CALGARY – Inside the Boston Bruins locker room, it's not uncommon to hear winger Milan Lucic referred to as "Bob." As in Bob McKenzie. Apparently the NHL power forward and NHL on TSN Hockey Insider have a lot in common.
"Oh yeah, yeah, it's something that's very well known in our room," said a smiling Brad Marchand, who, like Lucic, was invited to this week's Hockey Canada orientation camp.
Lucic has earned the comparison for a number of reasons. For one, he seems to have a scouting report on every player in the league filed away in his brain. Also, he is knowledgeable about the history of the game. But, mostly, he can recite statistics on command.
"I think [Bruins coach] Claude [Julien] may even throw some statistics out, which Looch corrects him on," said Marchand. "He knows everything and you just don't want to argue with him when he speaks."
"He loves stats – and not just in hockey," said Julien. "It's in football, it's in baseball. He just really likes stats. Every once in a while, you kind of look at him after you say something stats-wise to see if he's disagreeing or agreeing. It's almost like the [Dustin Hoffman character in the 1988 movie] Rain Man."
"He's so funny," said teammate Patrice Bergeron. "If you say a stat about the score ending up being 6-4, you better have it right because he'll let you know and tell you it was 6-5 and, 'This guy actually scored with 1:18 left,' or whatever it was. He's very good with numbers, actually impressive with numbers. I don't know how he does it."
Yes, how does Lucic explain it?
"I was always good at math in high school and that's why," he said with a shrug.
Bergeron has a different theory.
"I guess we all know what he does with his spare time," he said in an accusatory tone, "going online and trying to memorize the scores."
Lucic insists that's not true.
"I don't actually," he said. "I look at it once and usually remember it."
You don't have to be a mathematician to see Lucic is facing an uphill battle to make the 2014 Canadian Olympic team. The competition in Sochi will be on a larger surface and Lucic's size (6-foot-4, 220 pounds), which makes him a menacing force in the NHL, may be considered a weakness overseas. Although the Vancouver native doesn't see it that way.
"The way that I played has got me here, right? And I think if you ask all the guys here, the main focus going into this season is not to try out for Team Canada, it's to be your best for the team you're playing for. I have to play the way that the Bruins expect me to play and the way I expect me to play. If I do get chosen for the team, I do have to play a certain way and I'm sure I'll be put in a role that suits my game the best."
Lucic has an advocate on the Canadian coaching staff as Julien will serve as an assistant to head coach Mike Babcock.
"In Milan's case, once he gets going he's a pretty good skater," said Julien. "I think the question mark has always been him having quick feet from the get-go. On the big ice, for the most part, we plan on having our guys moving their feet, keeping their feet moving, don't plan on having them standing still too much. For him, it gives him a better opportunity. Like I said, once he starts to skate, he's not a bad skater. You've seen him beat guys to the net with speed. You've seen him on the forecheck beat guys to the puck because of his speed. His biggest deficiency is when he's not skating, standing still, that's where he's got to improve. He's got an opportunity to do that, this first half of the season, prove that he can play on the big ice."
Lucic has helped his cause by staying in great shape throughout the off-season. He took just one week off after the crushing Stanley Cup loss to Chicago before starting his workouts.
"The main thing for me was, I felt really good about myself and my game with how things ended and how I played throughout the playoffs so I didn't take much time off and I wanted to kind of keep that going and keep that high, you know?"
Lucic hasn't gained any weight during the off-season and is feeling much healthier overall.
"I had some things that were kind of bothering me that weren't allowing my body to train as hard as I used to and I've rectified a couple of those problems and it's starting to feel better in the gym," said Lucic, who refused to elaborate on what was plaguing him earlier.
Lucic is also mentally refreshed after what was, at times, a trying year. The playoffs marked the high point after he endured a hellish regular season, which actually saw him end up as a healthy scratch at one point. Looking back on that now, Lucic actually believes it was something he needed to experience.
"I had a million meetings [when things were going wrong]. Obviously, there was a lot of honesty in a lot of them, but also I thought there was a lot of faith from the people I was talking to as I was trying to get myself back on track and that gave me a type of confidence. One of my assistant coaches said, 'Just go back to playing reckless,' and that's what helped me the most.
"Sometimes you have to go through what I went through during the season. Sometimes it lights that fire up again. You need that to rejuvenate yourself. I think that's what happened last year. Hopefully I can start the way I ended last year."
Lucic had just seven goals and 20 assists in 46 regular season games. In the playoffs, though, he had seven goals and 12 assists in 22 games.
"I'm a positive-minded guy so you kind of try to focus more on the positives than the negatives. Obviously, team-wise it was a disappointment with how it ended, but personally there were a lot of positives I could take out of the way I played in the playoffs."
Lucic loves numbers and one he's well aware of is 25, his age. He's in the prime of his career and realizes his Olympic window may be closing.
"You never know when you can have this opportunity again and when that next opportunity arises. I'm 29 by [the next Olympics] and who knows what kind of beating my body could take in the next four years."
Lucic also notes there is no guarantee NHL players will be taking part in the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. But for now, he's focused purely on this season.
"It's definitely a great opportunity to look forward to and, like I said, you want to go back to your hockey club and your organization and play the best you can for them and I think that's going to give you the best chance to fulfill your dream of playing for Canada."