Spence posted a 2-1-0-0 record with two shutouts, a 0.67 goals against average and a .974 save percentage in three starts last week.
Spence posted a 2-1-0-0 record with two shutouts, a 0.67 goals against average and a .974 save percentage in three starts last week.
Philip Larsen got knocked unconscious, the Canucks retailiated without knowing what happened, and they could have hurt their teammate even worse in the process.
The incident was horrific. We can all agree on that.
Tuesday night in New Jersey, Vancouver Canucks blueliner Philip Larsen skated behind his net to retrieve a puck. He had no idea Devils left winger Taylor Hall was pursuing the same puck. They collided heavily. Larsen bashed his head on the ice and was knocked out cold.
It was a scary scene, undoubtedly, one that understandably evoked a ton of emotion from Larsen's teammates. It was hardly a surprise to see a flurry of Vancouver players swarm Hall and make him fight.
It was a shame, however, for multiple reasons. First off, the hit wasn't dirty. It wasn't even a deliberate bodycheck. Hall leaned back on his skates to slow his momentum and held out his arms as if protecting himself from imminent impact. It was more of a crash than a bonecrushing hit. We can debate whether Larsen's head was the principal point of contact – I don't believe it was at all – but it's irrelevant when assessing Hall's guilt. There was no intent there. He won't be disciplined by the NHL for an accident.
And yet, thanks to the sport's culture of immediate and forceful vengeance, Hall had to fight anyway. In the spur of the moment, in the heat of elite competition, players are simply too jacked up to take a breath and assess the situation. They see a comrade fall and, in mere milliseconds, seek and destroy whoever caused the harm.
“You always have a problem with a hit when one of your guys gets hit hard," Canucks coach Willie Desjardins told the Vancouver Province's Jason Botchford after the the game. "It doesn’t matter if it’s a clean hit. You have a problem when a guy gets hit that hard. I think all coaches would.”
The ironic thing about this tough-guy mentality is that it could end up pushing one of the toughest things about hockey out of the game: good, clean hits. If the swarm mentality goes on much longer, the only guys willing to lay opponents out with big hits will be those ready and willing to drop the gloves right afterward. Sooner or later players might decide it's not worth sitting five minutes and/or risking injury just to put a lick on a guy. And, in Hall's case, he wasn't even trying to drill Larsen.
Will we ever stop seeing players attacked after clean hits? I doubt it. The revenge assault is a crime of passion, a snap decision. But maybe, just maybe, the Canucks and players all over the world can learn a bit from what happened right after Larsen got hit. Watch:
The first instinct, sadly, is not to help Larsen, but to destroy Hall. Center Michael Chaput immediately starts a fight. That causes a pileup of players from both teams – all around the unconscious Larsen. It's downright disturbing to see him getting kicked in the head by his own teammates’ skates. Canucks goalie Jacob Markstrom tries to box out Larsen and keep him safe. Markus Granlund tries as well but has to step over and onto Larsen in the process. It’s a miracle Larsen wasn’t cut. None of that would've happened had Chaput thought of Larsen first.
The ugly scene is a reminder that, right after a teammate takes a massive hit, the first priority should be to protect him. The best way to do that isn't to attack his attacker. It's to attend to the teammate first. There's plenty of time to review what happened and take down the perpetrator's number for later in the game. That's what jumbo-tron replays are for. And, in cases like Hall's, the violence would be averted altogether if players watched the replay and realized it was an accident.
Sadly, the idea is a pipe dream, and I don’t expect players to learn from Larsen's fate anytime soon. But we can always hope.
Matt Larkin is a writer and editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to thn.com. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin
From big off-season acquisitions struggling to oft-maligned players proving their worth, the NHL has its fair share of players who are hard to figure out.
I'm still confused.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the NHL's five most confusing teams, at least from my perspective. These were the teams that I just couldn't figure out. Were they good? Bad? Somewhere in the middle? I'd spent the season trying to work it out, and come up empty.
