Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Jacques Marcotte, So Close to the Show until Tragedy Struck

A couple years back I wrote about the minor league domination of the IHL's Cincinnati Mohawks and their terrific French Canadian goaltenders. http://nitzyshockeyden.blogspot.ca/2010/04/french-goalies-of-cincinnati.html?showComment=1339716126081

Just this last month I received a comment on that article from the daughter of one of those fine goaltenders, Jacques Marcotte. She mentioned that her father had indeed made it to the NHL, contrasting the information I had found. Well, her father did indeed get the call up to the big time and got just about as close as one could get to playing in the NHL before tragedy struck.

The 1957/58 Toronto Maple Leafs were a poor squad and would finish the season sixth and last place with a record of 21-38-11. By February 23, 1958 in fifth place and six points shy of a playoff spot, the Leafs attempted to change their luck with a change in the nets.  Ed Chadwick had played every game in net for the Leafs when Jacques Marcotte was obtained from New York Rangers that day. The Leafs gave up $5,000, the rights to ex-Toronto Marlboro star Bill Kennedy and a player to be named later. 22 year-old Marcotte had been named Rookie of the Year and 2nd Team All-Star the previous season with the Trois-Rivieres Lions of the QHL.

Coach Billy Reay planned to insert Marcotte on Feb. 27 in Montreal against the Canadiens. During his very first practice with Leafs at Maple Leaf Gardens on Feb 25, Jacques Marcotte was hit under the right eye by a puck shot by rookie Frank Mahovlich, and his start was given back to Chadwick who would play as usual, losing to Les Habitants 4-1. Chadwick and the Leafs lost their final 8 games of the schedule to solidify their last place finish.

By the end of April , 1958 it was reported in a Quebec newspaper that Marcotte had regained only 40% of his eyesight and even he admitted his playing career may be over. He was quoted, "Hockey has been my life and everything looked promising until the accident." Indeed, his career had been promising prior to the accident. What would have happened if young Marcotte had played and performed well down the stretch for Toronto? On June 3, 1958, just over three months after aquiring Marcotte, the Leafs would claim Johnny Bower from Cleveland Barons of the AHL, a player 10 years Marcotte's senior.
After two years away from the game, with his eyesight improved enough to play, Marcotte joined coach Fred Shero with the St.Paul Saints of the IHL. He posted a 2.97 goals against average in 69 games and led the Saints to the Turner Cup championship. Marcotte played three additional seasons in the International League before retiring after the 1963/64 season.

Jacques Marcotte would return to Grand-Mere, Quebec with his Minnesota born wife and ran a successful Pepsi-Cola franchise until his death due to a brain tumor in June 1994 at age 59.





Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Brian Campbell, a True Gentleman


Florida Panther defense man Brian Campbell is a finalist for the Lady Byng Award as the NHL's most gentlemanly player. A defender has not won the award since 19534/54 when Detroit's Red Kelly won. This past season, Campbell collected 53 points and a mere 6 PIM's and really should win the award. Through the history of the NHL, Campbell is in fact the ONLY defense man to ever have a season of at least 50 points and under 10 PIM. In fact, only two other guys have had even 40 points and under 10 PIM, Red Kelly (twice) and St. Louis Blue, Jack Brownschidle in 1979/80.


As for the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year, in my opinion it should be Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, hands down. With 52 points in 62 games, he had a Point per Game Average of 0.84. He becomes only the 10th 18 year old rookie to have at least 0.80 Pts/GP in NHL history. In order of Points per Game:

  • Dale Hawerchuk   1.29
  • Sidney Crosby       1.26
  • Ron Francis           1.15
  • Steve Yzerman      1.09
  •  Jimmy Carson       0.99
  •  Dan Quinn            0.96
  •  Phil Housley         0.86
  • Bob Carpenter        0.84
  •  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins  0.84
  • Brian Bellows        0.83

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Team Canada officially born 40 years ago today.

Forty years ago today, Harry Sinden officially christened the name of his hockey club that would play the Russians in September 1972. At a press conference in Toronto he declared the squad would be called "Team Canada"  after rejecting names like "Pro Canada", "Canadian Team" and "Canada's Best".

Sinden also announced John Ferguson as his assistant coach this day. As for player selection, Sinden said he was in the process of contacting NHL general managers "to get the official word that, so far as they're concerned, their players are available". He added, "I'm about two-thirds of the way through the list and have had extremely good co-operation. I will have spoken to all of them by end of week, then I'll go about checking the players."

