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Fischler Report: The Dark Side of Canada's Summit Series Victory (Part 2)

Stan Fischler continues his discussion about the 1972 Summit Series, the top 50 players in the NHL, what's going on in Winnipeg, MacKinnon vs. McDavid, Alex Goligoski and so much more.
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PART TWO: THE DARK SIDE OF CANADA'S SUMMIT SERIES VICTORY

The ongoing 50th-anniversary Summit Series celebrations -- not to mention books, documentaries and whatnot -- have been well-deserved. That goes for Ken Dryden's inevitable book, documentaries and toasts all in the "Hail Fellow" category. Which is fine.

But, if you've read anything about the mutiny that took place when Canadian players walked out on coach Harry Sinden, then you have a better electronic microscope than I do.

What I do have is a knockout book: "Vic Hadfield's Diary -- From Moscow To the Playoffs." It was ghosted by one of the finest hockey writers of his time, the late Tim Moriarty of New York's Newsday newspaper. Hadfield, a 50-goal Rangers scorer is a fine fellow I've known since his rookie year with Chicago. Never met a more honest guy -- on or off the ice. So, I take his diary seriously. Matter of fact, very seriously.

As I noted here in Friday's column, Hadfield detailed what he termed "the deceit, the lies and broken promises" Vic encountered before leaving the team in Moscow. He also was dismayed with Alan Eagleson who Vic called "the major domo for Team Canada."

Last Friday, we left off with Hadfield expecting to be publically ripped on his return to Canada. However, he didn't expect the flak to be nearly as heavy nor hurtful than it turned out to be. Right here we pick up Vic's entry for September 24, 1972:

"What annoys me is that I was double-crossed by Eagleson, too. When the Canadian writers learned I was leaving Team Canada, they came to me before I went to the airport and asked why. I was about to explain the situation to them when Eagleson interrupted us and said he would take the reporters aside after I left and iron out things so there would be very little static.

"I trusted Eagleson and he let me down. I found out later he never talked to the reporters. He never advised them of the real reason I left Team Canada -- that I hadn't even been allowed to practice with the team and was given no assurance I would play in Moscow. So the reporters took it upon themselves to criticize me without knowing the facts. They called me a quitter. That was hard to take. I've been playing with the Rangers since 1961, and I'm sure if I was a quitter Emile Francis would never have me on his hockey club or let me serve as captain of the team. Emile knows how to handle men. I can't say the same for Harry Sinden."

One of Vic's gripes with Harry was that -- in Hadfield's words -- "he played favorites."

The diary continued: "If you were a friend of Harry's, you played. If you weren't a friend of Harry's you rode the bench. Gil Perreault quit the day after I left Moscow. He was fed up, too, but I received most of the criticism because I was older and was supposed to be more responsible.

"Responsible to whom? Certainly not Harry Sinden. I had the guts to turn my back on Sinden; some of the others didn't, though they were just as disgusted with the whole Team Canada setup."

Hadfield concluded his play-by-play expressing his disappointment with the media; both the major newspapers and even the small town journals.

"I've been trying to explain my side of the story since I got back, but people won't listen. Even the newspaper in my hometown of Oakville has raked me over the coals without even checking out the facts.

"I can accept criticism, but not the way they handed it out this time!"

(ON FRIDAY: A NY TIMES MAN WITNESSES NEAR CLASH BETWEEN AL EAGLESON AND KEN DRYDEN'S DAD AND TALKS ABOUT IT HERE.)

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A NOD -- NO TKO -- FOR NATHAN MACKINNON OVER CONNOR MCDAVID

The very first feature I always read when my Hockey News "Yearbook" arrives is the "Top 50 Players In The League" list. I love lists and this one -- authored by Editor In Chief Ryan Kennedy -- is, as it's supposed to be -- provocative.

There's plenty of evidence to support Kennedy's choice of McDavid as top banana. Plenty. But there's a loyal opposition out there -- while respecting Kennedy's pick -- who just don't buy it. Multi-hockey-book author, Sean McCaffrey says nix to McDavid as The King and right here McCaffrey tells why:

One of the biggest questions in the NHL today, and as it always is at this time of year, is "who is the best player in the NHL?"

For starters, I'm making a case for another Canadian with an Irish surname, #29 in Colorado, Nathan MacKinnon.

And for all of the chatter that the 2022 Hart Trophy-Winner, Auston Matthews, belongs in this debate? Get back to me when the Toronto Maple Leafs win a first-round playoff series. Legacies are made in the playoffs -- not in the regular season.

There are similarities between McDavid and MacKinnon apart from the fact that they were selected first-overall in their respective draft classes (MacKinnon in 2013, McDavid in 2015). The two prolific scorers also play the center position.

