Monday, March 27, 2017

Maple Leafs Rookie Production, Almost Unprecedented

Toronto's rookies in 2016/17 are really doing some special things. Individually, Matthews, Marner and Nylander are setting team records seemingly every day now. Collectively, they're doing things rarely seen in NHL history. All three of the Leafs super rookies have at least 57 points. This has happened on one team only three other times in NHL history, all in an era when goal scoring was at least 30% higher than today. 

Three Rookies, One Team 57 Points (Age in Brackets)

Toronto 16/17
A.Matthews (19) 61
M.Marner (19) 57
W.Nylander (20) 57

Quebec 80/81
P.Stastny(24) 77-39-70-109
A.Stastny(21) 80-39-46-85
D.Hunter (20) 80-19-44-63

Edmonton 79/80
W.Gretzky (19) 79-51-86-137
B.MacDonald (26) 80-46-48-94
B.Callighen (26) 59-23-35-58
D.Lumley (25) 80-20-38-58

Hartford 79/80
M.Rogers (25) 80-44-61-105
M.Howe (24) 74-24-56-80
J.Douglas (22) 77-33-24-57

The last two teams on this list were transferred from the WHA and these "rookies" had played multiple previous professional seasons prior to their NHL debuts. The Edmonton quartet had played 10 pro seasons and Hartford's, 12 seasons. Each of these groups average age was 24 years. With WHA participation disqualifying most of these players, only Dave Lumley was considered a rookie by the NHL for the 79/80 season. The Leaf trio can make these semantics moot if they can all get to 60 points, if so they will be only the second team in history with three 60 point rookies (after Quebec).
Toronto's other rookies cannot be forgotten. In addition to Nikita Zaitsev, Zach Hyman, Nikita Soshnikov, there is Connor Brown who has 18 goals and 32 points. The number of teams with four first-year players with at least 17 goals is also a very short one. Again, we have to disregard the Oilers of 79/80 for their lack of actual rookie qualifications.
Four Rookies 17 Goals (Age in Brackets)

Toronto 16/17
A.Matthews (19) 34
W.Nylander (20) 21
C.Brown (23) 18
M.Marner (19) 17

Winnipeg 92/93
T.Selanne (22) 76
E.Davydov (25) 28
A.Zhamnov (22) 25
K.Tkachuk (20) 23

Edmonton 79/80
W.Gretzky (19) 51
B.MacDonald (26) 46
B.Callighen (26) 23
D.Lumley (25) 20
R.Chipperfield (25) 18

Minnesota 76/77
R. Eriksson (22) 25
G.Sharpley (20) 25
S.Jensen (21) 22
A. Pirus (22) 20

Montreal 51/52
B.Geoffrion (20) 30
P.Meger (22) 24
D.Gamble (23) 23
D.Moore (21) 18

As with the other list, Toronto's quartet is the youngest on average. Perhaps the most comparable in production, experience and age is the Montreal group of 65 years ago. Also, the fact that era had only slightly less goals scored per game than today makes them an interesting comparison. If Toronto can produce two Hall of Famers out of their four as Montreal did (Geoffrion and Moore), I'm certain Leaf fans will be ecstatic.



Thursday, March 16, 2017

Charlie Conacher Unpublished 1931/32 Photo

Charlie Conacher in Action
Well, this is pretty cool. Recently I have been helping out a friend go through old hockey photos for his store vintagesportsimages.com . I am assisting in categorizing, curating and identifying literally 1000's of images that predominantly come from the collection of the Boston Globe. He owns the original negatives, and most of them have not ever been published. I think I found a doozy here. Above is a game-play shot of Maple Leaf great Charlie Conacher that I'm fairly sure has not ever been put online. 
Below are the main two iconic images of Conacher, both staged in a photo shoot. The one in Vintage Sports Images collection is cropped from a far larger image, attached at the bottom, that gives more info about it.

