Thursday, March 29, 2012

Best Goaltending Season Ever?

With a week and a half to go in the 2011/12 NHL season, there are now five goaltenders with Goals Against Averages under 2.00. All five of these have played enough games to qualify for the league lead although it's goin to be near impossible to catch Brian Elliott's 1.48 average. The other four goalies are Jaro Halak 1.90, Henrik Lundqvist 1.93, Jonathan Quick 1.93 and Cory Schneider 1.97. How rare is it that five guys are under 2.00? In a word extremely.

It almost happened in 1998/99 when four goalies (Tugnutt, Hasek, Belfour and Dafoe) were under 2.00 and Roman Turek at 2.08 came close.  However, you have to go all the way back to 1930/31 to find a year with five back-stops under 2.00.

81 years ago, Roy Worters topped the NHL at 1.61, Charlie Gardiner was at 1.73, John Ross Roach had a 1.89 average, George Hainsworth was 1.95 and Tiny Thompson 1.98. All are in the Hall of Fame except Roach.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Jake Gardiner; A Ray of Hope

In a Maple Leaf season that has turned into a nightmare, one of the few surprises and bright spots for the future is rookie defenceman, Jake Gardiner. Obtained last season from Anaheim with Joffrey Lupul in exchange for Francois Beauchemin, Gardiner was a bit of a surprise in making the Leafs out of training camp. Gardiner was drafted 17th overall by the Ducks in 2008 and spent three years at University of Wisconsin.

Gardiner currently has 26 points in 69 games played this season and is a solid +1, tied with Luke Schenn as the only Leaf defender not in the negative. He also appears to be getting stronger as the season progresses with 17 points and a +3 in 34 games since the New Year. In fact, Gardiner has an outside shot at becoming the first Maple Leaf rookie rearguard to tally 30 points since 1982. As it stands he has the most points as a Leaf rookie defender in 30 years.

As an 18 year-old, Jim Benning collected 31 points in 1981/82 a year after putting up 139 points with Portland of the Western League. Prior to him, the last Leaf rookie defencemen with 30 points was in 1973/74 when Borje Salming had 39 and Ian Turnbull 35.

Only two other rookie d-men  in Leaf history have managed at least 30 points. In 1968/69 Jim Dorey had 30 while playing in only 61 games and in 1943/44 Elwyn 'Moe' Morris had 33 in a 50 game season. Gardnier has already surpassed two notable Leaf rookies of the past. In 98/99 Tomas Kaberle played in 57 games and recorded 22 points and in 84/85, 18 year-old Al Iafrate had 21 points in 68 games.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Greatest Injury Shortened Seasons Ever

Sidney Crosby has missed 60 games this season and if he plays all of Pittsburgh's remaining games he will play up to a total of 22 games in 2011/12. With 21 points already, Crosby is having one of the better injury shortened seasons in NHL history. Below are the greatest seasons of 25 games or less since 1930 that were cut short by injuries.
  • Sidney Crosby, 2011/12         13-2-19-21

  • Bobby Orr, 1975/76                10-5-13-18
Orr underwent one of his many knee surgeries after injuring it during training camp. He managed to get into 10 games, but still ended up missing all of the playoffs.

  • Mario Lemieux, 1993/94        22-17-20-37
After a late start to the season, Mario injured his back on Nov. 11, '93 and was out until February. He played the majority of games until the end of the season, and all six of the Pens post season games.

  • Pavel Bure, 1998/99                11-13-3-16
He missed the first half of the year holding out from the Canucks before being traded to Florida. After 7 games he'd injure his knee and played sparingly down the stretch.

  • Paul Kariya, 1997/98               22-17-14-31
Similarly to Bure, Kariya held out to start this season but ended up re-signing with the Ducks in December. His season was ended by a gutless cross-check to face from Gary Suter that also knocked him out of the Nagano Olympics.

  • Cam Neely, 1992/93                13-11-7-18
Neely could make the list for any number of his seasons. A knee injury kept him out until late February. Neely played most of the remaining games including all four in the playoffs as the Bruins were swept.

