Veteran forward Chris Thorburn announced his retirement Monday after playing more than 800 NHL games for four different organizations since 2005 and winning the Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues.
Thorburn spent his last time on the ice celebrating the Blues winning their first Stanley Cup last season. Despite playing just one game for the Blues in 2018-19, he was the fourth player handed the Cup after Game 7 in Boston.
”We don’t leave a man behind, Thorburn said at the time. ”Everyone’s part of the group, part of something special. Just feels like everyone had a part in it.”
In his announcement through the NHL Players’ Association, Thorburn thanked teammates for taking him on a ”journey of a lifetime.”
”It was an unbelievable ride with a storybook ending,” he said. ”To finish my hockey career with the St. Louis Blues and finally get an opportunity to lift the Stanley Cup over my head, I could not have scripted a better way to go out.”
Thorburn was selected 50th overall by the Buffalo Sabres in the 2001 draft and made his debut for them in 2005. He played 801 regular-season games for the Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets and Blues. He also skated in four playoff games with Winnipeg in 2015.
The 37-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, finishes with 53 goals and 81 assists for 134 points. As a 6-foot-3 tough guy, Thorburn had 968 penalty minutes during his NHL career.
Puck Treasures: Remembering the unplayed 2005 NHL All-Star Game
Puck Treasures is all about showcasing unique pieces of hockey memorabilia. Have an interesting item? Send us an email at email@example.com.
In January 2004, the NHL announced that Atlanta would play host to the 2005 All-Star Game. The Thrashers were in the middle of their fifth season since joining the league, which would be their most successful to date.
The only concern? That dark cloud of Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations that hovered over the 2004-05 season. We know what happened, and the league ensured the Atlanta would not lose out if there were any sort of work stoppage. If the 2005 All-Star Game were to be canceled, the Thrashers would get the event in 2008.
A similar situation happened in 1995 when that lockout cost San Jose the All-Star Game that season. The Sharks would eventually host two years later.
That turned out to be a good contingency plan as Philips Arena played host in 2008, which saw the best introductions in All-Star Game history featuring The Hives.
It wasn’t until early November 2004 when the NHL finally canceled the 2005 All-Star Game due to the lockout. Preparations were already under way, which included pumping out merchandise to generate revenue and buzz for the event. A few pieces still remain out there if you’re interested in memorabilia from events that didn’t happen.
Stay warm in the fall with this pullover as you ponder who would have joined Ilya Kovalchuk as the Thrashers representatives. Marc Savard? Slava Kozlov? Patrik Stefan?
(For the record, Kovalchuk, Savard and Marian Hossa were the three Atlanta reps in 2008. GM Don Waddell served as an assistant coach for the Eastern Conference.)
Maybe you’re just a regular collector and pucks are your sort of thing.
Like a Super Bowl champion shirt featuring the losing team that gets shipped away, these are some unique items that are pretty rare. Given the current COVID-19 pandemic, we could be seeing this happen again with 2021 All-Star Game merchandise. The Panthers are set to host, but with the 2020-21 schedule likely to be altered, the midseason event seems likely to be pushed back a season.
With the 2019-20 NHL season on hold we are going to review where each NHL team stands at this moment until the season resumes. Here we take a look at the surprises and disappointments for the Winnipeg Jets.
Hellebuyck surprises with heck of a season for Jets
Depending on your interpretation of “most valuable player,” you can make a strong argument that Connor Hellebuyck deserves the Hart Trophy, not just the Vezina.
With injuries and the absence of Dustin Byfuglien dealing huge blows to the Jets’ defense, it’s truly remarkable that Winnipeg entered the pause in playoff position. To that, I offer a simple remark: it’s mainly because of Hellebuyck.
Hellebuyck managed a 31-21-5 record, but of course, it was about more than that. For one thing, you can break down Hellebuyck’s .922 save percentage compared to backup Laurent Brossoit‘s .895.
When you factor in the leaky Jets defense in front of him, Hellebuyck really shines.
WPG managed the sixth-worst xG share for any team since 2007, including a lower xG share than any of their Thrashers predecessors. pic.twitter.com/y3yBNVxuxF
Well, the Jets certainly can puff their chests out, because Pionk’s been crucial to their defense.
