At last night’s (April 24th) Nickelback concert at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the Flyers’ home arena, some members of the team joined the band on stage. It comes as no surprise that Nickelback would allow the Flyers players on stage. They’re Canadian, love hockey, and will be performing at this summer’s NHL Awards show in Las Vegas on June 20 later this year.
Check it out:
Philadelphia Flyers starting goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov has been listed as “day-to-day” on the team’s injury list with a foot fracture, as initially reported by NHL.com, and may not be available for the start of the NHL playoffs in a few weeks. Bryzgalov, who signed a nine-year, $51 million contract with Philadelphia this offseason, has been a key part of their run to the postseason this year, as he’s ninth in the NHL with 32 wins in 57 starts, as well as fourth in the NHL with 6 shutouts. He’s also heated up as the NHL season comes to a close, as he’s 10-2-1 in his last 13 games with four shutouts, helping the Flyers to 5th place in the Eastern Conference while clinching a playoff spot.
An MRI showed that Bryzgalov appeared to suffer the injury sometime during the Flyers’ 5-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, as he was seen limping after the game. It’s suspected that he may have suffered the injury during pre-game warmups (according to Flyers’ general manager Paul Holmgren) when he was hit in the foot by a shot from teammate Jakub Voracek. With Bryzgalov out, the Flyers will lean on Bryzgalov’s countryman, 24-year-old Sergei Bobrovsky as the starter, and will call up either Michael Leighton or Jason Bacashihua from the Adirondack Phantoms (Philadelphia’s AHL affiliate) to be the backup.
Philadelphia hopes to have Bryzgalov back sooner rather than later, as weak goaltending the past couple seasons has doomed them in the playoffs, and was one of the key reasons they acquired Bryzgalov this past year.
A franchise player is an athlete who becomes the personification of his team. He is the face of the franchise, and he spends all, or almost all, of his career in one place, becoming a leader, an impact player and a cornerstone for the team to be built around. There are athletes like this in every sport, so of course hockey has had its fair share of great franchise players. But who are the best “faces of the franchise” in the history of the league? When you think of a hockey team, which player from that team immediately comes to mind?
First, some criteria:
-Must have played at least 10 years with the team.
- Cannot have spent more than three years playing for any other teams combined (we’ll call this the Brett Favre rule). So yeah, that means Wayne Gretzky ain’t makin’ this list.
-Must have been named team captain sometime in his career (Hey, if his own team doesn’t recognize him, how can I?).
Honorable Mention: Martin Brodeur, G, New Jersey Devils; Jean Beliveau, RW, Montreal Canadiens; Mike Bossy, C, New York Islanders
So without further ado….
10. Gilbert Perreault, Center, Buffalo Sabres
Part of Buffalo’s famed “French Connection” line of the 1970’s, seventeen-year veteran Gilbert Perreault kicks off this list. The “Original Sabre”, a title bestowed to Perreault after Buffalo made him the franchise’s first-ever draft pick (1st overall in 1970); Perreault made Buffalo into the competitor they were in the 1970’s and 80’s. He won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s top rookie in 1971, and went on to win a Lady Byng Trophy as well (awarded to the player who demonstrates “the highest combination of skill and gentlemanly play”). He led the Sabres to eleven straight postseason appearances, including a Prince of Wales conference championship and a berth in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1975. He served as captain of the Sabres from 1981-86 a reign that was ended only by Perreault’s retiredment. Perreault was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1990, the same year the Sabres retired his number 11 jersey. To this day, he is the Sabres’ all-time leader in goals (512), assists (814) and points (1,326). A true franchise player, he played all seventeen of his NHL seasons with the Buffalo Sabres.
