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.

3-on-3 overtime ‘has been a total home run,’ says architect Holland

Ken Campbell
Vladimir Tarasenko (left) and Alex Pietrangelo  (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

Former Minnesota North Stars GM Lou Nanne was in the press box at the Air Canada Centre this past week and was talking about the state of the game. He said he recently went golfing with Bob Pulford and Harry Sinden and recalled the conversation was dominated by how many less-than-exciting NHL games there have been this season.

And Nanne’s not the only one. An authority no less than Wayne Gretzky recently chimed in on the subject and said that hockey at all levels, “lacks creativity and imagination.” Not sure that’s true. There’s lots of creativity and imagination in the game. Just go to your local arena and watch a minor hockey game and see some of the special things these kids can do. The creativity and imagination is there, but it’s being sucked out by astute and well-meaning coaches. The Toronto Maple Leafs are a good example of that. They used to be bad and exciting. Now they’re bad and boring. But they’ll get better and the only way they’ll get better is to play that way. And no amount of shrinking goaltending gear is going to change that.

Read more

Flint Firebirds owner Rolf Nilsen won’t be completely out of the picture

Ken Campbell
David Branch  (Tara Walton/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

The five-year suspension levied to Flint Firebirds owner Rolf Nilsen by the Ontario League does not include off-ice activities, nor will it prevent Nilsen from participating in board of governors’ meetings or conducting league business, thn.com has learned.

And that’s a very important aspect of the suspension. Because the OHL is not denying Nilsen the opportunity to run his business and make a living from his hockey team, the suspension would have a far better opportunity of surviving a court challenge, should Nilsen choose to go that route. Nilsen has not declared his intentions and several calls to Patrick Ducharme, Nilsen’s Windsor-based lawyer, were not returned.

Read more

OHL sanctions against Flint help, but don’t completely clear up a murky situation

Ken Campbell
Flint Firebirds  (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Faced with the possibility of a mass revolt from teenaged prospects against the Flint Firebirds, Ontario League commissioner David Branch had no choice but to take decisive and punitive action against Firebirds owner Rolf Nilsen three days before the league’s annual draft.

Branch announced Wednesday night the league has suspended Nilsen for five years – with an opportunity to apply for reinstatement in three years – revoked the third overall pick in the draft and fined the team $250,000 for violations, “contrary to the best interests of the players, the Team, and the OHL.” If Nilsen is found to violate the order by getting involved with the team in any way, the league reserves the right to force him to sell the team.

Read more

Power Rankings: Penguins pick perfect time to get scorching hot

Ken Campbell
Pittsburgh Penguins (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images)

If you subscribe to the theory that late-season momentum leads to playoff success, you might want to throw a few dollars down on the Pittsburgh Penguins. The walking birds have won seven games in a row and 13 of their past 14. In their past 20 games, their record is 17-3-0.

Even when they lose a Hart Trophy-caliber player in Evgeni Malkin and their No. 1 goaltender in Marc-Andre Fleury, they don’t miss a beat. The Penguins are 12-1-0 since Malkin went down with an upper-body injury and goaltending understudy Matt Murray was named the third star of the week after Fleury sustained a concussion.

All of that has earned the Penguins, who were bottom feeders on this list early in the season, the No. 1 ranking in the last regular-season installment of thn.com’s weekly Power Rankings. (Last week’s rankings in parentheses.)

CREAM OF THE CROP
1. Pittsburgh Penguins (5)
2. St. Louis Blues (1)
3. Florida Panthers (11)
4. Chicago Blackhawks (13)
5. Washington Capitals (3)
6. Anaheim Ducks (6)
7. New York Islanders (10)
8. San Jose Sharks (8)
9. Dallas Stars (2)
10. New York Rangers (7)

