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Bluelines: Jim Devellano, the 1-Man Manager Machine

Stan Fischler chats with former NHL GM Jim Devellano about the impact he had on general managers around the league and the story of how he got to Detroit. Plus, Fischler discusses goaltenders, Crosby, Flyers coaching and more.
Jim Devellano

Jim Devellano is not in the Hall of Fame for nothing. Actually, for plenty.

He -- along with Bill Torrey -- helped mold the Four-Cup Islanders dynasty.

That done, the Red Wings Executive Vice President moved on to Detroit and rescued the Motor City sextet from oblivion after which more Stanley Cup rings were added to his paws.

But how many out there in Hockeyland know how many National Hockey League general managers Toronto Jim groomed in one way or another?

In an exclusive interview, Devellano answers these and other questions:

THE JIMMY D ALUMNI: "I started working for Bill Torrey when the Islanders began in 1972 and two of our guys eventually made it to a g.m. position. I trained two people outright to become general managers. Darcy Regier, who played a lot of hockey for our farm team, and Neil Smith were fellows I mentored during my days on the Island. Smith would spend seven years learning every job related to running an NHL team. Neil eventually would leave me to direct the New York Rangers to the 1994 Stanley Cup. Later, Ken Holland worked his way up the ladder in Detroit. Holland stayed with me for a total of 35 seasons. His record just got him into the Hockey Of Fame."

THE OTHERS: "Don Waddell (Carolina), Jim Nill (Dallas), Steve Yzerman (Detroit), and Pat Verbeek (Anaheim). I helped them in one way or another during my Detroit days. Remember, I've been with the Red Wings for forty years. My biggest contribution to them was getting them involved in scouting and player development. I always wanted to give young, eager people a chance to advance and that applied to all of the above in some shape or form. "

DEVELLANO MOTIVATION FOR HELPING: "I had two people who were responsible for giving me a chance, despite my being an underdog. The first was Lynn Patrick in St. Louis, In 1967 Lynn gave a young, inexperienced 24-year-old Jimmy Devellano a chance to become the first Ontario scout for his St.Louis Blues. And I had to learn on the job. But that helped get my foot in the NHL door."

JIMMY'S SECOND KEY MENTOR: "In 1972 Bill Torrey started the expansion New York Islanders. Bow Tie Bill gave me a real chance to flap my wings. First, he made me his Eastern Canada scout. Then, in 1974 Torrey promoted me to director of scouting and recruitment. A good five years after that, I was upped to general manager of the Islanders farm team, the Indianapolis Checkers. And, finally, in 1981 I became Bill's assistant general manager."

HOW HE GOT TO DETROIT: "This was in 1982 after the Islanders had won a third straight Cup and the Red Wings had been sold to Mike and Marian Ilitch. Although I could have stayed on the Island, Mike Ilitch called Bill Torrey. Bill was a good man and always good to me but I was looking fo a challenge. I flew out to Detroit, met Mike Ilitch and he offered me the GM job -- and I wound up making more than double what I was making as assistant GM with the Isles"

SOURCES OF SATISFACTION: "Apart from winning Cups in both places, I'd say my biggest contribution to the others was getting them with all aspects of the business. I was very open and inclusive in discussing the hockey business. That included contracts, scouting and whatever else they wanted to know. I always made sure that they were able to discuss whatever was on their mind and what they had to do to get ahead."

SPECIFIC QUALITIES OF EACH: "Whether it was Smith, Holland, Waddell, Nill, Yzerman or Verbeek, each one of them was ambitious, smart and hungry to advance. And I am pleased to say that I'm proud of all of them."

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THE CUP CONTENDERS WITH THE BEST -- AND WORST -- GOALTENDERS

The Cup hopes of Toronto, Carolina, Colorado, Florida, Pittsburgh and Rangers largely rest on goaltending.

Montreal won five straight Cups from 1956 through 1960 because the Habs boasted the best goalie in hockey Jacques Plante. Ditto for Toronto, winning four Cups in five years thanks to the best clutch goalie of The Original Six, Turk Broda.

That's why it's so fascinating to determine her and now which contender can match or surpass Tampa Bay's nonpareil Andrei Vasilevskiy. The best crease king among the Bolts' foes could mean an end to the Champ's two-year reign.

Competition is exceptionally keen and it all starts in Calgary where Jacob Markstrom -- at age 32 -- is enjoying a career year. With eight shutouts already in the bag, Jake is the best in the West. What's more, he's working from a Darryl Sutter system with a committed defense-oriented outfit. Does Markstrom have a weakness? My goalie guru Alan Greenberg, says maybe. "If there's a negative," says Al, "it's his minimal playoff experience."

One of the biggest surprises -- and least mentioned because he plays in Carolina -- has to be Fred Andersen. How smart was Canes g.m. Don Waddell! He eschewed Petr Mrazek and Alex Nedeljkovic and wound up with a goalie better than Pete and Alex. What's more, Canes' backup Antti Raanta is as reliable as any #2 stopper.

The Panthers Sergei Bobrovsky sure is earning his fat paycheck this semester. That helps explain the Cats lofty status and unwillingness to lose. Greenberg, who sees the Panthers all the time, is not yet sold on young backup Spencer Knight. "Not a big enough sample," says Big Al.

Come to think of it, the "Too little sample," label could be affixed to Igor (Iggie)

Shesterkin; except that the sample has significantly grown. I rate Shesterkin right up with Markstrom and Andersen but I'm not crazy about the Rangers other Russian stopper, Al Georgiev. (Advice to Iggie; Don't get hurt.)

