Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chris Bourque, 4 A player?

In baseball, there is a term for a player who dominates in the high minor leagues (AAA ball) but cannot quite make a mark when given a chance in the big leagues. They're called 4A or AAAA, an imaginary level just below the big time. It's starting to look like Chris Bourque (Ray's son) may be one of hockey's AAAA players. He just finished his fifth full season in the AHL by winning the Calder Cup Championship with the Hershey Bears. On top of this he was awarded the Butterfield Trophy as playoff MVP after he scored 27 points (7+20) in 21 games. He tallied 70 points in 49 regular season games. Bourque has played 33 NHL games in his career and has produced a mere one goal and three helpers. His biggest hinderance would appear to be his stature of 5'8". Over the years there have been many AAAA hockey players and more often than not, they have lacked the size that most GM's feel is necessary to play in the NHL.

Other 4A's:

Darren Haydar
5'9", 170 lb Haydar has played 23 NHL games since 2002, producing a goal and seven assists with three different franchises. He has 600 AHL points in 562 games, topping out at 122 points in 06/07. Haydar is now 30 years old and hopes his five minutes of ice-time in one game with the Avalanche this season won't be his last.

Jody Gage
The third highest scorer in AHL history with 1048 points did not lack in size at 6ft, 190 but he just never seemed to get a chance to shine in the NHL. Drafted in the 3rd round by Detroit in 1979, Gage actually scored 19 points in 31 games for the Wings in 81/82 but played only 21 additional NHL games before he hung 'em up in 95/96. Gage had AHL seasons of 60, 45,42, 42, and three 40 goal years but his 9 goals in 81/82 was his top NHL year.

Bruce Boudreau
"Gabby" is one of those small players that actually did get somewhat of a shot in the 1970's, playing 141 NHL games. He managed to produce a 10 and an 11 goal season with the Leafs but truly excelled in the minors. Six different times he topped 100 points in the high minors, and overall he scored over 1300 points in just over 1000 games in the CHL, AHL and IHL.

Steve Maltais
At 6'2", 205 lbs, Maltais was far from small yet he fits perfectly the description of a AAAA player. He played one near-full season in the NHL with Tampa Bay in 92/93 when he picked up 20 points in 63 games. Five different NHL teams gave him a cup of coffee and he totalled 120 big league games, yet it was in the minors where he excelled. 525 AHL games produced 508 points and 601 IHL games produced 757 points for Maltais. In a six year stretch from 94/95 through 99/00 he scored 319 goals and 626 points for the IHL Chicago Wolves. Over this time he played a grand total of zero NHL games.

Tim Tookey
Another great AAAA player example, Tim Tookey played 106 NHL games with five different teams and scored a fairly impressive 22 goals and 58 points. He scored 974 points in 824 AHL games including 124 points in 86/87.

Many "original six" era players had long and stellar minor league careers with minimal NHL playing time. Players like Guyle Fielder, Dick Roberge, Mike Nykoluk and others tore up their respective minor leagues but the main reason they never really got the NHL shot was the lack of NHL roster spots, not because they couldn't play at that level. For this reason I don't include them as AAAA players. I had the opportunity to see Jody Gage, Bruce Boudreau and Tim Tookey play many times as an employee of the AHL's Newmarket Saints for four seasons in the late 80's. I recall that at that level these players were the ones that would be scare the opponents, especially mediocre ones like the Maple Leafs farm team. These guys just never could quite get it done at the next level.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Draft Success

Even the good ones get it wrong sometimes. The Colorado/Quebec franchise has had the most success in the draft, and they can't be blamed too much for taking Bryan Fogarty ninth overall in 1987. The guy was the highest scoring defenseman in OHL history, how were they to know he'd end up naked and dead in a school cafeteria kitchen in the middle of the night? The man had problems.
Anyway, Fogarty aside the Nords/Lanche have the greatest success in drafting players in the NHL. I looked at all the picks made in each franchise's history and how many of them reached the 500 point and 1000 point plateau, perhaps not for the original team, simply in their NHL career. I also counted the goalies that were picked by a franchise that played 300 NHL games.
I figured add the 500 point guys, add a bonus point for the 1000 point guys and include the 300 game goalies, divide that number by the number of draft yaers and you get a very basic, yet telling rating of draft success.



