Saturday, December 3, 2011

Is Jimmy Howard the New Chris Osgood?

If one takes a quick glance at the NHL standings this evening, they will find the Detroit Red Wings boasting an impressive 16-8-1 record 25 games into the season. This is good enough for 4nd place in the Western Conference. Chicago and Detroit are neck and neck so far, but a huge difference between the two clubs thus far has been goaltending. Red Wings' starter Jimmy Howard has been phenomenal to start this season and warrants much of the credit for Detroit continuing the twenty year tradition of contender teams.

So why isn't Jimmy Howard receiving any credit for his play?

Last week, Puck Daddy posted an article asking "Who are the top 5 goalies in the NHL?" Usually, I read Greg Wyshinski's articles with a great deal of admiration, perhaps to the point of being star struck. Today, I was floored to discover his list, although very fair with his assessment of each goaltender on his list, completely bypassed Jimmy Howard.

As I collected my jaw I pondered the reasoning. Why would Jimmy Howard not crack his list? Admittedly, he does state that Howard is "right there" in terms of being close to the list. However, this just isn't good enough. While others within the Detroit Red Wings blogosphere have already weighed in on how they feel about Wysh snubbing Jimmy Howard, I figured I could take the time to give my two cents on the matter.

Jimmy Howard should definitely be on this list, if only because he is statistically superior to some of the choices.

I can agree that Tim Thomas is the height of the position today. A Conn Smythe Trophy, a Vezina, arguably a Hart Trophy caliber season a year ago, and doing it all in his mid 30s when older goaltenders usually find themselves backing up a younger goalie. Tim Thomas is a phenomenal specimen. He's untouchable on this list. I would be remiss, however, if I didn't point out that as of today Jimmy Howard has more wins, a better goals against average, and is tied with Thomas in shutouts. Just saying. As for Henrik Lundquist, Pekka Rinne, and Jonathan Quick, they are all great goaltenders who have had great regular seasons but are no better, if not worse, in the playoffs than Jimmy Howard.

You can see how Jimmy stacks up against other goaltenders here. What you will soon discover is that Jimmy Howard is definitely a top five goaltender of the year thus far based on his performance. As of today, Howard leads the league in wins, is second in goals against average, is ninth in save percentage, and is tied for second with three shutouts. After last year's relatively disappointing season, it looks like Jimmy Howard has his mojo back.

So why the snub? Where's the recognition? Why no All-Star Game recognition?

Jimmy Howard isn't even on the ballot. He's a write-in candidate, which almost certainly secures the fact that he won't make it there regardless of his on ice success. As of week two of the voting, Howard is behind thirteen other goaltenders in the voting. Given that he is 1st, 2nd, 9th, and 2nd in the big four goaltending statistics, I think it's pretty obvious he isn't getting what he deserves at the polls.

The All-Star Game doesn't (and shouldn't) carry much weight in terms of players' season-long achievement, but it is nice to see players performing well receive the proper accolades. Still, it's stuck in my craw and similar to the Chris Osgood Hockey Hall of Fame debate, I'm not going to let it go until I've had a chance to make my case.

I can accept that Howard probably isn't going to get credit where credit is due to him. Red Wings fans should be used to their goaltenders receiving the snub. Just ask alumni Chris Osgood. Or rather, you can read the endless parade of ill-formed arguments against Ozzy getting the kudos for winning 400 games, two Stanley Cups a decade apart (only one other goaltender has done this) and a playoff record that would surprise you.

Is Jimmy Howard next in line to receive the "Osgood" treatment from NHL-related media?

To be fair, this is a lot of pressure to place on Jimmy Howard. He has performed well (for the most part) in his three seasons as Detroit's starting goaltender, registering 37 wins, 37 wins, and 15 thus far. His playoff record sits at 12-11, which leaves a bit to be desired, but his individual statistics like save percentage are very strong. Similarly to Osgood, one could argue that Howard excels on a team that are perpetual winners in the regular season. Manny Legace, a good goaltender who has suffered the misfortune of playing on some bad teams after Detroit, registered a healthy 38-7 record in 2005-06 only for Detroit to get bounced in six games against the Oilers in the playoffs. This is where the argument gets stronger for all three goaltenders.

It's not necessarily Osgood's fault Detroit went home early in a number of seasons where they should have won it all. Other goaltenders came and went and suffered the same results regardless of regular season success. All credit is due to the Oilers and the Ducks who defeated the Red Wings over the years, to be clear, but there seems to be a double standard employed when it comes to discussing Detroit Red Wings goaltenders.

When Detroit wins in the regular season and goaltenders like Osgood, Legace, and now Howard perform well, it's because the team performs well. When Detroit loses in the playoffs, the first player to be blamed is often the goaltender.

Howard's playoff numbers are strong enough that in today's social media and blogging circles this argument can't be employed without some jaw-dropping or eye-rolling. Osgood, on the other hand, will forever be remembered by the delusional as being "that guy who gave up ugly goals that cost Detroit Stanley Cups". One wonders how the memories of decade-old mistakes somehow override the performances of the painfully recent 2008 and 2009 playoff runs.

Is it the curse of being a Detroit Red Wings starting goaltender that credit shall not be granted? There's plenty of evidence to make one argue this point. I recognize that this article would be cannon fodder for those who would damn Red Wings fans as being "entitled" and "arrogant", but to those I ask for reason and to put aside the personal grudges. I don't believe any Red Wing should be rewarded for being a Red Wing. Heck, if you look at who wins the individual awards year in and year out in the NHL, Red Wings represent a minority of winners, and that number will surely decline when Nick Lidstrom retires, if he ever does. All I ask for is for the hockey blogosphere to pull it's collective head out of the sand and acknowledge a superstar for being a superstar.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Wiz Biz: Detroit Survives Road Trip, Saves Face

With the big four game road trip in the rear-view mirror, the Detroit Red Wings escaped with a 2-2 record, which helped keep the Wings on pace with the rest of the Western Conference. The loss against St. Louis was as close as it gets, but the 5-2 loss against San Jose frustrated everyone. For whatever reason, the Red Wings can't seem to solve the Sharks. Here's hoping for a third opportunity in the playoffs this season. There are good and bad things to focus on from last week's games.

The Good: To put it frankly, Jimmy Howard should not have been left off of the NHL All-Star ballot. His numbers reflect elite goaltending and he has been the reason for a number of Red Wings' victories thus far. His 10-5-1 record sounds good, but he has been great in almost every game he has played, racking up a 1.85 GAA and a .930 save percentage. If he keeps this up and the Red Wings can put together more of these five game winning streaks, Jimmy might get some consideration for more worthwhile accolades at the end of the season. Speaking of accolades, I think it's about time Johan Franzen earned some kudos around the blogosphere for leading the Red Wings in points and putting up a point per game. He's a threat to score in bunches at any time, including April and May. Pavel Datsyuk turned things around from an "awful" string of games as well, scoring twice against Los Angeles and setting up two goals last night against the sinking Ducks.

The Bad: As great as it is for Franzen to step his game up in the regular season...where the hell is Henrik Zetterberg? The other half of Detroit's Euro Twins is struggling offensively this season, scoring just 4 goals and 9 points in Detroit's 19 games. He has been excellent with his two way game, but he is expected to score and he hasn't been doing enough of that. Maybe it's time we called up the "Fake Henrik Zetterberg" to try his hand at scoring:

Zetterberg isn't necessarily entirely to blame for his own struggles, as his time on the power play has been a wasted effort. Detroit's power play clicked against the Sharks and Kings, registering 4 goals in 8 power plays total, but went 0 for 11 against St. Louis and Anaheim. The season's power play percentage is hovering near 17%, which is not promising. Long term success is going to require more scoring on special teams. The penalty kill has been much better, giving up only 2 goals on 13 opponent power plays, but the untimely penalties need to stop.

This week's games features yet another 3-in-4 that has become a staple in the Red Wing's regular season schedule. Wednesday is a home contest against Calgary, Friday is an afternoon battle in Boston, and 30 hours later they return home to face division rival Nashville. The toughest game is going to be against Nashville as it happens about a day after a tough Boston team and it ill require travel to return home. That, and Nashville is currently above Detroit in the standings and will want to keep it that way. At some point, Detroit will have to start Ty Conklin. I think Friday's contest against Boston would be an ideal time to play Conklin as the entire team is going to be fresh and hungry to get a win knowing Saturday is going to be a challenge.

To end on a positive note, check out Brad Stuart's bank shot:

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Wiz Biz: A Tale of Two Seasons

It has been a while since I piped up about the Detroit Red Wings on ice endeavors. Not to take away from the induction of Mark Howe and Mickey Redmond into the Hockey Hall of Fame, but there is much to discuss about the current Red Wings and their current push to reclaim the glory of seasons past. The season so far feels like a roller coaster for its fans and the standings reflect that.

On one hand, we can talk about the Detroit Red Wings team who started the season with five straight wins, including two shutouts, one of which was a 2-0 shut down performance against the Vancouver Canucks. The team that's currently riding a four game winning streak with two more shutout victories and has only given up a total of four goals in those four games. The team that features the dangerous combination of Johan Franzen and Valtteri Filppula who have 9 and 6 points in their last four games, respectively. We could also talk about how Nick Lidstrom looks every bit as good this season as he always has, and that another Norris Trophy is within the realm of possibility. Most impressive of all, we could talk about how Jimmy Howard has a 1.66 GAA, a .934 save percentage, and leads the NHL with 3 shutouts.

Or we could talk about the Detroit Red Wings whose power play is 18th, whose penalty kill is 24th, and whose five game winning streak was ended with a disastrous 7-1 loss to the Washington Capitals. The team that proceeded to lose 6 games in a row before righting the ship. The team that boasts the most complete duo in the NHL but yet both are struggling with offensive production. It pains me to say this but Pavel Datsyuk with 10 points and Henrik Zetterberg with 6 points 15 games into the season is a disappointment. There's plenty of time to turn it around, we'll get to that point, but it's time to be honest: what's going on there?

