Ken Campbell, The Hockey News' senior writer, is in his second tour with the brand after an eight-year stint as a beat reporter for the Maple Leafs for the Toronto Star. The Sudbury native once tried out for the Ontario League's Wolves as a 30-year-old. Needless to say, it didn't work out.
No team in the NHL has a better winning percentage at home than the Washington Capitals. No team in the NHL has a better winning percentage on the road than the Washington Capitals. So basically, you name the place and the Capitals will be there to beat you.
With a differential of plus-56, the Capitals are 24 goals better in that department and stand first in the league in goals per game and second goals against per game. So basically, you name the style of play in the game and the Capitals will be there to beat you. And their power play is best in the NHL, so take liberties against them and they will be there to beat you.
With so much beating going on, it’s no surprise that the Capitals are at the top of both the NHL standings and the THN.com Power Rankings for this week. (Pre-all-star break rankings from Jan. 27 are in parentheses.):
Back on July 23 when the Toronto Maple Leafs announced they’d hired Lou Lamoriello to be their GM, it was fair to wonder whether or not they had made the right move. In a way, it actually seemed a little counterintuitive at the time. After all, Lamoriello was approaching his 74th birthday and had presided over a New Jersey Devils franchise that was in an on-ice decline. It was at least reasonable to debate whether he’d lost his touch or had the chops to oversee a painful rebuild.
Question answered, accompanied by a conga line of exclamation marks. The Maple Leafs, who have gotten very adept at trading untradeable players and contracts, did it again, moving a veteran, middling defenseman with five years and $35 million remaining on his deal in Dion Phaneuf in their division to the Ottawa Senators and getting back a young defenseman with a ton to prove in Jared Cowen, a second-round pick in 2017 and a 6-foot-3, 215 pound prospect who has been a pleasant surprise wherever he had played in Tobias Lindberg. Milan Michalek, who has one year left on his deal at $4 million, will be long gone by the time the Maple Leafs become a competitive team. Colin Greening has spent most of this season in the minors and carries a cap hit of $2.65 million, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t be able to play on this NHL team as a bottom-six player until his contract runs out after next season.
What happens to an attempt to injure match penalty when the attempt to injure is actually successful? Well, not much if you’re talking about the NHL, which ignores and justifies suspendable acts with mind-boggling regularity.
Take the Wayne Simmonds sucker punch on Ryan McDonagh Saturday afternoon, for example. In another decision that makes the Department of Player Safety the most spectacular oxymoron since jumbo shrimp, Simmonds skated away with nothing more than a game misconduct for sucker punching McDonagh of the New York Rangers in the head. And McDonagh got away with a double minor for a stick offense that was gratuitous and unnecessary. Give the NHL credit, at least it manages to baffle, confuse and infuriate everyone with its decisions.
If nothing else, Dennis Wideman and Mike Babcock have proved that the NHL’s protocol desperately needs to be equipped with more teeth than it now has. Well, they haven’t specifically, but the contingencies they represent have made things crystal clear.
One is a member of the NHL playing fraternity; the other is one of the 30 men who coach the best players in the world. And as it turns out, neither can be trusted to put the player’s long-term well-being ahead of winning when it comes to injuries that could lead to concussions.
The NHL announced Thursday morning that Winnipeg Jets center Alexander Burmistrov has been fined $2,000 for violating Rule 64, which deals with diving and embellishment. Burmistrov is the seventh player to receive a fine for diving, joining teammate Nikolaj Ehlers, Jordin Tootoo and Bobby Farnham of the New Jersey Devils, Jannik Hansen of the Vancouver Canucks, Zack Smith of the Ottawa Senators, and Teemu Pulkkinen of the Detroit Red Wings.
The NHL, which fines players and coaches on a graduated scale for such infractions really seems to have a bee in its bonnet for players who repeatedly dive and embellish in an attempt to draw penalties. Talk to any of the “hockey people” in the league’s head office and they see diving as an enormous blight on the game.
Of the 12 names that were added to the NHL’s concussion lawsuit yesterday, the one that stands out the most is that of Paul Stewart, the first American in history to make it to the NHL as both a player and a referee. According to the lawsuit, one of the more gregarious and easy-going personalities in the game, Stewart now suffers from depressive and anxiety disorders, anger, impulse and temper control issues and a loss of memory.
And more importantly, Stewart also has had a brain tumor. Last April, Stewart had a golf-ball sized benign tumor removed from his brain at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He had spent much of the previous three seasons in Russia as a judicial and discipline consultant to the KHL. “When I got home from Russia, I promise you, things were not pleasant,” says Stewart, who turns 62 next month. “At first I thought it was because I was gone so long. I’m better since the surgery, but every day I really have to work at it.”
There’s a good chance Calgary Flames defenseman Dennis Wideman will become the first player in NHL history to have his suspension appealed to an independent arbitrator, but that’s not what will make this process so interesting over the next little while.
As has been widely reported, Wideman was suspended 20 games for abuse of official after crosschecking linesman Don Henderson from behind in a 2-1 loss to the Nashville Predators. The NHL Players’ Association has already filed an appeal on Wideman’s behalf, which is expected to be heard by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman early next week. If a further appeal is necessary, it will go to James Oldham, the league- and NHLPA-appointed independent arbitrator.
We’re likely going to hear a lot over the next little while about Dennis Wideman’s “intent” when he drilled linesman Don Henderson from behind, an action which earned him a 20-game suspension from the NHL for abuse of official.
There is the camp that believes there was no ill intent on Wideman’s part, that it was an unfortunate accident and that Wideman was perhaps a little dazed from the hit along the boards that he took from Nashville Predators winger Miikka Salomaki, a hit that occurred about 8.65 seconds before Wideman took Henderson out with a crosscheck from behind.