Semyon Varlamov’s controversial t-shirt another instance of NHLers running from their own convictions

Adam Proteau
Semyon Varlamov (Instagram)

T-shirts are like opinions: everyone thinks theirs is the best until they bring them out into the sunlight to be judged by everyone else. Colorado Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov probably thought so when he wore a shirt in Denver this weekend featuring Russian president Vladimir Putin and the phrase “Crimea Is Ours” on it.

Almost immediately, Varlamov pulled the picture off his Instagram account, because people were laying into him for condoning a contentious political development that’s far from settled. But he really has nobody to blame for himself for whatever blowback has come (and will come) his way.

Consider this paragraph the standard disclaimer for all you staunch libertarians out there currently typing up an impassioned “hey pal, he’s got the right to wear whatever shirt he wants!” email, comment or tweet on your word processing machine. Nobody’s suggesting Varlamov doesn’t have the right to send whatever message he pleases – and that goes for whether he’s wearing that message on his chest or if he followed the lead of people renting airplanes to fly banners over football stadiums this past weekend. We live in a free and open society and people are welcome to express opinions they believe in.

But, just as Tim Thomas found out a couple of years ago, making public statements on controversial issues carries with it a responsibility to defend your stance and to be judged by people in return. Read more

THN’s 2014-15 NHL season preview: Colorado Avalanche

The Hockey News
Colorado Avalanche. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

2013-14: 52-22-8

Acquisitions: Brad Stuart, Jesse Winchester, Zach Redmond, Jarome Iginla, Bruno Gervais, Daniel Briere

Departures: Andre Benoit, Matt Hunwick, Paul Stastny, P-A Parenteau

Top five fantasy players: Matt Duchene, Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly, Jarome Iginla

Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: Potential is, pardon the pun, mile-high in Denver. The Avalanche went from basement dwellers to Central Division champs in one season and much of what went right remains intact. Reigning Jack Adams Award winner Patrick Roy has the utmost trust of his players and has transformed the career of goalie Semyon Varlamov. Read more

Nathan MacKinnon is “going to take another quantum leap forward”

Rory Boylen
Nathan MacKinnon. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie last season and it wasn’t even close. The Cole Harbour, N.S., native earned 130 first place votes, while Tampa Bay’s Ondrej Palat was second with five first place votes. MacKinnon was consistently good all season long – he had a scoring drought of three or more games only three times and his longest scoreless streak was a five-game spell in October.

But we know winning the Calder Trophy doesn’t ensure growth in Year 2. Jonathan Huberdeau, 2013′s Calder winner, scored fewer points in 69 games last season than he did in 48 games as a rookie. Gabriel Landeskog won the award in 2012 with 52 points in 82 games and followed it up with 17 points in 36 games as a sophomore. Jeff Skinner’s second season was derailed by a concussion and his point average dropped, too.

MacKinnon was always supposed to be a better player than these guys, though – that’s why he was far and away considered the top forward available in his draft year and the others weren’t. Maybe the better rookie comparables for MacKinnon are Patrick Kane, Evgeni Malkin or Alex Ovechkin, three Calder winners who maintained their rookie dominance, or built on it in Year 2. We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves and declare that MacKinnon is about to break out as an NHL superstar before his 20th birthday, but that’s the potential he had when he entered this league a year ago. And by all accounts, MacKinnon is coming into his sophomore season bulked up and more impressive than ever. Read more

Fantasy Pool Look: Bruins, Ducks & Avalanche off-season report

Corey Perry (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

It’s the 12th annual off-season review of each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I did something different and reviewed the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. And wouldn’t you know it? I’m all done now. Here were the Top 3 teams in the NHL last season, let’s see if their fantasy outlooks reflect that…

BOSTON BRUINS
Gone – Chad Johnson, Shawn Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Andrej Meszaros

Incoming – Jeremy Smith

Ready for full time – Ryan Spooner is a real solid prospect who has taken to the pro game very well. In his cup of coffee with the Bruins he held his own. The team has room for him on the roster and he should win a spot out of camp. If he does, he could surprise depending on the line he plays on.

Niklas Svedberg will be the backup goalie. The former AHL goalie of the year has good upside at the NHL level and with such a strong team ahead of him will put up nice numbers. If Tuukka Rask were to get injured for any length of time, Svedberg would actually be one of the better goalies to own in all of hockey.

David Warsofsky may have his work cut out for him because he is a smaller defenseman who moves the puck well and the team already has that in Torey Krug. That being said, if Krug doesn’t sign (he is an restricted free agent) that opens the door wide for Warsofsky. But that’s a long, long, long shot. So look for Warsofsky to be used in a depth capacity if he makes the team. At least for this year. Read more

What have we learned since Bertuzzi-Moore? Not much it seems

Todd Bertuzzi (Photo By Karl Gehring/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

In the 10-plus years since the Todd Bertuzzi-Steve Moore incident, you can be rest assured that NHL coaches and players have chosen their dressing room words very, very carefully when it comes to the issue of seeking retribution. And there hasn’t been an incident as egregious and disastrous since then, so the culture of revenge no longer exists in hockey, right?

Wrong. It has been speculated that with the civil lawsuit between Moore and Bertuzzi/the Vancouver Canucks finally settled, Moore will receive somewhere in the neighborhood of $20 million. But there is so much we will never know. Such as, how was the amount split between Bertuzzi and the Canucks? That would go a long way toward determining whether Bertuzzi acted alone as a friend hell-bent on revenge or was simply a pawn that was contractually obliged to follow the instructions of his superiors.

