Charlie Simmer is still playing hockey, but his opening faceoffs are down to one a week and the overall competition is, shall we say, not quite ready for prime-time NHL.
“We’ve got guys in our 30s, and some, like me, in their 60s,” Simmer said this past week, reflecting on the pickup games he plays near his home outside Austin, Texas. “We have only one rule . . . no trying. If you’re really trying, then hey, we ask you to dumb it down a little.”
Simmer, 65, once was among the game’s most prolific left wingers, establishing his name and place in NHL history as a member of the Kings’ renowned Triple Crown Line with Marcel Dionne and Dave Taylor, and later enjoying considerable success in the mid-1980s with Bruins linemates Ken Linseman and Keith Crowder.
When David Pastrnak potted his 10th goal in only his ninth game of the new season, the comparable for hottest start out of the gate for a Bruin was not the likes of Rick Middleton or Cam Neely. It was Simmer, who struck for a 10-goal bounty in his first seven games in 1985-86, the season after general manager Harry Sinden acquired him from the Kings for a first-round draft pick.
Linseman drove the line as the center. Crowder was the corner man on the right side. The quick-handed Simmer, 6 feet 3 inches and 210 pounds, worked the front of the net, cashing in feeds and rebounds. The line finished with 225 points in 1985-86, its production curtailed some because Simmer missed nearly one-third of the season because of a broken jaw. He kids today that he’s not sure if he ever shot the puck more than 5 feet.
“I mean, if you look at the two things that were consistent between LA and Boston, it was the left winger,” again kidded Simmer. “You look at my career, I mean, I put Dionne in the Hall of Fame. I put [Ray] Bourque in the Hall of Fame. Then I went over to Pittsburgh and put in Mario [Lemieux], too. Ultimately, it all starts with the left wing.”
Truth is, said Simmer, a line’s success is driven by equal amounts attitude and talent. For a trio to click as they did during his days with the Kings and Bruins, it came down to linemates understanding their roles and often subordinating their own desire to be the guy who is credited for putting the puck in the net.
“Listen, we all wanted to be successful and score goals and have fun,” noted Simmer. “But it just seemed that the guy that was open was going to get the puck. And everybody had a role. In Boston, I wasn’t going to be a Kenny Linseman or a Keith Crowder. I had my assets . . . even if I’m still trying to figure out what they were.”
Lines engineered strictly on individual talent, the three most skilled forwards, continued Simmer, typically aren’t the most successful.
“You can have all the talent in the world,” he said, “but there is only one puck. And when all three guys want it at the same time, it’s not going to be successful. For me, there were certain areas on the ice I wasn’t allowed to touch the puck. I knew what my strong points were, and hopefully I would try to contribute that way. In LA, with Bob Berry [as coach], he’d tell me, ‘Don’t touch the puck in the defensive zone, that’s not your job.’ He was right. I would just give it away.”
Headed into weekend play, looking at Saturday night’s Cup Final rematch with the Blues, Boston’s trio of Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand, and Pastrnak stood as the hottest in hockey with a line of 17-22—39. Over 82 games, if they could maintain that pace, they would finish with 355 points, even more impressive than the 260 points they put up last season.
What makes the Bergeron-Marchand-Pastrnak pace more astounding is that the Triple Crown Line, which delivered in excess of 200 points for five straight seasons in LA, was at its best in 1979-80 and 1980-81, when Simmer and Co. put up totals of 328 and 352 points, respectively. Some 40 years later, the game is far more contested in all three zones (can you imagine a forward today told not to touch the puck in his defensive zone?). But even with scoring harder to come by, Boston’s Primo Trio has started out ahead of the Triple Crown crew.
“Try to play to your strength,” said Simmer. “If all three strengths work together, then it works.”
Simmer, after a long stay in Calgary, where he and his wife raised three children, moved to Texas 3-4 years ago to continue his work with Decca, a consulting company that specializes in oil and gas. Active in hockey broadcasting for more than 20 years, 12 of those with Canada-based Sportsnet, he and Dave Hunter, a teammate for Simmer’s final NHL season in Pittsburgh, worked together in the oil and gas field for years in Calgary.
When Decca bought out his company in Calgary, Simmer and his wife made the move south. Youngest daughter Brittany is now a junior at Concordia University in Austin.
“I couldn’t do what Marcel did, or Kenny Linseman did, or what Bobby Orr did, carry the puck from one end to the other,” said Simmer. “I understood, what I did was part of the success, but not the success.”
