Mike Halford

You've heard the expression "let's get busy?" Well, Mike Halford is a blogger who gets "biz-zay!" Consistently and thoroughly.
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Sharks better, faster and deeper than last year’s Cup finalist, says DeBoer

LOS ANGELES — One of the central themes going into last year’s Stanley Cup Final was the speed of the Penguins and Sharks.

But once it was over, all anyone could talk about was how much faster Penguins were.

It’s something Sharks head coach Peter DeBoer remembered with a chuckle at Saturday’s All-Star media session, as he prepped to coach the Pacific Division.

“We were fast… until we saw Pittsburgh,” DeBoer said with a laugh. “That’s obviously something we talked about, and I think we are faster.”

To hear the head coach explain it, speed isn’t the only thing San Jose’s upgraded.

DeBoer says this year’s team is notably improved compared to the ’15-16 group — a team that finished with 46 wins, 98 points and advanced to the Stanley Cup Final for the first time in franchise history.

(A scary proposition for the rest of the Western Conference, this.)

“I like our team,” DeBoer explained. “I think we’re better than last year, sitting where we are right now. The young guys have added a dimension to our team. I think we’re deeper.

“The big question here is going to be health, and energy. There’s no secret and there’s no hiding from the fact that you go to the Final and then find a way to get back there. That’s just reality. But I think if there’s a group that can do it, we’re set up to do it.”

DeBoer’s comments come after GM Doug Wilson made several unheralded-yet-significant changes to the club’s makeup. The speed upgrade was most evident — highlighted by the free agent acquisition of Mikkel Boedker, one of the quickest guys in the league — but getting faster wasn’t just limited to skating ability.

“Speed isn’t just pure speed, it’s puck movement speed too,” DeBoer explained. “We’ve added [David] Schlemko on defense, who’s a puck-moving defenseman. So I think all those factors make us definitely faster than we were a year ago.”

Changes didn’t just happen in the offseason, either. Already this year, the Sharks have parted ways with young veterans Matt Nieto (waived, claimed by Colorado) and Tommy Wingels (traded to Ottawa).

In doing so, Wilson has embraced a youth movement, implementing the likes of Timo Meier and Kevin Labanc.

Labanc, 21, worked his way into the Sharks lineup after starring with the club’s AHL affiliate and has emerged as a regular, with 14 points in 37 games. Meier, the ninth overall pick in 2015, is a little less polished and playing in a smaller role — but both he and Labanc have impressed the veteran core.

“[Labanc], just the ability to get in position to score – I think he’s a very, very smart hockey player. He wants to score every night, which is fun to see as an older player,” Joe Thornton said in late December, per CSN Bay Area. “Timo, just his speed stands out, and how strong he is.

“Both guys are playing huge roles on our team right now.”

The club has also been buoyed by the return of Tomas Hertl.

Hertl, who was one of San Jose’s best forwards in last year’s playoffs, missed nearly the entire Cup Final with a knee injury, then missed almost all of the last two months with more knee problems.

Hertl returned to the lineup in San Jose’s final game before the All-Star break, which essentially put the team at full strength.

That, plus a burning desire to repeat last year’s run — only with a different ending — could make the Sharks a very dangerous team over the next few months.

“The guys are hungry to get back,” DeBoer said. “And I like how we’re positioned.”

‘Jekyll and Hyde’ Marchand knows he’s never going to be liked

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LOS ANGELES — The past few days have really embodied all that is Brad Marchand.

Prior to playing in his first-ever All-Star Game, Marchand was in a familiar place — meeting with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety about a dangerous trip on Red Wings d-man Niklas Kronwall.

Ultimately Marchand would avoid suspension for the incident but, on Thursday, was still hit with a hefty $10,000 fine. Later that evening, he scored a pair of goals — his 20th and 21st of the year — in a big 4-3 win over the Penguins.

That put No. 63 in a tie for ninth-most in the NHL, an impressive feat.

And now he’s (rightfully) among the game’s elite at an annual showcase for skill and speed.

So, what does Marchand think of the internal dynamic at play?

“It’s a little Jekyll and Hyde effect, I guess,” he said on Saturday, during All-Star media availability. “You can be good for 81 games of the year, and it takes a two-second play — and that’s the one everyone remembers.

Marchand certainly has a history of plays that folks remember.

— March 2011: Suspended two games for elbowing R.J. Umberger in the head.

— December 2011: Fined for slew-footing Matt Niskanen.

— January 2012: Suspended five games for clipping Sami Salo.

— January 2015: Suspended two games for slew-footing Derick Brassard.

— November 2015: Fined for roughing Gabriel Landeskog.

— December 2015: Suspended three games for clipping Mark Borowiecki.

At the same time, Marchand has emerged as one of the league’s best offensive weapons. He finished sixth in the NHL in goals last year, with 37, and further established himself among the league’s elite with a terrific performance for Team Canada at the World Cup.

The 28-year-old starred on a line alongside Bergeron and Sidney Crosby and, following the tournament, inked a monster eight-year, $49 million extension with the B’s.

In announcing the deal, Boston GM Don Sweeney was effusive in his praise. He called Marchand “a core guy,” and was hopeful he’d spend his entire career in Boston.

On the subject of his career, Marchand admitted things were still a work in progress — at least when it came to discipline.

“One hundred percent,” Marchand said, when asked if he acknowledged the need to make better decisions on the ice. “The play last week [on Kronwall] is something that can be avoided and again, it’s just about being smarter in a situation like that. And again, it is something I’m going to continue to work on.”

