Tuesday, January 24th, 2017


January 24, 2017

12:30 p.m. ET

CHRIS MCCLOSKEY:  Thank you, and good afternoon, everyone, for joining us today for our NHL All‑Star Weekend conference call.  Joining us will be executive producer, Sam Flood, and members of our NHL on NBC team, Mike “Doc” Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Pierre McGuire, and Jeremy Roenick.

All‑Star Weekend coverage begins with the NHL 100 special, at 9:00 p.m. Eastern on Friday at NBCSN, continues with the All‑Stars Skills Competition at 6:30 p.m. Eastern on Saturday night on NBCSN, and finally coverage of the All‑Star Game begins at 3:30 p.m. Eastern on Sunday on NBC.  It’s the first time since 2004 that the All‑Star Game has been televised on broadcast network television.  So an amazing weekend for hockey coming up.  Let’s begin our call now with executive producer of NBC Sports, Sam Flood.


SAM FLOOD:  Thanks, Chris.  I apologize for the sound effects.  I’m in a car and there is a great rainstorm in New York right now.

Can’t wait for the All‑Star Game.  I know Luc Robataille and the Kings have been working very hard to make this a spectacular weekend.  I know Steve and the NHL team has put together a great in‑arena spectacle, but most importantly the league itself last year decided to go to the 3‑on‑3 format, and change the way All‑Star Games are viewed in this country.  This was the best All‑Star Game that’s happened in a professional league in the United States in a very long time, and the credit goes to Gary Bettman and his team who had the foresight and the courage to change the format to 3‑on‑3.

It is hockey at its best in this format, because there is plenty of room for these stars to skate and play hard.  It creates incredible moments across the entire 3‑on‑3 tournament.  So I can’t wait for it to get started.  And no one better than the great Doc Emrick to call the mayhem that will take place on NBC on Sunday afternoon.


DOC EMRICK:  Sam, thank you very much.  Mayhem it will be, and last year I think the thing that’s easy to forget about what happened last year was the Atlantic beat the Metropolitan 4‑3, the Pacific over the Central 9‑6, and then we had a 1‑0 championship game for a million bucks.

And Corey Perry scored in the second half, and the stars of the game, in my mind, in the last one were Quick and Gibson in goal for the Pacific and Luongo and Bishop for the Atlantic, because who would have thought we’d have had the cataclysmic final 20 minutes and it would have been only one goal scored.

It’s a thrill to anticipate Crosby being on the same team as Ovechkin, because Sid doesn’t make many of these due to injury or other reasons.  He’ll probably be playing with Malkin.  But as you look at combination of forwards and defense, you see all kinds of wonderful opportunities.  And the coaches will be very polite about it, but basically they’re just going to pair them up and open the door and see what happens, I think.

On now to the dual role analyst that we have, shifting from horses one day to hockey the next day, Eddie Olczyk.


EDDIE OLCZYK:  Okay, Doc, thanks very much.  I think elaborating on what Sam said about the format, there is nowhere to hide when you are playing 3‑on‑3, and I think we all know and we all agree that hockey is the ultimate team game.  And in this format to make it as exciting as it could possibly be, it is, when you get to 3‑on‑3, it is about the individual skill of players being able to create and generate and cause separation because there’s so much more room, and I think that’s what’s made this just an incredible change in the format and getting the excitement back into the All‑Star Game.

And to be there in L.A. where I was lucky enough to have a cup of coffee for almost six months a long time ago, the city of L.A., the Los Angeles Kings, certainly deserve this opportunity on an obviously, historical year for their franchise.  I think it’s going to be a terrific weekend.  I think it’s going to be sky’s the limit both on and off the ice.  And it’s going to be a great weekend.  So I will now pass the puck to Pierre McGuire.