The photo is definitely from an actual game, against the Detroit Falcons. The Falcons were known as such for only two seasons, 1930/31 and 1931/32 before being re-branded the Red Wings. Coancher's teammate to the right of the image is wearing number 3. In 30/31 Art Duncan wore that number, the following year it was Alex Levinsky. A quick look at the sihrhockey.org photo database, and I can safely say this #3 is Levinsky, making the photo from the 1931/32 season. 
The Leaf in the foreground appears to be wearing #11 which would make that Conacher's linemate Busher Jackson. As well, the goalie peaking in from the right side definitely looks like Leaf goalie of the time, Lorne Chabot.
Charlie Conacher was in his third NHL season in 1931/32 and his 34 goals would lead the NHL for the second straight year. This was also the first year of Maple Leaf Gardens and Toronto went on to win the Stanley Cup over New York Rangers.
Charlie Conacher original photo, 1931/32


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

1964 Leafs Cup Photo

Here is the first of many awesome photos that adorns my den from my friend's vintage sport photo shop, vintagesportsimages.com . It's a fantastic shot of the 1964 Stanley Cup being handed over to George Armstrong by NHL President Clarence Campbell. What I love about the photo is the fact it's from ice-level, showing the expanse of Maple Leaf Gardens and the crowd within. Below is a photo from the Montreal Gazette the following day taken just after the initial photo was, with the players gathered around the Cup.
In addition to Armstrong (who had 13 points in 14 playoff games) and Campbell, identifying the rest of the players in the shot is fairly easy. Dave Keon (7 goals, 9 points) is in the near distance in between The Cup and Campbell and Carl Brewer (played 12 of 14 games) is behind Armstrong. The legendary King Clancy is seen stepping on the centre redline, he was assistant general manager of the Leafs. In the helmet is Billy Harris with Larry Hillman and Jim Pappin to the right. In civvies is Al Arbour who played just one of the fourteen playoff games that season.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Unidentified Hockey Photo: Bower and Howe

Leafs vs. Red Wings: Bower, Baun, Howe and...
Here's another fine photo from the collection of my friends at vintagesportsimages.com in North Vancouver. I'm helping them out identifying old hockey pics, most of which have not been seen online.
This photo clearly shows Johnny Bower in net and Leaf defender Bobby Baun and Gordie Howe. To narrow down the year, the database at nhluniforms.com is invaluable.
The Leafs added a blue shoulder yoke to their white jersey in 1958 and they then added numbers on sleeves in 1962/63. This photo then has to fall between that '58 and '62. The Detroit #8 player has a few possibilities among guys who shot left-handed during this era. Johnny Wilson wore the number in 1958/59 but the facial features don't match here. Gary Aldcorn wore number 8 in 1960/61 but his hair was a bit more receding; Murray Oliver also wore it the same year, his hair looks a bit different but there does appear to be a matching scar on the left side of his head, more on that in a bit; Forbes Kennedy was # 8 for a time in 61/62 but he was only 5'8", the guy in the photo seems far taller compared to the 5'9" Baun. Let's look at a few photos of these guys:
Johnny Wilson
Gary Aldcorn 
Have a look at the scar on Murray Oliver's temple, right at the hair-line. That's as close to a match as can be to the blown up image below it. This has to be Oliver in the original photo which puts the mystery pic in the 1960/61 season. Oliver played with Detroit the year before as well, but wore number 17 then. He was traded to Boston on January 23, 1961. Another nice vintage hockey photo added to the online world.
Murray Oliver

