Tag Archives: Doug Wilson

THE SAGA OF STEVE BERNIER: PART ONE

by Ron Spence

Doesn’t this remind you of #44 – in his prime?

“[He] carries the puck down the right side of the ice and is challenged along the boards by Blues defenseman Christian Backman [#55]. [He] holds him off with his left arm, and turns in hard towards the goal. He controls the puck with the stick in his right hand.

At the top of the crease, Backman twists [him] hard at the last minute, so his back faces the goaltender. [He] stays on his feet, but instead of coming to a stop, he keeps his momentum moving. Still maintaining possession of the puck with one hand, [he] completes the 360 spin to the left and shovels the puck towards a foot of open space between Reinhard Divis’s leg pad and the goal post. The puck banked off the post into the back of Divis’s skate and ricocheted into the net.”

The following comment doesn’t remind me of #44 – at any time.

“I didn’t see video … kind of don’t want to because I don’t think it is very important. That is in the past. Now I am going to think about the next game. I am going to try to be ready and to forget about this.”

Both the goal and the comments came from Vancouver’s newest power forward, Steve Bernier.

His goal on March 25, 2006, was the rookie’s second of the night (San Jose would win the game 6-0.)

The video that Bernier refers to was – an elbow to his head, from behind, into the boards. It came from Nashville’s Alexander Radulov, who received a one game suspension.

This was during Game 2, of Round One of the 2007 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and Bernier lay on the ice motionless – for three minutes – before being helped off by Joe Thornton and Marcel Goc.

“I took some X-rays in Nashville, but I feel fine,” Bernier explained. “If it is not dangerous to play, I am going to play for sure … I remember getting hit, I had no idea who it was. After that I missed a couple of things while I was on the ice. But I recovered my memory very fast. I don’t think it was a very, very big injury, but it was just to make sure I was fine. You don’t want to take any chances.”

Nashville - April 13, 2007

Nashville - April 13, 2007 - courtesy of Getty Images

The Wildcats weren’t taking any chances when they took Bernier first overall in the Midget Draft (He had played with Ste-Foy, which won the Air Canada Cup in Midget AAA.). He was later named to the QMJHL Rookie All-Star team, and was twice voted to the Second All-Star squad.

In his first two Moncton seasons, he scored 31 goals, along with 28 assists (but was -20) in 2001-02, and 49 goals with 52 assists (and +33) during the 2002-03 campaign.

Bernier was eligible for the NHL draft in 2003, which was one of the best draft years, ever.

“That ’03 draft is like none other,” said Rick Dudley. “You look at the draft and it’s more about who didn’t make it then who will. And some of those kids are still probably going to have a chance to make it.”

As well as having scored 49 goals, Bernier was ranked very high for his general play.

‘[Steve Bernier] has a strong hockey sense,” wrote Phil Coffey of NHL.com, “is almost impossible to knock off the puck and is tenacious in the corners.”

There was a negative, however. His conditioning was soft.

Still, San Jose was interested.

With Zack Parise, Ryan Getzlaf, and Steve Bernier still available for the 16th choice, the Bruins traded down to # 21 [Mark Stuart], and were given: a second round choice – # 66 [Masi Marjamaki] – and a fourth round choice – # 107 [Byron Bitz] – by San Jose.

What many teams hadn’t realized, was that Bernier – now concerned about his weight – had lost 10 pounds between the time of the pre-draft testing, and the draft.

The following 2003-04 season, his goal scoring fell off – 36 goals along with 46 assists (and +39).

He explained why to Eric Forest of Hockey’s Future:

“I know that my physical condition could have been better last year, but I’ve learned about it, and I can’t wait for the next training camp where I will be able to silence them once and for all … They told me to work on my skating, something I’m doing day in and day out. When I went to San Jose for training camp, I saw how it was up there and I promised to myself to train even harder this summer, especially on my feet, to be able to make it. I’m really excited for the future … If you look at it in terms of production, it wasn’t that great [2002-04], but I do think I improved my defensive game a lot … Like I said, I think I play a better defensive game and I improved my acceleration to gain my speed.”