The Penguins we all know and love have returned, scoring at least five goals in each of the past five games and in six of their past seven…The injury parade for the resilient Blues continues with Jake Allen and David Backes missing the rest of the regular season…Defenseman Erik Gudbranson was sent home after taking a headshot in Florida’s 4-3 win over Toronto Monday night…Artemi Panarin is the first rookie since Teemu Selanne in 1992-93 to record three straight three-point games…In what could be a preview of the Stanley Cup final, the Capitals will host Anaheim Sunday night to make up for their postponed game in January… Ryan Kesler, who is in the Selke Trophy conversation, scored his 20th goal of the season Sunday night, giving him 20 goals in eight straight non-lockout seasons…With nine points in his past five games and 11 points in his past eight, John Tavares could not have chosen a better time to pick up his game…The Sharks’ 3-0 win over Minnesota Tuesday night was their 28th road win of the season to establish a new franchise record…The Stars have given up a league-high 15 shorthanded goals, including two in a 3-1 loss to Anaheim Sunday night…Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh will miss the rest of the regular season, and likely a couple of playoff games, with a small fracture in his right hand.

THE MUSHY MIDDLE
11. Los Angeles Kings (9)
12. Detroit Red Wings (17)
13. Nashville Predators (15)
14. Philadelphia Flyers (14)
15. Buffalo Sabres (24)
16. Vancouver Canucks (30)
17. Winnipeg Jets (27)
18. Tampa Bay Lightning (12)
19. Boston Bruins (16)
20. Minnesota Wild (4)

The Kings’ 5-4 overtime win over Calgary Tuesday night was their franchise-record 47th of the season. They’ve posted 46 victories four times in their history…The Red Wings hold their playoff destiny in their hands with games tonight at home against Philadelphia and Thursday night in Boston. They’re looking to extend their playoff appearance streak to 25…Filip Forsberg has 18 goals since the all-star break, which is second in the league only to Alex Ovechkin. With 32 this season, he’s just one away from tying the franchise record…Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth is a longshot to return before the playoffs…Loser points have taken the luster off the accomplishment to be sure, but the Sabres could actually finish this season as a .500 team. They’re 7-2-2 in their past 11…Goaltending prospect Thatcher Demko is expected to sign with the Canucks sometime after he plays in the Frozen Four with Boston College this weekend…Blake Wheeler scored to give the Jets a 2-1 overtime victory over Anaheim Tuesday night, giving him a nine-game point streak in which he’s posted 6-6-12 totals…Jonathan Drouin is expected back in the Syracuse Crunch lineup by the weekend, heightening expectation he’ll be called up by the Lightning…With only two games remaining and losses in three of their past four, the Bruins are the favorite to be on the outside of the playoffs looking in when the dust settles…The Wild, losers of four in a row, backed into a playoff spot when Nashville beat Colorado Tuesday night.

VYING FOR THE PARTICIPATION BADGE
21. Carolina Hurricanes (22)
22. Colorado Avalanche (19)
23. Ottawa Senators (23)
24. Montreal Canadiens (20)
25. New Jersey Devils (18)
26. Calgary Flames (25)
27. Arizona Coyotes (21)
28. Columbus Blue Jackets (28)
29. Toronto Maple Leafs (26)
30. Edmonton Oilers (29)

Hurricanes coach Bill Peters will not see his season end this weekend. He was named head coach of Canada’s team for the World Championship…Matt Duchene and coach Patrick Roy claimed they cleared the air concerning Roy criticizing Duchene for celebrating his 30th goal of the season in a 5-1 loss to St. Louis Sunday…Senators defenseman Erik Karlsson scored his 100th career goal in Ottawa’s 5-3 loss to Pittsburgh Tuesday night. The goal also gave him 80 points on the season, making him the first defenseman to hit that mark in 19 seasons…Brendan Gallagher returned to the Canadiens lineup, but it’s still unclear whether Carey Price will play in one of the two final games of the season…Patrik Elias played for the first time since having knee surgery in December in the Devils’ 3-1 loss to Buffalo Tuesday night…The early reviews on Hunter Shinkaruk, the 2013 first-rounder acquired at the trade deadline for Markus Granlund, have been positive. He has three points in five games…Coyotes coach Dave Tippett was blunt about his team’s performance in a 6-2 loss to Chicago Tuesday night: “That was a combination of really poor execution by our team and really below-average goaltending. That’s what you get.”…Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella will hear no talk of tanking going into tonight’s game against the Maple Leafs. So if the Blue Jackets lose, it’s because they’re just really bad…Speaking of tanking, Frederik Gauthier, who has six goals in the American League this season, centered the top line in the Maple Leafs’ 4-3 loss to Florida Monday night…Given the way they’ve played the last decade, will tonight’s last game at Rexall Place be a fond farewell for today’s Oilers or a case of ‘Good riddance’?

