According to Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, Jonathan Toews hasn’t progressed in his recovery from a back injury and will be kept off the ice for “a few days.”
Sunday’s absence from the Blackhawks’ lineup marked the sixth-straight contest in which Jonathan Toews was on the shelf with a back injury, and it sure doesn’t sound as though he’s going to be back in time for the midweek tilt against the Arizona Coyotes.
Ahead of the meeting with the Winnipeg Jets Sunday, Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said the back injury that Toews, 28, has been dealing with since late-November isn’t getting any better, and Quenneville went as far to say that Toews will be kept out of practice for the next several days.
"We’ll keep him off the ice," Quenneville said, according to the Chicago Tribune’s Chris Hine. "He was out there for a little bit this morning there and we’ll keep him off for a few days and get a better assessment the middle of the week or so."
Toews’ injury came in the second period of the Blackhawks’ Nov. 23 meeting with the San Jose Sharks. Toews was battling for the puck alongside the boards with Sharks captain Joe Pavelski and was knocked to the ice. As he fell, he seemed to twist his body. Toews remained on the ice for a short while, but didn’t return to the contest once leaving the ice following the fall:
At the time, Quenneville said the hope was that Toews’ injury wasn’t anything serious or that would keep him out long-term, but it’s getting perilously close to being an ailment that has become both serious and long-term.
It’s not as if Chicago hasn’t managed without Toews — they’re 3-2-1 without No. 19 in the lineup — but it’s been abundantly clear how much the Blackhawks miss him.
Outside of the trio of Patrick Kane, Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov, the line juggling has been consistent from Quenneville and the offense has slowed significantly. Chicago was averaging three goals per game in the early part of the campaign, but have only been able to muster 1.83 per game in the six games that Toews has been sidelined. Toews’s four goals and 12 points weren’t dominant offensive totals, sure, but his ability with the puck makes him a threat each time he’s on the ice.
None of this is to mention the impact defensively that losing Toews, one of the best two-way pivots in the league, has on the Blackhawks.
If Toews is out of Tuesday’s game against the Coyotes, as it appears he will be, his seven-game absence the third-longest of his career.
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Connor McDavid missed a crucial part of last night's overtime loss to Minnesota for what turned out to be nothing. But it was absolutely the right move by the NHL.
Connor McDavid was absolutely right. It was a “shitty time” to take him out of the Edmonton Oilers lineup last night for the 20-minute concussion protocol. The Oilers were on their first of two consecutive power plays and on the verge of nine seconds of a 5-on-3. You want the best young player in the world out on the ice in those situations. Who knows? It may have led to the Oilers losing a point in the standings that they might desperately need to make the playoffs, or even win the Pacific Division, at the end of the season.
But here’s where Connor McDavid was dead wrong. The first was when he said, “Obviously the spotter thought he knew how I was feeling,” then said, “I grabbed my mouth and they took that as something that it wasn’t.”
My guess is that the concussion spotter in Toronto had absolutely no idea how McDavid was feeling when he grabbed his chin after falling chin-first on the ice last night. He also had no idea whether McDavid had suffered a concussion. We've certainly seen players have concussions for far seemingly less serious incidents. And that’s exactly why McDavid was pulled off the ice. So if you want to point fingers here, don’t blame the guy who was watching Edmonton’s 2-1 overtime loss to the Minnesota Wild from the war room in Toronto. If you’re trying to lay blame, find it with the 100 or so former NHL players who are suing the NHL, claiming the league didn’t do enough to protect them from head injuries.
Go ahead, blame Dan Lacouture and Mike Peluso, former NHL tough guys whose lives have been irreparably damaged by the effects of head injuries. Blame the family of the late Derek Boogaard. All enforcers who knew the risks of their profession? Fine. Then point the finger at former 50-goal scorers Dennis Maruk, Blaine Stoughton and Gary Leeman, who are also on the docket. Those guys were probably a lot like McDavid, wanting to stay in the lineup and doing whatever it took, including lying about concussion symptoms, to do it.
The reason McDavid was pulled off the ice after he fell is because the league is responding to a lawsuit that could be very, very serious. Another reason McDavid was removed from the game was that the player, his coach and his teammates are the last, absolutely last, people who can be trusted to tell the truth, particularly in the middle of a game. Another reason is the NHL really likes what Connor McDavid brings to the game and it would rather not have him on the sidelines. Think of it this way. If McDavid had been allowed to continue playing and had been diagnosed with a concussion today, we all would have been screaming about how the concussion spotter abdicated his responsibility.
“That’s a sensitive subject right now, not just in hockey, but all sports,” Wild winger Zach Parise said in a between-periods interview. “When it comes to your head, you want to be on the cautious side. I’m sure everyone is doing it for the right reasons. You don’t want a guy like (McDavid) missing a lot of time. He’s good for the game.”
Would Parise have felt differently if it were he or one of his teammates being pulled off the ice for the same reason? Perhaps. But a lot of people are missing the point here. You can’t advocate for player safety, then rail against those who are keeping players safe by taking precautionary measures. “They’re there for our health and doing the best job possible to look out for us. We respect that,” McDavid told reporters after the game. “But at the same time, they have to respect the time of the game, what’s going on in the game.”
No, no they don’t. And not only do they not have to respect the score, the importance of the game or what’s at stake, they have the duty to not respect any of those things. Because when it comes to a players’ long-term health and his brain, none of those things matters one iota in the grand scheme of things.
Undoubtedly there will be a hue and cry when a star player is removed from an important playoff game, only to come back later after passing the concussion test. It’s coming. Expect it. A team might even lose a game, and subsequently a series, because of it. But the NHL has to stand firm here and, given the litigation it’s facing, there’s little doubt it will do just that. We keep hearing that talented players should just have to live with being targeted by opponents, which actually makes no sense. But if you’re going to operate your league on that basis, then you also have to live with not having those players at crucial times. Because the alternative is just too great a risk.