Forest assessed Bernier’s play that season:

“He possesses a great pair of hands and an offensive flair. He likes driving to the net and fighting in the corners against tougher opponents. He’s gradually learning to develop his defensive game and ended the season at +39 … However, some people could tell you that his production was lower than what was expected from him this year, scoring 36 goals and 46 assists for 82 points. Nonetheless, he only played in 66 games this year … In perspective, Bernier didn’t match up last year numbers (101 points) but definitely improved in other important areas of the game.”

Bernier started the 2004-05 campaign – his fourth year of Major Junior – somewhat frustrated. He was ready to play in the American League, but it was full of NHL rookies – because of the lockout – so there wasn’t any room for the up-and-coming juniors.

Still, he played well – 35 goals, with 36 assists, but only +18.

Bernier also picked up a Player of the Week honour in November, from the Canadian Major Junior Hockey League.

That summer, Sharks GM Doug Wilson talked to NHL.com about Bernier’s progress:

“We are very pleased with his progress. He became a leader on that team and he had a really good playoffs. He’s a big, powerful kid who really worked on his strength and fitness. He loves to play the game and can play any way you want to play. He had 35 goals and 114 penalty minutes while finishing as a plus player.

“We want players that just really love to play the game. I like the work he did in the summer. He showed he wanted to be a good hockey player. The fitness problem was way back when he was drafted and it’s not an issue in any way. He did not know how to train. Since we got our hands on him, he has changed his body and we are really proud of him in that area.

“He has great hands and is defensively aware. He’s not a one-dimensional player. When you look at a guy go from juniors to the pros and work on areas that are his weaknesses, you really like that.”

courtesy of: http://www.moncton-wildcats: com

The 2005-06 season, Bernier went to San Jose’s American Hockey League team, the Cleveland Barons.

He started off gangbusters, and was nominated for the AHL rookie of the Month for October – won by Portland Pirates’ center Ryan Shannon.

Doug Wilson announced that Benier would be joining the Sharks on November 4:

“Appearing in nine games this season,” the press release stated, “Bernier leads the Barons in goals (4), assists (6), points (6-4-10), game-winning goals (2), and shooting percentage (26.7). His seven-game point streak from Oct. 8 – Oct. 27 is tied for the fourth longest point streak in the AHL this season. In addition, he is tied for fifth among all rookies in points.”

Bernier collected his first NHL goal on Nov. 12, against Dallas. In five games, he posted one goal, and was even, before returning to Cleveland.

He later talked to David Pollak, of the San Jose Mercury, about his November callup.

“I think the most important thing was confidence. It’s tough to play good if you don’t have confidence. But I also had to improve my skating, my quickness….”

Bernier continued to motor, and by late January, had 43 points in 49 AHL games.

He was back in the Big Tent again, but it took him 12 games to regain his scoring touch.

Bernier started clicking on March 7. He scored 13 goals, with 21 points, in the season’s final 23 games, as San Jose went 16-4-3.

By this time, he was playing with Patrick Marleau and Milan Michalek – a line which became a force during the post-season.

In the last 4 games of the Nashville series, Marleau scored 7 goals, Bernier notched a goal, and 2 assists, and Michalek scored a goal and an assist.

Bernier’s goal was the game winner on April 26th – on the power play.

When asked about it, he replied: “We won the game, and that’s the most important thing for me … Most of the time, the puck never comes to you around the net like that. It was a good opportunity for me.”

Bernier finished the playoffs with 1 goal and 5 assists, in 11 post-season games. San Jose’s second line had been playing very well, until Michalek was injured, and the Oilers had taken over.

