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Peng to the Point

Mick & Milbury

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Every Sunday at Peng to the Point, we talk about the world away from the San Jose Sharks.

“Women weaken legs.”

That’s what cantankerous Mickey Goldmill, Rocky Balboa’s fictitious trainer, stressed as Balboa was hitting the bag in “Rocky.”

“Not even any women here to disrupt your concentration.”

That’s what cantankerous Mike Milbury, NBC Sports not-so-fictitious commentator, cracked in response to Brian Boucher’s paean to the playoff hockey bubble environment.

I love “Rocky.” A lot of America loved it too, judging by its Oscar for 1977’s Best Picture.

I don’t love Milbury, but I’ve been entertained by him at times for 30-odd years, from pointing out Ziggy Palffy’s agent was depriving a “small village of a pretty good idiot” in 1998 to the recent, now-deleted tweet mistaking Toronto’s CN Tower for Seattle’s Space Needle. A lot of America has been entertained by Milbury too, judging by his 13 years on the air.

This might be it for Milbury, however, who “has decided to step away” from the playoffs after censure from both the NHL and NBC for his latest of many offenses. Ironically enough, Milbury professed to “not want my presence to interfere with the athletes.”

In the other words, NBC has let him go, at least for now.

So when’s enough enough?

I would argue — never.

You can call it “cancel culture” if you’d like.

I call it a constant questioning of actions, past and present. I think, by and large, it’s a healthy thing to ask: What was right in 1977, is that right today? And so on. It’s good to talk about it. It’s better to learn from it.

Looking specifically at what Mike Milbury said this time, I think he meant it as a joke. I believe he didn’t mean anything by it. But “it’s just a joke” is a flimsy defense. More importantly, in the spirit of constant growth and inquiry, we need to listen to the many voices who have reacted in righteous fury: A woman in sports is more than just a distraction. A woman in sports is more than just a pretty face.

Going back to Mick.

I can still love “Rocky.” I can still love Mick. But it’s okay to acknowledge that Mick’s sentiments are outdated. Fair to say, Mick would have a lot of trouble with 2020.

Times change. Best to listen or be left behind.

As for Milbury, in his 50-plus years in hockey, he’s done a lot to grow the game — but it appears that he’s not growing with the game. I’d love to give him a chance to learn from this, except he’s been given many chances before to learn from his gaffes, and I’m not sure if he’s learned anything.

It’s incumbent then, on NBC and the NHL, to learn from this: Who will they hire to replace Mike Milbury?

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Peng to the Point

Remembering Hamby Shore

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Every Sunday at Peng to the Point, we talk about the world away from the San Jose Sharks.

Hamby Shore was the first NHL player to die in a pandemic.

This week, 102 years ago, three-time Stanley Cup winner Hamby Shore succumbed to the influenza epidemic of 1918. The Ottawa Senators fan favorite was just 32.

The Province, October 14, 1918.

Seven months later, the Montreal Canadiens’ Joe Hall caught influenza during the 1919 Stanley Cup Final, dying just four days after the cancellation of the series.

Shore and Hall were just two of the about 50 million who died because of this pandemic.

There’s two reasons why I’m bringing this up: First, to commemorate Shore’s October 13, 1918 death. Second, as a reminder as professional and college sports in North America hurry back to action.

And sure, the COVID-19 pandemic is not the influenza epidemic of 1918. Though looking at raw mortality numbers — over 1.1 million dead worldwide because of the coronavirus, per John Hopkins, may not paint the full picture of its deadliness compared to 1918.

But anyway, sports are going to push forward — in its halting, start-and-stop manner — as it did 102 years ago.

Our sport of choice is a prime example of this.

The 1919 Stanley Cup Final was canceled after five games, but otherwise, the league completed its 1918-19 and 1919-20 seasons.

This year, the NHL regular season was shortened, but six months later, the 2020 Stanley Cup Final was completed in a bubble.

Commissioner Gary Bettman hopes to begin the 2020-21 campaign in January, three months after the customary October opening night.

So sports isn’t going away — but neither is the coronavirus.

The 102nd anniversary of Shore’s death is a stark reminder: Athletes, as young and healthy as they are, can very much be vulnerable to COVID-19.

A recent — admittedly small-scale — study suggested that individuals who have experienced COVID-19 are more susceptible to myocarditis, a potentially fatal inflammation of the heart muscle. Essentially, heart damage may be a price to play for some athletes.

Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid are among the NHL superstars who are known to have tested positive for COVID-19.

There’s of course a lot we’re still learning about the novel coronavirus. The myocarditis study is hardly conclusive.

But remember Hamby Shore: One successful playoff bubble doesn’t mean the NHL is immune to the still-raging pandemic.

