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Thursday, June 16, 2011

2010-11 Boston Bruins Tim Thomas Jersey

Following the Boston Bruins 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Canucks last night to capture the first Stanley Cup for Boston in 39 years, Tim Thomas was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player during the playoffs. As the 40th different man to win the award, he also became only the second American to win the award as well as the oldest player to win the award at age 37.

Thomas Smythe
Thomas with the Smythe Trophy

Thomas, who had lost his job as the Bruins starting goaltender the previous year to Tukka Rask, was the subject of rampant trade rumors entering the 2010-11 season and opted to not have his mask decorated in Bruins specific colors in anticipation of being dealt to another club, and instead went with a stark white and grey mask.

Thomas Mask Comparison

After going 36-11-7 with a .933 save percentage and a 2.10 goals against average in 2008-09, which earned him the coveted Vezina Trophy, Thomas saw his record plummet to 17-18-8, while his save percentage dipped to .915 and his goals against was up to 2.56 while starting just seven games after January.

Thomas Vezina
Thomas poses with the Vezina Trophy

Following the season Thomas had hip surgery in May and the effect was dramatic, as Thomas won his first seven starts in 2010-11, three by shutout, while giving up a ridiculous five goals. He quickly won back the starting job as a result and by the end of the season Thomas had appeared in 57 regular season games, winning 35 while losing just 11 with 7 overtime losses. He also set a new NHL record with a .938 save percentage and dropped his goals against average to 2.00, a NHL career low.

Once in the playoffs, the Bruins, who won the Northeast Division but only had the fifth best record in the conference, were taken to a Game 7 by their rivals, the Montreal Canadiens before advancing with a win in overtime. They dispatched the Philadelphia Flyers in four straight to earn some rest before the Tampa Bay Lightning also forced Boston to the maximum seven games. Thomas was brilliant in Game 7 against the Lightning, shutting them out 1-0, his second clean sheet of the round, which sent Boston to the finals as Eastern Conference champions.

Vancouver won two narrow victories at home, the first a 1-0 victory, with the lone goal coming with just 19 seconds left in the game, and the second requiring overtime. Back in Boston the Bruins utterly demolished Vancouver by scores of 8-1 and 4-0, as Thomas had now only allowed five goals in four games yet the series was tied at two games apiece.

The Bruins then returned to Vancouver, only to lose yet another 1-0 game on the road. What other goalie in the Stanley Cup Finals has given up just six goals in five games but found themselves behind in the series?

Boston again evened the series with a dominating 5-2 win in Game 6, leading 4-0 with less than half the first period completed, before clinching the cup back in Vancouver with last night's 4-0 victory on the road in only Thomas' seventh season in the league, as compared to Martin Broduer's 18 seasons, despite Thomas being just two years younger than Brodeur.

Thomas Stanley Cup

Thomas earned the Conn Smythe by setting records, including the Most Saves in a Playoff Year (798) and Most Saves in the Stanley Cup Finals (238). He also had a 1.98 goals against average and a .940 save percentage as well as four shutouts during the playoffs, including becoming the first goalie to earn a shutout in Game 7 of the finals on the road in NHL history. In the finals, his goals against average was just 1.15 and his save percentage was a stellar .967.

All this for a man whose route to the NHL was an unconventional journey from four years with the Vermont Catamounts of the NCAA from 1003-94 to 1996-97 to time in the ECHL in Birmingham, Alabama, to Houston, Texas of the AHL and overseas to HIFK in Finland where he won a championship, all during 1997-98.

Thomas HIFK
Thomas with HIFK

He signed with the Edmonton Oilers and played with their top minor league club, the Hamilton Bulldogs of the AHL before once again returning to HIFK. He spent the 1999-00 season with the Detroit Vipers of the IHL prior to spending the next two seasons with AIK in Sweden in 2000-01 and Karpat Oulu again in Finland for 2001-02, a far cry from the usual NCAA to AHL to NHL path taken by more elite prospects.

Signed as a free agent by the Bruins organization in August of 2002, Thomas was assigned to the Providence Bruins in the AHL. He also made his long-awaited NHL debut on October 19, 2002, one of four NHL games he would play that season.

His entire 2003-04 season was spent with Providence and the NHL lockout of 2004-05 saw Thomas return to the familiar territory of Finland, this time with Jokerit of Helsinki, where he had an outstanding season, going 34-7-13 and earn the league MVP and Golden Helmet awards.

