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.

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

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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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Sean Avery quits off-Broadway play after massive meltdown

Matt Larkin
Sean Avery walked out on his off-Broadway show "Negative is Positive" days before opening night. (Getty Images)

You didn’t really think Sean Avery was gone from the public eye, did you?

Hockey’s bad boy is at it again. This time, he allegedly did his damage on the set of “Negative is Positive,” the off-Broadway play in which he was about to make his stage debut.

As reported by the New York Post, Avery left rehearsal early Monday after “growing agitated.” The play’s author, Christy Smith-Sloman, told the Post things got worse the next day. An assistant stage manager named Natalie asked Avery if he wanted a slice of pizza. He declined and thought he heard the assistant call him an a–hole.

According to Natalie, Avery told her she was “talking s–t” and “so full of s–t.” Director Andreas Robertz claims Avery asked him, “Don’t you know who I am?” And stormed out.

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Five NHL coaches on the hot seat after one month

Edmonton's upcoming road trip will put Dallas Eakins' job security to the test. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

What does a slow start mean in the NHL? In some cases, it’s a harbinger of more poor play. Other times, it’s bad puck luck, which is correctable. Regardless of the cause, however, poor starts make heads roll every year. The advanced stats tell us GMs are often too hasty to axe their coaches, but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. The most common victims are bench bosses who ended the season prior on thin ice. They often get the boot as soon as they give their GMs an excuse to do so.

Here are five coaches who have to think about updating their resumes in the near future.

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Ryan McDonagh separates shoulder, leaves Ranger blueline in shambles

Matt Larkin
The New York Rangers have lost their captain for at least three weeks.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Compare the Stanley Cup finalist New York Rangers from five months ago to the group set to take the ice Monday night against the St. Louis Blues. If the 2014-15 Rangers want to replicate last spring’s deep run, they sure seem to be doing it with a hand tied behind their collective back.

First came free agency. The Rangers bought out Brad Richards and watched Benoit Pouliot and Brian Boyle find new teams. General manager Glen Sather replaced them with the likes of Lee Stempniak and Tanner Glass. Any way you sliced it, the Rangers’ forward depth took a hit. The off-season looks especially bad now that youngsters J.T. Miller and Jesper Fast are languishing in the American League instead of taking leaps forward in the Ranger lineup, which they were expected to do. On defense, New York lost Anton Stralman to the Lightning. They filled that void, albeit with a different type of player, via Dan Boyle.

Then first-line center Derek Stepan broke his leg during a pre-season practice. Then Boyle broke his hand in New York’s season opener Oct. 9. Then John Moore earned a five-game suspension for elbowing Erik Haula. Kevin Klein and Mats Zuccarello have minor injuries, too.

And, just for good measure, the hockey gods kicked the Rangers once more while they were already down. This happened to captain Ryan McDonagh Saturday night against the Winnipeg Jets:

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Boy dies after being struck by puck at French pro game

Matt Larkin
Citizens of Dunkirk, France lay flowers outside the arena where Hugo Vermeersch, 8, was killed in the stands by a puck on Saturday. (PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images)

It was a horrible Saturday for the French League and the commune of Dunkirk. Late in the third period of a tier-2 game between Durnkirk and Reims, a puck flew out of play and into the stands. It struck eight-year-old fan Hugo Vermeersch on the ear. He went into cardiac arrest.

Reims’ team president, Dr. Benoit Vrielynck, is also a surgeon and performed CPR on Vermeersch before firefighters arrived and took him to a nearby hospital. Tragically, Vermeersch couldn’t be saved. He passed away Sunday morning.

The death obviously has left Hugo’s family devastated, and it hit Hugo’s local team, Dunkirk, hard as well, as the team and its players were familiar with him. “C’est avec grand tristesse que nous vous annoncons le deces du petit Hugo ce matain… RIP petite ange,” the Dunkirke Corsaires team account tweeted Sunday morning. The message translates to “It is with great sadness that we announce the death of little Hugo this morning. R.I.P. little angel.”

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Sam Reinhart sent back to junior – but he has a master plan

Matt Larkin
Sam Reinhart wants to ensure he doesn't get complacent upon returning to junior. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

What happens when you’re caught between man among boys and boy among men?

It’s a question Jonathan Drouin had to answer a year ago, and it’s the same one Buffalo mega-prospect Sam Reinhart faces now. The Sabres announced Friday they were returning Reinhart to the Western League’s Kootenay Ice. At 18, he’s far from eligible for the American League, and he’d played his ninth NHL game, meaning one more would burn a year of his entry-level contract.

And the truth is Reinhart belongs in junior. Taken second overall in last June’s draft, he’s an oustanding prospect, a heady two-way center who can make everyone around him better. His superb hockey sense made plenty of scouts call him the draft class’ most NHL-ready player, but watching him this season suggested otherwise. His 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame isn’t quite ready to do battle against grown men. Tuesday when the Sabres visited Toronto, it was one of those games that had you checking the box score afterward to make sure he played. He was a non-entity, registering one shot and little else in 12:41 of ice time. That was largely the case through Reinhart’s first nine NHL games, in which he averaged 10:21 and managed one assist and three shots. In that tiny sample, his 31.1 Fenwick Close rating was 565th out of 568 qualifying NHLers.

Those numbers aren’t meant to harp on Reinhart. He has an outstanding career ahead of him. They do, however, suggest the Sabres were smart to send him down. And, to his credit, he gets it. I spoke with him after Tuesday’s game in Toronto. The elephant in the hallway was that he had one more game until his probable return to the WHL. In his short stay, he learned plenty. He lists veterans Brian Gionta, Cody McCormick, Matt Moulson and Josh Gorges as hugely helpful with their day-to-day advice. And game situations opened his eyes as well.

“Obviously you knew it was going to be a challenge,” Reinhart said. “It’s the best thing in the world, and to try and make the jump is difficult. The biggest thing I’ve tried to focus on and learned is the pace and intensity. It’s not as much the speed skating up and down the ice – it’s the overall speed and intensity with the puck. To want the puck, that’s the biggest thing I’ve learned.”

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Vintage Gordie Howe photo shows off his amazing physique

Matt Larkin
Screen Shot 2014-10-30 at 4.43.26 PM

Gordie Howe, one of the game’s true legends, suffered a serious stroke earlier this week. His condition remains serious but his family says it is improving.

Amid the well wishes for Howe, 86, we’ve seen an outpour of nostalgia and people sharing their favorite memories of him, from his dominant play as the original power forward to the way he always took time for others and never minded being adored, as he understood what it felt like to be on the other end.

We’ve also seen lots of Howe photos popping up, and the one above, of Howe fishing for tuna, blew me away. The imgur user who posted it said it best: “Now I know how he knocked so many people around.”

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