Kukla's Korner

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In Defense of Jeremy Roenick

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Well, I’ve clearly been noticing the amount of heat JR has been getting lately, after this week’s earlier announcement that he would be included as a “Legend” in NHL 12. “Outraged” would be the best term to describe most fan’s reactions to this announcement. I will admit, that I too was a bit surprised at this news, considering I put a lot of time and thought into my own short list of candidates who I felt would be worthy of such an honor. Of that list of mine, 7 of the 9 players I named ended up finding their way onto the NHL 12 Legends list. The two exceptions were Roenick and Salming.

As I said before, many fans were and continue to be outraged at the inclusion of Roenick on this list of Legends. As opposed to other, seemingly obviously choices… names such as Orr, Messier, and Beliveau, among many others. However, as I’ve been saying this whole time, I’m fairly confident that EA Canada - who makes NHL 12, was aware of such things, as they are all passionate hockey fans themselves. For whatever reason, be it money or time, or both. We will likely never know for sure why they weren’t able to include some of those “no-brainer” names on the list this year. That aside,  they had to find suitable alternate options, for what were likely two spots they hadn’t filled. Those eventually ended up being Roenick and Salming. Some people have complained about Salming as well, but the overwhelming majorly of the negative-reactions have been directed at the choice of Jeremy Roenick.

Granted I did start watching Hockey in the early 90s, so you’d think I’d be familiar when Roenick’s career, but the truth of the matter is, I’m not. So the other day I started doing a little research, and found some surprising results, at least surprising to me. Compared to the public outrage about Roenick being included. I’m not going to break down his whole career, as there is no need to. However, I am going to take a close look at the beginning of his professional career, which is when he became a superstar player, and almost lead Chicago to a few Cups. Which when combined with his eventual career totals, are what make him “Legend” worthy in my mind, but let us review a few of these things first, shall we?

Jeremy Roenick was drafted 8th overall by Chicago in the 1988 draft. After being drafted, there has been a long running rumor (although never confirmed) that he was then taken out to breakfast by Wayne Gretzky, who was attempting to persuade Roenick to play for QMJHL team that Gretzky had partial ownership of, the Hull Olympiques. Rather or not that story ever had any truth to it is of little point, but I thought it was interesting enough to include. Anyway, JR did go on to play for the Olympiques in the 88-89 season, where he earned 70 points in 28 games, including an additional 19 points in 9 QMJHL playoff games, proving that he was already NHL-ready at that point, considering that Chicago had drafted him out of high school.

Before going on to play for the Blackhawks though, JR represented the USA in two Would Junior Championship tournaments, the first in 1988, before he was drafted, he earned 9 points in 7 games. However, in his second appearance in the WJC in 1989, he landed himself on a line with future NHL superstars Mike Modano and John LeClair. Roenick lead the tournament in scoring that year, with 16 points in 7 games, and was named a Tournament All-Star. In addition, his future NHL superstar line, totaled 41 points that year, the most ever by any line for Team USA in the WJC, and sixth-most in the tournament’s history. Team USA still only managed to finish in 5th place, but Roenick’s combined scoring totals from both years, 25 points, stood as a Team USA record for 21 years. Before finally being broken by Jordan Schroeder in 2010. Although it took Schroeder a total of three WJC appearances to break JR’s record, which he set in just two appearances.

Following Roenick’s scoring success at the 1989 WJC, Chicago then called him up for the remainder of the 88-89 season, where he had a 18 points in his first 20 NHL games. His first full-time season with Chicago, in 89-90, he managed a very respectable 66 points in 78 games, as well as 18 points in 20 playoff games, as Chicago reached the Conference Finals that year before losing out to the eventual Stanly Cup Champion Edmonton Oilers. However, with Chicago’s new confidence in Roenick’s proven prowess, they decided to make what would turn out to be a key trade, sending Denis Savard to Montreal in exchange for Chris Chelios.

The following season of 90-91, would turn out to breakout year for both the Hawks, and Roenick. JR earned his first of what would be a total of nine appearances in the All-Star game, by putting up 94 points in 79 games. He also lead the team that season with ten game-winning goals. Plus, with the emergence of then rookie goaltender, Ed Belfour (now a Hall of Famer) - who went on to win the Vezina, Jennings, and Calder trophies that season. With the key addition of fellow All-Star, and now legendary defenseman Chris Chelios, the Blackhawks managed to win the President’s Trophy that season, but failed to have much success in the playoffs.

Then, in 91-92, Roenick stepped up his game even more, earning 103 points in 80 games. This would be his first of two-straight 50+ goal seasons for him, and would also represent the first of what would be three-consecutive 100+ point seasons, which puts JR up there with some pretty elite company, that have also had at least three-consecutive 100+ point seasons. More on that in a moment though. He also racked up a new personal best of 13 game-winning goals, which lead the entire league that year. The Hawks did considerably better in the playoffs that year as well, reaching the Stanley Cup Finals. JR put up 22 points in 18 playoff games that year. Had the Hawks managed to win the Cup, there is no doubt JR would have been up for consideration for the Conn Smythe that year, along with fellow teammates Chris Chelios, and Ed Belfour. However, the Hawks would end up getting swept by a powerhouse Pittsburgh Penguins team in the Finals that year.