Now, it’s probably still true that you don’t necessarily want Pionk to be featured this much. An ideal blueline probably won’t lean on Pionk for a team-leading 23:23 per night. Sometimes things aren’t ideal, though. In reality, Pionk delivered incredible value for Winnipeg.
Meanwhile, Trouba looks like an $8M mistake for the Rangers. Pionk’s younger and cheaper than Trouba, and the Jets also nabbed a first-rounder in the deal. It’s remarkable just how similar Pionk and Trouba come across in this even-strength RAPM comparison chart via Evolving Hockey:
The COVID-19 pause creates extra uncertainty, but Byfuglien’s future seems like it would be cloudy either way. It’s also fuzzy figuring out what, exactly, happened. The situation ended up disappointing for Byfuglien’s accountant, at minimum, being that he walked away from a lot of money.
Hopefully we’ll get the pleasant surprise of an awkward-but-entertaining game whenever Byfuglien suits up for a different team against the Jets. The point being: it would be deeply, deeply disappointing if we never see the towering, one-of-a-kind defenseman ever play again. Especially since there would be no warning that we’d already seen his last game.
Either way, it was a highly disappointing end to Byfuglien’s lengthy, important stay with the Jets. The connections between the Thrashers days just keep fading away.
Hockey fans have been treated to quite a few one-team legends, including Mario Lemieux saving the Penguins more than once.
Even so, there are plenty of legends who ended spent time in jerseys that just felt wrong. Let’s ponder the hockey answers to Brady leaving the Patriots, Johnny Unitas on the Chargers, Michael Jordan with the Wizards, and Babe Ruth on the Boston Braves.
Bobby Orr and Ray Bourque leave Boston with very different results
At least with Brady, Boston-area fans couldn’t reasonably ask for more. Meanwhile, Bobby Orr’s career concluded with questions of “What could have been?”
Knee injuries ravaged his later career, and after 10 seasons, Orr left the Bruins for the Blackhawks. Between two seasons, Orr could only appear in 26 games for Chicago.
If Orr on the Blackhawks isn’t the Brady comparison you think of for hockey, then it’s probably Brodeur appearing in seven games for the Blues after winning three Stanley Cups, four Vezinas, and setting the all-time wins record over 1,259 games with the Devils.
(That contrast still makes me chuckle, to be honest.)
As awkward as Brodeur’s brief Blues stint was, it lacked the angst of how Orr’s career ended. That might make it closer to a 1:1 hockey comparison for Brady, although the QB could easily prove that his tank isn’t empty.
Much of this list shows examples of players trying to prove that they could still play, with most sputtering out after running on fumes.
Hull of a change, and Howe
Bobby Hull already experienced quite a journey going from the Blackhawks to the WHA’s Winnipeg Jets (scoring 303 goals in the WHA alone). Hull’s final hockey and NHL season was especially odd, though, starting with 18 NHL games for the Jets before being traded to the Hartford Whalers, playing nine games for The Whale. Gordie Howe ended up being a Whalers teammate of Hull, which is … yeah, pretty mind-blowing. Bobby Hull also attempted a comeback with the Rangers.
(Howe’s legendary career featured quite the second [and maybe third?] acts after his Red Wings days, including playing with his sons, and somehow managing 15 goals and 41 points with the Hartford Whalers at age 51.)
Bobby’s son Brett Hull experienced a journeyman career of his own. Brett convinced the Coyotes to unretire Bobby’s number 9, but that story ended with a whimper (five games) as Brett realized he couldn’t adjust to the post-lockout style of play in 2005-06.
Random Red Wings
If you’re playing trivia and “This player finished his career/briefly played for this team …” comes up, blurting out Detroit Red Wings isn’t the worst bet.
Mats Sundin stunned Maple Leafs fans by joining the Canucks. There was some Alfredsson-like logic of linking Sundin with fellow Swedes Henrik and Daniel Sedin, yet the experiment lasted just 41 games.
Brian Leetch playing for the Maple Leafs was a little strange, but Leetch in a Bruins sweater will never look right.
Guy Lafleur, Montreal Canadiens legend, as a Quebec Nordique? Yes, that happened. Jacques Plante bounced around quite about post-Habs, too, including eight games with the (gasp) Bruins.
