Thursday, January 22, 2009

An Old Guy Moment

I fear thee, ancient Mariner!
And thou art long, and lank, and brown,
As is the ribbed sea-sand.

Jeremy Roenick was born on January 17, 1970 (a belated happy birthday...). How long ago is that? That date was the one-year anniversary of the release of "Yellow Submarine" by The Beatles.

Rob Blake was born on December 10, 1969. How long ago was that? That Apollo moon landing mission that Tom Hanks made a movie of hadn't been launched yet.

Claude Lemieux was born on July 16, 1965. Barry Sanders, the former running back of the Detroit Lions who gained more than 15,000 yards rushing over his career would be born on this date... three years later.

What's the point? Well, the San Jose Sharks (hence the "Ancient Mariner" reference above) sit atop the NHL standings points rankings and have had these three ancients skating on a team that has dressed 11 players who are 25 or younger.

Given the Caps rather youthful core, it makes one wonder if a graybeard will be added to the club as the trading deadline nears. There are 11 players who have dressed this season for NHL games who were born prior to 1970. Sergei Fedorov is one of them. Of the other ten, not all have actually played games this month, but they include...

Chris Chelios
Claude Lemieux
Mark Recchi
Teppo Numminen (although he just had facial surgery)
Brendan Shanahan
Mathieu Schneider
Rob Blake (he's also recovering from a facial injury)

Chelios isn't going anywhere. Neither, we suppose, are Lemieux, Shanahan, or Blake. That leaves Recchi, Numminen, and Schneider. Do you think...


Sittin' at the end of the bar...

From our "did you know (Young Guns Category)?" file...

Did you know that Bruce Boudreau is 67-32-10 in his first 109 games? Not bad for a guy who took over little more than an expansion team (with a lot of young, but green talent, to be sure). Just by way of comparison, Scotty Bowman was 49-35-25 in his first 109 games, taking over an expansion franchise in St. Louis.

Yeah, yeah, Bowman went to the Stanley Cup finals in those first two years in St. Louis, but that was when the "original six" were in one division (and they were divisions back then), and all the expansion teams were in the other. OK, he's not a "young gun," but hey, we're just sayin'...


Did you know that in his 291-game career, Alex Ovechkin is 194-175-369? As for players to whom he has been compared in style over roughly comparable stretches to start their NHL careers...

- Maurice Richard (first six seasons): 275 games, 187-123-301
- Mark Messier (first four seasons): 302 games, 133-157-290
- Gordie Howe (first five seasons): 298 games, 113-144-257

Different eras? Absolutely, but it's safe to say his name can be mentioned in the same sentence as the others.


Now, here's the odd one. Did you know that in this, his third full season with the Caps, Mike Green is 33-71-104 in 209 career games? Well, let's compare that to the three season totals of another defenseman...

174 games, 45-91-136

True, Green trails this player in all the scoring categories as an "offensive" defenseman, but it isn't that unfavorable a comparison... to Bobby Orr. OK, in Orr's fourth season he would have the first of five consecutive 100-plus point seasons. We're going to go out on a limb here and say that Green doesn't have a 100-point season in his future. But he still could become the premier offensive defenseman of this era.


Did you know that in 130 career games and in his second season, Nicklas Backstrom has 91 assists? Now, compare that to the top five all-time career assist leaders (centers only) in their first two seasons...

Ron Francis -- 138 games, 102 assists
Mark Messier -- 147 games, 61 assists
Adam Oates -- 114 games, 43 assists
Steve Yzerman -- 160 games, 107 assists
Marcel Dionne -- 155 games, 99 assists

We're thinking that at his current rate Backstrom will finish this year with around 115 career assists, which certainly would put him in this company. OK, OK... we didn't list Wayne Gretzky. Well, he lives on a different planet. Sue me.


Did you know that Alexander Semin has 92 goals in his first 222 career games in this, his fourth season? Well, compared to the top-five career goal-scorers among wingers in comparable volumes of career games...

Gordie Howe -- 228 games, 70 goals (over parts of four seasons)
Brett Hull -- 228 games, 146 goals (over parts of four seasons)
Mike Gartner -- 237 games, 119 goals (three)
Luc Robitaille -- 237 games, 144 goals (three)
Brendan Shanahan -- 206 games, 59 goals (three)

...he compares pretty favorably, especially considering that Gartner and Robitaille began their careers in a high-scoring era.

A few years does not a career make, even for players (or a coach) off to such fine starts as these. But fine starts they've had. Just something to tide us over this All-Star week.