A popular one amongst the hockey fans on staff was: Who would win in a best-of-seven series between an all-time all-star lineup of players from Quebec and the Rest of Canada?
I mean, let’s not kid ourselves. If you pit an all-time Canadian team against an all-time from any other country team it’s a pretty straight forward answer: the guys with the maple leaf on their chest. Seriously, only an all-Soviet/Russian team would avoid the sweep.
But pitting Canadians against Canadiens? That is a tough call. At first glace, you've got to give the advantage to Quebec's goaltenders. Jacques Plante. Patrick Roy. Martin Brodeur. Roberto Luongo. La Belle Provence has a sterling history of producing world-class goalies.
Naturally, defence appears to favour the Rest of Canada. Naming off the National Hockey League's best defencemen of all time reads a lot like the bench of Team ROC.
Up front is where things get tricky. Gretzky against Lemieux. The Rocket versus Stevie Y. It's a dead heat.
The rules are simple:
- Each team gets four lines of forwards, six defencemen and three goaltenders.
- Any player from the National Hockey League’s history is eligible.
- These theoretical rosters are composed of the players in their primes. Bobby Orr's knees are in perfect shape and Michel Goulet hasn't been concussed.
- It’s Rest-of-Canada versus Quebec, not French Canada versus English Canada. For example, Dion Phaneuf, a Francophone, could theoretically play for Rest-of-Canada, as he’s from Edmonton. Similarly, Doug Harvey is from Montreal so he’d play for Quebec, even if he is maudit anglais.Of course, English against French can be a fun exercize as well, but we’re trying to keep things politically sensitive on this blog.
- No, Brett Hull doesn’t count.
I want to know who you think would win, and why. If you’re feeling ambitious, post your rosters as well.
Here are my picks for the rosters, as well as the winner
C - Wayne Gretzky
Winner: Team Rest-of-Canada in seven games.
With goalies and forward pretty even, the largest disparity is clearly at the blue line. Yes, Bourque and Harvey are two of the best defenders of all time, but they aren’t the best.
Bobby Orr is the best offensive-defenceman of all time and Larry Robinson is the best defensive-defenceman ever. That one-two punch, coupled with the depth of their rearguard corps gives ROC a real advantage.
Rest-of-Canada’s defence is also much bigger than the average forward for Équipe Québec. Although the Richards might be able to slip by the likes of Paul Coffey and Larry Murphy a few times, they’d be exhausted when it comes time to lace ‘em up for Game 7.
Also, ROC's defence would be able to jump up into the attack. Obviously, Orr was capable of scoring just as many points as any forward for Quebec, and Coffey would be able to keep La Belle Provence's defence honest too.
One of the big surprises is that ROC is actually pretty good between the pipes. Yes, the case can be made that one of Roy, Brodeur or Plante are the greatest goaltender of all time - but the same can be said of Sawchuk. Further, Dryden and Hall aren't exactly slouches. Sawchuk, coupled with the reliable defence in front of him, would be more than enough to stop the best that Quebec has to offer.
Up front would still be a dead heat. The Rest-of-Canada couldn't possibly match the flair and play-making ability of Quebec, but with talented and tough forwards like Howe, Gilmour and Recchi bearing down on them on the forecheck, the blue-and-white would feel rushed and pressured on most of their shifts.
This weekend, when I wasn’t obsessing over the Olympics, I was all about the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
It was an incredible couple of days with Moncton’s Nicola Riopel setting a goaltending record Saturday night, only to be topped less than 24 hours later by Drummondville’s Jake Allen. On top of that, Sunday saw Richard Martel become the winningest coach in league history when his Chicoutimi Sagueneens dropped the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 3-1.
But first, let’s talk about goaltending.
As a gross generalization, each league within the Canadian Hockey League produces particularly strong types of players. The Western Hockey League’s rough and tumble style lends itself to defensively minded players who are always ready to drop their gloves. The Ontario Hockey League produces tight, disciplined players who focus on positioning and off-puck work. The QMJHL? It’s all about the goalies.
