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Fischler Report: Top 10 American-Born Players – Part 1

Stan Fischler's report features thoughts on the Toronto Maple Leafs, Ottawa Senators, five of the top 10 American-born players, and much more.
Chris Chelios

SEVEN STRONG FORETHOUGHTS ON A WOW-WEE WEEKEND

1. Apart from Jim Montgomery's superior coaching, the Bruins magical start is rooted in their bottom six scoring a dozen goals in nine games.

Last year they received only five in nine.

2. Reader Mike Rubin has a compelling statement: "The last time the Bruins started a season 8-1 was...Never."

3. The Islanders turnabout – it started with a 3-0 win last week against the Rangers – bears watching. The big surprise so far has been the club's spread of scorers.

4. Yeah, I know it's early but if I'm a Wild fan, I'm not wild about what's going on with Minny.

5. Edmonton over Calgary the other night tells me that this Battle of Alberta will be one of the best three rivalries in the league.

6. Worrying about the Maple Leafs is roughly equivalent to Jennifer Lopez wondering what to wear at the next Hollywood gala.

7. It's finally time to take the Devils seriously, and I'll tell you who is, right this minute – the Blue Jackets who were demolished, 7-1 at The Rock on Sunday.

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TOP 10 AMERICAN-BORN PLAYERS 10 TO SIX – PART 1 OF 2

Who are the top American-born players of all time? This is a topic sure to evoke controversy. We asked our resident historian, Alan Greenberg, for his opinion of his top 10. He struggled with the task, but here's his take:

10. Frank ‘Mr. Zero’ Brimsek should be mentioned up front. He played a different game in a different generation when an American in the NHL was truly rare. The Minnesota native made his everlasting mark in the NHL and should not be forgotten. Calder Trophy, eight-time all-star in 10 seasons, two-time Vezina winner and two Stanley Cups with Boston. He was the first American goalie to be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

9. Neal Broten is included even though his career was not in the spotlight. Seventeen NHL seasons, 923 points in 1,099 games. Highlights include an NCAA Championship with University of Minnesota in 1979, a Stanley Cup in New Jersey in 1995 and Olympic Gold with the 1980 miracle team.

8. Joe Mullen is my favorite American because it’s personal. Like me, Joe is a native New Yorker. We played in the same roller hockey league, albeit Joe was 15 years later and with far superior ability. In the NHL, Mullen was the first American-born super scorer and the first US-born player to record 500 goals. He averaged a point a game over his 16-year NHL career.

7. Chris Chelios played 1,651 NHL games, the most by any American-born player. He won his third Stanley Cup at age 46 with Detroit and Olympic silver in 2002. Deserves recognition for longevity and skill.

6. Jeremy Roenick gets credit for his longevity and averaging nearly a point a game over 20 seasons, placing him third on the all-time American-born points list. His brash personality added to his recognition factor. He would be higher on the list had he won a Stanley Cup with any of the five NHL teams for which he performed. (Part 2 on Friday: The Top Five.)

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WANT A GOOD DAILY STORY? KEEP READING ABOUT TORONTO

Avid Leafs-watcher Michael Augello has his Argus eye on the maniacal Maple Leafs scene. See if you agree with his view of the Hogtowners:

The Torontonians have shown stress so far.

Rocket Richard and Hart Trophy winner Auston Matthews has underperformed. Jake Muzzin suffered a neck injury last week and may be out long-term after a series of concussions resulted in the D-man missing half of last season. Oft-injured goalie Matt Murray found his way to the LTIR after one game.

GM Kyle (I'm Not Punch Imlach) Dubas is sitting on Vesuvius. Hey, he chose to stand pat with his core group of Matthews, John Tavares, Mitch Marner, and William Nylander while replacing all-star Jack Campbell with the tandem of Murray and Ilya Samsonov.

The increased pressure is reflected in both Dubas and coach Sheldon Keefe’s being uncharacteristically vocal early on. Dubas has appeared more animated during games, especially being caught reacting on TV broadcasts after video review calls that didn't go Toronto’s way. Keefe called out the club after an embarrassing effort in the season opener against the Habs and said that his elite players did not show up against the Coyotes. Those comments were later walked back, but we don't accept those "walk-backs" one bit.

