Archive for January, 2012

New look but same old Sharks?

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As usual, the Sharks look like a Western power, but have fattened their record feasting on weaker foes. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

By Stu Hackel

Most people habitually remain cautious about the San Jose Sharks’ Stanley Cup chances, and not without reason. This franchise has the reputation of producing very good — and sometimes great — regular season teams that can’t get it done in the playoffs.

Once again, there are reasons why Sharks fans are starting to feel encouraged. When we wrote our first-half retrospective, one commenter charged that we had an East Coast bias by neglecting the Sharks in our discussion of the league’s best teams. So let’s take a deeper look and see how excited we should get.

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  • Published On Jan 17, 2012
  • Messy Cammalleri trade another hard chapter in Habs’ season of calamity

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    Forward Mike Cammalleri was swiftly and unceremoniously dispatched from Montreal after making unflattering public remarks about the struggling Canadiens. (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    For all their triumphant history and tradition, which are unmatched in hockey and rivaled by very few in all of sports worldwide, the Montreal Canadiens are at a low point. All teams have their cycles, so perhaps this is the downside of the glory decades that is catching up with them. For those who envy, even hate, the Habs, that’s happy news, although it’s never really good for any sport when a marquee franchise struggles.

    Not all of Montreal’s struggles are on the ice, although they start there. We’ve chronicled them at various points this season as events transpired (here, here and here) and things looked to be unraveling.

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  • Published On Jan 13, 2012
  • NHL: The first-half report

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    The Rangers and the Bruins have clearly been the class of the NHL so far. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The NHL’s  regular season is at the halfway point. A number of teams have hit the 41-game mark and the 615th contest of the 1230-game schedule was played on Monday. So here are some things that have struck us so far, in no particular order.

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  • Published On Jan 11, 2012
  • Blue Jackets adrift in NHL’s backwater

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    Like so much that has gone wrong for the Blue Jackets throughout their history, adding Jeff Carter (left) to help set up sniper Rick Nash (right) has turned out to be a miserable failure. (Photo by Terry Gilliam/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    It seemed as if the electrician arrived shortly after the Blue Jackets’ lost 7-4 to the no longer mighty Ducks on Sunday to fix the lightbulb over GM Scott Howson’s head. When it went on at last, a bright idea arrived: It was time to fire the coach of the NHL’s 30th-best team.

    The truth is, the Jackets aren’t exactly swimming in money and they didn’t relish the thought of having to pay yet another coach not to coach. Further to Howson’s credit, he was loyal to Scott Arniel, his hand-picked selection, for longer than anybody expected. Arniel might well have what it takes to be a good bench boss — the players never quit on him – but Scotty Bowman couldn’t turn this impoverished group into winners. That task now falls to Arniel’s former assistant, Todd Richards, who had been head coach of the Minnesota Wild for the last couple of years while not getting them to the playoffs either time.

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  • Published On Jan 10, 2012
  • NHLPA has valid realignment concerns

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    NHLPA boss Don Fehr’s reputation as a tough negotiator has many hockey observers spooked. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    There is much hand wringing and concern about the NHLPA’s non-consent to the NHL’s much-publicized, highly touted and radical realignment. A widely held belief is that the union’s refusal to agree to the plan was all about the upcoming negotiations on collective bargaining agreement. The current CBA expires in early September and, yes, there are reasons to believe a new one won’t be reached easily. Some observers believe the 2012-13 season won’t start on time.

    But, to my mind, the NHLPA’s refusal was less about the upcoming negotiations per se and more about living under the current CBA, which gives the players various rights concerning the conditions of their employment. For longer in its history than not, the NHLPA didn’t do much with these rights and rubber-stamped the NHL’s proposals or didn’t even bother to question them. But by insisting on raising realignment issues that troubled the union, the NHLPA has indicated it’s not going to function that way any longer.