The league is a factory for superstar goaltenders – Felix Potvin played for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens and Roberto Luongo played for the Val-d’Or Foreurs and the Acadie-Bathurst Titan.
As good as those two are, they’re not even the best to come out of the QMJHL. Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur, the two best goaltenders ever came from the league, setting the standard for all netminders worldwide.
So when Nicola Riopel of the Wildcats passes all those names on his way to the second-longest shutout streak in league history it’s kind of a big deal. Riopel’s record ended at 179 minutes 59 seconds Saturday night.
However, it was an even bigger deal when Jake Allen of the Voltigeurs passed Riopel the very next day. Allen lasted nearly ten minutes longer, going 188 minutes 47 seconds without giving up a goal.
Really, it’s incredible stuff, and shows that these two players will be around for a long time.
Of course, it was all over-shadowed by Martel’s accomplishment of winning 570 games as a coach. Martel’s never won the President’s Cup as a head coach, but he did win it as an assistant way back in 1990 with the Sagueneens who were backstopped by a young Potvin.
I had the pleasure of speaking with Martel this past weekend for a feature story, and I was impressed with his humility and dedication to the young men he teaches. I also spoke to league commissioner Gilles Croteau who went on at length about what an asset Martel is to the league and Canadian hockey in general.
What a great weekend for hockey in Quebec.
Friday, Feb. 26 2010
QMJHL – P.E.I. drops Chicoutimi 4-3 in shootout
The Chicoutimi Sagueneens earned a point for their coach Richard Martel, but not a coveted milestone.
Cody Linteau had the only goal in the shootout as the P.E.I. Rocket disappointed the Sagueneens 4-3 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Friday night. (See more...)
OHL – Tanski, Hodgson help Battalion defeat Majors
Cody Hodgson's return to the Brampton Battalion could not have been more timely.
Scott Tanski and Hodgson combined for three goals and six points to spark the Battalion to a 4-0 victory over the Mississauga St. Michael's Majors on Friday night in the Ontario Hockey League. (See more...)
WHL – Bloodoff brothers both score as Kelowna beats Oil Kings
Three streaks came to an end in Edmonton Friday night.
Brothers Lucas and Evan Bloodoff scored as the Kelowna Rockets snapped a five-game losing streak with a 4-0 victory over the Oil Kings in Western Hockey League action. (See more...)
Saturday, Feb. 27 2010
QMJHL – Wildcats edge Halifax as Riopel makes QMJHL history
Nicola Riopel has made his mark in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League history.
Riopel made 21 saves as the Moncton Wildcats edged the Halifax Mooseheads 4-3 on Saturday. (See more...)
OHL – Erie stays in playoff hunt with win over Ottawa
The struggle for playoff spots continues in the Ontario Hockey League.
Anthony Luciani and Greg McKegg scored twice as the Erie Otters dropped the Ottawa 67's 7-1 Saturday night. (See more...)
WHL – Stanton scores twice as Warriors edge Bruins
The Moose Jaw Warriors have made the most of their time at home.
Defenceman Ryan Stanton scored twice as Moose Jaw hung on to beat the Chilliwack Bruins 3-2 in Western Hockey League action Saturday. (See more...)
Sunday, Feb. 28 2010
QMJHL – Martel wins 570th as Chicoutimi sinks Baie-Comeau
Sunday was a record-setting day in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
Chicoutimi Sagueneens' head coach Richard Martel earned his 570th career victory, the most in QMJHL history, as Chicoutimi sank the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 3-1. (See more...)
OHL – Lopes scores two as Majors prevail over Oshawa
The Mississauga St. Michael's Majors are firing on all cylinders as the playoff window is closing on the Oshawa Generals.
Ryan Lopes scored a pair of goals and defencemen David Corrente and Blake Parlett had four-point games to power Mississauga to a 7-4 triumph over Oshawa in Ontario Hockey League action Sunday afternoon. (See more...)
Of course they did. Really, it’s the only option the league’s disciplinarian had after the former captain of Canada’s World Junior tournament team laid Mikael Tamof the Quebec Remparts out with a vicious elbow.
