Brian Burke on Kyle Dubas’ fight, ‘pirate’ GMs, and being ‘Bettman smart’

When Kyle Dubas was spotted inside Madison Square Garden this past weekend, some fans went down a rabbit hole of speculation.

Why would the Maple Leafs’ general manager attend a random game? Is he dealing restricted free agent William Nylander to the Rangers? What about the visiting Flames?

According to reports, Dubas had actually travelled to New York to chat with Nylander’s Manhattan-based agent about a contract extension, and he stayed for the game. In other words, don’t hold your breath waiting for a blockbuster.

Some time ago - say five-to-10 years - the GM of the Leafs might have thrown gasoline on the fire, revelling in any and all speculation, especially if none of it was true.

“I can tell you right now,” Brian Burke said Monday during a phone conversation, “there were many times where I went to a game in another arena for just that reason - let’s stir the pot.”

“Even when I was going to scout, I would say, ‘Watch the bees come out of the hive now,’” he added with a chuckle. “A couple of times I’d say to (former colleague) Dave Nonis, ‘We’ve got to stir this up. You go to Philly tonight and we’ll start that rumour.’”

Burke is one of a kind. Currently a TV analyst for Sportsnet, the 63-year-old untied tie enthusiast has lived a number of hockey lives: college and pro player, junior hockey franchise owner, pro scout, president of hockey operations, GM for multiple NHL teams, disciplinarian at the league office, and player agent.

Speaking ahead of the PrimeTime sports management conference - a star-studded event he co-chairs every November in downtown Toronto - Burke discussed a variety of topics with theScore.

The long view of the Nylander saga

By Burke’s calculation, the Nylander saga is not just about dollars and term. When the ink has dried, Dubas will be graded in other categories.

“People are saying, ‘Why don’t they just sign him?’ Well, Kyle needs to have this fight for two reasons,” said Burke, who occupied the GM’s chair for four clubs - the Leafs, Ducks, Canucks, and Whalers - over a 20-year span.

“One, this (deal) has to be somewhat cap friendly. It has to be something that will allow him to keep this group together, if he can. I don’t see a number that’ll work, that’ll keep this group together, but he has to try. In the hard-cap system, you have to fight for every dollar.

“No. 2, he’s a rookie GM. The gloves are off for the first time, everyone is watching. He has to get a victory here, so the other agents know he’s not a guy who you can push around.”

Bruce Bennett / Getty Images

Burke is quick to praise Dubas for refusing to cave during a marathon game of chicken with Lewis Gross, Nylander's agent. That Switzerland visit to get in quality face time in a neutral setting? Invaluable, as it could help filter out the noise associated with such a public story.

Barring a serious souring between the two sides, the Nylander situation seems destined for a happy ending. Nick Kypreos of Sportsnet reported on Tuesday that strong dialogue continues, and a six-year term is being discussed.

Not every drawn-out negotiation is rainbows and lollipops, though.

“I had it with Peter Schaefer in Vancouver,” Burke said of the nine-season NHL left-winger. “He was a good young player for us, went to Finland, refused to sign. He came back (after a season) and I had a trade worked out with Ottawa for Sami Salo - one of my best trades - and I said to Peter, ‘I’ll trade you once you sign the deal that I have sitting on the table. A three-year deal at my money, because this isn’t about you, it’s about every other player.’”

The downside of running the Leafs

Behind the fat paycheck, the exclusive experiences, and the power of running the Leafs, there's something else. Loneliness.

Nobody is going to feel sorry for the general manager of a professional sports team, because anyone with that job is living out a dream. But there's a human element that perhaps the outside world tends to forget, or refuses to acknowledge (just ask longtime Habs GM Marc Bergevin).

“In our business, there’s far more public criticism when you’re not successful than there is in most businesses. If you’re running IBM and have a bad quarter, you might get thumped for a couple of days when the quarterly results come out. But, if you’re GM of the Leafs and you’re struggling, you’re getting thumped every day,” said Burke, who’s had his fair share of spats with media members over the years.

“You’re getting thumped every minute on sports radio and TV. It’s not just the loneliness of leadership in any company - which is across the board - it’s also the fact that loneliness of leadership (is being paired) with constant criticism while you do it.”

Burke hasn’t been an NHL GM since 2012, when his tenure with the Leafs came to an abrupt end. However, his interactions with high-ranking execs didn't stop during his recent five-year run as president of hockey operations for the Calgary Flames.

