Monday, August 29, 2011

Leafs , Blue Jays and Team Unit


The above photo was uploaded to Twitter by Phoenix Coyote, Paul Bissonnette after an outing at Toronto's Roger Centre. He and about a dozen other NHLers took part in batting practice with a few of the Toronto Blue Jays. Pictured left to right are Phil Kessel, J.P.Arencebia, Brett Lawrie, Bissonette, Tyler Bozak and Cody Franson.

Apparently the boys from the Leafs and the Jays have become fairly chumy. Tyler Bozak posted a photo of the shwag he picked up at the dome. A signed jersey and bats from Arencebia and Lawrie, all with a notation "Team Unit". This seems to be a nickname for the group of young athletes representing Toronto's two main major sports squads. They all tag their twitter comments with it as they support each other's team.

Arencebia goes as far with this support as wearing a Leaf hat during Monday's post game interview. It seems that the cross-team boosterism on Twitter has begun annoying at least one of their teammates. After a Jays victory on Monday, Bozak Tweeted to Arencebia (who went 3 for 4 at the plate), "Sick game. I guess I have to come to the barn every game day now." It was of course tagged with a "teamunit". Bozak's teammate Joffrey Lupul soon after Tweeted, "Hey Bozie, Arencebia get each others phone numbers. You're filling up my timeline..." Arencebia quickly replied, "Don't worry ur part of the unit." Sounds like some secret society these guys are part of....frankly, I'm glad NHL training camps start in just over two weeks.






Saturday, August 27, 2011

Great Seasons, Cut Short. Crosby sure was having a nice year.




We all know that Sidney Crosby was having a fantastic season last year before he got his bell wrung at the Winter Classic. He missed the entire second half of 2010/11 and his prospects for returning anytime soon are still up in the air. Despite playing in exactly half of his team's games Crosby amazingly finished tied for 14th place in NHL goal scoring.




The question is, was that unprecedented? Has anyone ever finished that high in overall goal scoring while missing at least half of their games? Below is a list of players who missed a major part of a season yet still finished in at least the top 15 in goal scoring.





Having a fine season cut short by injury was a regular occurence for Mario Lemieux. In 2000/01 he managed to finish tied for 19th in goals despite playing only 43 of 82 games. Three times in four years he still finished in the top ten while playing between 59 and 64 games each year.




Probably the greatest recent season that was shortened by injury was by Cam Neely in 1993/94. That was the year he scored 50 goals in 49 games and finished tied for 8th in league scoring.




In 1966/67 Paul Henderson managed to finish in a tie for 14th in NHL goal scoring yet played in only 46 of 70 games. Still, well over half of the scheduled games. Bernie Geoffrion played 42 of 70 games in 1957/58 yet still finished 9th in goal scoring.




The most similar case to Crosby last season was Sweeney Schriner in 1944/45. He played 26 of 50 games and still placed 13th in scoring. Mind you the league was much smaller and there was only 117 players in the NHL that year, but 13th place in goals is still impressive while playing just over half the games.




We have to look all the way back to the dawn of the NHL to find a case like Crosby last season. In 1919/20 Thomas McCarthy of the Quebec Bulldogs played in exactly half of the 24 games and was still 14th in NHL goal scoring....exactly the same as Sid. In 1919/20 of course, there was only 40 players in the entire league. The same thing actually happened in each of the previous two seasons. Joe Malone actually played LESS than half of Quebec's games in 1918/19 yet still finished tied for 13 in goals.




Needless to say, Crosby's season was indeed one for the ages, even while missing half of it.


Friday, August 19, 2011

Playoffs...finally?

The Toronto Maple Leafs are improving. That is a fact. A team that hasn't made the post-season since the lockout really has no choice but improve. Over the last few seasons they have annually made a surge near the end of the season once they had been written off from the playoff race. Last year the run started earlier and lasted longer. From Jan. 1, 2011 to the end of the season, Toronto went 24-15-7 for 55 points in 46 games. Over a full season, this 98 point pace would just about guarantee a playoff spot. Individual scoring was as follows:

The bottom three on the list are the main off-season aquisitions and their stats from Jan 1 onward. The above numbers projected over a full 82 game season are below:


Of course, the problem with doing this is most players will not play every game of the season. Sure it would be nice if Toronto produced seven different players tallying 50 points each, but the reality is only one team last year did that last season, San Jose.


The truth is all the scoring in the world doesn't really matter, the main factor in determining Toronto's playoff chances is the goaltending of James Reimer.










Monday, August 15, 2011

Grant Fuhr and the 14 Assist Season


1983/84 was right in the middle of the era of "fire-wagon" era of hockey history. 12 different players had at least 100 points, 8 scored 50 goals and Gretzky had 87 goals in 74 games. Also, Oiler goaltender Grant Fuhr recorded 14 assists.

Fuhr's own partner Andy Moog collected a mere 1 assist in 38 games played and Oiler Centre Pat Conacher (who also played 45 games) finished 4 points back. The next most ever by a goalie in one season is 9 by Curtis Joseph in 1991/92.