There appears to be two Red Wings teams battling each other from week to week. One week they look absolutely lethal on the ice, pumping the net full of goals at a fanatical pace and shutting down the NHL's most potent offenses. On other weeks, it looks like they have given up on their goaltender.

The losing streak should be an eye opener for Detroit. Yes, the start to the season was outstanding and the rebound has been just as strong. Yes, there was (is still?) a dark cloud that hovered over the team after losing Ruslan Salei, Brad McCrimmon, and Stephan Liv to the tragic crash of the Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane. Yes, the special teams has been horrific at times. Yes, Johan Franzen is elevating his game to a level we usually see in May. It's confusing to a fan and a blogger like myself.

The question is: where do they go from here?

Currently, they are riding a four game winning streak heading into a four game week. On Tuesday, Detroit faces division rival St. Louis (8-7-1) who are coming off of a 3-0 shutout of their own. The next three games are a West Coast romp with California's teams. Even though the Ducks (6-8-3) are having their own issues, these are three tough games, particularly the one against the Sharks (9-5-1) who have already defeated the Wings in a 4-2 game at Joe Louis Arena. Ty Conklin is likely to get a start at some point this weekend, too, which bodes ill of the fortune to come. Still, if Detroit comes out of this four game road trip 3-1 or better it will be promising given how awful the previous ten games have been at times. Then again, all four teams are beneath the Red Wings in the standings and will be hungry to crawl up the standings.

Getting back to Datsyuk and Zetterberg,

It may be early in the season to be panicking about a slide of six games, but reality is that a terrible first half of the season can dictate the second half of the season in terms of trades, signings, and even day-to-day gameplay. Thankfully it appears as though the ship has been righted.

To end on a high note, congratulations to both Mark Howe and Mickey Redmond for getting into the Hockey Hall of Fame. It's satisfying to see multiple news outlets acknowledging that Mark is getting in for reasons beyond his last name. What I love even more is how candid he was about the current NHL on television:

As for Mickey, all I can say is holy mackerel, look at that shake and bake!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Wiz Biz: Defending Conklin, Red Wings

It's been a little while since I wrote about the Detroit Red Wings' progress, namely because it seemed like weeks were going by without them playing. Obviously the big breaks between games makes content a little thin over here, but I can assure you there are some irons in the fire in the near future for some articles not related to Detroit.

In the meantime, I feel like I have to address Detroit's recent ill fortune. After starting the season with five impressive wins, Detroit has fallen to Washington in a 7-1 laugher and a 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets. A little bit of controversy surrounds both of these games as the starting goaltender was...wait for it...Ty Conklin. Yes, that fellow who played in the first three outdoor games, including Detroit's 6-4 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks. He's had a rough couple of starts but I'm here to say everything is going to be alright for Ty.

At first everyone was impressed with Ty's shutout in the game against Colorado. It was a fine 29 save performance, no doubt. The follow up to Conklin's impressive showing was perhaps the most embarrassing loss I have ever seen Detroit suffer in the regular season since I became a hockey fan when I was about eight years old. Nothing went right. Not to pin it all on Conklin, but there were key moments where big saves needed to be made and it didn't happen. Needless to say it was an ugly game that made Conklin look like a buffoon. The next game for Conklin was a short-notice start against the Blue Jackets on Tuesday. In lieu of Jimmy Howard and his wife bringing a brand new baby and future Detroit Red Wing legend into this world, Conklin was peppered with 31 shots, three of which went in. Not the worst performance but when your team can't muster more than a single goal, it's not good enough.

So two bad starts after one really good one leaves people wondering what the deal is in Detroit. The schedule is not going to get any easier this season and while I give all due credit to the Washington juggernaut, the game with the Blue Jackets should have gone better. I say this knowing that Columbus was very hungry for a win and the return of James Wisniewski was a huge boost to their team. The question some Wings fans may be wondering: is Ty Conklin going to be alright for us backing up Jimmy Howard? Is goaltending depth a concern?

Yes, he is. No, it is not.

To put it very succinctly, Ty Conklin is a good goaltender. He has yet to grab the brass ring and be the number one guy on a team, but I would argue he doesn't need to be as he puts up great numbers as the backup. He was 18-8 in Pittsburgh in '08 and he was 25-11 in Detroit in '09. He's still on a great team today in Detroit, so I think it's fair to say he should be able to perform to those levels should he need to.

Unfortunately, lots of people remember the infamous blunder in Game One of the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006:

Apologies for the poor quality and apologies to any Oilers fans out there who still have a sore spot over that. The fallout from Conklin's Folly did irreparable damage to his time in Edmonton, but like a cat hurled from atop the dining room table, Conklin landed on his feet in Pittsburgh and continuum the momentum in Detroit. As a Red Wing, Conklin went 25-11 in 40 games with a 2.51 GAA and a .909 save percentage. His time in St. Louis was less pleasant, barely putting up a .500 win percentage and posting some really cruddy numbers. After two seasons in St. Louis, Conklin is back and that is where we are today.

Last time Conklin was here, he put up great numbers for a backup goaltender. I can't think of another backup kicking around the league right now who put up a strong showing strictly as the backup. Hopefully in the coming months we see more of this:

And less of the bad stuff we saw last week. As I said about Detroit's PP problems and faceoff struggles, it's no reason to be alarmed this early in the season, and in the end Detroit finds a way to continue to improve itself. Conklin's two bad games aren't cause for alarm. Yet.

Furthermore, I think that Joey MacDonald serving as our number three guy adds a level of security that Detroit lacked last year. I can sleep soundly at night knowing that if our top guy falls, our backup Ty Conklin can come in and do just fine.

Friday, October 14, 2011

The Wiz Biz: Detroit Thus Far

So far, so good.

The Detroit Red Wings have started the 2011-2012 NHL season with a 3-0-0-0 record, posting a 5-3 win over the Ottawa Senators, a 3-0 win over the Colorado Avalanche, and last night's 2-0 shutout over the Vancouver Canucks. Before I plan the parade route, let's be serious. Three wins is a good start to the season, especially since two of them were shutouts, but it does not mean Detroit is going to be an unstoppable juggernaut from start to finish.

It's tough for a die-hard, fanatical fan such as myself to admit this but there is a very noticeable problem with the Red Wings of this season. The power play for the Wings is 0 for 16 on the power play this season. As in 0% effective. Granted, there are five other teams who have yet to tickle the twine on the power play yet this season, but this article isn't about them. It's about being truthful about the Red Wings' start this season.

Another obvious statistic that is disturbing is the failure at the faceoff circle. Currently, Detroit is ranked 25th in the NHL with a 45.9% faceoff success rate. The obvious target for criticism would be young Cory Emmerton, who currently has a goal, an assist, and is a +2 in his three games as the fourth line center. Hard to blame the kid for being a loser at the dot when everywhere else he's performing beyond expectation. Darren Helm hasn't been too hot at the faceoff circle either.

I'd love to go off on a tangent about how it's too early to judge any team by its start. Even the Blue Jackets, the Jets, and the Rangers don't deserve any ire from their fans for not yet getting a win. As for Detroit, at this point in the season, on paper, two shutouts and three wins looks good. Jimmy Howard and Ty Conklin look sharp. Jiri Hudler, last year's major disappointment, leads the team with three points. Jonathan Ericsson is a +4 with zero PIMs and Jakub Kindl is among league leaders in plus/minus with +5.

In the long run, I have no doubt that Detroit will be just fine. The power play will work itself out. Its likely that the faceoff issues will also work themselves out and our success rate will improve with every game Emmerton gets under his belt. However, the Wings' start is by no means a work of art. Don't hand them the Cup yet.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Wiz Biz: NHL Realignment

As it was tweeted a little more than an hour ago on Twitter, via the venerable vizier of vision, @TSNBobMcKenzie, it appears the Detroit Red Wings are coming to the Eastern Conference. Yes, finally, after ludicrous travel schedules year after year, the Wings are awarded a spot in the...Southeast Division? Wait, what?

Yes. According to Bob, Detroit and Winnipeg are swapping spots, which puts Winnipeg in the acceptable Central Division, just out of reach for intense inter-Canadian slugfests within the Northwest Division. So neither team really gets what it wants, and Detroit gets to face the likes of historic NHL franchises as the Tampa Bay Lightning (est. 1992), the Florida Panthers (est. 1993), and the Carolina Hurricanes (est. 1997). When I think of the Detroit Red Wings, I think of boiling hot temperatures, bikini babes, and parties on the beach 'til the break of dawn. Well, at least, that's what Will Smith promised me.

This is a very poorly thought out move by the league. It's moving Winnipeg, a team that obviously cannot last in the division with some of the worst attendance numbers, into a comfortable position where it can play its obvious Canadian rivalries sometimes but still fill the uninspired role of Nashville and Chicago's whipping boy (at least for a few years). Meanwhile, Detroit, arguably one of the most popular teams in the league, gets shoved into the problem-child division in a very transparent attempt to bolster the weak Southern market. There's a lack of foresight into what this will do to for Detroit's own attendance numbers, which have been called into question a number of times. While it is true that on television Detroit looks like it has a problem, 2007-2008 appears to be an anomaly based on the stats ESPN affords us. Aside from that year, they were a consistently strong draw at home and the road. But I'm getting off on a tangent and there's another lengthy debate to be had.

