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Photo Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Off the Top of My Head

If you’re old enough to remember the days when Wayne Gretzky was so dominant that hockey poolsters divided up his goals and assists in drafts, then you remember when the Great One became the first NHL player to win the Hart Memorial Trophy by a unanimous vote with all 63 first-place ballots in 1982.

You can mark that feat down as something I never thought I’d see again in my lifetime – not only because I never thought we’d see another player of Gretzky’s stature, but because of the very nature of voting. There’s usually a dissenter or two out there, no? Sometimes, it’s somebody making a look-at-me vote by going against the grain. Now, add in the factor of analytics, which has given us additional ways to measure what we’ve been seeing, and there’s more room for varying opinions and debate.

Well, as we all know by now, 39 years after Gretzky turned the trick, Connor McDavid of the Edmonton Oilers was the first choice among 100 voters with the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. It’s something great players like Sidney Crosby and Mario Lemieux, to name just two, never managed to accomplish. There was no look-at-me vote for Auston Matthews out of Toronto, no I’m-a-total-homer vote for Brad Marchand out of Beantown. Old school, new school, no school, it was McDavid.

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“It’s just special to win the award,” McDavid said of receiving every first-place vote. “I’ve been able to do it twice now and equally sweet I’d say. I guess maybe it’s just a little feather in the cap to do it unanimously I’d say. Anytime you’re in the same breath as Wayne Gretzky, you’re obviously doing something right. I appreciate the writers feeling that way.”

Back in the dusty, old days of paper balloting when I was the PHWA chapter chair in Edmonton in the late-1990’s and early-2000’s, we’d add up the boxcars, take a look at plus/minus, lean really heavily on the eyeball test and maybe compare notes with other writers as we travelled from city to city or when they came to town and that was about it.

That limited scope pre-analytics was even more prevalent in Gretzky’s era. Even then, when he was lapping the field in the Art Ross Trophy scoring race with Lemieux often the only guy within a $5 cab ride, he was only unanimous for the Hart once. No matter what your mix of eyeballs and analytics, the PHWA was on the money this time. It’s a truly remarkable feat by McDavid. There’s a terrific video about McDavid’s season here.

WHAT ABOUT DUNCAN?

Feb 11, 2020; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers forward Leon Draisaitl (29) and Chicago Blackhawks defensemen Duncan Keith (2) look for a loose puck during the third period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

I’m not nearly plugged in enough, certainly not close to what I once was, to have any inside information on speculation that the Oilers are interested in Duncan Keith of the Chicago Blackhawks, but when people like Elliotte Friedman suggest there’s interest on both sides, it’s worth listening to.

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 I think Keith is too old at this point in his career and too expensive, unless there’s a big chunk of his $5.5 million being retained or a bad contract going the other way. That’s an arms-length opinion without any more real insight than my readers have. Yes, the kind of Stanley Cup cachet Keith has is a factor, he can be a mentor, but at what price? Call me lukewarm on the idea.

That said, the Caleb Jones aspect – the Blackhawks are said to be interested in acquiring brother Seth Jones and having Caleb in the fold might aid in that – is interesting. “There’s two reasons people are zeroing in on Edmonton,” Friedman said. “One, it makes sense for Keith in a geographical and family reason and, number two, a lot of people are whispering the names Caleb Jones. And if that’s what Chicago’s plan is, it makes sense. You re-united the brothers.”

What we do know for sure is Oilers’ GM Ken Holland places a lot of value on experience and always has, and there’s no question adding some of it to his current blueline mix makes sense. I don’t see Keith, who turns 38 on July 16, as the answer necessarily, but Holland might.

A GREAT MAN GONE

Don Moores, president of the Kamloops Blazers, died June 30 of a heart attack. He was 65. PHOTO BY KAMLOOPS BLAZERS PHOTO /Kamloops Blazers photo

Heartfelt condolences to the entire Moores family after the passing of Don Moores in Kamloops last Wednesday. Moores, 65, the younger brother of former Oilers’ and University of Alberta coach Bill Moores, died of a heart attack while playing golf.

I worked with Don at the Kamloops Daily News in the 1980’s and he was a member of Ken Hitchcock’s coaching staff with Don Hay 1985-90. Moores coached future NHLers like Mark Recchi, Rob Brown, Darryl Sydor, Scott Niedermayer and Len Barrie during his time behind the bench. Moores was the president and COO of the Blazers when he passed.

Whether you were chatting with Moores in the advertising offices at the KDN, interviewing him in the rink or passing time on the bus, he was truly one of the most positive, upbeat and passionate people you could ever meet. Moores, who played for the Kamloops Chiefs in the 1970’s and was drafted by the Los Angeles Kings 49th overall in 1976, went on to do great things in the newspaper business before being named Blazers’ president five years ago

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Previously by Robin Brownlee