 

Panthers can clinch division Tuesday night in Brian Campbell’s 1,000th game

Steven Kampfer dumps Frank Corrado (Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Brian Campbell has never missed a game in a Florida Panthers uniform, although there are probably a few along the way that he wished he had. It wasn’t always winning and fun and Spacey in Space hoodies for these guys. Campbell knows what the dark days were like, which makes the bright ones the Panthers are having this season seem all the better.

With their 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday night, the Panthers earned their 99th point of the 2015-16 season. No Panthers team has ever had that many points before. And when Campbell steps on the ice Tuesday night in Montreal, it will be the 1,000th game of his career and his 374th consecutive as a Panther. And if things go the Panthers way, Campbell could be part of a Panther team that clinches the Atlantic Division and secures home ice advantage for at least the first two rounds of the playoffs. Should the Panthers win Tuesday night in Montreal and the Tampa Bay Lightning lose, either in regulation or extra time, when they visit the New York Rangers, the Panthers will clinch the division.

Read more

Kadri suspension will please Tank Nation, but makes no sense compared to others

Nazem Kadri on Jimmy Howard (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

Ladies and gentlemen, start your conspiracy theories. Wait, how many games do the Toronto Maple Leafs have remaining this season? Oh, four. And how many games did Nazem Kadri get suspended? Hmm, four. Well, now, isn’t that convenient.

Kadri just happens to be the Maple Leafs best player of late. He also happens to be their hottest scorer, with eight points in his past six games, and their leading scorer with 45 points. (Although that point total definitely puts him in fastest-kid-at-fat-camp territory.) So having Kadri out of the lineup for the final four games of the regular season obviously enhances the Leafs chances of running the table with losses and catching the red-hot Edmonton Oilers for last place overall and the best chance of winning the draft lottery.

Read more

How a car fire ignited one of the most spectacular comebacks in hockey history

Ken Campbell
Ken Hitchcock. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)

Ken Hitchcock’s St. Louis Blues have given up seven goals in their past seven games. But there was a time, almost 30 years ago to the day, that a team coached by Hitchcock gave up that many goals in just a touch more than a half of one game. Then it scored nine of its own in just over 26 minutes.

In one of the more wild games in Western League history, heck in the history of the game at any level, Hitchcock and his Kamloops Blazers went into the Seattle Center Ice Arena leading their best-of-nine – yes, best-of-nine – playoff series by a 2-0 margin over the Seattle Thunderbirds on the night of April 3, 1986. To give you an idea of what junior hockey was like at that time, the Blazers went into the playoffs with 449 goals in 72 games in the regular season. That’s an average of 6.23 per game, which is more than both teams in the NHL score in a game these days.

Read more

Silent super star: Jamie Benn has kept a low profile in Dallas, but there’s no denying he’s one of the NHL’s best

Ken Campbell
Jamie Benn. ( Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

The plan was perfectly in place…that is, until a scout named Dennis Holland came in and screwed it all up. Jamie Benn was going to take the hockey scholarship he had accepted when he was 15 to the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. He was supposed to play hockey in the winter, and in the summer he’d roam center field in the Alaska Baseball League, a six-team loop that boasts some of the best college talent in the world and where the likes of Barry Bonds, Jason Giambi, Mark McGwire, Dave Winfield and Mark Grace stopped on their way to the major leagues. You know, just so he didn’t burn any bridges.

Back in 2006-07, Benn was a year removed from Jr. B hockey in British Columbia and was happily unaware of his potential, playing on Vancouver Island, which is a picturesque 90-minute ferry ride from Vancouver. But three hours round trip on a boat isn’t the kind of time a lot of hockey scouts have on their hands. Benn was playing in the British Columbia League but wasn’t even good enough to be named to Team West for the World Jr. A Challenge. Kyle Turris, Justin Fontaine and 20 guys who never made it to the NHL were, but Benn wasn’t.

Read more