Thomas Jokerit
Thomas with Jokerit during the 2004-05 NHL lockout

When play in the NHL resumed in 2005-06, Thomas was back in North America, where he split time with Providence (26 games) and Boston (38 games). Beginning in 2006-07, Thomas was now finally a full-time member of the NHL at the age of 31.

After a strong 2007-08 season in which he was 28-19-6 and lowered his goals against from 3.13 to 2.44 and raised his save percentage from .905 to .921 the year before winning the Vezina in 2008-09.

Today's featured jersey is a 2010-11 Boston Bruins Tim Thomas jersey as worn during the 2011 Stanley Cup Finals.

The Bruins adopted this style in 2006-07 when the new Reebok Edge jerseys were introduced, but they were loosely based on the Bruins traditional jerseys worn from 1968 to 1973, and were easily the best by far of the brand new designs introduced that season.

Boston Bruins 10-11 F
Boston Bruins 10-11 B

Today's video segment begins with Thomas accepting the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Next, the Top 10 Tim Thomas saves.

Finally, a detailed look at Thomas' white mask.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

1986-87 Quebec Nordiques Mario Gosselin Jersey

Mario Gosselin, born on this date in 1963, played junior hockey for the Shawnigan Cataractes of the QMJHL from 1980-81 to 1982-83, including going 32-9-1 in his final season.

He was drafted 55th overall by the Quebec Nordiques in the 1982 NHL Entry Draft but spent the 1983-84 season playing with the Canadian National Team program prior to playing in the 1984 Olympics for Canada in Sarajevo, Yugoslavia. On his return from Europe, he made a memorable NHL debut with the Nordiques on February 26, 1984, shutting out the St. Louis Blues 5-0.

Mario Gosselin

The next season he would see action in 35 games while splitting playing time with Richard Sevigny (20 games) and Dan Bouchard (29). His 19-11-3 record gave him the most wins on the team. He would also see action in 17 playoff games, going 9-8 as the Nordiques would make it all the way to the Eastern Conference finals. Their legendary seven game series against their hated rivals, the Montreal Canadiens, would prove to be the high point of the Nordiques franchise in the NHL.

Gosselin again split time in goal in 1985-86, only this time with the newly arrived Clint Malarchuk. Gosselin's 31 appearances saw him post a 14-14-1 mark.

Malarchuk again got the bulk of the playing time in 1986-87, but the Nordiques fell down the standings, finishing 20 points lower that the year before. Gosselin's 13-11-1 mark gave him he only winning record among the Nordiques goaltenders that season. He also made 11 playoff starts, going 7-4.

With Malarchuk no longer in the picture, Gosselin played in 54 games in 1987-88, winning 20 of them, both career highs. The following season Gosselin led the Nordiques in appearances with 39, once more sharing time in the nets, but now with Ron Tugnutt (26 games) and Bob Mason (22). Gosselin led the last place club with 11 wins.

He signed with the Los Angeles Kings as a free agent for the 1989-90 season and posted a 7-11-1 mark in 26 appearances while backing up Kelly Hrudey.

Following his one season in Los Angeles, he signed a free agent contract with the Hartford Whalers, who assigned him to their minor league affiliate, the Phoenix Roadrunners of the IHL. In 46 games he posted a strong 24-15-4 record and went 7-4 in 11 playoff games.

He spent the entire 1991-92 season in the AHL, leading the Springfield Indians with a 28-11-5 record. He split time with Springfield and Hartford in 1992-93. In 16 games with Hartford, he went 5-9-1.

The 1993-94 season saw Gosselin play two games with Springfield before being recalled by Hartford for seven games, but would suffer a career-ending knee injury in November.

His final NHL totals show 241 games played and a 91-107-14 record.

In 1984, the ice arena in Thetford Mines, Quebec was renamed the Centre Mario Gosselin after the Thetford Mines native.

Today's jersey is a 1986-87 Quebec Nordiques Mario Gosselin jersey which features the Rendes-vouz '87 patch on the right sleeve.

Rendez-vous 87 was a two game series held in Quebec City that pitted a team of NHL All-Stars against the Soviet National Team rather than the traditional NHL All-Star Game that season.

This jersey is customized with the bold, single color white numbers used by the Nordiques from the time they adopted this jersey style in 1975, while then members of the World Hockey Association, until the conclusion of the 1990-91 season before going to two color numbers, white trimmed in red, for the 1991-92 season.

86-87 Quebec Nordiques

Today's first video is a tribute to the career of Mario Gosselin and features excellent quality video from throughout his entire NHL career.

Here is footage from the 1984 Olympics, where Gosselin makes a great save in goal for Canada against Sweden.

