Injured Bergeron wants NHL to crack down on hits from behind
By: The Canadian Press
Nov 8, 2007
BOSTON - Boston Bruins centre Patrice Bergeron said Thursday that the NHL must crack down on hits from behind, like the one that left him with a severe concussion and a broken nose.
"We NHL players need to respect each other a bit more," said Bergeron, who was wearing a full neck brace. "If you see a number or see the back of a player, just don't hit him. It's not part of the game and it's against the rules."
It was the first time Bergeron, one of Boston's top players, has spoken publicly since he was injured during the Oct. 27 game against Philadelphia.
Bergeron was unconscious after being pushed into the boards face-first by Flyers defenceman Randy Jones. Bergeron, 22, was taken from the ice on a stretcher and spent the night in hospital.
"I remember pretty much the whole thing," he said at a news conference. "Before I had seen the hit, there were some parts I couldn't remember. I couldn't really remember why I was going for the puck, and what I was going to do with it. After watching the play, I realized and remembered I was going to pass the puck to Chucky (Kobasew), who was on the other side of the net."
Jones, who was suspended for two games by the NHL for the hit, has tried to contact Bergeron, but Bergeron has not returned the call.
"He actually left a message last week," Bergeron said. "He left a message and said he apologized and he didn't mean to do that, but I'm not here to say anything bad about Randy Jones.
"It's more about trying to change things and make sure it's not going to happen to anyone else."
Bruins general manager Chiarelli has said concussions like the one Bergeron suffered usually take at least a month to come back from. The team has not estimated when he might return.
"Obviously, I would be lying if I said I feel good right now," Bergeron said. "It's tough for me to be sitting here. I feel a lot of the symptoms from the concussion and so far it's hard for me to walk 200 feet without feeling dizzy and light headed.
"Pretty much day-to-day stuff I would normally do is tough."
Chiarelli said the NHL should consider new ways to stop illegal hits.
"There's been a lot of discussion, prior to the hit on Patrice, on head shots," Chiarelli said. "I know Patrice feels, obviously, very strongly about it and I've talked to his agent also about proceeding internally, whether it's within the league or within the union or together.
"Right now, I'm more concerned with Patrice getting healthy."
Bergeron was chosen 45th overall by the Bruins in the 2003 NHL entry draft. He's in his fourth NHL season, putting up seven points (3-4) before the injury. He had 70 points (22-48) in 77 games last season.
The Flames appear to be a team on the rise. Will an increased possession game and improved goaltending be enough to get them into the playoffs?
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season. Today, the Calgary Flames.
THN's Prediction: 4th in Pacific
Stanley Cup odds: 30-1
Key additions: Troy Brouwer, RW; Brian Elliott, G; Alex Chiasson, RW; Matthew Tkachuk, LW; Linden Vey, RW; Chad Johnson, G
Key departures: Joe Colborne, RW; Jonas Hiller, G; Mason Raymond, LW; Josh Jooris, C; Niklas Backstrom, G
-Can new coach Glen Gulutzan get the Flames to play with possession? Deposed Calgary coach Bob Hartley was a big fan of the stretch pass to create offensive chances and stressed shot blocking to suppress the opposition. Both meant the puck was wayward rather than controlled. That type of old school thinking ran thin with GM Brad Treliving, and the coach of the year in 2014-15 was replaced.
Gulutzan is regarded as more progressive in his coaching style and is sure to find creative ways of keeping the puck on the sticks of his skilled young forwards and mobile defense corps.
-Who's the next young gun to step in and shine? In each of the past three seasons, Calgary has seen an unproven rookie blossom in an offensive role. From Sean Monahan to Johnny Gaudreau to Sam Bennett, the future is in good hands.
Expect to see two of the following win jobs. Winger Hunter Shinkaruk showed well in an eight-game trial last season, sixth-overall pick Matthew Tkachuk is a mature 18, Daniel Pribyl is big and skilled, and 2013 first-rounder Emile Poirier is quick with nice finish.
