HOW HIGH DETROIT? -- EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH RED WINGS EXECUTIVE V.P. JIM DEVELLANO
Detroit's favorite hockey team has been getting a lot of solid off-season ink. Mostly good and often enthusiastic.
In fact there are some sages in The Motor City who have had the temerity to suggest that manager Steve Yzerman's outfit might defy credulity and even -- shhhhhhh -- gain a playoff berth.
To determine whether this story goes over the rainbow or not, I had to contact the dynasty-maker, himself, Jim Devellano.
The Wings Executive Vice President, affable Jimmy D was the man behind the creation of the Islanders' four-Cup Dynasty before emigrating to Michigan.
It took a while but, in time, Devellano turned Detroit into a true Hockeytown USA and even wrote a book about it. Now we're all wondering how high this new, improved hockey machine can climb.
The following are Jim's exclusive comments on assorted subjects:
On Building Detroit's First Championship Team: "We had Steve Yzerman but we needed a few more superstars to go along with him. We got two in the 1989 Draft -- Lidstrom and Federov -- so we had three world-class players. We then made a deal to add a power forward, Brendan Shanahan, giving up Paul Coffey and Keith Primeau!!! These four players drove the bus."
About The Current Rebuild: "It's been long and tough but we are making slow, gradual progress and getting better. We now have terrific young players such as Dylan Larkin, Lucas Raymond, Tyler Bertuzzi, and Moritz Seidel, the young defenseman who won the Calder Trophy.
Looking Ahead: "Those young players are the building blocks and we'll keep adding to them. Steve has acquired a lot of extra Draft picks and is using them wisely."
Playoff Possibilities: "I suspect that we're getting closer to competing for a playoff spot but now -- in a 32-team NHL -- it's never been so tough with 16 teams not making it. I feel that we're two seasons away but we are getting better."
Overall Overview: "Steve Yzerman has just completed his third season. We have improved some in each of his three seasons and we will be somewhat better in the upcoming season because he added four good players from Free Agency in July. Steve got goalie Ville Husso, right wing David Perron, who can score, Andrew Copp, who can play center or wing, and Ben Chiarot, a defenseman who is big and mobile. These four players are upgrades for us. I believe that our team can push for 90 points!"
THE BIG QUESTION: Sportsnet asked the following: Did the Flames overpay by locking down Jonathan Huberdeau, long-term? And my reply follows:
Are you kidding me? This guy's getting eight years at $84 Million.
The answer is YES! YES! YES! OVERPAID!!
WHO'S BETTER? -- CALE MAKAR VS. ADAM FOX
EDITOR'S NOTE: Starting today -- and on a regular basis -- I'll present a series in which two NHL stars will not only be compared but a winner will be picked. My guest judge today is author Sean McCaffrey who puts aside any rooting interest and offers an objective view. McCaffrey's latest book, almost completed, will be "Tricks of the Trade -- A Century-Long Journey Through Every Trade Made In New York Rangers' History."
Here we have successive Norris Trophy winners each with excellent credentials. See if you agree with McCaffrey's choice of the winner. Take it away, Sean:
"Fox and Makar share the same birth year, 1998, although Fox is eight months older. Both made their rookie debut during the 2019-20 season. However, Makar's entrance began during the 2019 playoffs.
"Interestingly, Cale and Adam play similar styles as offensive rearguards. And each logs an insane amount of ice time.
"The similarity extends to their leading their respective team's first power play and penalty killing units.
"Long Island native Fox got to the Norris Trophy first, in 2021 despite the fact that his Rangers missed the playoffs. Last spring, the Canadian-born Makar completed a trifecta -- Norris, Conn Smythe Trophy and a Stanley Cup.
"While Fox was the first to experience success, Makar has completely transformed the role of offensive-defenseman with his electric brand of hockey. And while there'll be plenty of time to revisit this "Who's Better?" debate over the next decade, for now, the more explosive Makar stands as the better player of the two Norris winners."
From the first time I saw Miles Wood gallop down the ice for the New Jersey Devils, he became a favorite forward of mine. In some ways, he reminds me of his dad, Randy, who I covered when Randy was a very dependable Islander.