Our final video today is a look at the renovations at the Centre Mario Gosselin in his hometown of Thetford Mines.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

1993-94 New York Rangers Brian Leetch Jersey

With a 3-2 victory on this date in 1994 the New York Rangers won one of the most memorable championships in NHL history. Ending a 54-year drought, something the New York Islanders fans were fond of pointing out with chants of "Nineteen-Forty! Nineteen-Forty!", the Rangers captured their fourth title in franchise history by defeating the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the finals.

In a very momentous season, the Rangers hosted the NHL All-Star Game in January, won the President's Trophy for their regular season and went onto capture the Stanley Cup as well.

The Rangers were captained by Mark Messier and led in scoring by defenseman Sergei Zubov, with 89 points, while Adam Graves had the most goals with 52. The Rangers had many other contributors that season as well, including Brian Leetch, Steve Larmer, Alexi Kovalev, Esa Tikkanen, Sergei Nemchinov, Kevin Lowe and Jeff Beukeboom. Mike Richter and Glenn Healy shared the goaltending during the regular season, with Richter handling the vast majority of the playoff duties. Acquired during trades during the season, Stephane Matteau, Brian Noonan, Glenn Anderson and Craig MacTavish all played roles in the playoffs, with Matteau's goal in the second overtime of Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals being the most memorable.

The Canucks won Game 1 on the road in overtime to start the series and the Rangers came back to win Game 2 at home, as well as Games 3 & 4 in Vancouver to seemingly take control of the series with the next game back on home ice in New York. The Canucks had other plans however, taking the next two games to set up the dramatic seventh and deciding game at Madison Square Garden.

The Rangers got out to an early 2-0 lead before Trevor Linden scored short-handed early in the second. Messier scored for the Rangers only to have Linden pull one back for the Canucks early in the third. Vancouver hit the post with five minutes left in the game and the Rangers held on to win the Stanley Cup. Brian Leetch was not only named the first American-born player to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, but the first non-Canadian as well.


Today's jersey is a 1993-94 New York Rangers Brian Leetch jersey featuring the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals patch. This was the smallest size finals patch ever made, in deference to the Rangers needing to wear the patch on their shoulders due to the diagonal "Rangers" cresting across the front of the jersey taking up the space on the upper right chest where the patch is customarily worn. Aside from the first time the patch was worn in 1989, when it was located on the upper left sleeves, this is the only instance of the finals patch not being worn on the upper right chest.

1993-94 NHL New York Rangers Brian Leetch jersey
1993-94 NHL New York Rangers Brian Leetch jersey
1993-94 NHL New York Rangers Brian Leetch jersey

In a milestone side note, Zubov, Kovalev, Nemchinov and Alexander Karpovtsev became the first four Russian-trained players to have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Future NHL Realignment

With the Atlanta Thrashers moving from the southeastern United States to central Canada, the talk of NHL realignment has been a popular one as of late. It's a subject we have our own opinions and convictions about.

As a starting point, here is a map of the location of all the NHL teams for the just completed 2010-11 season.

2010-11 nhl map
2010-11 NHL Divisional Alignment

The things to note are the compactness of the Northeast and Atlantic Divisions, especially compared with the Northwest and Pacific Divisions in the Western Conference. Also of note are the distances from both Minnesota and Dallas, both located in the Central Time Zone, from all the other teams in their divisions, none of which are even located in the same time zone.

Now let's take a look at the 2011-12 NHL team locations, swapping Atlanta for Winnipeg, using a Jets icon for the time being.

NHL locations 11-12
NHL 2011-12 Team Locations

Keeping the current divisional alignment relatively intact, we propose adding Winnipeg to the Northwest Division, moving Minnesota to the Central and shifting Nashville to the Southeast.

This would reunite Minnesota with St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit from the days of the old Norris Division of the 1980's and place them in a division with teams from the same Central Time Zone. It would also reunite Winnipeg with Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver of the Smythe Division of the same era. While Winnipeg would now find themselves in a somewhat similar position as Minnesota, being isolated in the Central Time Zone, it would be a better situation, as they would be in a division with three other Canadian teams, reducing the number of border crossings Minnesota had to endure.