-Is Brian Elliott's stellar save percentage transferrable to Alberta? Was it the team system in St. Louis or just Elliott’s ability to stop shots at an elite level that led to an otherworldly .925 save percentage the past five seasons combined?
Chances are it was a combination of both. Elliott is unheralded, but then again, the defensive schemes of Ken Hitchcock leads to his goalies posting nice SPs. At 31, Elliott is in the final year of his contract at a modest $2.5 million. A good showing and he’ll double that number.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
Once you see the same thing happen a couple times it becomes less surprising. After Toronto in 2013-14 and Colorado in 2014-15, Calgary became the latest team to crash back down to Earth after a miracle season. This season should be different for the Flames and you may see them take some real steps toward being a playoff team.
The biggest change comes in net with the additions of Brian Elliott and Chad Johnson who should be much better at keeping pucks out of the net. Last year’s team finished last in save percentage which was a big reason for their undoing. That shouldn’t be an issue this year.
What will likely be an issue is team depth. Top heavy is a word that gets undeservedly thrown around for good teams like the Penguins and Sharks that have great players and depth. The Flames have great players, but the bottom of the roster looks sketchy. They have an okay top six led by Johnny Gaudreau, but the bottom has four replacement level players. Their fourth line is the worst in the league and it’s a big reason why the team’s forward group is in the bottom five.
On defense, the divide is even crazier. The team has arguably three No. 1 D-men followed by three replacement level guys. No other team has a gap that severe, although it’s not as big of an issue here as the strength of the top three pushes the entire unit into the top 10.
Putting the two together, Calgary has one of the league’s biggest discrepancies between their top-end talent (top six forwards and top four defensemen) which ranks 15th and their depth (bottom six forwards and bottom pair d-men) which ranks 28th.
What you’ll notice here is that the best teams have good top end talent with the depth to match, while weaker teams are lacking in one area, although there are exceptions to both rules. Calgary is a team that’s likely on the playoff bubble this year and in order to take the next step they’ll need some bigger steps from top end guys like Sean Monahan and Sam Bennett and they need to solidify their depth because what they’re trotting out on the bottom lines isn’t good enough.
Sobotka won’t return to Blues to start season, but only because of KHL contract issue
By: Jared Clinton
Sep 28, 2016
Getting out of his KHL deal wasn’t as easy as Vladimir Sobotka would have hoped, and after months of trying, it appears Sobotka is stuck playing for Avangard Omsk for one more season.
Vladimir Sobotka has flirted with a return to the St. Louis Blues in each of the past two off-seasons after leaving the organization for the KHL in 2014-15, and while he sounded confident he would be returning to the NHL in time for the 2016-17, it seems as though difficulties in getting out of his deal with Avangard Omsk will keep Sobotka in Russia for one more season.
In a statement, Avangard president Vladimir Shalaev said that the “memorandum of mutual respect of contracts KHL and the NHL has not been cancelled,” and that rumors Sobotka would be returning to St. Louis were exactly that — rumors.
“The situation with Sobotka developed exactly as we expected,” Shalaev said. “In the summer, we talked about the fact that Vladimir is our team’s player because he has a valid contract with Avangard for another year.”
The situation is a lot more murky than Sobotka, 29, simply having a deal with Omsk, though.
Throughout the off-season, indications have been that Sobotka has planned on returning to the Blues and honoring the one-year, $2.725-million contract that he was awarded in arbitration before leaving the NHL for the KHL. However, as the summer wore on and Sobotka attempted to get his official release from his deal, news came that triggering his opt-out clause wasn’t as easy as he had hoped.
In mid-September, while Sobotka was suiting up for the Czech Republic at the World Cup of Hockey, he told ESPN’s Joe McDonald that talks with the KHL had been ongoing for five months and Sobotka was still without his release.
