Perhaps I’m still a bit stuck in last year’s murky suspension realm, as it’s hard to say what should be a hit that’s over the line. The problem in making these determinations, for me at least, comes when a defending player makes a “hockey play” at full speed. It’s the same dilemma that the NFL faces when it comes to corner backs or safeties lighting up a prone wide receiver; there’s a certain level of responsibility a player has to protect himself, but you still need to penalize dangerous hits.
In other words, I think the NHL is doing a better job so far this season when it comes to legislating hits. (As far as behavioral stuff such as James Wisniewski getting a two-game suspension vs. Sean Avery getting a six-game suspension for the same general juvenile antics? Well, that I’m not so sure about.)
The league passed along news that Ottawa Senators forward Nick Foligno will not face a suspension for his open-ice hit on Carolina Hurricanes skater Patrick Dwyer. Instead, the NHL fined Foligno $2,500 for the hit and gave this explanation for their verdict.
“While there was no injury as a result of the hit, it is clear that Foligno delivered a shoulder check from the blind side that made primary contact with Dwyer’s head,” said NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell. “It is also clear that Foligno was delivering the hit in an attempt to get the puck. Finally, in determining that a fine was the appropriate discipline for this incident, I took into account that Foligno has not been suspended previously by the League.”
I’ve said this before and I’ll probably echo the point several times this season, but I’ve never been a fan of punishing hits or altercations based on the severity of injuries since that’s such a random thing. If a hit is a dirty or suspension-worthy hit, then it should carry a suspension whether the victim is in a hospital bed or scoring goals the next period.
I do agree that Foligno was attempting to get the puck, which is why this check is in that difficult gray area. He should get some kind of punishment since it is the type of hit that the league is trying to get rid of, but how do you walk the tight rope between making things reasonably safe and removing the physicality (and violence) that is inherent to playing defense in this sport? It’s a tough call, but these decisions will set a precedent for the rest of the season.
But enough of what I think about the hit, how do you feel? Should he have been suspended, fined or left alone altogether? Vote in the poll below.
Report: Beauchemin signs on for third stint with Ducks
The contract reportedly comes with a base salary of $1 million and the potential to earn roughly $500,000 more in performance bonuses.
This would be Beauchemin’s third stint with the team. He played with Anaheim for parts of four campaigns from 2005-06 through 2008-09. Along the way he averaged a staggering 30:33 minutes per game in the playoffs during the Ducks’ 2007 championship run. His second stint with the club spanned parts of five seasons from 2010-11 through 2014-15. As was the case during his previous run, Beauchemin was a workhorse and in the 2013 lockout shortened season he also finished fourth in the Norris Trophy vote.
Beauchemin spent the last two seasons with Colorado. Although he’s 37-years-old now, Beauchemin has only missed one game over the last two seasons and still averaged 21:31 minutes in 2016-17.
Despite that, Colorado decided to buy him out this summer, which freed up a protected list spot for the expansion draft and created an opening for the club’s younger defensemen as the Avalanche focus on rebuilding.
“He’s progressing pretty well from the summer,” Kings GM Rob Blake told LA Kings Insider. “He still has some difficulty with some of the lifts and the strength. We’re probably not sure if we’ll see him in training camp right away, but again, he’s a guy that trains at a very high level and he’s made a commitment to stay in L.A. after he got married, get the rehab back on course. We’re hopeful he can get back to the level that he started last season and the World Cup at.”
Gaborik has been an elite scorer at times during his career, but injuries have been a recurring issue for him. Over the past four seasons he’s played in 220 of a possible 328 contests and he’s been limited to 43 points in 110 games over the last two campaigns.
That’s particularly worrying given that the 35-year-old forward still has four seasons left on his seven-year contract worth roughly $34 million. At the same time a bounce back campaign out of Gaborik would go a long way towards addressing the offensive woes Los Angeles endured in 2016-17.
No goaltender went through a season that could be more accurately called a roller coaster than Jaroslav Halak.
The veteran netminder entered the campaign immediately following a superb showing in the World Cup, but he struggled in the first half of the season to the point where he cleared waivers and was then sent to the minors on Dec. 31. Rather than fade away though, he got a second wind in the AHL. That led to him being called up on March 23 and shining in the finals weeks of the campaign.
So after all that, what’s next for Halak? Will he excel like he did towards the end of the season, struggle like he did at the beginning, or end up being wildly inconsistent yet again?
He’s down to the final season of his four-year, $18 million deal and Thomas Greiss has emerged as a strong alternative for the starting gig with the Islanders. Greiss is entering the first season of a three-year, $10 million deal, so he is more firmly established as part of the Islanders’ plan than Halak, but Greiss’ contract isn’t so expensive or long-term that the Islanders can’t re-sign Halak too if the situation calls for it. Especially if Halak were to step up and become a major part of guiding the Islanders back into the postseason after their disappointing 2016-17 showing.
What the presence of Greiss does though is give Halak little leeway in order to reestablish himself as that type of goaltender. If Halak even has a bad October, he might find himself set more clearly in the backup role beyond that.
Perhaps the Islanders are looking to Greiss as their future though and have little interest in Halak beyond this season. Maybe they would prefer a younger and/or cheaper pairing with Greiss once given the flexibility that Halak’s contract expiring affords them. Even in that scenario, this would still be a critical season for Halak as he’ll need a strong showing in order for him to find a gig elsewhere. After all, it wasn’t long ago that the entire league said they didn’t want his contract and while he’s bounced back since then, he still needs to prove this season that he’s worth a new deal.
The goaltender market is always a tough one, especially for those seeking a starting job, but for a great netminder that’s a nonissue. Halak has played at that level at various points of his career. He needs more than ever to be that goaltender again.
Gallant thinks Golden Knights can ‘win and compete consistently’ during inaugural season
What can we expect from the Vegas Golden Knights in 2017-18? No one really knows what they’ll look like once they hit the ice because they’ve never played together before.
Of course, the expectation is that they’ll be bad, which is fair considering the track record expansion teams have in pro sports. But are they gonna be “Colorado bad” or will they be able to hold their own more often than not?
“I knew we were going to have a pretty decent team, but the team was better than I thought,” head coach Gerard Gallant said, per NHL.com. “I thought we got better top-end players than I thought we’d get.
“So I think we did a real good job building our team. Is it good enough to win and compete consistently? I think it is.”
Through the expansion draft, Gallant’s team was able to find themselves a quality number one goalie in Marc-Andre Fleury and a relatively young backup in Calvin Pickard.
“There’s going to be issues,” added the Golden Knights head coach. “Some nights we’re going to have trouble scoring goals. You look at our roster, there’s a lot of good players. Are there any superstars there?”
It’ll be interesting to see how Vegas’ first year in the NHL will unfold under Gallant and general manager George McPhee’s watch.