Nashville’s colour man, and former NHL player and coach, Terry Crisp talked about San Jose’s coming of age:

“Everybody’s been waiting for Marleau to come out of his cocoon. Well suddenly Patrick Marleau came out of his cocoon … The youngster Bernier suddenly came out of nowhere and was flying around … All names you didn’t hear of – they’re not household names – they suddenly stepped up their game immensely.”

The season over, Steve Bernier talked to David Pollak:

“My goal was to come play in San Jose this year. If that would be on the fourth line, it would be on the fourth line. If that would be on the first line, it would be the first line. If I was in the stands – for just in case something happened, an injury – I’d be here for sure.”

Steve Bernier would be back in San Jose for most of the following season. And he would spend some time in the stands, and some time in Ron Wilson’s doghouse.

_____________________________________________________

Play-by-play of the spectacular Bernier goal courtesy of: PJ Swenson from Sharkspage.

HOCKEY SALARIES: 1987 1988 1989 1990

by Ron Spence

When Bob Goodenough took over the NHLPA in February, 1990, he introduced salary disclosure. It’s something that’s taken for granted today.

How important was it?

Wayne Greztky’s father, Walter admitted to Terry Jones: “I knew Wayne was getting traded days before he did because Nelson Skalbania phoned me and asked, ‘How much does Wayne make?’

I said ‘Why?’

He said ‘Because Peter’s shopping him to the highest bidder.’

I said ‘No he’s not.’

He said ‘Yes he is.’

That was during the 1988 Stanley Cup finals – a year and a half before salary disclosure.

Of course Pocklington knew how much his star was making, as did Wayne and his father, but it wasn’t public knowledge like it is today.

Hockey Zone Plus has compiled a comprehensive database of some 2500 players who’ve played in the NHL from 1989 until the present.

Also, a hockey fan, who calls himself Ogopogo, has located copies of Sport magazine, which ceased publishing in 2000. In his issues were the: 1987, 1990, and 1991 NHL salaries.

I have included the Hockey Zone’s 1990 salaries, along with those listed by Sport.

I would note, however, that the two lists for 1990 aren’t always the same – some are calculated in American funds, some Canadian. But, I am including both, as they provide a good idea of NHL salaries at that time.

I would ask the reader to also note, that the years from 1987 until 1990, was the time in which Offer Sheets were first being presented.


SPORT – June, 1987

1. Wayne Gretzky – Oilers – $950,000 CDN – (converted to $717,250 USD)
2. Marcel Dionne – Rangers – $700,000
3. Mike Bossy – Islanders – $650,000
4. Bryan Trottier – Islanders – $625,000
5. Dave Taylor – Kings – $600,000
6. Mario Lemieux – Penguins – $550,000
5. Denis Potvin – Islanders – $550,000
8. Mike Liut – Whalers – $450,000
9. Rod Langway – Capitals – $400,000
10. Barry Pederson – Canucks – $350,000

SPORT – June, 1989

1. Gretzky – Kings – $2 million
2. Lemieux – Penguins – $1.5 million
3. Trottier – Islanders – $950,000
4. Taylor – Kings – $700,000
5. Dionne – Rangers – $600,000
6. Liut – Whalers – $550,000
7. Goulet – Nordiques – $510,000
8. Messier – Oilers – $510,000
9. Savard – Blackhawks – $500,000
10. Coffey – Penguins – $485,000
11. Duguay – Kings – $475,000
12. Hawerchuk – Jets – $467,500
13. Stastny – Nordiques – $446,250
14. Carpenter – Bruins – $425,000
15. LaFontaine – Islanders – $425,000
16. Gustafsson – Capitals – $410,000
17. Stevens -Capitals – $400,000
18. Pederson – Canucks – $400,000
19. Bourque – Bruins – $380,000
20. Fuhr – Oilers – $340,000
20. Robinson – Canadiens – $340,000

