Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Original Six Success

BY SCOTT MORGANROTH

While NBC would have loved to have had an Original Six Showdown in the NHL Finals, the network won't complain about the success these teams have had in winning three championships since 2008.

When one talks about the Original Six, if you're a Hockey Traditionalist or Junkie like I am, there is no way that a fan cannot appreciate the history of the NHL.

Names like Gordie Howe, Alex Delvecchio, Mickey Redmond (Detroit Red Wings), Phil Esposito, John Bucyk, Bobby Orr (Boston Bruins), Bobby Hull, Tony Esposito, Stan Mikita (Chicago Black Hawks), Dave Keon, Ron Ellis, Bob Baun, (Toronto Maple Leafs), Ed Giacomin, Jean Ratelle, Rod Gilbert (New York Rangers), Guy Lafleur, Yvan Cournoyer, Jacques Lemaire (Montreal Canadiens were players that stood out when I was growing up.

When the Boston Bruins won the Stanley Cup last week, the pressure shifted to the Toronto Maple Leafs to win the prize trophy.

They now have the longest drought of the Original Six teams winning the Stanley Cup in 1967 as they were led by Goaltender Johnny Bower and Coach Punch Imlach. Toronto defeated the Montreal Canadiens 4-2.

Speaking of the Canadiens, their last championship occurred in 1993 as Coach Jacques Demers defeated the Wayne Gretzky led Los Angeles Kings 4-1. Patrick Roy was the MVP for Montreal, and this was the last time that Gretzky played in the NHL Finals. It was the high point of Kings Coach Barry Melrose coaching career. Melrose is now an analyst for ESPN. This was also the only appearance for the Kings in the NHL Finals. Since Montreal's win, no other Canadian based team has won the Stanley Cup.

In 1994, the New York Rangers snapped a championship drought that lasted 54 years as Captain Mark Messier was a hit on Broadway, while Mike Richter was iron between the pipes. Brian Leetch took home the MVP trophy while Coach Mike Keenan made all the right moves behind the bench. The Rangers defeated the Vancouver Canucks 4-3 and this series made everyone forget that the last time the Big Apple was home to the Stanley Cup was in 1940.

Another big dry spell came to an end as the Detroit Red Wings began a run of four championships that started in 1997. Hall of Fame Coach Scotty Bowman has won a record nine Stanley Cups and three were with the Detroit Red Wings.

In 1997, Wings Goaltender Mike Vernon was the MVP and Hall of Fame Captain Steve Yzerman was rewarded for being the franchise player who transformed the "Dead Wings" into a "Model Franchise." The Red Wings defeated the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0. Their latest title occurred in 2008 under Coach Mike Babcock as Nicklas Lidstrom became the first European Born Captain to win the coveted trophy.

The cities of Detroit and Chicago share Michigan Avenue, I-94 and the Second City Comedy Club. The Red Wings and the Blackhawks also broke their long droughts against the same team.

In 2010, the Blackhawks defeated the Flyers 4-2 to win their first title since 1961. Coach Joel Quenneville and departed Goaltender Antti Niemi will go down as the Dynamic Duo that made sports history in the "Windy City."

Like the Rangers, the Boston Bruins went to the Pacific Northwest and used the Vancouver Canucks to snap their dry spell. The Bruins won their last Stanley Cup in 1972. This year, Coach Claude Julien and MVP Goaltender Tim Thomas put the New England fans out of their hockey misery while leaving the Canucks title-less in their 40 years in the league with a 4-3 series win.

Vancouver Goaltender Roberto Luongo was unable to play consistent hockey in the series known as the "Drought Bowl." When it was over, Vancouver had to deal with the bad publicity of losing a Game 7 at home as riots would occur afterwards while the Bruins would have a parade days later.

Who are the people that you remember during a Stanley Cup run? I've always referred to the coach and the goaltender because they are the most noticeable individuals for whom the cameras shine the most.

But now it's Toronto's turn and as the droughts drop, don't think there isn't enough pressure on the Maple Leafs and their fan base to celebrate soon. They have never reached the Stanley Cup Finals during the Expansion Era and their last appearance was in 1967. The Maple Leafs have been to the Stanley Cup Finals 21 times and have Won 13 Championships, losing eight times. Is 13 lucky or unlucky? It depends how you look at it.

All I can say is they're due and it would be nice to see the Maple Leafs reach the Stanley Cup Finals against the Red Wings or Blackhawks. Yet, Toronto fans will disagree with me because they want to see their beloved Maple Leafs just face anyone and finally end this embarrassment in one of the best hockey cities in the world.

Scott Morganroth can be reached at scottsports33@aol.com and his blog can be seen at www.scottsports33.com.

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