Joe Sakic

Hockey legends like Brady leaving Patriots Orr Howe Hull Brodeur
Getty Images

With Brady leaving Patriots, remember these hockey legends in places you forgot

2 Comments

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.

My Favorite Goal: Sakic helps end Canada’s Olympic gold drought

Getty Images

Welcome to “My Favorite Goal,” a regular feature from NBC Sports where our writers, personalities and NHL players remember the goals that have meant the most to them. These goals have left a lasting impression and there’s a story behind each one.

Today, PHT’s Joey Alfieri remembers Joe Sakic’s goal that sealed Canada’s win in the 2002 Olympic gold medal game.

It might be easy for some to forget now, but Canada went through an Olympic gold medal drought that lasted 50 years. Sure, NHLers weren’t allowed in the Olympics throughout most of that slump, but it was a big deal when I was growing up. Let me add a little background to my international hockey obsession.

As a youngster growing up in Montreal, Quebec, the first international tournament I really remember paying close attention to was the 1998 Olympics in Nagano, Japan. At the time, I was eight years old and I remember sitting on my couch watching the  Canada-Czech Republic semifinal with those hockey cards you could cut out from behind the Kraft Dinner macaroni and cheese boxes (anyone else remember those things?). In one hand, I had a Patrick Roy card and in the other, I had a Dominik Hasek card.

Of course, both goalies were going head-to-head that day, which is why I had those cards close by. When Hasek stopped Brendan Shanahan on Canada’s final shootout attempt, I was in shambles. I remember my family trying to console me, but there was nothing anyone could say that to take the pain of losing to the Czechs go away in that moment.

I look back on that moment now and realize the heartbreak I suffered took my passion for the sport to another level. It was the first time I was really heartbroken over a single hockey moment.

I was so distraught that I tore my Hasek and Roy cards to pieces. I was furious at Hasek for winning, I was heartbroken that Roy didn’t make one more save. It was terrible. I’ll never forget Hasek leaping into the air repeatedly seconds after that game ended.

Anyway, let’s fast-forward to 2002.

You have to keep in mind that my love for international hockey intensified year after year leading up to the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics. There was more heartbreak between the 1998 Olympic loss and the 2002 triumph though.

During those years, I began following the World Junior Championship closely and it just so happened that Canada failed to win the tournament every year between 1998 and 2005. My frustration with Hockey Canada was pretty high heading into that 2002 tournament.

I remember head coach Pat Quinn announcing that Curtis Joseph would be his starting goaltender heading into the tournament. I recall not being a fan of that move (keep in mind, I was 12-year-old living in Martin Brodeur’s hometown).

So, Canada opened the tournament with a 5-2 loss to Team Sweden. The Swedes were loaded with talent, but I was still stunned. It’s not the way I expected the Canadians to open the tournament. The confidence in my team, which probably took four years to develop, was gone in one night.

But Canada ended up switching from Joseph to Brodeur and they managed to beat Germany 3-2 in their second game. The Canadians then tied the Czechs in their final round robin game. Throughout this entire opening round, I never allowed myself to think that they had a legitimate chance at gold. After all, I was just trying to avoid the same sting I felt last time.

So, the knockout portion of the tournament comes and Canada beats Finland 2-1 in the quarter-final, and then they take out Belarus, who shocked Sweden, rather easily (7-1) in the semi-final.

It’s Canada and Team USA in the final for all the marbles.

Sunday, Feb. 24, 2002. It’s a day I’ll never forget. Like every fan, I was nervous. And I was sick and tired of hearing about this 50-year gold medal drought everyone was talking about.

The game starts, and Tony Amonte opens the scoring for the Americans. Here we go again. The Canadians respond with two goals from Paul Kariya and Jarome Iginla before the end of the first frame and Canada goes into the intermission with a 2-1 lead. I’m just a kid, but I’m a wreck. The intermissions felt like they lasted a lifetime.

Brian Rafalski ties the game in the second period, but Joe Sakic puts Canada up by a goal late in the second period.

20 minutes to go.

The Canadians were nursing that one-goal lead for most of the final period. With every great American chance, I was getting more and more antsy. Finally, Iginla scored his second goal of the game with four minutes remaining to give Canada a two-goal edge. I was ecstatic, but I still wanted to hold off celebrating.

But then it happened.

It’s a goal call that I’ll never forget by my favorite play-by-play announcer, Bob Cole.

Canada trying to hang on. They get a break. It’s gonna be a break. It is Joe Sakic…scores! Jiiiiiiiiooooo Sakic scores! And that makes it 5-2 for Canada. Surely, that’s gotta be it!

I’ll never forget the way Cole said Sakic’s full name after that puck crossed the goal line. It was perfect. What a moment.

Finally, I realized that the ridiculous drought I had been hearing about for weeks was about to become a thing of the past.

Even though Sakic’s goal wasn’t the game-winner or anything like that, it symbolized so much more to me. It was the final nail in Team USA’s coffin and it made the 1998 heartbreak hurt a lot less.

