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.

Would you rather have Aaron Ekblad and Aleksander Barkov, or Seth Jones and Sam Reinhart?

Aaron Ekblad of the Florida Panthers. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/NHLI via Getty Images)

When the Florida Panthers held the second overall pick in the 2013 draft they selected center Aleksander Barkov instead of defenseman Seth Jones. It wasn’t the move a majority of onlookers would have made, so it set up a nice “What If” scenario to follow in the coming years.

With Barkov and 2010 pick Nick Bjugstad setting the foundation for a potentially crushing 1-2 punch down the middle in the future, Florida’s choice at the top of the 2014 draft was much clearer. Three or four players were considered legitimate candidates to go No. 1, but the Panthers took Aaron Ekblad – the only defenseman in the group – to fill out the roster need they passed on a year earlier. Today, Ekblad signed his three-year entry-level deal with the Panthers and will likely start on the second or third pairing in October. No surprise there. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Who will the Blackhawks & Bruins trade to get under the cap?

Johnny Oduya (Photo by Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

With the start of NHL training camps a little more than two weeks away, the Blackhawks have yet to reach a decision on how to address their salary-cap issues. Chicago remains above the $69 million cap by more than $2.2 million and must shed salary before the season opens in October.

The situation provided fodder for the rumor mill this summer.  It’s assumed GM Stan Bowman would move a defenseman, with Johnny Oduya ($3.38-million cap hit) or Nick Leddy ($2.7 million) as potential trade candidates.

The Boston Bruins must also become cap compliant by the start of the season. They’re currently above the ceiling by more than $800,000. The Bruins will get cap relief by placing concussed center Marc Savard ($4.03 million) on long-term injured reserve, but it won’t leave much to re-sign restricted free agents Torey Krug and Reilly Smith and leave room for possible moves later in the season.

It’s rumored the Bruins, like the Blackhawks, could trade a defenseman to open up more cap space. Trade options could include Johnny Boychuk ($3.3 million cap hit) or Adam McQuaid ($1.5 million).
Read more

Rumor Roundup: Vinny Lecavalier and Joe Thornton trade buzz

Vincent Lecavalier (Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

Earlier this summer there was speculation the Philadelphia Flyers were shopping center Vincent Lecavalier. If Lecavalier is troubled by the trade rumors, Flyers coach Craig Berube told NJ.com’s Randy Miller the veteran center should get over it and focus on the upcoming season.

Lecavalier struggled last season, with only 37 points in 69 games. Miller notes Flyers management allowed the center’s agent to speak with other clubs hoping to drum up trade interest. Rumored deals to Nashville and Florida reportedly fell through. There was also talk Lecavalier’s no-movement clause made finding trade partners difficult.

Berube believes Lecavalier simply needs to change his game a little bit to become more effective. The coach is hoping Lecavalier becomes more defensively responsible. Berube claims the 34-year-old Lecavalier trained hard this summer and will be competitive when training camp opens in September. Read more

NHL expansion is coming, just don’t hold your breath

GTA Centre Markam

The NHL has gone a full 14 years without adding a single expansion team, which is the longest period without growth since the league ballooned from six to 12 teams in 1967. The business of hockey is stronger than it has ever been and hockey’s global reach has ensured that the league would be less watered down by adding teams than it has in the past.

So, yes, the NHL is ripe for expansion. That’s probably why a published report that the NHL is going to add four teams by 2017 was met with such enthusiasm. To follow some accounts, expansion to Las Vegas is a “done deal” despite the fact there is no ownership group in place yet and the league will have new teams in Las Vegas, Quebec City, Toronto and Seattle by the time it blows out the 100 candles on its birthday cake. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Flyers need help on the blueline, but don’t expect it to come soon

(Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

The state of the Philadelphia Flyers defense core remains a troubling issue. They’ve lacked a true top-two defenseman since Chris Pronger’s career was ended by injury nearly three years ago. They attempted to address that issue in July of 2012 by signing Nashville Predators captain Shea Weber to an expensive offer sheet, but the Predators swiftly matched it.

