Tuesday, June 5, 2012

There's more than one Devil worth pursuing this off-season

He stood 6'4", weighed in at  225 lbs.

He was the 20th overall selection in the 1971 NHL draft and was passed over three times by the team that drafted him--Montreal.

Larry "Big Bird" Robinson
was a force on the blueline
for the 70's Canadians dynasty.
Larry Robinson patrolled the blueline for the Canadians for 17 seasons. He was a part of six Stanley Cup Championships for Montreal, has a Conn Smythe Trophy to his resume', and won the Norris Trophy twice.

The big, strong blueliner was surprisingly mobile and could put up points. In Game 2 of the 1973 playoffs, the rookie defenseman with all of 36 games under his belt launched a slapshot from the blueline in OT to beat Philadelphia and even the second round series at one game apiece. The Canadians beat the Flyers and then Chicago to take home the Stanley Cup that season.

According to habseyesontheprize, it was after that OT game-winner that Robinson got his nickname, "Big Bird." Unaccustomed to scoring big goals, Robinson's flapping-arms celebration made him look like the Sesame Street character.

Robinson had said he was not thrilled with the nickname, maybe that's why he went after legendary Flyers' tough-guy, Dave Schultz in a donnybrook between the teams. Not really, he was merely defending a teammate who was an unwilling partner for Schultz.

Yeah, hockey fans know of the Hall of Famer, so why would one put this Habs legend on a Sabres blog?

The New Jersey Devils, being down 3-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals, look to be toast and the off-season is drawing near.

All eyes are on Devils unrestricted free agent Zach Parise who will be highly coveted come July 1, if New Jersey can't re-sign him.

That's fine, but when you look at the Sabres and what they have on the back-end, namely 6'8" Tyler Myers and upcoming 6'5" Brayden McNabb, it might not be a bad idea to entertain the idea of courting Robinson, who is presently an assistant coach with the Devils, for a position on the Sabres coaching staff.

In addition to his six Stanley Cups as a player, Robinson has three more as a coach for the Devils--two as an assistant (1995, 2003) and one as their head coach in 2000.

So where would he fit in with the Sabres coaching staff presently locked in?

Assistant coach James Patrick has been doing a fine job working with the defense. But a case could be made that certain defenseman have had their growth stunted, or they've leveled off before they've reached their potential.

Tyler Myers joined the Sabres one year after he was drafted and proceeded to win the Calder Trophy in the 2009-10 season. Since then his numbers have dropped and he struggled for half-seasons the following two years.

A fluid skater with a nice set of hands, Myers also had an edge to him as shown in the 2011 playoff series versus the Flyers. But that edge seems to have evaporated. His confidence level fluctuates as well leaving him looking like a rookie during many games--too many games for a defenseman who has the potential to be in the Norris Trophy mix.

Methinks that Larry Robinson, a player with similar attributes could help his game immensely.

Robinson could also have a positive effect upon rookie Brayden McNabb, as well as every other defenseman in the system.

Where talking nine Stanley Cup Championships. Nine rings that range from the "Flying Frenchman" of the mid-late 70's Canadians to the Devils trap teams of the mid-90's/early 2000's.

Logistics would dictate a difficult path to landing the Hall of Famer, and it is more of a dream scenario for the Sabres than anything else. But with Terry Pegula in place as owner, nothing is outside the realm of possibility.

Back in 2009 after being out of coaching for a couple of years, there was speculation that Robinson was in line to take over the Canadians head coaching spot, a rumor he dismissed.

When asked if he was interested in a coaching position, the Devils special assignment coach said, "I wouldn't say I'm itching, but you know what? When you're in hockey this long, I don't think you ever lose the itch. But I don't know if I'd want to get back into head coaching or not. Maybe assistant coaching. Who knows?"

Sure enough, he was back as an assistant with the Devils.

With the future of the Devils somewhat murky
in New Jersey, what will be in Robinson's
gaze for next season?
With the Devils on the verge of being swept in the Finals, an aging Martin Brodeur ever so close to retirement, the organization struggling financially and a big, expensive decision to be made with one of their best players in Parise, there's probably some uneasiness in New Jersey.

Maybe the Sabres can get lucky and catch Robinson in a position where he feels a change might be good for him.

Who knows, but it's certainly something that could and should be looked into as this present coaching staff seems to on shaky ground after missing the playoffs last season, the third time in five seasons.

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