Share This Story

Jim Kelley

AROUND THE BOARDS: Kelley's look at the NHL


TORONTO — Ah, there's nothing quite like a little time in the self-proclaimed Hockey Center of the Universe. See a little of the big city (also known as the big smoke), take in the Hall of Fame festivities, report once again why the Leafs are struggling to even get to .500 this season. Look, it's not brain surgery — or even liposuction. The Leafs are bad right now for all the reasons we told you at the start of the season — the wrong goaltender, a poor defense, poor team chemistry and the seemingly endless internal bickering in the front office. New to the mix through the early season, however, is the fact that the team has only one good offensive line (it was thought there might be two). There's also quite a bit of carping in the dressing room of late. That was plainly evident after Montreal easily beat the Leafs 5-2 in front of a sellout crowd and a Hockey Hall of Fame All-Star cast on hand for the game. There was some bickering on the bench and there have been rumors of complaint behind closed locker room doors with this player singling out that player and that group of players (say offensive players) carping about the lack of success by the defensemen. There have also been reports of several players wanting out — the latest to go public was . This follows an off-season theme that saw a lot of players privately saying they didn't want to go to T.O. Some of that is because of the intense media scrutiny in Toronto. Some of it is because management just doesn't seem to want to admit that the team general manager Pat Quinn built doesn't seem to be having success under coach Pat Quinn (and that truly is a problem). But a big part of it is that the Leafs simply aren't good enough. They are thin and weak on defense, thin and a little slow and old up front and in goal has not proven to be the answer for the loss of via free agency to Detroit. Can it be fixed? Sure, but it's going to take a lot of team building and even a few trades and that's something that can't be done overnight. It might also take a change at the top, perhaps separating Quinn the coach from his duties as Quinn the general manager, but that will likely be a last resort.

Notes from the hall

We were struck most at the Hall of Fame ceremonies by the words of Rod Langway. Langway is the last of an old-guard era. The ex-defenseman said his biggest thrill was winning the Stanley Cup with the Montreal . His biggest disappointment was not being able to duplicate the feat with the Washington , where he was later traded and became one of that franchise's all-time great players and a legendary captain. "As a captain the thought of being first in line to hoist the Stanley Cup for my team is something I dreamed about," Langway told FOXSports.com. "Not being able to do that was one of my biggest career disappointments." That disappointment is not entirely eased by being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. Langway say he thinks that entering the Hall is a "nice" thing and the icing on the cake of a fine career, but the Cup was the goal and not having it in Washington still causes some sleepless nights. Another way Langway is old school is that he works for a living. You would think two Norris Trophies as the League's best defenseman would have resulted in contracts that would have made him rich for life. But Langway works in a shop that treats metal with heat for use in industrial situations. It's hot and dirty work and he does it every day. "I wouldn't mind getting back into hockey as a coach or a scout or something," Langway said, "but right now I have to live and I have to work and that's what I do. It's a tough job, but it's what I do." The company Langway works for is owned by his father-in-law and run by his current wife.

More on the hall

New York forward Clarke Gillies could hardly contain his glee during Hall of Fame weekend and little wonder. Gillies twice fell one vote short of induction back in the mid-90s, but the Hall changed a portion of its selection board since then and when the new board revisited the old ground, Gillies found his way in through the front door. Among those thought to have an influence in swaying the board was newly appointed board member Al Arbour, coach of those New York teams that won four straight Stanley Cups with Gillies on board. Other New York area members new to the board include former Ranger general manager Emile Francis and New York analyst John Davidson, both of whom saw Gillies play.

Can you blame him?

More than a few people were shocked when New York coach Bryan Trottier sat down for the better part of two periods in a recent weekend loss. They shouldn't have been. Trottier got the job in part because previous coaches were afraid to tinker with the mindset of the many self-important players on the New York roster. The truth is that Lindros deserved to be benched for his careless play and it's not because of the new rules. Lindros usually plays a similar reckless style that often hurt the team when he played with Philadelphia and it's a problem that goes all the way back to his days as a junior. It seems hard to believe that a superbly talented individual who is now 29 and well into his career would still have to learn about winning and team play, but that has been and continues to be the case with Lindros. The question now is whether or not he responds, especially to Trottier, a coach he has yet to form any kind of relationship with yet.

The times they are a changin'

We're reaching a point in the season where clubs have a pretty firm grasp on what they have and don't have so look for a bevy of trade rumors to start up. The New York are said to be very interested in a shakeup deal to snap the team out of a slide that wasn't arrested even when captain returned to the lineup over the weekend. Florida is shopping winger and the might be interested, but that's said to be the case with several other clubs looking for scoring. Calgary has been shopping for weeks and the Buffalo , coming off a winless four-game road trip in which they averaged just over a goal a game, might make a pitch. The San Jose may be willing to part with unsigned defenseman and of course the will eventually move unsigned defenseman . As of this moment any team can have Chicago winger for next to nothing. Toronto will talk to anyone.

