This is On the Fly's third (perhaps annual) Stealth List: a group of five people -- or in this case, three people and two pairs -- you hardly know but who make their teams or the game better.
(Once again, I strongly suggest the you curb the urge to click away and pay a modicum of attention. The last two No. 1s on the list were Hakan Andersson, the Red Wings' European scouting director who helped draft most of Team Sweden for self-proclaimed Hockey Town, and the estimable Patrick Sharp, the Chicago Blackhawks forward who plays center and the wing well enough to have earned an invitation for Team Canada's Olympic orientation camp last August. Can you say possible 13th forward?
This year's Stealth 7:
Kyle Quincey, Colorado Avalanche defenseman
In any barroom conversation about the NHL's most valuable blueliners, Quincey would come up about as often Jack Klugman's old Quincy character on TV. (The exception is My Brother's Bar in Denver. The poets in that terrific place would know about Quincey with an e.) Yet, Quincey has been a force, a complement to newly heralded goalie Craig Anderson.
Quincey is playing the kind of minutes usually reserved for players named Pronger or Niedermayer, an average around 25 that includes the heavy sledding on special teams and against top lines. He is only 24, which should not qualify him as a late bloomer. Drafted 132nd overall by Detroit in 2003, Quincey was considered a prospect there but got stuck at the end of the conga line of talented defensemen. The Los Angeles Kings snapped him up on waivers last October, milking a 38-point season from him before flipping him to the Avalanche in a deal that brought veteran left wing Ryan Smythe. To go from a waiver guy to a valuable piece that landed Smythe is a quantum leap. If Quincey can help the Avalanche to an unexpected playoff berth, he will be one rung further up the ladder of success.
Jamie Kompon, Los Angeles Kings assistant coach
If you know his name, you are either his kin, have a profound (and disturbing) knowledge of the Kings, or are a certified hockey wonk. He is not one of those assistant coaches who scored goals or trolled the NHL blueline, just a grunt with the ability to break down tape and explain the game to his hockey betters. He played at McGill University and in Germany and the ECHL for a spell, but he also worked as schoolteacher.
"He has the responsibility for the power play, and he's really grabbed a hold of it," Kings head coach Terry Murray says. "Because he was a teacher, he's good at presentations, comfortable with speaking to our power-play group. He's got a good feel for what's going on."
Prior to joining the Kings, Kompon spent nine years working with video for St. Louis. Blues veterans would troop into a room and watch tape with him between periods, a classroom on the fly. Kompon has few peers at slicing up tape and none at presenting the salient points as smoothly.
Paul Steigerwald and Bob Errey, Pittsburgh's TV announcers
Usually fans reflexively vaunt the hometown telecast crew. Unfortunately, these two guys don't even get the proper amount of love in their own city of champions.
In the case of Steigerwald, the problem is that his predecessor, Mike Lange, winner of the Hockey Hall of Fame's Foster Hewitt Award for excellence in broadcasting, is only one booth down, working with Phil Bourque on the Penguins radio broadcasts. Lange, renowned for his beat-the-goalie-like-a-rented-mule-isms -- Randy Moeller is now working the same side of the street in Florida -- is an incredibly tough act to follow, but Steigerwald follows his own muse, keeping his calls shtick-free and refreshingly conversational.
Errey, a goal-scorer on the Penguins' fabulous Stanley Cup teams of 1991 and 1992, is also low-key although insightful. Former Hockey Night in Canada executive producer and ex-NHL director of broadcasting John Shannon thinks Errey has the goods to fill a national role as a color man.
There are many deservedly high-profile tandems working now - Jim Hughson and Craig Simpson on Hockey Night, Gord Miller and Pierre McGuire on TSN, Doc Emrick working with anybody anywhere -- but Pittsburgh's telecasts are direct and informative, what On The Fly likes to call hockey for adults.
John Chapman, Philadelphia Flyers scout
Back in the days before the salary cap, Chapman was a Wite-Out for general manager Bob Clarke, practically guaranteeing that some promising kid would be in the pipeline whenever the Flyers lurched off the rails. Like David Conte in New Jersey and Tim Burke in San Jose, Chapman was considered a master at identifying young talent. (He was a big part of the 2003 Jeff Carter - Mike Richards draft that remains the cornerstone of the organization. The first six players the Flyers selected that June have played in the NHL.)
For the past four seasons, Chapman, a successful junior coach in Lethbridge in the 1980s, has been working as a pro scout for Philadelphia. If you do know his name, you might have heard about it not because of his scouting acumen, but for his old-fashioned heroism. He jumped into a lake to save a drowning two-month-old girl and her mother last April, a tale that got big play in Canada. Sometimes Stealth Listers make the game better. Sometimes they make the world better.
Al MacInnis, VP of hockey operations, and Jarmo Kekalainen, director of amateur scouting, St. Louis Blues
Sort of odd that MacInnis, the Hall of Fame defenseman with a slapshot that made goalies cower, would be included on a list that celebrates the relatively unknown. But this is MacInnis, player development guy, and not MacInnis, Hammer of Thor. Along with Kekalainen, they have been major contributors to a franchise that is humming in the right direction.
Unlike, say, the Minnesota Wild, where the pipeline is rusting, the Blues have been pumping out NHL-ready young players in a short time. Selecting a No. 1 overall like defenseman Erik Johnson in 2007 is relatively simple -- golf cart accidents notwithstanding -- but St. Louis has scored with late first-rounders including T.J. Oshie (24th in 2005), Patrik Berglund (25th in 2006) and David Perron (26th in 2007).
The NHL's deepest brain trust has been in Detroit -- GM Ken Holland ably surrounded by Scotty Bowman (until 2008), Jim Devellano, Jim Nill, Steve Yzerman, Andersson and exceptional pro scouts -- but the Blues also have a surfeit of gray matter with these two on a depth chart headed by John Davidson, Larry Pleau and Doug Armstrong.