VIDEO: Monday preview
VIDEO: Monday preview
EJ Hradek and Bill Pidto discuss the three games on tap for Monday night.
Which will you be watching?
EJ Hradek and Bill Pidto discuss the three games on tap for Monday night.
Which will you be watching?
Simon Despres missed 48 games during the 2015-16 season due to concussions, and it sounds as though he could be facing another long road back from a head injury.
For the second time in as many seasons, Anaheim Ducks defenseman Simon Despres finds himself sidelined long-term and it appears he could be once again dealing with concussion issues.
Nothing has been made official by the Ducks, but TSN’s Bob McKenzie reported Sunday that Despres, 25, has been placed on long-term injured reserve by Anaheim and it sure sounds like the issues could be associated to another concussion. According to the Orange County Register’s Eric Stephens, Ducks GM Bob Murray has hinted that Despres is battling “similar issues to the concussion-related problems,” and the young blueliner has been forced to miss each of Anaheim’s past five games.
The scariest thing about Despres suffering another concussion is that it isn’t as if he missed simply a game or two due to head injuries during the 2015-16 season.
After taking a high hit from Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie in October 2015, Despres was forced to miss the next 42 games as he battled back from a concussion. And after his January return, Despres would only remain completely healthy until late-March, at which point he suffered another concussion that saw him shelved for six games.
Before the 2016-17 seaosn began, Despres described to Stephens what he was going through during some of the worst periods of his recovery.
“Well, I was sensitive to light,” Despres told Stephens. “Sensitive to noise. More emotional. I had headaches. Dizziness. Close to fainting. Stuff like that…It was a challenge. It was dangerous.”
In the same breath, though, Despres said that he was prepared for the rigors of the new season and said that he believed his hard work in the off-season would help him find his stride again. That’s what makes his return to the injured list so sad for the youngster. Like Ottawa Senators winger Clarke MacArthur, who is attempting to get healthy once again after suffering his fourth concussion in 18 months, Despres has to be wary of his long-term health.
Despres is still an incredibly promising player, and his play during the 2015 post-season showed the Ducks exactly how capable he is. That run to the Western Conference final saw Despres average nearly 21 minutes of ice time per game, post one goal and seven points and shut down some of the game’s top stars. It also earned him a huge off-season raise, as Anaheim inked Despres to a five-year, $18.5-million deal.
There’s no silver lining in this for Despres, to be sure, but it does offer the Ducks a very slight break in terms of the salary cap.
With Despres on the shelf, $3.377 million has opened up in LTIR relief cap space. Anaheim is still trying to sign young blueliner Hampus Lindholm, and while it’s unlikely Despres’ cap relief is enough to make that happen, it does free up some space and mean less salary would have to be shipped out if Anaheim is attempted to swing a deal to free up additional salary room.
Want more in-depth features and expert analysis on the game you love? Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.
The Calder Trophy winner must continue to work the instant chemistry he found with his linemates as the Blackhawks adapt to a youth-infused lineup
The chemistry on Chicago's top scoring line almost took a serious hit this summer. Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner Patrick Kane was trying to stay in touch with left winger Artemi Panarin in Russia, but his texts were going unanswered. Trouble in paradise? Hardly. Panarin lost his phone, so while those smiley-face emojis died lonely deaths in the ether, the relationship between the two didn't actually take a hit.
And that's good news for the Hawks, because the salary cap once again dictated some tough decisions in Chicago. This year, Chicago will need the Panarin-Artem Anisimov-Kane line to be huge again, as the team folds in a ton of rookies while still attempting another charge at the Stanley Cup. Luckily, while Panarin is the reigning Calder Trophy winner, he's not dealing with the same sophomore jitters as many past winners.
“I've already forgot last season," Panarin said through a translator. "I'm moving forward with new goals and new challenges ahead. I'm ready for a fresh start.”
In case you hadn't heard, Panarin was a very experienced NHL rookie in 2015-16, coming off nearly five full seasons in the KHL. He turns 25 this week, making him much older than the average sophomore, but that's a great thing for Chicago, since the attention needs to shift to younger rookies such as Nick Schmaltz, Gustav Forsling, Ryan Hartman, Tyler Motte and Vince Hinostroza.
