WHY THIS IS THE YEAR OF SUPERSTARDOM FOR JACK HUGHES
I was there so I can confirm the following about slow starts for Hall of Famers.
1. Jean Beliveau: Arguably the finest center in NHL history, Le Gros Bill required more than three years of the big league game to finally reach full Cup-winning stardom in 1956.
2. Guy Lafleur: The heir apparent to Beliveau in Montreal, the Canadiens Flower failed to bloom in his first few years before finally turning on to Superstar Boulevard.
And so it will be with Jack Hughes of the New Jersey Devils. He has battled through the build-up-to-a-letdown seasons and is ready to take the same giant step over the moat and into the realm of greatness.
Mind you, this is not an isolated Maven prediction. Those who've studied Jumpin' Jack's off-season training exertions and his mind set -- as focused as any young talent can be -- see only silver linings in what had been a cloudy couple of campaigns.
Writing in The Athletic, Corey Pronman minced no words. Bluntly, he rated Hughes "The Best Player And Prospect Under 23."
(Detroit's Moritz Seider was runner-up followed by Trevor Zigras.)
Soon we'll see if Hughes lives up to the top billing. I say YES, he will.
HOW THE CANES JUST BARELY SURVIVED A PERFECT (SUMMER) STORM.
Our Raleigh wind-watcher, Joel Cohen, has carefully recorded the raucous Raleigh roars of Summer. While it seemed as if the Carolina sextet would need Federal disaster aid, meteorologist Cohen says, well, maybe. Go to it, Joel:
"The best way to describe the Canes off-season is in the lyrics to 'MacArthur Park':
Someone left the cake out in the rain; I don't think I can take it 'Cause it took so long to bake it, And I'll never have the recipe again...
"That recipe was built to reach the Stanley Cup Final. After getting so close, all that was needed was the icing -- the few high-end ingredients to best last year's playoff run against Tampa.
"But suddenly, a few layers were swiped away, and GM Don Waddell is back to the recipe -- putting together the ingredients for a championship team. Those layers included Tony DeAngelo to Philadelphia, Vincent Trocheck to Rangers and Nino Niederreiter to Nashville. That's a total of 146 points to make up.
"DeAngelo was a powerhouse on defense with 44 assists and a binding force on the power play. Trocheck excelled on the power play and killing penalties and was an expert at face-offs. All three also added to the necessary grit.
"The key question is this: How well did Waddell fill the gap this summer? So far, we only can measure it on paper.
"Max Pacioretty (33) was imported from Vegas after an uninspiring 19-goal season. Unfortunately, recent surgery now has him returning to the Canes in mid-season. Hopefully, he'll regain the star power he had while with the Canadiens. Then again, the same was said of Max Domi, now signed by Chicago.
"Paul Stastny (36) arrived from Winnipeg with a respectable 21 goals. I wonder how much fuel is left in his tank? Then, there's Ryan Dzingel (30), a once-promising forward who's now a veteran journeyman. He's already visited Ottawa, Carolina, Arizona, San Jose and now Carolina again. Is this his last tango?
"The big splash was the signing of defenseman Brent Burns (37) from San Jose. The hope is that he can maintain his 54-point season level on the blue line.
"On paper, the gap has not been filled. and that leaves the scoring pressure on the young guns: Andrei Svechnikov, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Martin Necas and Sebastian Aho.
"While the icing takes a team to the top, the bottom layer holds it together. In this case, I'm talking about goaltending. Can Frederik Andersen enjoy a healthy season or is he, like his predecessor, Petr Mrazek, injury-prone? According to FoxSports.com, Andersen missed a series of games in all three previous seasons with 'lower body' injuries. Is the butterfly damaging him as it is to many other goalies?
"As for re-building the championship cake, Waddell always has been a master at finding the right ingredients at the right time. It may not happen now. But it will happen!
