The most 'laborious' jobs in hockey

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vokounsquashed.jpgAh, Labor Day. Unlike most other national holidays, you don’t saddle us with guilt for being couch potatoes instead of war heroes. You don’t give us too much incentive to injure ourselves with illegal fireworks, force us to eat overcooked turkey with family members we don’t get along with or buy overpriced greeting cards.

Nope, Labor Day could be called Lazy Day in many circles and that’s why it’s a decidedly awesome (and American) holiday. For those of you who would like some puck talk mixed in to your hot dog consumption and pajama-clad day, we’ll try to track down the most interesting stories of this Monday. I couldn’t help but wonder, though: what are the most laborious jobs in hockey? I’ll split my choices into “player” and “non-player” categories.

Most “laborious” jobs in hockey: player edition

Leg pads for Jay McKee/Anton Volchenkov/Hal Gill (or shot blocking in general)

Hockey is a sport for ridiculously tough humans, especially if you’re a shut down defenseman. “Withstanding incredible pain and frequent bruising” is particularly high in the job description of shot blocking blueliners, though, who are insane enough to put their jobs on the line every time they sprawl out on the ice to stop a puck.

davebollandfights.jpgShut-down center

If you asked me which Chicago Blackhawks contributor received the least amount of deserved spotlight, I would pick Dave Bolland. For most of 2009-10 I thought he was arguably the most overpaid player (not named Cristobal Huet or Brian Campbell) on their roster until he frustrated the likes of the Sedin twins and Joe Thornton all summer long. While shutdown defensemen have tough jobs, defensive centers often cover an even larger part of the ice and also might be counted on for some offense.

Florida Panthers goalie

Combine shaky goal support (third worst in the NHL with only 2.46 goals scored per game) with the largest shots allowed in 09-10 (34.1 shots allowed per game) and being a goalie for the Panthers was probably the toughest netminding gig last season. That’s why hockey nerds such as myself appreciate Tomas Vokoun so much; he might not win but he stops a high volume of pucks, much like Roberto Luongo before him.

Time on Ice leaders

Chris Phillips lead the league in total shorthanded time on ice (315:23) while Jay Bouwmeester came in second (312:55) but averaged three and a half more total minutes per game. Duncan Keith played the most of any player in the NHL, narrowly beating his Stanley Cup finals opponent Chris Pronger (2,180:34 to 2,125:58). Martin St. Louis logged the most minutes of any forward, besting Anze Kopitar by a bit under two minutes.

Most “laborious” roles in hockey: Non-players

flyerspenaltybox.jpgPenalty box operator, Philadelphia Flyers games

If there’s a hockey job that could give you carpal tunnel it would be this or …

Ilya Kovalchuk contract writer

… or this.

Noise reducing earphones

Whether it’s in Gary Bettman’s ears when he hands out the Stanley Cup or Pronger’s ears any time he touches the puck in, say, 20 percent of the league’s arenas, you cannot have good enough ear phones to soak up those angry boos.

Thumbnail image for dealingwithcarcillo.jpgFlorida Panthers/New York Islanders ticket sales staff

Hey, look on the bright side; at one point, “Pittsburgh Penguins/Washington Capitals/Chicago Blackhawks ticket sales staff” would have been on the top of this list.

Wheel of Justice spinner

When spinning the league’s Wheel of Justice, your arm must get awfully tired.

Goal judges in the Toronto “War Room”

No matter what you decide, chances are, 50 percent of the audience will hate you for it. Which really matches another job description:

Any official/referee role, really

They don’t get the benefit of instant replays from multiple angles in high definition or slow motion. Fans might get the urge to shower them with beer, insults and jeer-based pressure to make calls. Some players are very good actors, at least when a stick gets caught in their skates. Maybe it’s not the toughest job in hockey, but would anyone argue that being a referee is one of the most “thankless” roles?

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OK, so that’s my list of the most laborious jobs in hockey. What did I miss? Which one might be the most difficult of them all? Let us know in the comments.

Eddie Lack expects to be released from hospital on Monday night

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As scary as the situation was for Carolina Hurricanes goalie Eddie Lack, the good news continues to pour in.

First, the Hurricanes provided an update that he had “full feeling in his extremities” while under observation at a hospital. This followed the promising sign that he was able to give a “thumbs up” gesture while being taken off the ice on a stretcher after the Hurricanes’ 4-3 overtime loss to the Detroit Red Wings.

The best news came late on Monday night, however, as Lack himself tweeted that he expects to head back home as early as this late evening/early morning:

That’s fantastic news. Video of that scary collision with Andreas Athanasiou can be seen in the video above this post’s headline.

