Hello everyone. I’m very excited to be back writing for The Hockey News. When I was wrapping up my career, I had a blog with tales about playing hockey in Japan with my good pal and very leather-skinned friend, Tyson Nash.
Since then, I retired, worked for the Calgary Flames organization for three years (which I loved every minute of) and transitioned to the media side by working for TSN on their various TV and radio shows.
One thing I have always loved is the game of hockey. I knew what I was as a player, am very proud of it and was extremely fortunate to have played pro for so many years. Not only was I lucky enough to have played with some of the best goalies of all-time in Grant Fuhr, Ron Hextall, Roberto Luongo and Miikka Kiprusoff, but also with some of the best players of all-time: Chris Pronger, Brett Hull, Pierre Turgeon, Wendel Clark, Al MacInnis, Mark Messier, Joe Nieuwendyk and Jarome Iginla (yes, it pains me to say it, because I like taking shots at Iggy, but he is), plus many amazing players in between.
I’ve been blessed: Hockey has brought me incredible lifelong friendships and experiences I will cherish forever.
OK, enough of the trip down memory lane. I will touch on those stories throughout my columns as I get questions and settle in. I was uncertain on where I wanted to start, but I will share a tiny story and build from there.
In my last few years in the NHL I got to watch a lot of hockey backing up Roberto Luongo and Miikka Kiprusoff, but on one particular night I was put in against Detroit.
Pavel Datsyuk was coming down the ice on his off wing and I was outside my crease in what I thought was a good position. I had read the rush and examined what his options were coming over the blueline: he basically had a 2-on-2 play with Henrik Zetterberg (also a scary player to face), but from what I could see, both my D-men were in good position to handle the play. Their gap was great, their stick positioning was perfect to take the pass away and it should have been a nothing play.
Well, obviously Datsyuk had other ideas, because as he got over the blueline, he faked to drive wide, cut hard to the top of the circle, moved laterally as fast as he was going forward, put the puck through the D-man’s stick, faked a pass to a streaking Zetterberg and, in full stride, snapped a ridiculous shot short side shelf that I was way too late to get.
Now, as a goalie, the moment a goal goes in you try to assess what you could have done better, why you didn’t prevent it and how to get better for next time. Obviously, getting beat on a short side glove shot is a no-no in Goaltending 101, but when watching the replay on the JumboTron – and then again later on video – yes, there were a few technical errors on my part. That was when I witnessed how amazing Datsyuk’s hands are. Some things stick out in a goalie’s mind over his career and that goal will be ingrained in my mind for quite some time.
This leads me to my list ranking the best hands in the NHL. There are so many guys to choose from, but that’s the beauty of opinion from experience.
1. Pavel Datsyuk
A game-changer who makes everyone around him better. He has the vision to see plays two and three steps ahead of everyone.
2. Joe Thornton
Has hands of butter for a large man. He’s an elite passer with vision and tremendous strength on the puck.
3. Daniel and Henrik Sedin
I could never tell the difference between these two anyway and it doesn’t matter – they both have the puck on a string and make goalies look terrible. Plus, I think they’re telepathic: I’ve never witnessed them talking to each other on the ice, but they always seem to find the blade.
4. Martin St-Louis
Just ask Steven Stamkos how good St-Louis’ hands are. Everything about Marty is done at full speed; great anticipation and vision.
5. Corey Perry
Has such a long reach and uses his size and strength to maneuver around the net. He has a tricky release with deceptive speed.
Honorable Mentions: Patrick Kane, Daniel Briere, Claude Giroux, Evgeni Malkin, Sidney Crosby.
That’s it for this week, thanks for reading.
Follow me on Twitter for questions and feedback @Jamiemclennan29.
Born in Edmonton, Jamie McLennan is a former NHL goaltender currently working as an analyst for TSN. Nicknamed ‘Noodles,’ McLennan was drafted by the Islanders in 1991. He played 254 NHL games with the Flames, Rangers, Panthers, Wild, Blues and Isles, compiling a 80-109-33 record. He will be writing for THN.com throughout the season.