COLUMBUS – You could argue that Jakub Voracek was the true MVP of the game, you could make the case that Nick Foligno was an odd choice to be a captain in the first place, but in an event that is all about the fans, does any of that really matter?
When the cannon smoke cleared at Nationwide Arena, the two representatives of the hometown Columbus Blue Jackets, Foligno and MVP Ryan Johansen, sat in front of the media and had one last jokey yet heartfelt chance to bask in the glory of All-Star Weekend.
The NHL didn’t take long to fill the all-star game void created by injured Penguins star Evgeni Malkin, naming Predators rookie Filip Forsberg as his replacement at the 2015 game in Columbus.
Malkin was declared unable to play early Thursday afternoon due to a lower-body injury, and Forsberg was a relatively easy choice to replace the veteran center. The 20-year-old Swede leads all Preds scorers with 15 goals and 40 points in 45 games, and was already scheduled to participate in this year’s all-star festivities as one of six freshmen selected to take part in the skills competition. Read more
Early Thursday afternoon, the Pittsburgh Penguins announced superstar center Evgeni Malkin would not participate in the 2015 NHL all-star game in Columbus due to a lower-body injury. Early Thursday evening, they took even more wind out of the event by removing fellow phenom Sidney Crosby from all-star weekend for the same reason. The team specified no timetable for Malkin’s return to action, while Crosby is expected to miss approximately one week and won’t be allowed to play in Pittsburgh’s Jan. 27 game.
Having both players back in the lineup is obviously the proper priority for Penguins management, but the undeniable reality is the absence of both stars is a big blow to an all-star game that’s going to be without hometown hero Sergei Bobrovsky for injury reasons and without P.K. Subban for preposterous reasons – and it underscores how much lustre the game has lost.
In some ways, it’s not the league’s fault the all-star game has become more of a contractual burden than an event that captures the heart of the hockey-watching public outside of the host city. All-star games in general are an anachronism from a pre-satellite TV era, and in the NHL’s case, the novelty of modern inventions such as the Winter Classic have pushed the all-star game into the shadows.
But in other ways, the league should have seen this coming. Read more
Chins up, Columbus Blue Jackets. No one likes an excuse maker, but, honestly, you deserve an exception. You were simply cursed in 2014-15. We loved your chances to contend this season – I had you going all the way to the Eastern Conference final – but some witch in some basement impaled an entire collection of team bobblehead dolls with pins. Nothing you can do.
According to mangameslost.com’s Jan. 20 update, the Blue Jackets lead the NHL with 283 man games lost this season. For context, the 10th-ranked team, the Dallas Stars, have lost less than half that many. The horseshoe-infused Montreal Canadiens sit last at 37.
And it’s not like the Jackets have lost one or two role players to season-long injuries that jack up the number. Virtually every important cog has missed time. Nathan Horton’s back threatens his career altogether. There was Boone Jenner’s broken thumb and back, Scott Hartnell’s broken finger, Artem Anisimov’s torn triceps, Ryan Murray’s knee injury…I’ll stop there lest I explode my word count. Let’s just say any Jacket who hasn’t endured an injury this season may feel like a dressing room outcast.
Sergei Bobrovsky’s misfortune looks like the last straw for Columbus in 2014-15. He’d already missed time with a fractured finger and brief illness, and his lower-body injury Wednesday night against the Winnipeg Jets looked grim. The extent won’t be clear until his MRI results come in, but Bobrovsky had to be helped off the ice.
Now it’s time for GM Jarmo Kekalainen to swallow his pride and realize this season wasn’t meant to be. If Bobrovsky is seriously hurt, it’s obviously a knockout blow for a team 14 points out of a playoff spot. And if the injury is, say, a minor sprain, there’s no reason to rush back a precious commodity freshly signed to a four-year, $29.7-million contract extension. The Jackets are finished.
When you think of players who scored 1,000 points in the NHL, the last name to come to mind is often Ray Whitney. And on Wednesday, one of the NHL’s best and quietest scorers called it a career.
Whitney, 42, was prolific with every team he ever went to, and a model of consistency. He was a 10-time 20-goal scorer, nine-time 60-plus point getter, yet was only named to any of the league’s season-ending all-star teams on one occasion, a second team nod in 2011-12. Read more
It wasn’t until the end of the preseason that Columbus and Ryan Johansen came to terms on a three-year, $12 million deal. But the long offseason wait is paying off, and Johansen’s deal is looking like a steal for the Blue Jackets.
In what was one of the most contentious contract negotiations the league has seen in several seasons, the Blue Jackets and Johansen, a standout fourth-year center, battled tooth and nail, back and forth over what was fair value for the restricted free agent. The whole thing became a giant mess. John Davidson, president of the Blue Jackets, went public with a pair of offers to the budding star, said the actions of Johansen’s agent, Kurt Overhardt, were extortion, and the relationship between team and player seemed incredibly strained.
And even if leading into the season that’s how it appeared off the ice, the 22-year-old Vancouver native’s season couldn’t be going any better. With Johansen under contract until 2016-17, the Blue Jackets have a legitimate scoring threat, and at a $4 million cap hit, you can bet they’re aware they got away with one. Read more
When Ryan Johansen was involved in his infamous contract imbroglio during training camp, both Columbus Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen and team president John Davidson were unwavering in their stance. They both stressed they were willing to pay big-money and long-term contracts to players who had earned them.
And that’s exactly what they’ve done. Hours before taking the ice Friday against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Blue Jackets announced they had signed goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to a four-year contract extension worth $29.7 million. That came weeks after the Blue Jackets locked up winger Nick Foligno to a six-year deal worth $33 million.
Hockey is a rough game, no doubt about it, and even the officials have to be athletic and tough to get through an intense yearly schedule that normally sees them participate in over 80 games a season.
As evidence showed from the Mike Leggo illness incident last week, referees are humans and things can happen.