Let's not mess around anymore.
Connor McDavid is king and that's that.
It's also the easy part and the beauty part.
The tougher deal – at least for a historian like me – is finding a past counterpart who most resembles King Connor.
I'm not even talking about a superstar of yesteryear; what I mean is a super-superstar. Could it be:
MAURICE RICHARD: The Rocket is a good start but as we, who watched him know, Richard's game was a bit one-dimensional for our purposes.
HOWIE MORENZ: The Mitchell Meteor, major league hockey's first superstar, sure had the speed but lacked the size and creativity that comes with McDavid's game.
SYL APPS: Toronto's three-Cup captain comes close in size and versatility but not King Connor's productivity.
HENRI RICHARD: Oh, boy! With a record-holding eleven Stanley Cup rings, The Pocket Rocket would be the guy – except he'd have to be a foot taller.
One – and only one – stickhandler meets my specifications and that includes the majesty of his presence and performance.
JEAN BELIVEAU. (Alias Le Gros Bill; or Big Bill.)
Majestic in his every move, the erstwhile Habs captain towered over the opposition in virtually every aspect of his game. Every.
Forget about the fact that he paced his Canadiens to ten Stanley Cups and helped the Montrealers to no less than five consecutive titles, Le Grande Jean was so much more the icon.
Former Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper doubled as a hockey author and historian. He put it best about Beliveau.
"Jean was a hockey giant. He inspired a nation with his outstanding skill, humility and pure love of the game."
Like McDavid, Big Bill looked as if he could score – or set up a goal – just about any time he wanted in just about any game.
Hall of Famer Frank (Big M) Mahovlich skated left wing alongside Beliveau and grasped the game of Le Gros Bill as well as anybody.
Mahovlich: "While Jean made playing hockey look easy, a lot of sweat went into his game. The moves he made around the enemy net were especially beautiful to watch."
Now, really, doesn't that make you think of McDavid skating in, our, in-again and around five Rangers before deking the goalie and scoring another goal?
It sure does for me,
And, really, when you think about it, McDavid still is honing his game to sharpness and – barring injury, of course – hellbent on course for a career at least roughly equivalent to the beauty of Beliveau.
Of course, King Connor still has his work cut out for him to match Le Gros Bill.
After all, Beliveau still leads the Oilers captain by ten Stanley Cups!
HOW TO ENJOY THE MAPLE LEAFS
It's not easy to be a Maple Leafs fan these days. Or, to be kind, let's be frank and call it bitter-sweet.
On the one hand, they're riding high on all cylinders.
Even the alleged "weak spot," goaltending, is proving at least adequate and sometimes superior. Zach Hyman hardly is missed and John Tavares is looking more like Captain Crunch than Captain Bligh.
So, what's the problem. Why order more aspirins for Maple Leaf Nation?
The critics – I confee, Me included – won't leave them alone.
Whether it's a Campbell shutout, a pair by Marner; defense like you never believed or Matthews growing a new moustache, the rejoinder is just the same in an assortment of forms and at least eight languages.
Let's see what they can do in the playoffs!
By any logical standard, that's patently – or un-patently, as the case may be – unfair.
A strong regular season performance should never be mocked. Never, ever!
Conquering an 82-game is a heavy task; Very heavy, in fact. Winning the marathon should never be greeted by an imperfect – wait 'til the playoffs – squelch.
Nor should a Toronto triumph in December. Ratepayers in Leafs Nation should cheer all they want, without cynical counterattacks.
Granted the playoffs have been enhanced by the media's be-all-end-all
song and dance but that's pure bull if it demeans a mighty regular-season run.
Hey, let's not kid ourselves; an NHL season is divided by two.
The problem is that the second part gets a ton of value and the regular season – especially when it involves those good, determined, hard-working fellows wearing Royal Blue and White – is like two cents worth.
The Maven's advice to The Toronto Faithful. Ignore the naysayers; enjoy every win for all its worth.
And it's worth two points more than the teams with the L!
MIKE STEPHENS VOTES FOR MADDEN; MAVEN FOR ROY
If you don't mind – and my editors flash a green light – I'll comment from time to time about articles in the Bible of our Sport, The Hockey News. So, here goes:
I savored Mike Stephens piece in which he picked five solid candidates to fill Marc Bergevin's vacated place in the Canadiens high command.
Mike's list included Daniel Goyette, Roberto Luongo, Patrick Roy, Daniel Briere and Martin Madden.
Stephens likes Madden the best and backed it up with lots of meaty points.
My preference is Patrick Roy; for these reasons.
1. He's as smart as Madden
2. He's experienced in the GM world
3. He's known throughout the Province of Quebec – if not thoroughly loved
Where I boost Roy above Madden is in the realm of a marquee name.
A marquee team such as Les Canadiens deserves a veritable king of the sport as well as one with the cerebral capacity and inner toughness to lead the franchise.
Patrick Roy's name value – and assorted other assets – is pivotal.
Granted that Monsieur Roy hasn't been my pal for decades. But he can run my team any time, in French or English!
THE PANTHERS HEADING FOR ANOTHER CONQUEST
Unlike the rival Lightning based in the midst of a metropolis, Florida's other heart-throbbing sextet is out in the 'Burbs of Sunrise. As a result, g.m. Bill Zito's Cats have faced a double-dip challenge: 1. Enlarging the fan base; and, 2. Gaining meaningful media attention.
A milestone along that Happiness Highway was achieved on November 24th when Florida beat Philly in OT before a crowd of 15,545 at FLA Live Arena. Not only that but major media such as the Miami Herald has discovered that The Cats are a story these nights, virtually every time they take the ice! Ergo: They deserve all the coverage in the world.
I'M JUST SAYIN' –
* If you're sightseeing in Manhattan, don't miss the spanking new ice rink adjoining the new NHL headquarters at Hudson Yards not far from MSG.
* Brad Marchand is simply "Terrible" Ted Lindsay in a different uniform and different era. One difference. Lindsay is in the Hall of Fame. Brad? Maybe.
* I'm convinced that, at some point, the NHLPA will concede that it's healthier and more prudent – all around – to nix the Olympics.
* How in the world did the savants in Calgary and Carolina ever decide to turn thumbs-down on Adam Fox?
* On the other hand, gotta give credit to Canes g.m. Don Waddell for gambling on Tony DeAngelo, Raleigh's answer to Dougie Hamilton.