“As a kid growing up in Canada, you dream of playing in the NHL, winning a Stanley Cup, and one day wearing a Team Canada jersey,” Sakic told Olympic.ca. “Having the chance to play for my country at the Olympics, and especially winning a gold medal in Salt Lake City, was an amazing and memorable experience I’ll always cherish.”

Most Canadians never get to represent their country on the international stage, but Sakic’s goal made every hockey fan in the nation feel like something special. As Canadians, we’re supposed to be good at hockey. For a long while, it didn’t feel that way. But that day in February, one man’s goal changed everything.

PREVIOUSLY ON MY FAVORITE GOAL:
Darren McCarty shows off goal-scoring hands during 1997 Cup Final
Alex Ovechkin scores ‘The Goal’ as a rookie
Marek Malik’s stunning shootout winner
Paul Henderson scores for Canada
Tomas Hertl goes between-the-legs
Borschevsky’s goal sealed with a kiss
Bolland clinches Cup for Blackhawks 17 seconds later
Stoll completes Kings’ upset over Canucks

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Rantanen’s goals help Avalanche defeat Flyers, extend point streak

Getty Images

Mikko Rantanen scored twice and the Colorado Avalanche extended their point streak to eight games with a 3-1 win against the Philadelphia Flyers.

Matt Calvert also scored, and Pavel Francouz made 32 saves in Colorado’s seventh win over the past eight games.

Claude Giroux scored the lone Flyers goal late in the third period and Carter Hart made 25 saves, but the Flyers fell in regulation for only the second time in the previous 10 outings (7-2-1).

Francouz provides boost between the pipes

With Avalanche starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer sidelined with a lower-body injury, Francouz made his fourth straight appearance and collected his eighth win of the season with a strong performance against the Flyers.

After a rocky showing against the Flames earlier this week which resulted in a 5-4 overtime loss, Francouz bounced back and was a steadying force in the crease. Claude Giroux ended Francouz’s shutout bid late in the third period, but the Czech goalie held off a late push from Philadelphia.

After a second-round defeat in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Avalanche have eyes on home-ice advantage in the 2020 postseason. If Francouz can provide consistent goaltending when called upon, they certainly have the star power up front to be a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.

Kadri acquisition paying early dividends

Colorado general manager Joe Sakic acquired Nazem Kadri this past summer to help the Avalanche become a deeper team with improved secondary scoring. With 21 points in 28 games this season, Kadri has added another element to Colorado’s dynamic offensive attack.

Early in the third period Wednesday, Kadri patiently waited behind the Flyers’ net until Rantanen skated into position to convert a one-timer to give Colorado a three-goal third-period lead.

The Avalanche’s top line is one of the most lethal trios in the NHL, but Colorado is that much more dangerous if Kadri continues to provide an extra boost.

Looking ahead for Flyers

The Flyers began a three-game road trip against Central Division opponents with a loss against the Avalanche, but cannot let one game ruin the momentum they have generated with strong play in recent weeks. The Flyers will travel to Minnesota and Winnipeg over the weekend and need to continue to secure points to keep pace in the Metropolitan Division.

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.

Bargain star MacKinnon says he’d take less money again to help Avalanche win

4 Comments

If you could choose one active NHL player to build a team around, who would it be?

In a vacuum, the answer should be obvious: Connor McDavid. Yet, when you consider salary cap realities, the choice gets fuzzier thanks to the absolutely ludicrous bargain the Colorado Avalanche are enjoying with Nathan MacKinnon.

With all due respect to the steals teams like the Bruins enjoy with David Pastrnak, you can’t really beat the bang for the buck the Avalanche get for MacKinnon (unless you try to cheat with rookie contracts, which: tsk, tsk).

MacKinnon, 24, is currently in the fourth season of a contract that carries an outrageously team-friendly AAV of just $6.3M, and delightfully for Colorado, that deal won’t expire until after the 2022-23 season. That cap hit is barely more than half of the $12.5M AAV McDavid carries, and frankly, McDavid is worth every penny of the league maximum. (And MacKinnon likely deserves something in that range, too.)

You have to wonder if MacKinnon must want to fire his agent after seeing players like Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner cashing in on their second deals, but the speedy Avalanche center mostly shrugged it off — though with some humor — telling Forbes’ Jordan Horrobin that, in the grand scheme of things, MacKinnon has “no regrets” about signing his contract.

After all, MacKinnon is doing just fine, with Cap Friendly estimating his career earnings at $27.025M so far. Yes, MacKinnon deserves more, but unless Elon Musk or Bill Gates is reading this post, you’d agree that it’s a good problem to have.

Even so, fans of teams with stars on less team-friendly contracts likely feel jealous when they see MacKinnon ripping through defenses at a cut rate. Those fans may grit their teeth, then, while Avs fans may want to throw up confetti when they realize that MacKinnon indicated to Horrobin that he’d sacrifice some dollars on his next contract if it helped the Avalanche win big.