9. Ray Bourque, Defenseman, Boston Bruins
The franchise defenseman of the Boston Bruins for twenty-one years, Ray Bourque was a hard-hitting blueliner with a gift for scoring. The eighth overall selection in 1979, Bourque made an immediate impression on the team that selected him, winning the Calder Trophy for his phenomenal debut season in 1979-80. An unselfish player and gifted scorer, Bourque captained the Bruins for 13 years, leading them to two Eastern Conference championships (1988 and 1990), though he never won a Stanley Cup in Boston. In 2000, seemingly as a reward for his leadership and value to the franchise, with the Bruins struggling, Bourque was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche so he could have one last chance at winning a championship. And at the end of the 2000-01 season, Bourque and the Avalanche hoisted Lord Stanley’s Cup, giving Bourque the first and only championship of his illustrious 22-year career. He stands as the longest tenured captain in Bruins history, and as the highest scoring defenseman of all-time with 1,579 points.
8. Stan Mikita, Center, Chicago Blackhawks
A 22-year veteran and the 14th highest scorer of all-time, Stan Mikita was the epitome of the term “franchise player” for the Chicago Blackhawks. Widely regarded as one of the best centers of the 1960’s, Mikita led the league in scoring four times that decade (’64, ’65, ’67 and ‘68). He led the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup in 1961, scoring six goals in the playoffs (the most anyone had in the postseason that year). That 1961 Stanley Cup was the last the Blackhawks would win for another 48 years. A four-time Art Ross Trophy winner as the NHL’s leading scorer, two-time Hart Trophy winner as the NHL MVP, and two-time Lady Byng Trophy winner, Mikita captained the Blackhawks for only one year (1976-77), but finished his career has one of the most decorated and impactful players in Chicago history. In addition to being enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame, Mikita is immortalized in statue form outside of the Blackhawks arena in Chicago.
7. Bobby Clarke, Center, Philadelphia Flyers
Leader of the “Broad Street Bullies”, a nickname given to the brawling, hard-checking, ready-to-drop-the-gloves Philadelphia Flyers in the 1970’s, tough-guy and team captain Bobby Clarke epitomized that special brand of eastern Pennsylvania hockey. A great scorer but an even better enforcer, Clarke actually had more seasons with 100 penalty minutes (six) than he had seasons with 100 points (three). He led the Flyers to two Stanley Cups (1973-74, and 1974-75), and won the Hart Trophy as league MVP three times (1972-73, 1974-75, and 1975-76). He had two stints as captain of the Flyers, one during their Broad Street Bully days from 1973-1979, and again from 1982-84. Clarke retired in 1984 after 15 years in the NHL, all of which were spent in Philadelphia. He finished his career as the Flyers’ all-time scoring leader, a title he still holds, and will long be remembered as the Captain of the Broad Street Bullies.
6. Mike Modano, Center, Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars
One of only five Americans ever to be taken with the first overall selection in the NHL Entry Draft, Mike Modano played the first twenty years of his career as a member of the Minnesota North Stars/Dallas Stars franchise (the team moved from Minnesota to Dallas in 1993). He was the face of the franchise in two states, and as an American helped make hockey popular in Texas, home of “America’s Team” (the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys), a place that had never had a professional hockey team before. Modano led them to three Stanley Cup Finals as the team’s most dangerous offensive player. He lost in the Finals as a Minnesota North Star in 1991 and as a Dallas Star in 2000, but in 1999 led them to a Stanley Cup Championship over the Buffalo Sabres. Modano captained the Stars for four years, from 2003-06, and finished his tenure in Dallas as the most iconic player in Stars history.. He played one injury-shortened season with the Detroit Red Wings in 2010-11, but returned to sign a one-day contract so he could retire as a Dallas Star. He finished his career with 10 All-Star Game appearances, one Stanley Cup, and the franchise record in points scored with 1,374- enough points to make Mike Modano the highest-scoring American hockey player of all time.
