NHL Grab Bag: Celebrating Teemu
Welcome to a weekly grab bag of thoughts and observations from the past few days and/or decades of NHL hockey.
This Week’s Three Stars of Comedy
Recognizing the three NHL personalities from around the league who produced the most comedic fodder for fans.
The third star: Glenn Healy busts a move
Apparently he didn’t know the camera was still on him during a stoppage in play. Or maybe he just does this all game long. I’ve been unable to confirm.
The second star: Darryl Sutter’s press conference face
I can’t stop watching this. It’s the wink that seals it.
The first star: Team Switzerland breaks out the Double Stefan
This is from the World Championships and not the NHL, but it was a slow week so we’re bending the rules. Here’s Team Switzerland executing the worst 2-on-0 against an empty net in hockey history:
(If you’re curious, this site has a detailed explanation of what exactly is going on there.)
What Is the Hockey World Pretending to Be Outraged About Now?
Nothing makes hockey folks happier than being outraged about something relatively unimportant. Each week we’ll pick one topic fans are complaining about and try to figure out if it’s justified.
The issue: Teemu Selanne’s NHL career.
The outrage: He doesn’t have one anymore. The Ducks were eliminated in the second round, and Selanne had previously announced that this would be his last season.
Is it justified? HELL YES IT’S JUSTIFIED!
[Takes several deep breaths.]
OK, look, we all knew this was coming and probably should have prepared for it. And sure, last weekend’s surge of Selanne love was maybe a little over the top, leading to the inevitable backlash of fans wondering why we were getting so worked up about a player who had only 27 points this year.
But Selanne was that ultra-rare specimen: a hockey player whom almost everyone actually liked. In a league where basically every player who steps on the ice is immediately hated by somebody, and even the most respected players turn heel, Selanne made it through his entire career without ever offending anyone. Mix in the highlight-reel goals, the borderline ridiculous longevity, and the background as a kindergarten teacher (no, really), and you had one of the most popular players the league has ever known.
So, hopefully you can forgive a little bit of overdramatic mourning. After all, we’ve only had six or seven years of rumored retirements to prepare for this. Some of us may need a moment here. Teemu forever.
(Besides, all of this will end up being good practice for next season, after Selanne’s inevitable change of heart and late-summer comeback announcement.)
OK, enough about Teemu Selanne. Back to the Grab Dag.
Obscure Former Player of the Week
NHL history is filled with legendary players whose stories are passed down from generation to generation. This is not one of them.
So Teemu Selanne was drafted in 1988, and quickly established himself as the top player of the draft class, because once again he was amazing and everyone liked him. But he certainly wasn’t the only great player from the ’88 draft, which produced future All-Stars like Alexander Mogilny, Mark Recchi, and Rob Blake. It also included one of the most top-heavy hauls in history, with a seven out of the top 10 selections going on to play at least 1,000 career games. That list includes stars like Mike Modano (no. 1), Trevor Linden (no. 2), Jeremy Roenick (no. 8), and Selanne (no. 10).
And right in the middle of that historic top 10 was a kid named Daniel Dore. Dore had established himself as one of the best power forwards in recent junior history, and the Quebec Nordiques happily snapped him up with the fifth overall pick. In hindsight, that may not have been a great choice, because Dore fell just short of the 1,000-game mark in the NHL. As in, 983 games short.
Dore debuted with the Nordiques during the 1989-90 season, playing 16 games and recording five points. The following year, he played one game. And that was it for Daniel Dore’s NHL career. He kicked around the AHL for a few more years, and even played a few seasons of professional roller hockey. But his big league career was finished by 1991 — the season before the guy taken five picks later, Teemu Selanne, even made his debut.
While Dore will probably be remembered as the biggest bust of the 1988 draft, he wasn’t the year’s least successful first-round pick. The 13th overall pick, Joel Savage of the Sabres, appeared in only three career games. And two other first-rounders, taken at no. 16 and no. 17, never played even a single game in the NHL. You may have never heard of one of them: Kory Kocur, who was picked by Detroit in hopes he’d follow in the bruising footsteps of his cousin Joey. But you’re probably familiar with the other, an Islanders pick named Kevin Cheveldayoff, who did eventually make the NHL … as a general manger, a role he holds today with the Winnipeg Jets.