Detroit Red Wings fans in Detroit don't want to watch Florida, Tampa Bay, and Carolina nine times at home. Detroit Red Wings fans want to play the teams they actually have rivalries with: Montreal, Toronto, Pittsburgh (among the newer rivalries, admittedly) and yes, Chicago. On what planet does it make sense for the Wings to play Southern teams? What happened to the solid plan of having them play Columbus and Nashville, newer expansion teams? Didn't that go well? In my brash and boisterous opinion, it went pretty well for everyone. I love Columbus and Nashville's competitive teams. I love watching the Red Wings duke it out with them in March and now into April. Columbus feels like it's getting closer to kicking Detroit's ass every year. Nashville is already there with their hyper-defensive, extremely well coached team. Chicago will always be Detroit's greatest rivalry. They mirror them in many ways, and even though they never really had to face the Wings, they won the Cup in 2010 for the first time since the Fantastic Four debuted. In 1961, for those who are not comic book nerds like myself.

All tomfoolery aside, let me be terse and concise for once. Moving the Detroit Red Wings to the Southeast Division is NOT a good idea. Yes, it benefits the Jets to move to a competitive, strong Central Division. Yes, it even benefits the Southeast Division to gain an incredibly strong competitor who WILL draw on the road. However, it is a complete fumble and mismanagement of the league's potential for business. Detroit going into a division with Montreal, Toronto, and other logical geographical (and historical) rivals would reignite passions that have long since suffered in Hockeytown. It is entirely ludicrous and unacceptable that a league that had fifty years to develop the "Original Six" rivalries would stomp all over their own history by taking the easy way out of a long, thorough discussion of realignment.

I sincerely apologize to the teams of the Southeast Division, their fans, their players, and anyone associated with the NHL teams situation in the South. I love your teams. I hope they stick around for as long as possible; the idea of more cities losing NHL teams to league mismanagement is something that sickens me. I want what's best for the Southeast Division and its teams. Unfortunately, what could be interpreted as a move with good intentions is just plain nonsensical. I don't want to make it sound like Nashville should be the team to "take a bullet" and join your division but in reality, it should be them. I personally think it would even work better. From my rudimentary knowledge of NCAA football, there's already a pretty good Florida-Tennessee rivalry going on. Can that translate to the ice as well?

Please NHL, do not do this. Do not make such a blunder. This is a Battle-of-Waterloo like mistake waiting to happen. Don't waste an opportunity to reignite some of the most priceless rivalries.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Math Wiz: NHL Attendance, What it Means

Recently, The Hockey News writer/tv personality Adam "The Proteautype" Proteau weighed in on the importance of image for an NHL franchise. He brought up a great point about road attendance and how the Detroit Red Wings maintain an image of skill, speed, and a goon-less game that most fans seem to appreciate when the Wings come to town. The article had me thinking: what is more important to a team, selling out their arena at home or providing the road audience with a product worthy of paying money to see live? It's obvious the two things are connected since everyone is either the home team or the road team, international games notwithstanding. We'll get to that after the important question is answered.


It goes without saying that home attendance is vital to the survival of an NHL franchise. If you don't have the fans in your own city to sell out a building or to draw enough revenue to keep you out of the "red", then there may need to be more aggressive strategies pursued to fix the problem. With that said, twelve teams averaged 100% + attendance records at home during the 2010-2011 season, with four teams at 99% or better and three more with 94% or better. Your Terrific Twelve:

Chicago: 108.7%
Toronto: 102.9%
Philadelphia: 101.1%
Pittsburgh: 100.9%
San Jose: 100.4%
Vancouver: 100.3%
Boston, Calgary, Edmonton, Montreal, St. Louis, Washingon: 100%

No Detroit? Most would be surprised at this fact, but the truth is the economic turmoil of the past few years has hurt the team's home attendance. As the Puckfather Greg Wyshinski pointed out two years ago, if the best team can't sell out their conference championship games, it spells trouble for other teams. Fast forward to a couple years later, where the attendance at Joe Louis Arena is still 98.1%. We're not perfect anymore. Sound the alarms!

Getting back to the main point, none of the bottom ten teams are overly surprising given their age, location, or on ice (lack of) success. I'll spare the bottom teams the indignity of being identified, but you can find all the attendance numbers I used here on ESPN's website. Safe to say the bottom teams are either a product of relocation or are rumored in some part to be in serious trouble or are in need of relocation themselves.

Perhaps using percentages is unfair to teams that still draw huge crowds like Tampa Bay, where 17,268 is their average attendance, good for 18th place, but their percentage of 87.4% find them 21st. Not a huge leap backwards but by comparison, Edmonton sports a 100% attendance at 16,839, leaving them in 19th place in the league by the numbers. Confused yet?

To keep it simple, some teams have huge arenas they can't fill every night while other teams have smaller-by-comparison arenas that sell out every game. Edmonton is one of those "small market" teams that will never worry about not selling out their games, unless somehow the team is mismanaged into oblivion. Even then, I suspect that's happened before...

Adversely, the new Winnipeg team is destined to skyrocket from 28th place in attendance with a paltry 13,469 average attendance and a dismal 72.6% to at least 86% with their 13,000 season tickets sold. I think we can all bank on that building being packed to the roof every game this season, but without getting too presumptuous the Atlanta/Winnipeg situation is about to take a dramatic turn for the best with the relocation.

To conclude, If you can't keep you own barn full of happy fans willing to throw their money at your face in exchange for gear, hot dogs, beer, and other paraphernalia, then your team might need to introduce some more aggressive marketing. Or, like Atlanta, move somewhere else. Sorry Atlanta fans. You deserved better.


Now that I've convinced you all (and myself) that home attendance is important I'm going to argue that road attendance is equally, if not more, important. A team needs to be able to draw sellout crowds at home, but they need not rely solely on their own on-ice product to do so. The team that comes to town to play has a small but crucial role in bringing in fans. Typically, a team will still have tickets available for the fans travelling to watch their team play on the road. Perhaps there is a small contingent of Red Wings fans in Chicago or Toronto already; it may not be likely but a more reasonable suggestion would be that Red Wings fans make the three or four hour drive across the border. The central issue when it comes to road teams is this: how good is your team and is it worth a fans' money to watch you play?

For road attendance, the news is pretty good all around the league. There are no teams who sell out every road game, but the lowest capacity percentage are the Nashville Predators at 87.6%. The Detroit Red Wings are the NHL's most popular road team, bringing in 99.9% capacity rates on average in the league. Unfortunately, as great as the numbers are for the league for road attendance, it must be pointed out that the numbers are deceiving for a few reasons. First, unlike the home attendance numbers, the road numbers don't work with a consistent number of seats. Montreal's Bell Centre will always have a capacity of 21,273. Road calculations include an "average" capacity and an "average" attendance that varies based on the size of the arena. If Detroit plays a historic rival like Chicago in Chicago's massive United Center and helps to sell it out twice times, but plays Edmonton at Rexall Place twice and sells that out as well, then the numbers become skewed:

Game @ Chicago: 21,423
Game @ Chicago: 21, 423
Game @ Edmonton: 16,839
Game @ Edmonton: 16,839

Average attendance: 19,131

Detroit gets a boost from playing a rival with a huge arena, so much that the average attendance of the games is almost 3,000 more than the capacity of Edmonton's arena! This is sort of an extreme example because as of the 2010-11 season these two teams were the highest and lowest maximum capacity arenas, but the point should still be clear. Some teams can benefit from having division rivals with huge arenas and others will reap the rewards of an arena that will be packed regardless of who is in town.

It does, to an extent, come down to the entertainment value of the on ice product. There is a reason Detroit is the top road team in terms of attendance in the league. They are a fast, dynamic, and highly skilled team whose roster boasts a lot of future Hall of Famers, some of which have been doing their victory laps the past few seasons. Who wouldn't want to get a last look at a guy like Yzerman, Lidstrom, Modano, or others? I don't believe this is as important a factor as the quality of the team but my point is that if you can make your on ice product attractive, you will draw wherever you go.

The bottom five teams in road attendance reiterate the very points Adam Proteau made in his article from last week. Teams without an identity or a lack of explosive star power are stuck making the "hard sell" to get fans to buy tickets. Atlanta/Winnipeg, Minnesota, St. Louis, and Nashville all have mixed or unclear identities. Minnesota and Nashville have been consistently defense-first teams since their inception, which makes for a less exciting product but has helped both teams achieve some success on the ice. Atlanta/Winnipeg is slowly shaping an identity associated with young, skilled players but the big move north could change all of that. St. Louis is a surprise on this list but it's been a long time since the Hall and Oates era, and Al MacInnis isn't coming back to shoot the puck 100 miles an hour anytime soon. I shouldn't have to point out the obvious here but these teams all have one thing in common: they have never won a Stanley Cup and with the exception of Minnesota's agonizing cup run in 2003, none of them have significant playoff success to talk about since the lockout.

To conclude, the road numbers are a little deceiving to the naked eye. Unlike the home numbers, the road numbers are an average based on the average attendance divided by the average capacity. It's good to see that a huge chunk of the league can draw fans in any city. I can't help but look back at the home numbers and wonder if they aren't more reflective of a team's product since they are solid figures that don't lose analytically value because they represent an average based on where they play. Every team could stand to benefit from playing in Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Montreal three times a year, where games will surely be sold out. Meanwhile, the Southeast division struggles mightily with attendance, arguably due to poor on-ice products.


There is another can of worms in the attendance question that I feel ill-prepared to ask and answer: what about pre-season and neutral location games? Do teams benefit from hosting an All-Star game? Information for the international games can be found here. Sadly there are no attendance numbers, but typically European rinks are smaller in terms of attendance capacity. As for neutral location pre-season games, They would not indicate much other than local interest in NHL exhibition games. I have my tickets already purchased for a preseason game between Montreal and Boston in Halifax. Should be a good time seeing the champs play their heated rivals.

