Brian Leetch

Hockey legends like Brady leaving Patriots Orr Howe Hull Brodeur
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With Brady leaving Patriots, remember these hockey legends in places you forgot

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As mind-blowing as it is to type this, it’s true: Tom Brady said goodbye to the Patriots on Tuesday. It’s something that’s difficult to process, even if you’re not a Patriots or even a football fan. Yet, as Hardball Talk’s Craig Calcaterra chronicles for baseball, legends donning strange uniforms late in their careers is no new phenomenon, and certainly not limited to the land of pigskins. So what about hockey and the NHL, then?

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.

Orr down hockey Brady comparison
(Photo by Bruce Bennett Studios via Getty Images Studios/Getty Images)

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.

In something of a sequel, the Bruins traded Ray Bourque during his 21st season with the team, setting the stage for Bourque to eventually win a Stanley cup inspiring enough to essentially demand a parade in Boston.

Brodeur Blues Brady leaving Patriots hockey comparison
(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Brodeur finishes with the Blues

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.

(Photo by Denis Brodeur/NHLI via Getty Images)

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.

(Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

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.

Lightning round, sometimes involving Lightning

  • 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?

(Hopefully we won’t ever get that “Halloween Olajuwon as a Raptor vs. Patrick Ewing with the Magic” feeling from Brady’s final act.)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Report: Rangers expected to announce captain on Thursday

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Ever since the Rangers dealt Ryan Callahan to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for Martin St. Louis in March, the team has been without a captain.

That should change this week according to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News.

In his post, Leonard suggests Alain Vigneault could name veteran defenseman Ryan McDonagh the franchise’s 27th captain as early as Thursday – that’s when the Rangers’ bench boss is expected to address the media for the first time ahead of training camp.

McDonagh, 25, has spent four seasons with the Rangers scoring 26 goals and 103 points in 246 regular season games.

Originally a first-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens (12th overall 2007), McDonagh was sent to the Rangers as part of a six player trade in June 2009.

“I think I’ve progressed into being a go-to guy, someone teammates can look up to and someone they can count on,” McDonagh told Leonard. “I think guys see I’m willing to do whatever it takes to win… (Captain) is a big responsibility, too. It’s not just about on the ice but how you carry yourself off of it and represent the organization.”

If selected, McDonagh would be the first Rangers defenseman to wear the ‘C’ since Hall of Famer Brian Leetch led New York from 1997-2000.

Other options for the captaincy include alternate captain Marc Staal, but as Leonard points out, he doesn’t have the long term contract, which McDonagh currently does.

Related: Rangers give Malone a chance, sign veteran forward to a two-way deal

Under Pressure: P.K. Subban

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P.K. Subban has always been a lightning rod for criticism because he doesn’t just play the game, he does it with flare; Subban isn’t afraid to do a little talking on the ice adding an eccentric celebration following a goal or a win to add salt to the wound.

As childhood on-ice nemesis, and current Maple Leaf Nazem Kadri once told me, “That’s what drives people crazy: he’s a good player and he runs his mouth a little. When good players are chirping and running their mouth, it just makes the other team want to kill him that much more.

“Then next thing you know, he’s putting one in the back of your net, which makes you even more angry.”

In Montreal, it’s hard to say Subban could be under any more pressure that was until he inked his new mammoth eight-year, $72 million contract earlier this month.

“I’ll tell you something, it’s nothing I haven’t heard in my career before,” Subban joked last week of criticism heard during the arbitration process.

Subban added, that he’s used to the added attention he garners, “I understand when it’s me, it’s a little more magnified, that’s fine.”

Now everyone’s coming out of the woodwork to offer their two cents including former Hab, Alexei Kovalev, who last week paid Subban a back-handed compliment comparing Subban to Hall of Famer Brian Leetch, before adding that he didn’t understand why Subban was making so much money.

The criticism will likely follow Subban for the duration of his contract and beyond, especially if he plays more like he did in 2013-14 than he did in 2012-13 when he won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenseman.

This past season Subban had just 15 more points than he did in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, but what’s more glaring is that as one of the team’s top defenseman, he carried a minus rating.

Now how could one go about adding more pressure to the 25-year-old’s shoulders? Is that even possible?

Well with the departure of captain Brian Gionta along with fellow veterans Daniel Briere and Josh Georges, the Canadiens now need to appoint a new captain.

Why not the highest paid guy on the team?

“I think the interesting thing about our team is that we have a lot of guys who are leaders, and guys that are growing into leaders,” Subban said attempting to deflect attention. “At the end of the day that’s management’s decision, they’ll make the decision as to who they feel fits the best mold as a captain.”