But there are still lots of questions, the biggest and broadest of which is: where do we go from here? Not just Tam and Cormier, but the game itself.
By all accounts, Tam has already begun to recover. He hasn’t shown any signs of a concussion and he’s been released from the hospital. All good news, to be sure. But no one is sure if he’ll be able to re-join his teammates, or when. Sad when you consider that the 18-year-old defenceman was having a career season with 10 goals and 12 assists.
Cormier, of course, will be spending most of his time training on his own. Lou Lamoriello, the GM of the New Jersey Devils who drafted Cormier 54th overall in the 2008 draft, has already stated that the team will not place him in the American Hockey League or on any other teams affiliated with the Devils.
"We will honour the league's suspension, have not considered, and will not explore other avenues for his return this season," Lamoriello said in a press release.
This won’t be the end of Cormier’s career though. He's still a top-flight prospect who might be able to bounce back from this incident. Certainly, if he keeps his head down, his nose clean and continues to develop as a player, the Devils will have to consider calling him up to the NHL in the next few seasons.
Cormier has issued his own public statement, saying, in part, “I deeply regret the circumstances surrounding this event and wish Mikael Tam a speedy and full recovery."
No apology to Tam, just some best wishes. As so often happens in incidents like this, the injured party has to deal with the consequences of the play, while the offender is able to, eventually, resume their career. I wouldn’t want Cormier on my team, but the world of hockey has found roomin its heart to forgive a lot of players after similarly vicious incidents. Todd Bertuzzi is the first name that comes to mind.
And that brings us to the real problem: violence in hockey.
After all, everyone abhors Cormier’s cheap shot, but no one knows how to remove dirty hits from the game. I know that I enjoy watching a good hockey fight, as I think most people do, and there’s nothing like a good, solid hit. Hockey is an intrinsically violent game.
But there is a semi-permanent, translucent line in hockey that a player can cross where finishing their check somehow becomes a late hit. Standards seem to change case by case. This line needs to be better defined, with clearer consequences outlined. How else can hockey separate good violence from, for lack of a better term, bad violence?
I’m not sure. Hockey and hockey culture will always be physical, and tough players will always be admired. It would require an incredible sea-change to adjust the attitudes of players, coaches, officials and fans.
Suspending Cormier is certainly a good step. He’s a very visible junior hockey player, and as I mentioned in an article last week, he’s a repeat offender. It sends a strong message to the hockey community, and was the natural conclusion to a nasty chapter in QMJHL history.
Forcing Cormier, and other offenders at all levels of hockey, to engage in public awareness campaigns might be productive as well.
However, the most effective solution would be to force the offending player’s team to forfeit the game.
Had Quebec lost that game (the Remparts rallied to win 3-2 in the shootout), I feel that the QMJHL should have ruled the game as a forfeit for Rouyn-Noranda. If this became standard practice in junior and professional hockey leagues, I think it would create a sense of peer pressure that a cheap or dirty hit hurts the team in the standings, and players and coaches would do a better job of policing themselves. After all, no one wants to be directly responsible for costing their team a game, in addition to be suspended and fined.
It will take a huge, systemic change to eliminate dirty hits from hockey, but I think it’s time that better minds than mine began to apply themselves to this problem.
Friday, Jan. 8th 2009:
QMJHL: Remparts top Baie-Comeau, give Roy 200th coaching win:
Patrick Roy has waited a long time for his 200th victory as the coach of the Quebec Remparts.
Antoine Tardif stopped 26 shots as the Quebec Remparts smashed the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 6-0 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Friday night. (Read more...)
OHL: Jenner scores OT winner as Oshawa beats Peterborough
Boone Jenner knew how to cap off a thrilling game for the Oshawa Generals.
Jenner scored short-handed, 2:27 into overtime, to lift Oshawa to a 4-3 win over the Peterborough Petes in Ontario Hockey League action Friday night. (Read more...)
WHL: Warriors ruin “Eberle and Teubert Day” for Pats
Friday may have been "Jordan Eberle and Colten Teubert Day" in Regina, but it wasn't their night.
