No NHL edict directing linesmen to break up fights before they start

Ken Campbell
Dion Phaneuf (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

According to the NHL’s director of hockey operations, linesmen Greg Devorski and Scott Driscoll acted of their own accord when they decided to intervene before Jarome Iginla and Dion Phaneuf could start fighting Tuesday night, and were not following a league edict.

And that’s because there isn’t an edict for them to follow.

There was no shortage of consternation from fans and television analysts when the two linesmen intervened in what everyone assumed would have been a doozy of a fight between Phaneuf and Iginla, former teammates and friends who have attended each other’s weddings. This was not a staged fight, they argued. It was more of an “organic” fight that is much more palatable because it arose from the high emotions of the game. And to be fair, there was a lot of contact and some questionable hits prior to the incident. Read more

Goodbye, NHL enforcers. Believe it or not, I won’t miss you

Derek Dorsett and Brandon Prust.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

There was a time when I watched a hockey game and if there wasn’t a fight I felt ripped off.

I loved a good  scrap; so much so that when Steve Dryden offered me a position at The Hockey News in 1992, I took the job on the condition I would never have to write an anti-fighting story. I was well-aware of Dryden’s stance that there is no place for fighting in hockey and I did not share the sentiment.

How the times have changed. I have not yet completely sided with the anti-fighting movement, but I am close. Very close. I no longer have a thirst to see two huge men pound on each other even though the dinosaur in me understands why the game needs such an outlet.

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Is The Hockey News biased toward the Toronto Maple Leafs?

Ronnie Shuker

So, yeah, the Toronto Maple Leafs are 1-2-0 to start the season. Ho hum. There will be a lot of that in Hogtown this season: losing.

To the surprise of a certain segment of the NHL fan base, however, we at The Hockey News collectively don’t really care whether the Maple Leafs win or lose. We have no horse in that turtle race. Sure, there are Leafs fans among us, but there are also Canadiens fans, a Flames fan and, until recently, even a Panthers fan (no joke). Heck, there’s also some egghead editor whose allegiance shifts annually with his Stanley Cup prediction. (This season, it’s the Ducks.) Read more

Toronto Maple Leafs juggle struggling Jake Gardiner, soaring Stuart Percy

Ryan Kennedy
Toronto's Stuart Percy  (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

Jake Gardiner brings one of the highest risk-reward games to Toronto’s depth chart, but early on in the season, the young defenseman seems to have been usurped by rookie Stuart Percy, who counters with smarts and mobility. On the morning of Toronto’s home tilt against Colorado, the big question was whether Gardiner was going to draw in after he had been scratched for the Leafs’ big win in New York over the Rangers. Coach Randy Carlyle was cagey after the morning skate, saying it was a “coach’s decision” (but you’re the coach!) and that the final answer would come after warm-ups. But one thing is clear: Percy is making it hard for the Leafs to take him out.

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Breathe easy, Maple Leafs fans – Phil Kessel scored

Josh Elliott
Cody Franson, Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk

It’s incredible how quickly Leafs Nation hits the panic button. Only in Toronto will a 0-2 start to the season become cause for concern – and cause for throwing a jersey on the ice.

But blow out the New York Rangers 6-3 – with a three-point night from Phil Kessel, no less – and the tone in Leafs Land changes pretty quick.

After the Leafs dropped a hard-fought opener to Montreal 4-3 and fell apart in a 5-2 loss to the guns-blazing Pittsburgh Penguins this week, some were talking like the sky was falling in Toronto. Heck, one panic-stricken fan was so hopeless that he threw his jersey on the ice in Saturday’s loss to Pittsburgh.

That guy probably regrets chucking his sweater now, because Sunday’s team looked nothing like the one in Toronto on Saturday.
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Rumor Roundup: Leafs not shopping Kadri, but they’ll never say never

The Leafs believe Nazem Kadri can be a big part of their future, but that doesn't mean they wouldn't listen if they received a tempting offer. (Getty Images)

Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri and defenseman Jake Gardiner were subjects of trade speculation throughout last season. In a recent interview with the Toronto Sun’s Mike Zeisberger, Leafs GM Dave Nonis claims he never actively shopped the pair.

Nonis did say if the right deal came along for a player like Kadri he would trade him. “But there’s a big difference between being willing to trade a player and trying to trade a player. We were never trying to trade Jake or Naz,” he said. Nonis said the Leafs re-signed Gardiner to a long-term deal this summer because they believe in him, and Nonis expects Kadri will also be a special player.

Given the rumors flying around last season about Kadri and Gardiner, Nonis was probably getting calls from rival clubs expressing interest in the pair.  If the Leafs struggle again this season, or if Kadri and/or Gardiner fail to improve as projected, the speculation could resurface, but Nonis made it very clear last season he expected to get a comparable young player in return for either guy.

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Jiri Sekac is before, Tomas Plekanec is after

Matt Larkin
Tomas Plekanec led Montreal with two goals Wednesday night.  (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

There was a typical cluster of reporters in Montreal’s dressing room after Game 1 of the 2014-15 NHL season. Their prey wasn’t who you’d expect — P.K. Subban sat across the room, enjoying a rare minute of solitude. It was Tomas Plekanec, who played hero for the Habs against the Leafs at the Air Canada Center.

Plekanec’s night epitomized the expression “They all count.” His first goal came when he undressed Leaf goalie Jonathan Bernier on a perfectly delayed backhand deke. His second? A final-minute bank shot off rookie Stuart Percy, clinching a 4-3 road win for Montreal.

And as the media swarm engulfed Plekanec, he took it in stride, even joking that it had “been years” since he’d been asked to play an offensive role. It’s not that Plekanec, 31, wasn’t capable, but his penalty killing and faceoff prowess made him too indispensable. The addition of outstanding checker Manny Malhotra this off-season, however, gave Plekanec a chance to play on a scoring line between Alex Galchenyuk and Brendan Gallagher. The early results were obviously promising.

At the adjacent stall stood rookie and pre-season sensation Jiri Sekac, 22, with nary a reporter around him, still relatively anonymous. It’s natural to compare the Czech prospect with his countryman Plekanec. Their games aren’t identical — Sekac is a winger, for one — but they share good vision, touch around the net and puck-possession ability. So maybe, the Game 1 hero Plekanec represents the “after” and Sekac is the “before.”

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Brendan Shanahan knows only wins can rebuild Leafs fans’ trust

Adam Proteau
Brendan Shanahan (Getty Images)

In the hours before the opening night of his first full season as Toronto Maple Leafs president, Brendan Shanahan had two words on his mind: Game Day. It wasn’t the same as being a player, but he was as hungry for his team to win as he was during his 22-year career as an NHL player.

It just shows you – even recent Hockey Hall of Fame inductees have a lot to prove with the rest of their days. And boy, does Shanahan ever. He’s here to prove he can make the rapid, pressure-packed acclimation from the NHL’s department of player safety to the high-stakes boardroom showdowns that decide which cities get to hold Stanley Cup parades. The means to his ultimate goal have changed, but the goal is the same. Read more