As it turned out, I wasn't alone. More than a few readers confessed to being confused by those teams too, not to mention several others. It was like having a support group. A support group of confused hockey fans, all watching the games unfold with their heads tilted like a puppy seeing a toilet flush for the first time.
Well, today I'm going to call another meeting of the confused hockey fan network. But this time, we're not looking at teams. No, today we're going to dive into some specific players that have me perplexed. In most of these cases, I thought I had a handle on things. But now I'm not so sure.
Maybe you can help me out. Or maybe you're just as confused as I am. Either way, I think it will be good for my soul to admit that I just can't figure these guys out.
What I thought I knew: After an up-and-down start to this NHL career, Elliott had settled in to a predictable pattern with the Blues. He'd play well. He'd post strong numbers, sometimes even league-leading ones. And then, just when push came to shove, the Blues would lose faith in him and hand the starter's job to someone else. Maybe it was the backup. Maybe it was a pricey trade acquisition. Maybe it was even a semi-retired legend, in a move we'd all agree to just pretend never happened. But time and time again, the Blues had no faith in Elliott.
And I was convinced that they were wrong. This was the classic case of a team over-thinking things, or maybe letting dressing room politics or a faith in intangibles override basic logic. The numbers didn't lie: Elliott was one of the best goalies in the league. And when the Flames nabbed him at a discount in the offseason, I was sure that they'd found their starter.
Where I'm at now: Sitting around wondering what happened. Which is also where Elliott finds himself most games these days.
Chad Johnson has been a great story, and you can't blame the Flames for riding the hot hand. Elliott got off to a bad start, and when you're a young team that hasn't earned a ton of self-confidence quite yet, you can't let yourself fall too far out of the race. The Flames are being smart here.
But… Elliott is still good, right? Every goalie has the occasional slump, so we can't panic over 13 games. Then again, Elliott's never really done much outside of Ken Hitchcock's goalie factory, and the Blues still didn't believe in him. Did they know something that the rest of us, including the Flames, somehow missed?
What I thought I knew: Remember when Ryan was left off of Team USA in 2014, partly because Brian Burke didn't think he could spell "intense"? What a ridiculous snub that was. Hey guys, 30-goal scorers in their prime don't exactly grow on trees.
Where I'm at now: Has anyone noticed that Bobby Ryan doesn't score 30 goals anymore?
Well, sure, I imagine Senator fans were already in the loop on this one. But it feels like the rest of us have been slow to realize that Ryan just hasn't been the same player in Ottawa that he was in Anaheim. His best year since the 2013 trade was only 23 goals, and that was back in 2013-14. This year, he has just three goals through 21 games.
In hindsight, maybe we should have seen that coming. Ryan was 26 when the trade went down, and in today's NHL, that's already past the peak of many forwards. But the Senators clearly thought they were getting an elite player with some big seasons left in him – remember, we're just two years removed from them handing him a $50-million contract.
Ryan's had to overcome some tough hurdles in his life, including the loss of his mother this summer. It still feels like he could rebound and reclaim his status as a first-line player. But if not, the budget-conscious Senators may be stuck with an ugly-looking contract that they can't really afford.
What I thought I knew: Any Leaf fan who was paying attention was in on this one. Sure, Bozak had put up some decent stats over the years, but he'd done it as Phil Kessel's sidekick, inexplicably getting all the playing time with Toronto's best player and reaping the rewards. And even then, his numbers had been just OK, never topping 50 points in a season and struggling in his own end.
It was a classic case of a superstar propping up an also-ran. And once Kessel was shipped out of town, we'd see the real Tyler Bozak.
Where I'm at now: Hey, it turns out the real Tyler Bozak is pretty good.
Not "first line center" good. Certainly not "team MVP" good, despite some of the sillier hype from the Kessel era. But his production hasn't cratered without his superstar wingman. In fact, it's improved slightly, and he's on pace for the most productive season of his career this year.