PIERRE MCGUIRE:  Hey, great to hear from you guys, excellent points all around.  The NHL is a league of legacy.  And the thing that stands out to me more than anything else at All‑Star Game, recognizing the greatness that was once there is still there.  But the greatness that is coming.  And that’s what is so overpowering to me when I look at the National Hockey League and All‑Star Weekend.

I had the privilege of coaching in the All‑Star Game.  It’s something that you never take for granted, because you never know if you’re going to get back.  But I look at how long Alexander Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby have helped carry this league.  Like Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky did.  Like when we see Guy Lafleur and Rocket Richard, and all the greats over time.  Now we have a chance to celebrate Patrick Laine, now we get a chance to celebrate Auston Matthews, and hat’s off to the league for putting the great Auston Matthews into the game.

It’s going to be a spectacular weekend in Los Angeles.  It is one of the best‑run franchises in the National Hockey League, the L.A. Kings.  Now I’m going to pass it off to Jeremy Roenick.  Jeremy, just like I had you at the Europa Cup when you were 16 years old, keep your stick on the ice and put it to the back of the net now.


JEREMY ROENICK:  Yeah, it’s kind of hard to follow all those great points, especially when you’re last to go.  But I’ll tell you, my personal feelings, I’ve been in a lot of All‑Star Games, and I can honestly tell you it’s one of my favorite times of the year.  For one, as a player, it’s such a privilege to be able to play in one of these games.  You’re recognized as one of the elite athletes of the world, and especially the best hockey players of the best hockey players.

I agree with Sam with the changing of the All‑Star Game and having it a tournament style.  Having division versus division was an amazing and very bold change to the All‑star game, which I think created a lot more excitement.  I think it kept people on their seats more.  It allowed them to cheer more in the All‑Star Game, and it gave the guys a lot more opportunity to want to compete in a game where a lot of players would usually take time off.  Throw in a million dollars, and granted the guys don’t need the money, but it is bragging rights.  It is money that a lot of guys can choose to do what they want to.  I know last year, the Sedin brothers gave their money to the trainers of their team, which is a great gesture.  Things like that really show why hockey players are truly the greatest athletes in the world.

I’m really excited.  I think the NHL going into the 3‑on‑3 for overtime was, again, one of the better rule changes they’ve made over the last ten years.  It’s brought back so much excitement to the game and to overtime.  It’s stopped tie games, it stopped the shootouts, all that kind of stuff.

So for me, I’m extremely happy to be going back to L.A.  One thing that I’m very happy about is the country is going to see how passionate the L.A. fans really are.  They’re a team that doesn’t get too much attention because of where they are.  But that stadium is filled every single night with sold‑out crowds, and it’s one of the loudest buildings that I’ve ever played in.

Really excited it’s going to be on a national spotlight where the fans can enjoy it, the people around the country can see how great a Hockey Town L.A. is, and what a great organization they are.  Because they’re going to put on a great show out there in tinsel town, and I know everybody’s going to have a big treat.  I’m looking forward to watching that metropolitan division.

Boy, when you have Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Tavares, Malkin, that’s going to be the team to watch.  But last year the best team that we thought didn’t win.  It was the team that we thought didn’t win.  It was the Pacific division, so you never know what’s going to happen in a format like this.  So, back to you, Chris.


SAM FLOOD:  Chris, let me say one more thing.  The big part of this All‑Star Weekend is the Top 100 Players Centennial Celebration by the league.  One of the neat things it’s affording us to do is giving Doc Emrick the opportunity to sit down on Saturday with Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Jonathan Toews and Sidney Crosby.  Talk about epic proportions and a perfect guy to host it as part of our coverage as the season progresses.

But this is all happening because the league had the foresight to celebrate properly the Top 100 players who will all be there for a gala event on Friday night that NBCSN will cover starting at 9:00 Eastern on Friday evening.