Felllow Russian and center Anisimov was a boon for Panarin last year, though Anisimov is quick to point out that Panarin had friends outside the team who lived in Chicago, so any questions thrown at the pivot were generally reserved for on-ice matters. Nevertheless, Anisimov was key to making the line with Kane work.
“I definitely love playing with him," Panarin said. "He plays both offense and defense and helps out a lot. He's a good person for me to have.”
And Panarin is a great player for the Hawks to have. His vision and puck skills are so natural, he can make difficult plays look easy. With Anisimov holding down the middle, Panarin and Kane are more or less free to wheel around the ice, dizzying opponents with their moves and torturing netminders with their finishing skills.
While Kane may have been the MVP last year, Panarin did pot 30 goals of his own.
"He's kinda like Kaner, but a righty," said defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. "He always knows what his surroundings are when he's stickhandling. He always knows what's going on around him. At the same time, he can dangle and do stuff other players can't do."
Through six games this season, the Hawks are 3-3. While that's OK (and, admittedly, a small sample size), all three wins have come at home and only Calgary has surrendered more goals overall. Coach Joel Quenneville toyed with the notion of breaking up the big scoring line in the pre-season, but ultimately kept Kane and the two Russians together. Once again, the wingers are off to a great start, with Panarin notching five points and Kane tallying seven. As an added bonus, Anisimov actually leads both of them with eight points of his own.
“It's very comfortable playing with them," Anisimov said. "Those two guys are unbelievable players and we can bring the line up another level.”
Should Chicago have any designs on a fourth Stanley Cup during this era, the line must continue to play big - even though Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and Duncan Keith are far from 'support players.'
And now that Panarin has his phone back, there's no reason they can't be dialled in all season.
Respected by veterans, adored by young players, worshipped by nerds, Patrice Bergeron might be the best defensive forward in NHL history.
Imagine taking the ice with two linemates. One is the guy you play with every day, your longtime friend, someone you know inside and out. The other is the greatest player of the past decade. It’s safe to say the first guy would have to do something spectacular to stand out more than the second.
Yet that’s what happened when Brad Marchand played with Patrice Bergeron and Sidney Crosby in Pittsburgh Sept. 14 for a World Cup exhibition match between Canada and Russia. Halfway through the first period, Crosby threaded a pass to Bergeron, who darted between Dmitry Orlov and Artem Anisimov, dangled and roofed a laser of a backhand over Sergei Bobrovsky’s shoulder. Marchand had the privilege of playing on Sidney Friggin’ Crosby’s wing, but it was Bergeron dropping Marchand’s jaw.
“I was in awe,” Marchand said. “He was on another level, and I said that to him. He was like a man among boys. It’s a lot of fun to watch him play.”
Also enjoying the show that night was Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask, whose Team Finland wasn’t even playing. When THN caught up with him at World Cup media day 24 hours later and brought up Bergeron, the first thing Rask asked was, “Did you see the goal he scored last night?”
Reactions like that are what make Bergeron unique. He may not be one of the NHL’s fan-favorite players, a la P.K. Subban, but Bergeron’s the fan favorite among the players. They look up to him. Even future Hall of Famers, talk him up like he’s James Bond. Bruins captain Zdeno Chara points out how good-looking Bergeron is. Rask calls him “a cool dude.” Pretty much every player points out how stylish he is. “He’s doesn’t force it,” Marchand said. “It’s just kind of a natural thing for him. He’s awesome. He’s French, so he knows how to dress. He’s got the cool car, nice house. He knows where to put his money and where not to, and he makes everything look good.”
That worship traces all the way back to Bergeron’s days as a teenage elder statesman at the 2005 World Junior Championship, when Canada fielded its greatest team in tournament history, featuring everyone from Crosby to Ryan Getzlaf to Shea Weber to Jeff Carter. Bergeron had already spent a season as the NHL’s youngest player but got an unexpected opportunity to suit up for the Canadian kids because of the 2004-05 lockout. His peers admired him for his professional demeanor, his two-way play and, yes, his style.
“I probably asked him about a thousand questions,” Crosby said. “He was great about it, and we’ve been friends ever since. I have a lot of respect for him, putting up with all my questions at a young age.”