An array of injuries in Boston, including the fractured jaw and then a knee injury the next season, suppressed Simmer’s production. He remembers worrying that his injuries might lead teammates to call him “Crystal” because of perceived fragility. Overall, he enjoyed his time in the Hub, departing via waivers to the Penguins when the Bruins didn’t place him on their protected list ahead of the 1987-88 season when he was 33.
“Loved Boston and still have really good friends there,” he said. “Really enjoyed the opportunity to play on an Original Six team, and the Boston Garden was phenomenal. Everyone was telling me that it was going to be so much better for my game. They said I had lack of speed, for some reason I still don’t understand . . . and they keep saying that. They said I’d be better. But it was actually harder to play because faster people get to places quicker in a smaller area. So it was a challenge. But I loved the fans. I loved the community . . . a good part of my life and my career.”
Capitals’ Carlson piling up points
Bet against Natick-born John Carlson reaching 100 points at your own peril. Headed into the weekend, the Capitals’ hard-shooting defenseman led the league in points and assists with a 5-16—21 line over 12 games.
Not likely that he could keep up that kind of pace, which would deliver 35-109—144, but it’s equally true that Carlson’s production is no fluke.
The 2018 Cup winners like to push the pace and Carlson, who will be 30 in January, has finished the last two seasons with 68 and 70 points, respectively (both career bests). A lift to 100 would be hefty, but not impossible, particularly with such an outsized start (as of Friday morning, Nashville’s Ryan Ellis was second on the D-man scoring list with 12 points).
Like Bruce Cassidy here in Boston, Capitals coach Todd Reirden went into the season looking for more back-end production, shifting the offensive attack from low to high when opportunities arise, and thus far the 6-3, 215-pound Carlson has delivered beyond the desired secondary punch.
One wrinkle to the Capitals’ attack has Carlson, typically the lone point man on the No. 1 power play, switching spots on the fly with hard-shooting Alex Ovechkin in the left circle. Ovechkin slides back toward the blue line and is sometimes the guy who tosses the diagonal down for Carlson to launch, giving him a shorter and sharper-angled look at the net. The Boston equivalent would have Torey Krug drifting off the blue line and switching off with David Pastrnak as the one-time specialist at the left dot.
When offense started to become a dirty word in the early 1990s, the Rangers’ Brian Leetch posted 102 points in 1991-92. No defenseman since has reached the century mark.
If he can keep up the mojo, Carlson will become only the sixth NHL defenseman to reach 100 points, joining Bobby Orr (six times), Paul Coffey (5), as well as Al MacInnis, Denis Potvin, and Leetch (one season apiece.).
Orr, who also led the league in scoring twice (1969-70, 1974-75), is also the only defenseman to pile up 100 assists, in the 1970-71 season when he rolled up 37-102—139, his best marks for assists and points. Through 12 games, Carlson was on pace to finish ahead of Orr on both counts.
Over the summer, Reirden awarded Carlson with an “A” as an alternate captain, a role filled for years by Brooks Orpik. Ovechkin is the captain and fellow forward Nicklas Backstorm also has an “A.” Reirden had his eye on Carlson or T.J. Oshie for the other “A” and opted for Carlson, hoping that he could take over leadership of the backline. Now it looks like he owns it.
Seidenberg on to next chapter
Former Bruins defenseman Dennis Seidenberg was in Hershey, Pa., on Friday, not for an AHL rehab stint, but to watch 7-year-old son Breaker play in a weekend mite AAA tournament.
“Yep, defenseman,” said the proud dad. “And he loves it.”
The senior Seidenberg, a key member of the Bruins’ squad that won the Cup in 2011, announced his retirement from the NHL this past week at age 38. After 15 seasons and 859 regular-season games, he figured he probably had enough left in the tank to return to his native Germany to play another year or two, but ultimately had mind overrule his heart.
A tough decision to make?
“Yes and no,” said Seidenberg. “When you listen to your body, there’s aches and pains. So, yeah, I probably could have gone to Germany, but probably be achy every day, just going on the ice. Especially my shoulders and wrists are pretty achy. But on the other hand, you look at the next chapter and you get to spend more time with family, your kids, and you haven’t been able to do as much — so I think it was the right decision.”
Seidenberg signed a four-year, $16 million deal with the Bruins, his last big contract, in October 2013, only to see the Bruins buy it out after two seasons. He subsequently signed a couple of one-year deals with the Islanders, but didn’t play at all last season. Word of his retirement came Thursday.