In conclusion to the bigger questions this article aimed to address, it would appear that home attendance is more relevant statistic. I cannot be certain that the road numbers are entirely reflective of how well a team draws on the road, but it's interesting to see that on average, most teams play to a nearly full road barn. On-ice success and team identity contribute to bringing in fans in a road city, that much is sure. After all, it's simple logic; do you want to watch a recent Stanley Cup winning team, a historic franchise, a team stacked with skill, or teams who are almost always on the bubble of relocation and abysmal finishes? There is something to be said about watching the home team lay a beatdown on a weaker team, but you can only enjoy that so many times before you elect to stay home and watch Jersey Shore instead.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Wiz Biz: Retiring an NHL Number

How does a franchise decide what numbers to retire? What is the criteria? How much of an impact does it have on players currently playing?

These are all interesting questions that come up when hockey enthusiasts talk about the importance of a number. Some numbers are now immortalized by outstanding careers of certain players. For example, no one can ever wear #99 again. Not even you, Wilf Paiement. Below is a collection of fun facts related to retiring NHL numbers. Enjoy!

  • Currently, the Anaheim Ducks, the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Florida Panthers, the Nashville Predators, the San Jose Sharks, and the Tampa Bay Lightning are the only teams without retired numbers. It seems inevitable that Anaheim will hang forward Teemu Selanne's #8 in the rafters and I suspect Tampa will consider retiring Dave Andreychuk's #25 now that he is VP in charge of fans. In due time, the remaining teams on this list will find their immortal player to raise to the rafters. Perhaps in due time Rick Nash in Columbus or Patrick Marleau in San Jose. Only time will tell.

  • As rare as it is to have your number retired, only six players have their number retired on more than one team as a direct result of their service. The Silver Six:
  • Bobby Hull: retired with the Chicago Blackhawks and the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes
  • Gordie Howe: retired with the Detroit Red Wings and the Hartford Whales (now defunct)
  • Wayne Gretzky: retired with the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings (league wide)
  • Raymond Bourque: retired with the Boston Bruins and Colorado Avalanche
  • Mark Messier: retired with the Edmonton Oilers and the New York Rangers
  • Patrick Roy: Retired with the Montreal Canadiens and the Colorado Avalanche

  • The first number retired among NHL teams was Irvine Wallace "Ace" Bailey of the Toronto Maple Leafs. On December 12th, 1933, Ace was hit from behind by Eddie Shore and his career ended in an instant. An "all star" game was held on his behalf in 1934, where Shore and Bailey shook hands. The #6 remains in the rafters at the Air Canada Centre today.

  • Aside from Gretzky's #99, the #77 of Raymond Bourque is the next highest number, followed by #66 Mario Lemieux, and #35 of Tony Esposito and Mike Richter. The number most frequently retired number is #9, which has nine players on eleven teams including defunct teams:
  • Maurice Richard, Montreal Canadiens.
  • Gordie Howe, Detroit Red Wings and Hartford Whalers.
  • Johnny Bucyk, Boston Bruins.
  • Bobby Hull, Chicago Blackhawks and Winnipeg Jets.
  • Lanny MacDonald, Calgary Flames.
  • Clark Gilles, New York Islanders.
  • Glenn Anderson, Edmonton Oilers.
  • Adam Graves, New York Rangers.
  • Andy Bathgate, New York Rangers.

Now that I have polluted your mind with an excess of facts about retired number, it's time to discuss the questions posed at the beginning of the article. If you take a glance at all of the names that are listed here and on the "List of NHL Retired Numbers" page, at least 90% of the names belong to players you know about. The scorers, the legendary goaltenders, the multi-time Stanley Cup Champions, and the legends of a time no one can remember. Some names that appear on that list are unrecognizable to even the most hardened hockey buffs. Who is Barry Ashbee? Bob Gassoff? Michel Brière? The latter two had their careers cut tragically short from accidents, while Ashbee was struck by in the eye and later died of leukemia.

The criteria for retiring a number is entirely dependent on context. Players who have been mediocre scorers or had only menial impact on the ice, all due respect to them, have had their numbers retired. Statistics do not matter as much as you would think they should. The retiring of a number is about more than the game itself. Men who have been deemed the "heart and soul" of a team, those who have died tragically or had their careers cut abruptly short, and those who served their team loyally have earned their place in the rafters of the home team arena.

The perfect example to demonstrate my point is New York Islanders forward Bob Nystrom. Dubbed "Mr. Islander" and beloved by Long Island fans, Nystrom's career statistics are not by any means mind boggling: in 900 regular season games, Nystrom scored 235 goals, 278 assists, 513 points and 1248 penalty minutes. In 157 playoff games, Nystrom had 83 points and 236 penalty minutes. His statistics are somewhat comparable to Tomas Holmstrom with the except of Nystrom's seemingly fearless attitude towards taking penalties. But he will always be remembered for the goal.

Skip to about 1:30 to get to the good stuff. Tonelli to Nystrom, back of the net. The beginning of a dynasty. Nystrom would remain a central piece of the Islander dynasty that would go on to dominate the NHL for four years before the Oilers finally toppled their empire in 1983-1984. Nystrom's play would peter off after the successful run of the Islanders until he retired in 1986. Nystrom was a power forward who was not afraid to get physical, but more important to his legacy are the four playoff overtime winners and his dedication to the Long Island community. After retiring he remained with the team in a number of positions, including Director of Special Projects, Director of Community Relations, Director of Amateur Hockey Development & Alumni Relations, and finally Director of Corporate Relations. His jersey was retired in 1995.

Nystrom wasn't the power scorer like Mike Bossy, but one could argue no one was or will be. He also wasn't the two way dynamo that was Bryan Trottier. He may not even have been as strong a power forward as Clark Gilles. Yet all four men have their numbers retired by the Islanders, rightfully so, and Nystrom will not be forgotten by Islanders faithful for being the man who put the puck in the net for their first championship. It's players like Nystrom who belong in the rafters alongside the Potvins and the Bossys. The easy choices are always the trophy winners, the all-time scorers, or the legendary defensemen. The best choices are the players who represent the heart of a team and the soul of the community.

The Wiz Biz: Predictions in August?

Sitting at my dining room table, I contemplate the next season and what teams will be successful and what teams will be golfing by April. I ask myself "why am I doing this in August?" and I remember I'm a hockey blogger. I should probably write these things more often. Today I am going to pick five teams who I think will go from outside the playoffs to legitimate threats to grab a 5 through 8 seed.

1. The Dallas Stars: The Stars were their own worst enemies last season, missing the playoffs by just two points and allowing the defending champions a change to repeat. Chicago didn't exactly have a great finish to the season either, or even a good beginning or middle, but Dallas somehow managed to blow their chance to get back into the playoffs. Cut to the offseason where Dallas lost forward Brad Richards to "greener" pastures in New York. Jamie Langenbrunner skipped town as well. Fortunately, Dallas made a couple of key moves in free agent signings, grabbing Michael Ryder, Radek Dvorak, Vernon Fiddler, and Sheldon Souray. While none of these signings are mind boggling, they help to fill out a lineup already desperate for some depth. Souray finally leaves Edmonton where he was vastly overpaid to ride the pine and Dallas picks up a competent defenseman if only for the power play. The key to Dallas' success, methinks, hinges on Loui Eriksson having another solid 70 point season and goaltender Kari Lehtonen putting up some outstanding performances between the pipes like he did last season. They just missed the playoffs last season; this year I think they finally get in after three seasons of being MIA in April.

2. The Calgary Flames: If I give credit to Dallas for just missing the playoffs by 2 points, I have to give credit to Calgary for missing by just one more point. They sort of blew their chances in March with a 2-5-2 skid that included two back-to-back 4-3 losses at home. Ouch. The question for Calgary's success is simple: is Jarome Iginla still here? Check. Is Miikka Kiprusoff still here? Check. Did the supporting cast get better for their two stars? Well, it didn't get worse. Resigning Brendan Morrison and Alex Tanguay were excellent moves, but I can't help but wonder about their backup goaltending situation. All due respect to the resigned Henrik Karlsson, I think Calgary needs to sign someone who can shoulder a bigger load to prevent Kipper from playing another 70 game season. Kiprusoff is a workhorse and has played 70 games for the last six seasons. That's a lot of time in the crease. Since the lockout and Calgary's fabled run in 2003-2004, Kipper and the Flames have played just 26 playoff games, winning a grand total of nine of them. I don't want to say it's fatigue, but by the numbers, Kipper plays worse. I think bringing in someone like Marty Turco, another aged veteran who can shoulder a decent load, Calgary could keep the pressure off of their star goalie in the back half of the season but not sacrifice credibility in the crease. Turco needs a job, Calgary needs a strong veteran backup to keep them from skidding late in the season. It's a match made in heaven and it should propel them at least into 8th.

3. The Carolina Hurricanes: The Cardiac 'Canes were exciting last year, as usual, and just missed the playoffs by two points. Carolina really suffered most in the first half of the season and had a ho-hum February. The difference between them getting in and staying at home was an 0-4-1 skid in March that included three one goal losses. to Atlanta in OT and a 3-2 chess match with Columbus. Still, there's plenty to be excited about for next season. Cam Ward, Jeff Skinner, and Eric Staal are still there, which means more speed and heart attack inducing play. They gleaned Brian Boucher, Tomas Kaberle, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Anthony Stewart from various teams, but lost the underachieving Erik Cole. Overall I like their forwards and the dynamic nature of their lineup. Lots of youth and lots of speed. I don't think they will lose as many one goal games anymore, and they can rely on Boucher in nets a little more than their last backup.

