Colin Campbell exposed: Says Marc Savard is “biggest faker going”; berates officials for picking on his son

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If you’ve ever thought that NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell might’ve had it out for your team regarding punishment or handled the Marc Savard-Matt Cooke scenario in a highly-questionable manner considering Cooke wasn’t suspended for his hit on Savard, consider today to be your day of vindication.

Tyler Dellow of mc79hockey.com has uncovered e-mails between Campbell and former head of NHL officiating Stephen Walkom that outline how Campbell gets in Walkom’s ear in situations when infractions against his son Gregory (then of the Florida Panthers, now of the Boston Bruins) he found to be wrong.

We also find out that Colin Campbell doesn’t think very highly of Bruins forward Marc Savard, a dislike that might have roots going back to the days when Campbell coached the New York Rangers and Savard was a young forward he coached. There’s almost too much information here to quote and share with you, but we’ll give you the juiciest bits to chew on. We really can’t recommend highly enough going to Dellow’s site and reading the entire piece.

At the heart of the matter here is Colin Campbell and Stephen Walkom discussing the officiating work of (now former) referee Dean Warren. Campbell was incensed with Warren’s work and sought to get Warren fired for his inconsistent officiating and was in the ear of Walkom to let him know his thoughts on how he’s doing. Warren was fired and challenged the NHL in court over his firing saying his work with the NHLOA lead to his dismissal. If you’re wondering how these e-mails were available to be found, it’s because they’re part of the record pertaining to this case. Mike Murphy who is mentioned here is the NHL’s vice president of hockey operations.

This e-mail from Campbell to Walkom in particular is ripe for discussion. Names were already removed from it and the only edit we’re doing is to edit some of the colorful language used. We don’t want this post to get nixed by your sensitive work filters for naughty language. Again, we stress to you to go read the full post to get the full story on how things go down.

A couple weeks later Mike Murphy or Mr. Walkom (it was not clear which) wrote to Mr. Campbell (and Mr. Walkom) that Mr. Warren had “missed high stick on [player] with 130 left in the game…..hard for a Ref to see….[general manager] will be whining’. Mr. Campbell replied:

To Stephen Walkom/Tor/NHL@NHL
Subject Re: Delayed Penalties/High Sticks 02/#/2007 4:24 pm

A bend in the road is a dead end if you round the corner and Dean Warren is standing there. Your answer re: his high stick calls and the score of the game were horse sh**. The 3rd call on [player] was while they were down 5 on 4 and on a def zone face off vs that little fake artist [player] I had him in [city] biggest faker going. And Warren fell for it when he grabbed his face on a face off. Your supposed to see the act, not call the embellishing act. Dean Warren has to go with [referee] There must be a way to get rid of this guy. Is there a way we can tract (sic) and total minors called by referees this year. We could then get the minors they call per game. … or with 2 [referees on the ice] it is impossible? Warren and [referee] out of [club’s] games. Give them to [referees].

Stephen Walkom to: Colin Campbell 02/#/2007 04:39 PM

that’s funny yet not funny….I think we have that data but it may work in his favour….that’s why I’m against data and more about IT….he doesn’t have it, never had it, and is average at best, probably never get it,

OK I’m going to stop it….

From: Stephen Walkom
Sent: 02/#/2007 08:09 AM
To: Mike Murphy
Cc: Colin Campbell
Subject: Re: ….. / …….

Terry ran into …….after the game who was upset, linesmen…………..viewed the play but no injury could be found therefore no call [player] was saying to Terry that he was injured but the guys didn’t see anything but spit and gatorade residue….therefore no double minor….

Re [player]
Colin Campbell to Stephen Walkom, Mike Murphy
02/#/2007 09:21 AM

I know Murph and Kinger like [player] as a player but my view of him is this exactly…he puts his whining ahead of the game. I don’t think this is a regular occurrence (…..getting screwed) and …..exploded ………over the disallowed goal. He may be uncontrollable by ………….and……………..as I think his frustration level has hit a high point. He hates officials as well. He is still pissed off at [referee] for a call he missed in the playoffs years ago as I remember him bugging Murph about it. Let’s give him Warren and [referee] than (sic) he will really have something to whine about.

