The dead puck era
Was there ANYONE outside of the state of New Jersey and the Czech Republic that liked this era of hockey? I really hope the Czech’s liked this hockey, they had great success in this era of hockey and have been irrelevant since. What a time it was for hockey. GM’s drafting players because of their size rather than their talent, coaches not teaching any offense and instead installing a system that attempted to be more defensive than the rest of the league, Hockey Canada developing nothing but power forwards and developing nobody with actual offensive talent, hearing every year from the NHL about how “THIS is the season we are going to crack down on obstruction!” and they never would, putting in the obstruction penalties may have been my favorite because as we know there is a huge difference between hooking and OBSTRUCTION hooking.
I will tell you, the NHL has humiliated itself a lot of late, but it is nowhere NEAR as bad as they were during this time. They had a guy in Mike Modano who was exciting to watch, played in a big market, good personality, good looking guy (I’m not gay….not that there’s anything wrong with that) and played on elite teams during the time yet you would have never known he was in the league. Instead they chose to market guys like Keith Tkachuk who wasn’t exciting, was miserable to the media, and never won anything. For the 2003 Stanley Cup DVD they used Whoopi Goldberg to narrate it! I’ve always said, nothing says hockey quite like Whoopi Goldberg. I can just imagine Gary sitting in his New York office, thinking of ways to grow the league, and then it hits him “I’ve got it! Bill, we need to get Whoopi! Think about it, when you think hockey, you think Whoopi! Suzane, cancel my meeting with Bob Goodenow to sign off on that new CBA that will save the 04-05 season and fix all of the league’s problems, I need to go to L.A. to get Whoopi!”
When Gary wasn’t coming up with gems like that, he was developing new uniforms for every team. The 3rd jersey was brought into the league. Teams would not only change their uniforms but symbol’s as well. He was bringing hockey back to Atlanta, where it was such a hit in the 1970’s. He was creating new episodes of “Cool Shots” with host Dan Moriarty. He was coming up with slogan’s like “The coolest game on earth”. Get it?! It’s played on ice! Cool! Brilliant Gary! He was having such Hollywood superstars as Dave Coulier do their video’s. Man, it didn’t get much bigger than C lister (at the time, he’s nowhere near that now) Dave Coulier pimping the NHL!
Yep, the dead puck era was something else alright, and to celebrate it I have created the all dead puck era team! A collection of slow skating, jumbo sized, uninteresting and uninspiring players who were glorified during these days of getting the puck deep, players wearing other players as uniforms, clutch grab, clutch grab, clutch grab, clutch grab, clutch grab, skate in the crease no goal, clutch grab, clutch grab, clutch grab, clutch grab, clutch grab, skate in the crease, video review, video review, video review, no goal, clutch grab, clutch grab, clutch grab, Hull’s goal counts, no more skate in the crease rule, clutch grab, clutch grab, clutch grab, clutch grab, clutch grab…..
G Roman Turek – I had a very tough time picking the goaltender for this team, because there were SO MANY candidates for the gig. Roman Chechmanek, Patrick Lalime, Olaf Kolzig, and even though many would be ticked at me for saying it….Marty Brodeur. But Turek gets the nod here. It was celebrated as a brilliant move by the St.Louis Blues who aquired Turek for a 3rd round pick right after the 1999 season. Turek was the next big thing. He was big, he wore big equipment….and….well….you didn’t need anything else in that era of hockey! So he was the total package. Then the 1999-2000 season Turek was incredible. Facing a gruelling 15 shots a night Turek was amazing. Turek had the amazing ability to see every shot and have his rebounds cleared. Nothing to do with Chris Pronger and Al MacInnis playing in front of him. Pure Turek magic. But then, somehow, some way, the San Jose Sharks got to Turek during the 2000 playoffs. Experts were stunned. Turek came back with a vengence during the 2001 playoffs though. In no way was he helped out by an ice cold Sharks offense or a completely drained Dallas Stars team, Turek was back baby….until he face a team that could score, then he got benched for Brent Johnson. Turek was traded to Calgary in the 2001 offseason and again showed off his tallest pads in the league and regular season brilliance. Craig Button gave him a fat new contract for his efforts, and stunningly Turek’s play faded. Who knows what happened? But what Turek did accomplish during that period of time was enough to win him the starting job for my all dead puck era team, the biggest accomplishment of his career.
D Derian Hatcher – This is oh so well deserved. I’ve been licking my lips for over 10 years to have some sort of platform to go off about this guy and I don’t care how little this platform is, I don’t care that maybe 3 people are reading this, my time has come! This guy was pimped as one of the best d-men in hockey from 97-04. He couldn’t skate, he had no offensive ability, and would run anyone….as long as that anyone was 6’0 and under. He would rarely ever drop the gloves but when he would he either got destroyed (see Brendan Shanahan) or would be scared for his life (go check out when Adam Foote tried to go him). He was a total chicken ****, wasn’t intelligent, and was a total product of how the game was called. He just was cheap and made sure he was another jersey for forwards to wear and got glorified because of it. This guy was the captain of the 99 Stars. No wonder they had to bring in every single veteran they could get their hands on at the time! Hatcher was wearing the “C” in a room that had Guy Carboneau, Joe Nieuwendyk, Brian Skrudlund, Mike Modano, and Brett Hull to mention a few. I honestly don’t know if there has ever been a worse captain lifting the Cup in NHL history. You think about all the amazing players/leaders that have lifted that Cup, somehow I don’t think Derian Hatcher water ski’s his way into your mind when you think of them. In 05-06, Hatcher couldn’t keep up and was basically a 5th d-man in the “new” NHL.
