Friday, February 22, 2013

Jorgen Petterson

One of the most underrated European players of the 1980s, in my estimation anyway, was Jorgen Petterson of the St. Louis Blues. He also briefly played in Hartford and Washington.

The personable Vastra Frolunda star came over to the NHL in 1980 and was a very steady goal scorer. 37. Then 38. Then 35. He played really well on a line featuring fellow marksman Joe Mullen and playmaking wizard Blake Dunlop.

"The difference in the NHL, apart from the roughness of the play, is that there is more shooting. In Sweden we tend to look for the perfect opportunity whereas in the NHL you blast away and hope for a screened shot or a deflection or perhaps a rebound" Pettersen said. Clearly he adapted well.

When Dunlop was traded in 1983-84 Pettersson's offensive totals slowed down but he remained a a solid 25 goal threat. His game evolved, too. He was no longer just the stylish offensive player who relied on speed and agility but really became comfortable on the penalty kill. Defensively he was always conscientious. While the physical game was never his forte, he never shied away from taking a hit to make a play.

In 435 NHL games Jorgen Pettersson scored 174 goals, 192 assists for 366 points.


Friday, August 31, 2012

Perry Anderson

Perry was a great guy to have in the dressing room. He however wasn't exactly the greatest guy on the ice.

Anderson is best described as a role player. Anderson knew that role very well too. To fight. It seemed Anderson was looking for a fight every time he was on the ice, not that he got many minutes of playing time mind you. And he wasn't even that good of a fighter. He won a few, lost a few, but he showed up and stood up for the little guys on the team. He did his role to best of his ability.

Anderson was a poor skater and bad positional player. His lack of any speed or mobility lessened his contributions as he couldn't catch anyone to lay a thunderous hit with his 6'1" 225lb body.

Anderson started his career with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles of the CHL where for 2 seasons he put up good offensive numbers while playing aggressively. He was promoted to the NHL's St. Louis Blues full time in 1983-84 but he was there to fulfill the role of tough guy, a label that would stick with him for the rest of his career.

After two seasons playing for the Blue-Notes, Anderson was moved to New Jersey in exchange for defensive expert Rick Meagher. Anderson spent two years policing the Devils but spent the last two years of his tenure with the Devil's farm team in Utica.

The left winger who also was tried on defense had his NHL career lengthened by expansion. The San Jose Sharks signed him as a free agent for the 1991-92 season where he participated in 48 games. His last game in the NHL was his 400th career game. 400 NHL games is a magical number for pro hockey players as that means they will recieve a full pension at the conclusion of their playing days.

Anderson played a full season with the San Diego Gulls of the IHL before finishing his career with 2 games back in the city where his career began - Salt Lake - in 1993.

Anderson scored 50 career goals and 59 assists for 109 points in those 400 games. He added 1051 penalty minutes. He also played in 36 playoff games, netting 2 goals and 1 assist.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

Chuck Lefley

Nowadays, its tough to imagine Chuck Lefley was once a 43 goal scorer in the National Hockey League. His world revolves around farming.

Chuck returned home to Grosse Isle Manitoba once his NHL career was over and devoted his life to working on his fathers farm. While raising cattle and grain may sound like a very simple life, Lefley loves it.

Lefley has made the family farm a completely modern enterprise, complete with computerized machinery and diversified products. He quietly lives with his wife and daughter, and other than serving as the local rink caretaker in nearby Warren, Manitoba and the odd round of golf with Ab McDonald, he has little connection to his former hockey life.

At one time Chuck was a very cerebral player. Blessed with good speed and good anticipation, he was one of the best penalty killers during the late 1970s. Originally a Montreal Canadiens draft pick, The Habs moved Lefley to St. Louis late in 1974 after a couple of back to back 20 goal seasons. The fact that Lefley not only made the incredibly deep Habs teams of the early 1970s but was able to contribute nicely to them suggests that Chuck was a very good player indeed.

The Habs moved Chuck to St. Louis for veteran defenseman Don Awry partially because Chuck got off to such a slow start in the 1974-75 season - he scored just 1 goal in 18 games. He however was able to find his scoring touch once he arrived in the US Midwest, and scored 23 times in 57 games for the Bluenotes.

In St. Louis he continued to play a similar steady role before his erupting for 43 goals and 85 points in 1975-76. A rib injury really bothered him much of the 1976-77 season. He scored just 11 goals while adding 30 assists in 71 games. Many dismissed him as a one year wonder.

After that disappointing season, Chuck took a couple of years off from the NHL, claiming "I just needed some time off to think." He spent a year in Finland and a year in Germany, where he cherished the chance to play with his brother Bryan.

While Bryan stayed in Europe to play and coach until his death in 1997, Chuck returned to the St. Louis Blues for the 1979-80 and 1980-81 season. However he played sparingly and his career was clearly near its end.

All told, Chuck appeared in 407 NHL games. He scored 128 times while assisting on 164 others. That gave him 292 points.


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Jerry Melnyk

This is Jerry Melnyk, often referred to as Gerry Melnyk. He was a long time minor leaguer in the dying days of the Original Six. He played with the Detroit Red Wings for two seasons (1959-61) and Chicago Black Hawks for one season (1961-62) but spent much of his career in the minor leagues. He ended it in style though, returning to the NHL in his final season of play. That was the NHL's first year of expansion, and the veteran forward caught on with the St. Louis Blues in 1967-68.

Melnyk, described as a clever play-maker, totalled 269 NHL regular season games. He scored 39 goals, 117 assists and 116 points. He added another 6 goals and 12 points in 53 playoff contests. Interestingly, Melnyk played in six NHL post-seasons, challenging in the Stanley Cup final in five of them. Sadly, Gerry Melnyk never would win the Stanley Cup.

