Are the Ducks completely delusional?

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WisniewskiHit.pngI’m not one to just openly bash players or coaches, but frankly I’m
getting weary and angry of constantly writing about dangerous and
illegal hits instead of actually covering hockey. So when I watched the
James Wisniewski hit on Brent Seabrook last night, I just sighed to
myself and readied myself for another debate on illegal hits and the
NHL’s punishment system.

Personally, I am a stern believer that
any dangerous hits in hockey should be sternly dealt with immediately
and with increasingly severe punishments. I don’t want hockey to become a
‘wimpy’ sport, but I also don’t want this sport that I love to brought
to the general public’s attention only when there is a shockingly bad
hit to cover.

What really irks me is when teams turn a blind eye
to the transgressions one of their players has committed. I am all for
defending your teammates and your players, but there is also a
responsibility of the coaches and leaders on the team to not promote the
dangerous plays we’re seeing with more and more frequency in the NHL.

After
last night’s game between the Ducks and Blackhawks, the Ducks seem to
be confused about what happened in last night’s game. Here are some
quotes from Wisniewski and coach Randy Carlisle, courtesy
of Eric
Stephens of the Ducks Blog on the OC Register:

“That
is the hot topic and it probably will get looked at,” Wisniewski
said. “I think the result wasn’t because of a shot to the head. I’m
5-11. He’s 6-3. I really think what happened was my face hit his face.
That’s why I got a slit right here because of the visor came down and
hit me right in the face too after we collided heads.”

“There’ll
be lots of banter back and forth on whether the hit was this
or the hit was that,” the coach said. “Bottom line is that he hit the
hockey player. He used his body, his arms were down and he made a hard
hit on a player. We’ll let other people make those decisions.”

“Nothing surprises you in the way these things are dealt with,” Coach
Randy Carlyle said.  “There’s a criteria that the
league follows. We have always taken the stance that we don’t always
have to agree with what the league decision is.

“We have our point of view. We have ample video. We’ll watch it and
analyze it. We’ll plead our case if there needs to be a case pleaded.”

Here’s the reality of the hit: Wisniewski had Seabrook lined up for a
big hit from the top of the faceoff circle. He wasn’t looking at the
puck at all; if he had been, he would have realized that Seabrook never
had the puck to begin with. He was focused on Seabrook and determined to
lay him out with a big hit.

It’s true that their faces seemed to be the first to collide. But his
arms weren’t necessarily down, as he and his coach claim. Take a look
at the picture above (this is the best quality I could get of this exact
moment as they collided). His arm was not the first to make contact,
but his arms were raised and they drove Seabrook’s head hard into the
boards.

To think that NHL should not take action for this hit is delusional.
This is an even more clear-cut illegal hit that should result in a
suspension, much more so than the Ovechkin hit. And the NHL cannot claim
they have no rule to fall back on here: charging, boarding, intent to
injure. You name it.

It’s not like this should be anything new for the Ducks. To say they
have an unsavory reputation when it comes to dirty hits is just a bit of
an understatement.

I understand that the Ducks want to defend their player. But don’t
just turn a blind eye to, and pretty much promote, what’s driving this
league straight into the ground.

(Photo courtesy of FSN and NHL Network)

Hagelin making ‘significant steps’ in returning to Pens lineup

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It’s been nearly six weeks since Carl Hagelin last suited up for the Penguins.

His return sounds like it’s on the horizon.

Hagelin, out since Mar. 10 with a lower-body injury, was deemed “close” to coming back by Pens head coach Mike Sullivan, just ahead of tonight’s Game 1 against Washington.

“[Hagelin] is a day-to-day decision at this point,” Sullivan said. “He took limited contact this morning. The next step, obviously, will be the full contact approach.

“He is certainly making significant steps in the right direction here.”

The speedy Swede missed the final 16 games of the regular season with his ailment, and all five games in Pittsburgh’s opening-round win against the Blue Jackets. The end result was just six goals and 22 points in 61 games played, down from the impressive stretch he had last season after being acquired from Anaheim.

Pittsburgh is hopeful the 28-year-old can rejoin the team, and provide similar production as last year’s playoff run. Hagelin had six goals and 16 points in 24 games en route to hoisting the Stanley Cup.

Hagelin isn’t the only veteran forward that could make his return this season. Earlier this week, the Pens announced winger Chris Kunitz had been cleared for contact, and is available for the Washington series.

Sweeney shares offseason plans for Bruins

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The Boston Bruins had a relatively successful season, getting back to the playoffs after narrowly missing them the past two years.

But another interesting summer awaits GM Don Sweeney, who has a number of areas he’d like to improve.