From a black-and-white stats perspective, McDavid has the edge on MacKinnon.

While both players are averaging over a point-per-game during their most likely Hall of Fame careers, it's McDavid who has MacKinnon beaten with 239 goals and 458 assists (697 points) in 487 games played.

MacKinnon, who had a two-year head start, has 242 goals and 406 assists (648 points) in 638 games played.

To support The Hockey News' case for McDavid, it's the man in the orange jersey who has a collection of individual hardware, including four Art Ross Trophies, two Hart Trophies and three Ted Lindsay Awards.

However, MacKinnon led Colorado to the only trophy and award that counts -- the Stanley Cup. Repeat: MacKinnon, one Stanley Cup The other guy, zero!

MacKinnon, who earned $6,300,000 last season (and whose contract negotiations this season will be a major story until he signs a new deal in Denver), finished the 2021-22 campaign with 88 points in 65 games played. Once 100% healthy, he then went on to score 24 points in Colorado's 20 playoff games.

Conversely, McDavid, the highest-paid hockey player today, earned $12,500,000 last season (while also taking up 16.67% of Edmonton's salary cap). However, he most certainly displayed his scoring prowess, having scored 123 points in 80 regular season games played and then scoring 33 more points in the Oilers' 16 playoff games - where their playoff journey ended in a four-game sweep to MacKinnon's Avalanche.

Between the two, it's McDavid who wears the "C" on his sweater for his team. MacKinnon wears the "A." (Gabriel Landeskog is the team captain in the Rockies.)

However, it's MacKinnon's leadership that's so pertinent in this argument.

In the summer of 2021, MacKinnon shared his daily exercises and eating habits with his teammates. Less than a year later, MacKinnon's Avalanche dominated the NHL, with one of the all-time most impressive playoff runs.

What strengthens the case for MacKinnon is his clutch factor. While McDavid is no slouch, more times than not, it's MacKinnon who can pick up the nose of the plane in a far more emphatic fashion. There were far too many games last season where McDavid couldn't turn things around - which is why the Oilers fired then head coach, Dave Tippett.

Sure, McDavid has better arithmetic but hockey is more than numbers or analytics. MacKinnon, through his leadership, production and drive, brought his team to the promised land.

McDavid has brought his Oilers headlines, classic goals, insightful assists and a wonderful face of the NHL. That's wonderful stuff because Connor is a wonderful guy to go with his aces performances.

However, I respectfully submit that the bottom line for NHL greatness is summed up in two little words; Stanley Cup. MacKinnon's got it; McDavid, not.

When -- make that, if -- Connor ever wins a Cup, I'll stand corrected!

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POSTSCRIPT ON RYAN KENNEDY'S TOP 50 PLAYERS IN THE NHL

Perusing The Hockey News' compelling list, I searched for New York-New Jersey Met Area players. 

After all, I spent almost a half-century doing tv work for the Islanders, Devils and Rangers. So, I wanted to see how Kennedy placed our locals. 

The Rangers had five -- Igor Shesterkin (8), Adam Fox (13), Artemi Panarin (24), Chris Kreider (29) and Mika Zibanejad (38). Both the Isles and Devs were shut out; and that got me thinking about Conn Smythe when he ran the Maple Leafs after War II. Toronto won Stanley Cups in 1947, 1948, 1949 and 1951. Out of a possible 24 first all-star openings, only one Leaf -- goalie Turk Broda -- made the first all-stars. So, how did Toronto capture four Cups out of five years, including three in a row? 

The Leafs boss had the answer: Smythe: "As coach Hap Day put it so well, we may not have All-Stars on our team, but we have the world champions! This is the greatest team I ever had."

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THE BIG QUESTION: WHAT'S GOING WITH WINNIPEG'S CAPTAINCY?

The Jets missed the playoffs for the first time since 2016-17 so there must be someone to take the hit. So, how about Blake Wheeler learning that, as of now, he's no longer captain of Manitoba's favorite NHL team?

Hey, maybe it's all for the better. Four straight Cups were in the making when the Islanders switched from Clark Gillies to Denis Potvin. The difference was that Jethroe voluntarily gave up the "C." Wheeler did nothing of the kind.

The captaincy could be a killer. It was for captain Allan Stanley when he led the Rangers in the early 1950s. New York fans got on Big Allan's case so testily that -- for a time -- manager Frank Boucher only played Stanley in road games. Mercifully, Stanley was traded to Chicago in November 1954. P.S. He later wound up in the Hall of Fame.

I have no idea what was happening in the Jets' dressing room and what will happen this season. Writing in The Hockey News' Yearbook, Jared Clinton pegs The Peg sixth in the Central Division; just above Chicago and Arizona.

Man-oh- Manitoba -- that's scary!

