Olaf Kolzig

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.

The Playoff Buzzer: Blues eliminate Jets; Capitals, Stars take leads

Getty Images
11 Comments
  • The Blues advanced to Round 2, and while the Jets made the final score look respectable, it wasn’t a great, complete effort by Winnipeg.
  • The Stars’ top line was downright dominant for Dallas in taking a 3-2 series lead, putting the Central-winning Predators on the ropes.
  • Washington’s biggest names flexed their muscles, and the Capitals took a 3-2 series lead by blasting the Hurricanes.

Blues 3, Jets 2 (St. Louis wins series 4-2)

Jaden Schwartz scored all three of the Blues’ goals, and he gave St. Louis a 3-0 lead in doing so. After a pitiful, 1-shot second period, Winnipeg did make things more interesting in shrinking that 3-0 deficit to 3-2, but that final push was pretty late, and the overall (lack of) effort could stick with Jets fans and management for quite some time.

St. Louis gets to rest up and prepare for the winner of the series right below …

Stars 5, Predators 3 (Dallas leads 3-2)

It would be frustrating for Nashville if this all came down to Pekka Rinne struggling. Instead, Rinne was often quite sharp on Saturday, particularly when the game was close but the Predators seemingly couldn’t get anything going. Dallas dominated much of the proceedings. The top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov was the most overwhelming, yet other players are stepping up for the Stars, who’ve carried much of the play lately in Round 1. The Predators have some serious work to do, or they’ll be another division winner who will hit the golf course far earlier than most expected.

Capitals 6, Hurricanes 0 (Washington leads 3-2)

To be fair to Carolina, this game was closer than the score seemed … at least early on. They even kinda, sorta had a chance through most of the second period, at least before that much-discussed Dougie Hamilton icing gaffe opened things up for the 3-0 goal. Still, the Hurricanes couldn’t score a goal in this one, and players like Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin really imposed their will on Game 5. So far, the home team has taken all five games in this series, so the Hurricanes must maintain that trend in Game 6, and then hope they can flip the script if they force a Game 7.

Note: Isabelle Khurshudyan and Barry Svrluga of the Washington Post report that T.J. Oshie suffered a broken collarbone, and will miss the remainder of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. An official announcement is expected, possibly as early as Sunday. PHT will monitor that situation.

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Three Stars

1. Nicklas Backstrom

The Capitals are only five games into the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs, yet Backstrom already has many goals (five) as he had during all of their Stanley Cup run. He’s also only one behind his career-high for a single postseason of six. Backstrom’s known for his passing, and that’s still generally how he leans when attacking, but he’s absolutely on fire sniping-wise lately, and that will only make him tougher to contain.

Backstrom scored the first two goals of Game 5, including the game-winner to help Washington off to a blazing start, and also chipped in two assists for a four-point game. That’s the most of any skater on Saturday.

(Alex Ovechkin deserves consideration for player of that game and of Saturday, too, as he was a domineering physical presence, along with scoring one goal and two assists.)

2. Jaden Schwartz

You could make an argument that Schwartz’s strong Game 6 was just as important as Backstrom’s performance, even if Backstrom gets the edge in total points at four.

Schwartz scored all three of the Blues goals to claim a hat trick, and that’s coming off of scoring the Blues’ Game 5 winner with about 15 seconds left to stun Winnipeg, and maybe partially explain why the Jets seemed to lack a spark on Saturday.

Personally, Schwartz has been one of those Jonathan Huberdeau-type players who’s always signaled serious talent, but has sometimes been lost in the shuffle, in part because of bad injury luck. With that in mind, it’s nice to see a high-quality player such as Schwartz get his moment in the sun, and Schwartz is absolutely shining in the spotlight.

3. Jamie Benn

Consider this a collective Stars’ first line award if you’d like, as Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov were too much for the Predators to handle, too.

Benn had the most points of the trio, generating three assists, with two of them being primary.

Jim Lites’ “blanking horse-blank” roast of Benn and Seguin seemed to ignore a number of realities, such as the impact the aging curve can have on any star player, particularly a power forward such as Benn. Yet, Benn was that irresistible force at times in Game 5, particularly when he used his size and senses to muscle the puck away from Ryan Ellis to set up one of Dallas’ goals. (Benn’s three assists all came during a single period, a rare feat.)

The Predators will try their best to find an answer for Benn, Seguin, and Radulov, but performances like these make you wonder if they can be denied.

More Factoids

Sunday’s games

Game 6: Bruins at Maple Leafs (Toronto leads 3-2), 3 p.m. ET on NBC (livestream)
Game 6: Sharks at Golden Knights (Vegas leads 3-2), 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN (livestream)

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.

Kolzig looking forward to new role with Capitals

4 Comments

After spending the 2013-14 season as the team’s goaltending coach, Olaf Kolzig is looking forward to his new role in Washington as the club’s professional development coach.

Kolzig, 44, asked for a reassignment during the offseason in order to be closer to his his three kids.