From CSN New England:

Sweeney listed the “middle of the [forward] lineup, transition-minded defensemen and the backup goaltender position” as places he had in mind for offseason upgrades. Those were glaring areas of need throughout the regular season and postseason. 

More specifically on Sweeney’s to-do list: a left wing to be paired with David Krejci, a revamping of a third line that underachieved far too often and another top-four defenseman capable of moving the puck to go along with a more dependable backup goaltender situation than the Jekyll and Hyde performance from Anton Khudobin last season.

Boston’s pending unrestricted free agents include Drew Stafford, Dominic Moore, and John-Michael Liles, the latter of whom turns 37 in November.

At some point, the Bruins will need to find a replacement for 40-year-old Zdeno Chara. But the NHL’s oldest defenseman still has one year left on his contract, and he says he’d like to play beyond that.

To start next season, the Bruins could go with a top four of Chara, Torey Krug, Brandon Carlo, and Charlie McAvoy, two lefties and two righties. Assuming they don’t re-sign Liles, adding another left shot for the bottom pairing seems an attainable goal for Sweeney. Adding another top-four d-man could be tough, though.

Another situation to watch is the one with Ryan Spooner, the 25-year-old forward who found his way into Bruce Cassidy’s doghouse in the playoffs. Spooner is a pending RFA and arbitration eligible. He can be good offensively, but without the puck he’s still tough to trust.

Sweeney did not share his plan for Spooner with reporters, but it’s safe to say the player’s future with the Bruins is uncertain.

Panthers looking for ‘modern day guy’ as next head coach

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There are just two coaching vacancies left — in Buffalo and Florida, respectively — and on Thursday, Panthers GM Dale Tallon outlined what the club is looking for in its next bench boss.

“We’re looking for a modern day guy, a good communicator and a good teacher,” Tallon said, per WQAM radio. “Someone who is firm, but fair and can think outside the box a little bit, because creativity is important too as far as how you differentiate yourself from other teams playing a similar system.”

To that end, the Panthers have already interviewed one candidate — University of Denver’s Jim Montgomery. Sportsnet reported Florida spoke with him on Monday.

Montgomery, 47, has spent the last three years at Denver, building one of college hockey’s most elite programs. This year’s squad was anchored by Hobey Baker winner Will Butcher, U.S. junior shootout hero Troy Terry and, perhaps most interestingly, freshman scoring sensation Henrik Borgstrom — Florida’s first-round pick at last year’s draft.

Montgomery aside, Tallon and the Panthers sound like they’re casting a wide net to find Tom Rowe’s replacement.

The club reportedly reached out to Vancouver with interest in former bench boss Willie Desjardins. The Miami Herald floated the possibility of bringing in ex-Habs coach Michel Therrien, who resides in South Florida. Montreal radio station 91.9 Sports also connected Therrien to the gig.

Put it all together, and the coaching decision doesn’t appear to be a rush job. Tallon all but cemented that last month, when he said there “are some candidates that are in the playoffs that we can’t talk to,” adding he might wait “until at least mid-June” to make a hire.

Stars re-sign Janmark, who they ‘missed as much as anyone last season’

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Mattias Janmark, the Stars forward that missed all of this season with a major knee injury, has been given a one-year, $700,000 extension, the club announced on Thursday.

“Mattias is a played that we missed as much as anyone last season with the unfortunate injury he suffered,” Dallas GM Jim Nill said in a release. “We look forward to him returning to our group and getting him back for training camp.”

Losing Janmark’s services this year was, as mentioned, a fairly big blow. After surprising onlookers by making the Stars out of camp in ’15-16 — a “great story,” according to Nill — Janmark had a pretty successful rookie campaign, scoring 15 goals and 29 points in 73 games.

He also fared well in the playoffs, with five points in 12 contests.

Today’s news all but alleviates concerns the 24-year-old’s knee problems might extend into next season, something former head coach Lindy Ruff alluded to last month.

“I think there’s a question mark (about next season), but we don’t know to what degree yet,” Ruff said, per the Dallas Morning-News. “He’s progressing nicely. He still has a ways to go, but I think the fact he is practicing now and has gone this far always gives a guy like that a better chance for next year.”

Janmark’s original injury occurred during the preseason, when he knee locked up in a game against Colorado.

“He had a small segment, approximately 21 millimeters by 11 millimeters, that became displaced and is locked in his knee,” Nill said at the time. “It’s the bone and the cartilage, they both came off together.”

Janmark underwent surgery to correct the issue, but his recovery was plagued by a preexisting congenital condition called osteochondritis dissecans. Nill said the likelihood of a full recovery was 80 percent.