It’s hard to say if the Toronto Maple Leafs’ decision to name Dion Phaneuf one of their alternate captains is a sign of a career rebound or rather a profound statement about how desolate this Toronto team really has become since their last captain Mats Sundin left.
In his rookie year, Phaneuf wowed the hockey world with an impressive blend of Scott Stevens-like brutality and top-notch offensive talent. With his crushing body checks and successive season totals of 49, 50 and 60 points, the then-Calgary Flames defenseman was popular enough to become the cover star for NHL ’09.
Oh yeah, he also became involved with a certain cleft-chinned starlet who was once involved with a certain Bart Simpson-like trouble maker.
I don’t know if it was the Curse of Cuthbert or what, but Phaneuf’s game began to devolve noticeably. There were murmurs building about his defensive lapses for some time, but the much-ballyhooed player truly began to take some heat when his offensive numbers started to slide. (Not that 47 points is anything to sneeze at for a defenseman, but this year’s currently projected 30 point total isn’t up to snuff.)
With an expensive off-season signing of Jay Bouwmeester and the rugged defense of Robyn Regehr, it was hard to imagine Calgary spending around $14 million for three defensemen. Eventually, the Flames soured on Phaneuf and traded him to Toronto. The question is: will another Burke gamble yield a gradual turnaround or set the Leafs back even further?
Well, look at this way: worst case scenario, the world will be treated to more hilarious Brian Burke scowls. Now that, Ms. Cuthbert, is entertainment.
Alex Galchenyuk has been one of the Montreal Canadiens best players this season and entered play on Friday night with nine goals in his first 23 games.
In the first period against the San Jose Sharks he had himself in a great position to score goal No. 10 when he had a wide open look right in front of the net.
Sharks goalie Martin Jones, however, had other ideas and absolutely robbed the Canadiens’ star forward.
Have a look.
Jones took over as the Sharks’ starting goaltender a year ago after he was acquired in an offseason trade with the Boston Bruins. He was a key piece in their run to the Stanley Cup Final.
He has been on quite a run for the Sharks over the past couple of weeks and entered play on Friday having allowed just six goals in his past five starts.
The Ottawa Senators were without forward Bobby Ryan during their 3-2 loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday due to a hand injury that he aggravated on Tuesday against Buffalo. That injury resulted in him being placed on injured reserve by the team, which means he will miss at least the next two games, and potentially more.
On Friday, Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said the team received some positive news regarding Ryan’s injury and that it is possible he could accompany the team on its upcoming four-game road trip that begins on Monday in Pittsburgh. But he will still not be eligible to return until Wednesday when the team visits the San Jose Sharks.
That means he will be sidelined for Saturday’s home game against Florida as well as Monday’s game against the Penguins.
Dorion said on Friday, via NHL.com, that there is a 50-50 chance he accompanies the team on the upcoming road trip that also includes games against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks.
“I’ve got to give Bobby a lot of credit. People don’t know how many injuries he’s played through here, getting his hand frozen and playing through pain,” Dorion said via NHL.com.
Ryan initially injured his finger back on Nov. 17 against Nashville, forcing him to miss the next two games. After returning to the lineup he eventually had to leave Tuesday’s game against Buffalo.
After scoring 24 goals for the Senators a year ago he has just three goals and five assists in 21 games this season.
The Senators are 14-8-2 and in second place in the Atlantic Division, four points behind the Montreal Canadiens.
The Buffalo Sabres announced on Friday evening that they have called up defenseman Brendan Guhle from the Prince George Cougars of the WHL on an emergency basis.
Guhle, a second-round pick (No. 51 overall) by the Sabres in 2015, had impressed in Sabres training camp the past two years but just missed out on making the roster each time. He missed making the team in 2015 in large part because of a concussion after he was hit by Dion Phaneuf.
He did end up playing six games for the Rochester Americans in the American Hockey League a year ago, scoring a goal and adding three assists.
Before his call-up on Friday he had spent the first part of the 2016-17 season playing in the WHL for Prince George as well as the Prince Albert Raiders (he was acquired by Prince George on Nov. 19).
In 19 games between the two teams he has five goals and two assists.
The Sabres needed to call up a defenseman because veteran Josh Gorges was injured on Thursday night in the team’s win over the New York Rangers when he was hit in the foot by a shot.
He had x-rays on Friday and the team is expected to offer some sort of an update on his status on Saturday. In 23 games this season for the Sabres, Gorges has no goals and one assist.
What really hurts for Sabres at the moment is they are already playing without defenseman Dmitry Kulikov and Zach Bogosian due to injury.
The Sabres host the Boston Bruins on Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m. ET.
The NHLPA has rejected a proposal from the National Hockey League to extend the current collective bargaining agreement by three years in exchange for participation in the 2018 Olympics, according to reports from the Associated Press and Canadian Press.v
The NHL’s participation in the 2018 games in Pyeongchang remains in doubt, mostly due to the cost of insurance and other expenses that go with sending players. In the past, those expenses have been handled by the IOC and IIHF but they are reluctant to foot the bill for the 2018 games.
In recent weeks the NHL presented the NHLPA with an opportunity to participate in the 2018 Olympics in exchange for extending the current CBA through the year 2025, while also eliminating an opt-out clause that exists in 2019.
It was expected that the NHLPA would not be willing to accept that offer from the league.
On Friday, IOC president Thomas Bach said it is in the best interest of all parties for NHL players to participate in the 2018 games, telling the Olympic Channel “all the rational arguments are speaking in favor of participation.”
There is a January deadline set for participation in 2018.
Back in September NHL deputy commissioner said it is possible the NHL could skip the 2018 games and then return for 2022 in Beijing.
NHL players have participated in the past five Olympics dating back to the 1998 games in Nagano, Japan.
There seems to be a desire among the players to participate. Washington Capitals forward Alex Ovechkin, for example, has repeatedly said he plans on playing whether the NHL goes or not.