4. The Toronto Maple Leafs: Despite my own personal grudge towards the Leafs, I can't deny that the team is improving. Were it not for a horrible start to the season (13-19-4 before 2011) they would have finished less than eight points out of a playoff position. Still, the Leafs problem last season was primarily that of a team lacking defensive prowess and goaltending. Luckily for them James Reimer came out of nowhere and put forth a 20-10-5 effort that included 3 shutouts and a .921 save percentage. Not bad for a rookie. The offseason was a busy one for the Leafs, acquiring John-Michael Liles from Colorado, dumping Brett Ledba for Cody Fransen and Mathew Lombardi, and signing porcelain scorer Tim Connolly. These were all good improvements for the team but the problem next season will be to keep the goals against down....way down. Only four regulars in the lineup who played more than 50 games were above a +/- if zero. Phil Kessel can't score 64 points and be a -20 on the year anymore. If this team is to make the push up the standings, which I believe they can, they need someone to play with Kessel and they need their defense to work hard.

5. The Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers are going to be the sexy pick everyone takes to make the playoffs this season. As grim as 2010-11 was for the team, there is more hope in the city of Edmonton than there has been in...oh, say 23 years ago to the day. While nobody on the team is anywhere close to Wayne Gretzky in any sense, the lineup is stacked with young, talented players who are about to explode out of the gate. Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi, Ryan Whitney, Linus Omark, and now Ryan Nugent-Hopkins are all going to be stars very soon. The Achilles heel of this team right now is the situation in nets. There was a point last year where it seemed as though former Stanley Cup Champion Nikolai Khabibulin was just there for the paycheck and nothing more. Devan Dubnyk will challenge the Bulin Wall for his job and hopefully will force Khabibulin to play at a level that isn't embarrassing. The return of Ryan Smyth will mean less pressure on the kids to be leaders, which should set up a season similar to Carolina's 2010-2011 season. Exciting but just a bit short.

That's all for now, folks. Enjoy the offseason.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Wiz Biz: Hockey Books

If you're a true puckhead, you probably have a few magazines, books, novels, or newspapers hanging around the house related to hockey. Be it the annual fantasy predictions, anecdotal histories, trivia books, yearbooks, or biographies, there is a respectable market for reading material related to the sport. Every now and then you may stumble upon on something that catches your eye at a book store or a yard sale. You can't help but wonder what the author has to say and you ring it up at the register. I've been guilty of seeking out these little treasures in used book stores or flea markets every now and then. Without a doubt, whether you're a casual fan or a hardcore blogger/analyst, there's reading material out there for you that describes some aspect of the hockey world.

If there's one thing that I've learned in my limited time as a hockey blogger, a historian, and a writer, it's that people love anecdotal history. For those unfamiliar with the term, an anecdote is a whimsical or amusing story about someone or something that is, to borrow the Hollywood byline, "based on a true story." Something short, to the point, and funny is bound to catch the eyes of the general public, and rightfully so. Any time people can hear a story about a celebrity or a professional athlete, the closer they feel to the sport and the more human their idols become. It's part of the reason why Twitter has been outstanding for reminding us that our heroes are just like us.

Getting back to hockey books, I find the best ones are often bits of anecdotal history. Obviously Ken Dryden's "The Game" remains an absolute must read for hockey fans. It is untouchable in its legacy and its incredibly intelligent language. For now, we'll put Dryden back on the shelf and talk about something more digestible to a more casual crowd.

Several months ago, I was meandering through a used book store looking for one of those thick hardcover books that give a year-by-year breakdown of the NHL. I used to borrow these large volumes from the elementary school library and at 10 had almost memorized every Cup winning team since the NHL's inception in 1917. In my quest to find one of these hockey bibles, even to find a whisper of the publishing company, I stumbled across an unusual paperback book titled "Brian McFarlane's Original Six: The Red Wings." Attracted by the beautiful winged wheel that graced the cover, I picked it up to inspect. My background as a Master of Arts in History was definitely tickled at the idea of a book about the history of my favorite sports team so I spent the generous price of six dollars to bring the book home. Little did I know that what I would find inside would reignite my passion for writing and my thirst for history.

McFarlane collected a series of one or two page anecdotes about the Red Wings, beginning with their creation in the 1930s, the glory of the first twenty years of the team, and even the dreadful 42 year drought where Hockeytown's finest were laughed at by the rest of the league and dubbed the "Dead Things" or the "Dread Wings" for their pitiful performance on ice. I suffered silently through the punishment of forty years of defeat to the Yzerman and Bowman years. Once again I was reminded of the safety center Steve Yzerman and coach Scotty Bowman brought to the team. Finally, Detroit was not only respectable but dangerous among the league's constantly increasing ranks. The glory of 1997 came in the final chapter.

Unfortunately, it was not without more pain. I was reminded, as I was recently by a YouTube clip of his rehabilitation, of the tragic story of Vladimir Konstantinov. As most Detroit Red Wings fans know, on June 13th 1997 Konstantinov, Slava Fetisov, and team masseuse Sergei Mnatsakanov were involved in a brutal traffic collision that left Vladimir seriously injured and Sergei in a coma. Konstantinov's career was over in an instant, with an entire fan nation grieving. McFarlane has a couple of heartwarming stories about Vlad in his book. Here is The brief follow up clip of Konstantinov:

To my delight I discovered the Red Wings were just one of six books included in this series by McFarlane. I have yet to find the other five in the used book store so my search may have to begin on Amazon's website. Still, if you have any interest at all in some of the rich history of the Original Six teams, McFarlane's work is excellent. I wish I could share more about the contents of the book itself but there are a plethora of stories that are best left undiscovered until you get to read them yourself. And don't worry, there's plenty of amazing stories about Mr. Hockey, Gordie Howe.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Wiz Biz: Summer Edition!

Hello all, it's good to be back writing about the NHL again. The recent stir of Chris Osgood's retirement has me burning with the desire to write about hockey before the season begins. I've received some praise from friends and family over my recent mention on the Puck Daddy Blog (Thanks again, Greg, even if my argument is zany!) and I think it's time I jump back into the blogging business, at least on a weekly basis. For now, a few quips and quotes from around the NHL that interested me:

  • As reported by Jared Purcell over at MLive, a fantastic place to find all things Michigan related, and according to the distinguished Hockey News website, Pavel Datsyuk is hosting a hockey camp over in Russia. I'll leave the in depth stylings of THN writer Rory Boylen and instead take the time to marvel at the continuous generosity hockey players seem to show. It might not seem as though it takes a lot of effort for a pro to set up a camp and pop in now and then to see the kids in action but to put forth the degree of effort hockey players do for local communities is something that I believe deserves recognition. Not just for the players but the league itself. Everybody wins and everybody feels good about these kinds of stories.
  • I've already written a small piece on the prospect of the Winnipeg Jets return (before they were announced to return) but I have to say the wait to see the new uniforms is killing us all in the hockey community. The new Nashville Predators jerseys over at On The Forecheck look pretty slick. Will they stack up to the Preds' new duds? I still think they should go with their retro jerseys, but I can understand wanting to modernize the new team since they are...after all...the former Atlanta Thrashers. RIP.
  • Finally for today, from Kukla's Korner, some great quotes from Ozzy and Ken Holland regarding the career of the Red Wings' beloved goaltender. My favorite quote, from Ozzy himself:
    "“If I could sum up my career in Detroit, I was a perfect goalie for the team at the perfect time.”

    Couldn't have said it better. Through the tough losses in 1999-2001 to the glory of 1998 and 2008, Ozzy, you were our guy and we're going to miss you. I hope someday that we see #30 in the rafters at the Joe. You've earned it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Making The Case For Chris Osgood in the Hockey Hall of Fame

Hello all. It's been a long time since I wrote anything on this blog due to being busy with other things, but finally I have found a reason to write. I fully concede that as a Detroit Red Wings fan I have a fairly large bias in favor of goaltender Chris Osgood. "Ozzy" as he is affectionately known to Red Wings faithful has given the organization fifteen years of service full of dignity and class. Today, Detroit's most popular goaltender since Terry Sawchuk announced his retirement from professional hockey.

Social media is rapidly discussing the retirement of (arguably) one of the best goaltenders of the last twenty years of the NHL and the result is a mix of extreme opinions. I fully admit to taking to the proverbial turrets and firing away retorts at the likes of hockey blog tycoon Greg Wyshinski to defend Osgood as an eventual Hockey Hall of Famer. The topic of Ozzy for the Hall is probably one of the few subjects I take an absolute stance. Chris Osgood is undeniably a Hall of Fame caliber goaltender who deserves more credit than he has received during his nineteen year professional career (eighteen in the NHL).

Today, I dig in to my trench and begin the defense of Chris Osgood. I prepare my defenses, organize my case, and remind myself why I love this game and why I love the passion of hockey fans. The onus is on me today to prove why I'm right, not why others are wrong.

Ladies and Gentlemen, a simple and digestible argument of why Chris Osgood will be a Hockey Hall of Famer.

The Statistics

This is the easiest argument to be made and thus I begin with pointing out Chris Osgood's statistical prowess. As Wikipedia will verify, Osgood retires with 401 wins, placing him 10th all time among goaltenders. Impressive, considering the volume of goaltenders who have played the game since the Stanley Cup was first awarded in 1893. Nonetheless here is your cheat sheet for understanding Osgood's place among all time statistical leaders:

  • 10th all time in wins (401)
  • T-24th all time in shutouts (50)
  • 24th all time in GAA (minimum 250 games played, 2.492)
  • 8th all time in playoff wins (74)
  • 4th all time in playoff shutouts (15)
  • Led the league in GAA in 2008, including playoffs (Won Stanley Cup)
  • Scored a goal (March 6, 1996 vs. Hartford Whalers) (your quirky stat for the day)
  • Led the league in fewest goals against twice twelve years apart
  • Osgood has the second highest winning percentage. Ever.
I fully acknowledge that the chink in Osgood's armor is that his save percentage is dramatically lower than should be expected for a goaltender with impressive statistics. Without beginning a smear campaign against other goaltenders, Osgood's save percentage is .001 lower than Ed Belfour, who just entered the Hockey Hall of Fame with significantly more losses and significantly less playoff success. Is save percentage the difference between Osgood getting into the Hall of Fame?