Maybe he's benefitting from the Leafs finally having some depth at center. Maybe he's embracing his role as the "dad figure" on one of the league's youngest rosters. Or maybe he was just better than I thought he was all along.
What I thought I knew: He's easily one of the best young offensive defensemen in the league.
Where I'm at now: Pretty much the same place. Which is why what's going on in Dallas right now is so hard to figure out.
Last month, Lindy Ruff made Klingberg a healthy scratch, and everyone went "What?" Then we found out that Klingberg had missed a team meeting, so fair enough — the rules apply to everyone. But then last week he was scratched again, this time for performance reasons.
And sure enough, he hasn't been great this year. He's on pace for the worst offensive totals of his career, and he's getting creamed on possession, where he'd previously been very solid. Sure, maybe nobody would look good in front of that Dallas goaltending. And Ruff is carrying eight defenseman, which makes his decisions tougher. But Klingberg really has looked off this year, and with a 98.5 PDO, this isn't all about bad luck and shaky percentages. Something's wrong.
We're talking about a guy who finished sixth in the Norris voting last year, in just his second NHL season. It looked like the Stars had themselves a poor man's Erik Karlsson in the making. Maybe they still do. But this season has turned a sure thing into a major question mark.
What I thought I knew: No clue. None. He seems like a good guy. Smallish, and without any especially flashy numbers, but he always seemed like a nice underdog story who'd overachieved over the years on a long path towards earning some respect. I usually like those kind of stories.
But over the last few years, Russell has somehow morphed into the poster child for the debate between analytics and old school. And you're not allowed to stake out a middle ground. You have to either think he's the second coming of Scott Stevens, willing his team to victory by sheer force of heart, or you have to think he's hot garbage. Those are your only two options. And you better choose quickly, because as soon as his name get mentioned, everybody is going to start yelling.
Where I'm at now: SO MUCH YELLING!
Honestly, I have no idea. When Russell hit free agency this summer, I thought the big numbers being thrown around were a little ridiculous. So did the league, apparently, since he had to settle for a one-year deal with the Oilers. That seemed like a good fit, and you figured Russell could settle in, put together a decent season, and take another shot at a big UFA payday next year.
No such luck. No, apparently we all have to keep fighting the Great Kris Russell Battle until the end of time. Is he good? Bad? What position does he even play? Nobody remembers.
We have always been at war with Kris Russell. Now pick a side and go yell at somebody about it.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.
Daniel and Henrik Sedin
Daniel and Henrik Sedin
At least two teams are reportedly interested in acquiring the Sedins for their full cap hit and Canucks veterans could draw interest at the trade deadline. The Kings are looking to clear cap space by moving out Teddy Purcell.
The ongoing struggles of the Vancouver Canucks this season generated some speculation over possible roster moves.
In early November, it was reported GM Jim Benning was in the market for a 20-goal winger. At one point, the Canucks were linked to Buffalo Sabres left wing Evander Kane, but Benning reportedly ended that inquiry.
By late-November, The Province's Jason Botchford suggested the Canucks could get an early start on deciding which players to move by the March 1 trade deadline. He felt veterans such as Ryan Miller, Alex Edler, Alexandre Burrows and perhaps even Daniel and Henrik Sedin could be on the move.
Unless those players want out of Vancouver, however, that's not going to happen. All carry some form of a no-trade clause in their respective contracts. Benning tells Botchford he won't move them unless they ask to be dealt.
Botchford said he knows of two teams that would be willing to acquire the Sedins for their full combined salary-cap hit of $14 million. If the Canucks were to pick up part of that cap hit (which runs through 2017-18), he thinks more clubs would be interested.
The sticking point, of course, is the Sedins' willingness to be traded. So far, they've given no indication that they want out of Vancouver. As Botchford points out, such a move would likely have to take place in the off-season.