Below is the log of each of Fuhr's assists during that season.
Only two of the assists came while Edmonton was on the powerplay and 10 of them came in the first or second periods. Most of Fuhr's points were during important stages of the game and not during blow-outs (of which the Oilers had many). 9 of his 14 helpers were when the game had no more than a two goal advantage for either team.

Over the course of the 83/84 season, Fuhr out-pointed each of the following players:
(GP-G-A-Pts)




  • Steve Konroyd, Calg. 80-1-13-14


  • Joel Queneville, Hart. 80-5-8-13


  • Jean Hamel, Mont. 79-1-12-13


  • Marty Howe, Hart. 69-0-11-11


  • Pat Conacher, Edm. 45-2-8-10


  • Marty McSorley, Pit. 72-2-7-9


  • Ed Hospodar, Hart. 59-0-9-9


  • Paul Woods, Det. 57-2-5-7


  • Dave Lewis, NJ. 66-2-5-7


  • Colin Campbell, Det. 68-3-4-7


  • Mike Kitchen, NJ. 43-1-3-4


  • Jim Kyte, Win. 58-1-2-3


  • Dave Hutchison, Tor. 47-0-3-3


  • Jim Schoenfeld, Bos. 39-0-2-2


Grant Fuhr single-handedly ourscored half of the Hartford Whalers defense core in his truely amazing season.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Three Teammates tie for League Scoring Title

The Okanagan Senior Hockey League of 1951/52 consisted of four teams; Penticton Vees, Vernon Canadians, Kelowna Packers and Kamloops Elks. The circuit was one of the top senior leagues in Canada and would eventally produce Allan Cup champions Penticton in 1954 and Vernon in 1956. The league was peppered with players who had played or would soon play in the NHL including Kelowna's Phil Hergesheimer who'd played five seasons mainly with Chicago, 1942 Calder Trophy winner Grant Warwick with Penticton, Kelowna's Val Fonteyne and Penticton's Connie Madigan.

The 51/52 regular season belonged to the Kamloops Elks who had 36 wins against 14 losses and finished 18 points up on second place Vernon. The most amazing feat of the season however was the fact that the Elks top line finished in a three-way tie for the OSHL scoring title. Pictured above (left to right) Left Wing John Miliard, Centre Bernie Bathgate and Right Wing Andy Clovechok all finished the 50 game season with 79 points. Clovechok scored 45 goals, Miliard 32 and Bathgate 27.

Andy Clovechok and Bernie Bathgate had played together since the mid-1940s with the PCHL Vancouver Canucks and the WCSHL Edmonton Flyers. 1952 was the third occaison that Clovechok had led a league in goals and points having scored 56 goals with Vancouver in '46 and 41 goals with Edmonton in '49. According to the Society for International Hockey Research all three of them are alive to this day. John Miliard is 84, Bernie Bathgate is 88 and Andy Clovechok is 87.

Indeed, this may very well have been the one and only time in hockey history that three teammates sharing a league scoring lead. If anyone knows of another occaison, please share.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

1984 Vezina, Closest Vote Ever?

The early 1980's were hardly the glory days of NHL goaltending. Aside from the fact that goals were being scored at a ridiculous rate, the league was in somewhat of a dry spell when it came to great goaltenders. The 1970's had all-time greats Tony Esposito, Bernie Parent and Ken Dryden, and the early 80's were led by the likes of Grant Fuhr, Billy Smith and Pete Peeters. From there however the drop off was drastic. The names Liut, Millen, Bouchard, Bannerman, Meloche, Stefan, Soetaert and Hanlon were fine enough goaltenders, but were hardly all-time greats.

In 1983/84 there emerged another name, Tom Barrasso. Jumping right in as an 18 year old high school grad he won the Calder and Vezina trophies that year. The voting for the Vezina was as follows: Total Voting Pts, (1st, 2nd, 3rd)

Tom Barrasso, Buffalo 42 (4-6-4)
Rejean Lemelin, Calgary 39 (5-4-2)
Pat Riggin, Washington 37 (5-3-3)
Al Jensen, Washington 37 (4-5-2)

Four guys within 5 voting points of each other with Lemelin and Riggin each actually receiving more first place votes than Barrasso. In the voting for the end of year All Stars Barrasso beat Riggin 141 to 131 with Lemelin collecting 104 voting points and Jensen 100.

The four guys numbers were obviously fairly close to each other: GP-W-L-T-SvPct-GAA

Barrasso 42-26-12-3 .893 2.84
Lemelin 51-21-12-9 .893 3.50
Riggin 41-21-14-2 .890 2.66
Jensen 43-25-13-3 .882 2.91

Absent from the top four in voting were the Oilers Grant Fuhr who went 30-10-4 .883 3.91, Bob Froese of the Flyers with 28-13-7 .887 3.14 and Quebec's Dan Bouchard who went 29-18-8 .887 3.20. The top four had between 21 and 26 wins, and a Save Pct between .882 and .893. The main explanation for Lemelin's higher GAA is the fact that Calgary played against the record seting Edmonton Oilers five more times than either Washington or Buffalo did. The fact that the Flames went 0-7-1 and were outscored 53 to 29 in those games didn't help Lemelin's numbers.

It's safe to say Barrasso's story of making the jump from High School to the NHL probably played a factor in the voting but he probably was the correct choice.
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