Few professional hockey players play more than a decade at the elite level of the NHL; even fewer play more than fifteen seasons with one organization. Chris Osgood did both. Since beginning his career in the NHL in the 1993-1994 season at age 21, Osgood has logged 744 games worth of experience in the regular season and 129 playoff games spread over eighteen NHL seasons.

More impressive than either of those statistics is this: Chris Osgood is one of two goaltenders in NHL history to win two Stanley Cups more than a decade apart. The other is Detroit Red Wings legend Terry Sawchuk. The immediate caveat that Ozzy detractors want to give this nugget of knowledge is that he did so on outstanding Detroit teams that could have won with anyone in net. The problem with this argument is that in 2008 Detroit began their playoff hunt with a certain Dominik Hasek in nets and began the first round with a disappointing 2-2 start. Enter Chris Osgood. Following the replacement Detroit went 14-4, winning the Stanley Cup with Osgood in nets, cashing in on his three shutouts, 1.55 GAA and .930 save percentage. Call upon the prowess of Nicklas Lidstrom if you must, but even Nick Norris can't play nets for Osgood.

The Hardware/Accolades

Perhaps another "easy" argument to be made is that Chris Osgood boasts a more impressive list of accolades than expected. Here they are:

  • 2-time winner of the William Jennings Award for fewest goals against (minimum 25 games) in 1996 (with Mike Vernon) and 2008 (with Dominik Hasek)
  • Named to the NHL All Star Game three times (1996, 1997 (did not play), 2008 (starter)
  • 3-time Stanley Cup Champion (1997, 1998 (starter) and 2008 (starter)
  • Named to the Second NHL All-Star Team for the 1995-1996 season.
A short list but it highlights my previous point about Osgood's longevity: any time he was acknowledged or awarded for his brilliance, it was over a decade apart. Osgood detractors will immediately point to the fact that Chris Osgood never won Vezina Trophy as the NHL's top goaltender for a single season nor did he win the Roger Crozier Saving Grace Award for top save percentage. A fair point. To counter this, didn't Jim Carrey and Olaf Kolzig win the Vezina during their careers? Is a lack of a Vezina truly a scar on Osgood record? To be fair to Osgood, he played during the apex of Dominik Hasek's career,which accounts for six Vezinas; Martin Brodeur accounts for four. One shot anomalies like Jim Carey, Olaf Kolzig, Jose Theodore, and Ryan Miller account for the lion's share of other seasons. Let's face it though: Ozzy was not going to win the Vezina playing backup in four of the last six seasons. By the way, that guy, Patrick Roy...never won the Vezina during Chris Osgood's entire NHL career.

I do believe that the lack of a Vezina is a very fair point against Ozzy. It's also fair to say that if you are to be considered one of the all time greats, you should have that big trophy for your position. Right? Wrong. Here's why.

The Oversight Factor/A Cog in the Machine

This is going to be a controversial, if foolhardy, argument. The knock on Chris Osgood has always been that he was never a difference maker on the ice for Detroit. He never made the big saves, never won the big awards, never dominated at his position. I beg to differ in the context that as a goaltender, he was at worst consistent and at best an incredibly underrated component of the Detroit Red Wings machine of the 1990s and 2000s.

Yes, he has no Vezina. But Scottie Pippen never won the NBA MVP. Nolan Ryan never won the Cy Young Award. Troy Aikman never won the regular season MVP. All four of these players will eventually be Hall of Famers in their respective sports. Nolan notwithstanding, All four of these men represent a kind of player a team needs to be successful, a cog in the machine that allows to to maintain an elite level of competition.

These men never won the top award because their ability was not properly respected in the right context and furthermore is overshadowed by their place in a larger dynasty. Pippen had the Bulls and Michael Jordan. Nolan Ryan was a strikeout champion and was not very good at the plate. Troy Aikman had arguably the best arsenal of offensive weapons in NFL history in Emmitt Smith and Michael Irving. Chris Osgood had Steve Yzerman, Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Chris Osgood performed at a level that the Detroit Red Wings needed. When there was significant pressure for him to perform and lead the team (1998 and 2008) he was there. He didn't come without his shortcomings (Red Wings fans remember 1999, 2000, and 2001) but show me a Hall of Fame goaltender who didn't come up short at least once or twice in their careers. (Ken Dryden's holiness notwithstanding)

Speaking of dramatic oversight, Chris Osgood should have won the Conn Smythe in 2008. All due respect to Henrik Zetterberg.

The Glenn Anderson Comparison

To sum up the venerable Greg Wyshinski's argument about Chris Osgood being "The Glenn Anderson of goaltenders" Puck Daddy himself explains that Anderson and Osgood have incredible postseason success and above average statistics, but benefited from playing on elite teams. We won't begin to discuss how little credit Detroit receives for their continuous success on the ice (still waiting for Ken Holland and Mike Babcock to win some awards) but instead I'd like to take Wyshinski's point and turn it on him. Osgood belonged to elite teams. Osgood was a cog in the machine that made it run. It's hard to say where Ozzy peaked since his highest levels of success are a decade apart, but at what point do we focus on the individual merit behind those two outstanding seasons? Nobody will remember that Martin Brodeur only won two playoff series since 2003. Nobody will remember Patrick Roy shovelling the puck into his own net in Game 6 of the 2002 Conference Finals (I will.):

Nobody SHOULD remember Osgood's follies post-1998. Unfortunately they will, more so than the decline of the careers of other goaltenders who, unlike Osgood, were able to rebound in the most spectacular of fashions. Apologies for the tangent.

To further refute the Anderson comparison, off ice reputation, whether we like it or not, does account for placement in the Hall of Fame. Chris Osgood has always graciously accepted the position the Red Wings organization has afforded him, be it as the starting goaltender or as a backup. When he was waived, it looked as though he would finish his career playing for a team of less elite talent. In those seasons Osgood sucked it up and took his team to the playoffs all three years he was not a Red Wing. When he returned to Detroit he was aware of his status and never griped about the situation. He relished the opportunity to train the up-and-coming goaltenders like Jimmy Howard. He will stay on post-retirement as a goaltending adviser. The press conference today was a reminder that he is above all else a classy guy who put his team first and never caused off ice problems with questionable transgressions. I'll take that player 10 out of 10 times.

Concluding Thoughts

Chris Osgood is a polarizing figure in NHL discussion. In a way, the debate over his Hockey Hall of Fame status is reflective of the passion hockey fans in North America bring to the table. I'm more than proud to include myself in that collective. Furthermore, the questions Osgood's career bring forth are, in a way, a microcosm for the bigger discussion about Hall of Famers in general. Some questions:

  • What constitutes a Hall of Famer?
  • Does hardware matter?
  • Should credit go to "cog" players for being part of dynasties?
  • How do we define "an impact on the game" when discussing "cog" players who are great in their own merit but are overshadowed by the dynasty?
Congratulations to Chris Osgood for an outstanding NHL career. You will be forever beloved at the very least by Detroit Red Wings faithful and someday you will earn the accolades you deserve.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Wiz Playoff Picks:The Western Conference Quarter-Finals 2011

With my Eastern Conference picks locked in, it's time to move to the Western Conference, where things are wild. Very wild. It's going to be a tight showdown for Western supremacy this year. If the first round is any indication, we're in for some really good hockey. Here....we....go.

(1) Vancouver Canucks vs. (8) Chicago Blackhawks
Regular Season Series: Tied 2-2

Why Vancouver Will Win: Boy, do they ever want this win. After getting embarassed two years in a row by the Hawks, Luongo weeping, and the weight of the number one seed crushing them, Vancouver has to win. If they can't knock off the Hawks with all of their firepower, their defense, and their phenomenal goaltending...then there's a problem beyond scientific explanation. The fact is that top to bottom, Vancouver are the superior team.

Why Chicago Will Win: Chicago are no slouches and for the most part, the team that won it all is still there. Mostly. They're definitely missing the secondary scoring they gave up, but Jonathan Toews was enough to will this team into the playoffs. Can he get it done in the playoffs? Last year he did. With an award winning performance, of course.

Who Will Win: As a Detroit Red Wings fan, this series delights me because either way, one of these teams has to go home empty handed. I believe Chicago will push Vancouver beyond their limits and the series will go the distance. However, Vancouver is just too good to lose to Chicago....I think.

(2) San Jose Sharks vs. (7) Los Angeles Kings
Regular Season Series: Tied 3-3

Why San Jose Will Win: San Jose boasts a bevy of brutes at forward who can score and push around other teams. That, and goalie Anti Niemi is looking strong going into the playoffs. I still believe Niemi to be counterfeit but he is a strength of the Sharks and his regular season push at the end can't be denied. This team is just as deep as last year when they cruised to the Conference Finals.

Why Los Angeles Will Win: Much love to the Los Angeles Kings, but they can't win this series without Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams. If you take the top two centers off of any team, they will flounder. As much as I want to praise Jon Quick for being a brick wall in goal, he is going to have to be better than a brick wall to pull this off. Maybe a couple of forwards will step up...I'm looking at you Dustin Penner and Ryan Smyth. I have a good feeling about Wayne Simmonds and Dustin Brown, but the rest of those forwards need to step up.

Who Will Win: Sharks in 5. Again, not to diss how LA played all year, but they won't be able to compete with San Jose. There's too much scoring depth on San Jose and as much as I respect Drew Doughty on defense and Jon Quick in nets for LA...they're screwed without their two best players. Period.

