The Backcheck: Scouting, Trading, And Ovi’s Skating


Every week, Sportsnet’s  Eliotte Friedman writes a column called “30 Thoughts” and it’s basically the NHL article I look most forward to, as it gives—you guessed it—30 tidbits about the goings on the NHL based off of info Friedman has gotten from his sources.

In the past, former writer Justin Bourne wrote the second article I most looked forward to, “Thoughts on Thoughts” in which Bourne picked his five favorite Friedman thoughts and elaborated.

Unfortunately for those who loving reading Hockey articles—but fabulously for Justin Bourne himself—Bourne was hired by the Toronto Marlies as their video coach and so his article has ceased to exist.

However! As is the American way, I shall not let a good idea go to waste!  So for this column, “The Backcheck,” I am going to rip off Coach Bourne and basically co-opt his idea for’s purposes.

Each week, following Elliotte Friedman’s wonderful piece, I will go back (get it? Backcheck?) through—however many—tidbits that interested me and give my opinion on them. It may be five, like Bourne’s; it may be 1, who knows? Whatever topics need to be elaborated on shall be.

This week’s 30 Thoughts: Ducks a logical fit for Lightning’s Drouin


  • One scout on the Laine/Puljujarvi debate: “Laine is poor man’s Corey Perry, a mean goal scorer who also has a bomb that he can unload from the Stamkos spot. His skating has come a long way from the past two years and is a serious consideration behind Matthews. He’s been pretty good but not great like Matthews against men.


I wanted to write on this just to say that I’m glad real-life NHL scouts use current NHLers to describe prospects. I do this all the time with recruits and our current players when I discuss them with Pro teams, and I’ve always felt a little bit like a tool doing so. To say a player plays like a Jake Gardiner feels like a bit of a cop out some times, because I should be describing the way in which said player does play like Jake Gardiner, but it’s much easier just to say Jake Gardiner. If asked for more depth of description, I, and I’m sure this scout, can go into much more detail, but referring to a current NHLer is an easy way to quickly describe a players attributes.

Plus, how cool is it for Perry and Stamkos? I mean, the Stamkos spot? Stamkos has his own marked territory according to NHL scouts. That’s pretty cool.

  1. Among the pursuers for Jonathan Drouin, one source warned Monday Anaheim hasn’t got enough mention. It’s a logical bet, because no one needs offensive help more than the Ducks.

The Ducks are probably the NHL’s most underachieving team, so it does make sense that they might be willing to take a chance on Drouin and help their offense, but two things came to mind when I read this.

  1. What would the Ducks have to give up?
  2. What other underachieving teams might get into the fray come the end of the year?

Apparently, Yzerman is looking for a young player who is under contract for some time, so you could take a peek through Anaheim’s depth chart to find someone, if that player is good enough; but what intrigues me more was my second thought.

Yes, the Ducks are underachieving, but what if the Pittsburgh Penguins don’t make the Playoffs? They might be in line to do something DRASTIC if they’re on the outside looking in come Spring. If I’m Steve Yzerman, I might be pretty tempted to keep an eye on the Pens as the season drags on. If they miss and they’re willing to move one of Crosby, Malkin, or Letang, would you not want to hold on to Drouin as a chip, just in case? Especially if you’re going to lose Stamkos to Free Agency. Something tells me Geno Malkin wouldn’t mind the…scenery…in Tampa Bay.

The Lightning will be able to move Drouin and just because he’s asked for a trade doesn’t mean there’s any rush to do so. I think the Lightning might want to wait to see who is in a panic in a couple months.

  1. Don’t underestimate GM Dean Lombardi’s Bill Walton comparison. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Walton, MVP of the 1977 NBA Final, was acquired by the 1986 Boston Celtics for one last run after several lost seasons due to injury. Lombardi’s a big believer in giving one-time stars a last chance. As NHL Network’s E.J. Hradek tweeted, Lecavalier won 13 of 16 faceoffs Monday vs. Detroit. He was 4/4 in the offensive zone and 7/8 in the Kings’ end.

I swear I’m not going to keep bring this up in every article, but again, there’s no way you can convince me that Lecavalier cannot play in the NHL anymore. I agree he’s not worth the money he’s making, but I watch him in games and he doesn’t look like he’s a travesty out there. His ego might get in the way of him taking a proper contract, but if he decides against retirement and gets bought out, he should take a reasonable contract to go play in Montreal next season.

  1. Everybody’s got their favorite Alex Ovechkin stats. Here’s the wildest one, to me: There is only one player from his draft year within 300 goals of his 501. That’s Evgeni Malkin (287). The next closest isAndrew Ladd, with 195. The second-place guy from his draft year is 306 scores away! It’s just obscene.

Every person has their top-3-whatever, and usually it corresponds to their generation and who they watched growing up, but anybody who’s been watching the NHL for the last however many years has to appreciate the natural scoring ability of Ovechkin.

To me, the best pure goal scorers I’ve ever seen have been Brett Hull and Alexander Ovechkin, but they are two of the most opposite types of players to be included in the same category I can think of. Brett Hull, like most pure goal scorers was pretty smooth. Rocket shot, yes, but smooth. His one-timer is a thing of beauty, man. Like watching a beautiful golf shot.

The crazy thing about Ovechkin is that he looks like a train wreck while he’s doing it. I mean, he has smooth hands and everything, but holy crap his skating technique is like a baby moose trying to stand up on ice.

One of the things I tell players who need to improve their skating is to watch how their upper body moves. If your torso is moving so much that your head is bobbing up and down as you move around the ice, your skating isn’t very efficient, which makes it more difficult to get full extension from your legs on your stride, which makes skating more difficult. Your whole body has to be in total control for your skating to be at its most efficient. If you watch Ovechkin skate, his torso is all over the place. One minute he’s fully bent over; the next he’s completely upright. Most guys can’t make their local rep team skating like this, yet here’s Ovechkin with 501 NHL goals. I’ve never seen another NHL player like him.

Any pure goal scorer you can think of has some type of elegance to their game, but Ovechkin seems to do it through brute strength. Bull in a china shop doesn’t nearly do him justice. He hits hard, he shoots hard; he’s just ugly while he’s doing it.

But I don’t think NHL fans should want it any other way.
Watching all-timers like Mario Lemieux and Pavel Bure get around the ice so smoothly is amazing, but Ovechkin is the kid who should’ve been cut by his midget team scoring all these goals. You’re not going to see this player ever again. Enjoy it.

What do you think?