Which begs the question: Is there an active GM whose mere presence strikes fear into his counterparts?

“Everyone is tense dealing with Lou,” Burke said. “Lou Lamoriello is a class guy. But he’s a thief, he’s a pirate. I made my first big deal with him and it worked out well for both teams - and I love Lou and I respect him and I owe him a lot - but he’s a pirate. (Ducks GM) Bob Murray is a pirate. Both of those guys will gladly make a deal with you that’ll get you canned. And I say that with much praise.”

The commissioner’s forgotten trait

Based on the periodical boos and the constant jeers, NHL fans don’t seem particularly fond of longtime commissioner Gary Bettman.

Burke, on this topic and many others, is happy to play contrarian. Asked what fans might have wrong about Bettman - a man he worked under during a stint at the league office in the early-to-mid 1990s - the 2007 Stanley Cup champion doubled down.

“Everything. In Canada, everything,” Burke said.

“No one likes Gary Bettman in Canada. It used to make me mad, now it makes me sad. I used to get mad at people - you don’t even know this guy … It’s become fashionable for fans to boo the commissioner at the draft and when he’s presenting the Cup. I think it’s unprofessional and disgusting, but I’m tired of ranting about it.”

Richard Wolowicz / Getty Images

Instead, Burke wants to talk about the “brilliant” side of Bettman, this generation’s most powerful off-ice figure. Burke and Nonis even have a running joke about the soon-to-be Hall of Fame inductee.

“This guy is smart and the other guy is Bettman smart,” the pair sometimes say to each other when discussing hockey people.

“There’s a lot of smart people who can’t see five miles ahead. Gary can see 100 miles ahead,” Burke continued. “He’s not just looking over the next hill, he’s looking over the next 20 hills to the point where we had to tell him sometimes in (league) meetings, ‘hey boss, slow down.’ … I went to Harvard law school, I’m a pretty smart guy, and I couldn’t keep up with Bettman at some of these things.”

The sport’s slow, steady acceptance

After hanging up the phone for this interview, Burke was off to Winnipeg to work Wednesday’s Jets-Leafs game. On Tuesday, he had plans to hunt geese in Manitoba.

In a nutshell, that’s Burke. He's a man of many passions.

On the subject of women making waves in the NHL, and specifically, if he sees a woman like Hayley Wickenheiser becoming a GM someday soon, he has a strong opinion.

“I think it’s still really far off. These are institutional biases that have emerged. We have been in business for over a century. These are not doors you kick in. These are walls that erode over time. Long before there’s a woman head coach in the NHL, someone will have to become a head coach in the CHL. Coach boys, coach men. Someone will have to be an NCAA Division I men’s coach. They’re going to have to establish themselves - just like we all had to - at a lower level. As much as I love women’s hockey, I’m not handing the keys to the coach's office to a woman unless she’s been successful at a level below mine.”

On the topic of homophobia in sports, he has both a vested interest as a co-founder of the You Can Play project, and a strong stance.

“Would I like the day to come when we don’t talk about women in hockey? Yes. And I would like the day to come when I don’t have to march in the pride parade. As much as I love marching in pride parades, hopefully the day will come when we won’t need to celebrate a different community. They’ll be so absorbed into the rest of society that we won’t need pride parades. We might still have them because we want them, but right now they are a really important tool for our community to advertise itself and reach out to the world to say, ‘Hey, we’re important, we count.’”

But, when Burke’s gig at Sportsnet is mentioned alongside the idea of possibly reentering the hockey operations world, the hedging stops.

“This is not some parking lot job where I’m waiting for the phone to ring. The phone has already rung. Two teams called and asked me about potentially joining their staff. And I said, ‘no, I’m out.’ I promised my daughters here in Toronto that I’m not commuting again. I’m out, I’m not going back and working for a team.”

John Matisz is theScore's National Hockey Writer. You can find him on Twitter @matiszjohn.

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Boudreau: Struggling Niederreiter ‘has lost his confidence a little bit’

The Minnesota Wild are off to a respectable 4-2-2 start after winning three straight games, but they've done so without production from one of their key offensive players - Nino Niederreiter.

The Swiss-born winger has been invisible thus far, going goalless on 14 shots with a pair of assists through the first eight games.

Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau spoke candidly about Niederreiter, admitting the 26-year-old's morale has been suffering as a result of his struggles.

"In some way, we've got to find his confidence," Boudreau told The Athletic's Michael Russo. "He's lost his confidence a little bit."

Niederreiter is just two years removed from a breakout 25-goal, 57-point campaign in 2016-17. Last season he dealt with injuries and wasn't quite the same player, picking up 32 points in 63 games.

Boudreau is intent on allowing Niederreiter to fight through his slump.

"Right now, it's just, 'Keep throwing him out there, keep throwing him out there,'" Boudreau said. "And you know ... We've talked to him, and sometimes we talk to him too much. And everybody talks to him and everybody's worried about Nino. Just, we're letting Nino play."

Niederreiter is averaging just over 14 minutes per night, which would stand to be his lowest ice time average since his first season in Minnesota as a 21-year-old.

"He'll get out of it" Boudreau continued. "His history of him as an NHL player is he'll come out of it and he'll start playing good. I think we're all too worried about Nino right now. And I expect him very shortly to get a game where he knocks one in and then all of a sudden takes off."

Slow starts aren't out of the ordinary for Niederreiter as he's never totaled more than four points through his first eight games. Over his career, November has been his most productive month by quite a wide margin, so all it may take is a flip of the calendar before he starts filling the net.

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Ducks’ Ritchie in lineup vs. Blackhawks

The 2018-19 season has officially begun for Anaheim Ducks forward Nick Ritchi.

The left winger is in the lineup against the Chicago Blackhawks after he said his visa paperwork came through on Monday.

Ritchie skated on the Ducks' top line Tuesday.

The 22-year-old was a restricted free agent who held out for the first nine games of the season. He agreed to a three-year contract worth a reported $4.6 million last Wednesday.

In a corresponding move, Anaheim placed winger Jakob Silfverberg on injured reserve. Silfverberg has been dealing with a broken finger he suffered on Oct. 14, but he's not expected to be out long term.

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Coyotes’ Galchenyuk makes season debut vs. Blue Jackets

Arizona Coyotes forward Alex Galchenyuk made his season debut on Tuesday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, donning his new colours for the first time.

Galchenyuk missed Arizona's first seven games due to a lower-body injury.

Acquired from the Montreal Canadiens in an offseason deal for Max Domi, Galchenyuk will get his chance to play center after spending much of his career on the wing. Ahead of Tuesday's contest, Galchenyuk centered a line between Lawson Crouse and Clayton Keller in practice.

Galchenyuk recorded 19 goals and 32 assists in 82 games with Montreal last season.

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Curtis Joseph Q&A: On his new book, life in Toronto, and what he’d change about the game

In the annals of Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending history, they don’t come much more resilient, athletic, and classy than Curtis Joseph.

Now 51 and a hockey parent who resides just outside of Toronto, Joseph lives forever in the hearts of Leafs fans who’ll never forget his key role in the franchise’s 1998-2002 successes - including two Eastern Conference Final appearances - and individual feats including being a two-time finalist for the Vezina Trophy and being named a finalist for the Lester B. Pearson Award in 1999.

An Olympic gold medalist and the first NHL goalie to register at least 30 wins for five different franchises, Joseph just released his first book, "CUJO: The Untold Story of My Life On and Off the Ice." Co-authored with longtime hockey journalist Kirstie McLellan Day, Joseph’s book is a wry, moving account of his turbulent upbringing as an adopted child, his rise through the game’s ranks, and his most notable achievements in the planet’s best league.

Joseph took time Monday to speak about the book, John Tavares joining the Leafs, Joseph’s NHL days (and his time in Toronto in particular), and what he’d change about the game.

Adam Proteau: The book is a fun read. You’ve made your chapters short and vibrant, describing your journey you take and some sides with people that you’ve played with over the years. When you were mapping out the book, how did you want to connect with readers?

Curtis Joseph: Well, most people didn’t know about the way I grew up. I was embarrassed about my childhood early on, and it was hard for me to write a book because I’m a private person. And you want to tell a true story, you want to make sure you’re not hiding anything, so you know you’re going to have to open up. But my wife, Stephanie, we’ve been married six years, and she was the one who said, "You know, I love your story. I’m glad you don’t come from money. Your story is great, you need to embrace it, it’s so good." She’d tell me that and I’d think, "You know, you’re right, it’s made me who I am."