At the NHL level back then, Bergeron was still the student, not the teacher. He credits Martin Lapointe, a rugged veteran winger with the Bruins, as the man who taught him how to be a pro. More than a decade later, though, it’s like Bergeron is back in the world junior dressing room. Fellow veterans respect him as a teammate and an opponent, and the young kids follow him around like he’s hockey’s Pied Piper. Bruins right winger David Pastrnak, 20, calls Bergeron “the best leader I’ve ever seen.” Buffalo Sabres center and Massachusetts native Jack Eichel, 19, trained with Bergeron for several weeks over the summer and relished the chance to be a sponge.
“A young guy like myself can learn a lot just from being around him,” Eichel said. “Hearing him talk, the way he carries himself, how hard he works. He’s on the ice after practice in August, bagging himself. It says a lot.”
It seems busting his tail doing all things hockey is all Bergeron thinks about. This is a man, don’t forget, who played through a broken rib, torn cartilage and a separated shoulder in the 2013 Stanley Cup final. He’s a fanatic of the sport, and not just because he’s an NHLer. His favorite off-season hobby is, uh, hockey. For years, he had an outdoor rink with an artificial ice surface on his property in Quebec City, Que., and hosted tournaments every weekend. He sold that house but still enjoys playing ball hockey with his buddies throughout the summer, albeit not this year with the Word Cup in the way. He has a designated shooting area at his new place, too.
The idol isn’t a role Bergeron asked for. As Pastrnak points out, Bergeron leads more by example than with a megaphone. But he’s still happy to pay forward what he learned from Lapointe.
“I try to be of any help, really,” Bergeron said. “I try to be there for them off the ice, to show my experience and tell them about things I used to do and that I’ve learned over the years. And it’s about on-ice stuff as well. I also don’t want to overdo it. They have to find and learn some stuff on their own. But at the same time I’m always there for them. It’s something I want to give back.”
The best way Bergeron does that is with his play, which is like one never-ending instructional video. “He's good in every area,” Crosby said. “He's reliable at both ends of the ice. He's got really good hockey sense. That’s what sticks out the most. Defensively he's tough to go up against, and offensively he can hurt you, so he's really an all-around player.”
That all-around ability has helped Bergeron win three Selke Trophies as the NHL’s best defensive forward. It’s helped him earn major roles and gold medals on two Canadian Olympic teams. It’s helped him win a Stanley Cup with the 2010-11 Bruins. It’s garnered the adoration of the NHL’s player population. Bergeron has never been a sexy name among the fans, however, rarely if ever mentioned in the same breath as Crosby or Alex Ovechkin or Patrick Kane. That’s likely because he sacrifices some offense to play a 200-foot game. The only stat categories he regularly dominates are faceoff percentage and plus-minus. He’s never topped 32 goals or 73 points. Marchand said Bergeron could easily be a 40-goal, 80-point player if he concentrated on offense more.
The way fans interpret the game is changing, though. We live in the advanced stats era now. Players who generate and suppress shot attempts at elite levels, also known as possession drivers, are gaining new levels of notoriety, especially when the analytics crowd is a vocal minority, proficient with social media. Our resident fancy stats writer, Dominik Luszczyszyn, said Bergeron “is basically God to the nerds.” Analytics website corsica.hockey tracks possession numbers dating back to 2007-08 and, over that nine-season span, Bergeron ranks top-five in Corsi percentage among forwards with 3,000 or more minutes. Factoring in Corsi relative to teammates, Bergeron cracks the top four. He’s the only player to rank top-four in both categories. He’s neck and neck with Pavel Datsyuk for the unofficial title of the greatest possession player since people started tracking the stats.
“Things generally tend to go very well whenever Bergeron is playing, and that applies to when he’s off the bench versus when he’s on the bench, or when his teammates are playing on a line with him or when they’re not on a line with him,” said corsica.hockey creator Emmanuel Perry. “Everything just seems to go when Bergeron is playing. That can be faulty logic if you’re looking at a few games or just one season, but when you sustain that sort of impact over your entire career, the way Bergeron has, and also when you break free from the pack and distance yourself that much, it’s very evident that he’s what makes things go.