The Avs are so good they could put a scarecrow between the pipes and win. Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz are no slouches. 'Nuff said.

As for Jack Campbell and Robin Lehner; I'm not impressed. Connor Hellebuyck. YES! But the Jets have to get in, and that's no guarantee.

I saved the best for last. Andre Vasilevskiy still is the top banana of the bunch. He could carry an attrition-battered Champs to a rare third straight Cup; but I say it won't happen.

Pal Al Greenberg likes a Canes-Flames finale; Andersen vs. Markstrom.

"It wouldn't be a marketing coup," Greenberg concludes, "but it sure would be a terrific match-up."

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A FEW WORDS ABOUT PITT'S CAPTAIN

I covered Sidney Crosby's NHL debut in New Jersey. Pre-game my MSG Networks sidekick Glenn (Chico) Resch had the pleasure of chatting with Sid's parents from the Maritimes. Salt of the earth is what they are. Ditto for their gifted son.

Sidney's 500th goal -- scored against Philly last Tuesday -- merits attention and comment. But what more can one say in praise of the Penguin? Really? He entered the league with a suitably glowing build-up and there's been no letdown.

Forgotten as Crosby pumps goal after goal is that he survived concussions that threatened to end his career. That fact, in and of itself, testifies to his insuperable stature.

As I'm sure his former locker roommate, Colby Armstrong, will agree.

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I'M JUST SAYIN':

* If you're a Flyers fan, who'd you rather have as your coach for next season -- John Tortorella or Rick Tocchet. Me? I'd take Tock. The Torts tale is getting stale.

* Colorado's high command isn't satisfied with regular-season domination. Hence, genial Joe Sakic is checking out expensive and Joe Pavelski is cut-rate. Take Joe, Joe!

* It's about time Brad (Swinging On A Star) Treliving got a few dozen handstands of appreciation and a vote for g.m. of the year. His Tyler Toffoli gets about as good as it gets.

* Treliving reveals the secret strategy: "We didn't want Tyler to go anywhere else."

* Pithy comment about Jay (Balsa) Woodcroft: So far, so good.

* Every day the list of teams Claude (Le Glorieux) Giroux "will be going to" gets longer.

* If Giroux winds up in Denver, might as well bequeath The Cup to Joe Sakic.

* Don't let anyone on The Strip fool you, Vegas needs Marc-Andre Fleury more than The Flower needs the Knights.

* Imagine what it would be like for that Strolling Player, Marc-Andre, to continue moving from Vegas to That Toddlin' Town, and next to Edmonton.

* I hope the Hawks re-sign Derek (The Reigning) King. So, tell me, who could have done better?

* If Gerard (Ever) Gallant says, "Don't mess with a good thing," then why would his boss, Chris Drury even think about a trade?

* Answer to the above: Because GG, the coach, didn't say Positively!

* Welcome back, Jack Eichel. You painstakingly paid your dues with patience and fortitude. And, lucky you, to wind up with a wonderful lawyer-turned-coach, Pistol Pete DeBoer.

* Jaromir (Jumpin') Jagr has the best analysis to explain why he's still playing pro hockey at age 50: "I'm built differently." (Yeah, but does he backcheck?)

A COACHING CHALLENGE: KEEPING PLAYERS FOCUSED

As the trade deadline looms larger, players worry when their names are mentioned in rumors. They become distracted and that's where the coach comes into play. So, what's coach Andrew Brunette's answer?

"It's part of being a professional. You have to go through it and we all have been through; being part of rumors. A lot of these kids have been traded in Junior, so they understand.

We have such a deep team that we may have to lose one."

WHO SAID IT? "Patrick wasn't tight with money; he was adjacent to it." (Answer below.)

King of Hockey Stat Men, Eric Hornick is celebrating his 40th year as Madison Square Garden Networks; a redoubtable researcher. He doubles as the Islanders Chief Statistician and author of The Skinny on the Isles website and NYISkinny.com. Our exclusive interview with Eric continues with his analysis of stats and his memorable broadcast partners. Take it away, Eric:

"The most important stats are goals. And with goals at a premium, a team can't win regularly without good special teams. Over the past two years we've gotten 'Shift Times.' Long shifts tend to produce mistakes and mistakes produce goals. Then again, there are several stats I rarely use; such as giveaways and takeaways. They're counted differently in each building. I don't like to track scoring chances because they're not officially recorded and, thus, vary between people. If I do need scoring chances, I like to use a source like 'Natural Stat Trick where they are at least calculated consistently.

"As for memorable broadcasters, there have been many since i started with Jiggs McDonald and Ed Westfall in 1982. I've worked with many great guys over the years -- from Mike Emrick, Sam Rosen, Kenny Albert, Steve Cangelosi (?), John Forslund, Gord Miller and Chris Cuthbert and now, of course, with Brendan Burke. Just as an aside, when I work with national announcers -- or on Rangers and Devils telecasts -- I always speak with those fellows before the game and make sure to asked them what they might need, or want."

(Next issue, Hornick answers critics who demean analytics.)

TEN SECOND TRIVIA: Did Hollywood legend John Wayne ever play a hockey star in a movie? Wayne was the headliner in the 1937 release, "Idol of the Crowds."

ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT: Hall of Fame Rangers defenseman Babe Pratt, talking about his frugal manager, Lester Patrick.

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