Skepticism surrounds the World Hockey Summit in Toronto

horstlichtner-whs.jpgSome of the big news of the week is going to surround the World Hockey Summit going on in Toronto. About the only thing that can stop people from talking about that this week would be Ilya Kovalchuk signing and we haven’t heard from him in a few weeks.  The World Hockey Summit brings together most of hockey’s biggest executives, coaches, general managers, players and media to discuss the state of the game.

While the event is being stressed as the World Hockey Summit, getting proper representation from all of the countries involved in developing the game in the IIHF aren’t being represented. Eight countries from the IIHF can be found amongst the speakers, panelists, facilitators. You can call it nine if you allow former Swiss national coach Ralph Krueger to be counted for Switzerland (he’s Canadian).

Certainly if one of the big things that’s going to be discussed during this mostly week-long event is about improving the growth of women’s hockey having better representation from some of the other countries taking part in the game might help their cause. After all, if the International Olympic Committee is serious about dropping women’s hockey from its list of events, having full representation there could go a long way to showing how much it means to them. Having the head of the IIHF Rene Fasel certainly shows that the IIHF cares, speaking to and hearing from individuals from those countries involved might come off looking better for the sport.

Looking at things a bit closer to home, having the major representatives from the NHL, NHLPA, IIHF, Hockey Canada, USA Hockey, the KHL and the CHL all there makes you think that this is a thorough meeting of the minds. Except that Paul Kelly of College Hockey, Inc. isn’t there nor are any major representatives of the NCAA. The head of the CCHA, Tom Anastos, will be in attendance as a member of USA Hockey but it’s rather curious that the other major league that sees junior-aged and future NHL players develop is barely represented. It certainly doesn’t do anything to help make fans feel better about the recruiting war between the CHL and the NCAA.

Other writers have stepped up to voice their questions about how much exactly this meeting of the minds is going to actually accomplish. Damien Cox of The Toronto Star says that things look nice on the outside but questions the aim of the event especially at $450 a ticket for fans that might want to join in on the festivities. George Malik of Mlive.com sounds off harshly saying this entire summit is meant to just be a positive PR-fest for everyone involved rather than being a place where issues are settled.

I don’t want to come off sounding like an old man shaking my fist at the neighborhood kids telling them to get off my lawn here, but while this event sounds like exactly the kind of thing hockey needs to help the heads of all these leagues to start putting their differences aside and working together to make the sport of hockey better all over the world, I can’t help but get cynical about the ticket price for regular fans to attend ($450) and how press-savvy everyone at this summit is. If we’re in search of biting comments and a war of words, we’ve come to the wrong place. It’s doubtful that the NHL and the KHL can solve their transfer problems, the CHL and the NCAA certainly won’t be discussing anything since only half of that battle was even invited to the summit and if you think the NHL and the NHLPA are even going to talk about their issues with each other you’re crazy.

Maybe they can all team up together and turn myself and others into liars and make this World Hockey Summit into something worth writing home about.

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    Video: AHL’s Iowa Wild and Chicago Wolves brawl on … and off the ice

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    The AHL’s Iowa Wild and Chicago Wolves engaged in a brawl that eventually spilled out into a hallway at the Allstate Arena on Saturday — the same day the cult classic movie ‘Slap Shot’ apparently celebrated the 40th anniversary of its release.

    Talk about timing.

    A line brawl broke out on the ice between the Wolves and Wild with less than three minutes remaining in the third period of Saturday’s game. But the fighting didn’t end there. Video highlights show several players, still in full gear, involved shortly after in an altercation off the ice.

    Video shows Vince Dunn of the Wolves and Kurtis Gabriel trading punches off the ice before Gabriel is knocked to the ground and more players — and staff in the arena — intervene.

    It looked like Dunn was on his way to the dressing room when Gabriel came over, leading to their off-ice bout.

    The incident is sure to result in supplementary discipline from the AHL.

    These teams, which combined for 70 penalty minutes Saturday, meet again Sunday. So, that could be interesting — to say the least.

    Canucks GM Benning says mumps outbreak won’t impact trade deadline plans

    BUFFALO, NY - JUNE 24: Jim Benning of the Vancouver Canucks attends round one of the 2016 NHL Draft on June 24, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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    Let’s set the scene for what the Vancouver Canucks were facing Saturday:

    — On Friday, it was announced the team was dealing with an outbreak of the mumps. Rookie defenseman Troy Stecher was the first confirmed case and four others — Chris Tanev, Nikita Tryamkin, Markus Granlund and Mike Chaput — were all showing symptoms.

