Monday, May 21, 2012

Coaches Corner

While researching an obituary on Jerry Toppazzini, I came across an interesting coaches poll conducted late in the 1957-58 season.

Appearing in the Toronto Daily Star (March 1958), it provides wonderful insight into the state of the game, and identifies players who were performing at the top of their game.

The coaches involved were Milt Schmidt (Boston), Rudy Pilous (Chicago), Phil Watson (New York), Sid Abel (Detroit), Billy Reay (Toronto) and Toe Blake (Montreal).

As mentioned in the Toppazzini obit, he was selected as the top penalty killer. Listed below are the other choices made by the bench bosses for the '57-'58 campaign.

Best and fastest skater - Henri Richard, Montreal

Smartest player - Gordie Howe, Detroit

Best passer and playmaker, Gordie Howe, Detroit

Hardest shot - Boom Boom Geoffrion, Montreal

Most accurate shot - Maurice Richard

Best stickhandler - Larry Regan, Boston

Best man on breakaway - Maurice Richard, Montreal

Best puck carrier - Gordie Howe, Detroit

Best referee - Eddie Powers

Best fighter - Fern Flaman, Boston

Best defensive forward, checker - Red Sullivan, New York

Best hustler, hardest worker - Red Sullivan, New York

Hardest bodychecker - Leo Boivin, Boston

Most underrated - Tom Johnson, Montreal

Most improved - Forbes Kennedy, Detroit

Best goalie on screened shots - Terry Sawchuk, Detroit

Best goalie, man against man - Terry Sawchuk, Detroit

Best defensive defenceman - Doug Harvey, Montreal

Best attacking defenceman, Bill Gadsby, New York

Nine of the above players played in the Stanley Cup final, which featured Montreal and Boston.

Montreal, who were in the midst of winning five consecutive Cups (1955-56 to 1959-60), captured their third straight prize on April 20, 1958. Montreal's 5 to 3 win in Boston Garden gave them a four games to two Cup victory.

The coaches poll providing a nice snapshot on the skills of those players who helped their clubs make it to the final.

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