  • Marian Gaborik, 2008/08         17-13-10-23
Two long stints on the disabled list with hip issues. Returned strong to score 10 goals in the Wild's final 10 games.

  • Mario Lemieux, 2001/02          24-6-25-31
It's only appropriate that Le Magnifique and Bobby Orr each make this list twice. Hip issues kept Mario out for most of 2001/02.

  • Pat LaFontaine, 1994/95          22-12-15-27
Returned in mid-March 1995 after 15 months of recovery from knee surgery and played every game including all five in the playoffs. He won the Masterton Trophy this year.

  • Bobby Orr, 1976/77                 20-4-19-23
Just about Orr's last kick at the can. After starring in the '76 Canada Cup he got into only 20 games for Chicago but was still dominant at times.

  • Mel Hill, 1943/44                     17-9-10-19
'Sudden Death' Hill broke his ankle on Dec. 16, 1943 and missed the rest of the season.

  • Terry O'Reilly, 1982/83           19-6-14-20
O'Reilly broke a finger on Nov. 18, 1982 then injured his knee on New Year's Eve.

  • Tom McCarthy, 1985/86         25-12-12-24
Diagnosed with Bell's Palsy on Nov. 23, 1985 and missed the remainder of the season and playoffs.

  • Grant Warwick, 1943/44          18-8-9-17
Two years after winning the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, Warwick suffered a concussion just before Christmas 1943. As an aside, in 1991 while I was in college, I coached Grant Warwick's 9-year old grandson. One day during a practice he brought the 1942 Calder Trophy that his grand-dad was awarded. Pretty cool holding a 50 year old NHL trophy.

  • Adam Deadmarsh, 2002/03      20-13-4-17
Suffered his last of numerous concussions on Dec. 15, 2002 and finally retired officially 3 years later without playing another game.

  • Tim Kerr, 1982/83                    24-11-8-19
Kerr's first of many injuries was a knee suffered on Nov. 24, 1982. He managed to return to play 2 of 3 playoff games for the Flyers.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Overmatched Maple Leafs; Worst Season Series since 1926

Six games against the Boston Bruins in 2011/12, zero wins for Toronto. The Leafs held a lead for a total of 21 minutes over the six games, or a mere 5.8% of playing time. It's difficult to get a lead while scoring 10 goals and surrendering 36 over six contests.

Somewhat surprisingly, this seasons' series with Boston was only the second time in franchise history where Toronto was swept outright in a series of at least six games. For all the terrible teams that the Leafs iced during the 1980's, they always managed at least a tie in their season matchups. Way back in 1925/26, while still called the St.Patrick's, Toronto lost all six games to the Montreal Maroons and in the process were outscored by a collective 25-13.

I checked through the hockey-reference database and found the following season series of at least six games in which Toronto didn't manage even one win; (W-L-T, GF-GA)

  • 1985/86 vs. Minnesota  0-7-1     31-47
  • 1981/82 vs. Minnesota  0-5-3     19-33
  • 1976/77 vs. Buffalo       0-5-1     13-28
  • 1972/73 vs. Montreal     0-5-1     12-25
  • 1926/27 vs. Ottawa        0-5-1       4-17

Friday, March 16, 2012

Steven Stamkos Again

With 50 goals, Steven Stamkos currently has an 11 goal lead on second place Evgeni Malkin. This works out to a 28.2% advantage on his nearest goal scoring rival. This would be the biggest gap percentage-wise in over ten years. In 1999/00 Pavel Bure's 58 goals were 31.8% more than next best Owen Nolan's 44.

I was somewhat surprised when I found that over the history of the NHL the goal leader has had at least 50% more goals than the second scorer in seven different seasons. Below are all the seasons in which the goal leader scored at least 25% more than the second place guy.

