Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Moe Mantha

During most of the 1980s Moe Mantha was a serviceable offensive defenseman, although he was always a notch or two away from achieving elite status.

Mantha, who was Winnipeg's second choice (23rd overall) of the 1980 Entry Draft, didn't really feel comfortable in the NHL until the 1983-84 season when he exploded for 16 goals, 38 assists and 54 points. Despite the great improvement, Mantha was shipped to Pittsburgh at season's end to complete a deal for Randy Carlyle, who was one of the top defensemen in the league at that time.

Mantha enjoyed 3 really good seasons in Pittsburgh. His first year saw him score 11 times and 40 helpers. In 1985-86 he enjoyed his best statistical year, scoring 15 goals and 67 points. A fractured wrist and a thigh injury shortened his 1986-87 season to just 62 games, in which he scored 9 goals and 40 points.

Despite Mantha's contributions, he wasn't the typical offensive defenseman that teams coveted. Paul Coffey was the prototypical scoring rearguard at the time - able to rush the puck from end to end with blazing speed and perfect passes. Mantha was an above average skater and a good puckhandler but was more of a breakout player. He'd pass the puck out of his zone rather than lug it up ice. Mantha was a decent pointman on the powerplay, but was never a true "quarterback." He read plays very well and liked to jump into the slot for scoring chances. On weaker teams he'd be a good PP player, but ideally he was best suited as the second man on the point. Defensively Mantha was only average. Despite his size, he was not a physical player and he lacked intensity on a consistent basis.

When Paul Coffey became entangled in a contract dispute with the Oilers, the Pens became the most interested team in his services. Part way through the 1987-88 season they got their man but at a steep price - Craig Simpson, Dave Hannan, Chris Joseph and Mantha in exchange for Coffey, Dave Hunter and Wayne Van Dorp.

However Mantha never fit in in Edmonton. Perhaps it was the pressure of having to "replace" Coffey, or maybe he just wasn't suited for the Oilers style of play. Mantha was very ineffective in just 25 games with Gretzky and Co., collecting just 6 assists. The Oilers moved him to Minnesota in exchange for veteran speedster Keith Acton before the end of the year.

Mantha was never quite the same from that point on. Maybe it was partly due to having to live with the stigma of being traded for Paul Coffey, although he battled some injuries along the way too. He bounced from Philadelphia to Winnipeg to the 1992 US Olympic Team and briefly back to Philly before ending his playing career in 1993.

Mantha has since turned to coaching in his post playing days.

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Thursday, August 22, 2013

Danton Cole

The Winnipeg Jets drafted Danton in 1985 with their 6th choice, 123rd overall. At the time Cole had just graduated high school and was headed to play university hockey, so the Jets knew it would be a while before he would ever crack a professional lineup. Cole played admirably for the Michigan State Spartans for 4 years (1985-89). He scored 69 goals and 163 points in 180 games. He was the team's scoring leader in both his junior and senior years.

Attending university can be either good or bad as far as pursuing NHL opportunities later on. While the player has more time to develop his skills and mature as both a hockey player and a person, you also turn pro relatively late, often at the age of 23 or 24. At that age you don't have a whole lot of time to prove you can play at the NHL level before you get labeled.

Perhaps that is exactly what happened to Danton. After learning the pro game with a solid rookie season in the AHL, Cole played parts of 2 seasons with the Jets. For the most part Cole was used as a 4th line checker despite his background as a goal scorer. Cole became labeled as an expendable winger.

The Jets dumped Cole on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the summer of 1992. It was a good move for Danton as he had the opportunity to play with the expansion franchise. He responded reasonably well, even recording a 20 goal season in 1993-94.

Cole became somewhat of a hockey ping-pong ball after that season. Traded in the next season to New Jersey, he became a spare part there to finish the season. He signed as a free agent with the New york Islanders in 1995 but spent most of his time in the minors before being traded to Chicago, where he also spent of his time in the minors. He only played 10 games for NY, and 2 for Chicago.

The minors became Cole's permanent home after his 2 game sniff in the Windy City. He also spent part of a season in Germany.

A good skater, Cole is a good example of how a scoring prospect doesn't always translate in the NHL. A good scorer in college, he had trouble performing where the pace was quicker, the hits were harder and the play was just better. While he played in excess of 300 games, he was pretty much an expendable 3rd or 4th line winger who benefited from 1990s expansion.

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Sunday, January 20, 2013

Ron Loustel

This is Ron Loustel. He played only one game in the NHL, and as a result of that one game he holds an unkind distinction in NHL history.

Loustel made 41 saves in his only NHL game. Unfortunately the Vancouver Canucks took 51 shots that night. Yep. The Canucks defeated the Winnipeg Jets 10-2 on March 27th, 1981.

As a result Loustel, who 20 days earlier had just turned 19, holds the record for the highest goals against average of all time among goalies who played only one full game! That's right - he never played in the NHL again.

Loustel was just a junior fill in from Saskatoon. He returned to the Blades for 2 seasons and played with the Brandon Wheat Kings for another season after that. He would only go on to play two more professional games ever before hanging up the pads for good.

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Don Spring

At first glance you'd have to think defensive defenseman Don Spring had at least one NHL scoring record - highest scoring player born in Venezuela. His birthplace certainly stands out first and foremost, but Rick Chartraw was also born in the South American country. Chartraw would play significantly more games and that allowed him to pick up more points.

Spring was born in Venezuela because his Canadian father was working there as an engineer. When Don was four years old the family returned to northern Alberta. He was the star athlete - on the ice as well as the volleyball court and swimming pool - in the small town of Edson.

Spring was never on the NHL radar until 1980. He had been playing with the University of Alberta Golden Bears while earning a bachelor of commerce degree. But he left school in 1979 to try out with Father Bauer's Canadian national team. Spring was drawn to the program by Bauer and by the fact that it was an Olympic season.

The steady defender ended up making the Canadian Olympic team that competed at Lake Placid in 1980. He only picked up an assist, but he also picked up the interest of the Winnipeg Jets. The Jets would sign Spring to a free agent contract right after the Olympics.

Spring would play four solid seasons in Winnipeg, scoring just 1 goal and 55 points in a career that lasted 259 NHL games. He would also play a season of professional hockey in Germany before hanging up the blades in 1985.

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