    — Currently out of a playoff spot, the Canucks were facing the Pacific Division-leading Sharks.

    — The Canucks were playing their first game out of the bye week and many other teams have struggled in the first game back from their mandated week off.

    — The trade deadline is looming and the Canucks are expected to be sellers next week.

    Pressure is growing in Vancouver ahead of the trade deadline, especially after last year’s debacle. The Canucks had a 1.3 per cent chance of making the playoffs before Saturday’s 4-1 loss to San Jose. The playoff dream is over. It has been for a long time. But the Canucks do have veteran players — the names Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen and Ryan Miller have been brought up — other teams in contention might be willing to trade for, which would help Vancouver add draft picks or perhaps even some quality prospects.

    In an interview with TSN 1040 on Friday, GM Jim Benning admitted he’s asked players with no-trade clauses to submit a list of teams they would accept a trade to ahead of the deadline.

    From the Vancouver Sun:

    Winger Alex Burrows, a 12-year-Canuck who like Miller is due to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, will draw trade interest but can veto a move with his NTC.

    Not so Miller and Hansen, who can limit Benning’s trade field but cannot fully prevent a deal.

    Miller, 36, submitted a list of five teams he can be traded to, while Hansen was required to identify eight potential trade destinations.

    Now, how will this recent mumps outbreak impact Benning’s plans leading up to Wednesday?

    “I don’t know if it will have any effect on that or not,” Benning said in his radio interview.

    “This happened to other teams a few years ago and once the players go through the five-day incubation period, they’re fine. And so they can keep playing. I don’t think it will have any effect on that.”

    Despite their playoff hopes hanging by a thread and a lineup with three AHL call-ups in Alex Grenier, Joseph LaBate and Evan McEneny, the Canucks somehow kept this close until midway through the third period.

    LaBate planted Melker Karlsson with a hit and was eventually challenged to a fight in the third period. Karlsson left the game but did return for the third period.

    At times, they actually outplayed the visitors through two periods but couldn’t find the lead and eventually the Sharks took over in the third period. Patrick Marleau gave them the lead late in the second period and Mikkel Boedker essentially put it out of reach.

    For the Canucks, there was another case of illness Saturday.

    Defenseman Luca Sbisa left the game and didn’t return with what the club said was a stomach flu, although given the situation in Vancouver, it will be worth monitoring to see if that diagnosis changes.

    Crosby, Penguins deliver blow to Flyers’ playoff chances in Stadium Series

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    PITTSBURGH — The first time the Pittsburgh Penguins played a game at Heinz Field, Sidney Crosby was on top of the NHL and having one of the most dominant offensive seasons in recent history. That was the game he was on the receiving end of the Dave Steckel hit that started the chain of events that basically cost him two of the prime years of his career.

    The Heinz Field experience was significantly better for him and the Penguins this time around.

    Crosby opened the scoring midway through the first period with his league-leading 34th goal of the season — finishing a slick feed from rookie forward Jake Guentzel — to help lead the Penguins to a 4-2 in the 2017 NHL Stadium Series game.

    “We were thrilled for him,” said Penguins coach Mike Sullivan when asked about Crosby scoring a goal in his return to Heinz Field.

    “I am sure the experience of coming back here probably brought back some memories that he probably would like to forget. So to have a night like tonight, and an opportunity to play in such an exciting venue and start the game off the way he did, it did probably just helped him put that experience behind and move forward. I thought he played a solid game, his line was really good all night long and he scored a huge goal for us.”

    Crosby’s goal is only part of the story in this one.

    Nick Bonino, Matt Cullen and Chad Ruhwedel also scored goals in the win, while Matt Murray stopped 35 of the 37 shots he faced.

    First, for Pittsburgh, it was a huge win given the status of an undermanned defense that was playing without three of its top players. With Trevor Daley and Olli Maatta already sidelined, they were also without Kris Letang on Saturday night due to an upper body injury that currently has him listed as day-to-day. That meant they had to rely significantly on their depth.

    Ron Hainsey, playing in his debut with the team after being acquired in a trade earlier this week from the Carolina Hurricanes, played more than 20 minutes in the win, including more than three minutes on the penalty kill. They also received a huge goal from Ruhwedel in the third period to help put the game away.