  • 1990/91 Brett Hull 86 goals; Fleury, Neely, Yzerman 51 goals....68.6% gap
  • 1965/66 Bobby Hull 54 goals; F.Mahovlich 32 goals....56.3% gap
  • 1983/84 Wayne Gretzky 87 goals; Goulet 56 goals....55.4% gap
  • 1952/53 Gordon Howe 49 goals;  Lindsay 32 goals....53.1% gap
  • 1951/52 Gordon Howe 47 goals; Mosienko 31 goals....51.6% gap
  • 1961/62 Bobby Hull 50 goals; Howe, Mahovlich 33 goals....51.5% gap
  • 1946/47 Maurice Richard 45 goals; Bauer, R.Conacher 30 goals....50.0% gap
  • 1970/71 Phil Esposito 76 goals; Bucyk 51 goals....49.0% gap
  • 1966/67 Bobby Hull 52 goals; Mikita 35 goals....48.6% gap
  • 1934/35 Charlie Conacher 36 goals;  Dillon 25 goals....44.0% gap
  • 1981/82 Wayne Gretzky 92 goals; Bossy 64 goals....43.8% gap
  • 1923/24 Cy Denneny 22 goals; Boucher, Burch, Dye 16 goals....37.5% gap
  • 1944/45 Maurice Richard 50 goals; Cain 32 goals....37.5% gap
  • 1956/57 Gordon Howe 44 goals; Beliveau, M.Richard 33 goals....33.3% gap
  • 1971/72 Phil Esposito 66 goals; Hadfield, Bobby Hull 50 goals....32.0% gap
  • 1999/00 Pavel Bure 58 goals;  Nolan 44 goals....31.8% gap
  • 1973/74 Phil Esposito 68 goals; Martin 52 goals....30.8% gap
  • 1991/92 Brett Hull 70 goals; Stevens 54 goals....29.6% gap
  • 2011/12 Steven Stamkos 50 goals; Malkin 39 goals....28.2% gap *as of 3/16/12
  • 2001/02 Jarome Iginla 52 goals; Guerin, Sundin, Murray 41 goals....26.8% gap
  • 1924/25 Babe Dye 38 goals; Joliat 30 goals...26.7% gap
  • 2007/08 Alex Ovechkin 65 goals; Kovalchuk 52 goals...25.0% gap
  • 1987/88 Mario Lemieux 70 goals; Simpson 56 goals....25.0% gap
No real shock that the two most convincing goal scoring titles in history belong to Bobby and Brett Hull. Stamkos certainly won't match that this season, but his margin of victory looks like it will be one of the more impressive ones ever.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Maple Leaf Collapse of 1968; It has indeed happened before Mr. Burke

Two seventeen games. On February 6 of this year, the Leafs had a 28-19-6 record and were in 6th place in the Eastern Conference. They were two points out of fourth spot and home-ice advantage in the playoffs. Since then, the Buds have unfurled an atrocious record of 2-13-2 and are now one point away from a Lottery Pick in the draft, the playoffs a distant memory. General Manager Brian Burke said that he had never seen anything like it before, and that it "was akin to an 18-wheeler going right off a cliff." The question is then, how unprecedented is it for a Maple Leaf team to perform so poorly immediately after playing so well. It turns out it has indeed happened once before.

Firstly, how many times has Toronto had a stretch of such futility as they are currently in the midst of? In fact it's been over 20 years since such an awful stretch of hockey, but back then it was almost the norm. Following is the list of stretches of Leaf hockey as bad as the current one (2 or less wins in at least 16 games):
  • Oct.4, 1990 - Nov.4, 1990      2-16-1
Opened the season with this disaster therefore their record was 0-0-0 at the beginning of this streak so it can't be really considered a 'cliff-dive' like the current struggles.

  • Jan.8, 1988 - Feb.7, 1988     2-17-7   &  Feb.20, 1988 - April 1, 1988   2-16-0
This stretch came after a first half record of 14-20-6.  After turning around the poor results of Jan/Feb with a 3-1-1 stretch, the Leafs jumped right back into the toilet with the second awful run of the season before winning the final game of the season. Amazingly, the Leafs still managed to snag the final playoff spot by a point over the North Stars only to be ousted in six games by Detroit. The only reason they made the playoffs was the fact that Minnesota trudged to the finish with a 3-20-5 record. Yikes.