What appeals to me about Miles is the mustard in his game and the never-ending hustle. So, it was with pleasure the other day when I read that Miles signed a new one-year deal with New Jersey. Hopefully, the 6-foot-2, 195-pounder will enjoy the best season of his young career.
7 FUTURE FREE AGENTS AND WHERE THEY MIGHT GO
Sportsnet's Ryan Dixon produced a compelling list of future Unrestricted Free Agents. My thoughts on seven of them follow:
1. Patrick Kane: I see him going in a deal before the season opener.
2. Nathan MacKinnon: The Avs will ensure that he stays in Denver as long as is humanly -- and fiscally -- possible.
3. David Pastrnak: Bruce Cassidy's exit means a fresh rush for David, with replacement Jim Montgomery now running the Beantown bench. Pasty will stay in Beany.
4. J.T. Miller: Does J.T. mean "Just Thinkin," as in I'm thinkin of getting out of Vancouver? I think so.
5. Matt Dumba: I haven't got a clue; not even a lousy rumor about Matty. Your guess is likely better than mine.
6. Vlad Tarasenko: He once couldn't wait to exit St.Lou. I figure that he likes it enough to re-sign. The key is what his agent believes.
7. Tristan Jarry. You have to figure that a goalie-desperate team will offer big bucks and Jarry will exit Crosbyville. Whichever team gets him will be disappointed.
I'M JUST SAYIN'
* The good news out of Coyotes Country is that it appears as if the new Arizona State arena will be completed by October.
* That means that the Yotes likely will be able to open their scheduled home opener against the Jets on October 28 will be arena ready for NHL play.
* Frank Seravalli is an "insider" I'm liking more and more each week. Good job, Frank, getting the scoop on Huberdeau's eight-year Calgary deal.
* Another fella I want to read more of is Tom Hall of Yahoo Sports.
* Speaking of good writers, Forbes has a big winner in Justin Birnbaum. Just wish he'd do more hockey when he gets off the golf course.
* Edmonton's Kenny Holland says he's "satisfied with the Oilers' off-season moves" and I agree with him.
* With Evander Kane back in the fold plus such useful players as Jack Campbell, Brett Kulak and Mattias Janmark, the Eds look better than just OK. Yes, a third playoff round is possible.
* But Holland has to get a solid backup goalie for Campbell. Smilin' Jack has suffered brittle moments in the past. No guarantees in the future.
* Good move by Brad Treliving getting off his butt, jetting to Montreal and telling Jon Huberdeau how sweet it is in Calgary.
* Hubby figured no less sweet is the tons of lettuce that looks like money that will be good for eight Flames years.
* The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons, who writes a ton of good stuff about the Leafs had a nifty New Jersey item: "Those who watched Jack Hughes of the Devils in (summer) training expect a breakout season."
YAYS AND BOOS
YAY TO K'ANDRE MILLER OF THE RANGERS.
This is a bigger than usual YAY for what the Blueshirts defenseman pulled off following a Da Beauty League scrimmage in Minnesota.
(Da Beauty League, by the way, is a group of Minny NHL players who annually stay in shape with games attended by local fans.)
In this case, after a workout, Miller had a very positive effect on the Kegley family during their night out at a DBL game.
It turns out that the recipient of Miller's pure, personal goodness was 11-year-old Miles Kegley, an autistic child who has issues with large crowds.
As Pal Sean McCaffrey tells me, not only did K'Andre sign autographs and pose for pictures with the Kegley Family, he created a new friend and fan for life.
The beauty part, Sean notes, "is that Miller did all of this without seeking any publicity." It was a from-the-bottom-of-his-heart gesture of a good-natured guy who also happens to be an NHL star-in-the-making. Where I come from we call folks like K'Andre solid role models.
ONCE OVER LIGHTLY BUT NOT POLITELY
A Floridian's view of the Jonathan Huberdeau flight to the Flames reminds me of sweet and sour soup and Alan (he knows Jonny) Greenberg's acerbic feelings. To wit:
"We loved Jonathan Huberdeau in Florida. And good for him to get a monster deal. It begins at age 30 and will turn sour long before it's over. Huby had all the leverage there."
HAS THERE BEEN A KNIGHT'S LACK OF ACCOUNTABILITY?
