After the whistle: Joseph a Hall of Famer?
Each week, CBCSports.ca senior hockey writers Tim Wharnsby and Scott Morrison conduct (mostly) friendly banter on the latest hot-button issues in the NHL.
1. Is Curtis Joseph a shoo-in for the Hockey Hall of Fame?
Wharnsby: Curtis Joseph will have his critics because he played in Toronto. They will point out that he never won a Stanley Cup, never played in a Stanley Cup final and is tied with Gump Worsley with 352 losses. But that lofty total didn't prohibit the Gumper from his entrance into the Hockey Hall of Fame.
Like Worsley, Joseph played on some horrid teams. But he managed 454 regular season wins, good for fourth all-time behind only Martin Brodeur, Patrick Roy and Ed Belfour. He also carried the Blues to Stanley Cup playoff series wins. Ditto in his time with the Edmonton Oilers, and he is the main reason the Leafs were so dominant against the Senators in the playoffs.
Morrison: I agree with you Tim. It says here that he is a Hall of Famer. No brainer. Everyone looks at numbers, but the numbers only tell a part of the story. As you pointed out, his wins put him in Hall of Fame company. Yes, his losses ties for the career lead, but that doesn't tell his story. He made average teams better. He gave his teams a chance to win and often took them farther into the playoffs than they might have deserved.
The stuff about not winning a Stanley Cup applies to a lot of players. Circumstance can dictate some of that. But a lot of teams thought about winning the Cup because they had Joseph, and those teams probably had no business even dreaming.
2. Will the Anaheim Ducks make the playoffs?
Morrison: They are certainly playing better of late since general manager Bob Murray addressed the troops a week ago, although they needed out-of-this-world goaltending to beat the Blackhawks on Sunday night. But that's part of it. Great goaltending can get them seriously into the hunt. That and the fact Getzlaf and Selanne are both healthy again improve their chances.
This team figured out how to do it down the stretch last spring but I'm not convinced it will happen again this year. As of Monday they are only six points out, but they have played more games than most of the teams ahead of them and they still have to jump three teams to get into ninth. Yes, the likes of Colorado, Nashville and Los Angeles have levelled off a bit of late, but barring a major slump they still have a buffer. And for the Ducks to make it, it would mean two of those three are going to have to fall out, because I think the Detroit Red Wings will be in the playoff mix.
Wharnsby: It's strange to see a team with that much talent up front, on the blue-line and in goal not to make the playoffs. But the Ducks' sluggish start will do them in. The Los Angeles Kings are in eighth and on pace for an 86-point season. That means Anaheim has to lasso at least 49 points in its final 36 games. It's too difficult a hill to climb.
It also doesn't help that Anaheim's key players Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Scott Niedermayer, Bobby Ryan, Teemu Selanne, Saku Koivu and goalie Jonas Hiller all will participate in the Olympics next month.
3. Do you agree with the choice of Jamie Langenbrunner as U.S. captain?
Wharnsby: USA Hockey owed Jamie Langenbrunner the men's Olympic team captaincy after misspelling his name (the first 'n' was left out) on the sweater the poor kid wore out when the team was revealed after the Winter Classic at Fenway Park on New Year's Day. But seriously, the U.S. team is young and there isn't much international experience on the roster.
Brian Rafalski is the oldest player on the U.S. team at age 36 and this is his third Olympics, but he is quiet. The 34-year-old Langenbrunner has won two Stanley Cups and is playing some of the best hockey of his career.
Morrison: I think Langenbrunner is a very good choice as captain. He is, as you mentioned, one of the senior citizens on a young U.S. team and has prior Olympic experience. He has also proven he is a big-game player and he plays well in pressure situations. And that's important.
He has also been captain of the Devils the past couple of seasons, so he knows what the job entails. And he has played well, so the responsibility hasn't been a burden. I think he would easily command the respect of his teammates.