What I want people to get from the story is perseverance and inspiration. I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy, I always have been. And it’s really helped me become who I am. I was the last person you ever thought would make the NHL.

AP: It’s funny you phrase it like that. In talking to (Leafs president and Hockey Hall of Famer) Brendan Shanahan earlier this year, he told me nearly the same thing verbatim - that, among a group of kids he hung out with playing hockey, he would’ve been the last person you would’ve guessed would’ve been an NHLer, let alone an elite NHLer. But with the state of goaltending and the fact there always will be more candidates than available positions, do you have to be more resilient as a young goalie?

CJ: Actually, my goals weren’t that lofty. I never thought I’d make it, either. My goal as a teenager, was to go to (university/college). I couldn’t pay for it, and my only shot was getting a scholarship. It really took until I was 21 years old to get one. I remember going out to Notre Dame and getting a scholarship offer from North Dakota when I was there. And I was like, "Oh my God, this is it. I’ve made it. This is what I’ve been dreaming of."

Then once I got there, the scribe with the team told me there were NHL scouts there to see me. I said, "What?! What do you mean? I just got here!" I wasn’t dreaming about making it at all.

AP: A friend of mine who played goalie at the pro level said it was always like walking on a wire all the time. Is it true that, for that job, you have to be living in the moment every day?

CJ: Oh yeah, you know how bad it can be, and how embarrassed you can be. Like, when I’d drive into Toronto, you could cut the tension with a knife. You could just feel it driving in. It’s the playoffs, Game 7 against Ottawa, and you’re thinking, "Oh man, I better not let one in from center tonight. I’ll be roasted."

Bill Wippert / National Hockey League / Getty

AP: That choice to come to Toronto - people talk about (agent) Don (Meehan) and (then Leafs-GM) Ken (Dryden) meeting at an ice cream store downtown and getting the deal done and signing you as an unrestricted free agent. But you’re still the one driving the decision, right?

CJ: Obviously, l leaned on Donnie for years as a friend and agent to help make decisions, but it was always up to me, and I’m so glad I made that decision. It was like, "Wow, this is Toronto, they have interest in me." I knew they had Felix (Potvin) already, then I was like, "Wow, how amazing would that be to play in Toronto?" I hadn’t thought about it, because they were not in the (free agent) game at that point. It was Philly-Philly-Philly for me, and they had the Legion of Doom, and they needed a goalie. And then that door closed.

Once it became Toronto, I started embracing it and thinking how great this would be. But I’ll always remember Felix - he was such a pro. I felt bad for him, and I respected him as a goaltender. He was such a pro to me, and it was tough for him, but he was great to me.

AP: With that Leafs team, with all those names Torontonians hold dear now, what was the effect of their personalities on you?

CJ: It was so much fun right off the get-go, partially because expectations were low. I think they’d missed the playoffs for two years in a row, so expectations were very low, and we started winning right away. We started winning and winning and winning, and we’re having fun, we’re having the time of our lives and we’re doing it with a bunch of great personalities. Mats Sundin, Derek King, Kris King, Mike Johnson, Stevie Sullivan, Fredrik Modin - we had a bunch of fun guys, and we just kept winning. So it was almost like a jovial, "Look at us! Look at us!" And it never ended, it just kept going for four years.

AP: As someone who grew up around the (Greater Toronto Area) and watched the Leafs as a kid, what was the biggest lesson for you once you joined the team?

CJ: How big Leafs Nation really is. And that’s a great way to describe fans - Leafs Nation. It really is a nation. I mean, we go to Calgary and we score a goal, and there would be all Leafs jerseys. We go to Tampa Bay, it was a home game. The roof would pop off. It was crazy. We’d go to the East Coast, to the Maritimes - all Leafs fans. It was like Broadway and the New York Yankees. If you’re successful, there’s nothing better.

That’s why I’m a big fan of John Tavares making the decision he did. I’m so happy for him, and the fact he’s off to a great start. Because that’s the perfect scenario: a Toronto kid playing for the Leafs. You’re in your prime, you’re not going to struggle, and you come back and get a long-term deal. Oh my gosh, that’s a no-brainer. And I’m sorry, but the Islanders just aren’t on the brink of winning the Stanley Cup. And hopefully the Leafs are going to win a Stanley Cup and he’s going to be a big part of bringing a Cup back to Toronto. It’s just a perfect scenario.