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Adjusted Career Points/Game

With Sidney Crosby collecting his 1000th point recently, there was lots of chatter about how few games he needed and his career points per game. Many pointed out that his 1.32 points/game over his career is the 5th best all-time behind only Gretzky, Lemieux, Bossy and Orr. This is a rather impressive feat considering the era in which Crosby has played is one of the lowest scoring ever. 
On social media, folks were wondering about how the leaders would look if Adjusted Points was used to even out the different eras. Adjusted Points is calculated at hockey-reference.com and equalizes for Goals/game, roster size and length of league schedule. For example, it calculates Gordie Howe's 49 goals in 1952/53 as an Adjusted Goal total of 65 when compared to all eras. 
Using Adjusted Points, Crosby does indeed get a bump due to the era he plays in, his Points/game climbs to 1.52 while Lemieux drops to 1.68 and Gretzky drops a bit further to 1.62. Crosby certainly is in the discussion with the big boys. The problem with Adjusted Points appears when you go way back to the dawn of the NHL. Below are the Adjusted Career Points/Game leaders across all eras. I went all the way to 1.02 Career Adjusted Pts/GP, so it's a fairly long list.
(Blue are pre-WWII players, Yellow are Modern Players)
Player GP-AdjPts-AdjPts/GP
Lalonde 99 376 3.80
Denneny 328 847 2.58
Morenz 550 1229 2.24
Nighbor 349 761 2.18
Irvin 94 203 2.16
Dye 271 567 2.09
FBoucher 557 1155 2.07 
Primeau 310 612 1.97 
GHay 238 437 1.84 
BiCook 474 872 1.84
Bailey 313 568 1.82
Joliat 655 1183 1.81
NStewart 650 1170 1.80
Conacher 459 792 1.73
Lemieux 915 1540 1.68 
Fredrickson 161 268 1.67
Gretzky  1487 2475 1.66 
CCooper 286 467 1.63
Noble 510 804 1.58
Apps 423 664 1.57
Crosby 756 1146 1.52 
Broadbent 303 461 1.52
HSmith 715 1074 1.50
Cowley 549 807 1.47
Weiland 509 749 1.47
BJackson 633 879 1.39
GBoucher 449 622 1.39
Forsberg 708 977 1.38
Malkin 692 940 1.36
Clancy 592 797 1.35
Orr 657 878 1.34 
Shore 550 721 1.31
RGreen 195 256 1.31
Ovechkin 895 1165 1.30 
DBentley 566 728 1.29 
PThompson 582 753 1.29
TBlake 577 740 1.28
Siebert 592 753 1.27
MRichard 978 1229 1.26
GHowe 1767 2190 1.24
Gottselig 589 731 1.24
Lindros 760 942 1.24
Jagr 1684 2074 1.23
Beliveau 1125 1385 1.23
Lach 664 816 1.23
SHowe 698 849 1.22
Sakic 1378 1679 1.22
Bossy 752  906 1.21
Kane 715 859 1.20 
Stamkos 586 695 1.19
Esposito 1282  1508 1.18
Bure 702 823 1.17
BoHull 1063 1239 1.17
Backstrom 708 829 1.17
Palffy 684 784 1.15 
MBentley 646  734 1.14
Tavares 565 631 1.12
Dionne 1348 1493  1.11
Kovalchuk 816 904 1.11
Geoffrion 883 982 1.11
BrHull 1269 1390 1.10
Lamb 443 486 1.10
Schmidt 776 845 1.09
Yzerman 1514 1650 1.09 
Kariya 989 1078 1.09
Selanne 1451 1565 1.08
Thornton 1425 1533 1.08 
Datsyuk 953 1026 1.08
Clapper 833 890 1.07
Getzlaf 838 898 1.07
Mogilny 990 1054 1.07
Benn 562 603 1.07
Mikita 1394 1478 1.06
Giroux 631 670 1.06
Kennedy 696 728 1.05
Sundin 1346 1410 1.05 
Lindsay 1068 1109 1.04
Bathgate 1069 1113 1.04 
Oates 1337 1396 1.04
Lafontaine  865 902 1.04
Spezza 889 927 1.04
Stastny 977 1001 1.03
Lafleur 1126 1161 1.03
Zetterberg 975 1002 1.03
Toews 693 713 1.03
Turgeon 1294 1315 1.02
Well, there you have it. Edouard 'Newsy' Lalonde is the top Adjusted Point producer of all-time. As you can see, the early era guys are inflated mainly due to the shortness of the NHL seasons back then. The top 14 guys are from the 1930's or earlier, also a few relatively obscure names make the all-time list. Longtime Montreal Maroon Hooley Smith, Hamilton Tiger/New York American Red Green and Blackhawk Johnny Gottselig show high on this list. A few modern surprises like Ziggy Palffy and Jason Spezza also sneak onto the list. Can all these guys really be considered among the greatest producers of all-time?
Perhaps it would be beneficial to look at simply the raw totals of Adjusted Points, forgetting about games played:
Gretzky
Howe
Jagr
Yzerman
Sakic
Selanne
Thornton
Lemieux
Esposito
Dionne
Mikita 
This list is sounding a bit more like the top scorers ever. 
Another way to approach the Adjusted Points/GP could be to narrow it down to players with at least 500 games played, doing this the leaders are;
Morenz
FBoucher
Joliat
NStewart
Lemieux
Gretzky
Noble
Crosby
HSmith
Weiland
BJackson
Forsberg
Malkin
Gretzky and Lemieux are the only guys that are in the top ten of both the last two lists. This just illustrates how hard it is to compare eras. Maybe we should just leave it at that, #99 and #66 are the two greatest point producers in NHL history and Crosby is climbing fast. Who could have an issue with that?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Rod Bloomfield; Reg Dunlop's Stunt Double