The dynamic left winger returned from injury early and helped the Calgary Flames dissect the Anaheim Ducks. Is everything looking up in Alberta now?
'Johnny Hockey' is back with a vengeance, people.
The Calgary Flames pasted Anaheim 8-3 last night and Johnny Gaudreau was the first star, thanks to a goal and two points. But the designation wasn't just about merit; this was also a celebration of Gaudreau's first game back since a slash in mid-November caused the incredibly skilled left winger to miss 10 contests with a broken finger.
The Flames, who got off to a rough start this season, had already managed to get back on track without Gaudreau and are now 6-3-1 in their past 10 games. But make no mistake, getting Gaudreau back in such short order is great for a team that is on the outside of the playoff picture and looking in.
Calgary had been in the news for all the wrong reasons, but now the narrative is turning around. Why dwell on Brian Elliott's struggles in the crease when you've got red-hot Chad Johnson? And worry about those Dougie Hamilton trade rumors later, because right now the big defenseman is producing and also playing the best possession hockey of any defenseman on the squad.
Gaudreau's finger injury was a bummer, but he certainly seemed no worse for wear last night, albeit against an atrocious Jonathan Bernier in net (Ducks coach Randy Carlyle didn't want to pull him for an ill John Gibson). Take a look at Johnny Hockey in action:
Again, not Bernier's finest hour, but a nice sight for Flames fans, that's for sure. Gaudreau's stickwork the rest of the night was definitely up to code and with him back in the lineup, Calgary has some very nice depth up front once again. The Flames boast weapons on their top three lines and a balanced attack will be important, since opponents will certainly focus on Gaudreau's line as much as possible – and with good reason.
A pair of captains find themselves in the rumor mill early in the campaign. Montreal’s Max Pacioretty and Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog are both potential trade chips in the hunt for improvements on the back end.
Last June, the Montreal Canadiens shocked the hockey world by shipping defenseman P.K. Subban to the Nashville Predators for blueliner Shea Weber. For months leading up to that move, Subban was the subject of frequent trade speculation.
Nearly six months after the Subban deal, another notable member of the Canadiens' core surfaced in the rumor mill. The Score's Sean O'Leary includes Habs captain Max Pacioretty among his site's list of six NHL players who should get ready to pack their bags this season.
O'Leary believes the Canadiens must stabilize their blueline beyond Weber. In his opinion, the emergence of Alexander Radulov and Alex Galchenyuk makes the 28-year-old Pacioretty “expendable.” After three straight 30-plus goal seasons, the Habs captain has bounced around the lineup. Prior to his two-goal performance in Sunday's 5-4 win over the Los Angeles Kings, he was on pace for only 17 goals.
Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos doesn't believe the Canadiens intend to trade Pacioretty, but points out some teams think his situation bears scrutiny. He notes there's some friction between the winger and coach Michel Therrien over his usage this season.
Kypreos echoes O'Leary's comments, claiming a lot of teams wonder if Pacioretty could become a trade chip to boost Montreal's blueline depth. His colleague Elliotte Friedman suggests it could be difficult for the Habs to get equal value.
It's no secret Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin is reportedly in the market for a top-four defenseman. Despite Friedman's speculation about the type of return Bergevin could receive for Pacioretty, a scorer of his calibre will attract considerable interest in the trade market.
If Bergevin is willing to move Pacioretty, he should get a solid return. Given the winger's $4.5-million annual cap hit through 2018-19, it would likely have to be a dollar-for-dollar deal.
The Anaheim Ducks could be a trade partner. They're loaded with good young defensemen and could certainly use an experienced left winger such as Pacioretty on their scoring lines. Bergevin could cast an eye upon Cam Fowler ($4 million per season) or Sami Vatanen ($4.875 million).
Such a move, however, would leave Montreal thin on left wing and weaken their offense. While the Habs are among the top-10 in scoring, they've struggled of late in that category. Shipping out a proven 30-goal sniper in Pacioretty won't help them. Prior to the Subban trade, many observers (including yours truly) doubted he'd be dealt. Bergevin's shown a willingness to make big moves for the right return, so perhaps a Pacioretty trade isn't as far-fetched as it sounds.
AVALANCHE CAPTAIN LANDESKOG MOVED FOR BLUELINE HELP?
The Canadiens aren't the only club that could trade their captain for blueline help. The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson reports of “rumblings” the Colorado Avalanche could move left wing Gabriel Landeskog for a big-minute defenseman.
Like the Habs, the Avs must improve their depth on defense. They enter this week averaging 31.8 shots-again per game, ranking among the league's worst.
This isn't the first time Landeskog, 24, has popped up in the rumor mill. There was some talk last summer linking him to the Ducks and then-unsigned blueliner Hampus Lindholm, though that speculation didn't go very far.
Matheson wonders if the Avs might offer up Landeskog to the New York Islanders for rearguard Travis Hamonic. The Isles reportedly seek a scoring winger for John Tavares' line. In recent weeks, there was also talk of Landeskog's teammate Matt Duchene being peddled to the Isles.
Despite the rumors and the Avs' ongoing struggles, GM Joe Sakic maintains his belief in core players such as Landeskog and Duchene. Following last week's 3-2 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, Sakic told Terry Frei of the Denver Post he still has faith in his core, claiming the club's poor start is a team issue.
Sakic doesn't sound like a GM keen to shake up his roster. That doesn't mean, however, he won't that option. Former coach Patrick Roy can no longer be labelled the bad guy for their poor play. Sooner or later, the core players could pay the price.
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.