  • Oct.10, 1985 - Nov.14, 1985      1-12-3
Another fantastic start to a season. This time they'd easily make the playoffs even with 57 points thanks to the absolute ineptitude of the Red Wings.
  • Oct.14, 1984 - Dec. 9, 1984     2-19-5  & Dec. 14, 1984 - Jan. 9, 1985   1-11-0
After beginning the year with back-to-back overtime wins, the Leafs went 2-19-5 before beating the Flyers on Dec. 12. This 5-19-5 record would be parlayed into a run of 1-11-0 that took them to a 6-30-5 mark by early January. At this point in the season, in the Norris Division where no team was above .500, the Leafs were still 14 points out of a playoff position...this was my childhood.

  • Jan.3, 1984 - Feb.5, 1984        2-12-2     
On Jan. 2 the Leafs were a respectable (for them) 15-18-5 and sat third in the Norris. This terrible run knocked them out of the playoff picture and they finished last, 7 points back of fourth-place Chicago.

  • Nov. 17, 1982 - Dec. 23, 1982      1-14-1   
Started the year 4-7-5 before the annual tank-job. They still made the playoffs with 67 points.

  • Jan. 21, 1982 - Mar. 13, 1982      2-18-4
On Jan. 20, 1982 Toronto sat 15-20-12 and one point out of a playoff spot before this stretch knocked them far out of contention. They finished 16 points back of 4th place Chicago.

  • Jan. 24, 1968 - Feb. 29, 1968      2-13-1
The defending Stanley Cup champion Leafs were in second place on Jan. 23, 1968 with a record of 22-14-8, 2 points behind first place Boston in the NHL's Eastern Division. After this disastrous run they had plummeted to fifth spot, 11 points out of fourth. Just as today, the media was at a loss to explain the sudden collapse. Even with a victory on March 2, the terrible run of play was perhaps the final straw in a decade long struggle between Punch Imlach and Frank Mahovlich. On March 3, The Big 'M' was dealt to Detroit along with Pete Stemkowski, Garry Unger and Carl Brewer for Norm Ullman, Paul Henderson, Floyd Smith and Doug Barrie.

Early on in the collapse newspaper headlines were sounding the alarm. On Feb. 15 the Ottawa Citizen stated, "Sliding Leafs Bow To Canadiens" after the fifth loss in a row. The Canadian Press ran a headline; "Leafs Lose Again; 'No Excuses'-Punch". This article noted forbodingly, "Mahovlich, who scored Toronto's first goal, did not make an appearance in the final period until 27 seconds from the end."

By Feb. 24 the CP previewed the next match; "Fallen Leafs, Bruins Heading for Showdown"
"As is usually the case when a club is going bad, Imlach is bearing the brunt of the fans' ire. 'People care,' Imlach says,'You never know how much they care until a slump hits the club. I expect this sort of reaction and I accept it. They've got to go after somebody and I'm the first man in line.'

Imlach looks over team statistics and answers the complaints of irate fans in his office at Maple Leaf Gardens. "Yes I'm here," he says into the telephone, "I'll be here for at least the next two years. I don't know if there are factions inside the club. If there are they have been well concealed. If there are not, it looks as if someone is trying very hard to suggest there is a fight between the players union and the management."

I find it interesting that Imlach took full blame for the failures and even went as far as answering phone calls from upset fans. I suppose this was just the equivalent of Twitter circa 1968.