D Keith Carney – This was a tough choice because every season it seemed that another stay at home d-man with no talent and couldn’t skate would emerge as a playoff hero. Scott Hannan in 04 with the Sharks, Sean Hill in 02 with the Hurricanes, Ken Danyeko became a prominent player during this era, Scott Stevens could have played in any era but he was able to stay an elite defenseman for several years during this period because of how the game was played, so many candidates! But I will go with Carney who played on an Anaheim team that took terrible hockey to a whole other level during the 2003 playoffs. People may forget that Mike Babcock coached this team and made sure they NEVER carried the puck in the zone. If you didn’t get it in deep you wouldn’t play. You had better not try to get creative offensively out there! This system made Sandis Ozolinsh look adequate defensively!!! And Carney was the anchor on the back end for this team. A journeyman defenseman, Carney was turned into an elite shutdown man in the 2003 playoffs. Carney kicked around for a few years in the “new” NHL, but was never anything close to a number 1, 2 or even 3 defenseman.
F Bobby Holik – One of my dead puck favorites, and by favorites I mean I always thought Holik was the most overrated player in the game and after he got that disgusting contract from the Rangers in the 2002 offseason was proven correct. A total product of the New Jersey system, the Devils lost him in the 02 offseason and you didn’t even know he was gone as they water skied to a 3rd Stanley Cup in 2003. Holik was always given credit as one of the top 2 way centre’s in the NHL. In 2001 Holik was given all the credit for shutting down Mario Lemiuex in the Eastern Conference finals. I’m not going to lie, if Bobby Holik wasn’t aloud to dry hump Mario up and down the ice, Mario would absolutely obliterate Holik! Call me crazy, absolutely nuts, but I THINK having Stevens, Niedermayer and Brodeur playing behind him just MAY have covered up any of his mistakes. His style became a type of player that GM’s looked for in the draft, namely Alexander Svitov who was taken 3rd overall in the 2001 draft who for some reason was a total bust. Although Svitov will always have the world junior’s when he showed that while he didn’t have talent, he had class as he spit in the face of Brian Sutherby. Holik never did anything close to that, and actually is a decent analyst now, but had it not been for the dead puck era we likely wouldn’t have any reason to remember Holik…Shockingly he was below average when the rules changed in the 05-06 season.
F Jason Allison – This was the offensive poster boy of the dead puck era. One of the slowest players you will ever see in the NHL. That includes stay at home d-men, that includes enforcers. Horrible skater….but he was 6’3, 220. The key ingredient to success in the dead puck era. Now, this isn’t to insult the abilities he had. Allison could dish the puck as good as anyone in the game. He had incredible vision and he had a very heavy shot, which is why he put up some big offensive seasons. Between 1998 and 2002 Allison became one of the best centre’s in the game. You don’t need speed in the dead puck era! You just need to be big, hook, hold, sure there were penalities but it would have been insanity to call a guy for hooking if the man he hooked didn’t fall down! Are you crazy? You can’t give a guy a penalty for hooking or holding if the man he is hooking or holding doesn’t go down….DUH! Anyway, Allison. The most telling stat for me might be that this guy was a career +35 in 486 games, then in 05/06 he was -18. That season all Pat Quinn could do was use him on the power play because he couldn’t keep up 5 on 5.
F Rob Zamuner – An oh so well deserved selection to the 1998 Canadian Olympic team is this all-stars claim to fame. Actually this isn’t about his size, lack of skating ability or that he couldn’t play during another time. This is about the mind set during the era of coaches and management. I don’t care if Zamuner is in his prime and Mark Messier is 200 years old, you NEVER take Rob Zamuner over Mark Messier. That’s a rule, if not a law. Zamuner wasn’t even too highly regarded during this era to be honest, but he must have had some people’s attention long enough to get on the OLYMPIC TEAM! Think about that, he was on the OLYMPIC TEAM. Not for the Swiss, or Sweden, or Russia, or the US….no no no, he was on the team that when we send our best for a best on best tournament you literally have to be an all-star to make the team. But I guess Zamuner was incredible during the 97-98 season. Let me give you his stats for that season. 77 games played, 14 goals, 12 assists, 26 points, +/- minus 31. How do you leave that guy off the team?! Let’s be honest here, Zamuner makes THIS team simply because he made THAT team. People were upset with Patrice Bergeron in 2010 being on the team. Patrice Bergeron had two 70 point seasons under his belt by 2010 and would have had more had it not been for that brutal concussion he had in 2008. Zamuner had….had….had….had…..pictures of Bob Clarke? I can’t believe that 98 team didn’t win gold. Enough with asking why Gretzky didn’t shoot, I want to know why Zamuner didn’t shoot!
The good news about all this is that the NHL is doing a fine job of letting this style slowly creep back into the game. Once the lockout mess is finally settled, the league needs to get back to getting scoring back up. Call me crazy here, I know this is nuts, but maybe, just MAYBE…..goaltenders don’t wear anywhere near as big of equipment as they’re allowed to currently wear? But that’s another topic for another day.
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