Thursday

Paul Ranheim

I remember vividly my introduction to Paul Ranheim. It was in the 1990 NHL Guide And Record Book.

In those days before the Internet, the Guide and Record book was truly the bible of hockey statistics. When I got my annual copy I would devour every statistic of every player in it, especially the newcomers I had never really heard of before. There was a time I could tell you the birthplace, last amateur team and how many goals in any season in the 1980s any player had.

I'm pretty sure my eyes must have bulged out in disbelief when I saw Ranheim's stat line for the 1988-89 season, his first pro season with Calgary's farm team in Salt Lake City. In 75 IHL games he scored an amazing 68 goals! He added just 29 assists for 97 points.

The Flames of course just had won the Stanley Cup. They already had 50 goal scorers in Joe Mullen and Joe Nieuwendyk, not to mention a scary collection of brilliant offensive players including Doug Gilmour, Al MacInnis, and Gary Suter. Youngsters Theo Fleury and Gary Roberts, future 50 goal scorers themselves, were promising to play bigger roles.

As a fan of the lowly Vancouver Canucks, and as a fan of Wayne Gretzky and his team be it Edmonton or Los Angeles, I did not like the Flames. I liked most of their players, but in the youthful black and white world of good and bad, Gretzky was good, the Flames were bad. My Canucks were just plain awful.

So I was highly distressed when I saw that the Stanley Cup champion Flames would soon be adding a 68 goal scorer named Paul Ranheim to their roster.

Ranheim, as it turned out, would not become much of a scoring threat in the NHL. In three out of four seasons with the Flames he would score over 20 goals, but he spent the bulk of his career with Hartford/Carolina and then Philadelphia struggling to score even 10 goals. But he did play in over 1000 NHL games because a) he was a fantastic skater and b) he reinvented himself as a checker.

Ranheim was always the faster skater on the ice. He rocketed around the rink like an Yvan Cournoyer or a Russ Courtnall. While his speed created many scoring opportunities at the University of Wisconsin and in the minor leagues, at the NHL level he just lacked creativity and hand skills to be much of an offensive force. He merited little power play time, partly because his shot was astonishingly inaccurate.

But Ranheim became a top defensive player. His speed obviously allowed him to keep up with any defensive assignment. He played a solid physical game, although he was not much of an initiator. He had good defensive reads and good anticipation, making him a fixture on the penalty kill.

If you told me after seeing that 1990 NHL Guide and Record Book that Paul Ranheim would go on to play in 1000 NHL games I would have believed you, although I would have guessed he would have been a good offensive player rather than a penalty kill specialist. It just goes to show that you can't really scout a player in the NHL Guide And Record Book I guess.

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