Archives For NHL

It’s something he has done before — successfully, I might add — but Kaspars Daugavins went for it again: he pressed the toe of his blade into the puck and took off, barrelling down on Tuukka Rask. Ripping a quick spin-o-rama, Daugavins tried to bury the puck, which was still tucked tightly under the toe of his stick, but was denied. He skated back to the bench with his head down. But today his attempt has the hockey world talking.

I’d like to say I fall in line with the majority of hockey fans when saying that I’m not a proponent of the shootout, but that would be a lie. While I understand the merit of deciding a game with extra hockey, and with the notions of 3-on-3 or expanded overtime being bandied about, I have to admit there’s something that encapsulates me about the one-on-one between a shooter and goaltender. I want to see supremely skilled players do things with a puck that I could barely dream of, and I want to have those ideas inspire others to try jaw-dropping moves and carry on an era of shootout flare.

This is where Daugavins comes in. Post-game, David Krejci — whose Bruins squad Daugavins tried his awe-inspiring attempt against — said he wouldn’t be pleased if a player on his own team tried that. I’m not Nostradamus, but I’d venture a guess and say Krejci would probably be having a laugh on the bench if, say, Brad Marchand had pulled that out of his bag of tricks.

Think about the most memorable goals from the near decade of hockey that has been played since the inception of the NHL’s shootout era. If you didn’t think immediately about Marek Malik’s between-the-legs, Pavel Datsyuk’s signature deke, or Patrick Kane mesmerizing Niklas Backstrom, I’d be surprised. Those are moves that were played on highlight reels throughout the continent. They are what sells the game.

We have engaged in the fighting debate enough to come to the conclusion that, in reality, it likely is no longer really selling the game. But when a fan sees something like Daugavins attempt? You can guarantee they think about watching a bit more puck to see what these guys can do.

I don’t doubt that Ryan Lambert was on to something today he brought up the point about Daugavins and Linus Omark — whose shootout attempts became something of legend — were both European players. That, no doubt, probably has a bit to do with the scrutiny Daugavins is facing from fellow players. Surely, Good Canadian Boy Sidney Crosby would never do something outlandish in the midst of a game that wouldn’t be considered classy.

The problem here is hockey’s archaic view of right and wrong. Many in the league would decry Daugavins attempt because hockey has some obsession with the “old school,” and an inherent want to stay true to the form it has always been. As Lambert also pointed out, hockey is more inclined to accept a borderline hit and chalk it up to part of the game than they are to embrace creative play that can bring fans to their feet.

There is nothing wrong with what Daugavins did. It is — in a more literal sense than hits from behind and staged fights — part of the game. He was within his bounds to attempt it, and if he had scored, I would have applauded the next to try it.

Advertisements
Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian fought 13 times during the 2008-09 season as a member of the Winsor Spitfires. (Image courtesy WikiCommons)

Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian fought 13 times during the 2008-09 season as a member of the Winsor Spitfires. (Image courtesy WikiCommons)

Nearly one full season complete, and it appears the Ontario Hockey League’s sanctions on fighting have put a serious dent in the amount of fisticuffs you’re seeing during league action.

Before the puck had dropped to ring in the 2012-13 OHL season, the league made several rule changes. The one receiving the most attention — and rightfully so after what feels like years of debate surrounding player safety, concussions, and fighting — was the OHL’s decision to put limits on player fights.

The amendments to the player legislation (which do not appear in the leagues downloadable rulebook) are as follows:

  1. If a player is assessed a fighting major for the 11th – 15th time during the regular season, such player is assessed an automatic two (2) game suspension for each additional fighting major in addition to any other penalties assessed.
  2. If a player is assessed a fighting major for the 16th time or more during the regular season, such player is assessed an automatic two (2) game suspension and the hockey club is fined $1,000.00 for each additional fighting major in addition to any other penalties assessed.
  3. If a player is deemed to be the instigator in any of the fights above the ten (10) game threshold, such player would be assessed an automatic four (4) game suspension in addition to any other penalties assessed.

Though the change to the rulebook was met with mixed reaction, the rule changes allowed for the league to protect its players and take a step towards what will likely become a league sans fighting. It’s for this reason that fight-fans were outspoken on what the implications could be for the future of hockey — one they wish to have fighting be a part of.

It seems fitting to bring this up now, if anytime, just a day after the Ottawa Senator’s Dave Dziurzynski suffered what looked to be a pretty serious concussion at the hands of Toronto Maple Leafs’ Frazer McLaren under a minute into the Ottawa-Toronto game last night. While the blogosphere continues to argue the outright removal of fighting (something I’d guess is unlikely to happen for many years) or just limiting it to stiffer punishment for staged fights, the model I easily see the NHL adopting is something similar to what the OHL has taken on: a fight limit. Continue Reading…

The Chicago Blackhawks were Stanley Cup Champions in 2010 and anything short of another Stanley Cup won’t be enough this season. (Image courtesy WikiCommons)

With a 5-3 win last night over the Minnesota Wild, the Chicago Blackhawks pushed their point-streak this season to 23 games — a record of 20-0-3. The streak, which is the longest in the history of the National Hockey League to begin a season and second longest point streak of all-time, has put the Blackhawks front-and-centre on the sports radar in the United States. But in the end, the streak means nothing if the Blackhawks don’t win the final game of the season.

