Is Avalanche Defender Cale Makar Hockey’s Stephen Curry?

DENVER – The name floats on the ether, now next to Cale Makar by Wayne Gretzky. In TNT’s hockey program, Gretzky was arguably the best player in the game compared to Makar Bobby Orr, who insisted that the transcendent defender was even better than Gretzky.

Patrick Roy said Makar could be the best defender in history, suggesting he could overcome Orr. Among other things, they praised Makar’s excellent skating, stick handling and playing, a prodigy from Alberta (Canada), and helped the Colorado Avalanche to a 1-0 lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup final. .

Phil Esposito, the Hall of Fame center, played with Orr for nine seasons in Boston and it’s hard to believe that anyone can be as good as Orr, no. 4, the only defense that turned into a hitherto unseen weapon of attack, running on ice, defending them as if they were defenseless states.

“Makar is very, very good,” said Esposito, now a radio presenter for Lightning Games. “But Bobby was the biggest. I will say this: the child is near. He promises to act like Bobby did. ‘

This does not mean that Makar is still a better player in his time than Orr, or that he will have a better career than Orr, as he won eight Norris trophies and two Stanley Cups as the best defense in the league. Those who were healthy for 10 years.

But Makar has been dominant in the 1970s, or many years since, in skating and stick-handling maneuvers that Orre and his colleagues did not think of.

Orre flipped his position and made spin-o-rama movements on the blue line that hung his jaws. But he never danced and sculpted the moon-shaped ice showers on the blue line. And he didn’t walk backwards by threatening the puck on the stick, as Makar does. No one did such a maneuver when Orr was playing, due to a lack of modern skateboarding and training methods, among other things. Esposito noted that the players of the Orren era spent the summer at work, and now the players skate all year round.

Orr didn’t open his hips, heels joined in, and some of the skaters, especially Sidney Crosby, were confused by the defenders today. But few do it with as much ease and enjoyment as Makar.

“It’s unique because it’s faster than everyone else,” said Mikhail Sergachev, Lightning team’s clear defense. “He knows how much time and space he has, and he uses it to his advantage. You think you’ve got it, but you don’t. It only uses you as bait and as a screen. It’s very, very dangerous. ‘

Sergacheve has played five seasons and won two Stanley Cups with Lightning. He is a student of the game and especially his position. When Makar sees the puck on the blue line, he and his teammates are ready for almost anything.

With a frightening sideways movement that is unseen, Makar can falsify to his left and then to his right, leaving a defense stumbling on the ice as he skates backwards along the blue line to pass or throw a shoe. Rather than a hockey player of the past, it’s a kind of move reminiscent of a basketball player with a skilled dribbling handle. Seeing Makar is like seeing Stephen Curry in hockey, and he’s getting success.

In the playoffs this season, Makar has 5 goals and 17 assists, and with his 22 points leads him to the Avalanche in what can be the team’s first championship since 2001. It hinders Lightning from looking for his third consecutive Stanley Cup tournament. with some formidable self-defense.

“They’re trying to build a dynasty,” Makar said Tuesday. “We’re trying to build a legacy.”

Makar’s legacy is already being built. He is a finalist for the Norris Trophy, along with Victor Hedman of the Lightning team and Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators team, who took Avalanche to four games in the first round. (Makar had 3 goals and 7 assists in that series.) Makar has just 23, and Esposito believes he will win at least three Norris Trophies.

In the regular season, he had 28 goals and 86 points and a plus-minus-48-plus rating, the second-only one among NHL defenders against Devon Toews team-plus-52 (which Makar humbly calls “driving force”). Avalanche defense).

But Makar’s game is remarkable beyond statistics. He’s becoming one of the funniest players to watch, with the ability to skate on an ice skater, against some of the best figure skaters, and with the ability for strikers to wield sticks. He attracts defensive wings to move forward to face him, and then slips to the sides, always with the disc loaded on the stick.

“He never looks at the puck when he handles it,” Sergachev said. “That’s his main thing when you see him on the blue line. He’s always handling the puck and looking at the net or other players. That’s how he always finds good play. ‘

Makar said he always liked to skate and did the exercises needed to perfect the skating on the edges of his paddles to create speed and deception. But as gifted as he was as a fan of the Calgary Flames that grew up in Alberta, Makar took an unusual path to the NHL, choosing to go to the University of Massachusetts after Avalanche was selected as the fourth overall choice. 2017.

Greg Cronin, the coach of the Colorado Eagles, a member of Avalanche’s AHL, was working as an assistant coach with the Islands in 2017 and interviewed Makar before the draft. He likes why Makar wouldn’t be the main junior hockey player, the rising star. Makar stressed that he committed to playing at UMass for two years before becoming a professional.

“Of all the interviews I did over the years, that one stood out,” Cronin said. “His honesty and conviction were remarkable in his response, and he made it come true.”

Cronin then joined the Avalanche organization, and although Makar had never trained, he has been on the ice with him in training and said Makar may be the best skater he has ever seen.

“I call it joystick hockey,” Cronin said. “It’s like someone is controlling it from above, up, back and then the blow, taking it to the sides. He takes a half step forward to give the bite, and then throws himself to the side. The defender is done. ‘

UMass has become a title contender, winning the Frozen Four in 2021, but was not considered a top-ranked college hockey destination, like Minnesota, Wisconsin or Boston University. Makar worked.

In a remarkable four-day span in April 2019, Makar won the Hobey Baker Award for Best College Player, played (and lost) in the national title game, signed with Avalanche and scored his NHL debut – against Calgary, no. less.

“He helps us hire him every night he plays,” said Greg Carvel, the Minutemen coach. “That’s his legacy, that maybe the best player in the world played in this program. The kids want to play where Cale used to do it. ”

Carvel said Makar had come to Amhers with his unique skating ability, but noted that Makar was clear enough to understand that he needed college time to develop strength and stability on the ice before joining the NHL. but it was limited to how many times it could spread.

“I remember going down to the end of the bench, saying,‘ Take Cale more out, ’” Carvel recalled. “He couldn’t do it. It was a sign that he wasn’t ready. ‘

However, Joe Sakic, Avalanche’s general manager and former star of the team, called Carvel after Makar spent his first year at UMass, and told the coach that Avalanche intended to offer Makarri a contract to join the team immediately. But Makar stayed, knowing he needed to get stronger.

The scariest thing for the rest of the NHL is that Makar continues to improve. Carvel said some of the brightest moves he now makes on the blue line weren’t obvious in college, and said Makar’s sliding and defensive game – and his weird shooting skills – were developed in the NHL, more to come.

“I’ve always worked in hockey; I trained in the NHL, ”Carvel said. “There are very few people who would pay me to play hockey. Maybe five people. He is, of course, one of them. It’s just entertainment. “

Orr was like that too. Fans couldn’t help but notice the puck as it gathered behind its net, twisting the defenders as it accelerated the ice, or turning it 360 degrees on the blue line and attacking the terrified goalkeepers.

“Bobby was Bobby,” Esposito said. “It simply came to our notice then. But I’m sure it’s fun to see. “

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