(3) Detroit Red Wings vs. (6) Phoenix Coyotes
Season Series: Series Tied 2-2

Why Detroit Will Win: Enter my homerism. Detroit is in a phase where few pundits give them the respect they have earned over the past 20 years. They take for granted that they are in the hunt every year. This year is no different, with arguably the deepest lineup at forward in the league. Oh, plus a Nick Lidstrom. And Johan Franzen, who just likes to score a LOT in the playoffs. The big mark on Detroit is Jimmy Howard, who had a so-so season after a Calder worthy rookie campaign.

Why Phoenix Will Win: Enter my knowledge of what it takes to beat Detroit. 60 minutes of the most boring trap hockey you will ever see. If Phoenix can completely avoid any special team scenario at all (they were bottom 10 in both PP and PK) and Bryzgalov maintain a .940 save percentage or better, they can do it. They don't have the scoring to keep up with Detroit, but there's something to be said about their incredibly gritty forwards that back up Shane Doan.

Who Will Win: This series will be among the most boring of the first round match-ups because the only way I see Phoenix competing against Detroit is by playing the stingiest trap style possible. Again, no penalties called at all, Detroit being held to less than 30 quality shots, dumping and chasing...this is how you beat Detroit. Will it happen? No. With or without Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit wins in 6.

(4) Anaheim Ducks vs. (5) Nashville Predators
Season Series: Nashville won 3-1

Why Anaheim Will Win: The explosive offense is very intimidating. Corey Perry could just as easily continue his torrid pace and Teemu Selanne is an ageless wonder. The team has some outstanding scoring combinations and that can get you far in the playoffs if just one or two are clicking. Their goaltending could be iffy depending on what Dan Ellis, Ray Emery, and Jonas Hiller show up to play.

Why Nashville Will Win: For the same reasons Phoenix could beat Detroit, Nashville could beat Anaheim by playing a tight defensive effort and getting phenomenal goaltending to overcompensate for their lack of talent. Pekka Rinne will have to stand on his head and someone on Nashville will have to score. I get that their systems are not designed for high scoring affairs but it's not like Ryan Suter and Shea Weber are going to abandon their stalwart defensive efforts to put the puck in the net for you.

Who Will Win: Again, this series will go the distance because Nashville can and will grind Anaheim to death. That said, Anaheim has the edge in scoring and that will be the difference. So let's all sit back and watch Anaheim win in 7 games of overtime trap hockey. Game on!

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Wiz Playoff Picks:The Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals 2011

Here we are, the best time of the year for NHL fans. The playoffs are here! Though it could be argued they began on the weekend with do-or-die game for Carolina and Dallas. But they choked, so let's move on to the big match-ups for the Eastern Conference Quarter Finals!

(1) Washington Capitals vs. (8) New York Rangers
Regular Season Series: New York won 3-1

Why Washington Will Win: Washington boasts a formidable offense. Despite the off year had by Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, Mike Green, Alex Semin, and the majority of the supporting cast, the Capitals still managed to win 48 games and take 1st place in the East. It took a bold surge in the back half of the season, but Washington has three legitimate goalies in Michal Neuvirth, Semyon Varlamov, and Braden Holtby. Does it matter who is in goal? Not in the first round. This team has too much firepower not to overwhelm the Rangers.

Why New York Will Win: A scrappy team that has a spread out offense (and score more than Washington in the regular season) and a remarkable goaltender. Sounds like the formula for every single #8 seed that has stymied playoff predictors since the 2003 Anaheim Ducks. New York has a chance of goalkeeper Henrik Lundqvist can play with the same poise he showed all season. 11 shutouts is intimidating.

Who Will Win: Despite New York having the edge in the regular season, having a more stable goaltending situation, and riding the adrenaline of getting into the post-season on the last game, they don't have the mustard to compete with a Washington team that has a lot to prove. Getting bounced by Montreal last season put the integrity of the team's core in question. Coach Bruce Boudreau must be getting hot under the collar as well. I would be too if I was staring at a first round match-up against a team with a better goalie and a better coach. Still, despite New York's edge in certain categories, Washington gets it done in six games.

(2) Philadelphia Flyers vs. (7) Buffalo Sabres
Regular Season Series: Tied 2-2

Why Philadelphia Will Win: This team dominated for the majority of the season...until they went 7-7-6 in their last 20 games. Despite this slump there's lots to be thankful for in Philly, namely a strong offense spread out over their top six forwards. As long as their top two lines are clicking, and Chris Pronger finds a way to get into form coming back from a wrist injury, Philly is as dangerous as any team in the East.

Why Buffalo Will Win: I can't tag a team for starting a rookie goaltender while praising another, so for now I will suggest the juvenile approach that Philly's Sergei Bobrovsky and Buffalo's Jonas Enroth cancel each other out. The big question mark in the series might be who starts in goal for these teams. If Ryan Miller is in form, Philly and their backup Brian Boucher don't stand a chance. Plain and simple, Miller can steal games. He might even be able to steal a series if Buffalo sniper Thomas Vanek decides to show up.

Who Will Win: I don't like Philly's goaltending match-up at all, but their team has a lot more depth at forward and Chris Pronger has proven himself to be a difference maker when he's in top form. Assuming Miller is good to go, they will squeeze six games out of the series but Philly will move on.

(3) Boston Bruins vs. (6) Montreal Canadiens
Regular Season Series: Montreal won 4-2

Why Boston Will Win: Ah, the blood feud continues. These teams hate each other. Between the 8-6 donnybrook, the Max Pacioretty Incident, the 7-0 skunking by the Bruins, it's very difficult to tell what team is more motivated to win. Boston has a strong corps of forwards in Nathan Horton, Patrice Bergeron, Milan Lucic, and so on. Their defense is solid with the mutant Zdeno Chara. They are lead in goal with the obvious Vezina Trophy candidate Tim Thomas. This team is built to push other teams around and dominate. And they should. But...

Why Montreal Will Win: There's a lot to be said about heart in the playoffs. Montreal was the little team that could last season. On the strength of outstanding goaltending, they made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals. They could repeat this task again if Carey Price plays at the same level he did all season (minus the 7-0 ass whooping Montreal took at the end of the season). They have a bunch of smaller but speedier forwards who undoubtedly proved they could ignore Boston's physical superiority. There's also something to be said about Montreal's depth on defense.

Who Will Win: This series will not only go the distance, but I get the sense that one or more games will be determined in overtime. The seven game slugfest will end with les habitants emerging from the wreckage. My faith in Boston as a team was badly rattled last year when they blew a 3-0 lead to Philadelphia. Tim Thomas hasn't really shown anyone that he's a playoff goaltender and despite Carey Prices 0-8 record in his last 8 playoff games, I trust him over Thomas at the moment. Don't get me wrong, though. This series is going to be the best of the eight quarter finals.

(4) Pittsburgh Penguins vs. (5) Tampa Bay Lightning
Regular Season Series: Tied 2-2

Why Pittsburgh Will Win: The Penguins have been getting it done without two of the world's five best players. No Crosby and no Malkin was no problem for Pittsburgh, who rode Marc-Andre Fleury's phenomenal goaltending into a 4th place finish just barely missing the division title. The playoffs are a different animal but if Fleury can maintain his poise and Crosby can get back in time, the Penguins could be a dark horse to win it all.

Why Tampa Bay Will Win: Never count out Dwayne Roloson. He's a 40 year old goaltender, but he's among the best in the league at performing in clutch playoff games. In addition to Rolly, Tampa boasts a bevy of offense including Steven Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, and of course, Martin St. Louis, who just finished the season with 99 points. Throw in Ryan Malone and you have some good depth at forward.

Who Will Win: I believe this series hinges entirely on a player who may not see a single shift. If Crosby does not return to the Pittsburgh lineup, they will not get out of the first round. All due respect to Coach Bylsma and Fleury, they can't and won't win 2-1 games over Tampa Bay all series long and they will not be able to rely on the shootout or 4 on 4 overtime to save their season. Assuming Crosby is out, Tampa should be able to win in six games with a solid effort from their scorers.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Glory Days: Remembering NHL Legends

This is one of many retrospective looks on former NHL players of the modern age of hockey, which I define as the 1979-1980 to present. The purpose of doing this is to remind people that beyond the Gretzkys, Messiers, Lemieuxs, and Yzermans, there were other players who gave franchises outstanding performances over their careers.

Michael "Mike" Vernon (1982-2002)

The best phrase to describe Mike Vernon, at least in 1989, was "hometown hero." When the Calgary Flames won their only Stanley Cup in 1989, it was Vernon who outdueled future NHL legend and eventual fisticuff partner Patrick Roy to hoist the Stanley Cup. It was sweet revenge for the Flames, who had been defeated by the Montreal Canadiens in 1986 for hockey's most coveted prize. Now, the Flames could boast that their team was the best, thanks in large part to a goaltender born and raised in Calgary, Alberta.

You had to know there would be a video of Vernon vs. Roy in this article. History will dictate that Roy has the edge in terms of lifetime accomplishments as a goaltender, but at different point in their careers, Roy and Vernon had an intriguing back and forth rivalry.

After having a lot of regular season success but never repeating the playoff magic of 1989, Vernon was traded by Calgary to the Detroit Red Wings during the 1994 off-season in exchange for Steve Chiasson. His experience and abilities in goal in the playoffs would come in handy for a Red Wings team slowly building momentum towards their first Stanley up in over forty years. But we'll get to that in a moment.

Despite sharing goaltending duties with Chris Osgood, Vernon thrived in Detroit, registering an impressive 12-6 record in the 1994-95 playoffs. The Red Wings were swept by the New Jersey Devils in the Stanley Cup Finals, which was both devastating and a lesson well learned. The following season, Vernon saw less time in the playoffs, drawing a 2-2 record as the Wings fell to the eventual champions the Colorado Avalanche. This is where the rivalry between the two clubs bubbled to a boil. The 1995-96 season was significant for Detroit because they turn in what could be argued as the most dominant single season a team has ever had. The Vernon/Osgood tandem picked up the Jennings Trophy, giving up the least amount of goals en route to a 62-13-7 record.

