Monday, December 6, 2021

The GM's Christmas Wish List: They Sure Don't Make Them Like That Anymore


Through this holiday season, everyone, it seems, has a wish list.

Yes, even NHL general managers.
And while they may be secretly dreaming of a new set of titanium golf clubs from an appreciative team owner, or an all-expenses junket for two somewhere in the Caribbean, compliments of the VP of operations, a more ambitious priority overshadows their list.

Every one of them craves that number one defenceman.
The difficulty lies in finding one, which has proven to be about as successful as bringing down a rhino with a slingshot.
That's because they're practically extinct.
A vanishing breed long coveted by any club with realistic aspirations of capturing Lord Stanley's cup.
 General managers spend long hours fantasizing of triumphantly drafting that big fish. Bloodlines of a champion. Six feet and 200 pounds of finely-chiseled muscle. A swift and agile skater, yet, terrifically strong on his feet. A defensive zealot who delights in meting out punishing body checks. An offensive steamroller with exceptional scoring credentials. A slick passer and slicker playmaker who can regulate the power play with a heavy artillery cannon from the point. A natural-born leader who commands respect on the ice and admiration in the dressing room. Above all, a broad-shouldered decision maker who proudly and effectively wears the "C" on his jersey like a badge of honor.
Almost sounds like a fictitious character from the fertile imagination of Steven Spielberg.
No, they sure don't make them like that anymore. But they once did.

Enter Mr. Denis Potvin.
Following an extraordinary and highly-publicized five-year OHL career with the storied Ottawa 67's that began at the young age of 15, Potvin was the first overall draft pick in 1973. The New York Islanders had set a record in futility the previous season with the lowest point total in NHL history. They quickly made the 19-year-old Ottawa native their first selection.
It's worth noting that Potvin's defence partner during his senior OHL campaign was future Leaf standout Ian Turnbull. What a formidable pair they made. Between the two of them, they amassed 66 goals and 204 points to go with 330 penalty minutes. Compelling stats indeed from the talented blueliners.

When the Islanders came calling on draft day, baby, Potvin was more than ready for the bright spotlight of New York.
He skated 15 seasons in the NHL, all with the club that drafted him. During his residency there, he collected 4 Stanley Cups and 3 Norris trophies as the league's top defender. As a testament to his durability, he averaged 70 games a season, despite generously throwing around his 200-pound frame every night he skated.
When his playing days finally ended, he had averaged 20 goals, 70 points, 90 penalty minutes and a plus 30 rating over his remarkable career. He currently sits seventh on the all-time list for points by a blueliner. During the decade of the 1970's and into the early 1980's, Denis Potvin was widely acclaimed as the best defenceman in the NHL. 

And while the ostentatious numbers do not tell the whole story, neither do they lie. He could single-handedly lift the entire team with a devastating body check as easily as he could blast home a game winner from the blueline.
So, while there are 32 general managers in the NHL dreaming about finding a defender in the same class as Denis Potvin, chances are they'll have to settle for something considerably less. Most of them would take someone half as good.
No sir, they sure don't make them like that anymore. 


  1. great story about a great player.. What would it take for a team to win the cup 5 in a row with today's structure and salary cap.

  2. Excellent article. Very few in the mold of Potvin today. The only one who comes anywhere close might be Hedman with Tampa Bay. Shea Weber , in his early days, perhaps.