Normally, at this time of year we’d be previewing a nice little playoff series (probably between the Lightning and the Maple Leafs) but these continue to be far from normal times. With news trickling out at a glacial pace and living mostly in the land of speculation why not delve into something everyone loves to argue - a completely subjective look at a “best” player.
In this case, the best player that we’ve seen live. For myself, a Lightning fan of almost 20 years (and two lockouts), the choices would seem to be obvious: my man crunch Vincent Lecavalier, hall of famer Marty St. Louis, current captain Steven Stamkos, or all-world star Nikita Kucherov. My actual answer is...unfortunately none of them.
I’m not saying they aren’t right up there (especaily Kucherov who is an absolute wizard on the ice), but when looking at the league I had to go with another pick. Believe me when I say I’m not doing this on a Lightning webside just to be contrarian.
My pick for best player that I’ve seen live - Pittsburgh Penguins forward Evgeni Malkin. *ducks rotten vegatables thrown from halfway across the country.
A few notes in regards to my selection. As I mentioned, I’ve been going to hockey games for over twenty years. That means I’ve seen Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemiux play. Unfortunately I never saw them during their peak years. The same goes for Jagr. Had I been a hockey fan from childhood I’m pretty sure one of those three would top the list. Alas, Baltimore wasn’t exactly a hockey hotbed during the mid-80s.
What about the current stars? I’ve never seen Connor McDavid play, the few times I’ve seen Edmonton live he’s been hurt. Auston Matthews was really good the one time I saw him Nashville this year, but he needs a few more years under his belt before he dethrones Malkin in my eyes.
So why Malkin?
Speed, power, skill. It’s all there in one package. To me, he’s the player Eric Lindros could have been if it hadn’t been for the injuries (and yes I realize Lindros outweighs him by 40 lbs.) When he wants to take over the game, he simply does. Now, there are times he looks a little disinterested on the ice and he’s been known to take the occasional lazy/bad penalty.
When he’s at his peak, though, no one is better. And that’s why I put him above his teammate. Sidney Crosby may by better on a more consistant basis, but I don’t think he rises to the level that Malkin can.
Yes, I realize this is all debatable which is what makes this fun. So, how about you? Who is your favorite (or favourite for our Canadian friends).
As for actual news from around the league, there wasn’t too much new that came out. Commissioner (and hall of famer) Gary Bettman had a conference call with the NHL Board of Governers on Monday to update them on the current situation in the sporting world. That would probably include some details from Sunday’s phone conversation Mr. Bettman had with President Trump and other leaders of the professional sporting world.
One thing that might have been discussed was how the NHL draft will be conducted this summer (or fall). If they do have it while we’re still living socially at a comfortable distance, then they may follow the NFL’s plan and hold it virtually. I have no idea which NHL GM would follow Sean Payton’s lead and establish their war room in a brewery, but I’m pretty sure Marc Bergervin and Julien BriseBois will be making their picks from their own personal gyms.
The kids getting drafted in 2021 will hopefully have the more traditional experience of sitting in a hockey arena and having to awkwardly crawl past their family when they hear their name called. Lauren profiled one of the players that may have that honor a year from now, Matthew Berniers.
Daniel Walcott had his name called by the New York Rangers in the fifth round of the 2014 draft. Yesterday he was named the Crunch’s IOA/American Specialty AHL Man of the Year for his charitable work in the community. That makes him a finalist for the league’s Yanick Dupre Award that will presumably be named at some point this season.
Imagine you heard that a player who had been in a locker room the day before you were there had tested positive for Covid-19. Then imagine, at home, you have a seven-year-old child that was born with a compromised immune system. Capital coach Todd Reirden didn’t have to imagine any of that, it is the reality he is living.
On a lighter note. The Lightning are profiling dogs.
If you’re celebrating your birthday in quarentine today we send our best wished. You share your birthday with a couple of former Lightning players. Center Craig McDonald played 65 games for the Bolts in 2007-08, lodging two goals and nine assists. Defenseman Matt Walker was signed as a free agent by Tampa Bay in the summer of 2009. He too lasted just one season in Tampa before being traded to Philadelphia along with a 4th round pick for Simon Gagne. He had two goals and three assists during his brief tenure with the Bolts (he would not register a single point for the Flyers and only appeared in eight games over the next two years).