The Week’s Most Depressing CapGeek Page
In which we select one page on CapGeek.com and stare at it while a single tear rolls down our cheek.
This week’s depressing CapGeek page is one of the strangest in NHL history: the one belonging to Montreal’s Thomas Vanek.
Vanek has come in for some recent criticism for his playoff performance. Despite being part of the Canadiens’ surprise run to the conference final, he hasn’t really contributed as much offense as the team had hoped for when it acquired him at the deadline. He could be hurt, but he’s also been singled out for an apparent lack of effort. Since he’s a free agent this summer, that’s led to some comments about how much money he could be costing himself this week.
It’s an interesting question, because Vanek has one of the strangest track records with money that the league has ever seen. Check out that salary history. The lockout wipes out the first year of his entry-level contract with the Sabres, so he spends two years on a basic two-way rookie deal. In his third season, he’s tied with two other players as the highest-paid in the league, making $10 million.
That jump was the result of a sophomore season that saw him put up 43 goals and 84 points while also reaching restricted free agency. That should have resulted in his signing a fairly standard “bridge” deal with the Sabres. But the Edmonton Oilers tried to lure him away with a stunning seven-year, $50 million offer sheet, breaking the unwritten rule that teams don’t try to steal other teams’ RFAs. (This was part of the same Edmonton RFA poaching spree that infamously led to Brian Burke wanting to fight Kevin Lowe in a barn.) The Sabres eventually matched the offer, and Vanek went from being a burgeoning star to “that guy with the crazy contract.”
That contract expires this summer, which leads us back to the question: What will his third deal look like? He never did match his numbers from his breakout season, although he’s been a consistently good offensive player and had 68 points this year despite being traded twice (first from the Sabres to the Islanders, and then to Montreal). Even with his uneven effort in the postseason, you have to assume that somebody is going to throw money at him, and it’s been widely assumed that that team will end up being the Minnesota Wild.
So, how much will he get? So far he’s played for just over the league minimum and he’s been the NHL’s highest-paid player. I’m going to go out on a limb and say his next deal winds up somewhere in the middle. Call it a hunch.
What Has Don Cherry Gone and Done Now?
Whether it’s Coach’s Corner, his regular media appearances, or a Twitter account that’s presumably meant to be performance art, Don Cherry is everywhere. What’s he been up to this week?
This week, Don Cherry dropped an f-bomb on live television.
At least, that’s what an awful lot of Canadians think they heard. Personally, I’m not buying it — if anything, it sounds like he’s saying “look it” — but you be the judge:
These phantom f-bombs seem to crop up with Cherry every few years. And considering that he’s spent his entire life around hockey rinks, I don’t doubt that he’s let a few expletives slip over the years, especially after a pint or two. But he’s also been doing television and radio constantly since the early ’80s. The odds of him suddenly forgetting the “no swearing” rule midway through his fourth decade on the air seems slim.
The “no offending half the country” rule, on the other hand — that one still gives him trouble.
Awesome and/or Horrific Old YouTube Clip of the Week
In addition to being a great source of adorable pets and functionally illiterate commenters, YouTube is a goldmine for old hockey clips. In this section we find one, and break it down in way too much detail.
Man, two whole sections without mentioning Teemu Selanne. Better fix that now. And there’s no better clip to use for that purpose than this one, which is probably the most famous moment from Selanne’s 21-season career.
• Here’s the setup: It’s March 2, 1993, Selanne is a Winnipeg Jet, and he’s on the verge of breaking Mike Bossy’s NHL record for goals scored by a rookie. Bossy debuted with 53 goals in 1977-78, and the record has stood for 15 years, but Selanne has been chasing it all season and is one goal away from finally breaking it.
• Uh, yes, that’s right. March 2. It’s the 64th game of the season, and the Jets still have 20 games left. Look, I didn’t say it was an especially dramatic record chase. Just go with it.
• The Jets are hosting the Quebec Nordiques. Selanne came into the game with 51 goals, and has already scored twice to move into a tie with Bossy. It’s late in the game, and all eyes are on him for every shift at this point.