While Nashville would be located farther from their closest rivals than they are now, someone needs to move east, and separating Detroit from Chicago and St. Louis is something we would never want to do. Moving Columbus into the Southeast instead of Nashville is a possibility, but looking at the map, the proximity of Columbus to Detroit, combined with the southern location of Nashville, makes this the preferred option in our minds.

nhl-map 11-12 6Div
2011-12 NHL 6 Division Proposal

We considered another possibility, moving two teams to the Southwest, both Nashville and Columbus, hoping to move Washington into the Atlantic division along with nearby Philadelphia and the three New York/New Jersey clubs. The fly in the ointment would be requiring one eastern team to move west, with Pittsburgh being the candidate to join Detroit, Chicago, St. Louis and Minnesota. Pittsburgh would never agree to being moved west to play the likes of San Jose, Vancouver and Los Angeles, and Toronto would not want to leave Ottawa and Montreal, so we see no hope for this plan. Washington seems permanently stuck in the Southeast due to the high concentration and high volume of teams in the Northeast.

Still, with our 6 Division proposal all sorted out, we still have one major flaw we just cannot tolerate, the Dallas Stars being isolated in the Pacific Division, 866 miles from their nearest neighbors in Phoenix. This is due to the poor idea of dividing the western half of the continent into north and south, placing Colorado with the four teams north of them and the three California teams with the two clubs, Phoenix and Dallas, which were located equally as far south, despite how far east Dallas and Minnesota were.

What we propose is to make the divisional alignments based on vertical divisions, rather than the current horizontal alignments. Additionally, we also would embrace the American Hockey League model, reducing the number of divisions to just four. Each conference would be made of one seven and one eight team division.

The method we would use to place the teams in each of the four divisions begins in the northeast and places Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto together, adding in Buffalo. The Division is then completed with the three New York/New Jersey teams and traditional New York rival Boston, who stay in the same division with their rivals Montreal.

The remaining seven teams in the east are the two Pennsylvania clubs Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, as well as Washington, who belong in a division with nearby Philadelphia. The four remaining southern teams, Carolina, Nashville, Tampa Bay and Florida round out the group.

In the west, we simply group the seven teams which are the furthest west, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim are grouped with nearby Phoenix and the three western-most Canadian teams, Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary.

The Central Division is based on grouping Winnipeg, Minnesota and Dallas together since they are located in a relative vertical line. Traditional rivals St. Louis, Chicago and Detroit are then added. Columbus is included due to its proximity to Detroit and the Division is rounded out with Colorado in order to lessen the isolation of Dallas.

nhl-map 11-12 4Div
2011-12 NHL 4 Division Proposal

Colorado could just as easily be shifted to the Western Division based on their preference, as placing them in the West Division would avoid a repeat of a club being in a division with no other members located in it's time zone.

nhl-map 11-12 4Div-2
2011-12 NHL 4 Division Proposal #2 with Colorado in the Western Division

In addition to grouping the teams in a more fair and logical way, even more importantly, the playoffs would return to the system once used by the NHL, where the first two rounds of the playoffs would be played exclusively within your own division among the top four in each division. The benefit of this development would be the increased number of times clubs would face the same teams during the playoffs as the years would go by, and if there's one thing we will scream from the top of our lungs until Gary Bettman believes it, is that rivalries are created during the playoffs. Playing the same teams over and over during the regular season makes for repetitious boredom, while playing to end your opponent's season creates intensity and drama.

Two rounds of playoffs among the same seven teams gives you a 1-in-3 chance of facing the same team as the previous season, when compared to a 1-in-7 chance of repeating an opponent from the previous season as it stands now. In reality, the odds of facing the same team improves in the short term when you factor in successful teams making the playoffs more often while they are in periods of greater success.

The NHL would likely then have the division winners in each conference face each other to determine a conference champion, but we'd like to see the final four teams seeded by points. This would have several benefits, the first being that if two strong teams advanced from one conference and the lowest two from the other, as happened in 2002-03., this system would increase the chances of the most competitive Stanley Cup Finals possible as well as allowing for the possibility of an occasional Philadelphia vs. New York or Boston vs. Washington final.

After implementing this alignment, we'd also adjust the schedule to include playing every team in the league at home every year in the manner of the NBA schedule.

The breakdown would be;

If you are in the seven team division;
  • You play the 15 teams in the other conference twice a year = 30 games
  • You play the 8 teams in the other division of your conference twice a year = 16 games
  • You play the other 6 teams in your division 6 times a year = 36 games

If you play in the eight team division;
  • You play the 15 teams in the other conference twice a year = 30 games
  • You play the 7 teams in the other division of your conference twice a year = 14 games
  • You play the other 7 teams in your division 5 times a year = 35 games
  • You play the remaining 3 games in your division among the 7 teams on a rotating annual basis = 3 games

It's a topic there are naturally many, many solutions to and opinions on, so feel free to add yours in the comments below.


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