5. Joe Sakic, Center, Quebec Nordiques/ Colorado Avalanche
Another great player who defined an era for the team he played for, Joe Sakic is probably second only to John Elway in Colorado sports lore. When the Quebec Nordiques moved south across the border in 1995 to become the Colorado Avalanche, it fell upon Sakic, who was named team captain in 1995, to “sell” hockey to the citizens of Denver. And he did just that, leading the Avalanche to the Stanley Cup championship (Sakic won the Conn Smythe Trophy as MVP of the playoffs) at the end of the 1995-96 season. From there on, with Sakic leading the way, the Avalanche were a Western Conference powerhouse, making the playoffs ten straight years, while winning another championship in 2001. Sakic captained the Avalanche until his retirement in 2009, wearing the “C” for 15 years. He finished his career as the Avalanche’s all-time scoring leader, as a 13-time All-Star, and as the eighth-leading scorer in NHL history with 1,641 career points. The Colorado Avalanche retired his #19 jersey in 2009.
4. Steve Yzerman, Center, Detroit Red Wings
The longest serving captain of any North American sports franchise, Steve Yzerman captained the Detroit Red Wings for twenty years, an era that lasted from 1986-2006. During that time, Yzerman led the Red Wings to five Presidents Trophies (given to the team with the best regular season record), and three Stanley Cup championships while Yzerman himself was selected to ten All-Star teams. He won almost every award imaginable, earning the Lester B. Pearson Award in 1989 (MVP, as chosen by the players), the Conn Smythe Trophy in 1998, and the Selke Trophy in 2000 (an award that recognizes the NHL’s best defensive forward). He was a prolific scorer as well, finishing his career with 692 goals and 1,063 assists, and his point total (1,755) is good for sixth-best of all- time. A 23-year veteran, he spent every season with the Red Wings, retiring in 2006 after an illustrious career that left him known in Detroit sports lore simply as “The Captain”.
3. Maurice “Rocket” Richard, Right Wing, Montreal Canadiens
The only player on this list to have a trophy named after him, Maurice Richard was the elite scorer of his time. He was the first player to eclipse the 50-goal mark in a season, and he was the first player in NHL history to record 500 goals in a career. For his ability to put the puck in the net, the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy was named in his honor, and awarded each year to the NHL player who scores the most goals. Richard captained Les Habitents for only five years (1956-60), but led his team to a Stanley Cup championship every year he wore the “C”. He won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s most valuable player in 1947, and was a fourteen time All-Star. At the end of his career, he was the NHL’s all-time leading scorer (though his totals have long since been eclipsed multiple times), and the customary three-year waiting period for the Hall of Fame was waived specially for him, and he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1961.
2. Gordie Howe, Right Wing, Detroit Red Wings
Howe, the NHL’s third all-time leading scorer, tough guy and iron man, played the first twenty-five years of his career for the Detroit Red Wings, leading them to four Stanley Cup Championships (1950, 1952, 1954, 1955). Known for both his scoring ability and toughness, the phrase “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” was coined in his honor, coming when a player gets a goal, assist and a fight in the same game. The Saskatchewan, Canada native was team captain for five years, from 1958-1962, and is the Detroit Red Wings’ franchise leader in both career games played and goals. After 25 years with the team, he spent his final NHL season with the Hartford Whalers in the 1979-80 campaign. Howe was a 23-time All-Star, a six-time Hart Trophy winner, a six-time Art Ross Trophy Winner, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. To this day, he is still second all-time in goals scored, and third all-time in assists and total points in NHL history, and is truly the epitome of a “franchise player”.
1. Mario Lemieux, Center, Pittsburgh Penguins
Known for his incredible scoring ability, puck-handling and finesse, Mario Lemieux comes in first on the all-time list of franchise players. After Pittsburgh spent the first overall pick in the 1984 draft on Lemieux, he embraced his role as the franchise’s savior and keystone to their rebuilding project following their league-worst finishes in 1983 and 1984. He delivered instant results too, scoring 100 points in his rookie year. This was a sign of things to come, as Lemieux would deliver ten 100-point campaigns in a Penguins uniform, including a franchise record 199 points (114 assists to go along with a franchise-best 85 goals) in 1989. He was team captain from 1987-1997, a reign that ended only after Lemieux retired, but then resumed from 2001-06 following Lemieux’s un-retirement from the league in 2000. He led the team to two Stanley Cup championships, in back to back years (1991 and 1992). However, Lemieux’s biggest role as the franchise player of the Penguins probably came in the years when he was retired. In 1999, with the Pittsburgh Penguins nearing bankruptcy, Lemieux swooped in and bought the team, saving it from another owner and a possible relocation. In addition to his checkbook, Lemieux also lent his forechecking to his team, getting back on the ice a year after buying the team. He scored 76 points in the 2000-01 season, leading the Penguins into the playoffs and reinvigorating the fan base. After several injuries and the NHL lockout in 2005, Lemieux again retired from the NHL in 2006 after spending 17 seasons in the league, all with Pittsburgh, finishing seventh all-time in the NHL for total points and first in team history for total points with 1,723.
