Month: December 2010

Osgood reaches 400 wins!

Chris Osgood

Can anybody tell me who is second to Martin Brodeur in wins among all active goalies in the NHL? Do you know which goalie is 10th overall ALL TIME in wins in the NHL?
Very few hockey fans and even hockey experts, including myself, would guess CHRIS OSGOOD for both answers. Yet, the diminutive goalie from Alberta very quietly reached those goals playing well under the radar. Three more wins will tie him for 9th with Grant Fuhr, his idol, and he will become #8 with eight more victories, surpassing the great Glen Hall. What an accomplishment for a goalie deemed too small to play in the NHL!
Chris Osgood reached the 400 win milestone with his OT win against the Colorado Avalanche last night. It was a well- earned victory as Chris had to be outstanding in this game making 43 saves. He was solid in the second period making several great saves. 

Chris was drafted in the 3rd round by the Detroit Redwings in the NHL Entry draft of 1991 in Buffalo. I was an assistant coach and goalie coach for the Wings then. When we selected him, from the draft floor I couldn’t help but remember the young Osgood playing for the Medecine Hat Tigers and the baby faced kid walking in a hotel for an interview just one day prior.
Ken Holland was the Chief Amateur Scout for the Redwings in 1991. He wanted my opinion on some goalies and he asked me to travel to Western Canada to watch two goalies that he was considering for the top 3 rounds. Osgood was one and the other was Jamie McLennan who played in Lethbridge. I picked a time in the schedule when I could get multiple viewings of both goalies and established camp at the Lodge in Medecine Hat. Every amateur scout will know what hotel I’m talking about. Lethbridge is only a couple of hours drive. After watching both goalies four times, my preference was definitely Osgood. Although he was small, he could move very quickly, he had a great catching hand, he competed hard and could handle the puck very well. Jamie was a good goalie also, (he was drafted ahead of Chris by the Islanders) but he didn’t have the quickness or the puck handling ability that Chris had and he always had trouble with rebounds. 

The first time I met Chris was in a very difficult situation for him. On his way to Buffalo for the draft, he flew from Calgary to Toronto. He arrived in Toronto right around rush hour which can be memorable by itself. A trip to Buffalo which normally takes less than an hour, took almost three hours. Players often have interviews from prospective teams prior to the draft. Osgood’s first interview was the Detroit Redwings. He arrived at our hotel about one hour late. With his agent Roly Thompson close by, he walked into a room full of scouts, management and coaches. Not only did he experience his first traffic rush hour in Toronto, he had to walk into a room full of “stuffy adults”, people he didn’t know and answer very personal questions. His body language will always stick in my mind. He was small, frail, shy and timid, his shoulders were slumped and his head looking down. He looked more like the “stick-boy” than the future goalie of the Detroit Redwings. Given the circumstances, he handled the situation very well. His answers were very good if one could hear his mumbling voice as he was looking at the floor and speaking very softly. 

He was never one for talking a lot, especially early in his career. The following summer he came from Medecine Hat to Detroit and we drove together to Rochester NY, where I ran a goalie school. I don’t think he said more than a handful of sentences during the six hour drive. My goal was to have him teach my techniques so that he could execute later on and to develop a relationship. It was a success. The kids liked him, he did a great job and our relationship improved to where we actually had a conversation on the way back. 

He had his ups and downs in his NHL career, like most of us. After winning two Stanley Cups, one as a starter, Detroit put him on waivers and the Islanders claimed him. He later was traded to St-Louis before returning to the Wings as a free agent to win one more Stanley Cup. In 17 years, he never had a losing record; he played in two All-Star games, won the Jennings Trophy twice for the best goals against in the league. 

Very quietly, without much fanfare and very little recognition, he fought through adversity as he reached goals that propelled him in a class with the Elites. Let’s give Chris Osgood his due. He has accomplished more than most of us only dream of and he did it his way.
HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!

Phil Myre

PS: This version has been updated. The previous blog I stated that Don Meehan was Osgood’s agent while it was and still is Roly Thompson.

MCLEAN FIRING PREDICTABLE

John MacLean as Devils Coach

The New Jersey Devils fired their first year coach, John MacLean today, December 23rd. Merry Christmas, John! 

I had categorized John as “ON THE ROCKS” in a previous Blog, predicting his demise if things didn’t improve with his Devils. There were several negative “telltale” signs that the players were not responding well to his message. The first sign trouble was the coach’s outburst interrupting practice in the first week of the season. John claimed that the players weren’t focused and not working hard enough. This doesn’t just happen on one day. It’s likely something that was brewing since the beginning and a sign that the players aren’t responding or that practices are not well organized. 

The second sign of trouble was the benching of Ilya Kovalchuk. When your top players don’t respond, a coach is definitely in trouble. Benching your top player is a big gamble, especially if you’re a new coach without an existing relationship with the player. 