Graig Abel / National Hockey League / Getty

AP: Growing up for me, being able to go to Maple Leaf Gardens - for Oasis and Radiohead concerts, for pro wrestling matches, for NHL games when I was lucky enough to get tickets - there always was a special aura about the building. What was it like to play there? Was it that the stands were almost on top of each other? Was a combination of things that made it unique?

CJ: It was a combination of things for sure. I never attended a Leafs game until I was 18 years old. And I tell Wendel Clark this story - the game I was at was the game where Wendel scored four goals on Daren Puppa - and I told him, "The next time I saw you score four goals was on me. Thanks, Wendel (laughs)."

But the Gardens was a special place, and yeah, part of it was the steepness (of the seats). I can’t believe nobody was killed in the greens (section) behind the nets. It was insanity. Someone would tip one up there in warmups and I’d look up and think, how does nobody die? You could never have that now.

As a goalie playing there, there was no other rink like it. Because the corners were like a pinball machine. They weren’t deep, and the boards weren’t square, they were oval, so anytime a team would dump the puck in, it’d pinball right to the slot for a one-timer. I’m like, "Wow, this is a tough place to play in." Then the new building came in with the deep corners, and I was like, "Wow, this is so much easier (laughs)."

AP: For the past 10-15 years, it feels like goalies and goalie equipment are a focal point for criticism on how to improve the game, or how to increase scoring. But with the removal of obstruction we’ve seen players be more able to show what they can do in terms of creating offense. Do you feel like, as a card-carrying member of the goalies union, netminders have been unfairly picked on?

CJ: No, I understand. Goalies looked like lacrosse goalies for a while there, and it looked out of whack compared to the history of the game. And I’m the same way - I wish the pad size was one standard pad size, which is smaller. Because I feel the best goalies would still be the best goalies, and they’d put some distance between themselves and some of the not-so-good goalies.

So I’d like to see a more athletic goalie; I think it’s just more entertaining, so I’d love to see the pad size come way down to, like, 33 inches, instead of the tall guys, who have 43 inches. And (those extra 10 inches are) really for stopping pucks. Because I used to do it, too. You’d see a more athletic goalie, a more challenging goalie. You’d see more goals. You’d see more athletic saves. Not quite back to Mike Palmateer-level excitement - and how exciting were those days - but honestly, they’d have to scramble and do more. The Carey Prices of the world, they’d still be the best, because they’re the best athletes. And I think you’d see a bigger difference between the best NHL goalie and the worst goalie. And nobody would ever complain about the equipment again. You’re not changing the net size, nothing like that.

And also - sorry, I’m on a bit of a soapbox here - but I see minor hockey goalies, and parents come up to me and they’ll say, "Hey, what do you think of my son? And I’ll say, "He’s an amazing goalie. I love him, and he’s great." But I also say, "Can you make him 6-foot-3?" Because otherwise, he has no chance. If he’s not over 6-foot-2, he will not make the NHL. And I hate saying that because you’ve made the game available to the Johnny Gaudreaus and everybody else. Kudos for that. That’s great. Now let’s make it available to at least a 6-foot goalie.

Andre Ringuette / National Hockey League / Getty

AP: With the way the game has changed since you retired, what stands out for you?

CJ: I love the speed and skill of the game, the skating, the passing, and no obstruction. Even the shootout. I was against it at first; I was more of a purist and (hated) putting more pressure on the goalies. Now if I’m watching it, I’ll flip through to see if there is a shootout. Because now you see moves you’ve never seen before because it’s about entertainment. So in the regular season, a shootout is a great way to win a game.

The only thing I’d change, is the goalie pads - cut them way down. Oh, and take the trapezoid out. Playing the puck is such a skill for goalies, and when I’m watching a minor-hockey goalie who can play the puck, he stands out to me. I’m impressed. I loved watching Marty Turco wheel around, and when I was in college playing against Robb Stauber as he was shooting the puck down at the other end at me. And goalies playing the puck would give it away once in a while, and you’d get entertainment.

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Healy: If backed by science, NHL alumni association ‘all-in’ on cannabis

The group representing ex-NHL players is "all-in" on endorsing cannabis as a pain relief option for its members.

That is, if future research can prove the drug’s supposed healing capabilities.

"I think science has to prove it first. If science proves it, then I’ll endorse it. But it’s gotta be science first," Glenn Healy, executive director of the NHL Alumni Association, said Monday, less than a week after Canada legalized cannabis.