HOW TO MAKE MILLIONS ON MULLET'S:
Two of my favorite hockey people are two of my fave writers, and I only wish they could unite and make a million dollars. Here's how:
The ever brilliant Sean McCaffrey nudged me about the Coyotes' newly named rink, Mullett Arena. "The players," Sean sagely said, "should start wearing mullets."
Having seen that, the equally sagacious George Grimm took Mullett Mania to a new level.
"I see the possibility of mullets in the Mullett Arena taking on a life of their own like the octopi in Detroit or plastic rats in Florida (Panthers original Cup run) or in Philly," says Grimm.
"They could sell team-branded mullet wigs at the concession stands. Then, if a Coyote player scores three goals -- instead of a hat trick -- they could call it 'Mullett Mayhem' as the fans throw their mullets on the ice.
"Sorry, I'm just being silly on a Friday afternoon."
No, no, NO, George. You and Sean have a super idea; patent it, presto pronto.
Hey! You never know. This is what you can call "A Mullet Of Truth."
DIDJA KNOW -- BOBBY HULL ACTUALLY PLAYED & SCORED FOR RANGERS
Yeah, it happened in 1981 when the Golden Jet ended an 18-month hiatus to join the Blueshirts in a comeback tryout. My crack investigative reporter Glenn (I'm A Sherlock Holmes Lookalike) Dreyfuss provides the details:
Bobby was 42 at the time and accompanied the New Yorkers to Sweden for an exhibition tourney . Hull's goal came about in a game against Washington. A scramble developed in front of goalie Mike Palmateer's net. Hull poked at the puck once, then a second time nudging it over the goal line at 8:27 of the second period.
The game took place on Sept. 20, 1981 in Sodertaije, Sweden. It was Hull's last goal and he did it in a New York Rangers sweater. Herb Brooks, the Blueshirts' coach at the time, lauded Hull's 'hard work' in practice. Unfortunately, the Hartford Whalers still owned Hull's rights and a deal could not be worked out between the teams.
Once the barnstorming clubs returned stateside, Bobby was not allowed to play and the Golden Jet never would skate in another NHL game.
HIGHEST QUALITY HOCKEY TV -- CBC'S SUMMIT SERIES DOCUMENTARY
This month marks the golden anniversary of the landmark 1972 Summit Series.
Canada won it in a dramatic comeback over Team Russia. CBC explores the series in a new four-part documentary premiering September 14. Our critic extraordinaire, Glenn Dreyfuss, received an advance screening and shares his view.
If you printed all the words written and spoken in 50 years since the Summit Series, they would stretch from Montreal to Moscow -- and back. So, why devote four more hours of viewing time to retelling the epic encounter?
The best reason is that an all-star team of filmmakers placed the series both in the larger context of 1972 and the larger context of 2022.
The documentary doesn't shy from tough issues. Bobby Clarke's deliberate two-hand slash on Valeri Kharlamov is defended by Clarke and Phil Esposito but regretted by Dennis Hull and Paul Henderson. In a supposed clash of cultures, viewers also will debate if winning or winning with dignity is most important.
Revealing interviews are the lifeblood of his masterful production, both Canadian and Russian. As Team Canada goalie Ken Dryden observes, "Neither side got what they wanted (for Team Canada domination; for Team Russia, a series victory.) But both sides got what they needed" (a nation-affirming win for Canada; respect for the quality of Russian hockey.)
Don't miss the rare footage, game highlights and original music. Even if you're not a Canadian, even if you think you know the Summit Series from beginning to end, when (spoiler alert) Paul Henderson scores in the final minute of Game 8 to win the Series for Canada, you'll still get a lump in your throat. I did!
BOLTS CUP-WINNING GM EXPLAINS HOW TAMPA BECAME HOCKEYTOWN
Jay Feaster general managed the Lightning to its 2004 Stanley Cup title. Now he exclusively explains how -- since then -- Tampa Bay evolved into Hockey Town Down South.
