Adam Proteau, currently the brand's columnist/writer, has worked for The Hockey News since 2002 and won the Professional Hockey Writers' award for best column in 2006. He also won the Esso Medal of Achievement for most improved player as a 13-year-old at the 'A' level in 1985, but he's less proud of that.
As the Winnipeg Jets’ season wound down, a controversy involving one of their players flared up. Interim coach Paul Maurice made star winger Evander Kane a healthy scratch for a game in Toronto – and just like that, harsh words were hauled out to criticize the 22-year-old: he had an attitude; he was arrogant; he wasn’t a good fit with the Jets; he needed to be traded post-haste. If it sounded familiar, that’s because it was. Ever since the franchise relocated to Manitoba from Atlanta, Kane has been a target for critics.
Some of that, he’s earned. When he posed during the 2012-13 lockout in front of the lights of Las Vegas pretending a giant stack of money was his cell phone, fans and media rightfully ripped him for not understanding how it would be perceived.
But put aside the specifics of that situation for a second and answer these questions: Were you ever 21? Did you ever make a mistake at that age? Do you think that, if you were making millions of dollars and existed in a massive public fishbowl at that age, you might make the odd error in judgment?
The answer should be “yes.” That’s why there’s something about the relentless negativity surrounding Kane that doesn’t sit right. I’m not pointing to anyone specific when I say this, but I have to say it: some of the criticism hurled at Kane – as well as teammate Dustin Byfuglien and Canadiens star P.K. Subban – is about his race more than his character. It’s what Kane referred to last year when he told THN’s Ken Campbell “a good portion” of the criticism is racially motivated.
The NHL playoffs are famous for their increased physicality, but we’re only three days into the 2014 post-season and the nastiness is already starting to boil over. On Friday night alone, NHLers Jamie Benn and Danny Dekeyser found that out the hard way when both were speared in the groin area by Corey Perry and Milan Lucic respectively.
Lucic attacked the Red Wings defenseman from behind in Detroit’s 1-0 Game One first round win over Boston, jamming his stick into Dekeyser’s lower mid-section. No penalty was called on the play.
With four minutes remaining in Game One of Boston’s first-round playoff series against Detroit, neither team had scored. Then Red Wings star center Pavel Datsyuk put on a one-man clinic to score a dazzling goal – and the only one in a 1-0 win over the Bruins.
Datsyuk began the play by reaching back at his own blueline and corraling the puck in traffic; he then moved quickly up the ice and across Boston’s blueline before beating goalie Tuukka Rask with a perfectly placed wrist shot at the 16:59 mark of the third period.
Since arriving from Calgary in a trade two years ago, Rene Bourque hasn’t lived up to expectations as a member of the Canadiens. But in Game Two of Montreal’s first-round series against Tampa Bay, he scored a nifty little goal that stood up as the game-winner in the Habs’ 4-1 win over the Lightning.
Halfway through the first period, Bourque split Tampa Bay’s defense and delicately pushed the puck to the outside of netminder Anders Lindback for the Canadiens’ second goal of the night. The 32-year-old winger – who added a second goal against Tampa late in the third period of Game Two – had just nine goals and 16 points in 63 games with Montreal this season, but he did have a pair of goals and three points in five post-season games with the Habs last year. He’s matched that goal total in just two playoff games this year and if he can continue producing, star goalie Carey Price will have a lot more room to breathe.
Once again, I’m privileged enough to receive a ballot for the NHL’s annual individual player awards. It’s a huge honor for any hockey journalist and one I think deserves the respect of full transparency to the public. If we’re supposed to represent the fans, we owe it to them to reveal and stand behind our choices – choices I make after numerous discussions with NHL executives and players.
So here are my picks, along with some brief thoughts on why I chose the players I did for the five awards. You probably won’t agree with all of them, but the last thing these honors are about is pure consensus.
