Top Shelf Thursday: Weekly NHL notebook
By DAVE TURNER
After a Thanksgiving hiatus, we're back with more of the best story lines from around the league.
It is with a heavy heart that our leadoff topic this week is about the passing of former Montreal Canadiens legend Jean Beliveau. Beliveau, who was 83, has his named etched more times on Lord Stanley's Cup than any other person in the history of the game. He won ten as a player and seven as a member of the Montreal Canadiens front office.On the ice, he was unflappable. He was cool. calm and collected, yet would make all the big plays. Off the ice, he had a heart of gold, involving himself in many charities even way beyond his playing days. Sure, it's easy to talk fondly about someone once they're gone, but he has been touching lives for decades and anyone around the NHL could have given you at least one snippet as to his tremendous impact.
I was listening to Scott Laughlin's show on Sirius XM radio yesterday when he had on former Hockey Night In Canada commentator Brian McFarlane. The two created what I think is the best line i've heard about Beliveau. Laughlin mentioned how if there was in fact a hockey god, if he were to create the perfect player on the perfect team, it'd be Beliveau. McFarlane responded by saying, " and he'd be wearing the C on that team."
Grace, Honor and Tenacity, No.4 for the bleu, blanc and rouge was a classy as they come. When you're the best player on the best team in hockey, it makes you a pretty big deal, but he was simply class, personified.
A captain and a champion on the ice, the Canadiens great finished with more than 1200 points. But perhaps nothing stands out more about Beliveau than the almost regal way he carried himself and the work he did later in his life, helping many charitable organizations. Beliveau even started his including his own charity, The Society for Disabled Children.
Jean Beliveau will lie in state at the Bell Centre on Friday. What an absolutely tremendous honor, to let the fans who adored you pay their respects.
The term legendary wouldn't even do him justice. Jean Beliveau was everything a true sportsman can be.
1. Seeing Martin Brodeur in a Blues Uniform still feels a bit weird. I really thought that Martin Brodeur would finish his career in New Jersey, that was never a way for him to leave because of how much the Devils mean to him and how much he means to the organization that he won three Stanley Cups for. The fact is, the NHL is a business and when the Devils decided to give the reigns to Cory Schneider, it spelled the end of Brodeur in Newark. The four-time Vezina winning goaltender still wanted to play and he finally got his chance. Many were urging Brodeur to retire, including myself, as the thought of Brodeur going out and playing well below his greatness would tarnish his legacy. Well, he waited patiently for a phone call and now he's playing for a team that has to be considered a legitimate Stanley Cup Contender. He'll be playing behind one of the best defensive units in the league and a team that is well coached and primed to make the postseason once again. For Brodeur, it's what he wanted. Say what you'd like about his decision to squeeze one more season out of his now 42-year-old body, but when you're as good as Marty is, sometimes you get to make your own decisions. His contract is mostly based on how many wins he gets the team, so for his sake I hope he comes in and plays well. For a man that brought me so many great memories throughout his illustrious tenure in New Jersey, it's time for him to add one more poignant chapter to his legacy.
2. The Sharks need to pull the plug on a coaching move quickly. The Sharks are sinking in the Western Conference standings (no pun intended) and to see this perennial regular season powerhouse fade into obscurity, at least for the moment, is troubling. There are questions in net and on defense, but I stand firm in the belief that there is still enough talent on this roster led by the likes of Logan Couture and Joe Pavelski, to not only make the playoffs, but win games there as well. Todd McLellan has done an admirable job during his tenure in San Jose, but it's time to make a change. Why? because if they don't do something now, this could snowball into an even worse situation in Northern California. Of course the Dan Bylsma rumors are flying around and he would be a good fit. He came in mid-season with the Penguins and won a Stanley Cup in 2009. Perhaps a coaching change can help bring this team together and move it past the issues they've had in the room. If it isn't Bylsma, then the Sharks have someone already behind their bench that can come in as well. Larry Robinson, who led the Devils to a Stanley Cup in 2000, would be a huge calming influence on this team. He's a good leader and a great coach too. The point is, the Sharks are going nowhere right now with a team that is more talented than their 12-10-4 record shows. It's time to turn the page.
3. The Toronto Maple Leafs seem to have a bit more intestinal fortitude than once thought. A few weeks ago, the Leafs were coming off of back to back drubbings, losing 6-2 to lowly Buffalo and 9-2 to the Nashville Predators. It would have been very Leafs-like to start a tailspin after those two defeats, but somehow, it seems to have brought them together. Since those two losses, the Leafs are 4-0-1, their only defeat being an overtime loss to the Penguins. In those four wins, they've scored at least four goals. Jonathan Bernier seems to have wrestled the job away from James Reimer once again and at this point it may be his to keep. There's no telling if there will be a playoff birth for the Leafs in a tight Atlantic Division, but the fact that they bounced back from two embarrassing losses to get nine of their last ten points says something about this team. Phil Kessel has been unstoppable and it's starting to look like this team might be a bit different from some of the teams that failed over the last few years in Toronto. There's some mettle there and that goes a long way.
Goal of the week: Tyler Ennis finished this play with an incredible backhand finish while diving over Carey Price. Though it's a lean year in Western New York, as a fan, that is why you still go to the games, even when your team isn't great.
1. If you've seen super troopers, or just like a good laugh, then you need to watch this ECHL interview right meow.
2. Pete Deboer may have been a bit confused when he said that a hit like Robert Bortuzzo took on Jagr would have started World War 4 if it was on Crosby. Please Pete, explain World War 3 to me?
3. If you don't know who Zegmus Girgensons is yet, you will soon. The 20-year-old Latvian-born Buffalo Sabres center (pronounced ZEHM-guhz GEER-gehn-suhns) has been excellent this year. He plays in all three zones and is tenacious on every shift. He is the kind of player that you want to have on your team as you begin to build talent around him. At only 20 years old, he's continue to improve. At one point this week Girgensons was in a starting five spot for all-star voting. He has eight goals and six assists, to go with a plus-6 rating. On top of that, he's logging major minutes and has just four penalty minutes. A nice story coming out of Buffalo.
4. Recipe of the Week - Chocolate Crinkle Cookies: I love to bake cookies during the holiday season and this one is an old staple. They're simple to make, but they look great and are decadent. A nice change of pace to go along with the old classics.
5. Beer of the Week - Anchor Steam Christmas Ale : I always tend to stay away from most seasons not named Oktoberfest, but after trying this one I was pleasantly surprised. It's different, because it has so many different notes along with the cinnamon and nutmeg spiciness you expect from a winter lager. While this beer isn't something you're going to want three or four of, it has a very complex flavor and is a nice change of pace on a cold winter night.More sports coverage:
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