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I LOVE A MYSTERY -- WHERE'S SUBBAN? CHARA IN BOSTON?

When a pair of high-profile NHL defensemen become "Mystery Men," there's a story there somewhere. In Beantown, there's whispers that the Bruins' Cup-winning captain has shown up; but where? Is there a front office -- assistant coaching gig? -- job there for Tall Man? We'll soon find out.

As for The Subban Case, we have to thank the Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons for noting that he's tried several times -- at several phone numbers -- to reach the former Devil with no success. Simmons adds that no NHL team appears to want him either; at least not now.

"There are no P.K. Subban sightings," writes Simmons. "If there's a place for him to play, an opportunity, he isn't sharing that information."

Hmmmm. and HMMMMM!

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WHY A FORMER ST. LOUIS FAN IS SINGING THE BLUES

As former St.Louis fans go, Irad Chen is rare. He gave up on them a few years ago yet he still follows the club almost like Craig Berube. In his own curious way, he even sweats them in the off-season and this past summer is no exception. What has been puzzling him in the months since St.Louis was playoff-crushed by Colorado is one factor and I'll let him tell you why:

Simply put, the Blues were less-skilled than Colorado, which was fairly obvious. But what still puzzles me today is that G.M. Doug Armstrong did precious little to improve his outfit. Absolutely nothing!

Granted that the Blues are in a cap crunch. Still the failure to re-sign -- or at least negotiate -- David Perron defies credulity. We're talking about a guy who wanted to remain with the Blues. Moreover, he led the Blues with nine goals and 13 points in the postseason and had been among the team's point leaders the last few seasons.

Vladimir Tarasenko's status is another confounding issue. Vlad never unequivocally withdrew his --remember that -- trade request. Looking ahead, I expect that St. Louis will ultimately lose him via free agency. Another potential loss could be MVP and captain- Ryan O'Reilly who deserves a contract extension. He's another Blues ace who could walk via free agency. If that happens, it would be the second Blues captain in recent memory to leave as a free agent.

To be fair, Armstrong did extend young, promising Robert Thomas to a monster $8.125 x 8 deal. Then again, this extension continues a disturbing trend -- giving big dough based on what a player could be and not based so much on past performance. We'll wait and see if he's worth that kind of moolah. And the same goes for Jordan Kyrou who also will be swimming in money.

The defense -- mainly Colton Parayko, Torey Krug and Justin Faulk -- is less than elite ever since Alex Pietrangelo departed. They did re-sign Nick Leddy who performed well after being obtained at the trade deadline. An aging Leddy has offensive advantages but not enough to turn the D into an A-1 elite unit.

In the end, Armstrong's primary problem could be goaltending. Jordan Binnington has turned onto Just-Average Avenue, even losing the starting role to Ville Husso who since has rolled into Motor City. Thomas Greiss -- once a star on Long Island -- was beaten up by a bum Red Wings team. Still, given a decent defense, Greiss could be nice again.

Conclusion: The Blues will gain a playoff spot, but I don’t see them going past the first round. (P.S. Even as a former fan, I hope I'm wrong.)

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INTERESTING HOCKEY PEOPLE: HOWARD AND KAREN BALDWIN:

Make no mistake, Howard Baldwin belongs in the Hall of Fame "Builders" category. Founder of the New England Whalers, president of the World Hockey Association and engineer of the WHA-NHL merger, Baldwin has done it all. And that includes heading the double-Cup champion Penguins at the start of the 1990s

Along with Karen, his wife and creative business partner, Howard has also produced some of the best hockey movies of all, including "Sudden Death," and my personal favorite, "Mystery Alaska." Now the Baldwins are working on a Russian feature, CCC Penguins. With that hockey epic in mind we asked them to address these points:

What CCC Penguins Is All About: 

"The idea is based on our experience in Moscow in the 1990s when we were partnered with the Red Army. Around 1993 this opportunity to came to us through a third-party friend familiar with hockey, plus the NHL and Russia. He came to us because he knew we were willing to take chances and try something different – go a bit against the establishment as Howard had done in the WHA – and so we decided to give it a go. It was an incredible experience we lived it and thought it would make for an entertaining movie. So, then we started developing it in the late 90’s. Recently with TV and streamers and series being so great – we decided to reconceive it on an ongoing series. We were able to attach top creative people – Stephen Kronish and Jon Cassar – who were the team behind 24 and THE KENNEDY’s. Stephen embraced the idea and did a wonderful job working with Jon and us to adapt it for TV."

The Current Challenge To Complete The Project

"Every project is challenging and this has been more challenging than most because of the Ukrainian invasion –as you can imagine There is currently tremendous interest in the show and we will be pitching it."