“We have guys that we wouldn’t (otherwise) be able to bring in,” MacKinnon said. “On my next deal, I’ll take less again. Because I want to win with this group.”

Now, sure, “less” is likely to be a relative term. Maybe it would mean that MacKinnon would “settle” for a bit less than whatever the maximum salary would be. The league’s salary structure and revenues could really blossom by 2022 (the first summer where MacKinnon could sign an extension) or after 2022-23, when his deal expires. Or maybe MacKinnon would follow his buddy Sidney Crosby and give the Avalanche another extreme sweetheart deal.

And, obviously, things can change fast. The Avalanche could fall off the rails compared to their current seemingly skyrocketing upward trajectory, or MacKinnon could clash with management, making the prospect of leaving even more money on the table far less palatable down the line.

But the concept of getting another value contract with MacKinnon is ultimately extremely promising for the Avs.

After all, this bursting group of young talent figures to become pretty costly down the line. Cale Makar is already flirting with superstar status, and he’ll need a second contract after 2020-21. Philipp Grubauer only has two more years on his active contract, too, and could prove he’s worth far more than his current $3.33M AAV. Gabriel Landeskog‘s contract expires during that same offseason.

You can see how the belt could really tighten for the Avalanche down the line, and while MacKinnon should command a huge raise whenever he inks his next contract, it sounds like he might be willing to compromise to try to win a Stanley Cup (or, perhaps if he parallels Crosby in more than just taking less money for the team, winning multiple Stanley Cups).

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.

Penguins remain hot with win vs. Avalanche

2 Comments

Brandon Tanev notched a shorthanded goal in overtime to lead the Pittsburgh Penguins to a 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.

Sidney Crosby and Jake Guentzel also scored as Pittsburgh recorded its fourth straight victory. Matt Murray added 26 saves.

Matt Calvert and Nathan MacKinnon found the back of the net for the Avalanche but their six-game point streak to open the season came to an end.

Crosby continues to dazzle

The Penguins captain has clearly moved on from a disappointing playoff run last year, which ended in a first-round sweep at the hands of the Islanders. Instead, Crosby is off to a tremendous start, recording points in each of Pittsburgh’s seven games and leading the club on the ice to a 5-2-0 record.

Crosby netted a highlight-reel backhander to tie the game late in the first period and then assisted on a Jake Guentzel tally in the second.

The superstar center craftily tipped the puck around Erik Johnson, played the puck with his glove, and then somehow had the wherewithal to outlast goaltender Philipp Grubauer until an opening appeared for him to slide a backhander into the net.

Early in the second period, Crosby intercepted a pass at the blueline, then set up Guentzel to help the Penguins grab a 2-1 lead.

While several notable players remain sidelined, Crosby will be expected to lead the Penguins on the ice, and continue to improve the players around him. Pittsburgh will need Crosby to play at the top of his game until reinforcements return over the next few weeks.

Avalanche upcoming free agents

After the Mikko Rantanen contract issue this past summer, the Avalanche have several pending RFA’s for next summer.

Colorado is expected to be a legit Stanley Cup Contender with a great mix of dynamic playmakers, infusion of youth and seasoned veterans capable of leading the way during turbulent stretches.

However, Bob McKenzie offered that general manager Joe Sakic wants to see how the first part of the season plays out before engaging in contract talks.

Andre Burakovsky, Tyson Jost and Nikita Zadorov headline the pending RFA class and all presumably have a role to fill moving forward.

Is Lafferty here to stay?

The Penguins have been bitten by the injury bug early and have been forced to rely on their organizational depth to stay afloat during a challenging stretch.

During their Stanley Cup-winning years, the Penguins have always been able to call up a role player to fill a specific need. Is Sam Lafferty the next player to seamlessly fit in?

Lafferty was close to making the team out of training camp according to Bob McKenzie, but fell victim to the numbers game of a roster. However, injuries to five impact forwards — Evgeni Malkin, Nick Bjugstad, Alex Galchenyuk, Bryan Rust and Jared McCann — created a roster spot for him to slide in.

“We always felt like Sam was close coming into this training camp this year. But I think he has a whole lot more confidence in himself that he belongs here,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “And that’s great for him, and that’s great for us.”

The 24-year-old originally from Hollidaysburg, Pennsylvania, about two hours outside of Pittsburgh, Lafferty has taken advantage of the opportunity recording five points over the previous three games.

“He’s earned his playing time. He’s just playing terrific hockey,” Sullivan said. “He made a difference every game he’s been in. As a result, he’s getting more ice time. He’s a very good penalty-killer. I think he really understands his role and is taking pride in it. You can see it every shift. He’s gaining more confidence.”

The Penguins have done an excellent job in sliding players into appropriate roles, and Lafferty is just the latest example. Does the kid have what it takes to stick around for a full season and continue to make a difference? We will find out as the season goes on.

MORE: Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV Schedule

Scott Charles is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @ScottMCharles.