Anyway, back to JR’s 100+ point seasons, starting with the 103 in 91-92, he followed that up with 107 points each of the next two seasons. As I said before, this puts him among some very special company, as only 17 other NHL players have ever managed to pull off at least 3-straight 100+ point seasons. The names and leaders in rank of this elite group are as follows.


Leading the pack by a large margin is Gretzky, who had 13-consecutive 100+ point seasons.
Bossy, Lafleur, Lemieux, Orr, Stastny, and Yzerman are tied with 6.
Dionne, Esposito, Hawerchuk, Kurri, and Trottier are tied with 5.
Brett Hull had 4.
Coffey, Federko, Ovechkin, Rogers, and Roenick are tied with 3.


Roenick’s 100+ point season streak came to an end the in lockout-shortened 94-95 season, as JR racked up 34 points in 33 games, before going down with a minor injury. Be it because of the lock-out, or the minor injury, or unknown reasons, JR would never quite be the same player he had been before, as the 95-96 season saw the start of a scoring trend that would continue for the remainder of his career. He put up 67 points in 66 games in his final year with the Blackhawks, before suffering another injury. Over that summer he was traded to Phoenix, and would then average about a point per game for the majority of the rest of his career, but more injuries eventually took their toll, and his production dropped, until he finally retired in 2009.


However, looking back on some of JR’s career totals… they aren’t nearly as bad as everyone seems to think they are. Here are some of Roenick’s notable NHL career rankings, all of which he is at least in the top 50 of All-Time.


- 9 All-Star Game Appearances (again, pretty good company there too, as the few other players with nine or more, would stand out to you)
- 40th in games played (1363)
- 36th in goals scored (513)
- 48th in assists (703)
- 40th in points (1216)
- 49th in even strength goals (301)
- 21st in power-play goals (184)
- 24th in short-handed goals (28)
- 11th in game-winning goals (92)


All stats and rankings in this post via Hockey-Reference.com.


Roenick is also among the list of NHL players who have 1000+ games played, 1000+ points, 500+ goals, multiple 50 goal seasons, and multiple 100 point seasons. I’d love to know who else might be on that list of players who have accomplished the combination of ALL of those during their NHL careers, but sadly, I can’t find such a list anywhere.

It should also be noted that JR wasn’t just known for his point production. He was a solid two-way forward, who also brought plenty of “grit” to his game, and is perhaps as well known for his chirping, to both opposing players and officials throughout his career, as he was for his scoring prowess.

Again, I’ll make it clear that I’m not trying to say that Jeremy Roenick is better than certain players who got left off this year’s Legends list in NHL 12, because he simply isn’t. I’m just pointing out the fact that he isn’t a bad alternative knowing that EA likely had a limited budget for said list. Personally, I think he’s more deserving of being on there than Borje Salming is. The same goes for another much-speculated about player who was rumored to be on the Legends list, although he never made any of my potential lists, at any point in time, nor the final official list by EA—Pavel Bure. Go ahead and look up their careers (Salming and Bure’s) they don’t compare to JR’s.

Roenick might have only had a brief “prime” in Chicago, but it as a damn good one while it lasted. There is also little argument that can be made that he was one of the best American-born hockey players of all time. Which is why I think EA eventually decided to include him, because he is a Legend, in terms of American hockey at least. The same goes for why I think they included Salming, because he is a Leafs Legend, as well as an International and Swedish hockey Legend.

Personally, I think that when most people think of JR, they only consider the more recent times, since has been working as a hockey analyst on TV. He is well known for having strong opinions on certain subjects, and he is not afraid to defended his opinion. Which rather you agree with him or not, I still think that alone deserves some respect, as it’s much better than hearing the same old generic hockey-analyst babble you hear over and over again, season after season. That’s what most people seem to think of when it comes to Roenick… which is why I wrote this post, to remind you all that he was indeed a great player, and even considered a superstar early in his career with Chicago, plus taking his entire career into account, he finished with some pretty impressive numbers.

Also, as the one last final bit to this post, it’s one thing to go over stats and talk about accomplishments, but it’s another thing to see a player in action. So I figured the most fitting way to end this post would be with a good Jeremy Roenick highlight reel. One of his time spent as a player with the Blackhawks, which no one can argue that those were his best years as a player, and is also fitting, as he will represent Chicago as a Legend in NHL 12, as he should. Enjoy.

Video via Haukiii on YouTube

 


I’ll be back tomorrow with a preview of the NHL 12 demo, set to be released sometime on Tuesday. Along with any other possible NHL 12-related news there might be at that time. Only a few more days away from the demo though… which is an exciting time for me, as it should be for the rest of you fellow NHL-series fans.

 

Filed in: NHL Talk, Old School, Fantasy Hockey and Gaming, Doug Miller, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: chicago+blackhawks, ea+sports+nhl+12, jeremy+roenick, usa+hockey

Comments

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Lindas1st's avatar

That was the least of Wirtz’s crimes.

Posted by Lindas1st from New England on 08/27/11 at 02:30 AM ET

Avatar

That’s the unfortunate truth, but that’s what happens when you know you’re wrong but you choose to be a stubborn old man because you can.

Posted by Strat from Northwest Indiana on 08/27/11 at 03:21 PM ET

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About Kukla's Korner Hockey

Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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