I don’t know if you can directly answer this question, but it’s likely that most fans wouldn’t know that the All‑Star Game hadn’t been on a network outlet since 2004.  But now that it’s sort of out there, what makes this worthy of putting on NBC rather than NBCSN?  Do you know about any bigger strategy about how this was done?  There is no football to compete with for one thing, but the thing I was sort of leading up to, if an All‑Star Game isn’t on NBC from now on, would that be sort of a step backward?  Would you rather see this event on NBC network from here on going forward? 

SAM FLOOD:  This is a very special year because of the Centennial and the Top 100 players, and Gary Bettman and the league asked us if we’d consider putting it on NBC, and as good partners, we have.  The long‑term decision will be made down the road, but we think it’s a wonderful opportunity to showcase the game to the broader broadcast network of NBC.

But long‑term we’ll have to see where we end up.  We think it’s spectacular that this is happening, and we wanted to honor the league because this is such a seminal moment for the NHL.


Does it also help a lot that there is no NFL to compete with, or do you think there is much of a crossover in viewership there? 

SAM FLOOD:  There never is.  The NHL always happens that night for the Pro Bowl, so there is not an overlap.


I think one of the things that people didn’t anticipate last year with the 3‑on‑3 format is how much it showcases goalies, because obviously there is less traffic and they can just kind of see everything that’s going on.  Do you think that’s one of sort of the unheralded things about the 3‑on‑3 tournament is showing people a clearer sense of what goalies can do, just because it’s so much one‑on‑one stuff? 

DOC EMRICK:  As I mentioned earlier, I think the goaltenders were among the heroes last year.  Of course we had the unique thing about with John Scott and we had some high scoring earlier.  But when push came to shove and it came down to each guy’s share, I’m not good at math, of $90,000 or so, and boy did they pull together well, and the defenders defended.

And you look at the lineups this year and one of the other off chutes from this year, and I guess I’m taking us off the tracks momentarily, but not a lot of people get to see Connor McDavid, and Johnny Gaudreau, and Patrick Laine, and a lot of these young wonderful stars because they play in the Western part of the country or they play in Canada.  And even though a lot of games are carried invisible down here, it’s later on in the evening, and many people in the right half of the country don’t watch these guys on a regular basis.

Here the whole country’s going to get to see them, and it’s on over‑the‑air television, which I think is just a tremendous opportunity to show the world what we’ve got here, and the fact that our star players can be star players now.


Let me word the goalie thing in a slightly different way.  In some ways is life easier for goalies?  Because obviously you have fewer deflections and you have fewer screens.  Is it actually easier for goalies to play 3‑on‑3 than 5‑on‑5? 

DOC EMRICK:  I’m not someone who actually scored on them.

EDDIE OLCZYK:  I think when you look at it and you look at what goes on during the regular season, and then you get into an All‑Star Game, the chance number that these guys possibly have the opportunity of taking on, you know, I mean, it’s through the roof.  You’re going a long stretch here where you’re playing, and if you’re lucky enough to get to the final, you’re going a long time here where you are playing 3‑on‑3.

So I understand the question and understanding that, hey, you know, maybe there isn’t ‑‑ it isn’t as challenging, so to speak, with all the other extra bodies on the ice and the deflections and whatever.  But you’re getting the 2 ‑‑ on‑1s, you’re getting the 2‑on‑0s, and you’re getting 3‑on‑1s.  There were a couple times last year where it was just up‑and‑down and trading chances, chance after chance.  And teams aren’t dumping the puck in to get a change, they’re holding on to it and passing it back to the goaltender.

So for me, I don’t know if it’s any easier for these guys because of the more room that there is, the higher quality of looks for a shooter.  And look, I mean, JR scored a boat load of goals in his career, and when you do have a lot of time, sometimes you maybe think a little bit too much.  But when you get a 2‑on‑1 or 3‑on‑1 or 2‑on‑0 it’s not easy for the goaltender, and certainly like to give the edge to the offensive guys when it comes to those type of numbers.