Prior to the 1968-69 season the Blues traded Melnyk to Philadelphia in exchange for Ab McDonald. However Melnyk would suffer a heart attack and ended up retiring before ever playing with the Flyers.

Instead he began scouting for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was the scout who was so adamant that Bobby Clarke was the best player in the 1969 draft. But Clarke was a diabetic, and that scared off all the teams. Melnyk was furious when the Flyers passed on Clarke at 6th overall, taking Bob Currier (who would never play a game in the NHL) instead. Melnyk must have seriously relieved to see Clarke still available in the second round of the draft. Melnyk had by then convinced the Flyers to take the man who would become the heart of the franchise. The rest, as they say, is history.

By the way, Melnyk was also instrumental in the Flyers going "off the board" to draft Peter Forsberg in 1991.

Jerry Melnyk passed away in June 2001, several months after being diagnosed with leukemia. He passed away in Edmonton, his life long home. He was born there, and was a junior and minor pro star with the Edmonton Flyers in the 1950s.


Friday, December 9, 2011

Floyd Thomson

This is Floyd Thomson's 1974 O Pee Chee hockey card.

Floyd Thomson, who inherited his father's nickname "White-Pine," played with the St. Louis Blues from 1971 though 1977. In that time he played in 411 games, scoring 56 goals and 97 assists for 153 points.

The 6'0" 190lb left winger took a most unusual route to the National Hockey League. In the summer of 1970 he travelled all the way to Johannesburg, South African of all places to play hockey in a summer league. When he returned to North America he impressed enough at the St. Louis Blues training camp to sign a minor league contract and played in Kansas City of the CHL.

Over the next five seasons Thomson was a regular player with the St. Louis Blues. He was a utility forward and penalty killer, applauded for giving 100% on every shift. Though his penalty minute totals do not suggest it, he was also not afraid to mix it up when necessary.

"He could muck the puck out of the corners. If there was any trouble he could look after that too," said teammate Gary Sabourin.

Thomson exited the NHL in 1977 but found a home with the Salt Lake Golden Eagles of the CHL for the next five seasons. He served as team captain for three seasons, and helped his team win two league championships.


Thursday, June 30, 2011

Dallas Drake

An aggressive forechecker, Dallas Drake was an abrasive player who was not a lot of fun to play against. A good open-ice hitter, Drake was stronger along the boards and in front of the net than his wiry frame suggested he would be.

He could credit his quick and powerful skating as the key to his game, as well as his never-ending hustle. He was a feisty pest who often made the highlight reels by running over opponents in sometimes spectacular fashion. By often leaving his feet targeting his opponents up high he garnered a reputation as a dirty player.

A grinder at heart who was sometimes shoe-horned into a top 6 role, Drake was better suited on a third line checking/energy unit. Most of his goals came by darting into traffic and battling for loose pucks near the crease.

Not that Drake contributed to the offense all that often, but 177 goals and 477 points in 1009 career games are very solid numbers. The Northern Michigan University star was drafted by Detroit by mostly split his 15 year NHL career with Winnipeg/Phoenix and St. Louis before returning to Michigan for one final season. What a final year it was, as it ended with Dallas Drake and the Detroit Red Wings hoisting the Stanley Cup!


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Rick Meagher

Rick Meagher was a very unheralded player for 15 pro seasons, 11 of which were in the NHL on a full time basis. In fact many people didn't even know who he was until the 1989-90 season when he won the Frank J. Selke trophy as the NHL's premier defensive forward.

Meagher was definitely a worthy of recipient of the award. He made a career of covering the NHL's superstars.

"He puts a blanket on them" said Blues general manager Ron Caron. "He's got the speed and the tenacity."

Meagher had speed to burn. In an era dominated by speed, Meagher was probably in the top 5% of the NHL's best skaters. Meagher also was a smart hockey player. He had good anticipation skills which helped him excel defensively. Meagher wasn't totally without offensive skills. He scored a career high 24 goals in 1981-82, and 144 goals in his career. Meagher wasn't an offensive wizard by any stretch, but he was so valuable as a penalty killer, faceoff man and defensive specialist he just never really had the opportunity to take an offensive role on the team.

What Meagher really lacked was size. He was only 5'8" 175lbs though some publications list him as high as 195lbs. Because of his size he wasn't an overly physical player but as Caron described him he was tenacious though he took very few penalties.

Rick Meagher was never drafted by an NHL team. He played for 4 years at Boston University, which at the time wasn't considered to be a high level of hockey, at least in comparison to today's NCAA. He was an all star every year at BU and was named to the NCAA championship all tournament team in 1977.

The Montreal Canadiens signed the speedster as a free agent in 1977 but he only played for the Habs in 2 games, spending the rest of the next 3 years in the minor leagues. Montreal sent him to the Hartford Whalers in a swap of draft picks deal prior to the 1981 Entry Draft. He split the 1980-81 season with the Whalers and their minor league team, but by 1981-82 he became a full time NHLer. Rick found himself on the move again after just 4 games in Hartford in the 1982-83 season. The Whalers traded him and Garry Howatt for Merlin Malinowski and Scott Fusco. Rick enjoyed almost 3 full seasons in the swamp lands of Jersey.

On August 29, 1985, Meagher was traded to St. Louis for tough guy Perry Anderson. It was in St. Louis where Meagher really found his niche as a penalty killer and defensive force. He was even named captain for the 1989-90 season.

Meagher retired in the 1990-91 season. He retired with 144 goals, 165 assists and 309 points in 691 games.


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