The Penguins entered Monday’s tilt against the visiting Blue Jackets without three of their better defensemen (the injured Paul Martin, Rob Scuderi and Brooks Orpik) and one of their best forwards (the suspended James Neal). They’re also without forward Tanner Glass and goalie Tomas Vokoun, both of whom are on the injured reserve.
If this injury-riddled fate befell certain other NHL teams, they’d be forgiven for withering in its wake. But in Pittsburgh, as long as either Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin is in the lineup, the Pens have got a decent chance to win.
Furthermore, when both superstars are playing, as they were against Columbus, the Pens have a better-than-decent chance; in this case, Crosby and Malkin provided all the offense Pittsburgh needed (or could muster) in a 2-1 win over the Jackets.
The game was the first for Malkin after missing two games with a lower body injury, but he looked none the worse for wear in scoring the first goal of the night.
Jarome Iginla is back in Calgary for a game tomorrow between his new Boston Bruins team and the Flames franchise with which he’ll be associated now and forever.
When the game goes down, it will be a bittersweet moment for the legion of fans who adored him during his 17 years in Alberta and many people will ask (a) whether the Flames should have traded him; and (b) whether they waited to long to do so.
The answer to both: (a) yes; and (b) of course. All you have to do to arrive at that conclusion is look at what Calgary got in return for the greatest player in team history. People had been pleading with Flames ownership and management for years to make the tough decision and trade Iginla while his market value was at its peak, but they took the safe route and the team’s well-being took a long-term hit because of it.
That said, I fully understand why Flames brass fell into that trap. If there ever was a better fit for the Flames than Iginla – if ever there were a more decent, thoughtful athlete and person to represent that city – they played in a parallel universe in which I have no media accreditation.
In an interview with THN late Sunday, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman wasn’t prepared to comment on the ugly optics of Saturday’s Bruins-Penguins game. However, he also wasn’t willing to rule out the league eventually ejecting players with a game misconduct after any fight.
“I don’t think it’s sensible right now to have a debate right now that’s very emotional on both sides,” Bettman said. “If there comes a point where that’s on the table and that enough people feel needs to be changed, then it’ll get considered. But according to the last poll I saw from the players, something like 98% of the players like it the way it is. And if you’re going to make a change, there needs to be a consensus.”
Bettman deferred to the league’s department of player safety to address the fallout from the Boston/Pittsburgh game, which saw Bruins enforcer Shawn Thornton slew-foot Pens blueliner Brooks Orpik, then knock him unconscious. But he weighed in on a vast array of topics for the cover story in THN’s upcoming People of Power And Influence issue, including NHL expansion, future Olympic participation, the league’s Canadian TV Rightsholder deal, plans for Europe, lessons from the most recent lockout and more.
In the same week NHL icon Wayne Gretzky was back in the news, the man who famously – or if you’re from Edmonton, infamously – traded him to Los Angeles also was making headlines.
Former Oilers owner Peter Pocklington avoided imprisonment Friday when he posted a $100,000 appearance bond to a California judge who granted him bail.
It’s mailbag time. This will be my second-to-last Ask Adam file before departing on an extended vacation until mid-January, so get your questions in soon. Otherwise, enjoy this week’s batch of the best inquiries readers submitted.
Quick question: why do NHL teams choose not to release eligible rookies (such as the Flames with Sean Monahan) to participate in the World Junior Championship? I can understand if the team is deep in the playoff hunt and the player is integral to the team, but with the Flames far from contention, why not give Monahan a chance to participate in a high-end international tournament? Certainly that would do more for his development than the few NHL games he’d miss.
Sure, they risk him suffering an injury, but he’s probably more likely to be injured playing for the Flames (and therefore against bigger, stronger players) anyways, so I really can’t wrap my head around it, but hopefully you can.
Brandon Sparks, Fredericton, N.B.