Blues, Flames take care of business (Islanders … do not)

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For a while there, it seemed like the idle Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs would be Monday’s “winners.” That changed when the Carolina Hurricanes salvaged a standings point and the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back to beat the Blackhawks.

Still, there were some teams who came through (beyond the Lightning) and those who fell flat, so let’s cover some of the results in short.

West teams get it done

Unlike their counterparts out East, West teams jockeying for position avoided “unforced errors” in losing to non-playoff teams.

The St. Louis Blues beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 while the Calgary Flames topped the Colorado Avalanche 4-2. Johnny Gaudreau generated his 200th point (and 201st) in Calgary’s win, while Alex Steen generated four assists. (Vladimir Tarasenko also enjoyed a three-point night.)

This keeps the Blues and Flames in position to advance. St. Louis is one point behind the Nashville Predators for third in the Central while the Flames are a point behind both the Sharks and Oilers for second and third in the Pacific (while remaining in shouting distance of the division title).

East teams stumble, some get over it

Again, the Lightning fought through hurdles to win and the Hurricanes managed that “charity point.”

Overall, East teams struggled. The New York Islanders fell to the Predators by a score of 3-1. Your mileage may vary on the Florida Panthers’ chances, especially after they fell 4-2 to the Buffalo Sabres.

Brian Gionta scored in his 1,000th game as Buffalo won, by the way.

Here’s what the race for the final spot in the East looks like after tonight:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Victor Hedman might just force his way into the Norris argument

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For quite some time this season, the Norris Trophy race felt a bit like “Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and [insert token finalist].” As it turns out, Victor Hedman is making it a pretty interesting three-horse race.

With Burns and Karlsson idle on Monday, Hedman continued to go on the best offensive tear of his already-impressive career, contributing three assists to the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

As much credit as forwards Nikita Kucherov and Jonathan Drouin deserve in pushing Tampa Bay in Steven Stamkos‘ absence, Hedman has been an all-world blueliner for a Lightning team with a defense that isn’t really surrounding him with great talent.

He’s serving as a workhorse when his team needs him the most:

Now, when you look at the numbers, it’s probably fair to say that Hedman comes in third among the likely finalists in simple categories:

Brent Burns: 27 goals (!), 72 points in 75 games, +16 rating, 24:52 time-on-ice average

Erik Karlsson: 14 goals, 67 points in 74 games, +7, 26:53 minutes per game (fourth highest average in the NHL)

Victor Hedman: 15 goals, 65 points in 72 games, +2 rating, came into Monday with average of 24:15 minutes per game.

Looking at those breakdowns, you might wonder why someone wouldn’t just flippantly hand Hedman the “bronze medal” and a pat on the back … but things get more interesting if you ponder the all-around impact of those three.

Now, traditional-thinkers who slam risky defensemen for their mistakes often overstate such arguments. Both Burns and Karlsson tilt the ice in their teams’ favors, usually to profound degrees.

Still … Hedman locks opponents down to a truly elite degree and scores at a similar rate. Hedman could very well own the “two-way” argument; you could perhaps see his case most clearly when you compare his “HERO” chart to those of Burns and Karlsson, especially from the perspective of conceding shots.

Again, Burns remains the likely winner, and he would be a deserving one. You could make a solid Hart Trophy argument for Burns, in addition to tabbing him as the Norris frontrunner.

Even so, voters would be wise to take Hedman’s case seriously, especially as the Lightning continue their improbable playoff push.

Lightning storm back against Blackhawks, finish one point out of playoffs

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Who would have thought that the Tampa Bay Lightning would rally back from a 4-1 deficit tonight? Then again, who expected them to be so close to a playoff spot mere weeks ago, when they were sellers at the trade deadline?

The Lightning continue to show that they won’t just roll over and die, scoring four unanswered goals to beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 in overtime on Monday.

While Jonathan Drouin was a catalyst for the second-period rally, it was an unlikely scorer who clinched the victory, as Yanni Gourde ended a thrilling run of 3-on-3 chances with the overtime-winner.

Really, it might have been fitting. Things looked glum when Tomas Jurco scored his first goal of the season against the Lightning, then the mood was totally flipped when Gourde’s second tally of 2016-17 grabbed a huge win.

With the Islanders losing to the Predators, the Hurricanes only managing a “loser point” against the Red Wings and the Bruins idle, Tampa Bay is a breath away from a playoff berth:

Final wild card: Bruins – 84 points in 75 games played

Lightning – 83 points in 75 GP
Islanders – 82 points in 75 GP
Hurricanes – 80 points in 74 GP

Yes, all of a sudden, a long-shot postseason run seems quite attainable.

Maybe the Lightning would prefer it if we kept counting them out, though?