His #66 is one of only two numbers retired in Pittsburgh Penguins history (the other being Michael Briere’ #21). As the player who saved the team not once, but twice, Lemieux undoubtedly deserves his lofty standing at the top of the list of all-time great franchise hockey players.
-By lead columnist Arun Morace
AROUND THE RINK is a new weekly hockey segment on the NHL and all of it’s teams. Every Wednesday we go over what’s new with your favorite teams, your favorite players, as well as the crazy things going on within the National Hockey League.
Anaheim Ducks: 41-year old Teemu Selanne got a standing ovation from the Winnipeg crowd when he returned to his origins last Saturday night as the Ducks took on the new Winnipeg Jets. Selanne was drafted by the old Winnipeg Jets back in 1992, but the team moved shortly after to become the Phoenix Coyotes. This new Winnipeg team, that coincidentally has adopted the same name, moved from Atlanta last year, so Winnipeg fans are rooting for a completely different franchise, a franchise that has no ties to Teemu Selanne! So why cheer for him?
Boston Bruins: Milan Lucic was suspended for one game by the NHL for a hit he made on Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo. He served his suspension against the lowly Montreal Canadiens Monday in Boston. I guess the timing couldn’t have been better as they beat the Canadiens 3-2. Oh, and they put a beatdown on the Flyers last week 6-0. I suppose that Stanley Cup hangover has finally worn off.
Buffalo Sabres: Terry Pegula’s new franchise has been a dissappointment this year, but no one has been more of a disappointment than forward Ville Leino, who signed for a monstrous 6 year, 27 million dollar contract over the offseason. Leino has three goals and seven assists in 29 games for the Sabres, who have fell to 10th place in the Eastern Conference and have lost their last two games.
Calgary Flames: Flames forward Rene Bourque has been suspended two games by the NHL for his hit from behind on Chicago’s Brent Seabrook. Add him to the list of players out for the Flames, including Matt Stajan, Mark Giordano, and Anton Babchuk.
Carolina Hurricanes: Things are looking real bad in Raleigh these days. With the team’s overtime loss to the Florida Panthers last night they have lost 10 of their last 12 games, and sit dead last in the Eastern Conference. As if it couldn’t get worse, Jeff Skinner and Joni Pitkanen are both out with concussions. I guess Carolina have entered the nose-dive competition for the number one draft pick in the 2012 draft. You’re on, Columbus!
Columbus Blue Jackets: Despite playing better in recent weeks, Columbus seems to be unable to make anything successful. They are 3-6-1 in their last 10 games, and have not looked good doing it. I guess Jeff Carter was right not to want to be traded there in the offseason.
Florida Panthers: Wait, the Panthers are sitting WHERE in the Eastern Conference? And how many points do that they have? If you had told me that in September, I wouldn’t have believed you but this team is good, and they are only going to get better.
Montreal Canadiens: Montreal has been a disappointment this season, to say the least. So, they fire head coach Jacques Martin and replace him with Randy Cunneyworth, and Canadiens fans complain that he doesn’t speak french? Really? How about a coach who knows how to win games first.
New York Islanders: I don’t care what anyone says, these are some of the ugliest jersey’s in the NHL:
New York Rangers: Marion Gaborik scored twice for the Rangers as they defeated the New Jersey Devils last night 4-1 in Newark. Smile big for those HBO camera’s!