The Moose Jaw Warriors thumped Eberle, Teubert and the Pats 5-2 in Western Hockey League action Friday, putting a damper on the festivities. (Read more...)
Saturday, Jan. 9th 2009:
QMJHL: Roy, Cape Breton shut out Halifax
Olivier Roy is moving up in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League record books.
Roy made 31 saves as the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles blanked the Halifax Mooseheads 2-0 Saturday night. (Read more...)
OHL: Kadri scores shootout winner in wild game
The London Knights barely survived a wild night against the Erie Otters.
Nazem Kadri scored in the shootout as the London Knights outlasted the Erie Otters 8-7 in Ontario Hockey League action Saturday night. (Read more...)
WHL: Borrowed goalie can’t get Prince George past Seattle
Even bringing in some help from the Everett Silvertips couldn't help the lowly Prince George Cougars.
Charles Wells scored twice and added an assist to lead the Seattle Thunderbirds to a 4-1 win over Prince George in Western Hockey League play Saturday night. (Read more...)
Sunday, Jan. 10th 2009:
QMJHL: Martel wins 223rd game as Chicoutimi downs Baie-Comeau
Richard Martel is now the winningest coach in Chicoutimi Sagueneens history.
Antoine Roussel scored twice as Chicoutimi sank the Baie-Comeau Drakkar 4-3 in Quebec Major Junior Hockey League action Sunday afternoon. (Read more...)
OHL: Wolves score five in second period to down Generals
The Sudbury Wolves used the Oshawa Generals to rebound from Saturday night's loss.
Eric O'Dell and Eddy Leitans-Rinke both scored twice as part of a five-goal second period, leading the Sudbury Wolves to a 7-4 win over the Oshawa Generals in Ontario Hockey League play Sunday night. (Read more...)
I thought that this was a very interesting week in the Canadian Hockey League.
As usual, the play on the ice was exciting, but there were also a lot of quirky things going on during the games.
First of all, from Saturday’s OHL report, the London Knights/Erie Otters match-up must have been incredible to watch. I assume that the London crowd was silenced when Erie scored five (!) unanswered goals to force extra time.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have it on TV in the sports department, and we didn’t have a stringer at the game. Otherwise, I would have been able to have an even more interesting story, because the game score indicated that Erie’s last two goals were empty-netters, including one on the power play.
That’s right, according to the game sheet, London pulled their goalie when they were up by two. You can imagine how much this confused me from my cushy seat at the Canadian Press.
Since then, the game sheet has been fixed to show them as even-strength goals.
Saturday night was also interesting in the WHL, with Prince George borrowing a goalie from the Everett Silvertips. The Cougars had been rolling with only one goaltender on their roster for a t least a week, so I suppose it was inevitable that they’d need an extra ‘keeper.
I’m just 26, but I’ve never seen that happen in an organized hockey game before.
With the junior hockey trade deadline on Monday there was also a lot of action off the ice with players changing teams. I mentioned this on Twitter, but the Chicoutimi Sagueneens have traded away many of their best players including Jacab Lagace and Nicolas Deschamps. As far as I can tell, the Sags are preparing for the 2010-11 season.
Obviously, the QMJHL stories from Friday and Sunday were naturals as round-up toppers. First of all, you can’t go wrong talking about Patrick Roy. He’s easily one of the top three goalies, ever, and he’s probably going to become an NHL coach within the next three years.
Then you have Richard Martel becoming the winningest coach in Sagueneens history. He’s one of the great coaches in the QMJHL and deserves accolades for his 223rd victory. However, as a writer/editor I also knew that with Chicoutimi in the midst of a firesale they likely won’t be at the top of a round-up any time soon.
Also, I’m not sure how much longer I could resist calling Martel a “model” to his players.
One other thing to note: I did not write any WHL stories on Sunday because my shift would have been seven or eight hours long. Instead, one of my co-workers wrote it. You can see it here: WHL: Reddick nets two goals as Americans blank Bruins.