DOC EMRICK:  Yeah, and we have 33 shots in that 20 minutes in the championship game.  We had 33 shots and only one goal.  But goalies never wanted to go to these things before.  Now maybe they’re going to be a little more anxious about going.

PIERRE MCGUIRE:  Yeah, Doc, that’s what I was going to say too.  I don’t think it’s easier for goaltenders, without question, and it’s because of the amount of shots in such a short amount of time.  And you have to remember, they’re going to get breakaway after breakaway, and that’s one thing they work on in practice.

But one breakaway in a game is not bad for a goaltender.  But when you have three, four, five in a course of ten minutes, which will probably happen, the goaltenders are going to get pretty burned out mentally.  So I think it’s definitely, like Eddie said, a little bit better for the offensive guys.  The goaltenders just did an unbelievable job last year, which is why I think Doc made a great point.  They were the MVPs of the game for me.


Eddie or JR or both, last year we had the John Scott kind of saga, and that propelled, I think, the story lines.  What can happen this season to keep that going?  You won’t have that unique story line.  Is this new format enough to keep this going as far as keeping the popularity of this game? 

JEREMY ROENICK:  I think it was definitely great for the game last year, for the popularity of the game, I think, for the attention of the game.  I thought John Scott represented himself extremely well and obviously played really well.  It was such a situation and circumstance that it would be hard to top and the National Hockey League now kind of changing the way the All‑Star Games are picked, everybody that’s there are the guys that are expected to be there.

For me, the only way I think it can really get really exciting or crazy is if someone puts on a big‑time goaltender scoring performance.  I think the action is going to be great, but the talent you’re going to see is going to be great.  But that unique circumstance of a life‑time fighter being in the All‑Star Game as a captain is kind of hard to top.

But, again, I think L.A. is going to put on a show that everybody’s going to remember.  Like I said, they’re a great organization, and the NHL has done a great job to make sure that they’ve showcased the greatest players in the game.

DOC EMRICK:  Do we have anybody looking after JR in Hollywood?

SAM FLOOD:  We’re working on that.  It’s not easy.

DOC EMRICK:  Just checking (laughing).


Two questions, one for Eddie and a follow‑up for Pierre.  Eddie, we knew all about Auston Matthews entering this season, but is there anything about his game that’s exceeded your expectations? 

EDDIE OLCZYK:  Wow, I would have to say with the success that the Leafs have had has taken his game and the players that he has around him, it’s taken his game probably to another level, Mike.  I think just hearing about him and seeing him play, bits and pieces as a young guy, but I mean, the strength that he plays with, the ability to be able to find pucks and release that puck from about 10 or 15 feet out to me is what I’ve really noticed from Auston Matthews.

His release with that puck in scoring areas is stuff that you look at some of the best goal scorers that we’ve had in this league, it’s hard to teach.  A lot of it is God‑given.  I really believe that.  But he just has the ability for a big man to find pucks and to work himself into a scoring area and just flick of the wrist put the puck into the back of the net.

So I think with the way that the team has played, the success, and it’s not, you know, Toronto’s not an easy place to play.  There is no doubt about it.  Look, they’ve been in a rebuild, but you look at the success that they’ve had, a lot of it starts with Auston Matthews, but just his ability to be able to create and generate for his size and the way that he can drift the puck from 15 feet out has been pretty impressive from watching him on TV.  I haven’t seen him yet in person, and Sunday will be the opportunity to do that in the All‑Star Game.


Pierre, I have the same question, but only for Patrick Laine?

PIERRE MCGUIRE:  I’ll just touch on Auston first and then I’ll get to Patrick.  Auston’s as ready‑made a player as we’ve ever had come into the NHL since 1990.  The ’90 draft was Owen Nolan, Petr Nedved, Keith Primeau, and Jaromir Jagr.  So the fifth player overall was probably NHL ready.