Even though it went seemingly down to the last minute – the trial was to begin Monday – the reality is probably that this was never going to go to trial. Because if it had, the truth would have had to come out. And it would not have been pretty.

The NHL and its culture of violence/revenge would have been on trial every bit as much as Bertuzzi and the Canucks were. It’s a culture many in hockey would have us believe is no longer a part of the game. Fighting has been trending downward for some time and fewer and fewer teams have space on their rosters for the second coming of Ogie Oglethorpe.

But have we really learned that much from Bertuzzi-Moore? That’s debatable. At the very least, Shawn Thornton seemed to have missed the memo. Last season, in response to what he viewed as a dirty hit on teammate Loui Eriksson, Thornton attacked Brooks Orpik, then of the Pittsburgh Penguins, in an incident that looked eerily like the Bertuzzi-Moore attack. Thornton received a 15-game suspension for his act, with then director of player safety Brendan Shanahan justifying the ban by saying: “It is our view that this was an act of retribution for an incident that occurred earlier in the game, the result of this action by Thornton was a serious injury to Orpik.”

And did Thornton get ostracized from the game for what he did? Actually, when the Boston Bruins decided not to sign him after last season, the Florida Panthers offered him a two-year contract. As my colleague Adam Proteau pointed out recently, Penguins owner Mario Lemieux calls out the league to get violence out of the game, then allows his team to sign Dan Carcillo and Steve Downie because the Penguins star players get pushed around too much in the playoffs. I’m not sure that makes him a hypocrite. It’s more an indication that Lemieux knows his message is falling on deaf ears, that the league is not going to protect his stars and he has no choice in the matter. (There’s a reason why Carcillo, who is on his sixth NHL team, has the survival instincts of a cockroach. It’s because teams continue to see worth in what he brings.)

And when Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks seemed to push the envelope by getting a little too cute on his fourth goal against the New York Rangers, there were almost as many critics as there were admirers. One of them was Nashville Predators color commentator Terry Crisp, who said, “Let me tell you young man. You pull that move too often and somebody’s going to want retribution on you.”

And how often do we see a player being forced to stand up for himself and face an onslaught of punches after executing a perfectly clean, but devastating hit on a star player? How often do we see teams still “sending a message” to its opponent late in a game that is out of reach? And really it wasn’t that long ago that former director of hockey operations Colin Campbell made his infamous, “We sell hate. Our game sells hate,” comments. How often do we see the league’s own website tag a video as a “Must See” when that video involves fighting and mayhem?

It’s great to see the Bertuzzi-Moore incident finally settled, even though there are a lot of people who would have liked to see this thing go the distance. So, that has been put to bed and confidentiality agreements will likely keep us from ever knowing the minute details of the case. We know Moore will never play in the NHL and Bertuzzi, after reportedly rebuffing a pitch from Mike Keenan to play in the KHL for Mettalurg Magnitigorsk, is a veteran free agent still waiting to find a team. But to suggest the game and the NHL have made enormous strides since then is probably a stretch. A big one.

Steve Moore/Todd Bertuzzi settlement proves NHL can’t justify culture of revenge

Adam Proteau
Steve Moore (David Cooper/ Toronto Star)

More than a decade after it began, the Steve Moore/Todd Bertuzzi saga has come to an end. You don’t want to call it a merciful end, because the story of these two players, whose names will be bound together for the rest of time, never had much mercy at all.

This case was about the individual vs. the collective, and the terrible consequences birthed by a revenge culture that over the years has jutted out its chest and preened about how great it was, but that turned tail and scampered into the darkness when it was asked to defend its existence. Hockey players are among the toughest athletes on the planet, but the settlement announced between Bertuzzi and Moore late Thursday proves the game’s power brokers have no confidence in justifying professional hockey’s more contentious elements in a public forum that’s beyond the NHL’s control. Read more

Steve Moore’s brother Mark says “there is no deal yet” with Todd Bertuzzi

Rory Boylen
Steve Moore

Tuesday, there was a report that the lawyers representing Todd Bertuzzi and Steve Moore had come to an agreement on a settlement ahead of their Sept. 8 court date.

Today, that settlement isn’t so clear anymore.

According to TSN’s Rick Westhead, Steve Moore’s brother Mark claimed there has been no settlement in the lawsuit.

From Westhead:

“I got a text message from Steve last night and he’s very concerned,” Mark Moore told TSN. “He says there is no deal yet and isn’t sure what to do about all the media speculation.

“Because of the injury he has trouble making decisions and so he doesn’t know how to handle the media.” Read more

Report: Steve Moore-Todd Bertuzzi case settled out of court

Rory Boylen
In a game on March 8, 2004, Todd Bertuzzi sucker punched Steve Moore. Moore never played in the NHL again and is seeking damages. (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

The Steve Moore-Todd Bertuzzi lawsuit has been hanging over the NHL for the past 10 years, but as the Sept. 8 trial date draws near, it appears the case has been settled out of court.

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Originally, Moore was seeking $38 million in damages from the incident, but recently increased his demand to $68 million. His lawyers estimated Moore would have made $35 million over his NHL career and blossomed into a top six forward. They would also have argued the Harvard graduate could have made upwards of $65 million in a post-hockey career. Read more