Skip to main content

Bluelines: Looking Back at the Frenzy

Stan Fischler shares his thoughts on the early days of NHL free agency, John Tortorella, the USHL and so much more.
USATSI_17651055

HEADLINES AND DEAD-LINES

LEAFS BEEF UP IN GOAL: That's Grade Z-beef. Matt (I Don't Like Buffalo) Murray has lost it. Ilya (I Played With Ovie) Samsonov is a Caps reject. Where's Petr Mrazek when Dubas needs him? Hmmm!

GAUDREAU LOSSES HIS MAP: Johnny, you must take Geography 101. You missed the Met NJ-NY Area by hundreds of miles. But good for John Davidson fooling everybody; even Patrik (It's A Long) Laine.

ALL EYES ON YZERMAN: Stevie Y will be voted G.M. Of The Year next spring. His haul -- Andy (On The Beat) Copp along with Ben Chiarot, David Perron and Dom Kubalik is -- heck -- a playoff haul.

D.C. IS N.G. FOR D.K: Let's face it; the Av's won The Cup in spite of Darcy Kuemper's goaltending. He'll find that Caps are half the power he had in Denver. But who cares? 5 years at $5million-plus. Yikes!

WHO NEEDS A GOALIE? In Colorado, you could put Mortimer Snerd in the crease and Nathan (Nat The Bat) MacKinnon & Co. will cover for you. Al Georgiev,, you are one lucky, rubles-filled guy.

'GUD' AND PLENTY: My pal, Al Greenberg, can't figure the BJ's and neither can I. D-man Erik Gudbranson goes from 1-year Calgary deal for under $2M to four years at $4M. Pure logic stops here!

BRIGHT AND OILY: Edmonton's Ken Holland snared goalie Jack (I Hope I Finish The Season) Campbell. That's automatically an improvement over the Boobysy Twins from this past season.

CASHING A CHECK: Rangers Vin (Call Me Vinnie) Trocheck has -- according to Al Greenberg who scouted him well -- "hustle, feistiness and skill. "The Garden Faithful will love him." Good face-off guy, too.

A PAL AT THE ROCK: Tom Fitzgerald got a gem for his Devs in Ondrej Palat. Granted, Ond didn't win a Smythe but he was as formidable a Lightning forward as anyone this side of Nik Kucherov.

CANADIAN CAPITOL GAINS: Snooze news ends in Ottawa as Pierre Dorion declares war on the rest of the league, With Claude Giroux, Alex DeBrincat, plus. The Sens will take no prisoners!

MARCHING TO THE BANK: Once upon a time, Mason Marchment was an impoverished left wing making $825K in Florida. Now he's getting star dough in Dallas. How about $4.5M and four years!!

---

THE TWO BIGGEST WINNERS OF FIRST FRENZY DAY

1. LIGHTNING: "Once again Julien BriseBois showed his creative genius by tying up Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak, long term. without devastating his roster," says Al (All Knowing) Greenberg.

"With Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Vic Hedman, Andy Vasilevskiy and Steve Stamkos all in the fold, the Bolts will be contenders for years to come."

2. RANGERS: Strong, speedy, savvy and young, the Blueshirts replaced the slipping Al Georgiev with solid, ex-Ranger-killer Jaroslav Halak, backing Vezina-winner Igor Shesterkin.

They'll pick a much-needed captain -- likely Mika Zibanejad or Adam Fox -- and watch the Kid Line (Lafreniere, Kakko, Chytil) blossom into one of the NHL's best offensive trios.

---

FUNNY FRENZY LINE FROM FUNNY DEVILS REPORTER

Gorgeous George Falkowski spent too many frustrating seasons watching Pavel Zacha; now a Bruin, miss the net. Hence:

"Will the Bruins increase the size of their nets from 4 feet by 6 to 5 feet by 9 so Zacha can score 30 next season?"

---

MIRROR, MIRROR, ON THE WALL...

All season long, we'd hear this lament emanating from the loser's dressing room: a not-so-cheery homily:

We'd better look at ourselves in the mirror..

Now that the 2021-22 season is in the rearview mirror, it's time for us to point out who still should be looking in the front view mirror.

With the help of Pal Al Greenberg, we present the winners -- or is it losers? -- of the First Annual Look In the Mirror awards.

BAD MANAGERSHIP: Kyle Dubas for making last season's most foolish goaltending acquisition since Tubby McAuley, and Petr Mrazek. Look hard, Kyle, you could have gotten Marc-Andre Fleury.

BAD MANNERS: Shane Wright gets a mirror for his sullen stare down of the Canadiens Draft table because they didn't pick him first.

Good news, Shane, we hear Seattle will have a mirror sale.

BAD BUDDY: Cam Talbot could have had it made in Minnesota.