HART TROPHY (“to the player adjudged to be the most valuable to his team”) — Five selections.
1. Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins
2. Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim Ducks
3. Claude Giroux, Philadelphia Flyers
4. Patrice Bergeron, Boston Bruins
5. Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings
The Rationale: As I’ve noted in the past, I’ve come to see the Hart as a most valuable player award, if only because the concept of “value” is so nebulous. But certainly, Crosby’s value to the Penguins – especially during Pittsburgh’s injury-plagued season – cannot be questioned. Nor can his status as the game’s best all-around individual force. Getzlaf was a very close second, while Giroux got the nod over Bergeron because he was the catalyst in Philadelphia’s remarkable season-saving turnaround. Read more
In mid-March, Boston Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask worked with the Make-A-Wish Foundation to delight nine-year-old Maddie Santotuosso, a Boston-area girl fighting a rare tissue cancer, when he visited her at a local sporting goods store and helped her pick out brand new goaltender equipment. The youngster and huge Bruins fan was thrilled to meet one of her idols. (Her story begins at the 9:40 mark of this video.)
However, Rask’s act of kindness didn’t end there. Read more
(Editor’s Note: In our Playoff Preview edition of the THN magazine, we asked the question, “Who Would You Take” if you were a GM and were building a team from scratch to win in the playoffs? Most said Sidney Crosby, but three THN writers had another opinion. Below you’ll read why Adam Proteau would build his team around Jonathan Toews. Also check out Rory Boylen’s column on Steve Stamkos and Ryan Kennedy’s on Drew Doughty)
There’s currently one NHL captain who has two Cup rings and a pair of Olympic golds. It’s not Sidney Crosby. It’s not Henrik Zetterberg. It’s not Ryan Getzlaf, Steven Stamkos, Henrik Sedin or Alex Ovechkin. It’s Jonathan Toews of Chicago, the first guy I’d pick to give my team a shot at winning hockey’s ultimate prize.
Readers of my work know I come by my Toews crush honestly. I’ve never claimed he’s the sport’s best scorer or flashiest presence. But add up all the things he does at an astonishingly high level, and you have a sum far greater than its already-great parts.
When listing all Toews does right, it’s tough to know where to begin. He’s the epitome of consistency: he’s produced offense at a near point-per-game pace (440 points in 484 games) and he almost had the third 30-goal season of his seven-year career this season. He creates space for his teammates and unselfishly dishes off the puck, but he can easily pick a corner or rip a wrist shot past a goalie if the situation calls for it.
There’s not a brand of hockey Toews hasn’t excelled at. If you want to skate, he’ll skate with you. If you want to grind, he’s good on that level as well. And his international resume is impeccable: world under-17 gold medal? Check. World juniors gold? Check. World Championship gold? Check. Olympic gold? Double-check. When people talk about developing a winning pedigree, the standard by which all others are being judged has been set by Toews.
There have been no shortage of sideshow symptoms afflicting the Maple Leafs over the years, but many hockey people will tell you the main ailment that has plagued this franchise for decades is their ineffectiveness on the drafting and development front. Whether it’s collective assessments done by panels of scouts and GMs or the fans themselves, few have been impressed with Toronto’s record on identifying and cultivating high-impact NHLers. Indeed, the reason management often splurges on unrestricted free agents or gambles on high-risk, high-reward trades is because there hasn’t been a steady stream of cost-effective NHL-calibre talent coming through the farm system.
Even Leafs GM Dave Nonis admits the issue of in-house asset development is a real concern.
“We have to get better in all areas, scouting in particular,” Nonis told reporters Monday after the introduction of new Leafs president Brendan Shanahan. “We’re not going to become a contender through free agency if this doesn’t happen. It’s going to be player acquisition through the draft and development, or via the trade route.”
Nonis’ new hockey boss feels similarly, but cautioned against any notion of him coming into his position and clearing house, using his time as a player with the Red Wings as an example. Read more