They are two different positions.  Obviously, Auston plays center, Jaromir played wing.  But this is as ready a made player as we’ve had come into the league since 1990.  So that just speaks to the greatness of Auston Matthews.  If you think of some of the guys that have come in, whether it’s Chris Pronger, whether it be Peter Forsberg, whether it be Alexander Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Connor McDavid, that’s pretty high praise for Auston Matthews.

In terms of Patrick, more of a pure shooter.  Eddie touched on the way Auston Matthews shoots the puck.  Patrick Laine can shoot it as well or better.  His release point may not be as Quick, but his shot’s probably a little bit heavier.  I don’t think he’s as well rounded as Auston in terms of knowing all three zones.  But Auston Matthews has a chance to be a generational player, and I think he’s well on his way to doing that.  I’d say the same thing about Patrick Laine.  And it’s obvious you can make the comparable.

Eddie played in Winnipeg when Teemu Selanne was just ripping it up.  If Patrick doesn’t get hurt, he’s got a chance to do a lot of the same type of things.  I just don’t think he’ll have the same kind of numbers that Selanne did his rookie year.


What gives Auston Matthews the edge over McDavid as far as preparedness entering the NHL? 

PIERRE MCGUIRE:  Ability in all three zones to dominate the games.  He can win face‑offs, he can kill penalties, he can run your power play, he can make the wingers around him better.  Connor’s phenomenal, don’t get me wrong.  The biggest thing about Connor is nobody does what he can do at the rate of speed that he can do it at.  He’s got the quickest hands and the quickest feet of any players in the NHL right now.  But I don’t think he’s as defensively aware as Auston Matthews.  I’m not sure he can be as elite a penalty killer.

But that’s not a knock on him.  Auston’s just geared differently.  I’ll never forget sitting down with Donny Granato at USA Hockey in Ann Arbor when it was housed there, and breaking down tape with Donny and his assistants and looking at Auston Matthews and then addressing the team.  And Auston Matthews to me was the modern‑day version of Ronnie Francis, who is a Hall of Fame player, and had the privilege of working with.  But Ronnie couldn’t skate the way Auston Matthews can skate.

And to compare, in my book, to compare a young player to Ronnie Francis is unbelievably high praise.  You ask Mario Lemieux what Ronnie Francis met to the ’91 and ’92 Pittsburgh Penguin teams.

EDDIE OLCZYK:  It’s Eddie again.  Just really Quick touching on Pierre.  Let’s not forget where Auston Matthews was before he came to the National Hockey League.  I think playing against men, playing against older players certainly, you know, set him up, in my opinion extremely well to get to this stage, the preparedness, the physicality part of it.  Let’s not underestimate the decision that he made prior to ending up in Toronto to help him, you know, be ahead of the curve so to speak in the first year.


Martin Jones, a first‑time All‑Star.  He’s obviously an undrafted player coming into the league.  How nice of a story is that for him to be an undrafted player that’s played in an All‑Star Game?  Also, are you concerned maybe about his workload towards, as we get toward the second half of the season here?  He’s played a lot of hockey.  Any concern about his workload, maybe for Pierre or Doc? 

DOC EMRICK:  No, I don’t worry about this guy at all.  I think he’s big, strong and he can handle the load.  But I will listen to Pierre’s thoughts, because I often listen to Pierre and Eddie on how goaltenders can be beaten or worn down.  But I have a lot of faith in Martin Jones.  Go ahead you guys.

PIERRE MCGUIRE:  I have a ton of faith in Martin Jones.  Martin was a World Junior where he made the team, and a lot of people thought there was no chance he could make a Canadian National Team, but he did.  Tremendously athletic, very quick, plays an amazing system in San Jose.

I’m not worried about fatigue with him at all.  He doesn’t get enough exposure in terms of what people think of him on the national stage.  This is an amazing opportunity for people to find out more about Martin Jones.  So I’m bullish on Martin Jones.  I think most people that watch the league every night would feel the same way.