    It wasn’t a flawless effort by the group (37 shots against illustrates that) but considering who was out of the lineup and the situation they were facing it was a huge performance to remain ahead of the New York Rangers for the second spot in the Metropolitan Division and improve their record to 7-1-3 in their past 11 games.

    Things are not quite as optimistic for the Flyers at the moment.

    The loss on Saturday is a pretty damaging blow to their already fading playoff chances as they remain five points out of a playoff spot — with three teams ahead of them — with only 21 games to go.

    They are also just 9-16-4 in their past 29 games since their 10-game winning streak ended on Dec. 14.

    “It’s a tough result, walking away,” said Flyers coach Dave Hakstol after the game. “It’s a pretty close, tight hockey game where I thought our team played well, battled extremely well, and did a lot of good things but we walk away with the wrong result.”

    That has happened a lot lately for the Flyers.

    So why are they not getting the results? Well, the problem on Saturday was a familiar one for the Flyers — goaltending and defensive zone breakdowns.

    Crosby’s goal to open the scoring was the result of a breakdown in defensive zone coverage that allowed the game’s best offensive player to be left wide open along the side of the net for an easy one-timer. Even though Michal Neuvirth didn’t have much of a chance on that play, he didn’t exactly play a strong game, allowing four goals on 29 shots.

    The Matt Cullen goal to give the Penguins a 3-1 lead in the third period was a particularly tough one for Neuvirth to give up.

    It is already the 10th time in 24 games this season he has given up at least three goals in a game, while his save percentage on the season remains well below the .890 mark. For a goalie that was one of the best values in the league last season in terms of performance and salary cap hit, it has been a massive regression this season.

    Even though the results are not going their way at the moment Hakstol remains convinced the team is doing the right things and that the key to turning things around is just sticking with what they are doing.

    “Couple little things within the game tonight,” said Hakstol. “We haven’t been able to score a whole lot. There has been a lot made of that, and fairly so. You look at the opportunities tonight, the type of opportunities we generate were pretty reasonable. You have to stick with it. We have gone through a tough stretch here, but for the vast majority we have played some pretty good hockey and we need to stick with it. We have to stay together as we have and we have to keep pushing the envelope.”

    The Flyers are back in action on Tuesday against the Colorado Avalanche.

    A bye week hangover? Not for the Blue Jackets

    COLUMBUS, OH - DECEMBER 20:  Nick Foligno #71 of the Columbus Blue Jackets warms up prior to the start of the game against the Los Angeles Kings on December 20, 2016 at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)
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    COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) Josh Anderson and Nick Foligno each scored twice, sending the Columbus Blue Jackets to a 7-0 romp over the New York Islanders on Saturday.

    The high-energy Blue Jackets didn’t show any rust in their first game back following their five-day break, unlike many teams that have struggled coming out of the bye week this season. Columbus scored three times in the first period, chasing New York goalie Thomas Greiss.

    David Savard had a goal and three assists, Boone Jenner and Jack Johnson also scored and backup goaltender Joonas Korpisalo stopped all 24 shots for the Blue Jackets, who ended New York’s three-game winning streak. Columbus has a comfortable hold on the top wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference, while the Islanders are in a tight race for the final playoff berth.

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    Greiss stopped 14 of 17 shots in the first period. His replacement, Jean-Francois Berube, saved 24 of 28.

    Johnson got Columbus started when his shot from the point bounced off the skate of New York’s Nick Leddy and through Greiss’ pads 5:19 into the game.

    Later in the first period, Cam Atkinson‘s shot from the left circle was stopped by Greiss, but the rebound trickled back out from between his legs and a charging Jenner tapped it in.

    Foligno capped the first-period barrage when he deked the goalie and scored on a backhand.

    The Blue Jackets outshot the Islanders 17-9 in the period, leading to Greiss’ benching.

    Anderson kept it going 4:31 into the second with a sharp one-timer from the high slot off Jenner’s pass. Late in the period, Anderson got another one when he picked the pocket of defender Thomas Hickey in the neutral zone and launched a rocket past Berube from the right circle.

    The highlight-reel goals continued in the third period when an airborne pass from Savard found Foligno for a breakaway 6:06 in. Savard got the seventh goal with 6 1/2 minutes left.