Even if the Canucks put the Sedins on the block, they're unlikely to fetch a significant return. While they're still putting up solid numbers (17 points in 26 games), the 36-year-old twins are well past their prime. Teams aren't going to give up a lot for a couple of fading stars. Picks and prospects, sure, but nothing that would immediately reverse the Canucks' fortunes.
As for Miller, he and Canucks management could be willing to work out a contract extension. Botchford's collegue Ben Kuzma doubts the Canucks place the 36-year-old goalie on the block by the trade deadline.
Kuzma notes Miller's stats aren't great this season. However, he feels he'll still be a good fit with Jacob Markstrom, buying some time until promising goalie prospect Thatcher Demko is ready to move up. He wonders if Miller might be agreeable to a two- or three-year deal worth between $4-$4.5 million per season. That's a significant pay cut from Miller's current $6-million annual salary.
Considering Miller's no longer an elite goaltender, he probably won't get much better than that on the open market. He could test next summer's free-agent market, but will likely find few decent offers. He could prefer to avoid uncertainty over his future by staying in Vancouver for a reasonable contract.
KINGS TRYING TO FREE SPACE WITH PURCELL MOVE
Los Angeles Kings left wing Teddy Purcell cleared waivers over the weekend. Signed as a free agent last summer to a one-year, $1.6-million contract, the 31-year-old managed only two points in 12 games this season. Illness and a lower-body injury sidelined him in October, and he was a healthy scratch in the Kings' last four games.
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman suggests contract and budget issues explain why Purcell, who exceeded 40 points three times in his career, went unclaimed. LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen reports of some trade talk with another club prior to Purcell hitting the waiver wire.
With 21 of 30 NHL teams carrying $2 million or less in cap space, moving Purcell's cap hit is difficult right now. The Kings obviously want to shed his salary without taking any back in a deal. They could be waiting until later in the season to find the right deal.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.). For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
The Rangers started the season as one of the league’s hottest teams, but have come back down to earth lately. Getting back on track will be a bit harder without the services of Rick Nash for the next week.
Another year, another ailment for Rick Nash, but luckily for the New York Rangers winger this one won’t be keeping him out of the lineup long-term.
Nash, 32, was forced to the leave the Rangers’ loss to the New York Islanders early on Tuesday, suffering a lower-body ailment that put him out of the game, and an MRI on Wednesday revealed that Nash will be sidelined for somewhere in the neighborhood of one week due to a groin injury.
Considering Nash was forced out of action due to the injury, that he’ll miss only one week is about as good as the news could be. Most Rangers fans would have thought the worst when Nash was forced to leave the game, especially given he missed nearly a quarter of the 2015-16 campaign due to a knee injury.
Being out for a week would force Nash, currently third on the Rangers in scoring behind J.T. Miller and Kevin Hayes with 18 points, to miss anywhere from four to six games, depending when he’s feeling fit to return to action. Only one of those games are divisional games, which is a slight bonus, but the set of games against the Chicago Blackhawks is certainly a pair the Rangers could use Nash for, and getting by the New Jersey Devils and Winnipeg Jets without Nash in the lineup is going to require someone else stepping up.
Nash is in the midst of quite the bounce back season, too. While it may be a far cry from his remarkable 2014-15 campaign in which he scored a career-best 42 goals to go along with 69 points, Nash has already potted 11 goals this season and, prior to his injury, was on pace for another 30-goal campaign.
Even if Nash reaches the 20-goal mark this season, though, it would be a step up from his past campaign. He managed only 15 goals and 36 points in 2015-16, making for the lowest full-season goal total of his career.
Nash isn’t the only injury concern for the Rangers right now, however. New York will also be without Matt Puempel for the foreseeable future due to a concussion and Mika Zibanejad’s broken fibula will likely keep him out of action for at least another month, if not more.
The Rangers, who started the season as one of the league’s hottest teams, are just 4-5-1 in their past 10 games.
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