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Peng to the Point

Cathy’s Power Skating Hits the Ice Again

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Every Sunday at Peng to the Point, we talk about the world away from the San Jose Sharks.

Cathy Andrade without ice? She’s like a fish out of water.

“Besides my maternity leave [in 1999], this is pretty well the longest time that I’ve been off the ice since…I don’t know,” the power skating coach told San Jose Hockey Now. “I’ve been coaching for over 35 years. This is the longest break I’ve had in a long time.”

Andrade runs Cathy’s Power Skating out of Solar4America Ice in San Jose, where the San Jose Sharks practice. Andrade has been teaching power skating in the Bay Area to all age levels since 1992 and has worked privately with Sharks like Joe Pavelski and Kevin Labanc. Because of COVID-19 protocols, this is the first week since March that Cathy’s Power Skating has been on the ice.

“A year ago, I was working five, six hours a day doing private and semi-private lessons. Right now, there’s only an hour, two hours a day that are even available to us,” Andrade said, “It’s only a fraction of what we were able to do. We went from being able to potentially coach eight hours a day to one or two hours.”

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Day 1️⃣ after 6️⃣ month break…getting the rust off the wheels ▶️ using 🏒 stick as a level ⚖️ to establish balance & posture for quick reactive movements, without bad habits like counterbalancing by dropping shoulders! ☑️ edges ☑️ posture ☑️ rotational sequence ☑️ crossovers ☑️ outside edge punch ▶️ note that it’s the right inside edge that allows the movement range for the left hip to get the deke💥 . . . #edges #crossover #deke #hockeyplayer #hockey #californiahockey #balance #strong #playerdevelopment #hockeygram #powerskatingdrills #hockeyskills #usahockey #hockeytraining #minorhockey #development #powerskatingcoach #skatewithpower #stridemechanics #powerskating #learning #skating #coaching #makeyourextrahourcount @extrahourtraining #gettheleadingedge @cathyspowerskating

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Like so many small businesses, Andrade has faced unprecedented challenges over the last half-year. For example, it will be the first year since 1998 that Power Hour, her signature power skating program, won’t see the light of day.

“I usually do it in the spring,” Andrade said. “That affects the [six or so] coaches who work with me.”

Andrade noted that Cathy’s Power Skating applied for, but did not receive a SBA Paycheck Protection Program loan. Her husband Randy Andrade’s Extra Hour Training, an off-the-ice hockey training facility also located in San Jose, also did not receive a loan. Another Andrade business, unrelated to hockey, did. Like most small business owners, the Andrades don’t know why one business received a loan, while the others didn’t.

That’s not Cathy’s Power Skating’s only challenge.

“In this climate, you can’t really plan beyond this week,” Andrade pointed out. “Right now this ice time, they’ve just offered it up as a two-week [trial]. I’ve had last week and this [coming] week. I don’t know until they release it.”

Andrade isn’t complaining — this is everybody’s reality now.

“It’s ever-changing. You have state regulations. You have county,” Andrade observed. “You have to really stay on top of what you’re doing. You have to kind of re-invent yourself almost every few weeks.”

Luckily for Andrade, she’s not the only one with a hunger for ice. Her limited lessons are all booked. She’s grateful to Solar4America Ice for being as accommodating as they’ve been and to the parents and students loyal to Cathy’s Power Skating. And she hopes the players who have essentially missed an entire off-season of training haven’t missed out on too much.

“Power Hour occurs in the off-season and the spring because it’s a perfect time for skill development,” Andrade said. “The off-season is when players should be working on things like stride mechanics and elevating the edge work.”

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Hockey History

Where Does Joe Pavelski Rank Among Greatest American Skaters?

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Credit: NBC

Every Sunday at Peng to the Point, we talk about the world away from the San Jose Sharks.

It’s impossible to compare eras.

But yesterday, my colleague Jimmy Murphy from Boston Hockey Now threw this out there:

My initial reaction was there were at least 10 Americans that I could think of who I’d start a franchise with over prime Joe Pavelski.

However, Pavelski’s case to be a top-15 all-time American player might be stronger than you think.

After some spirited online debate, I identified three standards to compare between eras: Prime, Career, and Playoff.

And with the help of Hockey Reference’s Stathead, I actually had some measures to try to compare eras.

So who are the greatest American skaters? And where does Pavelski stack up?

But before we get going: To Brett or not to Brett?

Every significant American goal-scoring record is owned by Canadian-born Brett Hull, who represented the United States in international competition. You name it — Hull has the most single-season, career, and playoff goals of any American.

It’s because of Hull that every American NHL record has to be categorized as American-born, to simply give everybody else a chance.

