Chris Chelios

Is Chris Chelios the greatest U.S. hockey player ever?


On Monday night, Chris Chelios will be inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. The Chicago-based ceremony will welcome him, Gary Suter, Keith Tkachuk, announcer Mike “Doc” Emrick and Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider into the hall — quite the stellar induction class.

Which got Steve Rosenbloom of the Chicago Tribune to thinking: Who’s the greatest U.S. hockey player ever?

Rosenbloom says the answer is simple. It’s Chelios.

There never has been a better U.S.-born player than Chelios because there never has been another American who combined skill, smarts, leadership, toughness and longevity the way Chelios did.

You want longevity? Try 26 NHL seasons and a record 24 Stanley Cup playoff seasons. Think about every great hockey player. Think about the legends. They’re all behind Chelios when it comes to invitations to play for sport’s most demanding championship.

And he wasn’t a passenger in those furious springs, believe me.

You want toughness? He once played 18 months with a torn knee ligament, and he still seemed to be on the ice every other shift, even-strength, power play, penalty-killing, what else you got?

Leadership? He was captain of the Blackhawks and just about every American Olympic and U.S. international team on which he played. In my time around Chelios’ dressing room, he was the kind of leader who never wanted to talk much after victories when everybody was available but always stood up after losses when a lot of players hid.

Skill and smarts? This could go on a while. Three Norris Trophies as the NHL’s best defenseman. Midseason All-Star. End-of-season All-Star. International All-Star. And that’s just this planet.

It certainly raises an interesting debate, as the list of viable candidates for the “Greatest American Player” title is big. Mike Modano is the all-time goal-scoring and points leader amongst American-born players. Brian Leetch won two Norris Trophies, was one of only five defensemen in NHL history to record a 100-point season and the first American to win the Conn Smythe. Pat Lafontaine scored 148 points in 1993-94, the highest-ever total for an American. Phil Housley played in seven All-Star games and is the career leader for points from an American defenseman.

Other names worthy of consideration include John LeClair, Jeremy Roenick, Joe Mullen and Mike Richter.

(And don’t sleep on Mark Howe, Neal Broten and Frank Brimsek.)

Heck, you could even make the case for Brett Hull (third all-time in goals and a Hockey Hall of Famer, but was born in Canada and holds dual citizenship) or Rod Langway (two-time Norris winner, born in Taiwan, raised in Massachusetts.)

So, who’s the greatest U.S. player of all time? Have at it in the comments section. For the record, I’m going with Leetch because of the surgical precision in which he dissected Vancouver in the 1994 Stanley Cup final.

Related: Versus NHL experts discuss if Chelios is the best American-born player.

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The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.