The Leafs did end up going 9-4-1 in March but it was far too little, far too late. Imlach held out hope to the very end. The day after they were officially eliminated on March 20, the Quebec Chronicle-Telegraph ran analysis by columnist Louis J. Fusk;  "Road Back May Be Tough For Toronto"

"It's finally official. For the first time in 19 years, Toronto Maple Leafs will not be in the NHL playoffs. The fact remains that in the future there will be no easy road to the playoffs, at least in the Eastern Division. Imlach is a diehard and refused to admit defeat until it was official...According to Imlach, the only bright spot in this waning season was the trade he pulled off with Detroit. Certainly three acquisitions, Floyd Smith, Norm Ullman and Paul Henderson have been producing since they donned the Leafs's uniform and now Sid Abel of the Red Wings charges that the three players he received from the Leafs aren't in proper shape, either mentally or physically, to play hockey."
 Mr. Fusk's words could not have been more accurate, for indeed the road back has been tough for Toronto. It has been for 45 years now and appears to be in the near future.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Nikolai Kulemin; Uncharted Territory

Nikolai Kulemin has had a bit of a drop-off in goal scoring. That's like saying the Titanic had a bit of trouble on it's first voyage. After scoring 30 goals in a full season last year he has tallied a grand total of 7 in 67 games so far this season. Kulemin is on pace for under 10 goals in an injury-free season, as a 25 year-old who should be in his prime. How many players in NHL history have had such a precipitous drop-off after a 30 goal year, without injuries being the cause...I found only two. Kulemin  is in the midst of one the greatest goal-scoring collapses in history.

Among 30 goal scorers in the NHL, I found only two others who fell to even 10 goals the following year without missing major time to injury, Morris Lukowich and Rosaire Paiement. In 1983/84 Morris Lukowich scored 30 goals while playing all 80 games for the Winnipeg Jets. The next season, while being traded to Boston in February, he scored 10 goals in 69 games. He was 28 in that 1984/85 season and would score 12 then 14 goals before retiring with Los Angeles at 30.

In the Vancouver Canucks' inaugural season on 1970/71, Rosaire Paiement led the team with 34 goals. The following year in 69 games he scored 10 goals at age 26. He would then jump to the WHA's Chicago Cougars and never played in the NHL again.

The two players that fell from 30 goal years to below 10 goals were Andrew McBain and Sid Smith.
After scoring 32 for Winnipeg in 1987/88 McBain fired 37 goals in 88/89. The next season, playing 67 games with Pittsburgh and Vancouver, McBain dropped to 9 goals. He played most of the next two seasons in the AHL then signed with the expansion Senators in 1992 where he scored 7 and 12 goals.

Perhaps the most drastic collapse for a 30 goal scorer was by Maple Leaf Sid Smith. He was named 1st Team All-Star in 1954/55 with 33 goals Smith and then was named captain of the Leafs in the off-season after Ted Kennedy retired. The pressure of captaincy was apparently too much for Smith. Although he missed 15 games due to injury he plummeted to 4 goals in 55 games. By mid-November of 1955/56 newpapers were picking up on Smith's lack of production. The Canadian Press had a headline saying,"Leafs are Minus 'Crucial' Scorer" and noted that "after 17 games this season, he's still looking for his first goal." The pressure was so much for Smith that prior to the next season a CP headline declared, "Smith Gives Up Toronto Captaincy". The article stated, "General manager Hap Day said Smitty 'obviously found the double burden of playing and carrying out the responsibilities of captain too much of a mental strain.'" In 1956/57 Smith once again played a full 70 games and climbed back to a respectable 17 goals. After 12 games the following year, he retired to play Senior hockey with the Whitby Dunlops.

One other amazing drop in goal scoring happened to one of the greatest goal scorers of all-time.
Joe Malone scored 24 goals in 24 games for the Hamilton Tigers in 1921/22. At age 32 he was traded to Montreal Canadiens in December 1922. Malone played 20 games predominantly as a sub and tallied only one goal all season. He'd play only 10 games the following season before retiring.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Penticton Vees, 41 Wins in a Row

The Penticton Vees of the Junior 'A' British Columbia Hockey League defeated Trail Smoke Eaters last evening 10-0. It was their 41st consecutive victory breaking the record for most wins in a row in Canadian junior hockey history. The cool thing is that yesterday (March 6) was also the anniversary of the original Penticton Vees winning the World Championship in 1955.