• By the way, Selanne had scored four goals in a 7-6 Jets win in their previous game. They ended up losing this game 7-4. Other selected scores from Jets games this season: 8-7, 8-5, 9-5, 8-6. The early ’90s were kind of insane. I’m sure glad that stifling defensive systems and the clutch-and-grab era were just a few years away, because being a hockey fan was just way too much fun back then.
• So our clip begins with a Scott Pearson breakaway because early-’90s hockey was pretty much all breakaways. He’s stopped, and the puck trickles over to Selanne’s linemate, protector, and best friend, a young Tie Domi. The Domi-Selanne relationship was one of the most consistently entertaining subplots of the 1992-93 Jets season. Here’s an adorable picture of Selanne holding Domi’s newborn son, Max.
• Max Domi was a first-round pick in last year’s draft, by the way. We are all so old.
• I’m not sure what’s up with the dramatic music in the background of this clip. I’m pretty sure it’s been added in, but I can’t rule out the possibility that Selanne was so good in 1993 that this music just followed him everywhere.
• Domi flips a Hail Mary pass for Selanne, who ends up in a foot race with Adam Foote, and you can guess how that turns out. Nordiques goalie Stephane Fiset decides to just randomly charge out and dive at the puck, which was the style at the time, and Selanne pokes it into the empty net for the record-breaker.
• And here comes what may be the most famous celebration in NHL history: the flying glove shoot-down. Two things we can all agree on: This was a super-cool move, and if literally anyone else ever tried it they’d get destroyed for it. Right, Artem?
• That’s current Oilers coach Dallas Eakins who has a chance to catch the glove and drops it. One of the worst clutch performances of all time. I wonder if that contributed to Edmonton’s poor season. “Hey, guys, you need to cover the wide-open man in front of the net.” “Whatever, coach, you needed to catch Selanne’s glove, so I guess sometimes we don’t always get what we want.”
• “52 … 53 … 54 … Bossy’s record is no more.” You know what, that’s a pretty awesome sign. Kudos, Jets fans.
• We get a shot of the celebration, as two players skate into view: Kennedy and Eagles. I guess “Baseball” and “Apple Pie” were unavailable.
• Also in the celebration pile: a cameraman. I’m trying to remember the last time I saw a cameraman on the ice during an NHL game. I think we need to bring this back. And what are the odds that this guy’s internal monologue is anything other than Don’t fall down, don’t fall down, don’t fall down …
• Nice multicolored shirt, clapping guy whom we get an awkwardly extended shot of.
• As he skates off, Selanne throws the puck in the air and then catches it, because was that so hard, Dallas Eakins?
• After a few replays and an extended ovation, we hear an announcer explaining that Selanne has broken Bossy’s record. It takes a second to realize that this isn’t the TV broadcaster speaking — it’s the arena PA guy, and we’re apparently going to have a little midgame ceremony. Those are always the best.
• Selanne seems confused about where the voice is coming from. I don’t think anyone told him they were going to do this.
• There’s Jets owner Barry Shenkarow, who wants to present Selanne with a gold-plated hockey stick. Shenkarow’s holding it as if he’s going to use it to crosscheck Selanne in the teeth, but thinks better of it after realizing Domi is still hanging around. Instead, he’d wait a few more years and then crosscheck Jets fans in the teeth by arranging for the team’s move to the U.S.
• Selanne skates back to the bench with a “WTF am I supposed to do with this thing” look on his face. Note the one Jet who goes for the high-five, gets left hanging, and then goes for the awkward butt-grope instead. Nice recovery.
• And that’s pretty much it for our clip, which wraps up with the PA guy shilling tickets for the next home game. Selanne went on to finish with a league-leading 76 goals to go with 132 points. I know this will come as a shock to you, but he won the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year. He edged out runner-up Joe Juneau in the first-place voting by a narrow tally of 50-0.
Given how much scoring has been allowed to plunge over the years, it’s safe to say that Selanne’s rookie record will never be broken. Not only has nobody come close, but no one has even matched Bossy’s old record of 53. Alexander Ovechkin had 52 goals as a rookie in 2006; nobody else in the past 20 years has even reached 40.
The early ’90s, man. Good times.