By Stu Hackel
Let’s take a skate around the NHL and look at some news on this summer day.
The biggest item comes out of Columbus, well, Sweden actually, where Blue Jackets forward Kristian Huselius, who was recovering from April hip surgery, tore a pectoral muscle while weightlifting and will miss four to six months. He had surgery Thursday morning in Columbus and is lost to the club until November at the earliest, January at the latest. GM Scott Howson tweeted that “surgery went well,” and added “We r looking at options to help get us through.”
Huselius, who had an injury-riddled 2010-11 season (mainly a high ankle sprain), was a candidate to play on the Jackets’ top line with Rick Nash and Jeff Carter. Howson is now in the market to find a top six forward. He told Aaron Portzline of The Columbus Dispatch that he would start working the phones to see who was available in free agency, but the pickings are a bit slim. Teemu Selanne is unsigned, but he won’t play anywhere other than Anaheim should he decide to return. After that, the possibilities among experienced free agent forwards include Vinny Prospal, Cory Stillman, Sergei Samsonov, Nikolay Zherdev, Alex Kovalev, J.P. Dumont and Kyle Wellwood. Some other UFA forwards probably wouldn’t fit the need: Chris Drury, Jarkko Ruutu, Mike Greer and John Madden.
Other players may shake loose on the UFA market through buyouts, and if a GM decides to walk away from an arbitration award, the list will expand. But Huselius’s latest injury is a bad development for the Blue Jackets, who were counting on making a fresh start next season after trading for Carter and the rights to James Wisniewski to upgrade their team.
Happy Campers: This is the time of year when NHL clubs bring their recent draftees and prospects to town, get them on the ice and in the gym and give them some orientation to the world of the NHL. Tampa Bay is one of those clubs and Lightning GM Steve Yzerman addressed his local media a couple of days ago, informing them about what NHL clubs try to achieve in these camps. It’s a worthwhile little chat that you might find illuminating.
Patched Up: On Wednesday, Canadiens winger Max Pacioretty took a significant step forward in his recovery from a concussion and broken vertebra when he skated in a charity game in Stamford, Connecticut, not far from his home in New Canaan.
According to Emily Kaplan of NHL.com, Pacioretty skated on a line with the Lightning’s Martin St. Louis and the Islanders’ Matt Moulson. “He didn’t miss a shift,” Kaplan wrote. “He skated well, even picking up a goal and a few assists.”
“It felt … I don’t know, I guess it just felt weird,” Pacioretty told Kaplan after the game. “It was weird at first, but as the game went on I think I felt a little more comfortable, and I’m looking forward now to gaining some momentum off of that.”
Pacioretty told Kaplan that playing in The Big Assist III game (benefiting the Obie Harrington-Howes Foundation, which works to improve the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries and diseases) was the most competitive hockey he’s played since he resumed skating a few months ago.
“I had a lot of time off since my injury, and now I’m just working on putting on muscle and trying to get as big and as fast as possible,” he said. “I’ve done a pretty good job of that so far and I hope to keep doing that through August.”
“Pacioretty said he feels like he is back to his pre-injury strength level – in fact, he said he might be even stronger,” wrote Kaplan. “He’s never had this much time in the summer to work out, so he’s taking full advantage of it.”
Among the other NHLers who played in the game were Tampa Bay’s Ryan Shannon (who is from nearby Darien and organized the event), Kings goalie Jonathan Quick, James van Riemsdyk of the Flyers, Kevin Shattenkirk of the Blues, the Blackhawks’ Ben Smith, and Maple Leaf Matt Lashoff. Hockey Hall of Famer Glenn Anderson also skated with the group, which also included college, minor pro and European pro players.
Pacioretty was injured when Boston’s Zdeno Chara directed him head first into a metal stanchion between the benches during a game in Montreal last March, an incident that accelerated the bitter feelings between the Canadiens and Bruins last season and lingered long afterward. “The past is the past, and I can dwell on it as much as I want, but that will do me no good,” Pacioretty told Kaplan. “So I’m going to do everything I can to work toward the future and get ready for next year.”
