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SYLVESTER'S BLOG: THE PAST

Tuesday, 08.25.2009 / 12:03 PM / Blogs - Kevin Sylvester
By Kevin Sylvester  - Sabres "Hockey Hotline" Host
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SYLVESTER\'S BLOG: THE PAST
Miroslav Satan (Photo: Getty Images)
At the risk of this reading like an Andy Rooney piece… Things aren’t as good as they used to be. 

You hear that phrase a lot from people older and wiser.  It applies to all things in life, whether it is movies (there’s a lot of bad ones out there), cars (some are made of plastic now), parties (wilder years ago), and so on. 

Let’s take a look at hockey.

The players aren’t as good as they used to be. Just look at the numbers. Evgeni Malkin led the league in scoring last year with 113 points. Ten years ago, another Penguin, Jaromir Jagr was the league leader with 127. 

Miro Satan isn’t as good now as he was 10 years ago.  In the 1998-99 campaign he potted 40 goals for the Sabres.  This past year he scored just 17 for the Pittsburg Penguins. Of course Satan did win the Stanley Cup this year, which is better than he did with the Sabres 10 years ago against Dallas. 

Don’t blame Satan; blame Brian Holzinger who isn’t even in the NHL anymore (another guy who was better ten years ago, further proving my point).

The coaches were better in the past than in recent times. This past season saw seven teams make coaching changes, including the Pittsburgh Penguins. Many observers of that team credit the firing of Michel Therrien and hiring of Dan Bylsma as the catalyst for the Stanley cup championship.

The Blackhawks, Rangers, Lightning, Canadiens, Hurricanes, and Sens all made in season moves.  After the season, there have been six more coaching changes - although one quit the Devils and was hired by his brother in Calgary (Brett Sutter), and another retired from Minnesota and then joined the Devils (Jacque Lemaire). Sticking with the 10-year comparison, there were only eight coaching changes a decade ago. Five of the eight moves came from the Western Conference, which means the Eastern Conference was clearly better in the old days than now. Any rocket scientist could figure that out.

Hockey sticks were better than they are now. The new ones are too expensive and always breaking.  I think defensemen should go back to wood, especially when killing penalties. 

It seems every team trying to kill off a 5-on-3 has a blueliner break his stick next to the net.  Or how many times do we have to watch a stick shatter on a slap shot attempt with the man advantage, down by a goal in the third period?

Paul Stastny, Adrian Aucoin, and Hal Gill were known to use wood last season. Sidney Crosby, arguably the league’s top player, uses a two-piece stick with a wooden blade. That means if more players switch from the composite one-piece sticks, to a two-piece with a wooden blade they would be as good as Crosby.  It’s obvious isn’t it?

Finally, the nicknames were better years ago than they are now. The Great One, Super Mario, The Dominator, The Rocket, Pocket Rocket, The Finnish Flash, The Golden Jet, The Russian Rocket, Mr. Hockey, The Grim Reaper, The Rat, The Hammer, Captain Crunch, etc. 

Those are all great monikers that stick to this day for players that earned them. You can use those instead of their real name and everybody knows whom you’re talking about.   It seems now everyone has to have a nickname and often it’s just adding a Y, SY, or ER to a name. The only decent ones now are Sid the Kid, the Bulin Wall, and Soupy.  Hart Trophy winner Alexander Ovechkin, the league’s most exciting player, held a contest through his equipment company for a nickname. How lame is that? 

Nicknames are bestowed or come naturally, not developed in a contest.  I’m not sure of the real winner, but there are three monikers for Ovechkin in use today, Alexander the Great, Ovie, and The Russian Machine.  Somehow I don’t see Ovie being synonymous with a great player of the past 20 years from now. 

So it’s easy to see that things aren’t as good as they used to be, and they never will be.  I'll revisit this topic ten years from now, but that blog (it’ll probably have a new silly name like “Reat” or something by then) won’t be as good as this one.

~Kevin Sylvester

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