I only looked at the "original 21" teams in order to get a large sample of draft years. The top four end up Colorado/Quebec, New Jersey/Rockies/Scouts, Buffalo and the New York Islanders.
Somewhat surprisingly the Rangers lead with 21 different players selected who went on to tally at least 500 NHL points and the Oilers have only nine. St.Louis has the fewest 500 point draftees with six, amazing over a 42 year period. Vancouver is the only team to never have drafted a 1000 point man with Trevor Linden's 867 being tops followed by Rick Vaive at 788. The 'Nucks are also the only team to draft as few as one goaltender to play in at least 300 games. Glen Hanlon played 477 games while Murray Bannerman came close with 289.
Montreal and Colorado/Quebec have drafted the highest number of 300 game goalies with seven each (and half of the total 14 hail from La Belle Province).
I find it interesting to see how disparate the success of drafting is between the top teams on the chart and the ones at the bottom. You often hear how the draft is a crap-shoot, but over a 30 or 40 year period, one would figure that would even out. Some teams just historically draft better than others.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

62nd pick in the draft

Brian Burke has said he wants a "prospect" with the Leafs first pick in the 2010 draft. The fact that the Buds don't pick until the 62nd selection doesn't seem to be an issue for Burkie. I decided to look at what if anything has been obtained in the past with the 62nd pick.

There have been 41 NHL drafts in which at least 62 selections have been made dating back to the 1969 Amatuer Draft. Nine players selected in the 62nd slot have managed to play at least 200 NHL games including current players Paul Martin in 2000, David Backes in '03 and Kris Letang in '05. Three pretty good players.
The best player picked at number 62 in the draft would have to be Kris Draper, picked by Winnipeg in 1989. Drapes has managed 19 NHL seasons and 1110 games, tallying 353 points, four Cups and the 2004 Selke Trophy. I'm pretty sure Burke would take that with his pick.

Other notables at the 62nd selection are Mario Marois by the Rangers in 1977 who played 15 years and had 433 points in 955 games. The Islanders picked Jeff Norton in '84 and he produced 384 points in 799 games. In 1979, Quebec picked Lee Norwood at number 62 who would play 12 seasons and 503 games. In '74 Pittsburgh took Mario Faubert and in '81 St. Louis selected Gord Donnelly. It would seem there is just over a 20% chance of getting a solid NHLer (history would say most likely a defenseman) at 62nd overall.




Sedin, Hart but no Lindsay


Alex Ovechkin wins the Ted Lindsay (Pearson) Award as the MVP voted by the players and Henrik Sedin wins the Hart Trophy as the offical MVP voted by the writers. Somewhat surprisingly, this differing opinion on the MVP's of a season is not as uncommon as you'd think. Of the 39 Pearson/Lindsay winners, 14 of them failed to also win the Hart Trophy.
Four of the first six Pearson winners failed to win the Hart. In 1971 and 1972, Phil Esposito and Jean Ratelle were denied the Hart by one Bobby Orr and in 1975 and 1976 Orr himself and Guy Lafleur lost the Hart to Bobby Clarke both years.
For three straight seasons, 1979 thru '81 the Pearson and Hart had differing outcomes. Marcel Dionne twice and Mike Liut were beaten for the Hart by Bryan Trottier in 1979 then Wayne Gretzky back to back. Gretzky formed a consesus for four consecutive seasons then lost the Pearson to Mario Lemieux in 1986. Gretz also had a Hart with no Pearson in '89 when Steve Yzerman was the players pick.
For ten straight years through 1999 the two awards had the same winners until Jagr took the Pearson over Chris Pronger in 2000, Iginla won over Jose Theodore in '02 and Markus Naslund bested Peter Forsberg in '03. Jagr once again took the Pearson in '06 over Joe Thornton's Hart.
Overall Wayne Gretzky took nine Harts and only five Pearson Trophies.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Hall of Fame thoughts

With the Hockey Hall of Fame announcing it's 2010 selections this week, I figured I'd share some random thoughts on current, future and past selections.

Joe Nieuwendyk
I do believe he'll get in on this his first year of eligibility. His resume has just about everything one could look for. 564 career goals, 3 Cups, Calder Trophy, Conn Smythe, Olympic Gold medal.... simply a winner, and one of the great leaders of the game.