    For that, you can thank or blame (depending on your orientation) Donald Fehr. The NHLPA’s executive director has more experience with issues like working conditions than anyone on either side of the labor-management divide, having begun his association with baseball’s players union almost four decades ago. He also has a better handle on how to rally and communicate with the troops — no easy task — than any of his predecessors. That’s why the NHL players, who had been in chaos since the lockout ended, wanted him to lead them. Because of that chaos, they’re likely to play closer attention than they did before.

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  • Published On Jan 09, 2012
  • Barch ruling a missed opportunity

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    This fracas led to P.K. Subban (bottom) being targeted by a remark that was perceived as racist by the referee who heard it. (Doug Murray/Reuters)

    By Stu Hackel

    The NHL suspended Florida forward Krys Barch for the game the Panthers played Thursday night against the Rangers — and, yes, I am very weary of writing about suspensions, but this one is a bit different.

    The reason for the one-gamer was Barch’s use of “inappropriate language” during his team’s game against Montreal in a now-traditional New Year’s Eve afternoon contest. It was an unusual transgression and the whole incident remains murky, which is too bad, because the NHL could have turned it into a valuable, teachable moment or clearly exonerated a player who was wrongly accused of making a racist remark.

    Let’s briefly run through the event as best we can. With 1.2 seconds left in a first period that had gotten feisty, there was a face-off in the Florida zone to the right of goalie Jose Theodore. The puck was dropped and Habs defenseman P.K. Subban, who had lined up in the left face-off circle, charged the net in hope of creating some havoc, if not to knock the puck past Theodore.

    The puck went harmlessly in another direction, however, and Subban ended up bumping with Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson at the top of the crease. The buzzer sounded, Gudbranson slashed at Subban’s stick, and Subban shoved him with a forearm. Gudbranson then threw his arm around Subban’s neck and wrestled him to his knees as players from both teams, and the linesmen, began to converge.

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  • Published On Jan 06, 2012
  • Is seven games enough for Carcillo?

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    Car Bomb strikes again: Repeat offender Dan Carcillo of the Blackhawks will be sitting for a stretch yet again after boarding Tom Gilbert of the Oilers on Monday night. (Photo by Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    At what point does the NHL really decide to get serious about suspensions? Brendan Shanahan gave the Blackhawks’ Daniel Carcillo a mere seven games for yet another illegal and dangerous play this week.  Given Carcillo’s record as a multiple offender, he probably deserves to sit out at least twice that number.

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  • Published On Jan 05, 2012
  • Eller eases Habs’ pain — for one night

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    By Stu Hackel

    It’s been a miserable season in the birthplace of the NHL (as we’ve noted here and here, and SI’s Michael Farber wrote about here), especially when the Canadiens play on home ice. But Lars Eller’s four-goal game on Wednesday night eased Montreal’s pain a little.

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  • Published On Jan 05, 2012
  • Not all in Philly was brotherly love

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    By Stu Hackel

    Perhaps we spoke too soon when we wrote our post celebrating the love-in that was the Winter Classic. Philadelphia police say that after the game on Monday, Flyers fans attacked Rangers fans at the famous Geno’s Steaks, a Philly Cheesesteak landmark, about two miles north of Citizens Bank Park. The police are seeking help identifying the attackers.

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  • Published On Jan 05, 2012
  • UPDATED: Tortorella’s rant deserving of his fine

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    Rangers coach John Tortorella went over the line by impugning the NHL’s integrity. (Tom Mihalek/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    John Tortorella’s paranoid rant at NHL officiating and NBC after the Winter Classic put a sour exclamation point on an otherwise triumphant afternoon for his team and hockey in general. Tortorella, who has done a terrific job guiding the Rangers to their first place standing in the league, alleged the NHL had conspired with NBC to try to get the game to overtime.

    UPDATE 9:30 pm: The NHL announced Wednesday evening it had fined Tortorella $30,000 for his comments. “There is no acceptable explanation or excuse for commentary challenging the integrity of the League, its officials or its broadcast partners,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. “People can disagree with calls by officials on the ice, but even in instances of the utmost frustration there is no justification for speaking as inappropriately and irresponsibly as Mr. Tortorella did.”

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  • Published On Jan 04, 2012


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