Playing under pressure is what Subban’s done ever since he burst on to the scene in Montreal, but it’s how he performs under that pressure going forward that Canadiens fans care about.

“I think playing in Montreal, not just me, but also my teammates, we understand the magnitude of wearing the ‘C-H ‘and playing for the Montreal Canadiens,” said Subban. “But that’s exciting, that’s the exciting thing about playing in Montreal is, to me anyway, being under the spotlight and excelling.

“This is a city that craves for success, craves for a championship and that motivates you. Its just added motivation.”

Well P.K. sounds like he knows what he’s talking about, lets hope for the sake of Habs’ fans, he can back it up on the ice.

Related: Markov represents Montreal’s other pricey extension

Kovalev compares Subban to Leetch, says he isn’t worth the money

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By now we know P.K. Subban is a lightning rod for opinionated takes but it’s not often he’s compared to a Hall of Fame player and it’s in a negative light.

Such is the case for former Montreal Canadiens superstar Alex Kovalev.

Kovalev spoke with Phillipe Lehoux of RDS and was asked about the electrifying Habs star defenseman. SBN’s Habs Eyes On The Prize dutifully shared what the Russian had to say.

“I’m not saying he isn’t a good hockey player, but he’s not the guy,” Kovalev said. “He’s a risky defenseman, and he’s a wide open defenseman. What I’m saying is that he can give up five goals and score five goals, and the score’s still going to be zero-zero. So if for example he saves five goals and scores five goals, that’s a different style of hockey. So I always compare him with Brian Leetch, because he wants to play the same kind of style, and be more offensive. He’s not making the right decisions. He’s making the risky plays, he’s not making the right decisions sometimes. He just plays like we used to play on the street.

“Maybe because he won best defenseman of the year (Norris Trophy) that’s how they get paid these days. You know, you win best player of the year and you get a big contract right away. But for his game, I don’t know why he got so much money.”

Recall that Subban signed an eight-year, $72 million deal on Aug. 2. He also won the Norris Trophy in 2013. Also recall that Leetch was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 1994 with the New York Rangers (a team Kovalev played on) and went into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2009.

Basically Kovalev is saying Subban is making too much money for what he does at his position. The problem with that is there’s not much debate about him being one of the best defensemen in the league.

It’s not like Kovalev was underpaid when he was a player (he wasn’t) and it’s not as if he didn’t face a lot of questions about his work ethic (he did). Heck, the term “enigmatic Russian” may have been born from watching him play.

But hey, taking shots at Subban isn’t anything new and leave it to a guy who faced a ton of questions himself when he was in Montreal to offer up his own flammable opinion.

Fanspeak: Messier voted greatest Ranger in franchise history

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This summer, NBC Sports’ social media team is conducting the #NHLGreatest initiative, designed for fans to choose the best player in each franchise’s history. Balloting was conducted through three platforms — Facebook, Twitter and Instagram — with thousands of votes being cast. The results of this initiative will be released throughout the month of August, in conjunction with PHT’s Team of the Day series.

New York Rangers

1. Mark Messier — 957 votes

2. Brian Leetch — 641 votes

3. Mike Richter — 314 votes

4. Wayne Gretzky — 291 votes

5. Henrik Lundqvist — 155 votes

6. Rod Gilbert — 113 votes

There was really only one choice to make here, wasn’t there?

Yes, Rod Gilbert is the franchise leader in goals and points and a Hockey Hall of Famer. Yes, Brian Leetch was the Conn Smythe Trophy winner in 1994 and Mike Richter was the goalie that helped make that Stanley Cup championship happen that year, but Mark Messier was the captain.

Messier’s guarantee the Rangers would win Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final in 1994 against the New Jersey Devils was the stuff of legend and earned him the nickname of “Messiah.” It was backed up by seeing him score a hat trick and force a legendary Game 7 that was capped off by Stephane Matteau’s double-overtime winner past Martin Brodeur.

What seemed to by mythology about Messier’s leadership came to fruition as the Rangers battled back against New Jersey and then slipped past Pavel Bure’s Vancouver Canucks in seven games in the Final. Hell, Messier even has his own award he dishes out annually for leadership based not upon the five Stanley Cups he won in Edmonton but the one he got in New York.

Wayne Gretzky had a fine final run with the Rangers and perhaps the best of Henrik Lundqvist’s legacy is yet to come in Manhattan, but when you think of the Rangers it’s Messier’s face taking the Cup from Gary Bettman that’s forever emblematic of the franchise.