Philadelphia Flyers: Episode 2 of HBO’s 24/7: Road to the NHL Winter Classic premieres tonight. I wonder what new obsession Ilya Bryzgalov will have this week…Ilya Bryzgalov
Phoenix Coyotes: The Coyotes finally traded enigmatic center Kyle Turris to Ottawa for David Rundblad…wait what? How did Don Maloney get that to work?
Washington Capitals: Ovechkin and Backstrom have been broken up, but it’s all okay because the Capitals are better for it. Maybe they’ll get their shit together sometime this season…
By Arun Morace
No video game is perfect, despite how hard programmers try. We’ve all seen footballs pass right through players in every version of Madden. We’ve all seen the invisible players in NBA 2K10. And don’t get me started on players running the wrong way in FIFA. But sometimes, there are mistakes that shouldn’t happen. We all know which players are good, and which aren’t. And yet sometimes, in a video game, certain players’ digital versions are better than others, when they just shouldn’t be. Looking at NHL 2012, here are the biggest errors in player’s overall rating. By position, I’ll give one that’s too high, and one that’s too low, and compare the two players to show just how bad the error really is.
Too High: David Booth, Florida Panthers- 92 overall
Too Low: Thomas Vanek, Buffalo Sabres/Alexander Semin, Washington Capitals/ Loui Eriksson, Dallas Stars- 88 overall
Booth: 23 goals, 17 assists, 40 points, -31 overall rating (82 games)
Vanek: 32 goals, 41 assists, 73 points, +2 overall rating (80 games)
Semin: 28 goals, 26 assists, 54 points, +22 overall rating (66 games)
Eriksson: 27 goals, 46 assists, 73 points, +10 overall rating (79 games)
Fewest goals, fewest assists, and the fewest points despite playing the most games out of these four, and a +/- rating 33 points worse than anyone else on this list. And yet, David Booth is a better left wing according to NHL 2012; better than Vanek, Semin or Eriksson, all of whom have had either a 40+ goal season or a 70+ point season- two things Booth has never done.
Too High: Matthew Lombardi, Toronto Maple Leafs- 92 overall
Too Low: Mike Ribeiro, Dallas Stars- 79 overall
This one jumped out at me. Matthew Lombardi is a forward who’s never played more than one full NHL season, never had more than 53 points in year (only one time), has never made the All-Star Game, and certainly has no reputation as an enforcer, or even a great face-off man. But he’s got a 92 overall rating in the game, putting him ahead of or in the same class of players like Jeff Carter, Jordan Staal, Nicklas Backstrom, or BradRichards. Just as troubling, somehow Lombardi’s more highly rated at the center position than Mike Ribeiro, a two-time All-Star and consistent 50+ point producer (hasn’t been below 51 points since 2003). Oh, and Ribeiro can also do some damage in the shootout:
Lombardi’s career numbers (9 seasons)
275 penalty minutes
+27 overall +/- rating
Ribeiro’s career numbers (12 seasons)
280 penalty minutes
EVEN overall +/- rating
Lombardi:* 19 goals, 34 assists, 53 points, 36 penalty minutes, +8
Ribeiro: 19 goals, 52 assists, 71 points, 28 penalty minutes, -4
*Lombardi missed 80 games in 2010-11, so it would be unfair to compare a full season from Ribeiro to an injury-shortened one by Lombardi. Instead, I’ve provided statistics from Lombardi’s most recent full season (2009-10). This is also his best career season, statistically.
Even Lombardi’s best statistical season doesn’t match up with Ribeiro’s stats from this past campaign. Ribeiro was only second-line center last year too. And yet, despite the fact that Ribeiro’s a better scorer, set-up man, and a wizard in the shootout, he’s a full thirteen points below Lombardi, whose best season barely matches Ribeiro’s worst from the past five years (2009-10, 19G,34A,53P in 66 games). Without a doubt, Ribeiro is better than his 79 rating betrays, while Lombardi does not deserve that 92 overall billing.
Too High: Wayne Simmonds, Philadelphia Flyers- 92 overall
Too Low: Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks- 84 overall
There aren’t many true right wings listed in the game, so finding a comparison was tough. But to me, this one was just so atrocious that when I saw it, I couldn’t ignore it. Selanne’s been one of the top wingers in the game for years, and he’s eight points worse than Wayne Simmonds?