Sinden also discussed the proposed size of his roster of "35 or 36" players. He said he was planning a large squad because "four games in the first week of September are too many to ask anyone to play after so short a training period. I don't want to have any players playing all four games. All 35 or 36 players will go to Russia and all will play in at least one game and possibly in as many as seven."

Of course these plans all changed after losing 7-3 in Game One. Although he may not have intended on using players in all four early matches in Canada, a total of eight guys played in all the four of the home games.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Bryce Salvador, Coming out of Nowhere.

Just how amazing has the point scoring exploits of Bryce Salvador been, unprecedented. Entering this season's playoffs Salvador had a total of 4 points in 50 career playoff games. Through five games of the Stanley Cup Finals he has 14 points in 23 games. Salvador's career high scoring season was in 2008/09 with 16 points in 76 games. Has such a low-scoring defenseman ever had such a ridiculous scoring output in the playoffs? Not even close. No other defender in NHL history whose career high was less than 30 points has scored 14 points in a playoff year.

Lowest Career High Points among D-men who scored at least 14 pts in one playoff.
(Previous career high)
  • Nicklas Kronwall 2008, 15 pts (35)
  • Dmitri Mironov 1994, 15 pts (36)
  • Dustin Byfuglien 2010, 16 pts (36)
  • Tim Horton 1962, 16 pts (38)
  • Larry Goodenough 1976, 14 pts (42)
  • Jason Wooley 1999, 15 pts (43)
  • Ewe Kruup 1996, 16 pts (44)
  • Jaro Spacek 2006 14 pts (45)
  • Pierre Pilote 1961 15 pts  (45)
  • Tom Kurvers 1988 15 pts (45)
  • Eric Desjardins 1993 14 pts (45)


Thursday, June 7, 2012

1972 Summit Series, 27 Days in September... and November?

Forty years ago today on June 7, 1972 the Canadian Press reported on a proposed postponement of the upcoming Summit Series between Canada and Russia. Apparently, NHL President Clarence Campbell had taken issue with Hockey Canada's original timetable of having the Canadian portion of games played in early September. The NHL's desire was to keep the Russian games as scheduled for September 22, 24, 26 & 28 while bumping the games in Canada to November 7, 9, 13 & 17.

The NHL's proposal would also make it certain that none of the Canadian pros would miss a game with their club team. By mid June however, Campbell was admitting, "Nobody wants the Sept. 1-8 dates which have been proposed, but if it proves impossible to change the dates, we may have to accept them." Of course, in the end the NHL had to give in to the predetermined dates and their fears were realized. With only a few weeks of training camp, Canada was able to win only once on home ice against a Russian team that trains almost year round. Perhaps the series would not have been as close as it was if Clarence Campbell had his way and the Canadian players had been given an extra two months of prep time.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Jonathan Quick, Breaking Records


One victory away from the Stanley Cup, Jonathan Quick's .950 Save Percentage and 1.36 GAA are in record setting territory. Among goalies that played at least 10 games in a single playoff season only Frankie Brimsek's 1.25 GAA in 1939 can beat Quick. His Save Pct. would also be the best ever among goalies playing at least 10 playoff games. It would however not be the best ever if we look all the way back to 1950 and goalies who played less than 10 games, if only because they won the Cup too quickly.

 

All-Time Save Percentage Leaders - Single Post-Season (Saves/Shots, Save Pct.)

  • Terry Sawchuk 1952 (8gp) - 217/222  .978
  • Johnny Bower 1963 (9gp) - 271/284  .954
  • Rogie Vachon 1969 (8gp) - 245/257  .953
  • Jacques Plante 1960 (9gp) - 211/222  .951

These shots on goal numbers were gathered from both The Hockey Summary Project and Google News Archives. From 1951 and prior, shot totals are far more difficult to confirm from newspaper reports.




As far as only speaking of the Stanley Cup Finals, Quick still rates with the All-Time greats with this year's performance.  His .972 (70/72) is tied for third best since 1951.

All-Time Save Percentage Leaders - Stanley Cup Final (Saves/Shots, Save Pct.)