Of course, looking at the Devils’ line-up, there is very little reason for excitement over this team. They have a “no name” defense, some aging players and very little depth. Lou Lamoriello, the Devils General Manager, has been very loyal to many veterans in the past but some of them are on a free fall. The signing of Kovalchuk has brought great difficulty in managing the “CAP” and obviously leaves very little money for other high end players and limiting the quality of the depth players. Injuries to key players like Brodeur and Parise certainly doesn’t help either. 

Bringing Jacques Lemaire back is no surprise. Lou never really fires the people who have been loyal to him. He keeps them on the payroll, uses them as advisors and he can bring them back anytime he wants. In return, people like Lemaire, Larry Robinson, Pat Burns before he passed away, won’t refuse Lou if he needs a favor. MacLean will be kept on the payroll as well. He is a long time Devil and will be taken care of. 

It’s a given that the Devils won’t make the playoffs this year. They’re 20 points behind a playoff spot. Will Jacques be able to bring this team back to respectability? Yes, there will be some improvement, the team will work harder and play as a team but chances are that they will pick first or second in the June Entry Draft. 

PHIL BITS: 

Kudos to Tom Renney for the vote of confidence for his team. He told the media that they will make the playoffs this season. It shows his team that he believes in them and should help in the players believing in themselves. With a ten point gap, it’s still possible to achieve this goal but they must go on a winning streak very soon. They do have some talent and the future looks bright but I don’t see Tom’s prediction coming through this season. 

Chris Osgood has failed to win his 400th career victory for the second consecutive game. I’m waiting for him to reach his goal. Look for a new Blog about Chris when he does. I was an Assistant Coach/Goalie Coach in Detroit when we drafted him in Detroit. 

The San Jose Sharks are finally making a run with a four game winning streak. I’m still waiting for the Boston Bruins to get their act together. I picked those two teams to play in the Stanley Cup Finals. 

HAVE A GREAT HOLIDAY / CHRISTMAS BREAK 

Phil Myre

AMAZING & NOT SURPRISING EVENTS…

So far this NHL season, some events are in the AMAZING CATEGORY and others in the NOT SURPRISING CATEGORY. I’ll share some with all of you…

 IT’S AMAZING THAT…

Pavel Datsiuk can steel so many pucks with his stick and come out of scrums with the puck so often.

 … Alex Ovechkin can go 9 games without a goal and only 4 goals in 20 games. Not surprising that Washington lost 8 consecutive games during that span.

…Nickas Lidstrom who is closing in on 250 goals and 1500 games scored his first hat trick at age 40 on Wednesday against the Blues.

…Chicago couldn’t find a way to keep Dustin Byfuglien and Antti Niemi (G) despite their cap issues. They would be a much better team with those two players.

 …How close the Western Division standings are. As of December 14th, only 8 points separated the 2nd place team and the 13th place team.

Dallas is leading their division and second in the conference. Not surprising that Kari Lehtenen has something to do with it producing a 2.58 GAA and 14 wins.

…That HBO would air the emotional speech from Bruce Boudreau which was full of 4 letter words

….how quickly Steve Yzerman turned Tampa Bay around. Watch-out Steve, your team is giving up way too many goals.

The traffic and screens in front of goalies today. Forwards go to the point in the shooting lane, the defense can’t move the opponents in front of the net and are coached to front the player. That makes 3 players in the shootingn lane.

NOT SURPRISING THAT

Detroit is back on top of the league. They are more rested and healthy this year than last season. Their top players can outplay any line in the league.

Ilya Kovalchuk is struggling with only 8 goals and a -21. …Florida is 10 points out of a playoff spot already after 30 games. They just don’t have the “Horses” and no resources to improve the team.

Atlanta is so much improved. They raided the Blackhawks of 4 players which made them bigger and more competitive.

that Bruce Boudreau’s motivational speech was full of swear words. I have had very few coaches in the Pros that didn’t swear while addressing the team. Scotty Bowman was one. I had two coaches in Jr. hockey who never swore. Claude Dolbec in Shawinigan and Hap Emms in Niagara Falls.

FROM THE BLUES TO A BRUISE…

Last week was a busy week…I watched the Redwings beat the BLUES at the Joe, practiced with the Redwings Alumni, suffered a rib injury and attended a funeral for a good friend…

The Redwings beat the Blues 5-2 at the Joe Louis Arena on Wednesday. Missing five of their best players due to injuries, the hard-working Blues put up a good fight but their defensive strategy wasn’t good enough against the surging Wings. They ended the game with only a handful of scoring chances, certainly not good enough to beat the almighty Wings. In addition to missing offensive players such as Andy McDonald, TJ Oshie and David Perron, they lost their star defenseman Erik Johnson in the first period to what appeared to be a knee injury. Also out of their line-up were defencemen Alex Pietrangelo, Roman Polak (I really like this kid) and tough guy Cam Janssen.

