Someone should alert the Parity Police based at NHL HQ that the model is broken and there are more underdogs than at any time since the salary cap was adopted in 2005-06.
For the first time this season, there are three teams hitting .326 or lower, those particular cellar dwellers being Columbus, Chicago and Anaheim. For the second time — and second straight season — five teams are playing under a .400 clip.
There were only two postseasons prior to 2021-22 in which as many as three teams failed to reach the .400 threshold. Indeed, in 13 of the 14 seasons from 2006-07 to 2019-20, no more than one team fit within that limit.
The Blackhawks, as tainted of an organization as there has ever been in the NHL, are at the bottom by design to fulfill management’s twisted intent to dip as deep into the tank as possible. The Ducks actually spent some cash in the offseason to add a group of vets who could have made the club more visible, but they didn’t. The Blue Jackets didn’t sign Johnny Gaudreau with any possible idea that he would not only be in contention for Connor Bedard, but also be in the pole position just past the halfway mark.
The cap had to smooth out the edges. The NHL was supposed to be an Any Given Sunday League. Instead, the league is in its second straight season with a subset of historically bad teams.
At the other end of the spectrum, the Bruins (32-5-4 before Saturday) are hitting at an .829 pace that would eclipse the Canadiens’ legendary .825 mark in 1976-77, which represents the NHL’s highest winning percentage in the modern era that began with introduction of the Central Red Line in 1944-45. This was the Canadiens team that won the second of four straight Stanley Cups to close out the decade with a 60-8-12 record.
The 1977-78 Habs, who went 59-10-11 (.806), are the only other team in the modern era to hit. 800 in a full season, though the 2012-13 Blackhawks finished .802 in a 48-game asterisked schedule cut short by Owners’ Lockout III.
It’s safe to say that the Devils are the biggest pleasant surprise in the league. But the Bruins, who have been without Brad Marchand or Charlie McAvoy for nearly the first month of the season, are a close second.
At this juncture, the only award more certain than Connor McDavid’s supposed Hart Trophy would be Jim Montgomery’s supposed Adams as the sophomore coach of the year.
The all-time record for winning percentage appears to be out of reach. The Bruins would have to go a matching 36-1-4 the rest of the way to reach 144 points and hit .878 to eclipse their forefathers’ 1929-30 record of .875 accomplished with a 38-5-1 season.
This was the Boston team that included Eddie Shore, Dit Clapper, Tiny Thompson, Cooney Weiland and Lionel Hitchman. All but Hitchman are in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Those B’s, by the way, didn’t win the Stanley Cup. They were beaten by the decidedly ordinary 21-14-9 (.579) Canadiens two straight in the best-of-3 final.
No, the history lesson is not over.
I found a clip on YouTube of a Rangers-Canadiens game at the Garden from the 1935-36 season in which the players lined up east-west, facing the backboards, to face off.
This surprised me. I had no idea such a thing had ever existed, let alone when the league had players lining up north-south for draws. So I asked for help from the NHL, whose staff was initially confused before locating useful information. and by Stan Fischler, who approached the famous historian Eric Zweig.
According to the league and the industry, the change was made before the 1942-43 season. Zweig was referenced in a 1996 book titled The Rules of Hockey by James Duplacey with Dan Diamond.
This is from Page 116-117: “A major change in the face-off rule affected the position of players taking the draw and coincided with the introduction of the red line in 1942-43. Prior to that season, players taking the draw would line up across from the sideboards. Many coaches used a strategy that required players taking the face-off to actually ignore the puck and instead the other face-off, allowing a teammate to come in and take the puck. Under the modified rules, players taking the face-off rotated 90 degrees so that they were facing the ends of the rink with their backs to their own goals. The intent of this legislation was to speed up the game by putting more emphasis on winning the draw outright.”
There is a slight discrepancy here as the red line was introduced a year later in 1943-44. So it appears that the face change was not enacted in 1942-43, but rather in 1943-44.
An article forwarded by Zweig from the August 17, 1943 edition of the Montreal Gazette, written by Owen Griffith, states:
“While the main element was the two-inch red line at center ice … players have to face their opponents’ goal instead of having their left side toward the opponent’s net, for faces.”
Now you can take that information to a bar and win a bet or be smart like Matt Damon’s character in “Good Will Hunting.”
In recognition of Jake Leschyshyn’s anticipated Rangers debut at the Garden Sunday, we rate the top five Nos from our three teams. 15 sec.
1. John MacLean, Devils (and Rangers); 2. Jim Neilson, Rangers; 3.Billy Harris, Islanders; 4. Anders Hedberg, Rangers; 5. Jamie Langenbrunner, Devils. Honorable Mention: Cal Clutterbuck, Islanders; Credit: Jeff Taffe, Rangers.
Finally, it’s a shame how quickly Henrik Lundqvist faded into obscurity in his retirement, isn’t it?