One final thought

The Hockey Hall of Fame often comes under fire for having no definable standards and the fact that players with extraordinary point totals — players like Rick Middleton, Dino Ciccarelli, Dave Taylor and others — have yet to go in, but players like Joe Mullen and Denis Savard are in. The argument always revolves around how great is great, as if somehow numbers can define a player. That may be the case in baseball and maybe even in football (which explains why offensive linemen are often overlooked) and certainly in basketball, but then there's something special about hockey and that is that it's still a team game. Sure there are stars, lots of them, but then there are great defensive defensemen like Rod Langway, who is every bit as deserving for his contributions to winning and defense as Bobby Orr was on offense for the Boston . If the Hall is to be criticized, it's not because of the numbers put up by some who are in and some who are not, but by the way it sometimes turns its back on other skilled players. A defensive forward like Buffalo's Craig Ramsay comes immediately to mind, as does Doug Jarvis. The Hall has been surprisingly weak on goaltenders as well, not having inducted one since another member of those great teams, Billy Smith, went in in 1993. The Hall should always be a place for truly great talents, but those talents aren't always manifested in just a number. There's greatness in players like Cam Neely, a handful of Sutter brothers, defensemen Kevin Lowe and Mike Ramsey, goalie Grant Fuhr and defensive-minded center Guy Carbonneau. It's not to say here that they all belong, but they all deserve the same due consideration afforded players like Gillies, Bernie Federko and coach Roger Neilson. These men might not have been the greatest thing since Wayne Gretzky, but they were the best at what they did. And in hockey, that means a lot.
Who's he?
You haven't heard much about the Los Angeles ' and it's largely because the left winger hasn't scored a goal in the early going, but he does have six points in his first 10 games and is making his mark on the rookie charts. Most of those points came while he was playing the middle in place of the injured Ziggy Palffy, but with Palffy back, the have a decision to make. Either keep Bednar up in place of the now injured or go to the trade market. The are off to a pretty good start this season but the injury to Allison is long term and the have benefited from having a schedule laden with sub.500 opponents so far. As it gets tougher, they're going to have to be strong down the middle and without Allison, that's a difficult task.
Five things you should know
1. While your pouring over those statistics about whether or not scoring really is up in the NHL, just remember this: A year ago around this time NHL goalies had already recorded 25 shutouts. So far this season, there have been 10 with no goalie having more than one. Those goals are going in somewhere, folks. 2. Hayley Wickenheiser, of Canada's gold medal-winning team, has been denied in her attempt to play in a men's league in Italy. A cheap publicity stunt? Maybe. Should we care? No, we've been down this road too many times. All elements of sexism aside, if any athlete can help a team win you can rest assured some league will find a way to make it happen. Wickenheiser is not that athlete. 3. Our friends at Stats Inc., inform us that the Detroit are off to their usual good start, but not as good as last season when they started 10-2-0, en route to winning the Cup. After the first dozen games this season, the Wings are 6-4-2. They were 9-1-2 after 12 when they won the Cup in 1997-98 and 7-4-1 after 12 when they went on to a win in 1996-97. 4. The Buffalo , Toronto and the Wings lead the league in most goals allowed in the first two minutes of a period in games so far this season. Each has allowed six, but only Detroit has a winning record. 5. In recent seasons the Los Angeles have surrendered goal-scoring defenseman in a trade and lost to free agency. So which team leads the league in goals by defensemen since the start of the season? That's right, a recent check on the numbers had the at 10, the Chicago at nine and Boston, Detroit and Edmonton all tied with eight. The shocker on the list is Chicago's , not known for his offensive prowess, with three.
Thug Watch
There was a battle royale between Montreal's and Toronto's in the Hall of Fame game Saturday night in Toronto. Lindsey gave a good showing, but Tucker won the fight. As so often happens, a few well-placed blows to a helmet produced an injury and Tucker got it, damaging his right hand on Lindsey's skid lid.
In the next 48 hours
  • Look for the Chicago to make a move to end their association with winger . There are various reports that they've offered him a spot within the organization, but Probert will be looking to catch on with one last team to get the 65 games he needs to get to 1000.
  • Expect Washington goalie (sprained wrist) to return, perhaps by Thursday
  • Pencil in Thursday's Philadelphia vs. New Jersey tilt. The game is at Philly, it's the first meeting of the season between the two teams and should go a long way toward determining who really is the better team in the Atlantic Division. The clubs have split the last eight division titles and it appears a two-team race once again.
  • Friday, makes his return to Dallas. The Toronto goalie has been up and down so far this season, but being back in Big D will mean a lot to him and to the .
  • Fun with numbers
    The National Hockey League Players Association salary matrix, put together at the start of the season and obtained by FOXSports.com, has the Detroit as the highest salaried team in the league. But the numbers could be skewered by the fact that the matrix only lists salary and not bonuses. For example, the come in at $63,285,000, but that doesn't include the many incentive bonuses for Lindros who has a base of "just" $2,700,000, but is said to have a contract structure weighted heavily on bonuses for game's played and points, goals, hits and the likes. The contract likely won't put him in the class (a base of $10 million) or even within reach of and (both in the $9,600,000 range). But the makeable bonus structure for many could well push the team to the top of the spending heap should Lindros have any kind of a season, a season which no doubt includes not being benched too often.
    More fun with numbers
    Nobody talks much about a lockout in 2004 because they are under a threat of a fine from the commissioner's office, but the actions of the general managers certainly speak volumes. For instance, the of Anaheim have a payroll of $40,407,500 for this season according to the matrix, but that figure drops to $18, 475,000 for the following season when the lockout is expected. The fiscally challenged Buffalo go from $31,129,166 to a stunning $14,350,000. Even the free-spending Detroit make cuts, going from this season's $66,525,506 to $45,641,286. For the most part, teams do not want to be in a position of being over a rumored cap figure of $45,000,000 should the league get a cap in the new collective bargaining agreement. Also, many teams don't want to be on the hook for contracted salaries during a period when there might not be any revenue for an extended period of time. The falloffs are noticeable on most every team.
    OK. We told you a while back that the Montreal aren't going to deal winger right away. That's changed a bit now and the are said to be actively soliciting bids. We say maybe. Audette has been in the press box for the last three games and the Montreal Gazette is reporting he'll likely be traded before he plays another game. In the old NHL, that was probably true, but in today's NHL, trades are all about money and the problem for Montreal is Audette is making $3 million per and sitting in the press box. That's a tough nut to move. We still maintain management is hoping to motivate Audette into playing better largely because he will be so difficult to move.
    Jim Kelley can be reached at his e-mail address: jkelley@foxsports.com.
    Tagged: Bruins, Sabres, Flames, Blackhawks, Red Wings, Kings, Stars, Canadiens, Islanders, Rangers, Avalanche, Sharks, Maple Leafs, Capitals, Ducks, Panthers, Kyle McLaren, Marc Savard, Philippe Boucher, Ed Belfour, Bobby Holik, Rob Blake, Brad Stuart, Wade Belak, Darcy Tucker, Curtis Joseph, Olaf Kolzig, Michael Peca