Former GM Paul Holmgren attempted to bolster the overall blueline depth, acquiring Luke Schenn, Mark Streit and Andrew MacDonald via trade and free agency. None of them, however, can fill Pronger’s skates.

The Flyers underwent a front-office shakeup this spring when Ron Hextall took over as GM. Despite Hextall’s stated preference for building from within, rumor-mongers believe the Flyers still seek a stud defenseman, linking them to Winnipeg Jets blueliner Zach Bogosian. Read more

Florida Panthers owner: “the current business model is not sustainable”

Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers fans deserve something, anything, better than what they’ve been given in the 20-plus years of the franchise’s existence. This is a team cursed with poor drafting, or poor ownership, or poor coaching, or poor trades, or any combination of those things. Very early in their existence they made the Stanley Cup final. And that was the peak for them.

The thing is, I don’t think this team is as bad as the one that finished 29th last season. The goaltending should be better, which is enough to see some improvement, but the youngsters should also ascend modestly. Some deadwood was shed, although some younger cap deadwood was added (coughDavidBollandcough), but overall, in a weak Eastern Conference where the Toronto Maple Leafs will get some votes as a post-season team, Florida should be in the running for one of the last playoff spots.

It’s enough to give further optimism to a fan base that has been brought up on optimism and false promises without any payoff. But, still, hovering over this franchise is the prospect of relocation.

Currently, the Panthers are seeking a greater share of Broward County’s “bed tax” which are levied on tourists to the area. The hockey team receives 16 percent of that tax right now and is seeking an increase to about one-third, or 33 percent. Those who oppose a greater share going towards the Panthers want the money used on the beaches, which is a greater tourist draw than the arena.

“We estimate that about 30,000 room nights are related to all events at the arena (concerts) annually. We have over 8 million room nights per year sold,” the county’s Nicki Grossman told the Miami Herald earlier this year.

The Panthers, who claim to lose $30 million a year, have a lease in the BB&T Center that runs through 2028 and a debt of about $250 million on the arena. But mayor Barbara Sharief and the county have hired a consultant who is looking into the feasibility of letting the Panthers franchise relocate and get out from under that lease.

pantherstweet

 

The results of that report are expected to be released in October.

On Saturday, Fox Sports published an interview with Panthers co-owner Doug Cifu who, among other things, was asked about where he saw this franchise in five-to-10 years. He dodged it with the grace of Tim Thomas defending a breakaway, saying his and Vinnie Viola’s desire was to keep the team in Florida, but he added…

“the current business model is not sustainable.”

The optimism about this young team is as thick and pungent as its ever been, what with Aleksander Barkov coming off a strong rookie showing, Jonathan Huberdeau bound for a bounceback season – plus veteran Roberto Luongo back between the pipes for a full season. But it seems the rumors and speculation that this franchise will inevitably move won’t be going away any time soon. Hopefully, for those die-hards who are in Florida, its not some other city enjoying this group in its prime.

So there you go, Panthers fans. Just another day in the summer of a sorry team that had to board up one of its end zones during a game. Keep the faith. Stay strong.

panthersglass

Editor’s note: an earlier post on the Panthers focused on ownership meeting with one coaching candidate. We’ve been informed that quote was taken out of context and have changed the post.

Follow Rory on Twitter

The Kevin Hayes sweepstakes are about to heat up

)Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images Sport)

If Kevin Hayes doesn’t sign with Chicago by Aug. 15, he’ll be this summer’s version of Justin Schultz and become a UFA.

A first-round pick of the Blackhawks in 2010, Hayes is a playmaking power forward who had a terrific senior season at Boston College with 27 goals and 65 points in 40 games. He’s not keen to sign with Chicago because the Blackhawks are so deep on the right wing, both at the NHL level and in terms of prospects. He’ll surely get a rookie max deal regardless.

Hayes, 22, probably has a short list of three teams:

Read more