Case in point:

Pretty good, right? Well, Pavelski is still 42 playoff goals away from catching Hull.

For the purpose of this debate and to include the best of the best, I’m making the executive decision to include Hull.

Prime

Including Hull, there have been 20 American 50-goal seasons:

PlayerSeasonTeamGoals
Brett Hull1990-91STL86
Brett Hull1989-90STL72
Brett Hull1991-92STL70
Brett Hull1993-94STL57
Jimmy Carson1987-88LAK55
Kevin Stevens1992-93PIT55
Brett Hull1992-93STL54
Pat LaFontaine1989-90NYI54
Kevin Stevens1991-92PIT54
Jeremy Roenick1991-92CHI53
Bobby Carpenter1984-85WSH53
Pat LaFontaine1992-93BUF53
Keith Tkachuk1996-97PHX52
John LeClair1997-98PHI51
John LeClair1995-96PHI51
Joe Mullen1988-89CGY51
John LeClair1996-97PHI50
Mike Modano1993-94DAL50
Keith Tkachuk1995-96WIN50
Jeremy Roenick1992-93CHI50

Hull owns five of the top-seven spots. For what it’s worth, every one of these 20 campaigns occurred from 1984-1997, a mostly high-scoring period of time in the league. Pavelski’s career-high 41-goal 2013-14 campaign is tied for just 41st among top American goal-scoring campaigns.

That 41st, however, becomes far more impressive when we use Hockey Reference’s Adjusted Goals metric:

PlayerSeasonTeamAdjusted Goals
Brett Hull1990-91STL78
Brett Hull1991-92STL63
Brett Hull1989-90STL61
John LeClair1997-98PHI59
Auston Matthews2019-20TOR56
Keith Tkachuk1996-97PHX54
Brett Hull1993-94STL52
John LeClair1996-97PHI52
Patrick Kane2015-16CHI52
Tony Amonte1998-99CHI51
Brett Hull1994-95STL50
John LeClair1995-96PHI49
John LeClair1998-99PHI49
Kevin Stevens1991-92PIT48
Keith Tkachuk1995-96WIN48
Brian Gionta2005-06NJD48
Zach Parise2008-09NJD48
Jeremy Roenick1991-92CHI47
Tony Amonte1999-00CHI47
Bill Guerin2001-02BOS47
Jimmy Carson1987-88LAK46
Joe Pavelski2013-14SJS46
Keith Tkachuk1997-98PHX46

Pavelski’s 2013-14 rises to tied for 21st on the list.

These adjustments for era matter.

Patrick Kane, for example, shows up just twice in the top-10 list for single-season assists by an American forward. His career-high 66 assists in 2018-19 is fourth all-time.

But using adjusted assists, Kane suddenly dominates, taking five of the top-10 spots. His 2018-19 also shoots up to second behind Pat Lafontaine.

Here’s a comparison, by the way, of top-10 points by an American skater, raw and adjusted:

 PlayerSeasonTeamPointsPlayerSeasonTeamAdjusted Points
1Pat LaFontaine1992-93BUF148Pat LaFontaine1992-93BUF119
2Kevin Stevens1991-92PIT123Patrick Kane2015-16CHI119
3Kevin Stevens1992-93PIT111Patrick Kane2018-19CHI111
4Patrick Kane2018-19CHI110Kevin Stevens1991-92PIT109
5Joe Mullen1988-89CGY110John LeClair1998-99PHI102
6Jeremy Roenick1993-94CHI107John LeClair1996-97PHI101
7Jeremy Roenick1992-93CHI107John LeClair1997-98PHI100
8Jimmy Carson1987-88LAK107Doug Weight1995-96EDM100
9Patrick Kane2015-16CHI106Johnny Gaudreau2018-19CGY99
10Craig Janney1992-93STL106Patrick Kane2019-20CHI99

All these adjusted stats suggest that Hull is the dominant American scorer, Pat Lafontaine and Kane are the dominant playmakers up front. We also get a good sense of how unstoppable John LeClair was in the “dead puck” era.

So that was the statistical portion of the argument. Subjectively, which American skaters, in their primes, are clearly ahead of Pavelski?

From these lists, Hull, Lafontaine, Kane, and LeClair jump out. For his strong two-way play and leadership, both Pavelski strong suits, coupled with otherworldly skills, Mike Modano can’t be denied. Among defensemen, it’s hard to dispute American Norris Trophy winners Chris Chelios, Brian Leetch, and Rod Langway. Three-time Norris Trophy runner-up Mark Howe deserves mention. Auston Matthews is simply too special a player right now, even at just 23 years old.