Alternating with the adroit, likable future Hall of Famer Marc-Andre Fleury would have been any goalie's dream. Talbot pouted, his agent beefed and, lucky for Bill Guerin, the GM bounced sulker Talbot right out of the Twin Cities.

---

WHO SAID IT? "If we don't put a stop to it, we'll have to start printing more tickets." (ANSWER BELOW)

---

THE TORTORELLA-DEANGELO MARRIAGE MADE IN HEAVEN

A pair of the most incendiary characters ever to come down the pike now are united on Broad Street. And isn't that going to be fun.

Naturally, the alarmists are predicting that neither the dogmatic coach nor the controversial defenseman can be beautiful bedfellows.

But The Maven says otherwise. Torts loves a fiery competitor while DeAngelo already is on record that he couldn't be happier than to skate for hockey's answer to General George S. Patton; or, for that matter, Captain Bligh.

---

IT PAYS TO BE A FIRED COACH

Hey! Nobody likes to get a pink slip. When it comes to NHL coaches getting canned, sometimes there's a pot of gold at the end of that slip. Consider:

* Barry Trotz: While he enjoys his sabbatical -- and wonders which six teams will pursue him next summer -- the Winston Churchill of hockey coaches will pull in $4 million.

* Alain Vigneault: The question is not where but when he'll return behind an NHL bench? No rush; Alain's good for $5 million a year through next season.

---

CRAZY ABOUT KENORA -- AND ITS THISTLES

Let's get this straight right off the bat. If you like hockey history, then you'd love Eric Zweig's latest classic -- "Engraved In History."

It's the story of the Stanley Cup champion Kenora (Ontario) Thistles, circa 1907. Soft suggestion; get it and read it.

As a critic, I had a few questions for Eric, starting with what ever made him zero in on a team in a town with a population of 6,000 and with a name -- Thistle -- that had to be defined. So, I asked Zweig and his answers follow:

Why a book about a Kenora hockey team?

"The story of the Thistles has interested me since I was a boy. At the holidays in 1973, my parents gave my brothers and me a set of miniature NHL trophies that were sold by the Hockey Hall of Fame. I still have the Stanley Cup from that collection. Although I need a magnifying glass to see it clearly now, I can still read the inscription:

1906-07 -- KENORA THISTLES JAN.

How does a hockey team get a name like Thistles?

"Legend in Kenora has long had it that the name was selected in a contest with the winning entry submitted by a local carpenter Bill Dunsmore. According to the Kenora Miner and News, 'There doesn't seem much doubt where this Scotcman got his idea for homeland memories were still fresh in his mind.' With his entry, it was said that Dunsmore submitted a 'very artistic' color drawing of thistle."

What made this team of champ caliber?

"The core was made up of four homegrown players who all reached the Hockey Hall of Fame. Tommy Phillips, Si Grifis, Tom Hooper and Billy McGimsie. All the Thistles were very fast skaters. Phillips was the team's best player. In addition to being fast, he had a hard and accurate shot, 'He not only was a great hockey player,' McGimsie said, 'he was a real fellow. He was with you all the time.'"

How could they win the Cup?

"It wasn't much of an upset. The surprise was that such a good team of home-grown players could come from such a small and remote town."

How much were the Thistles paid?

"It's unclear. Possibly as much as $2,000...but likely less than that. When the Thistles acquired Fred Whitcroft from Peterborough midway through the season he was paid $700 for the four remaining games on the schedule and two league playoff games and two Stanley Cup games."

NOTE: The book will be released in the Fall but can be ordered online at ratportagepress.com. P.S. A thistle is a plant with a prickly stem and purple flowers. It's the Scottish national emblem.

---

SOME PIPELINE STATS:

The burgeoning USHL finished the Draft with 55 players selected. It marked the fifth straight year of drafts that 50 or more USHLers were picked.

On the university front, College Hockey, Inc. reports that 66 draftees came from the NCAA ranks.

(I can remember the days when it was a big deal if a dozen collegians got picked.

---

ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Conn Smythe, on fighting in hockey.

TOP HEADLINES

CA1_5399

World Junior Roundup: Sweden Crushes Austria, Slovakia Scores Important Win

Sweden had no issue handling Austria, while Slovakia got the extra point in a big contest against Latvia on a quieter day at the World Junior Championship.

Ivan Fedotov

Screen Shots: Vegas' Goalie Problem, Hockey Quebec and Flyers Prospects Stuck in Russia

Adam Proteau returns with Screen Shots to talk about where the Vegas Golden Knights go now to address their goalie situation, Hockey Quebec's investigation into racism accusations and the latest surrounding two Flyers prospects in Russia.

Colorado Avalanche
Play

NHL Hot Seat Radar: Colorado Avalanche

There's always pressure to repeat as champions in the NHL, but the Colorado Avalanche will have to do it with a shakeup in the crease.