One man, one team
Sakic, Modano part of rare quartet; The week ahead
Posted: Monday October 8, 2007 1:37PM; Updated: Monday October 8, 2007 1:51PM
Joe Sakic scored his 611th goal and registered his 1,591st career point on Sunday, moving into eight place on the NHL's all-time scoring list. As amazing as those numbers are, the fact that Sakic has amassed those totals with one organization is all the more impressive. A star player staying put is a fading reality in the cap era, but there are a few veterans still in that category.
Mike Modano in Dallas and Daniel Alfredsson immediately come to mind. Modano is a mere five points shy of becoming the most prolific American-born scorer in NHL history. Alfredsson is the career leader in all meaningful offensive categories in Senators history and got off to another great start with four goals in the first week of the season.
These three stars represent a small group that the locals have seen grow up in public.In doing so, all have endured the scrutiny that goes along with great expectations. Sakic began in Quebec when the team -- then called the Nordiques -- was rebuilding. Modano joined a team in Minnesota that was in similar straits. Alfredsson's tenure in Ottawa has had major moments of doubt about whether he could lead a team -- first past the provincial rival Toronto Maple Leafs and then to the Stanley Cup. As with all greats who play in one environment their entire career, Alfredsson answered nearly all of those questions last season and has entered the phase of fan endearment that naturally follows.
All of which brings me to Vinny Lecavalier in Tampa. He is a Lightning lifer with a Stanley Cup on his resume and a Rocket Richard Award after leading the NHL with 52 goals last season. He has matured into a dominating force, picking up where he led off last season with three goals and a plus-four rating in the Bolts' first two games. He's a factor in so many facets of the game, it is sometimes hard to remember how he got here.
As is often the case, it was anything but a linear progression. Lecavalier's tenure is often chronicled by referencing multiple ownership changes and his legendary spats with coach John Tortorella. Yet, no matter how it came to pass, Lecavalier today is a consistent, well-rounded player. Part of it is maturity and part is a willingness to meet those challenges posed by a hard-driving coach who has demanded more because he saw that it was possible.
Modano went through it with Ken Hitchcock. Steve Yzerman -- the longtime captain of the Detroit Red Wings who retired prior to last season as the modern symbol of single-franchise idolatry -- morphed into one of the great leaders in the game under Scotty Bowman's demands. Both Modano and Yzerman were older than Lecavalier when they were asked to sublimate their offensive games and put more of their energies into play away from the puck. They won Stanley Cups as a result and, in the process, elevated their individual status by being part of a championship endeavor.
Lecavalier is still just 27 and only now coming into his own. And he's doing it all as only a few greats get to as one-man, one-team institutions. It is a unique circumstance that might not even last throughout Lecavalier's career. But right now, Vinny in Tampa is special on multiple levels. Just ask Sakic, Modano and Alfredsson.
The Week Ahead
This week takes us to Anaheim on Wednesday. The Stanley Cup champs finally limp home, at 1-3-1, after their brutal schedule dealt them a season-opening five-game road trip that took them to Detroit, Columbus and Pittsburgh -- all after playing their first two games in England. With the Boston Bruins trekking the west, the Ducks will raise their championship banner at last.
That's a long way to travel to bring closure to last season's success. More to the point, it signifies an opportunity for the Ducks to collect themselves and get their season going. It may still be a tough task, though, with injuries to key cogs J.S. Giguere, Sami Paulsson and Mathieu Schneider. But for a night -- a banner night at that --you'd expect the Ducks to have enough emotion to beat the Bruins.
In the East, the Carolina Hurricanes visit the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. The Sens haven't lost yet -- pre-season included -- while backstopped by former 'canes 'tender Martin Gerber. His brilliant start is what the team hoped for last season, but Gerber struggled, paving the way for Ray Emery to take over as the top guy. Emery s out recovering from hip surgery and Gerber is making the most of this second chance. Facing one's former employer is always motivation for a fine performance.