"We're still talking and we'll see what's going to happen during the World Cup," Sobotka told McDonald. "After that, I think we're going to be smarter. It's been going on for five months and I've had enough of it. It's my agent's job to to keep talking and we'll see."
One potential issue could be that in order for Sobotka to come back to the NHL, he needs to buy himself out of his contract. Fox Sports Midwest’s Darren Pang, a broadcaster for the Blues, reported that Sobotka getting out of his deal could require him to pay two-thirds of his alleged $4-million salary for the upcoming season. That would mean Sobotka is on the hook for $2.64 million, essentially meaning his NHL return would see him playing for little more than $100,000.
Regardless of the issues, though, it appears Sobotka’s saga is over for another summer, and will be until at least the end of the KHL campaign. He’s heading back to Avangard, and the Blues will have to wait a while to see him suit up in St. Louis.
Down Goes Brown: Five times a team avenged a round robin loss at the World Cup
By: Sean McIndoe
Sep 21, 2016
The history of the World and Canada Cup tournament is filled with surprising round robin results that ended up getting flipped, so don't worry just yet. Unless you're Team USA.
We're two games into the round robin portion of the World Cup, and we've already seen a handful of upsets, with favorites like Russia and the United States already tasting defeat, and in the case of the Americans, already being eliminated. With one game to go and some of the four playoff spots still up for grabs, fans around the world are no doubt panicking over the games their teams let get away.
But while the round robin is obviously important – you have to make the playoffs to win the whole thing – it's worth remembering that the results of individual games don't necessarily tell us much as much as we might think about what will happen in the playoff rounds.
In fact, the history of the World and Canada Cup tournament is filled with surprising round robin results that ended up getting flipped down the line. So in an effort to calm some nerves, here are five times that overreacting to a round robin result would have steered you wrong once the eliminations games began.
1976: Czechoslovakia 1 – Canada 0
In the first ever round robin game in Canada Cup history, Canada made a statement by crushing Finland 11-2. They went on the beat Sweden and the U.S., and they closed out the round with a win over their arch-rivals from the Soviet Union, winning those three games by a combined score of 11-3.
But in between, they dropped a surprising decision to Czechoslovakia. Vladimir Dzurilla outduelled Rogie Vachon at the Montreal Forum, turning aside all 29 shots he faced in a 1-0 win. The game was an instant classic, described at the time as one of the best ever played.
The two teams finished at the top of round robin standings, setting up a best-of-three final. But there was no repeat of Dzurilla's heroics – Team Canada blitzed him for four goals in the first period of the opening game, sending him to the bench and paving the way for a lopsided 6-0 win. Game 2 was more entertaining, with Canada jumping out to a 2-0 lead just three minutes in before a Czechoslovakian comeback set the stage for Darryl Sittler's tournament winner in overtime.
1981: Canada 7 – Soviet Union 3
By 1981, the Soviet Union was coming off a relatively rough stretch of international play. They'd won their usual Olympic gold in 1972 and 1976, but been upset by Team USA's Miracle on Ice squad in 1980, lost the 1972 Summit Series, and failed to even make the final of the 1976 Canada Cup.
When they met Canada in 1981 in the final game of the round robin, both teams were undefeated and battling for first place. The game was tied at 2-2 heading into the third, but Canada erupted for five straight goals in what ended up being a 7-3 laugher. Even with star goaltender Vladislav Tretiak sitting out due to illness, the result was an embarrassing one for the Soviets.
Both teams won their semifinal game to advance to a one-game winner-take-all final in Montreal. With Tretiak back in goal, most fans expected a closer game. Instead, they got an even bigger blowout. But this time, it was the Soviets who ran up the score, earning an 8-1 win and handing Canada what still stands to this day as its most embarrassing international loss.
1984: Soviet Union 6 – Canada 3
Three years after their impressive win, the Soviets looked even more dominant through the round robin portion of the 1984 tournament. Heading into a final game showdown against a struggling Team Canada, they were sporting a 4-0-0 record and looking to wrap up the tournament's top seed. They went on to smother their rivals in an impressive 6-3 win, finishing the round robin with a perfect record and dropping Canada down to fourth place.
