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.
A compendium of thoughts and analysis for your Tuesday reading pleasure:
SHOOTING OUT THE SHOOTOUT: The first thing we’re going to say about this is we realize the sample size is small, so don’t get all over us for jumping to conclusions. But if the first week of play in both the NHL and American League are any indication, the answer to avoiding the shootout is longer overtime periods with 3-on-3 play and not a dry scrape and changing ends.
The NHL has had seven games go to extra time so far this season and only two of them have been decided before the shootout. The AHL, by contrast, has had six games go to extra time, but all six of them have been decided in overtime and without the need of a shootout. Read more
It’s interesting how the same event, particularly in a game of contact that goes a hundred miles an hour, can be perceived so differently. Take the Radek Gudas hit on Scottie Upshall Thursday night as an example.
On its website, Rogers Sportsnet described the hit this way: “Florida’s Scottie Upshall gets caught with his head down as he accelerated into the arm of Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas.” Perhaps whoever wrote that really felt that way about the hit. Or perhaps this was the first test of Rogers’ new cozy relationship with the NHL and it failed miserably. Read more
Full disclosure: I really, really like Chris Pronger. On the ice, he was, in my opinion, one of the most dominant players of his era and a lock for the Hockey Hall of Fame. Off the ice, I consider him a friend. I’m honored to have been invited by him to share in the festivities when the Peterborough Petes raise a banner in his honor Nov. 2. I have his phone number in my list of contacts and we talk regularly, mostly about hockey, but of other things as well. During his career and even in the three years since he has played, Chris Pronger has filled my notebook and tape recorder with insightful, funny and downright eye-popping quotes. I find him intelligent, irreverent and refreshing.
I also have an enormous amount of sympathy for his current situation. Because he’s still listed as an active player for salary cap purposes, he cannot get on with his life. Because he’s still employed by and being paid by the Philadelphia Flyers, he’s stuck in a no-man’s land where he can’t retire and he can’t do much of anything else. Up until last season he was at least scouting for the Flyers, but that arrangement ended when Ron Hextall took over as GM in the off-season. Read more
While the countdown clock for the start of the NHL season has finally reached zero at the headquarters of Rogers Sportsnet, today cannot be a particularly festive day at the TSN studios. The network carried its NHL preview show Tuesday night and observers said there simply was not the same buzz in the place. That, of course, has to do with the fact that it was teeing up games it will not be showing, nor will have a chance to air for the next 12 seasons.
But for two of TSN’s most prominent insiders, the blow was softened at least a little when it was announced that former THN editor-in-chief Bob McKenzie and hockey insider Darren Dreger will be part of NBCSN’s Wednesday Night Rivarly broadcasts and other special events such as the all-star game, Stanley Cup final and NHL draft shows. Read more
The NHL’s track record with negotiating contracts with its players without locking them out over the past decade has been horrendous. Thankfully, that hasn’t been the case with its on-ice officials. There hasn’t been a work stoppage with referees and linesemen since Doughnut-gate with Don Koharski in 1988 and there will not be one this season.
When the league opens the season with four games tonight, it will do so with labor harmony with its on-ice officials. Not that there was ever any doubt. For the past couple of months the league has been negotiating with its officials for a new deal and the talks were cordial and in good faith on both sides. And with the league and NHL Officials’ Association on the verge of signing a five-year deal, according to a source with knowledge of the situation, it is on the cusp of being official.
“It’s within a dot,” said a source with knowledge of the negotiations. “There might be one small thing here or there, but it’s really details. The basis for a deal has been settled and they’re very, very close. I think both sides want to make sure all the details are done before they make anything public.”
Monday was a busy day in the hockey world. With only two sleeps left until the start of the regular season, the Ryan Johansen signing and a couple of teams cutting loose their dancing bears, there was a lot of grist for the mill.
So it’s understandable that the league’s announcement that it would increase the distance between the hash marks for the offensive/defensive zone faceoff circles would fly under the radar a little bit. It’s not one of those sexy news items that allow people to jump to instant conclusions, such as declaring the enforcer in the NHL obsolete after seeing teams such as the Toronto Maple Leafs and Philadelphia Flyers go into the season with one on their rosters. Nice thought, but these guys seem to be the NHL’s version of the cockroach and I, for one, remain skeptical that we’ve seen the last of them. Read more
In the end, the Ryan Johansen imbroglio ended up rather predictably and much like many of these situations resolve themselves. Each side gives a little and takes a little, with both being able to save face and capable of claiming they made a good deal.
But that middle part, boy, that was a nasty piece of work. The Blue Jackets had the high ground when it came to what they were offering Johansen on a two-year bridge deal, but they certainly did their part to drag this whole process through the mud. The demands Johansen and agent Kurt Overhardt made were pretty outrageous – although Overhardt says they were erroneous – but the fact that this whole thing got as dirty as it did was largely because of the Blue Jackets and their move to personally besmirch the agent. Read more
The Edmonton Oilers enter this season with five centers who have combined for 814 career NHL games and a stats line that reads 95-203-298. For those of you keeping score at home, there are 13 centers in the league who have played more career games all by themselves. A total of 57 have more career goals, 37 have more assists and 43 have accumulated more points.
Here’s how bad it is. Manny Malhotra, who has spent his career as a checking center and missed almost a full season with an eye injury, is 20 career goals ahead of Edmonton’s centers and trails them in points by just seven. Read more