JEREMY ROENICK:  I wanted to add in a little something because I talked to a lot of guys in San Jose, and I think it’s important to understand the players in that locker room have the utmost respect for Martin Jones.  And the praise that Martin Jones gets from his teammates, his work ethic, his demeanor, him being a teammate and staying on and working out after practice and helping the guys with their shots and making sure that the professionalism that Martin Jones has shown since he’s been brought to San Jose.  Obviously, was tutored underneath Quick, which helps him a lot.

But for me, the ability to make a first All‑Star Game and having his own teammates be so happy for him because they know what he’s been through and they know what he gives and how important he is to that team in San Jose, that speaks volumes for me.  I couldn’t be more proud of Martin Jones, and I know his teammates are way more happier than Martin Jones is.  And I think that says a lot about the chemistry of that hockey club.

DOC EMRICK:  Yeah, he played 65 last year, and he’s at 41, and I’m terrible at math.  But I think he’s on target for the same load.  And then when you count the playoffs, well, almost 90 games.  I’d say he finished strong.


I had a question for Pierre and JR.  P.K. Subban being the only Predators representative at this year’s All‑Star Game, we all thought that he would fit in great with the Predators in terms of on ice and off ice.  I was just curious now, more than halfway through the season, injury notwithstanding, if you feel that our thoughts on P.K. fitting in with the Predators has been actualized so far? 

PIERRE MCGUIRE:  I think the level of growth is greater for P.K. in Nashville.  I think he’d be the first guy to tell you that.  He’s a very hard marker.  I speak with him quite often.  The good news is that Nashville’s starting to find their pace right now.  He’s part of that, after coming back from injury.  But I think the second half of the year for P.K. and for Nashville will be a ton better than it was in the first half.

The best thing that’s happened to P.K., I think, in his National Hockey League career is getting a chance to play in a system that’s conducive to his skillset, but also to play for a defensive coach like Phil Housely.  I think it’s the first time P.K.’s been coached by somebody who can relate to his skill level, and it makes a big difference.

So I think P.K.’s well on his way to establishing himself as a Nashville Predator.  But I think the first part of the year it’s been more of an incomplete form, and I think he’d be the first person to tell you that.

JEREMY ROENICK:  I think, I agree with you, Pierre, and the injury has definitely put a damper on his first year.  I think that move to Nashville is really good for P.K. for a lot of reasons.  He is a guy that can bring so much energy, so much love and passion, and entertainment to a game.  Nashville is one of those newer teams that I think bringing people into that building to give them something to get excited about, watching a player like P.K. play.  He wears his heart on his sleeve, and always gives everybody an entertaining game, whether it’s his personality or it’s his style of play.

Again, to P.K. being in the All‑Star Game, another perfect situation for him, and I know he loves it there.  He’s very, very good in the community.  His skills obviously speak for themselves.  But I think P.K. is going to have a very large role in the predator’s second half of the season.  Because I agree with Pierre.  They have been heating up, and they’re a team if they get going and they get on a nice stretch, they could do some damage in the playoffs, and P.K.’s going to be right in the mix of that.


Eddie and J.R., there are seven guys in the NHL that have reached 700 goals and we’ll probably see a lot of them this weekend.  Can you see anybody coming up that will reach that mark?  Obviously Ovie has a pretty good chance.  But of the young guys, anybody have a chance to challenge that?  And if not, will that become the new standard? 

EDDIE OLCZYK:  Yeah, Chris, it is so, so difficult to score goals now.  We praise guys that get to the 20‑goal mark, and the way teams defend and the way goaltenders are, I didn’t jump in when the question was asked about Martin Jones, but I look at a guy like that and he just seems so effortless, a lot like Carey Price.  I mean, he looks like he could play 82 games, you know, because there isn’t a lot of action.

