was insane and his anticipation the same. RHN is taller, I suspect he’s a better offensive player (Keon was no slouch) but they are similar in their approach to the game: both skated miles and miles in the name of upsetting timing.
Cherish this one, gents. When he’s gone, we’ll miss him.
The Oilers have had some good fortune when looking to Toronto for defensive help. They acquired Jason Smith from the Leafs in 1999 for a 2nd and a 4th, and they acquired the draft pick that would be Steve Smith for a fringe winger (Reg Thomas) right after the 1979 expansion draft. With Jake Gardiner apparently available, I wonder if the Oilers might attempt to pick him up and pair him with Justin Schultz–that would be a lot of chaos but it worked in college.
LIE BACK AND THINK OF ENGELLAND
Seems like half of the EJ has writers are mentioning his name, and the other half are too. I’m not absolutely certain the Oilers need a depth defenseman, although they haven’t replaced Theo Peckham/Mark Fistric and maybe that’s their 7th D when everything gets sussed out. I’m not used to cheering for a team with more than 7 blueline options, so this plethora stuff is new to me. I would guess the depth chart right now looks like:
- Justin Schultz
- Jeff Petry
- Andrew Ference
- Ladislav Smid
- Anton Belov
- Nick Schultz
- Phil Larsen
- Denis Grebeshkov
- Corey Potter
- Brandon Davidson
- Martin Marincin
- Taylor Fedun
- Oscar Klefbom
- Brad Hunt
- Martin Gernat
- David Musil
There’s like 14 guys on this list who are possible NHL defenders at some point this season, that’s way more depth than we’ve seen in the past. I’m not sure how many of these kids will be quality, but there’s no rush to bring any of them up at this point.
Pierre Lebrun has an article up quoting an NHL exec saying that aside from Jordan Eberle and Sam Gagner “he thought the team’s young forwards aren’t fully committed to becoming complete players. They’re not paying the price to play a 200-foot game. He said that’s especially noticeable on a team where the blue line, aside from Justin Schultz — whom he refers to as a “stud” — has “neither depth nor dimension.”
I’m calling bullshit across the board. NO MENTION of Taylor Hall’s ability to push the river, no mention of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins as an emerging two-way talent, and the two guys the exec mentioned would NOT be exceptions in this area (and I love both guys as hockey players). The blueline has better depth and dimension, and not to be an asshole but Justin Schultz is putting the k in chaos pretty much every damn shift.
So that executive is doing what NHL execs apparently do routinely–turning to page 11 in the “what to say when media asks” of the TIRED OLD HOCKEY MEN handbook and having a lash. These kids aren’t perfect, God knows that’s true, but when you’re asking Taylor Hall (as a for instance) to move to center and take instruction from his THIRD HEAD COACH IN FOUR YEARS there might just be a period of adjustment there. If you’re saying “there seems to be some confusion here, Orly” I’m with you. But to call out young players who’ve been through this gong show for lack of commitment? Go to hell.
I’ll post the lineups when they appear, might be some juggling. I’d give $ to see a victory tonight, it would be a very nice end to a couple of difficult weeks to be an Oiler fan.