With Buffalo, Detroit and Ottawa improved, and Boston surging, the Leafs’ sluggish start could inspire boss Brendan Shanahan to slug Non-Punch Dubas right out of this GM seat.

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DEBATING THE WRIGHT WAY TO DEPLOY SEATTLE'S TOP DRAFT CHOICE 

Seattle’s NHL fortunes are rising like a freshly-baked layer cake. So far, the taste is OK but may not satisfy our Man In The Northwest, Genial Glenn (With Two N's) Dreyfuss.

The Kraken are facing a Goldilocks issue with talented teenager Shane Wright, chosen fourth overall in this summer's draft. The hot topic in Seattle hockey circles is whether the young center is playing too much at the NHL level, too little, or just the right amount.

Wright has been a healthy scratch three times and has been mostly plastered to the bench in his first five NHL games. In limited action, and less in crunch time, his numbers are low.

Some believe Wright needs to play significantly more than his low average TOI. The reason: the goal-challenged Kraken are badly in need of the playmaking skills Wright is supposed to possess. The rebuttal: it's quite the leap for an 18-year-old from the OHL to the NHL. Pressing for too much too soon could stunt both Wright's confidence and growth.

League rules don't permit Wright to play in the AHL this season, so a counterargument is that Wright should be honing skills with his major junior team. The reason: COVID-19 wiped out one year of Shane's development, and his raw ability could benefit from the big minutes he won't get on Seattle's bench. The rebuttal: playing against inferior competition won't sand off his rough edges, and he earned a roster spot out of training camp.

The Kraken have chosen a third path - sheltered NHL minutes gently ramped up, as Wright absorbs lessons in practice and experiences the pro grind. Seeing recent improvement, coach Dave Hakstol acknowledged, "Now, I've got to get him on the ice for a couple more minutes a night and continue to let him grow.”

If Wright is at all somber about his limited use, he appeared upbeat and peppy in a recent media scrum. I asked Wright what coaches had told him about the long-term plan. "I'm not really focused on long-term. They just told me to take it one game at a time. Every game I feel more comfortable, more confident. That’s part of the learning curve.”

The question persists: What's right for Wright?

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I'M JUST SAYIN'

* Brad Marchand still leads my "Love-Hate Parade." You got to love him if you're a Beantowner and hate him if you live beyond Springfield.

* While visiting the NHL office in Manhattan last week, I had a neat chat with Kelly McCrimmon. Vegas' GM invited me to Nevada, and I'm tempted.

* An NHL insider not connected to the league itself was asked how long he expected Gary Bettman to be commissioner. Guess what he replied?

* The guy – my pal – shot back, "As long as Gary wants the job."

* A prize I'd like to see is one for a goalkeeper who "steals" the most games in a season.

* Last Wednesday, I watched Ilya Sorokin play against the Rangers. It was a 3-0 final for the Isles. Sorokin was so agile, he reminded me of the Circus Rubber Man.

* My ex-goalie-buddy Glenn ‘Chico’ Resch knows netminders and tells me he's high on big-guy Mackenzie Blackwood. I have news for Resch: so am I.

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DEPARTMENT OF SOMETHINGS TO THINK ABOUT:

Tennessee hockey journalist Mike Rubin offers this thought-twister:

"Why do 47 percent of American NHLers shoot right compared to 34 percent of the rest?"

Rubin's reply make sense: "Because U.S. kids learn to hold hockey sticks like baseball bats – with the non-dominant hand at the butt end. That's great for hitting home runs but for poke-checking, not so much.”

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WHO SAID IT? "If you can get (Canadiens star) Howie Morenz to play in the first game ever at Madison Square Garden, I'll welcome hockey to my new arena." (ANSWER BELOW).

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A NEW BOOK THAT'S A MUST-READ.

Indefatigable Rangers historian-author Sean McCaffrey has done it again. His new book is called Tricks of the Trade and is filled with facts, anecdotes and, most of all, just a good, fascinating read.

Tricks of the Trade fully covers every trade that the Rangers ever have made, written chronologically. Every trade made by every GM in Rangers history is explored and then graded. Quotes and explanations on why these trades are meticulously explored as well as what happened afterward. It's a magnificent four-volume set for anyone who not only wants to learn about Rangers history but to completely understand the history of the franchise as well.