Many have been discrediting the streak as a product of the loser-point era and saying the Blackhawks have been the beneficiary of a “play it safe and secure at least a single” strategy, the streak should be discredited for another reason entirely: it doesn’t mean a thing.

Though earning a record in a league that’s satiated with parity is an achievement, it would be remiss to think anyone but fans and media care much about the streak. Even with this streak being only statistically possible once every 700 years according to Richard Cleary in an interview with USA Today’s Kevin Allen, it’s still not what the players set out each season to do, and it’s not what diehard fans dream of their team doing.

However unlikely it seems, this record will fall. This record will fall, and without a Stanley Cup to commemorate what is one of the greatest seasons the Windy City’s NHL team has ever seen, it will eventually be a memory that falls by the wayside for all hockey fans.

These records, for the most part, they come and go. What was Anaheim’s record from 2006-07 is no more, but if Ducks fans were asked what they remember about that season, it would be safe to say it’s the Stanley Cup.

The Blackhawks have been impressive this season, which is an understatement, but this season is about a race to the finish, not who’s first out of the blocks.

Were the Blackhawks to slip in the playoffs and be eliminated early, the streak would not be enough to please the fans. A divisional banner, maybe the least important banner in all of hockey, is worth less than nothing.

It’s not that fan expectations of this team are too high; fan expectations are right where they should be. The Blackhawks have succeeded to a point where they’re bound to lose a few — and a few in a row, in all likelihood — but ‘Hawks fans should now be worried about when this team happens to hit the skids.

The streak is an interesting statistical oddity and something that will eventually come to an end. A Stanley Cup at the end of the season will last forever.

It certainly came as a surprise to the Kamloops Blazers and the WHL when 20-year-old forward Jordan DePape decided to announce he was leaving the team.

DePape, who has since undergone surgery on a torn labrum in his right shoulder, was originally thought to be taking some time to decide on his future. While the shoulder injury will keep him sidelined for a significant amount of time, DePape told Gregg Drinnan that he’s not ruling out a possible comeback.

However, the injury has almost certainly ended DePape’s WHL career. The former MJHL Rookie of the Year has since told the Winnipeg Sun that he could possibly see coming back to play in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League and has been approached about playing for the University of Manitoba Bisons.

All of this first came to my attention when DePape was listed on EliteProspects.com as being transferred from the WHL’s Blazers to “Time-Out From Hockey.” It’s not often that you see the dreaded “time out from hockey” show up on the site, but it does happen from time to time.

Continue Reading…

Out of curiosity, I looked into the Greater Toronto Hockey League, and the players that have made it from Toronto’s minor hockey system and to the National Hockey League.

After the rant earlier this year by Don Cherry regarding the absence of any GTHL players on the Maple Leafs, I thought it’d be interesting to see how many GTHL players are actually in the NHL. Joining the Leafs in being GTHL-less are the Blue Jackets, Wild, Jets, and Lightning.

It’s quite remarkable that, of all the minor hockey leagues in all of North America, the GTHL has a player on 25 of the 30 NHL rosters.

Some fast facts about the GTHL alumni:

  • There are 54 former GTHL players currently belonging to NHL teams
  • Chicago Blackhawks forwards Bryan Bickell and Dave Bolland played together with the Toronto Red Wings, and are now teammates at the pro level.
  • Tyler Seguin — the second overall pick of 2010’s NHL entry draft — played alongside 2010-11 NHL Calder Trophy Winner (Rookie of the Year) Jeff Skinner on the Toronto Young Nationals.
  • The Chicago Blackhawks have the most players from the GTHL on their roster (6)
  • There are GTHL alumni in every division in the NHL
  • The Pacific and Atlantic division teams each have at least one GTHL alumni
  • Winnipeg and Tampa Bay not having GTHL alumni make the South East Division the division with the least teams featuring GTHL alumni

Alumni per NHL team:

  • 6: Chicago Blackhawks
  • 4: Calgary Flames, Anaheim Ducks, New York Islanders
  • 3: San Jose Sharks, Florida Panthers, Boston Bruins
  • 2: Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues, Vancouver Canucks, Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens
  • 1: Nashville Predators, Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars, Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils, Ottawa Senators

From the outside looking in, the deal that sent former Columbus Blue Jacket Rick Nash to the New York Rangers make Scott Howson look as if he’s been defeated.

While the return that Howson got for Nash — Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Tim Erixon, and a first round draft pick — will net Howson’s Jackets some depth, it will do very little in the way of netting goals. Losing a gifted scorer like Nash is no easy thing for the Blue Jackets to deal with, but what else could Howson have done?

In today’s age, where contract details are everything but secret and what goes on in a locker room doesn’t stay there, Howson was put in the precarious position of trying to maximize his return for a star that had publicly begged out. His hand was forced, GMs around the league knew it, and they could rake Howson over the coals.