SPORT – June, 1990

1. Gretzky – Kings – $2.72 milion
2. Lemieux – Penguins – $2.15 million
3. Chelios – Canadiens – $1 million
4. Trottier – Islanders – $975,000
5. Taylor – Kings – $950,000
6. Bourque – Bruins – $925,000
7. Messier – Oilers – $875,000
8. Nicholls – Rangers – $725,000
9. Yzerman – Red Wings – $700,000
10. Goulet – Nordiques/Blackhawks – $600,000
11. Carson – Oilers – $585,000
12. Robinson – Kings – 550,000
13. Savard – Blackhawks – $525,000
14. Dineen – Whalers – $510,000
15. Wilson – Blackhawks – $500,000
16. Hextall – Flyers – $500,000
17. Kerr – Flyers – $500,000
18. Coffey – Penguins – $485,000
19. Stastny – Nordiques – $480,000
20. Hawerchuk – Jets – $462,000

HOCKEY ZONE PLUS – 1989-90 (U.S. Dollars)

1. Lemieux – Penguins – $2,000,000

2. Gretzky – Kings – $1,720,000

3. Messier – Oilers – $855,271

4. Yzerman – Red Wings – $700,000

5. Trottier – Islanders – $ 575,000

6. Robinson – Kings – $550,000

7. Savard – Blackhawks – $525,000

8. Goulet – Nordiques/Blackhawks – $517,980

9. Bourque – Bruins – $500,000

10. Hextall – Flyers – $500,000

11. Wilson – Blackhawks – $500,000

12. Taylor – Kings- $500,000

13. Kerr – Flyers – $500,000

14. Chelios – Canadiens – $496,398

15. Coffey – Penguins – $450,000

16. Liut – Capitals – $445,000

17. Salming – Maple Leafs – $435,000

18. Kurri – Oilers – $431,650

19. Howe – Flyers – $425,000

20. Stastny – Nordiques – $414,384

21. MacInnis – Flames – $410,068

22. Sandstrom – Kings – $410,000

23. LaFontaine – Islanders – $400,000

24. Nicholls – Rangers – $400,000

25. Gartner – Capitals – $400,000

25. Carson – Oilers – $400,000

VANCOUVER’S ROB DAVISON: GRIT AND CHARACTER

by Ron Spence

Vancouver’s GM, Mike Gillis had been anointed for about five minutes when he stated:

“…I’d like to see grit, character….”

He then addressed his team’s needs on a couple of fronts. One was the acquisition of unrestricted free agent Dman Rob Davison.

The 6’3″, 220 pounder had been San Jose’s fourth round pick (98th overall), in the 1998 draft, and had played for both the Sharks and Islanders last season.

Sportsnet.ca says: “[Davison] Is a mountain of a man … Could be a major asset for any NHL club if used judiciously.

Flaws: …Is extremely limited in terms of his offensive capability. Can’t log big minutes.

Career potential: Utility enforcer.”

These comments are reflected in his stats: In 195 NHL games, Davison has recorded three goals, thirteen assists and 270 penalty minutes.

Mike Gillis knows what he’s getting. Up until this season, he’d been Davison’s player agent.

“He’s a tough, physical defenseman,” Gillis said. “When you play tough teams in the West you need players that can meet that challenge, and Rob is clearly one of those guys.”

The San Jose fans appreciated him as well. When Davison was traded to the Islanders, one of the Sharks’ more intelligent bloggers wrote: “Davison might not have been terribly flashy, but he was dependable and inexpensive.”

Ironically, it was when San Jose added some additional grit, that Davison’s days, in the Bay Area, became numbered.

With an injury to Ryan Clowe, the Sharks acquired heavyweight Jody Shelly from Columbus last January.

“Has mammoth size and is a feared pugilist,” wrote sportsnet.ca, “Loves the physical going in the trenches and is very popular with his teammates.”

Then, after expanding their grit, the Sharks brought in star defenseman Brian Campbell from the Sabres. He would be paired with Craig Rivet, and next on the depth chart, were Christian Ehrhoff, Matthew Carle, and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.

