Â• Wanna know why the public has a difficult time relating to Gary Bettman? Yesterday, in shooting down rumors his contract would soon expire, Bettman said he "doesn't really keep track" of how long his deal runs, adding Â“it sounds rightÂ” that it has four more years to go.
Do you know anyone who doesn't really keep track of his or her employment situation? Me neither. That's a perfect example of the disingenuousness that has plagued Bettman since his stint as commissioner began 15 years ago.
Â• A NHL agent I spoke to predicted there would be a good amount of player movement prior to the Feb. 27 trade deadline, but still ripped the league's collective bargaining agreement for its ultra-constrictive effect on deal-making.
Â“I guarantee you there are at least 10-12 GMs in this league who are infuriated over the CBA,Â” the agent said. Â“I definitely think you'll see alterations or adjustments to it this summer, at least to allow teams to assume a portion of the salary of the player they trade away. As long as you're under the (salary) cap, why should it matter?Â”
Â• Thursday's Arizona Republic has an interesting story about Wayne Gretzky's use of smelling salts.
The Coyotes coach, who used the salts as a player, says he still uses them Â“normally, every gameÂ…probably more (out of) habit
When informed of the news, World Anti-Doping Agency boss Dick Pound immediately began preparing a news release.
Â• Now that former NBAer John Amaechi has announced he is a homosexual, the NHL is the only one of the so-called Â“big fourÂ” sports leagues without an openly gay player or ex-player.
And if you want to know why, just hang around some hockey players, coaches and broadcasters. Nobody in his right mind would come out of the closet in this league.
Canadiens winger Andrew Shaw was booted from Saturday’s game against the New York Rangers for a blindside hit on Jesper Fast. Shaw was playing in his first game after missing nearly a month due to a concussion.
Andrew Shaw made his return to the Montreal Canadiens’ lineup Saturday night after spending the past 14 games on the sideline with a concussion, and less than 17 minutes into his first period of play in nearly a month, Shaw found himself hitting the showers early.
Shaw earned himself the boot from Saturday’s game with the Rangers late for a highly questionable hit on Jesper Fast as he was exiting New York’s zone. Shortly after Fast moved the puck up ice, Shaw approached from the right wing, cut hard towards Fast and drove clean through Rangers winger. The hit sent Fast crashing hard to the ice, and Shaw was chased down by New York’s J.T. Miller, who dropped the gloves in defense of Fast.
With only minutes remaining in the period, Shaw headed to the dressing room as a result of the fight, but the officials ensured that his night was over by handing a major for interference and a game misconduct:
The hit by Shaw is definitely one the league will be taking a look at, but it’s unlikely the hit warrants supplemental discipline. Despite the fact it’s a blindside blow and one that came far later than it should have, Shaw appears to have caught Fast squarely on the shoulder. The result of the hit was unfortunate, to be sure, but that alone won’t make the hit worthy of a suspension for Shaw. In addition, the league may very well rule that Shaw’s punishment of a major penalty and what amounts to two-thirds of a game with the misconduct will suffice.
Even with all of that, though, it wouldn’t be shocking if someone from the league reaches out to Shaw, at the very least. He hasn’t been in the good books with the league almost from the outset of the season. In his very first game in a Canadiens uniform during the pre-season, Shaw landed himself a three-game pre-season ban for a hit from behind and upon returning to the lineup found himself again the target of suspension chatter for a slew foot in his regular season debut. The league reviewed the play, but no discipline was handed out beyond the match penalty Shaw was given.
When he’s been making headlines for the right reasons, Shaw, 25, has been exactly as advertised for the Canadiens. He has six goals and 15 points in 29 games and has been an agitator in the middle of the lineup.
Nashville finally got some good news on the injury front with P.K. Subban taking part in an optional skate, but losing Roman Josi to an upper-body injury puts a damper on Subban’s progress.
Having spent the past 13 games, or nearly one-third of their season thus far, without defenseman P.K. Subban, the last thing the Nashville Predators was another injury on the blueline. Unfortunately, though, the injury bug has bitten the Predators once again.
The Predators announced Friday afternoon that defenseman Roman Josi has been placed on the injured reserve with an upper-body injury, and no clear timeline for return has been announced. Josi’s injury comes as the result of a hard, late hit thrown by Boston rookie Anton Blidh in the first period of the Predators’ 2-1 victory over the Bruins Thursday evening, but the specifics of the injury are unclear. Nashville coach Peter Laviolette called the hit “late and dirty.”
Losing Josi is about as bad as things could possibly get for the Predators given his importance to the team, and his emergence has been one of the bright spots of the past few seasons in Nashville. Through 42 games this season, Josi is averaging more ice time than any other player in the Predators’ lineup and has contributed five goals and 22 points.
And while it’s difficult to find a positive in the current injury news for the Predators — who also placed Colin Wilson, who has missed the past three games, on injured reserve with a lower-body injury — things are finally starting to look up when it comes to Subban.
For the first time since he fell injured in mid-December, Subban was back on the ice for a skate with his teammates. Subban has been sidelined since Dec. 15 with a mysterious upper-body injury, suspected to be a back ailment, and hasn’t done much in the way of on-ice activity since falling injured. Subban was placed on the injured reserve on Jan. 1 with the expectation that he’d be reevaluated in 2-3 weeks, and, according to Vingan, Predators GM David Poile said in an interview with Nashville’s 102.5 The Game that the defenseman is “making progress” in his quest to return to action.
However, the Predators may need to go at least another week without Subban. Vingan added that Poile believed it would be closer to the full three weeks before Subban could be reevaluated, at which time the Predators will likely make a decision or announcement about how far off Subban is from returning to the lineup.