Being First To Get To The Subject Of Russian Hockey

"We got there first because we saw a unique opportunity and we ran toward it. It was a period of time when every NHL team was looking for an edge over its competitors –which they still do! We saw this as a way to gain a foothold and insight into techniques the Russians used and Russian talent coming down the pike. We wanted to get an edge on the players."

Length Of This Series

"This will be an ongoing series and right now it is conceived as a minimum four seasons of eight shows per season.

The characters and incredible true stories will help us sustain it. It starts as more of a comedy/fun ride but the tone then gets more serious. The situation becomes more dangerous as the series evolves."

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DIDJA KNOW? HOW BILL MAZER INTERVIEWED AN 'INVISIBLE' STAN MIKITA

This happened on national tv when CBS was doing an Original Six "Game Of The Week." on Sunday afternoons. Having a U.S.-based network telecast was big.

Tim Ryan was doing the play-by-play and Mazer the "color." The game was at Chicago Stadium which then had an antiquated scoreboard and game clock which especially was tough to read for visiting media and, in this case, Ryan and Mazer.

"We complained about it on the air a few times during our telecast," Mazer once explained to me. "Apparently (Chicago GM) Tommy Ivan was watching our show and listening and he was upset with us mocking his scoreboard."

Of course, neither Ryan nor Mazer were aware of this. They cruised through the game which Chicago won, led by Hall of Famer Stan Mikita's scoring, which meant that Mikita would be Mazer's post-game guest at center ice.

"So, I got down to my position," Bill explained, "and awaited Mikita who should have been led to center by one of their p.r. people. But now we were about 20 seconds before I was to come on and still no Mikita.

"Then, all of a sudden, I see someone waving, telling me that Stan was not coming on and, apparently I was being punished for the derogatory comments we made about their old scoreboard."

What then happened was a pure act of genius by Mazer. He pretended that Mikita was standing beside him and asked invisible Stan a question about the game as if the player actually was there. Swiftly, Mazer jumped into Stan's spot and answered the question as if he were the Black Hawk hero.

Bill asked the invisible Mikita five questions and then answered them just as Mikita would have. "I thought I imitated him pretty well," Bill chuckled. "I must have, because people were talking about that interview with an invisible hockey player for years."

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Yay Boo

YAYS AND BOOS:

YAY TO OTTAWA'S CHRIS PHILLIPS AND HIS NEW SENATORS GIG: The longest-running Senator has been named Vice President of Business and Community Development for this up-and-coming club. Chris played 1,179 games for Ottawa and was as steady a D-man as they come.

BOO TO MACKENZIE WEEGAR FOR YIP-YAPPING: Imagine, the guy arrives in Calgary and, right away, he puts the rap on his ex-team, the Panthers. He could have kept his mouth shut instead of chirping "We're (Flames) a better team than Florida." How do you know, chum, you haven't played a single game for Calgary. Here's some advice: Loose lips sink Flames!

YAY TO BLAKE WHEELER FOR BEING A GOOD SPORT: After having the Jets' captaincy taken away from him, Wheeler wheeled in a nifty quote: "I don't need a letter on my jersey!"

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I'M JUST SAYIN'

* Ken Holland told Sportsnet's Mark Spector, "I'm never relaxed."

* My prescription to the Oilers GM Try a gin and tonic.

* If that doesn't work, try Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray Tonic; preferably in Brooklyn.

* Speaking of potions, pal Debbie Elicksen told me she drank a Wayne Gretzky beer. (This is not a joke. The Great One is in the brewery business on the side.)

* I asked her to rate it out of five stars. She gave it 3.5. So, I asked which beer gets 5 out of 5. She said, "Sapporo." (P.S. Not a Dr. Brown's product.)

* Minnesota's Alex Goligoski showed up at the Twins' park with a baseball on the mound. The D-man fired a strike right over the plate with his hockey stick.

* There must be a moral to that story but -- until I can figure out -- let's just say that Big Al walked off with a kid-in-the-candy store grin.

* Bill Daly's latest media third-degree produced a cogent comment about the NHL. "The skill level has never been higher."

* Then, he added a good reason why: "It's a credit to player development around the world."

* Kukla's Korner is a superior daily read so here's hoping Pal Kukla is on the route to recovery from his latest setback.

* Add to Women In High Hockey Places: The Kraken have promoted Alexandra Mandrycky to assistant GM That makes it six female GMs in the NHL.

* Alexandra will be working with Ricky Olczyk and Jason Botterill, Seattle's other assistant GM.

* If you don't think hockey science is moving toward the Albert Einstein level, remember that Mandrycky's previous title was Director of Hockey Strategy and Research

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WHO SAID IT? "You can have all the talent in the world, but if the pumper's not there, it doesn't matter." (ANSWER BELOW.)

ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Oilers general manager Glen Sather discussing the talented Jimmy Carson.


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