Maciver impressed with Karlsson’s race to his record

 

Norm Maciver is about to be written out of the Ottawa Senators record books forever, yet he expresses nothing but amazement for what Erik Karlsson has accomplished this season.

 

Maciver was one of the few bright spots in the Senators embarrassingly bad inaugural season of 1992-93. His 63 points — the most ever in a single-season by a Senators defenceman — have somehow stood the test of time. The only other marks still standing from that initial season, when the club lost an astounding 70 games, are futility records.

 

Now, 19 years later, Karlsson is on pace to smash Maciver’s numbers. Karlsson went into Tuesday’s game against the Pittsburgh Penguins with six goals and 35 assists, leading Florida’s Brian Campbell by eight points in the scoring race among defencemen, and was 22 points shy of Maciver’s 19-year-old Senators record. Karlsson needed only 13 more assists to break Maciver’s single-season mark for helpers.

 

Barring a second half collapse or a major injury, those honours will soon belong to the 21-year-old Karlsson.

 

Maciver isn’t losing any sleep over the possibility of losing his Senators mark of distinction. Rather, he marvels about Karlsson’s offensive production in a far more lower scoring era of the NHL than the one he played in.

 

“That’s impressive,” says Maciver, who played exactly 500 NHL games with seven teams and now serves as director of player personnel for the Chicago Blackhawks. “I knew he was having a terrific year, but I don’t follow it that closely. I check the stats once in awhile.”

 

Maciver led the Senators in scoring in the Senators’ first season, scoring 17 goals and 46 assists, 15 points ahead of Jamie Baker. Sylvain Turgeon was tops in goals, with 25. Yet as scoring challenged as the Senators were (they netted only 202 goals), many NHL teams were routinely scoring four, five, even six goals every game. The Detroit Red Wings led the league with 369 goals — an average of 4.39 per game — and Pittsburgh’s Mario Lemieux won the scoring title with 160 points. Phil Housley of the Winnipeg Jets led defencemen with 97 points. Pittsburgh goaltender Tom Barrasso ranked third in the NHL with a goals against average of 3.01. Today, a 3.01 goals against average ranks 35th in the league.

 

“You have to remember, scoring was a lot different back then,” says Maciver. “What (Karlsson) is doing is really, really impressive. I don’t remember, exactly, but I don’t think I was in the top five, or even the top 10, among league defencemen in scoring. That just shows how much scoring there was in those days.”

 

Maciver actually finished 12th among blueliners.

 

While Maciver was 5-11 and 180 pounds during his playing days, exactly the same size as Karlsson, the circumstances of their arrivals in Ottawa are drastically different. Karlsson was a highly touted first round draft choice, selected 15th overall by the Senators at the 2008 draft held at Scotiabank Place. Maciver, on the other hand, was plucked off waivers from Pittsburgh, after the Senators first training camp. In the early days of the franchise, of course, the Senators played out of the Civic Centre.

 

“Under the circumstances, we made the best of it,” Maciver says, with a laugh. “A bunch of the guys were back together in Ottawa for a reunion at the start of the year and we were taking about that. We went into games and we really didn’t have a first or second line to match up against anyone. We really had third line players. We had to work every night. We played hard. We were not very skilled. You have to give a lot of credit to the coaches.”

 

From a personal standpoint, it wasn’t all bad.

 

“I did get a chance to play a lot,” he says. “I was given a lot of power play time and I was able to capitalize and get some points. Looking back, at least I was involved in a good percentage of the goals we scored.”

 

Maciver remained with the Senators until April, 1995, when he was traded to Pittsburgh in the deal which brought Martin Straka to the Senators. He went on to play for Winnipeg Jets and Phoenix before retiring following the 1998-99 season.

 

In addition to his Senators record, Maciver also held the distinction of scoring the final goal in the history of the original Jets franchise. Now that the Jets are back and Karlsson is poised to smash his long-standing Senators record, his name has often popped up in both Canadian cities as an answer to trivia questions.

 

“It’s nice to see the team is back in Winnipeg, it’s great for the fans and the city and the fans are tremendous,” he says. “I don’t think about (the Senators record) that much. It’s more that when somebody brings it up, I think about it a bit.”

 

Considering the point-scoring run Karlsson is on, Maciver figures to be pondering his Senators history far more often in the next few weeks and months.

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