I found it surprising that the old record was as high as it was, and even more so that it was set by two teams in the same league ten years apart. The league is the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League, another Tier II Junior 'A' circuit. In 1989/90, the Sudbury Cubs had a perfect season of 40-0, scoring 352 goals while surrendering 124. The average score of their games was 8.8 to 3.1. They had four different players score over one goal per game. Leading scorer on the team was future NHLer Brian Savage who scored 45 goals, 85 points in 32 games. Sudbury would go 15-6 in the playoffs, eventually losing the Hewitt Cup final to Longueil, Quebec.

In 1999/00 in the same league, the Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats also completed a 40 win perfect season. The Cats scored 315 goals and gave up a mere 80 for an average score of 7.8 to 2.0. Rayside-Balfour would win the Hewitt Cup that Sudbury couldn't only to lose the Royal Bank Cup Final to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons.

Penticton has two games remaining in the schedule, both in Prince George. The Vees finished with a 29-0-1 record at home and are so far 24-3-1 on the road. They've scored 324 goals and given up 123 averages of 5.59 and 2.12.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Halak and Elliot, Best Tandem in History?

It goes without saying that the St. Louis Blues have and amazing goaltending duo this season. Brian Elliott is first in the NHL in Goals Against Average at 1.63 and 2nd with a Save Pct. of .937. His partner Jaro Halak sits 3rd in GAA at 1.91 and 9th in Save Pct. at .925. Halak has played 37 games while Elliott has played 31. Statistically, they may very well be one of the best goaltending tandems in NHL history. Let's have a look at some of the others.

2006/07 Minnesota Wild, Niklas Backstrom & Manny Fernandez
Backstrom played 41 games to Fernandez' 44 and led the league in both GAA (1.97) and Save Pct (.929). Fernandez placed 15th in both categories.

1991/92 New York Rangers, John Vanbiesbrouck & Mike Richter
Beezer played 45 games and finished 4th in both GAA and Save Pct (2.85, .910) and his 27 wins placed him 6th. Richter's 3.11 & .901 placed 6th and 9th respectively and his 23 victories put him in 13th spot.

1989/90 Boston Bruins, Andy Moog & Reggie Lemelin
Moog with 46 games placed 4th in GAA (2.89), Lemelin in 43 games was 3rd (2.81). Moog was 8th in Save Pct and Lemelin 9th and Moog 4th in wins, Lemelin 8th.

1983/84 Washington Capitals, Al Jensen & Pat Riggin
Riggin led the NHL with a 2.66 GAA and was 6th in Save Pct and 13th in Wins. Jensen was 3rd with a 2.91 GAA and 8th in Wins. To top it off, they shared the lead with 4 shutouts each and Riggin even managed to be named to the 2nd All-Star squad.

1978/79 New York Islanders, Glenn Resch & Billy Smith
Chico was 2nd with a 2.50 GAA and his 26 wins ranked 3rd. Partner Billy Smith was 5th and 6th with 2.87 GAA and 25 wins. Resch was the Second Team All-Star.

1968/69 St. Louis Blues, Glenn Hall & Jacques Plante
Along with being one of the top duos ever they may be one of the oldest as well, Hall was 37 and Plante was 40. They finished 1 and 2 in GAA, Plante at 1.96, Hall 2.17. Somehow though, Hall ended up First Team All-Star and Plante was shut out.

1950/51 Toronto Maple Leafs, Al Rollins & Turk Broda
Despite playing only 40 of 70 games (Broda played 31), Rollins was 2nd in victories with a 27-5-8 record and 1st with a 1.77 average. Broda's 2.23 was 3rd in the league.