Few players in NHL history have rivalled Bergeron’s ability to drive possession, actually. There’s a case to be made he’s the greatest defensive forward ever. Bergeron’s three Selkes tie him with Datsyuk, Guy Carbonneau and Jere Lehtinen for second-most all-time. Carbonneau won his third Selke at 32, Datsyuk at 31 and Lehtinen at 29. Bergeron won his third at 29, and he’s 31 now, fresh off a second-place finish in the 2016 vote. When asked if he knew who holds the Selke record, Bergeron nodded. He has Bob Gainey, the man with four Selkes, on the mind. Gainey is widely regarded as the gold standard for defensive forwards, but how would he compare to Bergeron if we applied modern statistics? There was no Corsi or Fenwick in Gainey’s era, which spanned from 1973-74 to 1988-89. The best we can do is evaluate him using hockey-reference.com’s defensive point shares. The formula is downright headache-inducing to laypeople like us, so here’s a simplified version: it factors in a player’s position, the league goals-per-game rate of his era and his plus-minus cross-referenced with a team’s goals for and against to create an approximation of defensive impact. “Point shares” refer to how many points in the standings the player was responsible for. Gainey gained 18.1 over 16 seasons for an average of 1.13. Bergeron has gained 21.2 in 12 seasons for an average of 1.77.
Bergeron thus measures up quite nicely to Gainey, who is, of course, in the Hall of Fame. Bergeron only has the one Stanley Cup to Gainey’s five, but Gainey played on one of the greatest dynasties in sports history with the late ’70s Canadiens. Bergeron has the Olympic resume and is a better offensive player than Gainey ever was. His body of work is starting to look Hall-worthy, and he has plenty of good years left. Hockey researcher and history Iain Fyffe has developed ‘The Inductinator,’ a system that predicts Hall of Fame berths, and he believes Bergeron must catch Gainey in Selkes to have a shot.
“Just to be in the mix of that, in the talk, is a huge honor for me,” Bergeron said. “Bob Gainey is a legend of the game. We’ll see what happens. There are some amazing two-way forwards that are always there and giving me competition. I’m trying to play my game and see what unfolds.”
Jonah Imoo and Dusty Imoo.
The AHL's Ontario Reign needed two goalies on short notice so turned to 22 year old Jonah Imoo to start between the pipes, while his 46-year-old father Dusty was his backup.
The Los Angeles Kings' goaltending woes resulted in some interesting hockey history on Saturday night.
When goalie Jeff Zatkoff was injured during practice and Jack Campbell needed to be recalled to the NHL, it created not one but two openings between the pipes for their AHL team, the Ontario Reign.
The Reign handed the starter's job to 22-year-old goalie Jonah Imoo on an emergency basis for their game Saturday night against the San Jose Barracuda. Imoo's backup goalie for the evening? His father, Dusty.
Dusty Imoo, 46, is a goalie development coach in the Kings' organization, and got to watch his son's AHL debut up close and personal, in full uniform, on the Reign bench. Jonah Imoo spent four seasons playing in the BCHL and had split last season in the Federal Hockey League and Southern Professional Hockey League before a finger injury and surgery ended his season after just three games.
Imoo stopped 26-of-31 shots and the Reign lost 5-4 in overtime but it didn't diminish the special moment for father and son.
"Old man crying, even as I think about it I kind of well up," Dusty told NHL.com. "It's emotional. It's weird. I watched him play exhibition games with us this season, the rookie games. I saw him put on a NHL jersey and it was all heartwarming to see, but this is different. . . I walked into the dressing room before anyone was there and I see the two jerseys and our nameplates."
Jonah & Dusty Imoo Take the Ice and Father and Son Goalie Duo
Earlier tonight, Jonah Imoo and Dusty Imoo took the ice as a father and son goaltending duo!Posted by Ontario Reign on Saturday, October 22, 2016
Dusty Imoo had a long career playing in professional leagues in Asia, including suiting up for the Japanese national team at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano. His son's career is just beginning but got off to a memorable start.
"I found out I was starting after morning skate," Jonah said. "As I was getting undressed, one of the trainers said, 'Guess who is backing you up tonight?' And he put in another Imoo nametag in the stall next to me. I couldn't believe it. It was pretty surreal."
The Kings, of course, lost Jonathan Quick to an injury in their opening game of the season. With Zatkoff hurt, that mean both Reign goalies -- Peter Budaj and Campbell -- were recalled to the NHL. It means the younger Imoo might be sticking around a little while longer. Though that's probably not the case for dad.
“I don’t think they want a 46-year-old backup for too long," Dusty told Jim Alexander of the Press Enterprise.