    More Stories From Jim Kelley

    Play Hockey Simulation Game on WhatIfSports

    More Than Sports on MSN

    Fox Sports Store

      itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
      Reebok Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins Premier Hockey Jersey - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Pittsburgh_Penguins/browse/featuredproduct/175178/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_175000/FF_175178_xl.jpg&w=100 159.95 Reebok Sidney Crosby Pittsburgh Penguins Premier Hockey Jersey - Black
      Reebok Dallas Stars White Premier Hockey Jersey http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Dallas_Stars/browse/featuredproduct/243363/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_243000/FF_243363_xl.jpg&w=100 124.95 Reebok Dallas Stars White Premier Hockey Jersey
      Reebok Tampa Bay Lightning Primary Logo T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Tampa_Bay_Lightning/browse/featuredproduct/301017/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_301000/ff_301017_xl.jpg&w=100 19.95 Reebok Tampa Bay Lightning Primary Logo T-Shirt - Royal Blue
      Majestic Anaheim Ducks Black Official Logo Full Zip Hoodie Sweatshirt http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Anaheim_Ducks/browse/featuredproduct/398322/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_398000/FF_398322_xl.jpg&w=100 43.99 Majestic Anaheim Ducks Black Official Logo Full Zip Hoodie Sweatshirt
      Detroit Red Wings Youth Black Southpaw Backpack http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Detroit_Red_Wings/browse/featuredproduct/403205/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_403000/FF_403205_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Detroit Red Wings Youth Black Southpaw Backpack
      Reebok Chicago Blackhawks #88 Patrick Kane Red Premier Hockey Jersey http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Chicago_Blackhawks/browse/featuredproduct/408123/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_408000/FF_408123_xl.jpg&w=100 159.95 Reebok Chicago Blackhawks #88 Patrick Kane Red Premier Hockey Jersey
      Majestic New Jersey Devils Red Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_Jersey_Devils/browse/featuredproduct/456774/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_456000/ff_456774_xl.jpg&w=100 47.99 Majestic New Jersey Devils Red Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt
      Vancouver Canucks 2011 NHL Western Conference Champions Hockey Stick http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Vancouver_Canucks/browse/featuredproduct/665779/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_665000/ff_665779_xl.jpg&w=100 11.95 Vancouver Canucks 2011 NHL Western Conference Champions Hockey Stick
      Majestic New York Islanders Royal Blue Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Islanders/browse/featuredproduct/752594/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_752000/ff_752594_xl.jpg&w=100 47.99 Majestic New York Islanders Royal Blue Felt Tek Patch Pullover Hoodie Sweatshirt