Vernon lost the starting job to Osgood in 1997, but regained it going into the playoffs after picking up his 300th win during the infamous Fight Night at the Joe. Vernon would backstop Detroit to their first Stanley Cup since 1955. Going 16-4 with a microscopic 1.76 G.A.A., Vernon won the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.

After an outstanding playoffs, Vernon was traded to the San Jose Sharks during the off-season. Osgood would prove to be a worthy successor to Vernon, backstopping Detroit to a second Stanley Cup. Vernon, on the other hand, led San Jose into the playoffs twice before being traded in 1999-2000 to the Florida Panthers. The Panthers were swept in the first round and promptly sent Vernon back to Calgary where his career began. Vernon played two more seasons with the Flames, posting less than impressive numbers before retiring in 2001-02, when his old team the Red Wings won their third Stanley Cup since 1997.

Despite the decline after his Conn Smythe and Stanley Cup victory, Vernon holds a number of impressive milestones and trophies for his career:

  • Two-time Stanley Cup Champion (1989, 1997)
  • Conn Smythe Trophy (1997)
  • William M. Jennings Trophy (1996, shared with Chris Osgood)
  • Five-time NHL All Star Game competitor
  • Holds most Calgary Flames goaltending records including games played (526), wins (262, tied with Miikka Kiprusoff), minutes played, playoff games played (81), playoff wins (43)
  • 12th all time in wins by a goaltender, regular season
  • 7th all time in playoff wins by a goaltender
  • Number 30 retired by the Calgary Flames on February 6th, 2007.
Despite the accolades, Vernon is not yet in the NHL Hall of Fame. Perhaps a victim of his generation having numerous forwards holding some of the highest scoring statistics by forwards, Vernon has been eligible since 2005 but remains on the outside looking in.

What is your favorite Mike Vernon memory?

Monday, April 4, 2011

Who is the NHL's Best Player Below 21?

They aren't old enough to drink (in the United States) and their playoff beards are typically pitiful, but the NHL has a healthy crop of players below the age of 21. Below is a list of under-21s from each team to consider:

Anaheim Ducks: Cam Fowler, 19
  • Strong rookie season for Anaheim (GP 73-G 9-A 29-P 38)
  • Has a gold medal from 2010 World Junior Hockey Championships (United States)

Atlanta Thrashers: Evander Kane, 19
  • Already has 135 games experience and 68 points under his belt.
  • Has a gold medal from the 2009 World Junior Hockey Championships (Canada)
Boston Bruins: Tyler Seguin, 19
  • Struggled this season (GP 71-G 11-A 11-P 22)
  • Has been compared to Steven Stamkos in terms of development
Carolina Hurricanes: Jeff Skinner, 18
  • Calder-like season (GP 79-G 29-A 29-P 58)
  • One of the youngest All-Stars in professional sports in North America
Colorado Avalanche: Matt Duchene, 20
  • One of Colorado's best players already with 117 points in 157 games
  • Been compared to Yzerman, Sakic; a real franchise player
Edmonton Oilers: Taylor Hall, 19
  • Was the leading Calder candidate until injury (GP 65-G 22-A 20-P 45)
  • Plenty of junior hardware proves pedigree, will be face of Oilers franchise like Gretzky was
New York Islanders: John Tavares, 20
  • Back to back 24 goals or more seasons, plenty of points with 118 points in 158 games played.
  • Has the junior stats and hardware, appears to be the next Trottier/Yzerman of the NHL.
New York Rangers: Derek Stepan, 20
  • Great rookie campaign (GP 79-G 20-A 22-P 42) as well as good college career
  • One of only four players to score a hat trick in the first game of their NHL careers
Ottawa Senators: Erik Karlsson, 20
  • Already has several years of professional hockey under his belt
  • Off to a good start in the NHL with 71 points in 135 games on a rebuilding Ottawa team
Toronto Maple Leafs: Nazem Kadri, 20
  • Limited experience with Leafs thus far, but dynamic on the ice
  • One of very few blue chip prospects in the Leafs system
So whom among these ten prospects has the brightest future? At this point in their careers, John Tavares has proven to be a natural leader on the ice with the Islanders and it won't be long until he dons the "C" for captain. A few other players on this list might wind up wearing a letter in the coming years, but few will have the Yzerman-like impact on their team as Tavares. There's something to be said about Jeff Skinner's dynamic play as well as his status as the youngest player on the list. In interviews he has come across as a very mature person for his age and should fit in well on a young Carolina team that should get into the playoffs next season.

So who do you think is the best player on this list?

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Glory Days: Remembering NHL Legends

This is the first of many retrospective looks on former NHL players of the modern age of hockey, which I define as the 1979-1980 to present. The purpose of doing this is to remind people that beyond the Gretzkys, Messiers, Lemieuxs, and Yzermans, there were other players who gave franchises outstanding performances over their careers.

Sergei Fedorov: Сергей Викторович Фёдоров (1990-2009)

Very few NHLers were as dynamic and exciting to watch during the 1990s than Sergei Fedorov. Born in the Russian town of Pskov just 20 km away from the Estonian border, Fedorov defected from the Soviet Union during the Goodwill Games in Seattle in 1990. After playing with CSKA Moscow, better known as the Red Army Team, Fedorov was drafted by the Detroit Red Wings in the fourth round (74th overall) in the 1989 entry draft. The Goodwill Games gave Fedorov the opening he needed to join the Red Wings to play in North America.

As a result of this change of scenery, Sergei Fedorov joined a Detroit Red Wings organization that exploded onto the NHL scene and starting scoring more goals and winning championships for the first time in four decades. Particularly notable for Fedorov was the 1993-1994 campaign that saw him win the Hart Memorial Trophy (NHL most valuable player), the Frank J. Selke Trophy (best defensive forward), and the Lester B. Pearson Award (now known as the Ted Lindsay Award, NHLPA most valuable player) all in one season. Fedorov was the best player on the ice, scoring 56 goals and 120 points, but also playing extraordinary defensive minded hockey with blistering speed. Fedorov continued to be a phenomenal player during Detroit's first Stanley Cup in over 40 years. Perhaps the biggest stain on his time with the Red Wings was his lengthy holdout for an expensive contract in the 1997-98 season. Despite his holding out, Fedorov proved to be "worth every penny" as the above video describes, as the Red Wings repeated as champions.

In an act that was quite contradictory to the incident of 1998, Fedorov announced in the 1998-99 season that he would dedicate all $2 million of his base salary towards the Sergei Fedorov Foundation, a not-for-profit organization that sought to assist underprivileged children in the Detroit area. The foundation still exists today and continues to provide assistance.

After the Red Wings were swept by Anaheim during the 2003 playoffs, Fedorov did what many Red Wings fans thought unthinkable by signing with the Mighty Ducks after rejecting contracts that would have paid him $10 million dollars per year. While playing in Anaheim he scored his 1,000th point, becoming the first Russian born player to do so.

After a few moderately successful seasons with Anaheim, Fedorov was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets, with whom he played his 1000th NHL game. During the 2007-08 season, he was once again traded to the Washington Capitals where Alexander Ovechkin continued the legacy of dynamic and explosive Russian born players. After a season and second playoffs with Washington, Fedorov returned to Russia play with Metallurg Magnitogorsk of the Kontinental Hockey League.

Whether Fedorov will ever return to the NHL is unknown; his contribution to the league's popularity, on the other hand, is quite certain. Bound for the Hockey Hall of Fame whenever he decides to retire, Fedorov holds an incredible number of accolades:

  • 1994 Hart Trophy
  • 1994 Lester B. Pearson Award (Now called the Ted Lindsay Award)
  • 1994 Frank J. Selke Trophy
  • 1996 Frank J. Selke Trophy
  • 2000 Jackie Robinson Humanitarian Award
  • 2003 Kharlamov Trophy (NHL award for best Russian player)
  • One of only three NHL players to score 20 points in four consecutive playoff seasons
  • Three time Stanley Cup Champion in 1997, 1998, 2002
  • 1998 Olympic Silver Medal with Russia
  • 2002 Olympic Bronze Medal with Russia
  • 1988 World Junior Hockey Championship Silver Medal
  • 1989 World Junior Hockey Championship Gold Medal
  • 1989 World Ice Hockey Championship Gold Medal
  • 1990 World Ice Hockey Championship Gold Medal
  • 2008 World Ice Hockey Championship Gold Medal
  • 2010 World Ice Hockey Championship Silver Medal
  • Most Regular Season Overtime goals (15) (tied with 3 other players)
  • Most Overtime Points (27)
  • 1st Russian to score 1000 points
  • Most Goals by a Russian Born Player
Not least of all of these accomplishments was his five goal night against the Washington Capitals on Boxing Day 1996:

You'll have to excuse the Russian broadcaster and just relish in the outstanding passing and impressive release of Fedorov's goals.

Rather than clutter this look back at Fedorov's career with his statistics I will direct you over to Internet Hockey Database for statistical goodness. It might be most appropriate to end on a note which I believe best signifies how talented Sergei Fedorov truly was and continues to be in the KHL. At multiple points in his career, Fedorov has actually played not only center, but has sometimes played as a winger and even a defenseman. Longtime Red Wings senior vice-president Jim Devellano once said regarding Fedorov as a D-man "I'm convinced if we left him there, he'd have won a Norris Trophy." It's impressive enough that Fedorov dominated the center position throughout the 1990s as an explosive goal scorer; to be commended as a defenseman as well is indicative of just how dominating a player he was in his prime. Despite the sting that was felt when he left Detroit for another team, Sergei Fedorov remains a central figure of the Red Wings team that won three Stanley Cups.