Sunday, November 18, 2007


This is Tom Kurvers. Kurvers won the Hobey Baker after scoring 76 points in 43 games for the University of Minnesota Duluth. He was drafted by the Habs and was a part of the 86 Cup winning team. That team had Bob Gainey up front as well as 110 point scorer Mats Naslund and Bobby Smith - the rest of the forwards were a kiddie corps of very good young two way hockey players including Mike McPhee, Brian Skrudland, Guy Carbonneau and two annoying rookies - Shayne Corson and Claude Lemieux. The back end was led by the legendary Larry Robinson and there were a number of excellent young defencemen - Chris Chelios, Craig Ludwig and Petr Svoboda. Kurvers scored thirty points in 62 games in what was his second season. He had scored forty five as a rookie. He was injured for the entire playoffs but the Habs went all the way, helped by the fact that the Oilers had lost to the Flames on the Steve Smith own goal. Facing a Flames team which probably felt like they had already won the Cup, the Habs won in five games. Montreal was led by Lemieux who scored big goal after big goal and would have won the Conn Smythe for his Pisani like performance if it weren't for their rookie goaltender, ah, what was his name? Oh yeah, Patrick Roy.

Seriously, Tyler just posted about teams denying all statstical probabilities. Few teams did so like those '86 Habs. They got every single break going.

So Kurvers got his ring and then he began to bounce around. He could put up points but he didn't know how to play defence. So he went to les Sabres and then to the Devils, who were just slowly beginning to emerge from the mire. In 89-90 Kurvers scored 66 points in 74 games for NJ. He was no slouch. A game into the next season the Maple Leafs traded their first round pick for 91-92 to the Devils for the guy they felt they needed to QB their PP.

The Leafs had been mired in mediocrity along with the rest of the Norris through the 80s. Back in those days four of the five teams in the division made the playoffs and one was guaranteed to be cannon fodder for the Oilers or Flames in the conference final. With Ballard and Wirtz and weak ownership in St. Louis plus the Wings dragging themselves out of a disastrous run in the 70s there was no real reason to improve. I was a Hawks' fan in those days and had just started school in Toronto and believe me, it was almost as if there was a gentleman's agreement amongst those teams. 80 points was good enough to win the division a couple of years but who needed to improve as long as they were guaranteed playoff money? Its not like they would beat the Oilers anyways.

And then Mike Ilitch and Mike Keenan happened. Driven to win, Ilitch bought the Wings and changed the culture. In Chicago Keenan supplanted Pulford temporarily (Rocky Wirtz's first two acts as owner after his father's death were to televise home games and move Pulford out of hockey operations - smart guy) - in his brief stay the Hawks became a hard driving team that won the President's Trophy on year and went to the Cup finals the next. Couple these two squads with an improving team in Minnesota and the Leafs and Kurvers ran into a perfect storm of circumstance that would make Kurvers infamous.

Kurvers scored 52 points in 70 games in 89-90 and the Leafs made the playoffs. The following year disaster struck. At the end of the season the Leafs were in second last and Kurvers was gone - after 19 games he had been shipped to the Canucks.

So the Leafs ended up with the third pick overall as the Nordiques selected first overall and the San Jose Sharks were given the second pick as an expansion team. Of course the only problem was the Leafs didn't have that pick. The Devils did. They picked some guy named Scott Niedermeyer.

Niedermeyer is going to be in the Hall of Fame. He won three Cups with the Devils as they were one of the dominant franchises in the league for a decade. When he moved to the Ducks he won another Cup there last year, captaining them through a dominant playoff run. He is one of the premier defenceman of his time. It can be argued pretty easily that without him the Devils would have no Cups. After he left and Scott Stevens retired the Devils began to sink into mediocrity.

As for the Leafs its been forty years and counting since they won the Stanley Cup and one would think its a good bet that having Scott Niedermeyer in their lineup for over a decade would have ended that drought.

Now there is no guarantee in the draft - the top six in that draft were Eric Lindros, Pat Falloon, Niedermeyer, Scott Lachance, Aaron Ward and Peter Forsberg. Probably three of those guys end up in the Hall of Fame. Ward has had a long career as a solid Dman and has won three Stanley Cups. LaChance was a disappointment, comsidering he went fourth overall. Falloon was a disaster.

With the Oilers having three regulation wins in their first twenty games, they are looking like a lottery team, especially considering the improvement of perennial doormats Columbus and Chicago. Actually they are looking quite a bit like a good bet to get that last spot overall. Now I can get behind a rebuild, even when its completely self inflicted, which this one is, but if Brian Burke gets up to that podium with a pick in the top five next June, Kevin Lowe had better hope that he picks Pat Falloon rather then Scott Niedermeyer.


Pat H said...

"This is Tom Kurvers..."

And this ^^ is BD's tribute to Lowetide. :)

Seriously, I think LT has a patent on those introductory words.

Good post.

Black Dog said...

Thanks pat.

Yeah I had to pay him a royalty. :)

therealdeal said...

Whose blog am I reading?

Seriously though, I can't see how this won't be a lottery pick team. Bye bye Doughty.

Mr DeBakey said...

Great Post
I laughed, I cried, I mailed a letter bomb to Pat LaForge.

Speaking of defenseman who can't
Did you catch MacT's response about the third goal?:

Q: "Mac what did Laddie not do right on the third goal?"

A: "Uhhh, lots,
Yeah he just stopped playing it looked like
and uhh he got caught right in between
You know stick off the ice
and uhh could've closed,
was within a stick reach of the puck
and uhh just lack of awareness, intensity
i mean, I'm sure he was tired
but he's gotta, you gotta get your stick on the puck there,
I mean Cogs comes in
but really that's a play that should've been shut down behind the net..
he can't give that lane, there's one lane you gotta protect there,
and he just went, he just didn't recognize it"

My word verification is

Pat H said...

It's too bad that you seem to have been overlooked by Staples in his story in today's Journal. That said, Tyler refers to your blog as one of his must-reads in the online portion of the Staples article.

Regardless, don't feel unloved.