SIMMONS SAYS: Hughes trio could wind up as NHLs most-decorated brother act

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In the early 1970s, Phil Esposito was the most prolific goal-scorer in hockey and his brother, Tony Esposito, was a Vezina Trophy-winning goaltender.

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That came after Bobby and Dennis Hull combined for 88 goals in a season for the Chicago Black Hawks and before the six Sutter brothers from Viking, Alta. — Brent, Brian, Darryl, Rich, Ron and Duane — went on to play 4,994 NHL games and then coach in 2,989 more.
There has been no shortage of terrific brother combinations in hockey, from the Richards to the Mahovliches, the Staals to the Sedins, the Hunters to the Niedermayers and the Stastnys, but nothing quite as distinct or unique or current as the Hughes brothers of Orlando, Toronto, Manchester, N.H., and the greater Detroit area.

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They are the children of former Maple Leafs director of player development, Jimmy Hughes, and his wife, Ellen Weinberg-Hughes, the skating coach.

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Jack, even after getting hurt on Friday night, was leading the NHL in scoring and the electric New Jersey Devils centreman was emerging as an early favourite to win the Hart Trophy as the league’s most valuable player.

Quinn, the oldest at 24, is the first-year captain of the surging Vancouver Canucks. He leads all defencemen in scoring and is the early favourite to win the Norris Trophy, as the NHL’s best rearguard.

Luke Hughes, meanwhile, is playing 20 minutes a night as a rookie defenceman with the Devils, the team his brother Jack is alternate captain for. He has seven points in 10 games — one point more than the hugely touted centre, Connor Bedard. He is clearly an early-season candidate for the rookie of the year.

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Could one family win a Hart, a Norris and a Calder all in the same season?

In 1974, Phil Esposito won the Art Ross Trophy as leading scorer and the Hart as most valuable player. Tony won the Vezina. That came after both had been voted first all-stars in 1970 and 1972.

This could be a similar kind of year for the Hughes Corporation.

THIS AND THAT

The talk in 31 NHL dressing rooms on Friday: The Maple Leafs’ lack of response to Brad Marchand’s trip that injured Timothy Liljegren the night before in Boston. It is mind-boggling that a team run by Brendan Shanahan, who played Hall of Fame nasty, can be this meek. Remarkable that a team coached by Sheldon Keefe, who grew up around vigilante hockey, lacks response. Shocking that a team managed by Brad Treliving, who wants more “snot” in the Leafs lineup would be so embarrassing in defeat … Treliving advocates a “one for all, all for one” kind of hockey. He always has. He advocates a ‘you-push-us, we-push-you back’ kind of game. The Leafs don’t do that right now and everyone in hockey knows it and enjoys it. The team had better start doing it or change will happen. It’s not so much about displaying toughness as it is about situational awareness. This is where John Tavares, having a great season, falls short as a captain. The hardest hits in Thursday’s game in Boston were made by 61-goal scorer David Pastrnak. You don’t have to be Ryan Reaves to stand up for yourself. Somebody on the Leafs had to respond to Marchand. Tavares and the Leafs leadership group had to advocate that. But nobody did. When Morgan Rielly hit Brayden Point in the playoffs, injuring him, the first Tampa players to get in Rielly’s face were Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos: They were just doing their job. That’s the kind of team toughness Shanahan and Treliving are looking for. … Two previous coaches of John Klingberg’s have told me he has a “helluva slapshot.” Just wondering: When are we going to see it? … Once Matthew Knies understands he is faster than just about everybody he plays against, and larger and longer, he will become a much better player. He can go wide on almost any NHL defenceman or dip his shoulder and cut in, but he has yet to take advantage of his significant physical tools.

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HEAR AND THERE

The early word on Scottie Barnes in his third NBA season: Incredible. The kid is playing the best basketball of his life. He doesn’t really have a position and he doesn’t really have a position that he covers. He seems to cover everybody. But to date, he’s scoring more, assisting more, rebounding more and hitting threes more than ever before. And he’s doing something he hasn’t really done before — and that’s start the game quickly. His play has been the breakout news of the early Raptors season … The other Raptors surprise: The play of the 30-year-old point guard Dennis Schroder, with his sixth team in eight seasons. He doesn’t look anything like the journeyman his career resume would have you think it is … In other news: Not sure Pascal Siakam fits what the Raptors are trying to accomplish. This is a circumstance worth monitoring … Yes, Pierre Dorion made mistakes as general manager of the Ottawa Senators. Who doesn’t? And yes, the club lost a first-round pick in the penalty for the Evgenii Dadonov mess. But you look at the roster he left behind and the success of getting Tim Stutzle and Jake Sanderson the two best players from the 2020 draft, and this reminds me a little of the Dale Tallon firing in Chicago years ago. Tallon left behind a team that won three Stanley Cups. Dorion leaves behind one of the best young rosters in the NHL … One hope for the upcoming renovations at Scotiabank Arena: More washrooms … I know the Argos don’t get much love around Toronto — or anywhere else for that matter — but wouldn’t it be appropriate to pack BMO Field for next Saturday’s Eastern final? The Argos finished 16-2 with the best record in team history, tied for most wins in CFL history. Quarterback Chad Kelly should win the Most Outstanding Player award. Giving them an extra home-field advantage with a big crowd behind them, even though they are undefeated at BMO, would be nice.

