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.
BROOKLYN – New York Islanders coach Jack Capuano was talking about the tying goal in Game 3 of his team’s second-round series against the Tampa Bay Lightning, the goal that never should have happened and led to the overtime loss that now finds the Islanders needing to win three of the next four games to take the series.
He talked about having the players he wanted out there, even though it was a group that hadn’t played very well all night. He talked about having two centermen on the ice, even though one of them was Frans Nielsen, who was beaten cleanly on the draw on the Lightning’s second goal. Then he talked about the Islanders not collapsing enough in front of their own net on the play.
And this is what hockey has come to, ladies and gentlemen. Because as far as these eyes could tell, the reason why the Islanders gave up that tying goal was they collapsed too much.
BROOKLYN – Nobody really knows how this Jonathan Drouin saga with the Tampa Bay Lightning is ultimately going to play out. But wouldn’t it be neat if 10 years from now, when Drouin is a star in the NHL and the lynchpin of the Lightning, we’re all sitting around talking about how his 2016 winter of discontent might have been the best thing that could have happened to him?
To be sure, nobody would be terribly surprised, given all the twists and turns this story has taken. But one thing is sure, the same player who was maligned for a lack of maturity when he left the Lightning in a snit earlier this season is emerging as a player who seems to have learned his lessons with, ahem, Lightning speed. And in a playoff season where the Lightning are missing their most dynamic offensive player, Drouin just might be proving to the organization that there could be life after Steven Stamkos.
BROOKLYN – Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper was talking about his team’s game Tuesday night and how it’s a great example of why we all love this game so much. And he’s right. But it’s also a pretty good example of why this game infuriates us, too.
We love it because when it’s played like it was in the Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win over the Islanders in Game 3, it embodies everything that makes this game great. It also infuriates us because too many times, the lack of awareness/incompetence of the referees ruins it. What people who think that officials “should let the players decide things” fail to realize is that referees influence the outcome of a game with non-calls, too. And that’s exactly what happened in Game 3.
When the New York Rangers cleaned out their stalls Tuesday morning, defenseman Dan Boyle cursed out a couple of reporters he felt were unfairly critical of him and refused to start his breakup interview until they left the scrum. We’re going to chalk that up to a proud veteran who is going down swinging and will probably look at that incident after second sober thought with regret.
But in a way, Boyle and his rant – which will almost certainly be his last as an NHL player – provide a microcosm of the situation that is facing his soon-to-be-former team. Boyle could have gone quietly into the night or he could have come out with one last flurry. He chose the latter.
When the dust settles and the disappointment fades a little more, it’s pretty much a given that Jaromir Jagr will want to play in the NHL again next season. And it’s also pretty much a given that the Florida Panthers will happily take him back.
But watching one of the greatest players in the history of the game labor through the Panthers’ first-round playoff loss to the New York Islanders, some very, very uncomfortable questions have to be asked. Because, folks, this is not a one-off. Jagr has struggled to keep up to the pace of the playoffs for a couple of years now. He has gone 37 playoff games without putting a single puck in the back of the net and when the Boston Bruins made their run to the Stanley Cup final in 2013, he had no goals in 22 games and by Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final, he had been demoted to the fourth line and played just 6:27, the second-lowest total on either roster. If you include his hometown Kladno team he joined during the 2011-12 lockout, Jagr has played for five teams since he last scored a playoff goal.
Florida Panthers director of player personnel Scott Luce has scouted virtually every draft-eligible teenager playing in North America this season. He’s done numerous reports on each player, meticulously breaking down his strengths and weaknesses and assessing whether or not he’ll be a future NHL player. After all, that’s what he does.
But there is one player both he and the Panthers have ignored completely. Not one report has been done, not one projection made. That player would be Luce’s 18 year-old son Griffin, a defenseman for the U.S. national development team. And it has put the elder Luce in a rather awkward position as he scouts the World Under-18 Championships in Grand Forks, N.D. At times, Luce is a dispassionate scout watching future NHLers, at others he’s just another nervous dad in the stands watching his son.
The man responsible for executing the 12-year, $5.2 billion Canadian television deal between broadcasting giant Rogers and the NHL says the deal is still a very good one for Rogers, despite the fact that an absence of Canadian teams has first-round ratings down more than 60 percent.
Scott Moore, the president of Sportsnet and NHL properties for Rogers, isn’t even all that surprised at the low numbers. And he tends to look at it from a perspective of the glass being half full. Historically, as Canadian teams drop out of the playoffs, so does the viewership. Well, that had already happened before the playoffs began, so logic would dictate that audiences will likely hold steady for the rest of the playoffs. And depending upon the matchups in the second round, they might even improve. The Canadian broadcaster has already been forced to swallow the poison pill and, in fact, had been chewing on it for the last quarter of the season when it was clear that no Canadian teams would be in the post-season.
At one time during the telecast of Game 4 between the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, a post-game day skate was aired featuring Kings defenseman Drew Doughty talking about how the Kings were very confident about their chances in the series. Doughty then gave a toothless smile, one that carried a distinct message.
Even though Doughty wasn’t exactly providing the Sharks with rich bulletin-board fodder, his intent was very clear. The Kings have this uncanny ability to make things more uncomfortable than a British sitcom for their opponents, regardless of where the series stands. Doughty was clearly doing his best to get into the Sharks players heads, a place he and his teammates have occupied with an enormous amount of success in the past. The Kings have obviously earned the right to walk and talk with a swagger and they have the Stanley Cup rings to prove it.