If you’re curious about who in the world Campbell is so hot under the collar discussing, Bruins fans might want to take a keen eye to who Dellow was able to do the detective work to find out which game this was in reference to and who the interested parties were that managed to draw Campbell’s ire. Those of you who have suspected that nepotism and old grudges might rule Campbell’s world, you’re about to get a huge dose of vindication.

OK – this one I think we can nail down. We know that Campbell is upset about a situation involving a team that was already down to 5 v 4, on a defensive zone faceoff against a “little fake artist” who Campbell had (presumably in New York when he coached the Rangers. We also know that it was that player’s third penalty of the night. We can assume, from the chair’s description of this as being a few weeks after some earlier February emails, that it was in late February.

As it so happens, there is a game featuring players that meet this description. On February 24, 2007, Dean Warren reffed a game between the Bruins and the Panthers. At 13:29 of the second, Alexei Semenov was called for high sticking. Marc Savard, who played for Colin Campbell when he coached the Rangers, came out over the boards. He glided towards the dot where he faced off with Panthers penalty killer…Gregory Campbell. The puck was dropped and Campbell was called for high sticking. His third penalty of the game.

This is the only game from February, 2007 that meets the description.

So to dumb things down here this is what we’ve got:

  • Colin Campbell thinks that Marc Savard is a “little fake artist” and  “the biggest faker going”
  • Colin Campbell gets really upset when his son is made a fool of by a referee
  • Colin Campbell holds a huge grudge

Dellow’s piece goes on to analyze a few more e-mails from Campbell to Walkom and finds yet another instance when Greg Campbell was wronged by an official and Colin Campbell blew his stack about it to Walkom. I don’t think we need to make it any clearer what an extremely large conflict of interest this is for not just the players on the ice, but also the integrity of the officials working a game where Greg Campbell is playing.

Oddly enough, this off-season we saw Greg Campbell end up in Boston, the same city where Marc Savard plays. Did the Bruins feel they got the short end of the stick when Matt Cooke wasn’t suspended after taking Savard’s head off and thought that if they brought Greg Campbell on board they’d get a fairer shake from the league? It’s not likely the main motivation, but having dad peeking over his son’s new team’s shoulder every game can’t hurt. At the very least, when Savard returns to the lineup that first day in the locker room might be a lot more interesting now.

Amusingly so, Colin Campbell comes off out of all this looking like a hockey parent out of control doing the sorts of things with his position of power that parents that run their kid’s pee-wee league do to make sure that their child always ends up on the all-star teams. After all, he ends up e-mailing the head of officiating to yell about his kid not getting a fair shake, one of the officials indicated in this whole situation has already lost his job (Dean Warren), and the discussion about Campbell having an extreme conflict of interest in having his job and a relative playing in the league can now no longer be pooh-poohed as not being possible since this is a professional league.

Instead, you’ve got a league official ruling the roost with a chip on his shoulder, playing favorites towards his own son, and a grudge towards at least one player he used to coach. There is absolutely zero way for this to look good on the NHL to have a person in a position of power, a man who makes the decisions on who gets suspended or not and for how long, to work with a clear mind and without bias when he’s clearly got some problems with some players and officials. How the NHL decides to answer to this will be fascinating. Regardless of what kind of PR-friendly way they answer to this, the NHL looks horrible because of it.

It’s hard to believe that Colin Campbell will keep his job much longer after this. All the chatter and innuendo that was made with a wink and a nod about how Campbell plays favorites is no longer funny when it’s found to actually be true. It’s not as if Campbell has been without controversy already concerning his decisions on virtually everything, the spotlight has been on him for a long time as it is and now those that have been highly critical of him have the smoking gun they’ve been dying to see.

In a fun twist, it turns out the one guy who could keep us from talking about Sean Avery all day on Monday over his fight is the same guy that decided to sit Avery down for six games for saying nasty things about an old girlfriend. Colin Campbell might very well get a permanent vacation for colorful language of his own.