"It can’t be me first. When I went to Pickering High School, I didn’t get a PhD. I certainly didn’t."

Healy, a former NHL goalie and broadcaster, has been learning about the substance also named marijuana throughout 2018. He's deeply interested and the association, which he notes is partnering with a couple of neurologists, is "diving into this in a huge way.”

"We’re all-in," Healy said repeatedly. (He declined to specify what "all-in" entails.)

It’s no secret some ex-NHLers - most famously homeless Stanley Cup champion Joe Murphy and Matt Johnson - struggle with neurological problems in their retirement years. Hailing from a different, more violent era, players are prone to a number of mental health issues, including anxiety and depression.

Painkillers prescribed to treat nagging injuries have been part of the problem, so finding a widely accepted treatment alternative, something that is less destructive and addictive - cannabis or otherwise - would be a boon for athletes worldwide.

"It’s our players, it’s our life, it’s our families, it’s kids, it’s wives," Healy said. "I don’t get the calls from the players, I get the calls from the wives, I get the calls from the (children). We’re looking into all of it."

One-time Philadelphia Flyers enforcer Riley Cote has quickly become an unofficial pot spokesperson for NHL retirees, insisting sleeping pills and other medication should be replaced by natural substances. He's the creator of Hemp Heals Foundation, an organization promoting the benefits of cannabidiol (CBD), the therapeutic part of a cannabis plant, and has spoken to Healy directly about the matter.

Like Healy, though, Cote admits further digging is needed.

"There's probably billions of anecdotal stories, but those don't mean anything unless it's backed by science, unless it follows the order of the way it's supposed to be," he told The Associated Press recently.

The NHL and NHLPA test active players for cannabis. However, a positive test for pot does not warrant any kind of punishment. And now, those slipping on a jersey for a Canadian team have no red tape to cut through.

Cannabis and its oils can help with the normal aches and pains associated with playing sports for a living. Count Connor McDavid among the intrigued.

"I say this more talking about the CBD side of it, obviously: You'd be stupid not to at least look into it," the Edmonton Oilers superstar told the AP. "When your body's sore like it is sometimes, you don't want to be taking pain stuff and taking Advil all the time. There's obviously better ways to do it."

"You're seeing a lot of smart guys look into it," added McDavid, arguably the sport's best player. "You're seeing a lot of really smart doctors look into it. If all the boxes are checked there and it's safe and everything like that, then I think you would maybe hear them out."

John Matisz is theScore's National Hockey Writer. You can find him on Twitter @matiszjohn.

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Aho sets Hurricanes record for point streak to open season

Sebastian Aho just etched his name in the Carolina Hurricanes record books.

The Finnish forward picked up an assist in the club's 3-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Monday, giving him a nine-game point streak to open the 2018-19 campaign. That streak is the longest to begin a season in Hurricanes history.

In total, Aho now has four goals and 10 assists in nine games, but perhaps the most impressive part of his achievement is that's he's accomplished it all while learning a new position.

A winger throughout his first two seasons in the NHL, Aho has shifted to the much more demanding position of center, but hasn't skipped a beat offensively. He's a huge reason why the 'Canes sit first in the Metropolitan Division with 11 points.

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Avalanche’s top line has scored over 60 percent of team’s goals

Get the massage table ready, because the shoulders of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Mikko Rantanen must be quite sore from carrying the Colorado Avalanche to an impressive 6-1-2 start - the second-best record in the league.

Colorado's top line has been absolutely sensational through the first nine games, as they've scored 20 of the Avalanche's 33 goals this season (60.6 percent), including three tallies in the club's 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Monday.

Player GP G A P
Mikko Rantanen 9 4 12 16
Nathan MacKinnon 9 8 7 15
Gabriel Landeskog 9 8 4 12

Though it's still early in the season, there's a case to be made that Colorado's first line is the most dominant trio in the league. Perhaps even better than the Boston Bruins' top unit of Brad Marchand, Patrice Bergeron, and David Pastrnak.

The Avs are playing great team defense and have received phenomenal goaltending from both Semyon Varlamov and Philipp Grubauer, but it's clear this team will go as far as MacKinnon, Landeskog, and Rantanen take them. By the looks of it, it seems like they're gearing up for a marathon.

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Remember, we are all Canucks!