In case you missed the Raw Knuckles podcast with Chris Nilan and Tim Stapleton, they had ex-Vegas ace Max Pacioretty on and Slapsy Maxie opened up about his former club.
"No one really was holding us accountable," Pacioretty said. "I don't want to say it was a country club."
The thing is that Max -- now with Carolina -- is saying it was a country club atmosphere without actually saying it. Now that the issue is brought out into the open, the Knights' high command had better check out Max's charges for the better of the team.
WHO SAID IT? "If I ever see him read a book on the bus again, I'm going to throw him off." (ANSWER BELOW.)
FRANK PATRICK AND THE EAST-WEST HOCKEY WAR
As noted earlier, the brothers, Lester and Frank Patrick, were hockey pioneers early in the 1900s. Together they developed major league hockey on the Pacific Coast with anchor teams in Vancouver, Seattle and Victoria. They needed top players and since most of them were in the East, there was only one thing to do -- raid them. Part 2 of my Frank Patrick saga continues here:
Frank and Lester turned the west coast into a major league hockey fiefdom. Frank landed future Hall of Famer Fred (Cyclone) Taylor for his Vancouver team in 1912. He followed that mighty move by luring West the likes of such other future Hall of Famers as Ernie Johnston, Newsy Lalonde, Harry Hyland, Hughie Lehman and Jimmy Gardiner. "Patrick wanted the best possible players for his fans and he went out and got them," one reporter noted.
The inevitable East-West War finally erupted when Frank Patrick took the Canadian Pacific Railroad to Toronto where the city's Blues had won the Stanley Cup the previous season, 1913-14. One, two, three -- just like that, Patrick signed Frank Foyston, Jack Walker, Happy Holmes, Bernie Morris and Cully Wilson all for a Seattle team that would win the Stanley Cup in 1916-17.
Now that the East-West war was ignited by Patrick's mass signings, there had to be peace and eventually cooler heads prevailed and an armistice was declared. One news report put it this way:
"A sort of Mason-Dixon line was established in Canada. For their own protection, the East and West had to get together. So, the Thunder Bay District (Fort William and Port Arthur, Ontario) was established as the Western boundary of the National Hockey Association. At the same time, the Patricks could not go further East and sign players, except by agreement, of course."
This was all well and good for almost a decade.
The balance of power began tipping toward the NHL when American cities -- Boston, Pittsburgh and New York -- entered the fraternity.
They boasted big money and new arenas that could not be matched by the Patricks. It was then that Frank pulled off one of the most dramatic multi-team deals in hockey history.
(NEXT WEEK; HOW FRANK PATRICK HELPED RESHAPE THE NHL.)
INTERESTING HOCKEY PEOPLE WORTH COMMENDING:
Matthew Blittner is the author of four hockey books, and currently is a media management associate for Major League Baseball Network, among many talents. One of those talents is supporting charities; in this case research into Alzheimer's Disease.
Each summer, Blittner gathers a bunch of his hockey pals -- media and otherwise -- including Pete Stemkowski who starred on the Toronto Maple Leafs 1967 -- and last -- Stanley Cup championship team.
This past Saturday, they gathered on a softball field in Brooklyn to play for the Brooklyn Memorial Cup for Alzheimer's. The game pitted the BK Americans (media) against the BK Nationals, a bunch of Flatbush ringers. Naturally, the ringers won, as they usually do, 10-3, but nobody cared too much about that.
"We raised $6,463 for Alzheimer's research," smiled Blittner. "That's the most we've ever raised in one event."
Alas, Stemkowski, who coached the media mob, proved that he was no Punch Imlach who delivered no less than four Stanleys to Toronto.
"The great irony," Blittner chuckled, "is that four of the media guys cover the Islanders and they were being coached by an ex-Ranger; the Stemmer!"
P.S. Good work by all and especially Newsday's Andrew Gross, Russ Cohen of Sportsology and A.J. Perez of Front Office Sports. And especially Pal Blittner whose team is oh-for-four years now.
"Being a Brooklynite," Matthew concluded, "I take the old Brooklyn Dodgers line, 'Wait 'til next year!'"
ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Rangers coach Emile Francis, on college graduate Red Berenson.