I’d say the value of sending a young NHLer to the WJC is up for debate among NHL people. Many would agree with you, but there are others who think that having a prospect develop in-house, in hockey’s top league, will help them acclimate faster to it than would another tournament filled with spindly teenagers.
Furthermore, the way hockey is played at the WJC, there’s no guarantee Monahan would have less chance of being hurt. The stakes are higher at the WJC than they would be for a stretch of NHL regular-season games, so there’s every possibility he could be injured while representing his country.
Ultimately, team brass may have decided that a year where Monahan only has to worry about one set of teammates, one city and one focus would be better for him. And nobody can say with authority they’d be wrong to think that way.
My journalism career began toward the end of Gino Odjick’s NHL career, so I never had a chance to cover him in any great depth. But thanks to his Twitter account, I’ve come to know him a little bit.
And what I’ve seen from him I love a whole lot. He’s a proud and caring First Nations leader, an incredibly positive person and, perhaps most of all, a protector. That’s who he was on the ice for 12 NHL seasons. That’s who he is to this day.
And that’s why it was so tough to hear about Odjick’s recent mental health struggles. Odjick’s stay in a Quebec psychiatric hospital – his second trip to such a unit since September – alarmed his close friends and business partners. According to the article, Odjick and his friends attribute his woes to the concussions he suffered as one of hockey’s most feared enforcers.
But now that the 43-year-old is in a vulnerable state, who is the enforcer protecting him? That’s supposed to be the rest of us, folks. And by “us”, I mean the same fans who stood and cheered him with every thrown and absorbed punch; simply because we purchased tickets to watch him play doesn’t mean we can forget about him now, too. Yes, Odjick is responsible for his actions and the choices he made, but anyone who callously says “he knew the risks” and just forgets about him hasn’t owned up to their complicity in the post-career condition of players.
But more importantly, by “us”, I also mean the NHL, which profited off of those punches.
The Montreal Canadiens have won many a game thanks in large part to the efforts of star goalie Carey Price. Yet in a come-from-behind, 4-3 shootout win over New Jersey Tuesday, the Habs showed they don’t need Price on the ice at all if the rest of the team is contributing.
The Canadiens won for the eighth time in their past 10 games – only San Jose is better at 9-1-0 – not simply because Price’s understudy Peter Budaj stopped 31 of 34 shots and turned aside the Devils in overtime and the shootout. This team is far too talented to be defined merely by its netminding.
No, the Habs got the win on the road because the oft-maligned David Desharnais answered back for Montreal when it seemed like the Devils had their number: New Jersey took a 3-2 lead with 1:06 remaining in the third period, but Desharnais responded 29 seconds later to send it to overtime, then scored the shootout winner.
The Oilers turned to Ilya Bryzgalov last month to stabilize their goaltending, but now that the Russian goalie is sidelined indefinitely with a concussion, they’ll have to continue their improved play with the same tandem (Devan Dubnyk and the newly-recalled Jason LaBarbera) who struggled out of the gate. And if that doesn’t happen, GM Craig MacTavish has got to pull the trigger on a trade so that the remainder of Edmonton’s season doesn’t turn out to be as ugly as its beginning.
Bryzgalov has performed well in four regular-season games with the Oilers, posting a .939 save percentage and 2.11 goals-against average. But the uncertainty of his head injury underscores how important it is for the rest of Edmonton’s players to positively assert themselves quickly in his absence. They have to show they played a role in their relative turnaround of late and that it wasn’t all about Bryzgalov.
If Bryzgalov is gone all year, the Oilers are essentially back to square one and can’t wait until season’s end to arrive at the conclusion square one is incapable of carrying the load. They need to make that judgment long before the mercy of mid-April arrives. There’s no more time for MacTavish to waste. He can’t keep turning to quick fixes, which I think we all can admit is what Bryzgalov’s signing was. There’s no more “sooner or later” about this group. There’s been way too much “later” and not enough “sooner”.