The Biggest Change Since The 2004 Cup Win: "It was about an organizational commitment to excellence and being 'World Class Plus' in everything we do. That's a reflection of what (owner) Jeff Vinik is all about. What Jeff did through the people he hired was to fundamentally change expectations and the organizational way of thinking. From Tod Leiweke to Steve Griggs in the Executive Office, to Steve Yzerman and Julien BriseBois in the Hockey Operations Department, to Jon Cooper behind the bench, Jeff brought in great people and allowed them to do their jobs."
Who Helped Build The Franchise's Foundation: "John Tortorella, our head coach, changed the culture. He ended the sense of entitlement and made it clear that winning was not just the expectation but the only thing that would be acceptable.
"That didn't mean we won all the time because we did not. As GM, I never was able to fill the gaping hole left in net when Khabibulin departed for Chicago following the 2004-2005 lockout. And we never approached our previous level of success until Jeff Vinik bought the team. Jeff wanted to be owner of the team not its GM. That is an important element of winning, along with patience and not firing the GM or the head coach whenever expectations are not met."
On His Daughter, Theresa, becoming Director of Hockey Operations at Providence College: Her passion for our sport is unbridled. I joke with her that she was young and impressionable back when I was winning in Hershey (Calder Cup 1997) and Tampa (2004) so she had a 'distorted' view of the game. Theresa had an offer to teach history at a small college but she wanted to be involved in hockey. Through hard work and dedication, she has enjoyed great success, winning a championship at PC and IIHF Gold at the World Junior Championships with Team USA. She has expressed interest in being a GM in the NHL and there's no doubt in my mind that she'd make a great GM.
I'M JUST SAYIN'
* An NHL.com panel of experts debated whether goalie Jack Campbell can lift the Oilers to a higher level. Darn right, it's a good question.
* In fact, I rate it as one of the most compelling queries of the off-season. My gut feeling is that, yes, Soupy will push McDavid, Inc. up a bit; but certainly not to a Stanley Cup.
* Another puzzler is this: Which team is next to sign P.K. Subban? Geez, I haven't a clue, have you?
* Mike Sullivan has earned the three-year extension that his boss, Ron Hextall has bestowed upon him.
* What's so amazing about Sully -- at least so far -- is that his Penguins haven't turned a deaf ear to the bench boss and his motivational techniques.
* Quick Quiz: Who taught Sullivan how to succeed as a head coach? Answer: None other than Torts when John had Sully as his aide de camp with the Rangers.
* It blows my mind that Sully never won the Jack Adams (Best Coach) Award and never even finished in the Top 3 voting.
* Stars owner Tom Gaglardi was on the Cam & Strick podcast asserting he's not fond of paying kids out of entry-level contracts. Tom's right.
* My pal, Irad Chen, points out that Josh Norris just inked a berserk eight-year deal for a nutsy $7.5 million.
* And what did the skating bank, Norris, total in his career year: 55 points. You tell me who's sadly mistaken!
WHO SAID IT? "He Shoots! He Scores! Exciting? Yes!" (ANSWER BELOW)
YAYS AND BOOS
YAY TO DAVID POILE for celebrating his 40th year being an NHL general manager. David broke in with the Washington Capitals four decades ago this week and has been the only GM in the history of the Predators. Poile -- in a very large part -- has turned Nashville into one of the NHL's most successful franchises and hottest hockey towns in the league. They don't call it "Smashville" for nothing!
YAY TO DEREK KING for accepting his demotion from Chicago's head coach to an assistant's role under Luke Richardson without a mope or a moan. Pal Derek did it with his usual class. Good luck, old pal, in your new position.
ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? He Shoots, He Scores -- Exciting? Yes! was the advertising copy for the 1943, then new and revolutionary, six-aside table hockey game. The slogan appeared above a picture of the game in the Rangers Madison Square Garden program magazine. The expensive game was sold exclusively at Abercrombie and Fitch's Fifth Avenue emporium. (P.S. My dad couldn't afford to buy it so he built a different, wooden, hockey game for me; which I loved just as much if not more than the one in the program magazine.)