Matt Larkin

Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News. He's been part of the THN team since 2011, but he's been married to hockey since he got beat up for collecting NHL sticker books in the mid-1980s. If you like strong opinions on the game itself, fantasy hockey tips and a hefty dose of pop culture in your readings, he's your man. And yes, the eyebrows are real.

Hall of Fame 2014: top 10 Hasek, Forsberg, Modano & Blake seasons

Matt Larkin
Dominik Hasek had several of the greatest seasons ever by a goaltender. (Getty Images)

Quite the class we have joining the Hall of Fame this Monday. Dominik Hasek is the greatest goalie ever to play, in my humble opinion. Peter Forsberg was a true superstar, the most dominant player in the game, albeit for a fleeting period. Mike Modano and Rob Blake were consistently among the top players at their respective positions for the better part of two decades. Even the non-player inductees, late coach Pat Burns and referee Bill McReary, are fantastic additions.

The quartet of players had some fantastic seasons while sharing an era, playing their best hockey throughout the 1990s and early 2000s. Which of their efforts were the most impressive? Here are my top 10 single-season performances, drawing from all four legends.

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Serenity now: Why a calmer, wiser Tuukka Rask is good for Boston

Matt Larkin
Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask isn't letting his emotions rule him like they used to. (Getty Images)

Tuukka Rask has been one of hockey’s most interesting personalities as long as he’s been around. Originally, it was because he slapped the Scandinavian stereotype in the face.

When Rask broke into the North American pros, especially during his American League days, he was nothing like what we’d come to expect from Finns, or Swedes for that matter: calm, stoic, humble, quiet, lacking for words. The man was fiery. He got pissed off, often to a fault, when things didn’t go his way. Who could forget this post-shootout tantrum in 2009 with Providence?

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Watch Nashville Predators mascot start pie fight with Oiler fans

Matt Larkin
Gnash, Nashville's mascot, returned from injury triumphantly Tuesday night.

Staged? More than you may think. Funny either way.

Gnash, the Nashville Predators mascot, is back with a vengeance. He had been sidelined since training camp after breaking his fibula while training for the upcoming season.

He made some wheelchair-bound appearances while he healed up, but he returned in full force for Tuesday’s game against Edmonton. Gnash made his presence felt by stuffing a pie in a seemingly unsuspecting Oiler fan’s face. The fan’s response? Pie it forward, baby (rimshot!). He unloads on his laughing lady friend. Check it out:

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Top five sell-high players in fantasy hockey

Matt Larkin
Jakub Voracek's amazing start means fantasy players could get a king's ransom for him in a trade. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Look at your fantasy hockey pool standings after five weeks. How is the first-place GM behaving? Is he or she bragging about having the title won already?

Bad first-place GMs count chickens and don’t see regression coming. Good ones stay calm, realize it’s a long season and begin identifying which of their players off to sizzling starts will cool down based on career trends.

With that, here are my top five early-season studs to sell high.

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How Ryan Kesler made friends with his enemies in Anaheim

Matt Larkin
Ryan Kesler now shares a dressing room with Duck players he fought regularly. Photo by Paul Gilham/Getty Images)

The moment Ryan Kesler slipped on an Anaheim Ducks jersey, he felt a rush of excitement. Beneath it all, however, was an undercurrent of anxiety.

Kesler’s time as a Vancouver Canuck was up. The team needed a fresh start and so did he. But a cross-conference trade, or at least one out of his division, would’ve been a bit less awkward. Instead, he ended up a Duck, where he’d join forces with some of his mortal Pacific Division enemies, like a picked-on kid paired off with the class bullies for a school project.

The Ducks belong to captain Ryan Getzlaf and sniper Corey Perry, both of whom have traded blows with Kesler in the past. The 6-foot-4, 218-pound Getzlaf rag-dolled the 6-foot-2, 208-pound Kesler in Dec. 2008, and Perry threw down with Kesler in 2009 and 2010. Both Perry-Kesler tilts happened in the pre-season. That’s when you know there’s bad blood. So Kesler, understandably, didn’t know what to expect after the trade. But the Ducks quickly let him know bygones were bygones – their leader in particular.

“Ryan Getzlaf, really great captain, really great guy,” Kesler said. “But, really, all the guys made me feel at home. They were all welcoming. That was my biggest thing, playing against those guys, being in a rivalry against those guys. You develop hate towards them. But off the ice, they’re all good dudes and we got over it.”

Kesler said he, Getzlaf and Perry reminisced about their fights and had some laughs. But washing away bad blood is just one hurdle a player must overcome after a trade. The simple change of scenery is life-altering.

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UPDATE: Does Carter Ashton deserve 20-game suspension for PEDs?

Matt Larkin
Carter Ashton will not appeal his suspension and claims he unknowingly used a PED while treating his asthma. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

UPDATE FROM THN SENIOR WRITER KEN CAMPBELL:

The agent for Carter Ashton said his client fully accepts responsibility for what he puts into his body, but wonders whether the punishment in this case fits the crime.

Ashton was suspended 20 games by the NHL for violating the terms of the NHL/NHLPA Performance Enhancing Substances Program. In a separate statement, which is provided below, Ashton admits to taking Clenbuterol through an inhaler during an asthma attack. According to Ashton’s agent, Rick Valette, his client has had mild asthma since childhood, but nothing that would necessitate the use of an inhaler.

That apparently all changed this summer when, while working out with a player who plays professionally in Europe, Ashton had a significant asthma attack and was administered the inhaler by his workout partner. Ashton subsequently kept the inhaler, which he used one more time during training camp when another asthmatic episode occurred. Valette said Ashton then immediately went to the Leafs medical staff and got the proper medication, then was tested and the banned substance was still in his system.

The league will not comment on the veracity of Ashton’s claims. In an email to THN, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said to comment on the case would be a direct violation of the collective bargaining agreement: “I can’t comment at all on the case. Strictly prohibited from doing so.”

“He knows where he went wrong, he just didn’t think about it,” Valette said. “But the kid wasn’t trying to cheat. But under the league’s rules you get 20 games for HGH and you get 20 games for making a mistake on an inhaler. That’s the unfairness of it. He did this, he’s not denying it, but I think we need to look at this and I think there has to be more discretion. This is just collateral damage. This isn’t a guy trying to cheat.”

Valette acknowledges that it’s Ashton’s fault and Ashton should have to take responsibility for what goes into his body. But to have to wait until Dec. 21 to play again and lose almost $170,000 in salary amounts to a heavy price for a mistake.

On the other hand, this substance abuse policy has been collectively bargained and players, generally speaking, know they can’t put anything foreign into their bodies without first having it approved. This is not like Nicklas Backstrom, who was suspended by the International Ice Hockey Federation and missed the gold medal game at the Sochi Olympics for failing a test after taking medication that was approved by the Swedish team doctors prior to him stepping on the ice.

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Watch Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin interview each other awkwardly

Matt Larkin
Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin discuss everything from Rolls Royce shopping to horses in their goofy exchange.

So Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn have gone uncharacteristically cold. It’s not a big deal yet. Don’t sell them in fantasy leagues. And don’t worry about your Central Division chances yet, Stars fans.

If the chemistry they show in this video from ESPN is any indication, they’ll get back on the same page in no time. Have a look at the two-minute segment, in which they take turns interviewing each other:

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