Selanne’s career numbers (20 seasons)
570 penalty minutes
+98 overall +/- rating
Simmonds’ career highlights (3 seasons):
283 penalty minutes
+12 overall +/- rating
Simmonds: 14 goals, 16 assists, 30 points, 75 penalty minutes, -2
Selanne: 31 goals, 49 assists, 80 points, 49 penalty minutes, +6
So, let’s see. Selanne’s one of the all-time scoring leaders, and even at 41 years of age, is still getting it done, as evidenced by his 31 goals and 80 total points in 2010-11. Simmonds on the other hand, isn’t a great scorer, or set-up man, and you can’t even attempt to justify that 92 rating by calling him an enforcer since his penalty minutes, the one stat he bests Selanne in, was good for 91st most in the league. But somehow, Wayne Simmonds ended up with a 92 overall rating, third best on the entire Philadelphia Flyers roster, and Selanne merits an 84 overall rating. Huh?
Too High: Cam Ward, Carolina Hurricanes- 97 overall
Too Low: Antti Niemi, San Jose Sharks- 85 overall
Let’s remember. The most recently released version of a sports video game should have an accurate, representation of the players in it based on how they’ve recently played. So while Cam Ward may have had a Stanley Cup winning season back in 2006, judging by his past season he doesn’t warrant a 97 overall rating. Likewise, Antti Niemi, the San Jose goaltender who’s a season removed from a Stanley Cup championship, deserves to be rated higher than his solid, but unspectacular 85. Consider the following:
2010-11 numbers (again, the numbers that we should assume to be most influential on the 2012 game)
Ward: 74 games played, 35 wins, .923 save percentage, 2.56 goals against average (GAA)
Niemi: 60 games played, 35 wins, .920 save percentage, 2.38 goals against average
Niemi has a considerably lower goals-against average, and he got the same number of wins as Ward in fourteen fewer games. He also has 24 playoff wins in the past two years- Ward doesn’t have 24 in his career. But yeah, despite the fact that he only won half of his games last year, Ward’s the better goaltender, according to EA. And not just better, at 97, he’s in the company of elite goaltenders like Roberto Luongo (98 overall) and Pekka Rinne (98 overall), and far ahead of more deserving goaltenders, like Niemi, or the Los Angeles’ Kings Jonathan Quick (35 wins, 2.24 GAA, but 89 overall) or Corey Crawford of the Chicago Blackhawks (33 wins in 57 games, 2.30 GAA but only 83 overall). But yeah, in NHL 2012, Ward is still somehow the fifth best goaltender in the entire game. Huh?
Well, that’s my two cents- just a few glaring errors that made me scratch my head at first glance, and after delving into the numbers, still had me scratching my head when looking at the latest installment of the EA Sports NHL video game franchise.
Buffalo, NY - An estimated 5,000 fans braved the cold weather last night in Buffalo outside HSBC Arena to watch as Sabres goalie Ryan Miller shut out the Philadelphia Flyers for the second time this series. Only four times in 44 years have the Flyers suffered 1-0 playoff losses, two being in this series. Inside the arena, the Sabres put together a gritty performance, led by Miller, who stopped all 32 of Philadelphia’s shots on goal.
Miller, who took some criticism after games three and four, not only let his play do the talking, but said “I want to contribute to help the guys. I have to do certain things. I have to talk on the ice. I don’t need to listen to all of the stuff that’s out there from people who don’t know how to play goalie.”
Jason Pominville netted the game’s only score for Buffalo with 9:38 remaining in the first period, after which Flyers goalie Brian Boucher did his best Ryan Miller impression, shutting out Buffalo the rest of the way. The game was full of intensity and hard hits, as it has been all series long. This almost escalated into a brawl even after the final horn had sounded. With the series now tied a two apiece, look for it to get even more interesting, intense, and physical as it heads back to Philadelphia with a ticket to round two on the line.