But when it comes to the goal scorers, I mean, the one guy that stands out to me, and we talked about him at the Winter Classic in St. Louis this year between the Hawks and the Blues, system has a lot to do with it.  But I think a guy like Vladimir Tarasenko, I look at and go, he defers a lot.  Maybe not as much this year, so maybe he’s understanding that he’s there to finish and be a guy that could really score.

When you talk about, when I see young guys, he’s one guy, Chris, that I look at and go, man, you know what?  He should just shoot first and answer questions second because he has the ability to find the back of the net.  And I think in that Winter Classic game, he actually had a couple of goals in that game.

But he’s the one guy that I look at because he can skate.  He’s got a tremendous release.  Like I said, system has a lot to do with it.  You get offensive guys, and most guys err on the side of offense.  They see a play developing, and they’re not going to sit on the defensive side.  They’re going to err on the offensive side.  That’s how they’re bred.  That’s how they’re born.  They realize what’s going to happen before it does, and they’ll create and generate more opportunities than most guys in the league, because a lot of guys don’t see that play developing.

But he’s the one guy to me that I look at and go, you know what?  He’s got a chance to be a guy that could score 40‑plus every year, and that would be my goal for him.  Now, is he going to be able to play long enough to be able to put up those big numbers that you talked about?  Time will tell.  But I think system, playing with better players, and understanding that I could be one of the best goal scorers in the league.  And in order to do that, you’ve got to drift the puck when you get the opportunity.

JEREMY ROENICK:  Yeah, Eddie, I think he is a good benchmark to talk about.  I think Ovechkin will be there.  We can eliminate him because he’s well into his 500s.

EDDIE OLCZYK:  Yeah, he’s going 800, J.R.  It looks like that.

JEREMY ROENICK:  Yeah, it looks that way, doesn’t it? But I’ll be totally honest and blunt, so my answer will be, no, and it will be a firm no on the 700.  Because if you look at the game today, you look at the goaltenders, you look at the style of play, you look at the talent that these guys have this year, I mean, that’s 14 years of 50 goals.  Nowadays, it’s tough to even find one or two guys scoring 50 goals a year.  Ovechkin is the guy who has pretty much done it consistently.  After that, it’s a crapshoot.  It’s a toss‑up.

This game is too good.  That’s too many goalies.  And that’s a long time to play in a very demanding sport.  So my answer would be besides Ovechkin, you won’t see a 700 goal scorer for quite some time, I believe.


J.R., let me ask you this, do you think with the 3‑on‑3 aspect of it, don’t you think that some of the numbers these guys will get ‑‑ there’s no free goals in the National Hockey League.  It’s tough enough to score one let alone 500.  But you know what I mean? 

JEREMY ROENICK:  Oh, there’s no question.  No question about it.  That’s a great point.  It will add five, six, sometimes ten goals to the elite goal scorers, to the elite players without question.  Last year, again, Ovechkin just barely got to 50 last year, and he plays pretty much half of every 3‑on‑3 game overtime that you see.  So maybe once they get more accustomed to the 3‑on‑3, they might score more goals.  But, again, we had the 3‑on‑3 last year and we could barely scratch the surface with a 50-goal scorer.  So it will help, but I still don’t think it will help that much.


Had a quick question, not about the game itself, but about the Top 100 players of all time.  Obviously, the Sharks are a pair of guys who might be in the discussion there.  If you talk about maybe how Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau might deserve to be on that list? 

EDDIE OLCZYK:  Me?  I would be surprised if Joe Thornton wasn’t.  My era, you know, I go back to remembering the first time I ever went to the Chicago stadium as a young kid when I was 8 years old.  I’m going back to the early ’70s.  No disrespect to the guys that came before that time because I didn’t see them.  I’ve only heard about them, and you know of the incredible players that played prior to that.

But specifically, you look at what Joe Thornton has been able to do, the consistency, the numbers he’s been able to put up, it’s just been absolutely incredible and he’s been consistent.  I think when you look at all the great players that have played, you’d be hard‑pressed not to look at him and think he’s got an opportunity to be in that last, you know, handful of spots as far as the Top 100.