Pavel Bure
I'm somewhat confused as to why Bure is not in the Hall yet. Sure he played just over 700 games, but I believe he has the credentials. In my mind if Mike Bossy is in, Bure should be a no-brainer. Bossy played 50 more games and scored 573 goals to Bure's 437, but when the numbers of these two vastly different eras are compensated for, the similarity is remarkable. During Bossy's career the average goals scored per game was often over 8.00, while in Bure's NHL the average was usually under 5.50 per game, a vast difference. When both players numbers are adjusted to a league average of 6.00 Bossy's adjusted career goals total is 497 and Bure's 498.
Sure, Bure can't compete with Bossy's four Cups but his three seasons leading the league in goals, Calder Trophy and three All-star team selections on top of the adjusted goal total make him a sure fire Hall of Famer in my mind.

Eric Lindros
His Hall of Fame selection possibility is a contentious issue among hockey fans, and I for one have a feeling that the Big E will be elected in his first year of eligibilty. Like Bure, his career was ravaged by injury and Lindros' "me first" attitude early in his career rubs many the wrong way. However, when it comes down to it he possesses in my mind, the main credential for Hall of Fame selection in any sport. He was considered one of the top players at his position for a fair length of time.
In truth he was considered one of the top players in the entire game for at least four or five years. From 1993/94 through 96/97 he was top three in the NHL in points per game, and for six straight years he was at least top six. His career total of 1.14 points per game place him 15th in history among players with at least 600 games. His 45 points in 44 career senior level international chamionships is impressive as is his 57 points in 53 career playoff games. He often gets a bad rap for not being able to lead a squad to a championship, but in 96/97 when the Flyers lost to Detroit in the finals, Lindros tallied 26 points in 19 games. It was hardly his doing that they lost.

Doug Gilmour, Adam Oates, Dave Andreychuk
All three will get into the Hall sooner than later, just not this year. Oates ranks sixth all-time in assists. The rest of the top ten are in the Hall...enough said. Gilmour ranks 12th overall and in fact the top sixteen in assists all are in the Hall or soon will be (Joe Sakic and Jaromir Jagr are the only others not yet in). Andreychuk, like in the past, is in the same boat as Gilmour. He ranks 13th all-time in goals, all of the rest of the top fifteen are in the shrine (excluding Brendan Shanahan who will be in three years after he hangs them up). Also, with 274 powerplay goals Andreychuk is number one all-time in NHL history. All three of these guys will be in soon enough.

Mark Howe, Phil Housley
Neither of these two American born defenders ever won a Cup, and both played some forward earlier in their careers. I believe Howe and Housley should be in Hall at some point in the future. Housley's 1232 career points rank fourth among defenseman all-time Howe's 742 points in 929 games when added to his over 500 WHA points can not be discounted. Howe also made three first all-star sqauds in the mid '80s. If Brad Park is Hall worthy, so too should these two guys.

Lorne Chabot
This one has always puzzled me. Chabot played just over ten full NHL seasons, yet had a 201-147-62 record in 412 games. His 71 shutouts rank 11th all-time and his 2.03 GAA is fourth best ever. Even when adjusted (as Bure and Bossy's goal totals were) his average is 2.79. Hall of Famer Harry Lumley has an adjusted GAA (remember, this makes the diferent eras irrelevant) of 3.01, Grant Fuhr a 3.04, Roy Worters 3.12 and Gump Worsley 3.14. In addition Chabot won a Vezina Trophy and two Cups.
Chabot's contemporaries that are in the Hall, George Hainsworth, Alex Connell and Roy Worters all played their last NHL game in 1937 just as he did. All played less than 500 NHL games (like Chabot) and their GAA's are 1.93, 1.91 and 2.27 respectively. Just put the guy in the Hall already.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Junior B Gretzky


This is a cool item I recently came across while looking through the great site, Classicauctions.net. Below is pictured a program from early in the 1976/77 season of the Seneca Nationals a Toronto area Junior B squad. Most will be familiar with this team as one of Wayne Gretzky's stepping stones to greatness. He had played the previous year with the Vaughan Nationals and scored 60 points in 28 games in a season which he started as a 14 year old. This 76/77 year, he would tally 72 points in 32 games. What is interesting is the program has a list of Gretzky's team mates during this early part of his career.

Somewhat amazingly, this junior B team would produce, not only Wayne Gretzky, but three other NHLers and a total of 6 professional players. Bill Gardner, brother of Paul Gardner was almost a year older than Gretzky and scored 102 points in 68 games this season. He would go on to have two more 100 point years in the OHL with Peterborough and be drafted in the fourth round by Chicago in 1979. He would top out at 27 goals in 83/84 and played a total of 380 NHL games while scoring 188 points.