That set up another meeting between the two nations in the tournament semi-final, held just three days later in Calgary. After being held to just 17 shots in the round robin, Canada exploded for 41 in the rematch. But Soviet goaltender Vladimir Myshkin stood on his head, and had his team in position to win with a 2-1 lead late in regulation. It took a late goal by Doug Wilson to set up overtime, where Paul Coffey's lunging breakup of a Soviet 2-on-1 set the stage of Mike Bossy's sudden death winner.
Canada went on to sweep Sweden in the final to claim the tournament. It marked the third straight time that the eventual Canada Cup champion had avenged a round robin loss on the way to their title.
1987: Czechoslovakia 4 – Canada 4; Sweden 5 – Soviet Union 3
The 1987 Canada Cup marked the first time that the eventual champion went undefeated through the round robin. That would be Canada, who beat the Soviets in a three-game classic punctuated by Mario Lemieux's historic winner.
But while Canada didn't have any losses to avenge on their way to the title, they weren't perfect in the round robin. And the first blemish came in their opening game, when a rusty Canadian squad blew a third period lead on their way to a 4-4 tie with Czechoslovakia. That was a disappointing result against a team that had gone 0-4-1 in the previous tournament, and raised questions as to whether Canada could defend their crown. Meanwhile, the tournament's other favorite had a disappointing opening of their own, as the Soviets gave up three goals in the first eight minutes while dropping a 5-3 decisions to Sweden.
Both powerhouses recovered well, with each winning three straight before facing each other in the round robin finale and skating to a 3-3 draw. That set up a pair of semifinal rematches, with Canada facing Czechoslovakia and the Soviets drawing Sweden.
This time, the favorites took care of business. Canada started slowly but pumped home four straight goals to take a 5-3 final, while the Soviets jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before eliminating Sweden by a 4-2 score. That set the stage for a final that still stands as perhaps the best international hockey series ever played.
As a side note, the Czechoslovakian goaltender for both of those games against Canada was a 22-year-old kid that most North Americans had never heard of. He eventually made it to the NHL three years later, and turned out to be pretty good. He even got some revenge against Canada at an international tournament over a decade later.
2004: Russia 3 – USA 1; Sweden 4 – Czech Republic 3
Canada didn't have to avenge any round robin losses on their way to the 1991 title, and the United States likewise was a perfect 3-0-0 under the new World Cup format before winning it all in 1996. Canada repeated that feat in 2004, making it four straight Canada/World Cups that have been won by a team that didn't suffer a loss during the round robin. Yes, that's right – it's now been 32 years and counting since a team lost a round robin game and still managed to win this tournament. Wait, this is supposed to be about giving teams that lost in the round robin hope. Forget everything I just mentioned.
But we can still find a couple of revenge games in the 2004 round robin, thanks to that year's, um, interesting format. The tournament featured eight teams, and the playoff round featured… eight teams. Yes, everyone made the playoffs in 2004, with the round robin settling the seeding and nothing else.
That format actually gave us a few interesting moments, like top-seeded Finland needing a goal in the dying minutes to edge winless Germany 2-1. And it also set up a pair of interesting rematches. In the round robin, the defending champion Team USA had dropped its first two games, to Canada and Russia. In the latter game, they fell 3-1 while being outshot 45-21. The 0-2 start didn't hurt their playoff hopes, because of the whole "everyone makes it" thing, but it certainly put a dent in their confidence.
Meanwhile, the Czechs dropped their opener 4-0 to Finland, then fell behind by the same score to Sweden. They came back to at least make that game a respectable 4-3 final, but other than running up the score on Germany in the finale, they didn't come out of the round robin with much room for optimism.