(Update: The NHL has responded to the situation and their take on things won’t help quiet down the public outcry)

Check, mates: NHL top lines are expected to do it all

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By Stephen Whyno (AP Hockey Writer)

Tyler Seguin doesn’t consider it a challenge. He sees it as an opportunity.

Every time Dallas Stars coach Ken Hitchcock sends Seguin and his linemates over the boards against an opponent’s top line, he knows he has a job to do.

”Out-check the other line and let the skill kind of take over,” Seguin said. ”It’s fun.”

Fun? Sure. It’s also increasingly common in the NHL as coaches seek to put their top lines on the ice against the other team’s best forwards to create matchup problems that often lead to goals.

Goodbye to the likes of Bob Gainey and hello to Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Washington’s Nicklas Backstrom. All can help keep the puck out of the net almost as well as they can put it in.

”We’re seeing less of the old Don Luce, Craig Ramsey, Brent Peterson lines,” said Capitals coach Barry Trotz, referring to defensive-minded forwards of yesteryear. ”We have guys like Bergeron; Sid goes up against top guys. So I think you’re seeing more of the power against power than we have in the past.”

Power against power is the name of the game in hockey today as players such as Bergeron, Crosby, Backstrom and Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews embody the kind of top-line stars who can double as shutdown centers. Crosby was so good in that dual role at the 2014 Sochi Olympics that Canada won a gold medal – and he was so dominant offensively the past two seasons that the Penguins won consecutive Stanley Cup championships.

Crosby is well aware of the modern duties of a top-flight center.

”You have more responsibility defensively,” he said. ”You’re covering a lot of space, so it’s just something you’ve got to be aware of.”

Before the season, reigning MVP Connor McDavid of Edmonton cited defense and faceoffs as areas he wanted to improve. He already has the dynamic offensive capabilities and sees that as the next step in his evolution.

”It’s more rounding out your game,” McDavid said. ”Being a defensive guy, being able to be put out there in the last two minutes to defend a lead, just to be able to be trusted by your coach out there.”

Coaches have to be able to trust their top players in all situations, particularly since the days of strict shutdown lines are dwindling.

”The systems are about defense, and everyone needs to play it,” Backstrom said. ”That’s what the mindset is – to be good defensively and offensively.”

The best defense is good puck possession because often the most productive players aren’t as sound in their own end. Columbus Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella considers it essential to make elite offensive players spend time in their defensive zone, figuring they’re more apt to try to do too much in the neutral zone and turn the puck over.

Good two-way players also have that mindset when they’re matched up against top skill guys.

”They’re so good offensively that sometimes they can forget about their defense, and that’s when you can take advantage of them,” Philadelphia Flyers No. 1 center Sean Couturier said. ”They’re thinking so much offense that once they turn the puck over they’re going to try plays to get turnovers. That’s when you can take advantage of them most of the time.”

That’s the danger of going skill on skill. Few see Calgary Flames stars Johnny Gaudreauand Sean Monahan as defensive stalwarts, but coach Glen Gulutzan continues to put them on the ice against other top lines.

Gaudreau said ”sometimes the best offense comes from playing against other top lines.” And the strategy has multiple benefits.

”It makes sure that your top guys, they’re aware that they’re out there against the other sharks, so to speak, in the league,” Gulutzan said. ”Now they’re a little more conscious defensively. And what you hope is that, through a course of a season, you’re making your guys more defensively aware and come playoff time those things will come in handy.”

Seguin said he thinks the playoffs lead to concerted defensive efforts to shut down certain players, though that largely comes from coaches leaning on their top defensemen. Hitchcock and other coaches said putting their best defensemen against opponents’ top forwards is the most important matchup no matter the situation.

Of course, it helps to have forwards who thrive on tough matchups and understand balancing priorities.

”A lot of times you’re getting matched up with better players, so I think playing offense the whole game isn’t realistic,” Toronto Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri said. ”Most of the time it’s just being in the right places and knowing where you are on the ice as opposed to chasing everybody around and that whole ‘shadow’ thing. You’ve just got to be in right areas and right zones.”

