Prior to the start of the season, pundits were projecting a return to earth for the Colorado Avalanche, who won 52 games in 2013-14 despite having some of the worst advanced statistics in the NHL. They leaned on goalie Semyon Varlamov and a superb shooting percentage on their way to finishing second in the Western Conference, and more than a few observers were expecting that couldn’t last again.
About five percent of the way through the season, at least, both those projections have come to pass. The Avs were shut out in back-to-back losses at the hands of the Minnesota Wild to start the year and only managed four goals in their next two games. And now, worse news: Varlamov has been placed on Injury Reserve thanks to a wonky groin, and there’s no timetable for his return. And in Colorado’s first game without him Thursday – a 4-3 loss to Ottawa that saw the Avs blow a 3-1 lead after the first period – they sure looked like they missed him, especially when backup Reto Berra left the game after being hit by Kyle Turris in his crease and third-stringer rookie Calvin Pickard had to step in.
And now they’re potentially facing a serious quandary: if Varlamov’s injury is serious, do they go out and acquire veteran help? Read more
John Scott’s brief career as a member of the San Jose Sharks has already led to headlines both good and not-so-good. In his first game with the organization Tuesday, the enforcer scored (after scoring just twice in 236 career NHL games before that) – but Thursday on Long Island, the Sharks winger was in the spotlight for the wrong reasons, levelling Islanders center Mikhail Grabovski with a check that knocked him out of the game.
Grabovski was picking up the puck and in the process of turning when Scott skated into him, flattening the Belarusian pivot. Scott almost sheepishly made the hit, being careful not to leave his feet, but he still caught Grabovski completely unaware. Judge for yourself whether the hit was clean: Read more
The American Hockey League came down hard on Adirondack Flames forward Trevor Gillies Monday, suspending him 12 games for viciously assaulting Rochester forward William Carrier Friday. But some would argue they didn’t come down hard enough, and that hockey as a whole still has a ways to go to give real teeth to their punishments and truly dissuade players from becoming repeat offenders like Gillies, who was suspended twice (for a total of 19 games) in his justifiably brief NHL career (57 games from 2009-11). But that doesn’t make it any less stomach churning to watch him snap and smash Carrier’s head into the ice. See for yourself:
Gillies apologized for his actions, but these are now three separate incidents in which he was a genuine danger to his opponents. Here are the examples of what got him suspended in the NHL: Read more
One of the hallmarks of David Branch’s tenure as commissioner of the Ontario Hockey League has been his willingness to take the lead when it comes to athlete safety. He did so again Monday, launching a new campaign to educate junior hockey players on mental health issues.
The campaign, “Talk Today”, was formed in concert with the Canadian Mental Health Association and will provide tools to help players and hockey staff to identify mental health issues. As part of their mission in this regard, the league will conduct mental health and suicide-awareness workshops, stage community awareness events at games, and develop mental health coaches and champions to remove the stigma associated with the disease.
Eradicating that stigma is one of the most important parts of the program. Read more
For a few years, Carolina left winger Jeff Skinner has been one of the game’s more marketable up-and-coming players – a photogenic, well-spoken young man whose on-ice skills can be a difference maker.
That is, when he’s well enough to play the game. Unfortunately for Skinner, he’s involved in a game where headshots are still far too acceptable, and athletes’ health far too negotiable. That’s one of the reasons why Skinner has lost parts of two of his four NHL seasons to concussion-related injuries – and now will miss parts of a third straight year for the same reason. The Hurricanes are poorer for it, the league is poorer for it – and Skinner is poorest for it, both now, as an athlete unable to perform, and later, as his cognitive abilities are threatened further into his lifetime.
In the two years Skinner has been healthy, he’s averaged 32 goals and nearly 59 points per season. But he lost 16 games to a head injury in his sophomore campaign, and another five games to a concussion in February of 2013. Now, he’s sidelined indefinitely with another concussion after this blatant headshot Sunday from Washington’s Matt Niskanen:
As if the pre-season hadn’t been horrid enough for the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Raleigh squad already lost Jordan Staal to a long-term injury when he broke his leg in an exhibition game and now there’s concern over 2011 Calder Trophy winner Jeff Skinner, who was walloped by Washington defenseman Matt Niskanen in the opening minutes of the Canes’ final tune-up. Here’s the play in question:
Nick Ritchie is at the start of his burgeoning professional hockey career, but if it weren’t for his visor, he might be in a far worse predicament today.
As Yahoo’s Neate Sager first reported, Ritchie was playing in his first game back with the Ontario League’s Peterborough Petes Thursday when he was struck in the face by a slapshot from teammate Matt Spencer:
It has been a trying month for Blue Jackets fans. First and foremost, there is the ongoing contract dispute with emerging star center Ryan Johansen. Then Nathan Horton was discovered to have a degenerative back condition and Boone Jenner broke his hand. So there goes the team’s entire top line. Oh, and defenseman Ryan Murray isn’t taking contact yet as he recovers from knee surgery.
So how about some good news, eh Columbus?