Ken Campbell

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.

Johnny Boychuk signing continues great run by Islanders GM Garth Snow

Ken Campbell

My goodness, has any general manager reinvented himself better than Garth Snow has? Once regarded as the backup goalie who was the ill-advised hire of a bizarre owner, Snow is putting himself into serious contention for the NHL’s GM of the year award.

Prior to this season, neither Johnny Boychuk nor Nick Leddy even played for the New York Islanders. Now, the two of them are clearly the lynchpins of the organization’s blueline corps and the two defensemen around whom the Islanders have staked much of their future. That much was apparent when Boychuk inked a seven-year deal with the Islanders worth $42 million. That signing came just two weeks after Leddy was signed to a seven-year extension worth $38.5 million.

Considering the fact Snow acquired both defensemen on the same day last fall, it’s only fitting that their extensions would be so similar and be signed at almost the same time. And Snow was able to get both players because he was a GM with a commodity in the form of cap space that neither of his trading partners had.

In a perfect world, Leddy would probably still be a member of the Chicago Blackhawks and Boychuk would be with the Boston Bruins. But Snow realized that GM Stan Bowman of the Blackhawks and Peter Chiarelli in Boston were getting squeezed by the salary cap and was able to get both of them for less than market value. He got Boychuk for second-round picks in 2015 and 2016 and a conditional third-rounder, which would have materialized only if Boychuk had been dealt this season, something that obviously will not happen now. Leddy was acquired from Chicago for Ville Pokka, Anders Nilsson and T.J. Brennan, three players who may never turn out to be NHL regulars.

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Welcome to the Wednesday night at the Air Canada Centre, the most depressing place on Earth

Ken Campbell
Sabres goal celebration  (Rick Madonik/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The NHL season lasts 186 days, during which 30 teams play 1,230 games. It’s difficult to fathom that there has been, or will be, a more depressing place in the hockey world than the Air Canada Centre Wednesday night for a clash between the 26th and 30th best teams in the NHL.

The fact that the game went to a shootout, with the Toronto Maple Leafs beating the Buffalo Sabres 4-3, probably pleased only the Edmonton Oilers, who are now only three points ahead of the Sabres for 30th overall and a 100 percent chance to get either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. With the win, the Leafs moved a full 13 points ahead of the Oilers and 16 ahead of Buffalo, making a collapse of biblical proportions the only way the Maple Leafs can possibly hope for those kinds of odds. Read more

One year later, what have we learned from the death of Terry Trafford?

Ken Campbell
Terry Trafford Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

It was exactly one year ago today that the junior hockey world came to grips with the reality of mental health issues. It came in the form of a lifeless body in a GMC truck in the parking lot of a Saginaw Walmart. It came in the form of Terry Trafford, a 20-year-old winger for the Saginaw Spirit who, despondent about being sent home by the team for behavioral issues and marijuana use, took his own life eight days before anyone found him.

While the hockey world struggles with the effect of multiple concussions on mental health, this apparently was not the case with Terry Trafford. In fact, as far as anyone knows, Trafford was a happy-go-lucky kid who spiraled into a pit of despair as his hockey career unraveled. But there was obviously so much more to it than that, so much that so many people never knew. Read more

Power Rankings: Lightning sits in No. 1 spot…for now

Ken Campbell
Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate a win. (Gerry Thomas/Getty Images)

Well, we’re finally through the dog days of the season and the trade deadline is in the rear-view mirror. And now things are really getting interesting.

Take tonight, for instance. Montreal hosts Tampa Bay with first place in the Atlantic Division on the line. About the same time, the Islanders host the Rangers in the last game between the rivals at Nassau Coliseum with the Islanders in the mix with the Canadiens and Lightning for first overall in the Eastern Conference. Boston visits Ottawa in a game that could have huge playoff implications and the Stanley Cup champs will try to get back in the playoff picture with a win in Colorado, which has won three straight.

Yup, things are getting fun for sure. And every night is bound to play havoc with our Power Rankings, which sees the Lightning currently on top. (Last week’s ranking in parentheses.) Read more

Bottom feeders refuse to tank by playing hard…and badly

Red Wings celebration (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

On the night the Edmonton Oilers were officially eliminated from the playoff race for the ninth straight season, the Connor McDavid Sweepstakes had the potential for an all-out Tank-a-thon. But the more you watch these bottom feeders play, the more you realize they’re not losing on purpose to get a chance at a generational talent.

They’re just really, really bad hockey teams.

Say what you will about the moves the power brokers of the Buffalo Sabres, Arizona Coyotes, Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs have made off the ice, but it’s crystal clear that those who have a say on what happens on the 200-by-85 playing surface will have nothing to do with the stink of losing on purpose. Read more

NHL makes history with first-ever Russian referee

Ken Campbell
Evgeny Romasko (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

It was only fitting that the first Russian to ever referee an NHL game would do it in Detroit, the city that assembled the Russian Five and is home to one of the all-time greatest Russian players in NHL history in Pavel Datsyuk.

Evgeny Romasko made history Monday night by becoming the first-ever Russian-born official to work an NHL game when the Red Wings defeated the Edmonton Oilers 5-2. It took Romasko just four minutes and 52 seconds to call the first penalty of his NHL career, a highsticking minor against Marek Zidlicky of the Red Wings, which impressed his boss, NHL director of officiating Stephen Walkom. Read more

Must see: John Tavares plays the hero again with an OT beauty

Ken Campbell
John Tavares (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

If you know anything about John Tavares, it’s that he thrives on pressure situations and loves having the puck on his stick when the game is on the line. He proved that with the Canadian team at the 2009 World Junior Championship, but hasn’t had much of a chance to play in situations that matter in the NHL.

That’s one of the unfortunate byproducts of playing for the New York Islanders. But that’s all changed this season. The Islanders are a contender and Tavares is emerging as a bona fide superstar in the NHL, and a leading contender for the Hart Trophy. The term ‘superstar’ is hugely overused in hockey and given to far too many players who don’t deserve it. But Tavares is truly becoming a superstar and his performance against the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday night proved that. Read more

Maple Leafs (finally) make the right call by scratching Nazem Kadri, John Tavares sounds off

Ken Campbell
Nazem Kadri (Rene Johnston/Toronto Star/Getty Images)

Nazem Kadri stood at his stall at the Air Canada Centre Monday morning and said all the right things. Talked about how he slept in Sunday morning and was late for practice and took the blame and the consequences like a professional. The cynics in the crowd might say it’s the first time a player on the Toronto Maple Leafs has actually shown up in the last couple of months.

“I’ve apologized to the coaching staff…it was my fault and I screwed up and I’m willing to take whatever is given to me,” Kadri said after it was announced he would be a healthy scratch for tonight’s game against the New York Islanders. “It was uncharacteristic of me and it will never happen again.” Read more