Los Angeles at Minnesota, 6:00 p.m.
Columbus at Edmonton, 8:00 p.m.
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Ryan Spooner’s offensive struggles in Boston have seen his name pop up repeatedly in trade speculation, and the same goes for Jimmy Hayes. Meanwhile, the Canucks seem more than willing to wait on Jake Virtanen’s development.
Boston Bruins winger Ryan Spooner is popping up more frequently of late in the NHL rumor mill. His name first surfaced in late October, when Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman reported the Bruins could listen to offers, though he doubted they were shopping him.
Coming off a 49-point performance in 2015-16, the 24-year-old Spooner's managed only nine points in 25 games. Some observers feel his struggles are tied to be played out of position, as he's a center converted to skating at left wing. He's bounced around the Bruins lineup this season.
Given Spooner's ongoing offensive difficulties and his recent demotion to the fourth line, the trade chatter intensified in recent days. On Saturday, Friedman's colleague Nick Kypreos suggested it could make sense for the Bruins to trade the winger to the Vancouver Canucks. He pointed out Spooner worked well on the power play last season with Loui Eriksson, who's now a Canuck.
CSNNE.com's Joe Haggerty followed up on Monday reporting multiple sources claim the Bruins spoke with several teams regarding Spooner. One source told Haggerty the Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders and San Jose Sharks were among the suitors.
Haggerty claims the Bruins' asking price is a top-six forward, marking a change from earlier speculation suggesting they could seek a top-four defenseman. They'll obviously have to package him with another player, prospect or draft pick to land either type of return.
It's unsurprising the Hurricanes, Isles and Sharks could be interested in Spooner. All three are among the league's lowest-scoring clubs. Factor in his $950K cap hit, and he'd be a bargain pickup for any club seeking an affordable forward with scoring potential.
Those clubs, however, don't have much to offer up in terms of top-six forwards. The Bruins could look at Elias Lindholm, but the Canes are unlikely to move him.
Perhaps the Isles will consider parting ways with Ryan Strome, who's stock has declined since his 50-point performance in 2014-15. Earlier this season, there was talk the Sharks could shop Matt Nieto or Tommy Wingels, though neither can be considered top-six forward material.
BRUINS’ HAYES ALSO IN RUMOR MILL
Spooner might not be the only struggling forward the Bruins try to move this season. The Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reports they wouldn't mind moving winger Jimmy Hayes, who's managed only one goal in 23 games this season.
Hayes, 27, will be tougher to move. He's signed through 2017-18 at an annual cap hit of $2.3 million, plus he's been a bust as a power forward.
CANUCKS WILLING TO WAIT ON VIRTANEN
Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman raised some eyebrows among Vancouver fans last week with speculation the Buffalo Sabres could be scouting Canucks right wing Jake Virtanen. The 20-year-old was recently demoted to their AHL affiliate in Utica, NY.
Jason Botchford of The Province reports Virtanen at one point was linked to Sabres left wing Evander Kane. However, he cites Canucks colour commentator Dave Tomlinson telling TSN 1040 the club won't be acquiring Kane and won't trade Virtanen.
Bear in mind Friedman was merely guessing about who the Sabres were following in Utica, and Tomlinson wasn't singling out the Sportsnet analyst. The Kane-to-Vancouver trade talk died out about two weeks ago, largely over what was believed a high asking price by the Sabres. There are no specifics over what that was, but it's thought the Sabres wanted one of the Canucks' good young blueliners.
Virtanen's taking longer than expected to blossom into a full-time NHL player, but he still has plenty of time yet to develop. The Canucks seem willing to remain patient with him.
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.
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.
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
ECHL defenseman Anthony Calabrese is “lucky to be alive” after a “careless, reckless” hit, and Tyler Murovich, who delivered the blow, has been given a 12-game suspension as a first-time offender.
There are few plays scarier than seeing a player hit from behind and sent headfirst into the boards. That kind of play is made that much harder to watch when knowing the severity of the injury suffered.
During an ECHL contest on Nov. 24 between the Norfolk Admirals and Atlanta Gladiators, ECHL veteran Tyler Murovich delivered an incredibly dangerous shove to the back of Anthony Calabrese, a 24-year-old defenseman who’s only 12 games into his ECHL career.
The result of the hit was frightening. Calabrese was left laying face down on the ice, near motionless. The Admirals rearguard would eventually be placed on a stretcher, taken from the ice and transported to hospital.
Brutal check from behind leads to 12-game ban in the ECHL... pic.twitter.com/ytfd9AwKDd— Robert Söderlind (@HockeyWebCast) December 5, 2016
The ECHL took quick action when it came to the hit, handing down an immediate indefinite suspension and fining Murovich for his actions. And after days of deliberation, the league came to a conclusion on the exact length of Murovich’s ban, giving him a 12-game suspension for a “careless, reckless” hit. Murovich will be kept out of action until Jan. 5.
That may seem harsh to some given that Murovich is a first-time offender, but given the severity of Calabrese’s injury, it actually seems like a somewhat light punishment.
As a result of the hit, Calabrese suffered broken C7 and T1 vertebrae. In simpler terms, he broke both his neck and his back. Oh, and he also punctured his lung. In fact, Calabrese told The Virginian-Pilot’s Jim Hodges that doctors told the young center that he’s “lucky to be alive.”
“It was a miracle, and they say I’m going to make a full recovery,” Calabrese told Hodges. “It’s going to be a long road, but I’d rather be alive than be in a wheelchair the rest of my life.”
What helped Calabrese escape with his life, he told Hodges, was advice he had gotten early in his career from a high school coach. Calabrese was taught that if he was ever going into the boards head first to lift his chin and turn to the side in an attempt to avoid taking the brunt of the impact with the top of his head.
“That’s honestly the only thing that registered in my mind when I was going in: at the last minute, pick my head up,” Calabrese told Hodges. “I remember picking my head up and turning it to the right.”
Thankfully, doctors told Calabrese that he can eventually return to the ice and that the injuries suffered from the hit won’t cost him his career. His spinal cord, he told Hodges, wasn’t damaged due to the hit. And, as hard as it may be to believe, doctors said it was the “best possible break” in a situation such as Calabrese’s.
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