But in the opening round, both teams got a chance at payback, and both took it. The Czechs looked like a different team, shelling Mikael Tellqvist and Team Sweden in a 6-1 win. The Russia/Team USA rematch was a closer affair, with both teams going back and forth, but the Americans held on for a 5-3 win.
Both teams went on to lose in the semifinal, although the U.S. blew a late lead against Finland and the Czechs took Canada to overtime. Canada beat Finland in the one-game final, the year-long NHL lockout began the next day, and the World Cup hasn't been seen since. Twelve years later, we're finally getting another look at the tournament, and another chance to see a tough round robin loss avenged in the playoffs.
At least, that's what teams like Russia, Finland and North America are hoping.
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.
Mario Lemieux and Wayne Gretzky celebrate the Game 2 overtime winner at the 1987 Canada Cup.
Author: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
Down Goes Brown: What was the best Game 2 in World Cup history?
By: Sean McIndoe
Sep 28, 2016
Five out of seven World/Canada Cups have been best-of-three finals, so let's take a look back at those five games, and rank them from worst to best.
Tuesday night's Game 1 of the World Cup final, which saw Team Canada earn a 3-1 win over Team Europe, sets up a do-or-die Game 2 Thursday night. A Canada win would end the tournament, and the trophy will be in the building, unless the league has come to its senses and thrown that ugly thing into a raging bonfire instead.
There have been seven World and Canada Cups in international hockey history, but we didn't get to see a Game 2 in all of those. Twice, in 1981 and 2004, the format called for a one-game final. But it's been best-of-three in the other tournaments, which gives us five Game 2 to work with. So today, let's take a look back at those five games, and rank them from worst to best.
As always, this is opinion only, and if you disagree, then you're wrong.
No. 5 – 1984: Canada 6, Sweden 5
The road there: Canada stumbled through the 1984 tournament, going 2-2-1 through the round robin and barely making the playoff round as the fourth seed. But Team Canada earned a trip to the final thanks to an overtime win over the Soviets in the semi-final, and they were facing an upstart Swedish team that had beaten them in their round robin meeting and had just embarrassed the Americans with a 9-2 blowout. The Canadians took the opener by a 5-2 final, but the second game proved closer.
Game 2: The game looked like a laugher early on, with Canada scoring four times in the first seven minutes and adding a fifth before the first period was over. A Paul Coffey goal early in the second made it 6-1, setting the stage for a furious Team Sweden comeback. They scored three unanswered goals to close out the second period, and draw to within 6-5 early in the third. But that was as close as they came, as Canada held on for the win and the series sweep.
The aftermath: This turned out to be the first of three straight Canada Cup wins for Team Canada, and remains the only finals appearance by Team Sweden.
The bottom line: What looked like a laugher wound up being a reasonably entertaining contest. But the game everyone remembers from the 1984 Canada Cup will always be that semi-final thriller with the Soviets.
No. 4 – 1991: Canada 4, USA 2
The road there: Coming on the heels of the 1987 tournament, fans were probably hoping for yet another final between Canada and the Soviets. But with the team in turmoil, partly due to the political situation back home, the Soviets failed to even make the playoff round. That left Canada looking for a new challenger, and the Americans were happy to step in for their first ever Canada Cup final appearance. The two teams met in the round robin, with Canada winning 6-3 to hand the Americans their only loss of the stage, and Canada followed that up with a 4-1 win in the opening game of the final.
Game 2: This game may best be remembered for who wasn't playing. Team Canada captain Wayne Gretzky was knocked out of action in Game 1 on an ugly hit from behind by Gary Suter. The check left Gretzky unable to suit up for Game 2, and contributed to the back problems that slowed him down for much of the early 1990s.
Looking for the sweep, Canada jumped out to a 2-0 lead before the Americans clawed back with a pair of second-period goals. But Steve Larmer earned some revenge on Suter by stripping him of the puck during an American powerplay and then scoring on a breakaway for the winning goal.
The bottom line: This game, much like the 1991 tournament itself, was an entertaining one that for some reason isn't all that well remembered by many fans.
