NHL research and development camp isn't just testing new rules, but also Brendan Shanahan himself

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brendanshanahanwithcup.jpgThe NHL research and development camp is something of a hockey laboratory. During the event, experiments will be run to test new rules as well as up-and-coming prospects.

And, as it turns out, the mad scientist pulling the strings and hitting the switches happens to be probable Hall of Fame power forward Brendan Shanahan. To extend the analogy, the camp might just be an experiment that will test another hypothesis: that Shanahan could have a future as an NHL executive.

Yahoo’s Nicholas Cotsonika has more on the study.

After all, Bettman hired Shanahan with dual purposes in mind: to tap into Shanahan’s passion for hockey and unique expertise, and to give Shanahan an experience that would be “like going to business school for him.”

While working on the game, Shanahan is researching, developing and orientating himself. Not long after he started his new job in December, Shanahan marveled at the logistics required to run a major sports league.

[snip]

Shanahan has been getting a taste of that with this camp. He hasn’t been able to do it by himself. He has had to do what an executive does – delegate, coordinate, pull together the entire organization.

First, Shanahan had to survey coaches and general managers to see what ideas they wanted to test. Then he had to pare down the list. Then he had to find coaches and players to participate. Then he had to worry about everything else – the equipment, the rink set-up, sponsor involvement, PR …

Shanahan was among a generation of hockey players who at least occasionally spoke eloquently and outside of cliches, much like fellow greats Brett Hull and Jeremy Roenick. Many athletes struggle with their post-professional sports careers, so kudos to the guy I once called “Oldmanahan” for keeping himself busy … and maybe benefiting hockey in the process.

Leafs pass Bruins for third in Atlantic after gutsy win against Columbus

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It wasn’t pretty – especially if you’re disgusted by that Roman Polak hit – but the Toronto Maple Leafs keep generating big wins as a playoff return looks increasingly likely.

Toronto managed a 5-2 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets on Wednesday, passing the Boston Bruins for third place in the Atlantic Division:

Maple Leafs: 83 points in 72 games
Bruins: 82 points in 73 games

This leaves the currently in-action New York Islanders four points behind the Bruins for the final wild card in the East.

The Maple Leafs aren’t just grabbing key points; they’re doing so against some strong opponents who’ve had plenty on the line, too. They beat a Metro contender in Columbus tonight, the Bruins on Monday, grabbed an OT point against Chicago on Saturday and handled the desperate Lightning last Thursday.

This game was all about William Nylander‘s brilliant start:

And also Toronto surviving a long penalty kill after that Polak hit:

Nazem Kadri‘s 30th goal really put the game out of reach, helping Toronto nab a significant victory.

The Blue Jackets can wallow in this defeat and Oliver Bjorkstrand‘s injury, either, as they turn around to face the Washington Capitals in a big one tomorrow.

Tortorella was irate after Roman Polak boarded Oliver Bjorkstrand

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John Tortorella was left enraged after Roman Polak delivered a dangerous boarding hit on Oliver Bjorkstrand, and he probably wasn’t too pleased after the Columbus Blue Jackets failed to make Toronto pay for Polak’s misdeeds.

Polak received a game misconduct and boarding major for the hit, but the Blue Jackets failed to score on a lengthy power play. Tortorella played to script, as cameras caught him expressing his anger at the situation.

First, take a look at the hit:

Next, behold Tortorella’s anger:

Again, Columbus couldn’t capitalize on its opportunities, so that didn’t make things any better.

Right now, the Maple Leafs lead the Blue Jackets 3-2. If Toronto ends up winning, this will stand as one of the game’s pivotal moments.

It’s far from the only exciting moment, however, with these goals and big hits also standing out.

Video: Josh Ho-Sang’s creativity gives Islanders a shot in the arm

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Honestly, after 10 games, the question shouldn’t be “can Josh Ho-Sang stick with the Islanders full-time?” Instead, the feeling is … what took so long for him to get this chance?

For all the grumbling about Ho-Sang sporting number 66, he’s provided serious bursts of brilliance and creativity for the Islanders, whether he’s been supporting or even setting up John Tavares.

The video above is some really good stuff, as it walks through his confident comments – and undeniable uncertainty – during the night he was drafted, all the way through him getting his chance with the Isles this season. Some of the best stuff comes from Doug Weight, who raves that Ho-Sang is a “five out of five” from an offensive standpoint.

Leafs’ Nylander puts on show with breakaway goal, assist on Matthews’ 33rd

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This wouldn’t have been worth a chuckle if not for the correction. (Well, maybe a chuckle at Auston Matthews‘ expense.)

On the 33rd goal of his brilliant rookie season, Auston Matthews made it 2-0 for Toronto on the power play. Crusty “act like you’ve been there” types might grumble that he actually celebrated before a goal really happened, only to tap it in for real the second time around. The rest of us, again, get a mild chuckle.

William Nylander‘s pass was nothing to laugh at, however. That one just gets a big thumbs up.

Hnnngmgghh indeed.

That goal could end up being key as the Blue Jackets quickly scored to start the second period, shrinking Toronto’s lead to 2-1 on Wednesday.

Update: OK, so Nylander’s really stealing the show. This is stupendous.