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08-12-2012, 02:39 PM
MLD Glue Guy
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: BC, Canada
Country: Canada
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D James Stewart

Montreal, Quebec, Canada?

1892 Retroactive Norris
1893, 1984 Stanley Cup Champion

Iain Fyffe

on HFBoards:
Stewart is something of a defensive pick, if you'll pardon the pun. One might build an argument that Paton was not the most important cog in the Winged Wheelers' defence; Stewart played for the Crystals before joining the AAA, and in two of those three years the Crystals allowed the fewest goals per game.

He played point for each of his 11 years, the second-most important defensive position, and in 9 of those years his team allowed the fewest goals per game. He completes the triumvirate of Paton and Allan Cameron to form the nucleus of the defensively dominant Winged Wheelers teams that lasted into the 1890s.


Even though Tom Paton was recognized as the best goalie, I guess people don't realize that James Stewart was Paton's teammate for most of their careers, and Stewart played the second-most important defensive position. Before joining the Winged Wheelers, Stewart played with the Crystals, and they were excellent defensively as well. He is absolutely an elite stay-at-home blueliner at this level.
on Hockey Historysis:
Ultimate Hockey recognizes Stewart as "Best Shot-Blocker" of the 19th Century, saying he "was Allan Cameron's defensive conscience and the first in modern terms, to act as a second goalie. He held the point position as like a rock on those celebrated Montreal AAA squads..." I'd say this is overly simplistic. For one thing, as we'll see when we look at Allan Cameron, that man did not need a defensive conscience (unlike, perhaps, their Montreal Vics contemporary Jack Campbell).

For another, if you read the game reports for the Winged Wheelers, it's rare to see Stewart singled out for his performance. Praise directed his way was almost always in conjunction with Cameron, for example in the January 14, 1888 edition of the Montreal Gazette which stated "...the Crystals tried to reduce the odds against them, but owing to the grand defence of Cameron and Stewart their efforts were unavailing."

Indeed, in the February 16, 1888 edition of that paper, a writer admonished that "Stewart should not forget that his position is point, he has a disposition to get too far away from his place, he should keep further back to give the goalkeeper a little more assistance." In due time I'm going to make an argument that this comment has more to do with the defensive style of the mighty Winged Wheelers, than with a failing on Stewart's part, who played a very important defensive position for some exceptionally good defensive teams.
Previously I've written a bit about the Big Three on defence for the Montreal Winged Wheelers of the 1880s and early 1890s, a defensively dominant team: goaltender Tom Paton, point James Stewart and cover-point Allan Cameron. We know that Paton excelled not only at stopping the puck but especially at clearing it after a save; we known that Cameron was noted both for his transition game and his aggressive defence; and we know that while Stewart was less celebrated than the other two, he was still known as a top defender. However, we also saw a quote which called Stewart out for leaving his position in front of the goal too much, for not playing as a point should.

But it doesn't make much sense that this team, with a point that played out of position so often, would be able to prevent goals as well as they did. The point was the second-most important defensive position on the ice, and if he abandoned his position so much, that would cost his team goals. Unless, of course, leaving his post actually helped his team keep the puck out of the net...

I believe that Stewart's aggressiveness, relative to how the point position was "supposed" to be played at the time, was in fact a tactical choice, and one that was very effective. Cameron was known to challenge opponents, instead of waiting for them to come to him, and I suggest that Stewart did the same to great effect. This is from a game report in the March 8, 1892 edition of the Montreal Gazette:

Paton had many stops to make, nevertheless, but they were of the free and easy order and he cleverly drove the puck out of his territory. Stewart and Cameron swooped around after the puck in admirable style.

So both Cameron and Stewart went after the enemy puck-carriers (something points especially were not really expected to do). They did not play passively, allowing the opponents time to enter the zone and set up a combination play. I believe this is one of the main reasons the Winged Wheelers were so good at preventing goals: Cameron and Stewart were able to play aggressively, stripping the puck from opponents before they could make a play. Not everyone could do this, of course; you'd need the instincts and ability to pull it off.

I believe this is also what allowed Cameron and Stewart to be so effective by being aggressive. If you challenged an enemy puck carrier, you were not in as much danger of getting into a bad position as you would be in the modern game, because if the opponent passed the puck before you get to him, he could at best do it laterally, and it will often be behind him. As such, if you could read the play quickly enough (which Cameron and Stewart surely could), when the opponent passed the puck you were be able to adjust your trajectory to intercept that player instead, because he simply could not be behind you.

As such, I think Cameron and especially Stewart were simply ahead of their time, realizing the advantage on defence that playing aggressively could bring. While some other defences waiting for puck carriers to come to them, the Winged Wheelers focused on stopping the opponents advances as soon as they could. And this is one reason they were so very good at keeping the puck out of the net.

Last edited by Hedberg: 08-13-2012 at 07:17 PM.
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