Behold The Gold: In a bold move away from the overabundance of black and dark blue jerseys in the NHL, the Predators unveiled their new sweater Wednesday at this ceremony outside of Bridgestone Arena (video is from the Nashville newspaper, The Tennessean).
Few things in life look more discordant than a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats dressed in hockey sweaters, but there you go.
The shoulder patch is in the shape of a guitar pick, symbolic of the city’s country music tradition, and the three stars in the pick are meant to echo the three stars in the Tennessee state flag, which represent the three different land forms in Tennessee. Mountains in the eastern part of the state, highlands in the middle and lowlands in the west, and the Mississippi River. On the flag, the stars are in a circle to signify the unity of the regions in the state. We don’t just give you hockey here. A little civics and geography never hurt anyone.
During the playoffs, the Preds handed out T-shirts to their fans and it looked great on TV to see their building filled with gold-clad supporters. “It’s about creating a dominant color, and blue is not a dominant color.” Predators CEO Jeff Cogen told Austen Gregerson of The Tennessean. “We wanted that sea of gold that you saw in the playoffs.”
The Preds had a gold third jersey once upon a time (pictured here, it looked more like brown mustard than gold), but this one is much brighter. The NHL’s original gold jersey was periodically worn by the Bruins for four seasons in the late 1930s and early 1940s (here’s an item on that from Third String Goalie, a hockey jersey blog.) They brought that color back later in the Original Six era, but it vanished until it was revived at the 2010 Winter Classic, and here’s a clip on how that came about.
It’s interesting to note in the video that gold was considered unique to Boston when the jersey was revived. It was the “Bruins’ color.” No longer.
Jets’ Mystery: As long as we’re talking about jerseys and such, the Jets are refining their new logo and colors, according to their director of corporate communications, Scott Brown. He told Ed Tait of The Winnipeg Free Press, “We’re working through the final logo and jersey work. That doesn’t mean it’ll be announced any time soon. We just want to let the public know that contributions to any type of contest aren’t going to be considered because we’re long past that stage. To take in a new concept or logo now would mean the jerseys would not be ready for the beginning of the season. We’re far down that road in the process of making final detailed tweakings to the logo and the jerseys.”
As you can imagine, the team has been inundated with ideas from fans and design professionals, like this one, and there have been independent contests (here’s one winner). Some enterprising sorts are even selling imagined logo clothing (these are kinda interesting). But the team isn’t letting on about which way it’s leaning. Hockey card and jersey manufacturers aren’t thrilled about how long the process has taken, although, in fairness, the name was only settled upon just prior to the draft and that was all of three weeks ago.
Dirty Man: And finally development camps are a chance for young players to get the coaches’ attention, and at the Capitals’ camp, Danick Paquette, who was acquired from the Jets for Eric Fehr, is quickly getting a reputation. Shemar Woods blogging in The Washington Post wrote Thursday that Paquette delivered a blindside elbow to the head of Adam Mitchell during a scrimmage this morning, continuing his physical style of play from the day before.
“He did what he was supposed to do and the way we projected him and felt about him when we made the deal,” Coach Bruce Boudreau told Woods. “In the first period, you know, he was hitting everybody, it might have been a little of – if Collie Campbell was watching it might have been a little bit of a dirty hit in the first period. But that’s what he’s got to be, is one of those guys that everybody loves to hate.
“I saw a lot of what we’re hoping the way he is going to play come training camp, come regular season, whichever team he plays for,” Boudreau added.
“I know it’s a blind side, but if it’s a hit, it’s a hit. I’m a pretty dirty player…like [Pittsburgh’s] Matt Cooke,” Paquette said. “So I did my job. Usually people come at me and try to fight, but no one came, so it’s OK.”