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It’s often easy to overlook just how much better than everyone else on the planet the average NHL player is when it comes to playing hockey. We see them do things every day that to them are routine but, to the rest of the world, are impossible. To make us get up out of our seats, an NHL player has to do something 1 percent of the .00001 percent are capable of doing.
If nothing else, this lockout reminds us that man, NHL players are really, really, really good. Joe Thornton, for example, is now routinely being called a bit past his prime, having put up a mere 77 points last season. Similarly, we’ve often heard Rick Nash called overrated since all those trade rumors started cropping up, and that might be true given that his 30 goals and 59 points were both personal lows not seen since 2006-07.
But despite being no longer as good as they perhaps once were, recording nearly a point a game, or scoring 30 goals, is still really difficult in the NHL, and indicators that those who do are still very good indeed at this sport. And so it was that Joe Thornton, consummate playmaker, and Rick Nash, lethal goalscorer, combined to disembowel their opponents in their first game for Swiss A League team HC Davos.
Those poor Rapperswil-Jona Lakers. They didn’t know what hit them. And even if they did, it wouldn’t have mattered very much at all. Thornton and Nash combined for six points — three goals to the latter, three helpers to the former — in the first period of a 9-2 win in which they both ended up adding one more assist before it was all over.
Now to be fair, the Swiss A League isn’t exactly the KHL when it comes to having NHL-ready talent, but these guys aren’t bad or anything. Granted, the best way to describe the most noteworthy players on either team aside from Thornton and Nash is “NHL washouts” but still, being edged out of the NHL isn’t really an indicator that you’re Bad At Hockey. It’s an indicator that you’re not in that fraction of a fraction of a percent who is good at NHL hockey. The Lakers’ roster boasted 2003 Hobey Baker winner Peter Sejna, who got a few cups of instant coffee with St. Louis, as well as Robbie Earl, once a member of the Leafs and Wild. David Aebischer came on in mopup duty too, and in true Aebischer fashion gave up six goals on 32 shots in 40 minutes.
Ignore all the chest-puffing out of Russia about how that nation’s domestic league is nearly on par with the NHL, because it isn’t. Evgeni Malkin may not have been able to torch slightly better players in one game so far, but if Nash and Thornton are combining for eight points in their first game of an even somewhat comparable league, that’s a pretty good indicator that, when things are going well for even a declining NHL player, they can still embarrass everyone else alive.
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