After this elite top-10 though, perhaps we can start to debate Pavelski. But it would be a fierce debate: Up front, prime Keith Tkachuk, Tony Amonte, Bill Guerin, Kevin Stevens, Joe Mullen, Bill Guerin, Phil Kessel, Zach Parise, Neal Broten, Jack Eichel, Phil Kessel, and Doug Weight are very much in this tier of the conversation. In the back-end, Phil Housley, Ryan Suter, Dustin Byfuglien, and John Carlson, among others, are in the discussion too.

Career

We’ll focus on regular season careers here.

The 36-year-old Pavelski actually shows well here.

Pavelski’s 792 points is 20th among all Americans. But let’s look at adjusted all-time points:

PlayerCareer PointsPlayerCareer Adjusted Points
Brett Hull1391Mike Modano1408
Mike Modano1374Brett Hull1390
Phil Housley1232Jeremy Roenick1228
Jeremy Roenick1216Patrick Kane1154
Keith Tkachuk1065Keith Tkachuk1150
Joe Mullen1063Phil Housley1148
Doug Weight1033Doug Weight1099
Brian Leetch1028Brian Leetch1039
Patrick Kane1022Phil Kessel968
Pat LaFontaine1013Tony Amonte953
Chris Chelios948Bill Guerin921
Neal Broten923Joe Mullen918
Tony Amonte900Chris Chelios908
Phil Kessel861Pat LaFontaine902
Bill Guerin856John LeClair893
Gary Suter844Joe Pavelski882
John LeClair819Zach Parise881
Ed Olczyk794Blake Wheeler857
Zach Parise792Brian Rolston828
Joe Pavelski792Scott Gomez820

Pavelski finds himself just outside the top-15 now and a lot closer to Hall of Famers Lafontaine and Mullen. Tkachuk, Weight, Amonte, Guerin, and Kessel’s careers suddenly start to look more impressive.

Meanwhile, Pavelski’s 369 goals is 13th among all American skaters. Once again, however, his adjusted figures are more impressive:

 PlayerCareer GoalsPlayerCareer Adjusted Goals
1Brett Hull741Brett Hull738
2Mike Modano561Keith Tkachuk584
3Keith Tkachuk538Mike Modano578
4Jeremy Roenick513Jeremy Roenick514
5Joe Mullen502Bill Guerin467
6Pat LaFontaine468Patrick Kane449
7Bill Guerin429John LeClair447
8Tony Amonte416Tony Amonte443
9John LeClair406Zach Parise435
10Patrick Kane389Joe Mullen432
11Zach Parise386Phil Kessel422
12Phil Kessel371Joe Pavelski418
13Joe Pavelski369Pat LaFontaine414

Pavelski has suddenly joined the 400-goal club, moving ahead of Lafontaine.

Do we start to have the argument that Pavelski can be a top-15 all-time American skater?

Playoffs

If we don’t yet, this is where Pavelski absolutely shines.

Unfortunately, Hockey Reference doesn’t have adjusted post-season stats. But we can do some quick-and-dirty math to approximate adjusted playoff figures — basically, I extrapolated regular-season adjustments and applied them to playoff goals.

Here’s your new top-six among Americans in post-season goals:

 Adjusted Playoff GoalsPlayoff Goals
Brett Hull103103
Joe Pavelski6961
Patrick Kane6052
Mike Modano6058
Jeremy Roenick5353
Joe Mullen5260

Obviously, Pavelski is still sitting pretty.

And here’s something truly striking. Among the top-13 all-time American regular season goal scorers, Pavelski is the only one whose goal-scoring pace increased in the playoffs, albeit marginally:

 PlayerRegular Season Goals Per Game Playoff Goals Per GameDifference
1Brett Hull0.580.51-0.07
2Mike Modano0.370.33-0.04
3Keith Tkachuk0.450.31-0.14
4Jeremy Roenick0.380.34-0.04
5Joe Mullen0.470.42-0.05
6Pat LaFontaine0.540.38-0.16
7Bill Guerin0.340.28-0.06
8Tony Amonte0.350.22-0.13
9John LeClair0.420.27-0.15
10Patrick Kane0.40.38-0.02
11Zach Parise0.380.35-0.03
12Phil Kessel0.350.350
13Joe Pavelski0.360.380.02

Now that’s impressive.

Top-30, Top-20, Top-10?

Prime Pavelski is a clear top-30 American skater. Factoring in his longevity, top-20 seems reasonable. Do his post-season exploits get him into the top-10 debate?

I’m not sure — but if you had to win a Game Seven with all U.S. skaters, Pavelski would be a sure-fire pick. Besides production, you’ll also get inspiring leadership and reliable two-way play.

We’ll see if Pavelski can keep adding to his illustrious playoff legacy tonight.

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