NHL All Star Week Is Here

Marc Elliott

MILWAUKEE…. Yup, I’m starting my week out in Cheeseland and as a former NFL fan that had a strong allegiance to a club that wears Purple and isn’t too popular over here, let’s just say that I am seeing an awful lot of long faces here this morn. I wonder what happened? At the youthful age of 62 I am still quite capable of being a smart ass punk who can trash talk with the best. Suffice it to say that I have a very wry smile upon my face right now. Nuff’ said, I’ll leave it at that.

WE HAVE THE NHL ALL STAR weekend coming up in Los Angeles and with the 100th  year of the National Hockey League being celebrated it promises to be quite the event. One of the highlights of the weekend I am looking most forward to is the announcement of the final 67 names from the Top 100 players of All Time list. The first 33 players to be named were done so at the Centennial Classic outdoor game played at Toronto earlier this season. Of note is that the players are not ranked in any order of importance, stats or greatness, rather these players were selected because of their impact upon the history of the league and the game. I knew my two all time favorite hockey heroes would be named to the list and I wasn’t disappointed when Maurice “Rocket” Richard and his younger brother (my all time favorite) Henri “Pocket Rocket” Richard were among the names called that weekend in Toronto.

I pretty much missed The Rockets career but was quite taken by his nickname as a young kid, but I did get to see the bulk of Henri’s playing days and many of his record 11 (as a player) Stanley Cup wins. I have autographed photos of both holding the Cup, and they are probably the most important parts of my personal sports collection. I will never forget seeing the Montreal Canadiens play the Minnesota NorthStars in person for the first time and seeing Henri and his fellow Canadien greats at the Met Sports Center. At the time that arena was probably the best in the country for watching NHL hockey with great sight lines no matter where your seats were at. I look back now and realize how lucky I was to see the Original Six teams play with their stars of that era. I got to see them all, the memories to me are priceless.

Up until last years ASG with it’s format changes to 3 on 3 play, I have to say that the game was getting fairly stale. After the player intro’s, and perhaps the first period of play, the rest of it was getting to be unwatchable. I was never for scrapping the game though, it is an important function of every season. The new rules pumped fresh life into the event and it was exciting all the way through. Kudos to the league for realizing it was time for change and for having the guts to do something bold. I really enjoyed last years ASG weekend and cannot wait for this one. The NHL is the greatest league in the greatest sport on earth. Simple as that…

THE MINNESOTA WILD AT THIS moment are still in 1st place overall in the Western Conference after an exciting come from behind win over the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday‘s Hockey Day in Minnesota, but kind of a deflating loss to the Nashville Predators on Sunday eve. The Wild were down 3-1 to the Ducks before a furious 3rd period rally got them a 5-3 win and were up 2-0 over the Pred’s before succumbing to them via a 4-2 final tally. The club will send netminder Devan Dubnyk and ‘D’ man Ryan Suter to the festivities out in Los Angeles. As of right now the team is 3rd in the Sagarin NHL Rank on a 30-16 overall record. They fall in behind Washington and Columbus who are 1 and 2 respectively. Pittsburgh and the NY Rangers fill out the top 5.

The team is exhibiting strength in Goals For (4th/151), Goals Against (2nd/104), Power Play (12th/20.9%), Penalty Kill (5th/84.1%) and Penalties in Minutes at 6th least with 393. The team is also 3rd in the league in goal differential at +46. I believe it is safe to say that even if the team only played .500 hockey for the rest of the campaign that they would probably still get into the Cup tournament. But I don’t see a letdown coming from this group. On the other side of that coin there are only two teams in the West (AZ & COL) that are out of the playoff race already. There is also only 4 points of separation between 6 clubs for a Wild Card spot. The 2nd half of this season is about to get real interesting and I wish the Wild continued success. The first half has been a heck of a ride…

I SAW A HEADLINE OVER the weekend that asked the question if former Wild player and current San Jose Sharks ‘D’ Man Brent Burns was the best player in the game
as of right now. Well, it’s hard to state that he isn’t, on the other hand, what is the criteria? I mean, that’s a huge question isn’t it? Is he the best offensive defenseman in the game right now? Yes. Is he the best defensive defenseman in the game right now? No. Is he the best 2 way player in the game right now? Probably not. Would you want him on your team if the right deal came along? Of course you would. But in my book having a player like him on your roster is a challenge. He will get your team offensive points with a strong likelihood that he will cost you some points as well. His offensive game comes with some liabilities.

He is a player that leads his team in goals and assists right now with 47 points from 19 goals and 28 assists. For that level of point production he is a mere +15 in plus/minus. The Wilds Ryan Suter by comparison leads the league in plus minus at a whopping +28. “Suts” comes in with 30 points on 7 goals and 23 assists. Burns is frequently mentioned to be the leading contender for the Norris Trophy as the leagues best defenseman. The funny thing is that all of the most recent winners were the leagues leading offensive defensemen, not the best defensive defensemen. So that award is a bit confusing during this era of high end ‘D’ men with optimal offensive skill. So, what do you think? My answer is no! But Burnsie’s skills will be on full display at the ASG! Take a look! PEACE