This left Davison and Doug Murray vying for the sixth spot, and the 6’3”, 240 pound Murray had been playing more. He had also been taking on an enforcers’ role, ending the season with eleven fighting majors.

“[Murray] Is an awesome physical specimen,” sportsnet states, “and loves to dish out bone-crunching hits. Can play an effective stay-at-home role.”

So Davison, having appeared in only 15 games for the Sharks, was traded at the deadline, to the depleted Islanders, where he would play in 19 contests.

Beside their number crunch, San Jose was also trying to help out their loyal Dman.

Sharks’ GM, Doug Wilson, a former defenseman himself, had been talking – off and on – with Davison about helping him jump-start his career with a change of scenery.

In return, the Sharks would acquire a seventh round pick, partly because Davison was becoming an Unrestricted Free Agent at the end of the season.

Davison’s new GM in Vancouver is equally supportive.

“I know him quite well,” Gillis said. “He needs an opportunity. He’s a tough, physical defenseman, who I have targeted for some period of time.”

“I think our guys need support [down low],” the GM continued, “and when you play against tough teams in the Western Conference, you need to meet those challenges.”

Davison has, in effect replaced Aaron Miller, who was making $1.5 million per season, compared with Davison’s $560,000 salary.

Miller was strong, but not tough or mean. He hadn’t had a fight in two seasons, and the year before that, only tangled with Anaheim’s Rob Niedermayer.

Sportsnet adds that Davison, “displays a big-time mean streak.”

So, Canucks’ fans can expect some major battles down low, especially against Calgary.

“[Calgary] are known for, grinding it out…,” Davison says. “That toughness, or that physical factor….”

In particular, Davison has a thing for Dion Phaneuf, whom he criticizes for hitting from behind.

“If he hit someone face-to-face,” Davison said, “I wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

Davison won’t be the go to guy, in the fisticuffs department, but a backup. Darcy Hordichuk will take on that role. Although not a top fighter himself, Davison has battled many of the big boys, and is highly respected.

Davison fights when he has to.

He describes what led up to his tilt with heavyweight George Parros: “The intensity of the game … When we get pushed as a team, we have to push back sometimes. That is all there is to it. Parros is a big boy, in that situation all you can try to do is get in close.”

So, Davison is exactly what his new boss is looking for.

Gillis also knows that Davison will fill the “character” role as well.

His character is reflected in his work ethic.

‘…he was a popular guy in the room and worked his tail off,” the San Jose Mercury’s David Pollak wrote.

“Davison is a great team guy who works hard everyday, and is popular in the room,” Sharks’ broadcaster Jamie Baker added.

Davison’s work ethic starts in the off season.

At the end of the 2007-08 pre-season, Davison reviewed his summer: “I tried to address some of the issues, maybe some of my faults from last season. I’ve tried to improve.”

Part of Davison’s character is shown by the fact that he chooses to represent his teammates. He was San Jose’s Player Representative, before being traded.

But, there is also another component of Gillis’ masterplan plan, which Davison can help to fill.

Bringing him in, as potentially a sixth man, means that the Canucks can shop one of their existing top Dmen, for a good forward, should Vancouver not land Mats Sundin.

And, with Davison’s cheap salary, they can afford a more expensive player, or two up front.

Gillis also mentioned that he is looking for “speed,” during his inaugural press conference.

Davison’s scouting report notes that he: “Needs work on his skating, especially the quick pivot.”

So, Davison won’t be bringing any speed to his new team.

But, he does have a quick sense of humour.

When Davison found out that he had been traded to the Islanders, he came into the Sharks’ dressing room and told the media that “he and coach Ron Wilson had ‘exchanged words and threw pucks and sticks at each other out on the ice before he was told to leave.’”

This of course, couldn’t have been further from the truth. The management, team and media were all happy that Davison was getting a second chance.