The books are currently available on Amazon.com

(For complete details on "Tricks of the Trade," including sample chapters, cover art, page previews and information on how to obtain signed copies, please visit: https://bluecollarblueshirts.com/tricksofthetrade/)

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Yays and Boos

YAYS AND BOOS:

* YAY TO JOSH BAILEY. The venerable only-Islander recently played his 1,000th game for the Nassau-men. For years, he's been one of my favorite interviews and favorite people.

* BOO TO THE PENGUINS who lost confidence on their disastrous Northwest road trip. Pitt's disorderly retreat from Seattle thoroughly disappointed and disillusioned my aide-de-camp, Irad Chen: but certainly not The Maven since I do not root for non-flying birds!

*YAY TO KEN DANEYKO, alias Mister Devil, who was honored Sunday for his 40 years of devoted service to the Garden Staters as D-man, three-Cup-winner and now broadcaster.

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DIDJA KNOW THAT Red Dutton's Brooklyn (Previously New York) Americans had been promised a return to the NHL following their Second World War sabbatical that began with the 1942-43 season?

But when WWII ended – and the Lords of Hockey convened – Dutton was told his team's bid to return had been rejected. Word from the inside was that the Rangers didn't want competition from a second New York team. Furious, Dutton said that as long as he's alive, the Blueshirts never would win a Stanley Cup. Red died in 1987. The next Rangers Cup was seven years later, in 1994. (Red lost a team and won the Curse.)

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OTTAWA HOPES SUFFER MAJOR BLOWS

(From under Florida's sheltering palms, our Eager Al Greenberg sheds a few tears for the Senators.)

When the season began, on paper, the Ottawa Senators looked like they could go from bottom feeders to contenders for a playoff spot. With the addition of sharpshooters Claude Giroux and Alex DeBrincat and the goaltending addition of Cam Talbot, GM Pierre Dorion improved the team dramatically. The defense is anchored by Thomas Chabot, and the Sens boast young stars like Brady Tkachuk, Josh Norris, Drake Batherson and Tim Stutzle.

Hope turned to despair rather quickly. Talbot suffered a rib injury in the pre-season and was initially expected to miss one to two months. That forecast has been shortened, but this left backup Anton Forsberg as No. 1 and forced a desperation waiver claim of Magnus Hellberg from Seattle. As if that wasn’t enough, in the fifth game against Arizona, Josh Norris incurred a serious shoulder injury, a recurring problem for Norris, and he may miss most of the season. This came on the heels of his off-season eight-year, $63-million contract extension. Defender Artem Zub is also out for a few weeks.

Who is going to step up to fill the void? So far, Forsberg has done a commendable job, going 3-4-0 in seven starts, with a 3.04 GAA and .913 save percentage. In fairness to Forsberg, he has been under siege, as evidenced by the 97 combined shots he faced in his last two starts, against Minnesota and Florida. He will need relief.

It is difficult to replace a 35-goal man like Norris. Coach D.J. Smith inserted journeyman Derick Brassard, who was a healthy scratch for the first five games, directly into Norris’ second-line center spot. Brassard, who has bounced around of late, may regain his scoring touch with top-six playing time.

The brightest light on the Sens has been 21-year-old New York native Shane Pinto whose six goals tie him with Tkachuk for the team lead. If Brassard falters, Pinto will likely move up.

Coach Smith said he is not surprised by Pinto’s emergence. “He’s a heck of a player. He’s going to play a lot more. He’s obviously chomping on taking some other guy’s minutes. The way he’s playing, he’ll be playing more.”

Even with the injuries, the Sens have the talent for a much-improved season. They will, however, need guys to step up even more and with a maximum of puck luck.

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ANSWER TO WHO SAID IT? Madison Square Garden empresario Tex Rickard told it to his hockey-mad consultants after watching Morenz dazzle at a game in The Forum. Rickard did not blueprint an ice plant in the original plans for the third MSG. After watching Morenz – and receiving the promise – Rickard ordered the ice plant and in the fall of 1925, Morenz made his Garden debut against the New York Americans.

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