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This week, the panel discusses which NHL superstar is most like Sidney Crosby, what moment best defines Mario Lemieux's career, which World Junior hopeful has the best chance to lead Canada at the WJHC, and which fictional hockey movie character would belong in the Hall of Fame.
Question #1: We know Sidney Crosby is different from any superstar who played the game before, but if you had to compare him to an all-time great, who would it be, Marcel Dionne, Peter Forsberg, Wayne Gretzky or Mark Messier?
Craig MacTavish: I say a meeker Mark Messier, and don't get me wrong; Crosby is one tough hockey player, but it's just the depth of his offensive arsenal. He can score garbage goals, he gets deflections, he goes to the net, he can score on the rush, he can beat you one-on-one and he can score on the cycle, much like Messier.
Ray Ferraro: I'm going to go with a much faster Forsberg. I loved when Forsberg played the game because he played with such an edge to his game. He was so strong on his feet. Crosby does what Forsberg used to do. Forsberg wasn't as quick off the rush as Crosby, but man he was strong on the puck down low.
Bob McKenzie: I will say Wayne Gretzky. I know there are no physical similarities; one of Crosby's legs is about the same size as Gretzky, but they both had an insatiable desire to create offence, to score goals, to make plays. Elite-level playermaker, elite-level goal scorer, elite-level hockey sense, elite-level competition, work ethic, says and does all the right things off the ice, an ambassador for the game. There are so many similarities to Gretzky just in terms of overall attitude, demeanor and the end result.
Question #2: It was ten years ago that Mario Lemieux announced his comeback after a three-year absence. In his entire career, what was Mario Lemieux's signature achievement, the 1987 Canada Cup, the 1987-88 season as he replcaed Gretzky as the No. 1 player in the game, the 1992 playoffs (goal-a-game, second Conn Smythe in a row), or the 2002 Olympics?
Ferraro: Outside of his goal on his first shift in his first game, I'm going to say the 1987 Canada Cup. The reason that was so special to me is because there was almost a passing of the torch or a recognition of the greatness of Lemieux. Gretzky moved the puck to Lemieux, Lemieux put it in and that was a goal that I looked at and said, 'That's when Mario Lemieux arrived.'
McKenzie: I will say the 1987 Canada Cup, because that was the springboard and the launching board for Lemieux to take over the game at that point. It was that NHL season afterwards that he really asserted himself.
MacTavish: I'm going off the board with the 1992/93 season. That was the year Lemieux was diagnosed with lymphoma. For his last radiation treatment, he took the treatment in Pittsburgh, flew to Philadelphia, played in the game, and got a goal and an assist. That tells you a little bit of the character of the man and the talent of the man. In that season, he had 69 goals and 91 assists for 160 points in 60 games, which extrapolates out to 218 points. With all that going on, he was able to accomplish all that on the ice. Pretty amazing.
Question #3: World Junior camp starts this weekend. Which Canadian hopeful has the best chance to be the offensive an leader for Canada at this year's World Juniors, Sean Couturier, Louis Leblanc, Brayden Schenn or Jaden Schwartz?
McKenzie: I will say Schwartz, an undersized, elite offensive skill player playing at Colorado College, from southern Saskatchewan. He's a clutch player, one of those kids in minor hockey who just always was the "it" player for his age group, an awful lot like another kid from southern Saskatchewan who was the same way, undersized skill clutch scorer, Jordan Eberle. There are a lot of similarities between the two.
Ferraro: The gift from Los Angeles for Team Canada, Schenn, is back with the Brandon Wheat Kings. This tournament historically has been about offensive production from your 19-year-old players. He's a strong centre-man, he moves the puck really well and you know he's benefited from half a year in the NHL.
MacTavish: I'm going to agree with Bob and go with Schwartz. I saw him two weeks ago in Colorado, he's a special, special player. He has great hands, great finish, he plays on a line with his brother Rylan Schwartz and the guy on his right side is actually named Schultz, so it's Schwartz, Schwartz and Schultz.
Question #4: Sly Stallone - Rocky Balboa - is to be inducted in the Boxing Hall of Fame. Which Hollywood hockey character belongs in the Hockey Hall of Fame? This, by the way, will never ever happen. Your choices are Reg Dunlop, player/coach for the Chiefs, put a bounty on a man's head, grizzled veteran, Dean Youngblood, scored a huge goal as time expired, Gordon Bombay of the Mighty Ducks, brought the "Flying V" to prominence in the builder category, or Jack, the hockey-playing chimp from the MVP movies? He was cute, the movies were utterly ridiculous.
MacTavish: Reg Dunlop, no contest here. I'm a Slap Shot aficionado, but I'll also give honourable mention to my old roommate Marty McSorley in "Con Air".
Ferraro: I'm going to go with Dean Youngblood. The Hall of Fame is about high skill, it's about learning to be a top-end player. Youngblood - penalty shot? Beats up Racki? Wins it all? He's the guy.
McKenzie: I'm sorry, I've got to stay close to home. It's got to be Dickie Dunn (from Slap Shot). He captured the spirit of it. Nobody captured the spirit better than Dunn.