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WORKING THE CORNERS: Gretzky on Nylander, Domi, Seattle, And My Friend Joe Bowen Gets Immortalized

WORKING THE CORNERS: Gretzky on Nylander, Domi, Seattle, And My Friend Joe Bowen Gets Immortalized

I love hearing Wayne Gretzky speak about the Hockey Hall of Fame. You can hear it in his voice as he transitions from GOAT to fanboy. The Great One revels in telling the story of how he has on a couple of occasions put on a ball cap, paid his money and walked around incognito.
Wayne attended the 2018 induction ceremony with a good buddy, former team-mate and fellow HHOF member Paul Coffey.
Asked about advice he would give kids, Wayne told TSN Radio that he never thought about how many hours a day he had to practice. He just loved the game and didn’t look at it as he was practicing, just what he wanted to do.
Gretzky relayed a story about being asked to speak to a group of nine-year-olds before the kids went out to play. Wayne politely declined the pre-game invitation a couple of times by telling the enthusiastic coach that he was the wrong guy for the pep talk.
After finally giving in, Wayne entered the dressing room and said to the team, “it doesn’t matter if you win or lose today, it just matters how many goals “you” get.” He then looked at the coach and added something to the effect, and I told you that you wouldn’t like it. Gretzky added, “you don’t remember losses at nine years old, that’s not what it is about.”

Gretzky remains active in the advice column, asked about the approach by Toronto Maple Leafs forward William Nylander. Wayne defended the in much-speculated involvement by William’s father saying parents have one thought, and that’s to look out for what is best for their children. Gretzky tried to put himself in the skates of the younger Nylander and said, “At the end of the day, do I really not want to be there. They have great players and have a legitimate chance to win the Stanley Cup. Ultimately when I was that age, all I wanted to do was play hockey. If it were me, I would have been there September 15th.”

*note Wayne Gretzky works for the Edmonton Oilers and must walk a fine line when commenting on another NHL teams player. I am sure he has an even stronger opinion on the situation but is smart enough to stay clear of tampering charges.

The Nashville Predators and Tampa Bay Lightning may start the week on top of their respective conferences but the most impressive start to the season belongs to Minnesota. A playoff team six consecutive years, the Wild have eleven wins in the opening seventeen games and points in thirteen. Not bad for a franchise that felt the need to change its general manager after a first-round exit against Winnipeg.

I doubt Bruce Boudreau was feeling great when the club was severely outshot in the opening two games and limited to just a goal in each outing. Since that 0-1-1 start, the Wild won six of the next eight behind an offence that took flight. Perhaps is most impressive of all is the five wins on the recently completed seven-game road trip. It’s that kind of junket that can sink a team. Instead, the Wild finished the journey by beating St.Louis while playing on fumes.
This roster doesn’t look a lot different from the one Chuck Fletcher left behind. The new GM, Paul Fenton added assistant coach Dean Evason, reuniting the coach of the Fenton operated Milwaukee AHL team with Boudreau, with whom Evason worked with in Washington. Of course, having a healthy Zach Parise is a contributing factor. The Veteran, which is saying something on the Wild who are the oldest club in the NHL, appears to be a lock to hit the 350 goal mark. It was only last year Parise was losing the battle with a bad back that kept him out of half the schedule. Now ten goals shy of the mentioned milestone, Parise has played in every game this season and is pushing a thirty goal pace.

Montreal is a top ten offensive team in the National Hockey League. In scoring 3.29 goals per game this season, the Canadiens are knocking on being a full goal higher on a night. Consider the Habs were 29th out of 31 last season.
Max Domi has added some jump, Jeff Petry is underrated, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi changed the script and made the team out of camp. The Max Pacioretty trade is also providing a boost in the form of Tomas Tatar and his seven goals.
Montreal had the lowest shooting percentage in the NHL last season. Now the club is in the top half.
The clubs forecheck caused Vegas fits last week, and the combination of speed and physical play led directly to three goals in that wild game.

It is the physical side that surprises me. Montreal led the entire league in hits a year ago and are in the mix for that title approaching the twenty game mark.
One area of concern continues to be the faceoff dot where the Habs remain well below fifty percent.
Perhaps the most positive aspect of Montreal’s start is it occurred despite below average play by Carey Price and without Shea Weber. If they get those two veterans in the lineup and near the top of their games the Canadiens could extend a nice start into a season-long story.

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Here is a tweet I stumbled on.

I didn’t know this. I love the quote by Glen Sather in the conversation below the post. The Flyers and Oilers were fierce rivals in the 1980’s, twice meeting in the Stanley Cup Final.

The 1985 version was the last final to feature a goalie with the face forming goalie mask. Both Pelle Lindberg and Grant Fuhr wore them. Fuhr had adopted the present day mask-cage combination when the clubs met again in 1987. It was Ron Hextall in-goal for the Flyers after the tragic automobile accident that claimed Lindbergh life just five months after his appearance in the ’85 final.

The city of Seattle is getting closer to officially landing an NHL franchise. The latest process was the naming of Victor De Bonis as Chief Operating Officer. Vancouver sports fans will be familiar with De Bonis who spent almost a quarter century in the Canucks front office, eventually rising to COO. He left in 2016.

The NHL Board of Governors is expected to formally grant the OVG-Seattle group a franchise at the December meeting.
Of note, the De Bonis hiring isn’t the only Canucks connection swirling around the Space Needle. Former Vancouver General Manager Mike Gillis has worked with both De Bonis and Seattle CEO Tod Leiweke. Gillis hasn’t been shy about possessing an interest in the expansion club that is aiming to become the 32nd NHL team as early as 2020.

It’s been a week since the Los Angeles Kings made a coaching change. Now the club is dealing with news Goaltender Jack Campbell has joined Jonathan Quick with a knee ailment.
I wonder if John Stevens would have been replaced had the Campbell injury occurred first? The Kings tandem now features Peter Budaj and second-year professional Cal Peterson.

 

I still think Nylander to the Kings for Jake Muzzin or Alec Martinez makes sense. There would be other pieces, but that foundation would benefit both clubs. The 29-year-old Muzzin has one more year remaining, Martinez, who is 31 has two seasons left on his deal. Both players are 4 million dollar salary cap hits.

Congratulations to all of the Hall of Fame inductees. I am hosting an event later this week that will feature Jayna Hefford as a guest. I am very much looking forward to our conversation after the dust has settled on a hectic induction weekend.
A personal congratulations to Maple Leafs play by play announcer Joe Bowen who received the 2018 Foster Hewitt award. I have long admired Joe’s passion for his craft in the booth. What I equally admire is the mans continuing love to play the game. Joe suits up a couple of times a week in Markham and is one of the longest-tenured players in the Unionville Men’s Hockey Club. We are both goaltenders in the Sunday night loop and bump into each other often at the rink. Joe’s numbers this year are a respectful 2-3-2 with a goal against average of 2.71. Wearing his Notre Dame styled mask, Bowen also has a shutout this season.

Congratulations Joe.

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