Work on it? Yes.

But change? Expect some, just not too much.

“I can’t change the way people view me, or the way they think. I’m not interested in doing that. I just want to play the game,” he said. “I still don’t think I’ll ever be liked.

“And that’s fine.”

Who were the biggest NHL 100 omissions?

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LOS ANGELES — If the Internet has taught us anything, it’s that lists are made to be dissected.

On Friday night that theory was tested.

And proven true.

The NHL unveiled the remaining 67 members of its top 100 list at the Microsoft Theater this evening and, as the night progressed, discussions both in-house and on social media went from who got in… to who was left out.

A quick rundown of some prominent omissions, all enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame:

— Former Blackhawks defenseman and captain Pierre Pilote, a three-time Norris winner.

— Dale Hawerchuk, a five-time All-Star and Calder winner who sits 18th all time in scoring.

— Larry Murphy, a four-time Cup winner and one of the highest-scoring d-men of all time.

— Michel Goulet, a four-time 50-goal scorer.

— Joe Mullen, a three-time Cup winner and one of the highest-scoring Americans in league history.

— Rod Langway, who twice won the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman.

— Cam Neely and Clark Gillies, two of the finest power forwards of their generations.

Some other noteworthy snubs include:

Evgeni Malkin, who’s captured a pair of Cups, a Hart Trophy and a Conn Smythe.

Joe Thornton, currently 24th all-time in NHL scoring.

Zdeno Chara, Cup-winner and Norris Trophy winner.

Jarome Iginla, one of the premier goalscorers of this generation.

There are many more worth considering. Follow up in the comments section, and let us know who you think is missing from the NHL100 list.

Here are the top 100 NHL players of all time

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LOS ANGELES — The list is in.

And, as most expected, it’s wildly impressive.

The NHL unveiled the full list of its 100 greatest players on Friday night, in a star-studded gala event at the Microsoft Theatre.

Having earlier announced the first 33 ‘legends’ of the top 100 list — which included the likes of Gordie Howe and Maurice ‘the Rocket’ Richard — tonight, the league filled out the remaining 67 spots with a red carpet event, introducing players decade by decade.

And here’s how it went.

1970s: Bobby Orr, Brad Park, Larry Robinson, Serge Savard, Ken Dryden, Tony Esposito, Bernie Parent, Bobby Clarke, Marcel Dionne, Phil Esposito, Jacques Lemaire, Stan Mikita, Gilbert Perreault, Jean Ratelle, Darryl Sittler, Yvan Cournoyer, Bob Gainey, Bobby Hull, Guy Lafleur.

1980s: Jari Kurri, Mike Gartner, Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Peter Stastny, Denis Savard, Mark Messier, Pat LaFontaine, Wayne Gretzky, Ray Bourque, Paul Coffey, Al MacInnis, Denis Potvin, Borje Salming, Grant Fuhr, Billy Smith.

1990s: Patrick Roy, Dominik Hasek, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, Brian Leetch, Chris Chelios, Pavel Bure, Brett Hull, Luc Robitaille, Brendan Shanahan, Sergei Fedorov, Peter Forsberg, Ron Francis, Mario Lemieux, Eric Lindros, Mike Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, Adam Oates, Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Steve Yzerman.

2000s: Teemu Selanne, Chris Pronger, Nicklas Lidstrom, Pavel Datsyuk, Martin Brodeur.

Active players: Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews, Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Jaromir Jagr.

Emceed by Jon Hamm of Mad Men fame, the NHL100 gala culminated with the six active players taking to the stage — capped off by the introduction of Jagr, who recently moved into second all-time in NHL scoring.

Following the final six, Hamm gathered all of the NHL greats on stage for one final moment together. It was a big, demonstrative ending to what was arguably the league’s biggest, most demonstrative celebration to date.

A fitting conclusion. It’s Hollywood, after all.

Who’s No. 1? Gretzky, Lemieux and Orr say it’s Gordie Howe

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LOS ANGELES — Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr are on top of many people’s lists for the greatest NHLer of all time.

But according to the trio, none of ’em are No. 1.

“Gordie [Howe] in my mind is the best player to ever play the game,” Orr said at Friday’s press conference ahead of the NHL100 announcement.

Gretzky and Lemieux agreed, with Gretzky saying all three would vote for Howe as No. 1.

The trio was gathered as part of tonight’s gala event, in which the NHL will celebrate its centennial by naming the top 100 players of all time. And while there won’t be a numerical assignment to the players named — it’s just a collection of the 100 best — there was universal reverence and respect paid to Howe, who passed away last June at the age of 88.

Howe made his NHL debut in 1946, at the age of 18. He went on to become one of the most dominant players of his era, capturing four Stanley Cups, six Hart Trophies as league MVP and another six Art Ross trophies as the league’s top scorer.

Howe retired in 1971, but came out of retirement to play alongside sons Marty and Mark, and spent his final NHL campaign in Hartford during the 1979-80 campaign, at the age of 51.

In doing so, Howe became the oldest player to ever play in an NHL contest, a record that remains unbroken.

That longevity was a big reason why Gretzky, Orr and Lemieux called him the greatest of all time. Though Lemieux did note one of his former teammates is honing in on that record.

“That’s pretty rare these days,” Lemieux said of playing ’til the age of 51. “Well, except for my buddy [Jaromir] Jagr.”