That Original Six romance just is not what it used to be — and neither is the Original Six. Because until the Maple Leafs nosed their way into a playoff spot with a victory on Friday, the Bruins were the only one of the old celebrated sextet to hold a spot in the Stanley Cup tournament entering Saturday.
Never in NHL history has only one of the Six qualified for the postseason, but Boston and Toronto were the only two to advance to the playoffs in each of the past two years. That’s the first time so few have gone in consecutive seasons.
Indeed, prior to 2017-18, 2006-07 marked the only time that as few as two Originals made it to the playoffs, the Rangers and Red Wings earning invites that year.
There have been four seasons in which the Rangerss, Bruins, Maple Leafs, Canadiens, Red Wings and Blackhawks all qualified, most recently in 2012-13. Before that, all six punched their tickets in 1995-96, 1993-94 and 1986-87.
But really, the Original Six romance is gone. The kids don’t care. The rivalries are pretty well shot, as all rivalries within the league have been diluted by the schedule matrix in this one-size-fits-all league. The Original Six has lost its identity. It was nice while it lasted.
So, Kieffer Bellows by all means, but what do you think it would take for the Islanders to get Kyle Palmieri, who has 19 goals thus far and has recorded at least 24 goals in each of the previous four seasons, away from the Devils?
Oliver Wahlstrom? Well, maybe the Devils would like to toss Blake Coleman into the mix, then. The Islanders could add Josh Ho-Sang.
Of course the original Taylor Hall trade is the headline deal of Ray Shero’s tenure as Devils general manager, but obtaining the sniping, intense, motorized Palmieri from Anaheim in exchange for the 41st selection in the 2015 draft and the 76th pick a year later has also been a home run.
Maybe Shero was wearing a buzzer.
But seriously folks, Palmieri and Coleman each have one year to go on their respective deals before they can become free agents. Would an interim front office run by Tom Fitzgerald, aided by Martin Brodeur’s counsel, deal either of the two wingers by the Feb. 24 trade deadline before extensions can be negotiated starting July 1?
That 41st-overall pick in 2015 made its way to the Rangers, who used it on Ryan Gropp. One selection later, New Jersey grabbed Mackenzie Blackwood.
The concept of Wayne Simmonds as a space-clearing power forward who can ride shotgun during the playoffs is far more appealing than the present-day reality of Simmonds, who doesn’t get up and down the ice the way he once did when he roamed the earth as a Flyer.
Yes, this is the J.T. Miller the Rangers most certainly could have used as a linchpin of their rebuilding, the more stable 26-year-old who has scored 21 goals for the Canucks.
Of course it is also the J.T. Miller the Lightning could have used as they take aim at the Cup if they hadn’t become exasperated with him, too, and sent him away in exchange for a first-rounder.
So who gets No. 9 in New Jersey? Hall, Zach Parise or Kirk Muller?
Our call: 1. Parise; 2. Hall; 3. Muller; 4. Neal Broten; 5. Don Lever.
There were 11 forwards drafted ahead of Parise in 2003, the Devils getting him at 17th overall, and only one of them has scored more career goals than the winger, who on Friday played his 1,000th NHL game. That would be his current teammate, Eric Staal.
Compared to Major League Baseball, which is in the midst of a protracted trade over multiple days involving one of the sport’s greatest stars, Mookie Betts, and whose commissioner, Rob Manfred, appears to have presided over a whitewash of the Astros in the sign-stealing scandal, the NHL is a model operation.
There is so much tantalizing about the Maple Leafs’ talent, but there does not appear to be a great deal of fiber there, so we’ll see.
Finally, to those suggestions that Henrik Lundqvist, who is due $5 million next season, retire at the end of this year then join the Rangers as a goaltending coach and consultant for a salary of, well, $5 million.
Even Ilya Kovalchuk would call that circumvention.