Sergei Zubov

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Wickenheiser tops 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame class

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The 2019 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees were named on Tuesday. The class includes four players, in alphabetical order: Guy Carbonneau, Vaclav Nedomansky, Hayley Wickenheiser, and Sergei Zubov. Two builders were also inducted: Jim Rutherford and Jerry York. The induction ceremony will take place on November 18 in Toronto.

Let’s take a look at each member of this year’s class, starting with Wickenheiser.

Players

Wickenheiser: Sean Leahy pointed to Wickenheiser as the “lock” to make this HHOF class on Monday, and with good reason.

Wickenheiser becomes the seventh woman named to the Hockey Hall of Fame after winning four Olympic gold medals representing Canada, not to mention seven gold medals at the IIHF world championship. Wickenheiser was a two-time Olympic tournament MVP, and is Canada’s women’s leader in goals (168), assists (211) and points (379) after playing 276 games internationally.

Wickenheiser is currently in the Toronto Maple Leafs organization, another testament to the immense respect she earned as a legend of the sport.

Zubov: The Russian defenseman won one Stanley Cup with the New York Rangers, and one with the Dallas Stars (where Carbonneau was one of Zubov’s teammates).

People, particularly Stars fans, have been debating Zubov’s HHOF merits for some time. As one example, Defending Big D pondered the argument as far back as 2013, with Erin Boylen comparing Zubov to the likes of Scott Niedermayer, Brian Leetch, Rob Blake, and other top contemporaries:

Over their respective careers, Zubov had better offensive numbers than Niedermayer and Blake, though not as good as Leetch. Both Zubov and Niedermayer, though not Blake, could have legitimately put up many more points if they didn’t play in defensively-focused systems for long stretches of their careers. He has essentially equal plus-minus statistics to Niedermayer, much better than Blake and Leetch. He was used in all situations and throughout his career was used as a top-pairing, shut-down defenseman.

The debates have been rampant enough among Stars fans that the Zubov HHOF debate has become a regular joke on the podcast “Puck Soup.” After all, for every Zubov proponent, there will be someone else who points out that he never won a Norris Trophy.

Maybe that debate will continue, but there’s some closure, as Zubov gets the nod.

Zubov finished his NHL career with 771 points in 1,068 regular season contests, spending 12 seasons with the Stars, three with the Rangers, and one with the Penguins. Zubov also appeared in 164 playoff games, and Hockey Reference lists some beefy ice time numbers during his Stars days, as he apparently logged 28:58 TOI per game over 114 playoff games with the Stars specifically.

Speaking of players who ended their Hall of Fame careers with the Stars …

Carbonneau: It’s difficult to shake the parallels between Carbonneau and Bob Gainey, but the good news is that such a comparison is a huge compliment to any two-way player.

Much like Gainey, Carbonneau was a tremendous defensive forward, winning three Selke Trophies during his career. Also like Gainey, Carbonneau made a huge impact on the Montreal Canadiens (where he won two Stanley Cups, and all three Selkes) before also making a considerable impression on the Dallas Stars (where Carbonneau won his third and final Stanley Cup as a player).

Carbonneau played 13 seasons with the Canadiens, five with the Stars, and one with the St. Louis Blues. Overall, he generated 663 points and 820 penalty minutes in 1,318 career regular-season games over 19 seasons. Carbonneau was captain of the Canadiens from 1989-90 through 1993-94, and also served as head coach for three seasons.

Nedomansky: As Shen Peng documented for The Hockey News, Nedomansky deserves a mention alongside Alex Mogilny and the Stastny brothers as one of the players who bravely defected to North America to play hockey at the highest levels.

Nedomansky’s path was especially circuitous, as he began his North American playing days in the WHA in 1974-75. “Big Ned” started his NHL career with the Detroit Red Wings in 1977-78, when he was already well into his thirties. He put up some nice numbers in both leagues, and you have to wonder if he’d be a more well-known player if he came overseas during the highest peaks of his prime, in much the same way one might wonder about Igor Larionov and other top Russian players who entered the NHL during the twilight of their careers.

His impact deserves to be documented, so Nedomansky making the Hall of Fame is a great way for more fans to learn about the mark he made on the sport. Peng’s piece is a great place for you to start.

Builders

Rutherford: Jim Rutherford is still a builder as the GM of the Pittsburgh Penguins, yet clearly, he’s already in the HHOF, even if he stopped today.

Rutherford played in 457 games during his lengthy NHL career as a goalie (his hockey db photo is worth the trip to the page alone), yet he’s here because of his front office work, helping both the Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes win Stanley Cups as a GM.

