Last week, we saw two of the game’s best players reach tremendous milestones. We also saw a milestone reached off the ice. And, as is tradition this season, another team in the hunt for the playoffs fired their coach. Read all about it below!
1. Makar Does It All
He. Is. A. Rookie. pic.twitter.com/XNgUbfjWB0
— Spittin’ Chiclets (@spittinchiclets) January 18, 2020
Cale Makar is a beast. I’ve been watching hockey for a long time, and there are few players that can dominate with the puck like this, and even fewer are defensemen. Only a pair of guys playing on the blueline for the Sharks come to mind. Makar is a new breed of defensemen that can defend in his own zone but also dominate offensively. He’s currently leading the way in the race for the Calder Trophy, with competition from Vancouver’s Quinn Hughes.
In 40 games, Makar has 35 points (11-24-35). I honestly can’t remember defensemen this young playing at this level. Most defensemen tend to hit their prime later in their careers as they get stronger and learn how to position themselves better. See Nicklas Lidstrom and Mark Giordano. Not Makar. He is already one of the league’s brightest stars and thankfully we get to watch him make plays like this.
2. Ovi Passes Super Mario
Alexander Ovechkin had himself quite a weekend (shocker). He scored hat tricks in back-to-back wins for Washington, finishing the weekend with six goals and a plus-four rating. Not only that, he passed Penguins’ great, Mario Lemieux, for 10th all-time in goals. He also tied the great Steve Yzerman for ninth all-time.
At this rate, Ovechkin is on pace to finish the season with 57 goals. If he does, he’ll be sitting at 713 career goals and will move past Mike Gartner for seventh all-time by the end of this season. In one of my first columns, I wrote that Ovechkin has a realistic shot at Gretzky’s record total of 894 and everyone said I was crazy. If the 34-year-old Ovechkin plays for another five years, he’ll only have to average a touch over 36 goals a season to catch Gretzky. It’s scary how possible that is.
Congrats to Ovi for moving up the all-time list, and I’m hoping to see him dominate again this postseason.
3. Kane Reaches 1,000 Points
On Sunday night, Patrick Kane reached the 1,000 point plateau with a secondary assist on a goal by Brandon Saad. This is a major accomplishment and puts Kane in an elite company. He’s now the fourth Blackhawk and 90th player all-time to hit the milestone. What’s more impressive, is he did it in 953 games.
Kane was always uber-talented and produced in big games. But, it wasn’t until the 2015-16 season where he became a dominant force in the game. He finished that season with then-career highs in goals, assists, and points (46-60-106). He has continued to produce, never scoring fewer than 76 points in a season since his that season.
The list of accomplishments hasn’t stopped growing either. Here are Kane’s NHL accolades:
- 3x Stanley Cup Champion
- All-Rookie Team
- Calder Memorial Trophy
- 3x First All-Star Team Selection
- 9x All-Star
- 1x Conn Smythe Trophy
- 1x Art Ross Trophy
- 1x Ted Lindsay Award
- 1x Hart Trophy
- 1x Second All-Star Team Selection
Kane has always been one of my favorite players to watch because of his fire and passion. He’s a bonafide Hall-of-Famer with a lot left in the tank. Congrats to Patrick Kane on a fantastic milestone.
4. Backstrom Gets Paid
Last week, the Washington Capitals and star-forward Nicklas Backstrom agreed on a five-year, $46 million extension. The Swede will be 37-years-old when the deal expires. Backstrom is currently in the last year of a 10-year, $67 million contract he signed in 2010.
He has been an absolute stud playing alongside Ovechkin throughout this ten-year deal. Over the course of that contract, he scored 171 goals, tallied 482 assists, for a total of 653 points. He also helped the Capitals to a Stanley Cup in 2018.
The most interesting part of this deal is that Backstrom negotiated it himself without an agent. Most players refrain from doing this as it takes their focus away from hockey and it’s not their area of expertise. However, with Backstrom’s resume, it probably wasn’t too hard for him to get what he asked for. Seeing as Backstrom didn’t use an agent to negotiate, he won’t have to pay the standard 2-3 percent agent’s fee. So, that will net him around an extra million. This is a great contract for both sides. Backstrom will get more than $9 million annually and the Capitals keep a great player. Everybody wins.
5. Gallant Out in Vegas
The Las Vegas Golden Knights decided to make a coaching gamble of their own last week. They fired Gerard Gallant, the franchise’s first coach. Gallant led the team to the 2018 Stanley Cup final where they fell 4-1 to the Washington Capitals. At the time of Gallant’s firing, the Knights had slipped out of playoff position and were 24-19-6.
The Knights decided to hire another recently fired coach. They grabbed Pete DeBoer, who was let go from the Sharks earlier this year. This makes me wonder for the reason the Knights fired Gallant. They must have been looking to shake things up or felt as Gallant just wasn’t getting it done.
Firing a coach midseason is difficult because there is little time to scour the world for a coach that fits your system. The Pete DeBoers of the world aren’t usually around waiting for the phone to ring. I’m very intrigued to see how the Knights rebound from Gallant’s firing. They have all the talent in the world, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them looking dangerous very soon. As of writing this, they’re tied for second in the Pacific with the Oilers and Flames. Hey, maybe the Sharks will fire their interim coach and bring in Gallant. I’m rooting for that. ■