Like Plante, Grant Fuhr pinballed around the NHL quite a bit after parting ways with the Oilers, but joining the Flames? Wow. Fuhr didn’t just play for the Calgary Flames, either, as he suited up twice for the Saint John Flames.
File Ed Belfour and Igor Larionov under “people you might not have known played for the Panthers.”
Olaf Kolzig was persistent in Washington as Godzilla could be in Tokyo, playing 711 of his 719 games for the Capitals. The eight other games came with the Lightning. (Vincent Lecavalier playing for the Kings was strange, but softened by his years with the Flyers.)
Feel free to mention other fish-out-of-water memories in the comments. Also, if you had to guess, which hockey legend will Brady mirror the most?
As 2019 comes to a close, we’re using this final full week of the year to take a look back at the past decade. We’ll remember the best players and teams, most significant goals, and biggest transactions that have happened since 2010. Let us know your memories in the comments.
Player of the decade
SEAN: I’m going to chicken out here and allow Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin to each get a piece of the award. They both achieved so much in the decade and still have a number of years left in the NHL to add to their Hall of Fame legacies.
Let’s start with Crosby, who ended 2009 by winning his first Stanley Cup and then began 2010 by scoring the golden goal in overtime for Canada at the Vancouver Olympics. He continued bulking up his resume with another Olympic gold medal, gold at the World Cup of Hockey and the IIHF World Championship, two more Cups, two Conn Smythe Trophies, a second Hart Trophy, two Richard Trophies, and two Ted Lindsay Awards, among numerous other honors. To think his never-ending list of awards could have been even greater had he not missed so much time dealing with various injuries.
Moving on to Ovi, since Jan. 1, 2010, the Capitals captain has scored 435 goals in 765 games, 73 more than Steven Stamkos, who has the second-most over that span. When you shoot as much as he has (3,447 total shots, 844 more than Phil Kessel) you’re going to score at a rate that he does.
What else has Ovechkin done this decade? He finally won his Cup, was named winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy, picked up his third Hart Trophy, won the Ted Lindsay Award, scored his way to six more Richard Trophies, and won two golds at the Worlds. He also has a good chance at hitting 700 goals this season as he marches his towards Wayne Gretzky’s record of 894.
JAMES: Honestly, it feels like it would be facetious to name anyone except Sidney Crosby. Maybe if Connor McDavid was born a few years earlier? Perhaps Roberto Luongo if you weigh funny tweets heavily?
Crosby’s piled up some of the best numbers of the last 10 years, even as concussions made the beginning of the decade look like a possible premature end-of-the-line. Thankfully, aside from the occasional hernia hiccup, Crosby’s been able to remain on the ice. He’s collected all of the individual and team accolades one can ask for, and while others enjoyed dominant stretches, Crosby ranks the highest by just about every objective measure.
Would it kill him to crack a few jokes, though?
JOEY: It might be the easy answer, but it’s hard not to go with Sidney Crosby. He captained the Pittsburgh Penguins to back-to-back Stanley Cups this decade and he won the Conn Smythe Trophy in both those years too, He won a Hart Trophy in 2014. He took home an Art Ross Trophy, a Rocket Richard Trophy, two Ted Lindsay Awards and he was named a First-team All-Star three different times. On the international stage, he took home Gold Medals at the 2010 and 2014 Olympic Games. How do you argue with that? Yes, a lot of these accomplishments are team accomplishments, but it’s no coincidence that Crosby’s teams tend to do well. He’s a great player. Clearly the player of the decade.
ADAM: It is the same answer that everyone else is going to give, but how can it be anyone else other than Sidney Crosby? He added two Stanley Cups, two Conn Smythe Trophies, another scoring title, another goal-scoring crown, and another MVP to his individual trophy case and was the most productive player of the decade. He is only 20 points behind Patrick Kane for most total points since the start of the 2010-11 season, but you have to keep in mind that Crosby has played in 104 fewer games because of injuries, with his peak offensive years in the league being crushed by injuries and a lockout. I want to see what he would have done offensively with 82-game seasons between the 2010 and 2014 seasons.
SCOTT: Sidney Crosby will be a popular choice, but Patrick Kane of the Chicago Blackhawks has been a joy to watch this decade. Three Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe and a Hart trophy are just some of the awards Kane has gathered this decade. Additionally, No. 88 should finish the decade with the most points of any NHL player.