No. 3 – 1996: USA 5, Canada 2
The road there: The Americans swept through the round robin with a perfect 3-0-0 record, including an impressive 5-3 win over Canada that featured a wild early brawl. That win earned them a quarter-final bye, and after knocking off the Russians 5-3 in the semis, Team USA came into the final looking like they had a real shot to wrestle the international crown away from Canada. But Steve Yzerman's overtime winner in Game 1 in Philadelphia handed the Americans their first loss of the tournament, and left them needing a pair of wins in Montreal to take the tournament.
Game 2: Team USA jumped out to an early lead, but Canada came back to tie the game before the first intermission. Goals by John Leclair and Brett Hull gave the Americans a 3-1 lead, and Mike Richter stood on his head to keep it that way until a late powerplay goal by Joe Sakic made it 3-2 with five minutes to play. That was as close as they came, and a pair of Team USA empty net goals padded the final score to 5-2.
The aftermath: Team USA completed the comeback in Game 3, winning by another 5-2 score to capture their first (and so far only) best-on-best championship.
The bottom line: Despite the two empty netters making the score more lopsided than the game was, this was a fun matchup that featured lots of star power, some bad blood, and a raucous Montreal crowd. You can watch the highlights here.
No. 2 – 1976: Canada 5, Czechoslovakia 4 (OT)
The road there: Four years after the legendary Summit Series, the Canada Cup was born in an effort to create the first true international best-on-best tournament. There was no semi-final back then, with the top two teams heading directly to the finals. Canada grabbed one of those spots, finishing first in the round robin with a 4-1-0 record. But while many had expected a Summit Series rematch in the final, the Soviets were edged out of a spot by Czechoslovakia.
The opening game of the final was a blowout, with Canada earning a relatively easy 6-0 win. Game 2 ended up proving to be a bigger challenge.
Game 2: Canada grabbed a 2-0 lead just two minutes in, but Czechoslovakia fought back to tie the game early in the third. A Bobby Clarke goal restored the Canadian lead, but two quick Czechoslovakian goals gave them a 4-3 lead with four minutes to play. Bill Barber tied it with two minutes left, and that set the stage for Darryl Sittler to deliver the first ever Canada Cup with what still stands as one of the most famous goals in the tournament's history.
The aftermath: To this day, Sittler and Team Canada assistant coach Don Cherry are still arguing over who's idea that move was.
The bottom line: You could make a great case for this game being No. 1 on the list. I think it’s a coin flip, but I'll take the game that directly led to one of the greatest moments in hockey history.
1987: Canada 6, Soviet Union 5 (2OT)
The road there: Canada and the Soviets finished in the top two spots in the round robin, then knocked off Czechoslovakia and Sweden, respectively, in the semi-finals to set up the first best-on-best multi-game series between the two rivals since the 1972 Summit Series.
Game 2: With the Soviets looking to clinch their second Canada Cup in three tournaments, the series shifted to Hamilton for the second game. The two teams resumed the all-out offensive pace, with Canada leading 2-1 before the game was even four minutes old. Then it got better.
Canada took a 3-1 lead to the first intermission, but the Soviets tied it in the second before Mario Lemieux quickly restored the lead. The Soviets tied it again early in the third, but Lemieux scored again midway through. That set the stage for a frantic end to regulation that saw Valeri Kamensky score with a minute left to send the game to overtime.
With the trophy on the line, the two teams went back and forth through one scoreless extra period. But midway through the second overtime, Canada finally ended it. Guess who.
The aftermath: This game was so good that the hockey gods decided to re-use the same script for Game 3: A back-and-forth thriller that ends with a 6-5 Canada victory on a Mario Lemieux winner.
The bottom line: The series finale was quite possibly the greatest international game ever played. And it was made possible by this one, which was almost as good. That's enough to earn it the top spot on our list, narrowly ahead of Sittler's fakeout.
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.