    •   Terry Sawchuk 1952 - 105/107  .981
    •   Patrick Roy 1996 - 147/151  .974
    •   Rogie Vachon 1969 - 104/107  .972
    •   Jonathan Quick 2012 - 70/72  .972
    •   Tim Thomas 2011 - 238/246  .968
    •    Jacques Plante 1960  115/120  .960
    •    Jacques Plante 1957  97/101  .958
    •    Billy Smith 1983  121/127  .953
    •   Bill Ranford 1990  148/156  .949
    •   Johnny Bower 1963  119/126  .944



Monday, June 4, 2012

Lidstrom or Bourque?



Now that Niklas Lidstrom has hung up the blades and retired the axe, the debate will rage as to where he ranks among all-time defencemen in NHL history. Bobby Orr is the undisputed greatest d-man ever. The general consensus has Eddie Shore and Doug Harvey among the top five. My belief is that the rest of the top five is occupied by Lidstrom and Ray Bourque. I'll look at only these two for now, as their careers overlapped for a full ten seasons. Who should rank higher? Bourque or Lidstrom?

Hockey-reference.com is an invaluable resource, and on top of all the standard numbers they have a category called Point Shares. Based on the baseball rating Win Shares originated by Bill James, it basically estimates how many team points in the standings each player contributes in any given year. Point Shares is a combination of Offensive and Defensive contributions as well, so mathematics aside it is a terrific tool to use when comparing players. First, let's look at the first 12 seasons of Bourque's career and see just how much better overall he was than everyone else. (OPS= Offensive Point Shares, DPS=Defensive Point, PS= Total Point Shares)

1979/80 - 1990/91                                 

                  GP  OPS   DPS     PS
Bourque   870   68.6   70.3   138.9         1st All-Star (8), 2nd All-Star (4) Norris (4)
Coffey      809   79.8   37.1   116.9         1st All-Star (3), 2nd All-Star (4), Norris (2)
Robinson  830   35.8   62.4    98.2          2nd All-Star (2)
Wilson      805   50.1   44.4    94.5          1st All-Star (1), 2nd All-Star (2), Norris (1)
Howe        702   39.7   52.3    92.0          1st All-Star (3)
Murphy     780   42.2   48.9    91.1          2nd All-Star (1)
Housley     686   46.8   37.1   83.9          

As we know, Bourque was head and shoulders above all others during the 1980's. Using Point Share totals, Bourque was 20% better than his nearest rival Paul Coffey and almost 50% better than anyone else. Ridiculous.

Then, along came Lidstrom. He entered the league as a 21 year old while Bourque was 31. The two were contemporaries for the next 10 seasons. Here's how they stack up with the other leading defenders.

1991/92 - 2000/01

                   GP  OPS   DPS     PS
Bourque    742  55.2   48.6   103.8           1st All-Star (5), 2nd All-Star (2), Norris (1)
Lidstrom   775  47.2   52.6     99.8           1st All-Star (5), Norris (1)
MacInnis   656  49.7   45.3     95.0           1st All-Star (1), 2nd All-Star (1), Norris (1)
Leetch       702   54.7  36.1     90.8           1st All-Star (2), 2nd All-Star (2), Norris (2)
Murphy     755   43.3  42.6     85.9           2nd All-Star (2)

Amazingly, Bourque is still at the top of the heap right through to his retirement. Lidstrom was a close second in total Point Shares even with the relatively slower start to his career. He didn't make a year-end All-Star team until his 7th season. The top five was a lot tighter grouped than had been in the 80's but Bourque and Lidstrom were a clear 1 & 2 over the time period.

After Bourque retired, Lidstrom really stepped forward as the undisputed premier defender in the game. His lead over second place Zdeno Chara is substantial but not quite as dominating as Bourque was over his first dozen seasons.

2001/02 - 2011/12

                   GP  OPS   DPS     PS
Lidstrom   711  46.0  55.5   101.4             1st All-Star (6), 2nd All-Star (2), Norris (6)
Chara        701  36.1  50.3     86.4             1st All-Star (2), 2nd All-Star (3), Norris (1)
Boyle        663  39.6  37.6     77.3             2nd All-Star (2)
Rafalski    604  30.0   43.1    73.1
Gonchar    616  40.0  28.8     68.8             2nd All-Star (2)

When push comes to shove and a choice has to be made between Bourque and Lidstrom, I believe Bourque's relative dominance over his peers and his quicker ascent to the top tier makes him the one I would select.

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