Daryl Evans also played on the Seneca Nationals in 76/77 and would also go on to star in the OHL. As a 20 year old, Evans scored 58 goals, 112 points in 58 games for Gretzky's hometown Brantford Alexanders. He was drafted in the ninth round by Los Angeles in 1980, and of course his path would cross with The Great One's once again in 1982. Evans scored the winning goal for the Kings to complete the "Miracle on Manchester" upset of Gretzky's Oilers. After a full 80 games the next season in which he scored 40 points, Evans would play a grand total 19 additional NHL games over the next four years.

Stuart Smith would join Bill Gardner in Peterborough and be drafted even higher at 39th overall in 1979 by Hartford. Smith played a total of 77 games in the bigs, scoring 12 points and collecting 95 PIMS.

Wayne Thompson tore up the OHL with London tallying 121 points in 79/80. He would score a point per game with the Nova Scotia Voyageurs in the AHL before playing four years of pro in Finland. He finished in the Colonial League, ironically with the Brantford Smoke.

Brian Carroll had two good seasons with Niagara Falls of the OHL and played minor pro in the IHL, AHL and ACHL.


Following the completion of Seneca's season in 76/77, Gretzky joined a few of his team mates in playing three games in the OHL with Peterborough. Incidentally, the Peterborough Petes are the only team that Gretzky played for in his career without scoring a goal. In three games, he counted three assists and zero goals.




Monday, June 7, 2010

Cup Finals Scoring Leaders

Below are the point leaders for the Cup finals, somewhat surprisingly led by the Flyers trio of Briere, Leino and Hartnell. These are the only three Flyers scoring at least a point per game, while Chicago has seven players with 5 or 6 points.
The most surprising thing may be the fact that Toews, Gagne, Carter and Richards each have only two points over the five games.
The all-time record for points in a Cup final is Wayne Gretzky with 13 in 1988 against Boston. He scored 11 points in the four game sweep, as well as two in the game suspended due to power outage at the Garden. Gretz's 10 assists are also tops. Mario Lemieux tallied 12 points in five games against Minnesota in the '91 finals. With 9 points and 7 helpers, Danny Briere is definitely within striking distance of the all-time records.


Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Stanley Cup Revelations

Quite often in the Stanley Cup playoffs, previously unheralded players take their first step to the next level of stardom. I'm not refering to rookies like Dino Ciccarelli, Pat LaFontaine or Ken Dryden making a mark in a Cup Final. Nor do I mean the Chris Kontos/ John Druce kind of once-in-a-liftime scoring explosion. I'm talking about guys like Dave Bolland, Claude Giroux and Ville Leino.

Dave Bolland was a junior sniper, scoring 130 points in his last OHL season with the London Knights. Chicago selected him 32nd overall in 2004. This past season, returning from back surgery he matched his rookie year stats with 16 points in 39 games. However in his second year, 2008/09 he began to show flashes of what he can become as a player scoring 19 goals and 47 points. In this year's playoffs he has scored 12 points and is a +6, while shutting down the opponents top scorers at every turn.

Claude Giroux was a first round draft pick (22nd overall) of the Flyers in 2006 and had a stellar junior career with the Gatineau Olympiques. He scored 321 points in 187 Quebec League games and would pile up 51 in 19 playoff games in 2008. After scoring a point per game with the Philadelphia Phantoms in 08/09 he made the jump to the big club and had 27 points in half a season. This past year he had 16 goals, 47 points while playing every game. His playing time in the playoffs has gone up from 16:37 per game to almost 19:00 in the post season. After his overtime winner in game three, Giroux has 20 points in 20 games with a +9 and is a even a darkhorse for the Conn Smythe.

Ville Leino was signed by Detroit two years ago after scoring 77 points in 55 games for Jokerit of the Finnish League. He was named Outstanding Player of the League and would become the "best player" Mike Babcock ever had to send to the minors. He scored almost a point per game in Grand Rapids of the AHL before tallying 13 points in 10 playoff games for the Griffins. Philadelphia picked up Leino in early February for Ole-Kristian Tollefsen and a pick.
He collected a mere 4 points in 13 Flyers matches, but his playing time has gone up by three minutes per game in the playoffs and he has produced. Leino has 15 points in 16 games including 3 in 3 Finals games and has been showing dazzling ability with the puck.

Perhaps not such a huge revelation, the fact that Joe Thornton is second to last in the NHL these playoffs with a -11 rating. During the Semi-finals alone, Jumbo Joe was a -5 in four games to go with his precious one assist. Overall for his career, Thornton now has played 91 playoff games and sports a -23 +/- rating and has 65 points.



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