The former Capitals first-round pick (19th overall in 1989) is hoping to use his new role as a stepping stone to bigger front office responsibilities.

“I’ve always thought about trying to get into the management side of things,” Kolzig told the Monumental Network. “This is a great way to start. You’re developing players, you’re watching them and nurturing them. And at some point, when my kids get older and I feel that I can spend more time up here, then maybe that’s something that I’d like to pursue. But for now, I was very appreciative that the organization accepted my new role and the proposal that I sent to them. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s great because it does allow me to get back and be with the kids, and at the same time have that chance to get my name on the [Stanley] Cup.”

Kolzig, who spent parts of 16 seasons in Washington, ranks 22nd among goaltender in games played (706) and 26th in wins (303). He’s trying to learn from former teammates Craig Billington and Chris Clark, who have also transitioned from their playing days to front office jobs with NHL clubs.

“When Biller first went to Colorado, he introduced this proposal to them, and I think it’s a vital thing in the game today, developing these kids,” said Kolzig, who will also be a fill-in goaltending coach. “And not just from how they are on the ice and their skills set but their transition from junior hockey or college or European hockey to all of a sudden pro hockey.”

Kolzig knows what that development process is like first hand. After being drafted in ’89, he didn’t become a full-time NHLer until the 1996-97 season. His development took him through a number of stops in both the American Hockey League and East Coast Hockey League.

“It takes some time to develop a routine and to develop something that works for you,” says Kolzig. “It’s a huge transition. I don’t think people understand how big it is. What you try to do is to keep them busy so they’re not constantly thinking about the game. You need a break. There is a lot of pressure in pro hockey. If you’re in a bit of a slump, your tendency is just to go home and dwell on it and at the end of the day, it will probably snowball and you’ll put yourself in more of a funk. It’s better to leave whatever it is at the rink and then go home and do whatever else it is. Maybe you have a dog, or a girlfriend, or you’re learning a language or an instrument. Just something to be productive.

“I know we all like to live and breathe hockey, but at the same time you also need something away from the rink. When I was younger, I played golf. It was a different time back when I came in; you had a lot of veterans and you did a lot of team bonding stuff away from the rink. And that’s not the case nearly as much now. If I can get the guys to be a lot more comfortable and keep the mountains low and the valleys high, and just keep them at a consistent level, then I think I’ve done my job.”

Kolzig begins his new role with the club this weekend.

Caps’ goalie coach Kolzig on CBA talks: “I don’t think you’re going to see what happened in 2004″

1 Comment

When speaking about current CBA negotiations and the possibility of a lockout, many harken back to the work stoppage of 2004…and how nobody wants to see another lost season.

Former Caps goalie — and now associate goalie coach — Olaf Kolzig can speak to that, having played through the work stoppage (with a brief spell in Berlin.)

In speaking with the Washington Times, he referred to the 2004 lockout as “awful” and an “ugly situation.”

Because of that, he’s optimistic things will be better in 2012.

“They’re going to try their hardest to get it done, and if for whatever reason it doesn’t get done by Sept. 15, I would assume it would get done in a short amount of time,” he said. “I don’t think you’re going to see what happened in 2004.

“I think it won’t be as biased an outlook as it was maybe back in 2004. I think both sides really are going to try to hammer something out.”

Kolzig said the lost season was frustrating financially — “it’s money I’ll never make back,” he said — and difficult for a lot of older players who essentially saw it terminate their careers. The likes of Mark Messier, Ron Francis and Adam Oates never returned to play.

Those lessons could play a key role in this year’s situation, as the NHLPA’s 31-player Negotiating Committee is laden with players that experienced the 2004 work stoppage.

It’s something Kolzig hopes will aid in the process.

“I think so, especially communicating with the younger guys that maybe haven’t gone through this process and letting them know because it is ultimately the players’ vote on what they agree to and what they won’t agree to.”

The Capitals think they’ve got Henrik Lundqvist’s weakness figured out

4 Comments

Henrik Lundqvist is no stranger to the Washington Capitals in the playoffs. The two sides faced each other last year as well as in 2009 and while the memo for the Caps in 2009 was to shoot high glove side to beat Lundqvist, Washington’s plan of attack this time around is taking a similar tone.

Capitals goalie coach Olaf Kolzig tells CSNWashington.com’s Chuck Gormley beating Lundqvist is hard to do no matter what, but going high against him gives you hope.

“You look at him and you think, ‘Geez, he plays pretty deep, you should be able to pick his pocket,’” Capitals associate goalie coach Olie Kolzig said. “But his angles are so good and he plays so wide. You’ve got to beat him with a good shot, a good high shot.”

Going high is dangerous because not putting the shot on the net can cause things to spin out of control the other way. With the kind of traffic the Caps want to create in front of the net, missing a shot high also means not having rebounds to clean up. The Rangers aren’t really ones to give up clean looks at the goal, but when Washington’s had a clear lane they’ve done well.

One thing is for sure, if going high is Lundqvist’s weakness, repeating how 2009 went down is not something he wants to go through.