For now, Seidenberg, wife Rebecca, and their three kids plan to stay on Long Island. Rebecca owns and operates a clothing store, Off Seids Clothing, near Manhasset, and the kids are all in schools and immersed in their off-ice interests.
“We like it. The kids like it. The schools are good,” said Seidenberg. “That being said, my wife especially, she was in Boston for the weekend and she kept calling me, crying, that she missed Boston so much and how much she loved it there and how much it still feels like home. But for now we’ll be on Long Island.”
Rebecca was in the Hub to attend Massachusetts General Hospital’s Storybook Ball. When Dennis played in Boston (2009-16), Rebecca was on the ball’s board, and all chair members recently were asked back for the 20th anniversary. The annual formal helps support pediatric care at the hospital.
“I love it in Boston,” he said. “It’s where everything came together. I had the most success personally and as a team there. And two of my kids were born there. A lot happened for us there. We really enjoyed our time. Maybe someday it could be home again for us.”
Other than fulfilling dad duties, Seidenberg isn’t certain if hockey will remain part of his post-career agenda. If he stays in the game, he thinks a role in player development would appeal to him most. For now, he’s still in Islanders camp, leading injured players through skating workouts.
“An amazing year, the guys were great,” said Seidenberg, thinking back on the 2010-11 Cup season with the Black and Gold. “Definitely the highlight of my career.”
Ex-Bruins forward Daniel Paille, another member of the 2011 Cup-winning team, hitched on recently as a volunteer assistant coach with Canisius College in Buffalo. Paille, 35, took his last twirls in 2017-18 with Brynas IF in Galve, about 100 miles north of Stockholm. Lots of work to do with the Griffs. They suffered back-to-back shellackings (5-0, 8-1) at North Dakota to start the season and were drubbed again, 7-2, last weekend at RPI. Paille grew up across the New York border in Welland, Ontario, and was chosen 20th overall in the 2002 draft by the Sabres, who took Keith Ballard at No. 11 that same year . . . The first-round pick in 1985 the Bruins yielded for Charlie Simmer became No. 10, which the Kings used to claim Oshawa center Dan Gratton. He played seven games for the Kings in 1987-88 and never appeared again in the NHL. Among the players selected later in that draft: Cornell’s Joe Nieuwendyk (No. 27, Calgary) . . . The Bruins will be at Madison Square Garden Sunday night to face the Rangers. Can’t agree more with Larry Brooks, the New York Post’s longtime puck chronicler, who wrote this past week that this would be the perfect time for the Blueshirts to announce that they’ll put Brad Park’s No. 2 in the rafters (shared there with Brian Leetch). Park’s knees were compromised when he arrived in Boston in trade with Jean Ratelle (part of the Phil Esposito swap), so we didn’t see him at his peak. He misses due credit, in part, because much of his career was overshadowed by Bobby Orr. Park finished runner-up in Norris Trophy balloting four times, each of them to Orr, during his run on Broadway. Meanwhile, Brooks, when noting that NHL.com has Park wearing his No. 22 Bruins sweater, characterized it as “a throw-up-in-the-mouth-worthy image if there ever was one.” . . . Sad to learn this past week that ever-classy Dale Hawerchuk, 56, recently was diagnosed with stomach cancer. “For some reason, the Lord put me in this kind of fight, and I’m ready to fight it,” Hawerchuk said in an interview with TSN.com. “I want to live to tell the story.” The No. 1 pick by Winnipeg in the 1981 draft (the same year Bobby Carpenter went No. 3 to Washington), Hawerchuk scored 103 points as a Jets rookie and broke 100 in five of his next six seasons. He also had a grand second run in Buffalo, by then in a supporting role during the Alexander Mogilny-Pat LaFontaine-Pierre Turgeon era . . . That text on Simmer’s phone the night of June 12? His pal Dave Taylor, sending along a picture of himself, drinking out of the Cup after the Blues won it on Causeway Street. An ex-Bruin, Simmer had his money on the Black and Gold, but he was pleased to see his old linemate, the Blues’ assistant GM, savoring the moment. “I cheer for guys that I know, guys who are still in the business,” said Simmer. “And it’s fun to see guys be successful. After all of Dave’s years, if I couldn’t drink from it, he’d be the best guy that I’d want to see do that.”
Yes, hard to believe, but Ray Bourque never collected 100 points in a season. But he did finish four times in the 90s, and scored more points (1,579) than any defenseman in NHL history.
Kevin Paul Dupont can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeKPD. Material from interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.