York: Jerry York is a legendary NCAA coach, having won four NCAA titles with Boston College, and one with Bowling Green. In 2016, he became the first NCAA coach to win 1,000 games, which is pretty mind-blowing considering the shorter seasons in college hockey.

Iron Mikhail? Keenan may coach Russia in international competition

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Many hockey fans might not realize this, but Mike Keenan is still very much an active professional coach. He’s just doing so in Russia.

If there was any question about his commitment to his second hockey home, consider this: TSN’s Darren Dreger reports that Keenan is in the process of gaining Russian citizenship, and may just help coach the country at the international level:

The native of Whitby, Ont., is in the process of finalizing his Russian citizenship, as is his long-time assistant, Mike Pelino. Russian officials have been encouraging Keenan do this for some time to show fans he is committed to the team, the KHL and the country. Keenan, who says he has learned enough of the Russian language to get by, is in the final year of his contract but doesn’t sound like he’s in any rush to get out. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Once his Russian citizenship has been approved, there is a good chance the highly decorated coach will return to international competition. If all goes as planned, Keenan could be on the bench, or at least a member of Team Russia’s staff, at future championships, including the World Cup of Hockey in Toronto in 2016.

Neat stuff, right?

It’s difficult not to take “learning enough of the Russian language to get by” as “locking down a few phrases he can scream at KHL players,” but credit him for following his passion at 65.

Keenan (pictured on the left) is currently in a very successful run with KHL team Magnitogorsk.

Speaking of familiar faces behind KHL benches, it sounds like Sergei Zubov’s getting a big opportunity with SKA St. Petersburg:

Comparing current Rangers to the Cup-winning ’94 version

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NBC Sports Talk posed an interesting question last night: how do current New York Rangers compare to the Stanley Cup-winning 1993-94 version? Before PHT goes a little deeper with this, here’s the video of that discussion.

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(Henrik Lundqvist isn’t a money goalie? I dunno … he did kinda win a gold medal in one of the few instances in which he had a truly elite team in front of him. Just saying.)

Anyway, that video touched on Mark Messier and intangible type stuff, but I thought it would be more fun to take a quick-and-dirty comparison between the two.

source: AP1993-94 New York Rangers

Record: 52-24-8 for 112 points; first overall in the Atlantic Division; Goals For: 299 (fourth overall); Goals Against: 231 (third overall); PP%: 23.02 (96 goals); PK%: 84.6 (67 allowed); 20 shorthanded goals for, five against

Leading scorers: Sergei Zubov (89 points), Mark Messier (84), Adam Graves and Brian Leetch (79)

Goalies: Mike Richter (42-11-6 in 68 GP; .910 save percentage and 2.57 GAA with five shutouts) and Glenn Healy (10-12-2 for .878 save percentage, 3.03 GAA and two shutouts)

To help correct for the different scoring paces of the times, Richter’s save percentage was eight overall, his GAA ranked fifth among goalies and he was an All-Star in 93-94.

2011-12 New York Rangers

source: APRecord: 37-13-5 for 79 points; first overall in Atlantic Division; Goals For: 156 (12th overall); Goals Against: 110 (first overall); PP%: 14.81 (28); PK%: 87.15 (23); seven shorthanded goals for and three against

Leading scorers: Marian Gaborik (49), Ryan Callahan (42), Brad Richards (39) and Derek Stepan (37).

Goalies: Henrik Lundqvist (27-11-4 with a .941 save percentage, 1.77 GAA and seven shutouts) and Martin Biron (10-2-1 with a .919 save percentage with a 2.03 GAA and two shutouts).

Similarities: The teams certainly share some common traits. The ’94 Rangers had a coach who liked to yell at people (Mike Keenan) and the current version certainly does (John Tortorella). Both teams have an All-Star goalie and fairly balanced scoring, without having anyone who threatened for the Art Ross Trophy. Oh yeah, the current Rangers are sitting atop the Atlantic Division, which the 1994 ones won.

Differences: That doesn’t mean there aren’t big differences, though. As you can see from Zubov and Leetch being in the team’s top four scorers, the old version produced a lot more points from the blueline. (Not to say that Mike del Zotto is chopped liver offensively, but the gap is glaring.)

The current team also isn’t quite as balanced, but the biggest difference might be in special teams. The 2011-12 team’s power play is pretty punch-less while the older one was strong, especially in scoring an impressive 20 shorties to just five allowed.

Captains: Finally, both teams have a heart-and-soul captain, although one’s more famous and the other has quite a bit more hair.

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Overall, I think there are some interesting parallels, but the current Rangers might be a few strides behind. (Unless they nab Rick Nash and become a more potent offensive team, perhaps.)