The Blues have already played 9 players on recall from their farm team in Peoria. Adam Cracknell played in his first NHL game on Wednesday, Ian Cole played in his 8th and Chris Porter in his 25th. Tyson Strachan has very little experience on defense. That left them with only 2 experienced defencemen in that game, Brewer and Jackman. Coliacovo being the other young d’man.

Halak didn’t give the Blues the type of performance needed to win. He made some good saves but gave up goals that he should have had. I find him a bit deep in his net at times.

I like Ann Arbor’s Ian Cole. He’s a good skater, has good hands. Moves the puck well. He needs to work on his defensive game but he handled himself well for only his 9th NHL game and playing in front of family and friends.

The only Legitimate NHL players were Steen, Berglund, Backes and Boyes at forward. McClemment is an good role player on the bottom two lines. He just can’t score. The others are Jakcman and Brewer on defense and of course Halak in goal. When their injured players return, they have a good nucleus of players to make the playoffs.  

On Thursday, I practiced with the Wings Alumni…at forward. I don’t like to play goal much anymore. It’s much more fun skating, shooting and passing. Unfortunately, I took a bad fall and suffered a rib injury, either a bruise or a hairline fracture. Just don’t make me laugh, sneeze or cough…Some of the players present were Tom Williams, Pat Peake, Ed Mio, Brian Smolinski, Joey Kocur who is the President of our Alumni.

We had a meeting following practice and honored our dear friend Randy Cozens who passed away last week-end. Randy showed a lot of courage during a long battle with cancer.  I attended the funeral on Friday. Some of the Alumni present were Gordie Howe, Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio and Shawn Burr. Randy was a great hockey fan, he played goal for the Alumni and always demonstrated great generosity and willingness to do fundraisers for charity.

HAVE A GREAT CHRISTMAS!!!

Phil Myre

OUTDOOR GAME BRINGS BACK MEMORIES

The Big Chill

On Saturday, December 11th, Michigan University hosted Michigan State in an outdoor hockey game in the BIG HOUSE. What an event it was! A world-record crowd of 113,411 watched Michigan beat rival Michigan State, 5-0. The game wasn’t great but the atmosphere was outstanding. The team colors, the bands, the fireworks, the College spirit, the rivalry between the two teams and the “I was there” attitude all contributed to a very special event. Outdoor games in large stadium such as this have more to do with the event than it does with the game itself. The NHL is preparing for another outdoor game in Pittsburgh on New Year’s Day. I attended the 2009 NHL Winter Classic in Chicago. What an extraordinary day it was for my family and friends. The snow around the rink, the special winter decor, the star-studded presentations and the air force bombers flying overhead following the National Anthem all contributed to create a surreal, almost fictional world.

Playing outdoors is very familiar to me. As a youngster growing up in Rigaud, Quebec, my friends and I spent many hours on a rink in the neighbor’s yard just across the street from my home on rue Ste-Madeleine. We used to gather there after school and almost all day long during week-ends. It seems like we played on and on. We divided teams. It didn’t seem to matter who won or lost, we just had a great time. We made the rink ourselves and took care of it, shoveling snow after storms, watering and making boards with icy snow. We built the rink near the house so that we could at least have one side that we didn’t have to chase the puck when it was shot over our make shift board. My friend’s parents, the Cadieux, weren’t very happy when we shot the puck against the house but we always managed to get away with it occasionally.

There was a window leading to the basement of the house. Whenever we wanted to flood the ice, we would ask Mrs. Cadieux to open the window, take out the hose and after a good scrape and realigning the boards, we would pour water onto the ice. On some nights, it was so cold outside that the water would freeze instantly. I still get “goose bumps” recalling those chilly nights flooding the rink.

That’s where I learned how to skate and where my goaltending career originated. . . well sort of. . .There was a set of old goalie equipment laying around that nobody really wanted. I was always happy to volunteer as the goalie. For some reason, I always had a passion for goalies growing up. I used to get up early on many Saturday mornings, ignoring my mother’s cry for mercy, I would throw a ball against the wall, make a pretend goal behind me and imagine that I was an NHL goalie winning the big game for the Stanley Cup.

I’ve gone back to the street where we had that skating rink. For some strange reason, it seems like it was much bigger then. That yard must have shrunk over the years. The hill I used to climb to go to school also seemed a lot smaller than it was when I was a kid. I guess its all part of getting older. The dreams and fantasies I used to have as a kid may have also shrunk but the feelings and the memories of the outdoor rink on rue Ste-Madeleine still remain very dear and clear.

HAVE A GREAT HOCKEY DAY!

Phil Myre