Subban, 27, was right along Josi as the defensive catalyst for the Predators this season. Before falling injured, Subban had seven goals and 17 points in 29 games while averaging upwards of 25 minutes of ice time per game. He won the fan vote to captain the Central Division at the All-Star Game in Los Angeles, but it’s unknown at this point whether Subban will be cleared to participate at the event.
The Breakaway Challenge is no more, but the often ridiculous event at the skills competition offered up some fantastic moments and great laughs. Take a look back at the five best attempts.
The highlight of the NBA’s all-star weekend, almost without fail, is the Slam Dunk Contest. The event has delivered moments like Michael Jordan’s foul line dunk, Vince Carter’s forearm in the rim jam and last season’s phenomenal showdown between Aaron Gordon and Zach LaVine.
It would only make sense then that the NHL would try its hand at imitating the event, creating the Breakaway Challenge as its version of the dunk competition. The goal was simple: wow the crowd with incredible displays of puckhandling or win them over with props and creativity. Most players went for the latter, and it’s been one of the more ridiculous and comical events at the all-star weekend over the past six skills competitions.
However, after its six-season run as one of the weekend’s events, the NHL has decided to do away with the Breakaway Challenge, according to Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos. The news only a couple of weeks before the league is set to head to Los Angeles for the All-Star Game and is at least a slight indication that some new competitions could be part of the format.
With the Breakaway Challenge no more, though, let’s take a look back at five of the very best and most memorable moments from the contest:
5. Johansen gets some help, but Voracek one-ups him
Ryan Johansen had the Columbus crowd in the palm of his hands by using an Ohio State jersey as a prop, and he really got the crowd on its feet by getting a youngster to help bury a shot. It was a great moment, for sure, but Jakub Voracek really got the crowd laughing by stealing Johansen’s idea with the help of another kid on hand: diminutive Flames star Johnny Gaudreau.
4. Ovechkin is the new Captain Canada
If this is the end of the Breakaway Challenge for good, then Alex Ovechkin will go down as the greatest participant the competition has ever had. He won the first ever event in 2008 and with the chance to defend his crown in 2009, he pulled out all the stops, getting a hand from fellow countryman Evgeni Malkin and endearing himself to the Montreal crowd with an interesting choice of headwear.
3. The transformation of Burns
It almost doesn’t matter which team you support when it comes to Brent Burns. He’s an absolute stud on the blueline for the Sharks, he’s one of the most exciting players in the game, he’s got a unique love of animals and he has a Harry Potter tattoo. That last one will only please a certain generation of fan, but it’s indicative of the personality he brings. Burns also isn’t afraid to make light of his grizzled appearance, and he pulled off the perfect gag at the 2016 All-Star Game.
2. SuperKane takes center stage in Ottawa
Ovechkin was the king of the Breakaway Challenge for three straight All-Star Games, and it took a superhuman performance by Patrick Kane for someone to finally take the crown from the ‘Great 8.’ Kane went prop heavy with his attempts, but the clever use of an “exploding” puck was really the topper.
1. Subban pays tribute to greatness
As he continues his career well into his 40s, Jaromir Jagr’s status as one of the game’s most beloved players grows, and that seemingly goes for both players and fans alike. So, how do you win over an entire crowd and one of the greatest players the game has ever seen in one breakaway attempt? Well, you throw on a mullet, a Jagr jersey, some Cooperalls and cap it off with a salute.
The Chicago Blackhawks superstar is climbing up the scoring charts again and his ability to beguile goaltenders with his intentions is helping him get there
Don't look now, but Patrick Kane is gunning for another Art Ross Trophy. The Chicago Blackhawks superstar has 10 points in his past six games and currently sits just behind Edmonton wunderkind Connor McDavid for the NHL scoring lead.
The Blackhawks just dropped a 3-2 contest to Minnesota (no shame there; the Wild are a heavy outfit), but Kane was a terror, throwing two goals past Vezina favorite Devan Dubnyk. What's most interesting about Kane's attack is how he put the shots past Dubnyk. Here's the first one, which admittedly, probably came with some luck:
OK, Kane's not an evil genius for knuckling one under Dubnyk because the puck was rolling, but let's go to the second goal for a better example of his craftiness:
There we go. Firing a rocket that Dubnyk clearly wasn't prepared for, and doing so amidst a bunch of skates when most shooters would have pulled the puck out of the fray first. Few players are as confident as Kane is with the puck and that's a weapon he uses to exploit goaltenders time and again. Historically, just look back to the most famous goal he ever scored, the overtime Stanley Cup game-winner against Philadelphia – as we've all seen countless times, Kane was basically the only person in the arena who knew the puck had gone in. Interesting side note – Colorado's Matt Duchene once told me that he knew the puck had gone in right away because he had been studying the older Kane and seen the trick once before. But for those of us who aren't elite hockey players, Kane's maneuvers are consistently quite impressive.
In an era where goal-scoring is at a premium, there's a reason why Kane has still been successful and his obfuscation is a big part of it. Same goes for Connor McDavid, Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews – they're thinking about offense on a different level from mere mortals. On the other end of the spectrum, you still have a couple of elite scorers who can overpower netminders with their shots: Patrik Laine and Alex Ovechkin, who are currently tied in both goals and points, which I believe is a nice bit of cosmic alignment.
Last year, Kane won the scoring crown with 106 points and he was the only NHLer to hit triple digits. Right now, no one is on pace to break 100, though Crosby is in the ballpark if he has a hot second half. Defensive schemes and excellent goaltenders are suppressing offense right now, but at least we still have a few artists like Kane working on the assembly line.