Above is one of the only photos of Rod Bloomfield as Reg Dunlop's skating double for the movie Slap Shot, from a 1977 American magazine named "Hockey". In the 2010 book, "The Making of Slap Shot" the details of how Bloomfield got the role are explained; 
"Bloomfield and another player were considered for the job of doubling Newman. Bloomfield was more Newman's size and build but the other guy was chosen and Bloomfield returned home, content to wait until he was called back to play an extra. About two weeks later, he received a phone call asking if he was still interested in being Newman's double. They said 'they made a bit of a mistake. They shot for two weeks and figured out he was shooting right-handed. You and Paul both shoot left. We've had to scrap all the film'
Bloomfield agreed to the demand that his blond hair be cut short and painted - not dyed- grey every day to match Newman's hair.
'That was one of the best experiences I ever had.' he says. 'I think that was the greatest thrill. I had a really good time. Paul Newman was just the greatest guy. He'd sit in the bar every night and drink beer with us. He was really down to earth'."
Bloomfield was a worthy fill-in to depict Newman's hockey skills, not only was he pretty much the same size and build, but he was a hell of a hockey player. After excelling at junior and senior levels, Bloomfield turned pro in 1973/74 with the Binghamton Dusters of the NAHL. He topped the league with 73 assists and his 119 points was four off the scoring title. The following year, his 55 goals was tops in the NAHL, this time five points off the points lead and he was named MVP. After 37 goals and 96 points in 75/76 Bloomfield exploded in 76/77. He was named league MVP once again as well as Hockey News Minor League Player of the Year with 173 points, 46 ahead of second place. 
In 1977/78, the Binghamton Dusters moved to the AHL and Bloomfield had 46 points in 49 games before he was hit in the face with a puck, forcing his retirement.
Interestingly, in his post-hockey career, Bloomfield was an electrical contractor. He worked for IBM in the early 1980's and then for five years in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. In 1991, through a contract with the US government, Bloomfield helped rebuild Kuwait after the Iraqi invasion, living there for another five years. 
As a native of Bracebridge, Ontario, Bloomfield was elected to the Bobby Orr Hall of Fame in 2011 for his fine hockey career. 
Captain of the Dusters
1967/68 with Junior B Owen Sound