Think of it this way: If Howson holds on to Nash, enters the season with the disgruntled forward, and attempts to play through it, the cloud hanging over his team will only aid in crippling an already struggling franchise.

Howson had to make a move. He had to make the move that made most sense for his team and its success.

For that reason, I believe Howson nixed the deal with Detroit.

The reported package from Detroit, from multiple outlets including MLive.com and Macomb Daily, would have seen the Jackets acquire a top-six talent like Johan Franzen or Valterri Filpulla and, in addition, a depth forward with good potential. Both Darren Helm and Gustav Nyquist were mentioned by Chuck Pleiness of Macomb Daily.

But if you’re Howson, in a division that is already arguably the most difficult in the NHL, do you want to send your superstar to a division rival only to see him six times a season?

While six games may not seem all that significant, the Red Wings already boast a 49-13-1-6 record over the Jackets since their inception in 2000-01. Adding a superstar to that equation — and maybe seeing that player paired with the likes of Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg — is enough to scare any GM off. With the Wings taking almost 70 per cent of the points when the two teams meet, adding Nash could have bumped that up to as high as 85 or 90. That’s 10 points a season, lost.

So when the news broke yesterday that Nash had been sent to the Rangers for a package that seemed second rate, it was hard for me to find Howson at fault.

Greg Wyshynski put it perfectly over at Yahoo!’s Puck Daddy:

Nash reportedly limited his list of trade destinations to the New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, San Jose Sharks, Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings. Howson wasn’t trading him within the division, so goodbye Detroit. The Flyers just signed Shea Weber to a massive contract; as of Monday, they weren’t a viable destination (and one assumes they’d rather allocate their funds to defense anyway). The Bruins didn’t want to part with the types of assets the Rangers ended up parting with; ditto the San Jose Sharks. And who knows if the Penguins wanted to add $7.8 million to their salary structure. So, in the end … yeah, the Rangers.

The deal had to be made with the Rangers. And for all the guff Glen Sather gets, you had to expect he knew that, though he was the one pursuing the prized possession, he was the one operating from the better position.

That Sather was able to make this deal without surrendering NCAA standout and playoff revelation Chris Kreider, Carl Hagelin, Ryan McDonagh, or any of the other young assets the Rangers host is a sure sign that Howson felt backed into a corner.

What Howson got back is what he could have. What he did was what needed to be done.

Howson’s head may be on the chopping block, but Rick Nash is the one who put him there.

December 17, 2010 was Chris Chelios Heritage Night at the United Center in Chicago. As the Blackhawks honoured one of their all-time greats, those in attendance showered him with boos.

Chelios, then 48, pleaded with the sold-out crowd, asking them to, “let bygones be bygones,” and telling the fans that he was one of them. The Blackhawks faithful relented slightly, but seemingly few remember just what Chelios meant to the organization.

The words to describe Chelios as a player are plentiful: warrior, determined, leader, teacher, champion — the list goes on all the way to the one word that encapsulates it all. Legend.

Legend isn’t a word I throw around lightly when it comes to the greats of our beloved game, but Chelios deserves it. A three-time Stanley Cup Champion, three-time Norris Trophy winner, multiple First Team All-Star votes, and an NHL career that spanned over 25 years. He’s the modern icon of career longevity (Gordie Howe being the historical figure that best embodied that attribute).

When he left Chicago, very few fans chose to remember that it wasn’t necessarily on his own accord.

Sure, Chelios had lofty contract demands and he was 36 years old, but the onus — at least in my mind — falls on William W. Wirtz. Wirtz was unwilling to pay his veteran leader the money that he rightfully deserved, thus leading to him being jettisoned to the much maligned division rival Detroit Red Wings. You can’t fault Chelios for this either. Plain and simple, the Wings were the highest bidders.

Days after the trade had taken place, Chelios told reporters he regretted not being able to finish his career as a Blackhawk.

This is a Chicago native, a man who took the Blackhawks to the Stanley Cup Final in 1992, the defenseman who represented the ‘Hawks in several All-Star Games and won two Norris Trophies as a member of the team. He is the third highest scoring defenseman in team history — with the second highest P/PG — and was the captain for five seasons. He was a leader on and off the ice.

With the Hall of Fame inductees for 2012 being announced today, it is without a doubt that come Chelios’s time he’ll be a first ballot inductee.

You can trust this is one the induction committee will get right, that’s not my concern. What is more concerning, and far more interesting, is whether or not the Blackhawks do the right thing: retiring Chelios’s number 7.

Chelios’s credentials are there and his numbers are comparable to all those Blackhawks whose numbers hang from the rafters in the United Center. What he meant to the franchise cannot be quantified. He lead the team to greatness and his exit coincides with one of the greatest tailspins in franchise history.

When Chelios gets the greatest honour in hockey, an induction to the Hall of Fame, it is only right if the Blackhawks do the same and retire his number.

All due respect to Brent Seabrook, but there is only one 7.