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SCENE AND HEARD

The worst move Kyle Dubas made with the Leafs came before Lou Lamoriello was hired as general manager and before he eventually ascended to the GM’s chair. He traded the 24th pick in the 2015 draft for two picks who didn’t turn out to be NHL players. The kid they should have drafted — and it bothers Mark Hunter all these years later — is Travis Konecny of the Philadelphia Flyers. Konecny is currently tied for the lead in goal-scoring in the NHL. Had the Leafs exercised that pick, they would have wound up with William Nylander, Mitch Marner, Konecny and Auston Matthews in three consecutive drafts. Konecny is eighth in scoring overall of those selected from that very strong 2015 draft which included Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel, Marner, Mikko Rantanen and Kyle Connor … This isn’t a second guess. This is a first guess. When Mike Grier traded Erik Karlsson to Pittsburgh, he got back a package that included a first-round pick, protected though against being a top-10 selection. Now Grier’s San Jose Sharks are the worst team in hockey, Pittsburgh is not all that far away and Dubas gets to keep his first-round pick if it happens to be early enough. I said it at the time. I would not have made the deal without the pick being unprotected … Watching Drew Doughty play on a nightly basis is likely watching a clinic on how to play defence. He again leads the NHL in ice time. His panic threshold is almost non-existent. Every young defenceman should be forced to study film of Doughty to understand how best to play the position … This won’t last, but there are no Canadians in the top 15 in NHL scoring as of Saturday. The top scorers are mostly Americans and Swedes. The top Canadian scorers are Tavares and Konecny and one more if you want to count the Swiss-born Mason McTavish of the Ducks … Joe Thornton has retired as the 12th leading scorer in NHL history. That is remarkable. What isn’t all that remarkable is that Thornton retires as the 45th leading playoff scorer in history. Centres I would take over Thornton, who is certain to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer: Wayne Gretzky, Mario Lemieux, Jean Beliveau, Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby, Phil Esposito, Bryan Trottier, Steve Yzerman, Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Stan Mikita, Mark Messier, Bobby Clarke, Peter Stastny, Marcel Dionne, Gil Perreault, Denis Savard and we could argue about Ron Francis, Mats Sundin, Darryl Sittler, Dale Hawerchuk, Doug Gilmour, Mike Modano, Jean Ratelle, Dave Keon, Evgeni Malkin, Leon Draisaitl and Sergei Fedorov. And I’m probably missing somebody. That’s a pretty stacked list of NHL centremen … This looks like the end for the elegant Nicklas Backstrom, who is behind only Crosby and Patrick Kane in assists in his time playing in Washington. For the record, Backstrom has assisted on 279 of Alexander Ovechkin’s 824 goals. Actually thought it would be more than that. That’s the fourth best number in NHL history behind Gretzky to Jari Kurri, Trottier to Mike Bossy and Henrik Sedin to Daniel Sedin.

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AND ANOTHER THING

This is weird and probably wrong: Bo Bichette did not get nominated for a Silver Slugger award in the American League but Whit Merrifield did … Ross Atkins was among the big league GMs in Japan recently scouting pitcher Yoshinobu Yamamoto, who is considered to be a top-of-the-rotation starter. Even with Kevin Gausman, Chris Bassitt and Jose Berrios all making big money, and Yusei Kikuchi and Alek Manoah also under contract, the Jays seem willing to spend more on starting pitching at a time when hitting is their greatest need …. Dusty Baker has announced his retirement. Can the Hall of Fame be far away? But if I’m Mark Shapiro, I might make a call to Baker, inquiring if he might be interested in one more season of managing. Baker is 73. World Series winner Bruce Bochy is 68. Brian Snitker, who won the Series in 2021 managing Atlanta, was 66. John Schneider is 42. Only one manager younger than Schneider has won a World Series over the past 25 years. The average age of the past 10 World Series-winning managers is 57 … No one since Casey Stengel has won more World Series than Bochy’s four. And all four of his Series wins have come with teams that didn’t make the playoffs the year before. Stengel’s last win was in 1958 … John Gibbons went on record recently saying he wouldn’t have had the guts to pull Berrios after 47 pitches in the second game of the playoff series with the Minnesota Twins … I don’t dislike the NBA in-season tournament, but I don’t like it, either. Truth, I have enough to care about right now. This just doesn’t register for me … I watched a lot of Jonathan Huberdeau when he played for the Florida Panthers. What impressed me most was his high-end offensive creativity and his ability to pass the puck. It’s impossible to explain what’s happened since. In his final four seasons in Florida he scored 1.2 points per game, or at 99-point pace. In Calgary, where he’s been a total disaster along with the Flames, he’s scoring at 0.67 points a game, a 55-point pace … Important NFL insider betting information: The Kansas City Chiefs are 0-1 in games that Taylor Swift doesn’t show up to cheer on boyfriend Travis Kelce since this got semi-serious. Swift, however, is in Germany for the Chiefs game Sunday against the Miami Dolphins … Bill Belichick guy Josh McDaniels was fired after the Raiders lost on Monday night. The way the Raiders played against Detroit, he probably should have been fired at halftime … Happy birthday to Lloyd Moseby (64), Sergei Berezin (52), Bill Walton (71), Matty Beniers (21), Alexei Yashin (50), Tyrese Maxey (23), Jerry Stackhouse (49), Vince Wilfork (42), Jason Kelce (36), Orlando Pace (48), Odell Beckham Jr. (31) and Dez Bryant (35) … And, hey, whatever became of Alexei Ponikarovsky?

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