Thursday, February 9, 2017

Rendezvous '87 Non-Stars

This week marks the 30th anniversary of Rendezvous '87. In lieu of the All-Star game that season, the NHL played the Soviet National team in a two game series at the Colisee in Quebec City. The NHL won the first game 4-3, the Soviets the second 5-3, in what was generally regarded as a successful event showcasing the two greatest hockey powers. However, not everyone was pleased with the fact the event even went down in the first place.
On the day of the first match, in the February 11 Ottawa Gazette, the great Bobby Orr himself is quoted showing his displeasure at Rendezvous.
He actually had a good point, Rendezvous '87 removed over twenty All-Star spots. After looking at the NHL stats up to that point in the 86/87 season, it's clear at least a few players were robbed of their one and only chance at playing in an All-Star game. 
More than a few guys missed the festivities due to injuries. Mark Howe, Paul Coffey and Mike Bossy were all voted onto the squad by fans but were unable to play and Tim Kerr was selected to the team but did not play. The others voted in were Mario Lemieux, Michel Goulet and hometown favourite, goaltender Clint Malarchuk. Overall, Team NHL had 14 forwards, 8 defencemen and 3 goalies. Below is a team full of players who up to that point in the season were most deserving of being All-Stars in addition to the Rendezvous boys.
Forwards (GP-G-A-PTS)
Dino Ciccarelli, Minnesota 54-41-32-73
Doug Gilmour, St.Louis  54-26-42-68  
Walt Poddubny, NY Rangers   51-30-34-64
Steve Yzerman, Detroit   55-20-44-64
Marcel Dionne, Los Angeles  55-21-42-63
Luc Robitaille, Los Angeles   54-31-29-60  
Paul MacLean, Winnipeg    56-26-34-60
Joe Mullen, Calgary     55-32-27-59  
Denis Savard, Chicago    49-24-35-59
Peter Zezel, Philadelphia     54-27-30-57
Bryan Trottier, NY Islanders    55-16-41-57
Peter Stastny, Quebec  41-17-33-50
Ron Francis, Hartford  56-21-35-56  
Russ Courtnall, Toronto  56-19-36-55

Ciccarelli was 4th in NHL scoring to that point and would finish 3rd in year-end All-Star voting that season. Rookie Luc Robitaille would be voted to the 2nd All-Star team after the season and Gilmour and Mullen ended up 5th in voting at their positions. All were deserving of going to a mid-season All-Star game. At least all of these guys did play in at least one All-Star game in their careers, the same can't be said for Peter Zezel. His 27 goals and 57 points to this point were certainly worthy of All-Star game recognition. He would never make an All-Star game in his career.
Defence
Larry Murphy, Washington  57-18-38-56  
Al MacInnis, Calgary  56-15-40-55
Paul Reinhart, Calgary  53-12-38-50  
Scott Stevens, Washington  54-8-27-35  
Phil Housley, Buffalo  53-12-29-41
Ulf Samuelsson, Hartford  55-1-24-25   
Gaston Gingras, Montreal 50-9-30-39
Darren Veitch, Detroit   52-10-28-38  

Murphy and MacInnis were each selected as 2nd team All-Stars after the season and would have definitely played in a mid-season game if not for Rendezvous. The last three defenders I chose here all were denied their only chance at playing in an All-Star game this season. As much as Samuelsson was reviled, he finished 6th in year end voting among defence and should have been invited to a mid-season All-Star affair along with Gingras and Veitch. None of the three would ever be an All-Star.
Goalies
Patrick Roy, Montreal 3.07gaa
Mike Liut, Hartford  3.11gaa
Pokey Reddick, Winnipeg  3.17gaa
Kelly Hrudey, NY Islanders 3.18gaa

Liut and Roy would have been obvious All-Stars, Liut was voted to the 2nd Team at season's end. One of Reddick and Hrudey should have been honoured as well, once again, neither of them would be chosen an All-Star in their careers. Robbed by Rendezvous.
The link to NHL stats up until Feb. 10, 1987 is below:
https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=HK8yAAAAIBAJ&sjid=ku8FAAAAIBAJ&pg=1598%2C4719800
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