Playing responsible defense is one piece of the transition to offense, whether it’s winning board battles or faceoffs or taking the puck away. But top players are counted on and paid to score, so keeping others off the board simply isn’t good enough.

”If it’s 0-0, we’re still kind of mad as a line,” Backstrom said. ”We want to win that match. It would be nice if we could score against them.”

Russia aims for Olympic hockey gold despite turmoil

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MOSCOW (AP) — Russia can’t win Olympic hockey gold in Pyeongchang, but the ”Olympic Athletes from Russia” will have a great shot at the title.

OAR is the moniker imposed by the International Olympic Committee as part of Russia’s punishment across all sports for doping at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.

That’s likely to mean neutral-colored jerseys – though Team Russia executives are battling to keep the traditional red – but still a roster boasting some of the best players outside the NHL.

Asked if the Russians consider themselves gold medal favorites in South Korea, captain Ilya Kovalchuk said: ”We always are.”

The OAR name is no big deal for Kovalchuk. ”Everyone knows where we’re from. It doesn’t matter. The flag is in our heart.”

Kovalchuk and Pavel Datsyuk of the Detroit Red Wings are among the stars available to Russia ahead of the first Olympics since 1994 without NHL players.

The commercial power of the Moscow-based Kontinental Hockey League – fueled by Russia’s state-run oil and gas companies – has allowed it to compete financially with NHL teams for Russian talent.

Along with Kovalchuk and Datsyuk, the Russian team has forward Vadim Shipachyov, who walked out on the Las Vegas Golden Knights last month, and two-time Stanley Cup-winning defenseman Slava Voynov, who is banned from the NHL indefinitely after pleading no contest to a misdemeanor charge of domestic violence.

Russia showed its potential Thursday with a 3-1 win over Sweden – a key Olympic rival – on two goals from Sergei Kalinin in a Moscow exhibition tournament game.

Russia recorded 34 shots against 22 for Sweden in front of a passionate home crowd, many in red shirts hailing the team as ”Red Machine Reloaded” in honor of the legendary Soviet rosters. Datsyuk sat out the tournament for fitness reasons.

”We just tried to play simple and hard,” defenseman Sergei Andronov said. ”We’re trying to play every game for a victory.”

The Russians haven’t won Olympic hockey gold since 1992, when an almost entirely Russian lineup of players from the recently collapsed Soviet Union competed as the Unified Team.

Under the Team Russia name, its best result is silver in 1998. The last Olympics on home ice in Sochi were a disappointment, as Finland beat Russia 3-1 in the quarterfinals.

The Sochi Games have come back to haunt Russia, with 31 athletes across six sports banned for doping and other sanctions from the IOC.

There’s no allegation of doping by the men’s hockey team, though six women’s team players were suspended.

The key Russian whistleblower, former laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov, has stated in an affidavit that men’s hockey players were not included in a doping program as they would have been harder to keep track of across multiple clubs, and could have given the game away if they failed tests outside Russia.

Not everything has been smoothed out just yet though for Russia ahead of Pyeongchang.

The KHL leadership has yet to confirm it will release players, though any obstruction by the Russia-based league would face fierce opposition from the players and the Russian Hockey Federation leadership, which includes wealthy businessmen close to the Kremlin.

Months of uncertainty over whether Russia would be allowed to compete at all in Pyeongchang haven’t worn team morale down, coach Oleg Znarok insists.

”We’re feeling great and it’s always been great,” he said Wednesday. ”We’ve been working and getting ready. We had no doubts.”

U.S. women’s hockey team to play NWHL team in Olympic tune-up

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NEW YORK (AP) — The U.S. women’s national team will play two exhibitions against some familiar faces from the National Women’s Hockey League next month in a final tune-up for the Olympics.

The games are set for Jan. 13 and Jan. 15 at Florida Hospital Center Ice in Wesley Chapel, Florida, where the national team has been training.