1932/33 Montreal Maroons, Dave Kerr & Flat Walsh
Perhaps the first real shared duty goaltending tandem ever. 35 year-old Walsh was playing in his last season and 23 year-old Kerr was in his second full year. Walsh played 22 games with a 2.58 average  and Kerr 22 matches with a 2.29 average. Although the Maroons finished above .500 they were only 8th out of 9 teams in goals against.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Leafs Mid-Season coaching changes

The last time the Toronto Maple Leafs fired a coach during a season was almost exactly 16 years ago. On March 5, 1996 Pat Burns was fired after an eighth consecutive loss. Leafs scouting director Nick Beverley was brought in on an interim basis. Even with the 8 straight losses, Toronto still sat in 8th place in the Western Conference with a record of 25-30-10. Beverley guided them to a 9-6-2 finish as they climbed to 4th spot in the weak Conference. St. Louis would oust the Leafs in six first round games and Mike Murphy was brought in to coach the following season.

Prior to 1996, the last mid-season coaching change for Toronto was at the beginning of the 1990-91 campaign. Under Doug Carpenter Toronto stumbled out of the gates with a 1-9-1 record (the exact record the current Leafs have over their last 11 matches). Tom Watt was brought into this mess and went 22-37-10 and the Leafs still fell 13 points short of the playoffs.

In December of 1988, John Brophy was fired after sporting an 11-20-2 mark. Leaf great George Armstrong was reluctantly brought in and went 17-26-4. The 62 points overall was amazingly only 4 points shy of a playoff spot in the characteristically awful Norris Division.

In January of 1981, after an 8-2 loss at the hands of the lowly Winnipeg Jets, coach Joe Crozier was fired in favour of ex-Leaf Mike Nykoluk. He guided Toronto to a 15-15-10 mark as they grabbed the 16th and final playoff spot by one point over Washington. They lost in three straight to the Islanders.

So, the last three Leaf mid-season coaching changes inspired the teams to improve greatly compared to their records before the change. The current edition of the Leafs certainly hope the same holds true with Carlyle. With about 90 points looking like the cut-off line for playoffs in the Eastern Conference, Toronto will have to finish this year with at least 12-6 record to even have a sniff. The fact that their is now four teams to leap over now makes the task even tougher.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Around the Hockey World; 37 wins straight and a man called Jade

A semi-annual look at interesting numbers and people from around the hockey world.

  • Ziggy Palffy (39), who hasn't played in the NHL in 6 years, leads the Slovakian League with 83 pts in 48 games. He has a 24 point lead on second place Rene Skoliak.

  • 40 year old Peter Nedved, himself five years removed from the NHL was top scorer in the Czech League with 61 points in 49 games.

  • Tomas Zaborsky (pictured above) led the Finnish SM Liiga with 35 goals and 59 pts in 52 games. He has an impressive 12 goals more than anyone else in the league. The 5'11", 200 pounder was drafted by the NY Rangers 137th overall in 2006.

  • 23 year old Phoenix, Arizona native Broc Little topped the Swedish 2nd Division in scoring with 34 goals and 64 points in 50 games for Vasteras. The 5'9", 170 pound centre signed this season after a four year career at Yale University.

  • 35 year old goaltender Alfie Michaud (he of 2 games with Vancouver Canucks in 1999/00) posted the best Goals Against Average in the Denmark National league. His 1.78 GAA for Sondejyske was still well behind last season's George Hainsworth-esque 1.08 average over 24 games, second place was 2.04. His Save Pct last season was .953.

  • Nepean, Ontario native Craig Cowie has 113 points in 56 games for the hometown Nepean Raiders of the Tier II Central Canadian League. The undrafted 21 year old is a crazy 29 points up on second place.

  • The British League scoring race is currently topped by a man(?) named Jade Galbraith from Hinton, Alberta. The 30 year old has tallied 90 points in 49 games for something called Braehead Clan. I think this is hockey...either way, he is 19 points up on the second place scorer, so that's impressive.

  • In the Tier II BCJHL, the Penticton Vees have won 37 consecutive games. That is not a typo. With 6 games remaining, they possess a record of 49-3-2, have scored 300 goals and surrendered only 116. The Vees are 26-0-1 at home and 23-3-1 on the road. They have a 30 point lead on second place in their division and a 21 point lead on second in the league. The Vees have four of the top five scorers in the league and eight of the top eleven. So they got that goin' for them...
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