As expected, the Toronto Maple Leafs hired Tim Hunter and Rob Zettler Tuesday to serve as new bench boss Ron Wilson’s assistant coaches. Both worked under Wilson in San Jose, so it was no surprise they’re joining together again.
Hunter’s name in the news brings to mind an email question I recently received. Take it away…er, Fredo “The Beak” Westilanni of Toronto:
In your personal, expert opinion, who has the largest nose in the NHL? Cuz MAN! There are some honkin' beaks out there in the league. Kaberle? Steen? Forsberg? (Jeff) Carter?
Give it some thought and let us know. Perhaps some sort of Top 5 list.
While I’d like to think I understand a couple things about hockey, I’m not nearly as much of a proboscis aficionado as Fredo might have hoped.
That’s why I turn to you for help answering his inquiry. Email your votes for most sizeable schnozz (among current NHLers) to email@example.com, and the results will be tabulated for an upcoming blog.
• Looking forward to seeing Mike Milbury’s new role now that he’s moved to the CBC and Hockey Night In Canada.
Say what you will about Milbury’s worth as a GM – and goodness knows, I’ve written some highly unflattering stuff in that regard – but you can’t say the guy hasn’t performed excellently as a commentator and analyst since leaving the New York Islanders organization a year ago.
Milbury’s opinions always are strong and passionately put across, which is more than you can say for some of the bland, safe, vacuum-sealed, clichéd blatherings that pass for debate in the hockey community these days.
Adam Proteau is The Hockey News' online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays and Fridays, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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Fans want to see NHL players play at the Olympics, the players want to play in the tournament, but the NHL’s Board of Governors still needs some convincing.
If the NHL is going to send players to the Olympics, the NHL’s Board of Governors are going to need some convincing and they’re going to need it in rather short order.
It was reported around the World Cup of Hockey that the NHL had a mid-January deadline to decide on Olympic participation for the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics. And at the first day of Board of Governors meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., little more than a month from that deadline, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman didn’t make it sound as though the situation is all that positive in terms of the world’s best players heading to the tournament.
One of the sticking points for the Board of Governors, according to Bettman, was the impact the Olympics have on the NHL product.
"There are a lot of owners, clubs, over the years that have been very concerned about what Olympic participation does to the season, what it does to the players in terms of injuries, not just to those that go but having a compressed schedule can make the players more tired, more wear and tear, and the potential for injury is greater,” Bettman said, according to NHL.com’s Dan Rosen.
Even still, Bettman approached the IIHF’s assurance of covering the costs with skepticism and a warning that it doesn’t mean Olympic participation is green lit.
"We have been very clear to Rene Fasel at the IIHF and to Don Fehr at the [NHL] Players' Association that if the expenses aren't being covered, the League isn't paying for them and there really is nothing to talk about," Bettman said, according to Rosen. "Just because somebody may decide to pay for them, and to this point we don't actually know where that stands, that doesn't mean that it's a go.”
Bettman added that he wasn’t sure there was “even the money to cover what's been covered in the last Olympics,” regardless of what the IIHF would say. And even if everything fell in line for an Olympic participation proposal in the coming days, weeks or month, Bettman said it will still need the approval of the Board of Governors in order for the players to be sent to South Korea for the tournament.
"If there is something at some point to take to the Board, it will need an affirmative vote of the Board of Governors," Bettman said, according to Rosen. "I think it's fair to say that there is some strong negative sentiment in the room, but nothing was decided today.”
While the loss of the two centers is a crushing blow in the short-term, this team is positioned too well to lose assets in a hasty trade scenario
The Montreal Canadiens will be without top center Alex Galchenyuk and fellow pivot David Desharnais for at least six weeks, perhaps even eight. Both players sustained knee injuries in recent games and the news is obviously not good. But GM Marc Bergevin would make it even worse by jumping into a hasty trade.
True, the Habs now look skeletal down the middle (though Tomas Plekanec isn't a horrible choice for the top line and Andrew Shaw can help out), but this is a short-term problem. Montreal is the top team in the Eastern Conference right now and with netminder Carey Price, they can win more than a few games in the next month or so just on the strength of his gifted play. And the Shea Weber-led defense has been better than expected, so even if the Habs are super-boring and conservative until February, they'll get some results.
Will Montreal still be on top by then? Maybe not, but as long as they don't lose like, 20 games in a row, they'll still be in a playoff position with enough runway left to climb back up the rungs. And as the Los Angeles Kings have proven twice already, you can win the Stanley Cup as long as you get into the playoffs, particularly if your goalie is one of the best on the planet (caveat: being a great possession team helps and the Canadiens are only middling).
But a trade is not the way to go, particularly since the Canadiens aren't deep to begin with. They don't have many attractive pro prospects right now – unless they can drum up interest in a Charles Hudon or Nikita Scherbak – and their best recent draft pick is defenseman Mikhail Sergachev, who should be seen as untouchable. I mean, if Pittsburgh offers up Evgeni Malkin for the 2016 first-rounder and a couple other goodies, you make that trade – but I don't think that's going to happen.
If anything, Montreal needs to build their pipeline up, instead of taking assets away from it. The Canadiens ranked just 23rd in the NHL in our most recent Future Watch edition and Sergachev was the only pick they made in the first two rounds this summer. They do have two second-rounders for 2017 (their own and Washington's selection), but again: they need those.
Galchenyuk and Desharnais will be back and in all likelihood, the Canadiens will still be in a playoff position. The short-term may seem a little bleak, but the price of a quick patch isn't worth the long-term loss. Patience is a virtue here.
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.
The New York Islanders captain undressed Jay Bouwmeester in the most unusual of ways, but the important thing is he kept the puck. Then he buried it
John Tavares: good at hockey.
The New York Islanders captain pulled off an absolutely stunning series of moves last night, culminating in a laser-shot goal against St. Louis Blues goalie Jake Allen. But let's get back to his humbling of Olympic gold medallist Jay Bouwmeester, because that's where the real magic happened.
Witness, as Tavares puts his stick behind his back and grabs it with his other hand while still skating and fending off Bouwmeester. Then, since he is a patient boy, Tavares waits and waits and waits before firing one top corner on Allen:
As the soccer folks would say, lovely. New York would go on to beat the Blues 3-2, with Anders Lee scoring the other two goals for the Isles. After struggling to begin the season, New York is now 6-2-2 in its past 10 games. Tavares leads the squad with 21 points through 26 contests.