Kane is an electric player and has proven that he can thread a pass in the tiniest of windows and can snipe the smallest of corners from any angle. The NHL is a better sport when a player as special as Kane is on the ice.
Favorite goal from the past decade?
SEAN: Bobby Ryan once scored a goal with Mikko Koivu’s stick, then taunted the Wild forward in response to Koivu swiping his stick moments earlier. It was unique, petty, and just so damn wonderful.
JOEY: I’m going to have to go back to the start of the decade. Patrick Kane’s Stanley Cup winning goal in overtime in 2010 wasn’t a highlight goal, but it was a funny way to end an incredibly long Stanley Cup drought. Kane was the only person in the world who knew that his shot from a sharp angle went into the Flyers’ net. His reaction was priceless and the fact that everyone else is just looking around made it even more memorable. Again, it wasn’t the prettiest goal, but it’s one that I’ll never forget just because of how unique it was.
ADAM: Two words for you: Butt goal. Buffalo Sabres vs. Arizona Coyotes. Overtime. A loose puck gets deflected in the air, falls into the back of Mike Smith‘s pants, and he then slides his entire body across the goal line into the back of the net and inadvertently gives the Sabres a free overtime win. Easily the most unique, absurd, and ridiculous goal of the decade. Many players have scored Stanley Cup clinching goals or playoff series clinching goals, but how many butt goals do you see? Will also give honorable mention to the three goalie goals of the decade — Cam Ward, Martin Brodeur, and Smith. Smith gets extra credit because his was one he actually shot into the net (not an own-goal by the other team where the goalie was most recent player to touch it). It also came just two months before his butt goal. It was an eventful season for Mike Smith.
SCOTT: John Tavares’ wraparound in double overtime of Game 6 to lead the Islanders to their first playoff series since 1993. The Islanders needed to get the monkey off their backs and to see a captain deliver in the clutch was a special sight.
Accountant by day, EBUG by night, Foster played 14 minutes of a Blackhawks win in 2018 as his beer league buddies watched. He wasn’t scored on by the Jets and can forever tout a 0.00 goals against average and 1.000 save percentage … until he’s called upon again.
JAMES: As many great things happened on the ice, I’d be a liar if I said it wasn’t meeting my future wife at the NHL Awards.
(Besides, while I followed her to Canada, I’m not yet ready to betray my American brethren by choosing Crosby’s golden goal.)
JOEY: I was thrilled to see. Alex Ovechkin finally win a Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals. There was all this silly talk about him not being able to lead his team to a cup, and for a moment it looked like their window had closed. Once they dropped the first two games of their first-round series against the Columbus Blue Jackets, everyone got that “here we go again” feeling, but the Capitals managed to prove everybody wrong.
ADAM: I have been writing about the NHL for more than a decade now and have attended several outdoor games, many Stanley Cup Final games, saw the Blackhawks win it in Boston and get to walk out on the ice during their celebration, and was at the Penguins’ double-overtime Game 7 win against Ottawa in the 2017 Eastern Conference Final. All of those memories are amazing. If I am being honest, though, my favorite memory of the past decade is another completely absurd one. Mainly because I love celebrating the absurdity and chaos of sports. It is being in the building the night an angry Henrik Lundqvistflipped the net over during play in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. That was a huge turning point game for the Penguins because at the time they had not won the second Stanley Cup in the Crosby-Evgeni Malkin–Kris Letang era and were trying to change the “disappointment” narrative around them. Lundqvist had owned them for a couple of years and eliminated them in back-to-back years in the playoffs. When he flipped the net everyone in the building was completely bewildered in a “what did we just see?” sort of way, and no one could believe it after. It was all surreal. Lundqvist was never the same against the Penguins after that, the Penguins won the Stanley Cup a few months later after going through the Rangers in Round 1, then repeated the next season.
SCOTT: Mother’s Day 2014. Martin St. Louis scored one of the more emotional goals of the decade. The Hall of Fame forward lost his mother earlier in the week but returned to the New York Rangers to help them overcome a 3-1 series deficit against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Best and worst NHL jersey of the past decade
SEAN: Best: As much I hope more teams add some color to their jersey designs, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Sharks’ stealth jerseys. The combination of the black with teal looks real sharp and comes across so nice on HD TVs.