Eleven players currently on the U.S. roster competed in the NWHL during the 2016-17 season, USA Hockey said Thursday. The pro league enters its third season with teams in New York, Boston, Buffalo and Stamford, Connecticut.

”(The NWHL) continues to play at an elite level and does a great job of exposing the game in different markets,” USA Hockey women’s director Reagan Carey said in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

Megan Bozek and Emily Pfalzer helped the Buffalo Beauts win the NWHL championship last March.

”The NWHL is honored to be welcomed by USA Hockey and to participate in this pair of important exhibition games,” NWHL Commissioner Dani Rylan said. ”Our players, coaches and staff are excited to have this opportunity.”

U.S. national team captain Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, Gigi Marvin, Brianna Decker, Kacey Bellamy, Alex Carpenter and Amanda Pelkey played for the Boston Pride.

Amanda Kessel (New York Riveters) and Haley Skarupa (Connecticut Whale) also played in the pro league.

Many of the players on both rosters are either ex-teammates or completed against each other in college and the pros.

”The NWHL will do its best to give the players some strong competition so they’re ready to bring home the gold in February,” Rylan said.

The U.S. team won gold at the first women’s hockey event, at the 1998 Nagano Olympics. Since then, the team has earned three silvers and a bronze in losses to Canada.

”We want to make sure the ’98 team has some company with the gold medal,” Carey said.

The Americans and Canadians will finish their six-game exhibition series with two games this weekend. The U.S. has a 1-3 record so far, but beat its rivals twice at The Four Nations Cup and won the title.

The teams have drawn good crowds in Canada and U.S. stops in Boston and St. Paul, Minnesota. They drew 9,000 flag-waving fans on Dec. 3 in a 2-1 overtime loss at the Xcel Energy Center, home of the Minnesota Wild.

”It’s been great to see so many young girls and hockey teams,” Carey said. ”You can really see the growing landscape for young girls.”

The U.S. plays Canada on Friday night in San Jose, California. The Americans wrap up the series on Sunday night at Rogers Place, home of the Edmonton Oilers, in a game televised on NHL Network.

Oilers need healthy Talbot to give them a spark during upcoming crucial stretch

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At the start of the season, the Edmonton Oilers were one of the favorites to win or at least make it to the Stanley Cup Final. But through 32 games, their season has looked more like a train-wreck than a victory parade in-waiting.

Only the Arizona Coyotes are below the Oilers in the Western Conference standings right now, which is still kind of surprising.

One of the biggest reasons they’ve struggled in the first third of the season is because of goalie Cam Talbot. First, he wasn’t very good at the start of the season. Talbot wasn’t providing his team with the solid goaltending he had given them last year.

Second, just as he was rounding into form, he suffered a upper-body injury that’s kept him out of the lineup since the end of November.

Prior to getting hurt, the 30-year-old had won three games in a row while allowing two goals in each of those outings. During his absence, Laurent Brossoit went 3-4-0. The Oilers backup netminder gave up three goals or more in four of those seven games.

On Friday, the Oilers (finally) got some positive news, as they activated their starting netminder from the injured list. According to head coach Todd McLellan, he’ll be between the pipes for Saturday’s game against the Minnesota Wild. Now, they just have to hope that he can pick up where he left off before landing on IR.

Earlier this season, Canadiens goaltender Carey Price was in a similar situation to Talbot’s. Price was awful out of the gate and the Canadiens were struggling. Nothing was going right for them. But after missing roughly three weeks with an injury, Price returned in tip-top shape. Even though Montreal is still outside of a playoff spot right now, they play of their goaltender has allowed them to get back into the race.

McLellan has to hope that Talbot’s “break” allowed him to get better and re-focus on the task at hand. Connor McDavid is still the face of the franchise, but he clearly can’t get the job done by himself.

Edmonton is about to jump into a crucial stretch of their season. After tomorrow’s game in Minnesota, they’ll play seven of their next eight games on home ice, where they have an ugly 5-10-0 record. If they want to get back in the playoff hunt, they’ll need to start racking up the wins at Rogers Place.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.