The assist numbers are incredible.  It’s tough to find guys to put up points in the National Hockey League consistently, and he’s a guy that’s always been a pass guy first.  He’s made other players a lot of money around him.  He’s had great success.  So looking at a lot of the lists and people projecting, and that’s what makes it just so unique.  I could certainly see him being there at the bottom of the Top 100 without any doubt.


What did you think of Marleau’s four‑goal game last night, especially at his age, 37 years, something like that? 

EDDIE OLCZYK:  It was pretty impressive.  I mean, every time.  He scored goals different ways.  What a pass by Joe Pavelski on the one 2‑on‑1 play.  You know, the forth one, the forehand‑backhand was a beautiful move there.

You know, look, I mean, he’s a guy that I think certainly has the ability.  It’s not easy to score, as I said earlier, one goal, let alone to get two, three, and four goals in a hockey game.  But it was an impressive performance against a team that you have to find a way to beat.  You have to find a way to win that game and get in the natural hat trick, and getting the cherry on top there with the forehand‑backhand was a big night.  You know, some guys, look, I mean, it is so hard to score in the National Hockey League.

Did Anze Kopitar not go through a stretch where he had one goal in 29 or 30 games?  Matt Zuccarello scored a goal last night for the Rangers.  His first goal at I think 16 and only his second at 30.

Look, it happens.  I mean, it is tough to score goals.  I think J.R. touched on that a little bit earlier.  But you’ve got a guy that gets, what, three goals in five or six minutes, whatever it was.  Then he gets another one.  It’s not easy to do.  When you’ve got the momentum on your side, you’ve got to take advantage of it, and certainly Patrick Marleau was able to do that.  Doesn’t happen very often, so certainly worthy of one of the stars of the week without question when a guy gets four goals in one period.


I realize it was alluded to in the opening comments, but why specifically should people watch the NHL All‑Star Game on Sunday? 

JEREMY ROENICK:  Number one, obviously everybody on this call is very biased to the National Hockey League and the talent of the players in the National Hockey League.  But I think what Sam touched on in the beginning of the call and the uniqueness of the NHL All‑Star Game, and the way that it’s played and the format, I think is very interesting.  I think it keeps everybody on their toes.  It brings a level of excitement and intrigue to the game, and competition.

When you put NHL players in a competition situation where they can let out their talents, let me tell you, the guys in this National Hockey League these days are the most talented athletes on the planet.  I don’t care what sport you want to put in, but what these guys can do on skates, with sticks, on ice it is absolutely incredible.

You like to see grace on ice, you like to see speed, you like to see action, there is nothing better than watching NHL action at its best.  And the 3‑on‑3 situation, there is no down turn in the NHL All‑Star 3‑on‑3 game.  It is high‑paced, great action all the time.  So definitely much better to watch on television than just a normal hockey game.  The All‑Star Game is the best performance of talent than there is in all sports.


EDDIE OLCZYK:  There is nowhere to hide, I said this earlier, there is nowhere to hide in the 3‑on‑3 format.  We’ve seen it in the past where guys would go out there, hardly break a sweat.  The All‑Star Game prior to last year in Nash, it was embarrassing.  Something had to change, not only the National Hockey League, but I think well, NBC and Sam Flood had a lot to do with getting the change, and having the format of the 3‑on‑3.  Give the Commissioner a lot of credit.

But there is nowhere to hide in the 3‑on‑3, and the last thing you want to do as a hockey player is be embarrassed.  So you tighten up the skates, and whatever happens in Game 1, you’re there, you want to represent yourself well.  But it is entertaining.  And as I said earlier, there is nowhere to hide, and I think it forces these athletes and these guys to put on a show for the fans, not only this year in L.A., but the fans that will be watching on NBC all weekend long.