Worst: The Sabres’ Turdburger jerseys were bad, yeah, but what was up with those red Atlanta Thrashers thirds with THRASHERS in that odd font and the number right on the belly? The shoulder patch logos were fine, but altogether it was just a mess.
JAMES: Considering the Sabres’ checkered history of bad logos and design choices (note: the Hurricanes are the organization that actually dominates literal checkers), it’s refreshing that their gold-encrusted anniversary duds rock so, so hard. Really, anything classic and simple-looking will probably produce some drool, so I will hear your arguments for slick stuff like these Flames sweaters. (The Sabres’ gloves break the tie for me, for what it’s worth.)
While I’m sure there are uglier looks than the Lightning’s “stealth mode” jerseys, that moniker brings about unintended consequences, because frankly, there are times when it’s tough to read players’ numbers. Form is important, designers, but functionality matters in cases like these, too. I’d rather grimace at a bad design than squint. No Robert De Niro impressions here.
Also, as a colorblind person, I a) should probably be disqualified from this discussion anyway and b) would like to gently request that “color vs. color” stays a novelty rather than becoming a regular thing.
JOEY: Worst: It has to be those brutal black New York Islanders jerseys that had the grey shoulders, the world “Islanders” in orange letters on the front and the player’s number on the front of the shirt. Thankfully the Isles retired those a while ago. If we never see those uniform, we’ll all be better for it.
Best: I’m always a fan of the classics. The Montreal Canadiens and Chicago Blackhawks will always be my favorites, but if I had to give another one, I’d go with the Vancouver Canucks black “skate” jersey. I was so happy to see them bring those back this year for their 50th anniversary. Those things are incredible. I don’t really buy jerseys anymore, but that’s one I might have to purchase in the near future. It’s incredibly gorgeous.
ADAM: Worst: The Los Angeles’ Kings stadium series jerseys, the ones with the silver on the top part and plain white on the bottom. Hated them from the minute I saw them and they have never grown on me since.
Best: Probably an unpopular opinion because everyone prefers their teal look, but the San Jose Sharks’ stealth jersey is near the top of my list. I also have no real reason for liking it, but the New York Rangers’ 2012 Winter Classic jersey is one that always appealed to me.
SCOTT: Worst: The Islanders’ black alternate jerseys. They were not the ugliest looking sweaters but were extremely out of place for a franchise that wore blue and orange throughout their history. The organization was not ready to embrace a move to the Barclays Center and the black jerseys did not help the situation.
Best: The Maple Leafs have a classic sweater to begin with, but the white jerseys they wore during the 2018 Stadium Series against the Washington Capitals were super sharp.
One bold prediction for the NHL’s next 10 years
SEAN: The NHL gets fully on board with the idea load management and slashes the schedule to 70 games, beginning the season in mid-September and handing out the Stanley Cup in mid-May. Players get more time to rest; teams get more time to practice; and we’re not worrying about ice conditions deep into June.
Where do the players and owners make up for that lost revenue from the 12 fewer games? Welcome back, World Cup of Hockey. Hello, increased presence of gambling sponsorships. How ya doin’, China market cash cow.
(OK, maybe this is a wish rather than a bold prediction?)
JAMES: Canadian NHL teams will win at least four Stanley Cups, with Connor McDavid and Auston Matthews finishing the decade with at least one Stanley Cup victory apiece.
JOEY: By Dec. 31, 2029, I believe we’ll see a European branch of the NHL. I’m not sure how it’s going to work, but I can see the NHL wanting to go global. I don’t think they’ll expand in North America after Seattle, but I can see them add more than one team in Europe/Asia before the start of the next decade. Leagues are looking to expand their reach. The NFL will be heading to London full-time sooner or later, so it wouldn’t shock me to see Gary Bettman make a similar announcement. Imagine if a Finnish team taking on a Swedish team in the Stanley Cup Final. That might be closer than you think.
ADAM: Connor McDavid plays for a team that is not the Edmonton Oilers not only within the next decade, but within the next five years. I am going big with this bold prediction. I do not trust the Oilers to ever get it right around him and he is going to want to eventually win.
SCOTT: Player tracking will be taken to a whole new level and play a crucial component for NHL teams to use when making roster management decisions.