NHL’s statement regarding Colin Campbell does nothing to help the situation

After this morning’s blockbuster story about NHL senior executive VP and Director of Hockey Operations Colin Campbell being found to be a bit of a complainer regarding how calls have gone against his son, current Bruins forward, Gregory Campbell as well as his thoughts on Bruins center Marc Savard being the biggest little faker in the NHL, the NHL got their act together and issued a statement on things.

This morning I reached out to Senior Vice President of Public Relations & Media Gary Meagher via e-mail for the NHL’s statement on the matter, and he passed along this statement from NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly:

“As Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations for the National Hockey League, Colin Campbell is required to analyze and assess, candidly and directly, the performance of every member of the Hockey Operations Department — including those of all on-ice officials. He also is required to execute the direction of the 30 Clubs with regard to standards of on-ice rule enforcement as well as on-ice player conduct. In the execution of those rigorous and challenging duties over 12 seasons, Colin has been thorough, thoughtful, professional and scrupulous; his integrity has been impeccable, and he has no role whatsoever in matters pertaining to games in which his son plays. Colin Campbell has the complete confidence and support of the National Hockey League, as do all members of the Hockey Operations Department.”

This, of course, is a well thought out and reasoned response from the NHL. What’s missing here is how Campbell’s actions in helping to oversee the league’s officials plays a severe role in this entire matter. After all, it was Campbell who was in the ear of the then director of officiating Stephen Walkom concerning at least two instances where he felt his son Gregory was wronged by an official, one of whom is now without a job.

To make things clear here, Colin Campbell has always recused himself from ruling on matters that pertain to the team his son Gregory plays for, but it’s been made abundantly clear that he’s in the ear of those in charge of officiating about games that involve his son. That looks especially poor on both the league and on Campbell.

There’s also the matter of his feelings regarding his former player as New York Rangers head coach, Marc Savard.  When Savard got his head nearly taken off by Matt Cooke last year, it doesn’t look very good to be the guy that let Cooke get by without a suspension. That’s not saying that Campbell didn’t suspend Cooke on purpose here, we’re just saying that it looks really, really bad. Also making things look really bad: Colin Campbell’s take on things courtesy of TSN.

Contacted by TSN for his reaction, Campbell said: “For me, it’s much ado about nothing. Stephen and I would have banter back and forth and Stephen knows I’m a (hockey) dad venting and both of us knowing it wouldn’t go any further than that. Stephen would laugh at me. The game in question (when Gregory Campbell was penalized late in the Atlanta-Florida game) wasn’t on TV and I was asking Stephen to find out for me if it was a soft call. That’s all there ever was to it. The (refs) working that game are still in the league, aren’t they? Stephen handled the officials, just like Terry Gregson does now, and I’ve got a lot of emails to those guys asking about this soft call or that soft call and that’s in a lot of games. I’m not ultimately responsible for the (on-ice) officials, that’s Terry Gregson’s responsibility, but I have to answer to GMs on these calls.”

Campbell’s glossing over the major point at hand here and focusing on just one problematic take on this entire situation. It’s a controlled, public relations-friendly take on things and that’s to be expected in such a situation. Playing it off all folksy may be his manner, but in this situation it’s not the right move. Campbell knows what the big deal is here, he’s just not going to talk about that. Not yet, anyhow.

We’re not calling for heads to roll here, we’re just hoping the NHL can see things for how they look to the common fan who might want to enjoy the game without wondering whether or not their team or any of their players are on a private black list. Appearances, in this case, mean quite a bit.

The Predators built the NHL’s best defense, and it is going to be around for a while

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The Nashville Predators are preparing to play in their first Stanley Cup Final after marching through the Western Conference playoffs.

Their appearance in this year’s Final is being looked at as a little bit of a surprise because of their place in the standings among the NHL’s playoff teams (16th out of 16 during the regular season) but this was still a team that was looked at before the season as a legitimate contender. They had a disappointing first half that kind poured some cold water on the preseason hype, but since starting 17-16-7 the Predators have put together a rather dominating 36-17-5 stretch (playoffs included) since the first week of January.

They have a defensive unit that rivals any other in the NHL to thank for a lot of that success.

The addition of P.K. Subban over the summer to a group that already included Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm has given the Predators one of the most dominant top-four groupings in the league, and they all perfectly fit the modern NHL game.

They can call skate at a high level, they can all move the puck, they can all contribute offensively. And they can all play major minutes.

Through the first three rounds of the playoffs coach Peter Laviolette has leaned heavily on that quartet, giving each of them an average of 23 minutes of ice-time per game, meaning that just about every time you look at the TV one of those four players is going to be patrolling the ice. Last week I looked at the ice-time distribution of Nashville’s Stanley Cup final opponent, the Pittsburgh Penguins, and how injuries (specifically the one to Kris Letang) has forced coach Mike Sullivan to take a defense by committee approach where all six defenders on a given night are getting almost the exact same ice-time. Each one plays roughly 30-35 percent of the game in what is a rather unconventional approach for a Stanley Cup Finalist.

In Nashville, it is a little different with each of the top-four playing more than 40 percent of the game, while the bottom pairing of Yannick Weber and Matt Irwin (two solid defensemen in their own right) are only playing about 20 percent of the game … or an average of about 11 minutes per game.

Following their Game 7 win against the Ottawa Senators, Penguins forward Chris Kunitz referred to Nashville’s defense as having “four Erik Karlssons,” and while that might be a little bit of an exaggeration (Karlsson is the NHL’s best defenseman and there probably are not four other defensemen in the league even close to him) it is at least telling as to how much respect this unit has around the league and how good they are.

But what should be a terrifying thought for the rest of the Western Conference is that this unit is going to be around for quite a while and still in the prime of their careers

When looking at the top-four, Subban is the “old man” of the group currently at age 28. They are also all signed for at least two more seasons beyond this one at a combined cap hit of just a little over $19 million per season.

That is a group that contains two of the top-six offensive defensemen in the league (Subban and Josi) over the past three seasons and two of the best shot suppression defensemen (Ekholm and Ellis) over the same stretch (out of more than 250 defensemen to play at least 1,000 minutes of 5-on-5 hockey since 2014-15, Ekholm is seventh in shot attempts against per 60 minutes; Ellis is 45th).

When you combine their ability with the fact that quartet has an average age of just 26.7 years old it is an incredible bargain against the salary cap.

They are backbone of this team, and a big reason why no matter what happens over the next weeks on the ice the Predators should be a formidable contender in the Western Conference for the foreseeable future.

Here are your officials for the 2017 Stanley Cup Final

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The NHL has announced its officials for the 2017 Stanley Cup Final between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Nashville Predators.

They are as follows…

Referees: Wes McCauley, Brad Meier, Dan O’Halloran, Kevin Pollock

Linesmen: Scott Cherrey, Shane Heyer, Brad Kovalchik, Brian Murphy

Overall it’s a pretty experienced group of officials as O’Halloran, Pollock and Meier are among the eight most experienced officials the NHL has in terms of games called in their careers.

McCauley is near the top of the NHL in terms of penalties called per game, while Pollock is near the bottom of the league and seems to fit more into the “let them play” style of officiating. O’Halloran and Meier are not much higher, so you probably should not expect this to turn into a special teams series.

Of course, no matter who the referees are, by the end of Game 2 most of the coaches, players and fans from each side will probably not be happy with any of them.

All referee data via Scouting The Refs

 

Blackhawks sign Michal Kempny to one-year contract

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The Chicago Blackhawks announced on Saturday morning that they have signed defenseman Michael Kempny to a one-year contract that will cover the 2017-18 season.

The 26-year-old Kempny was a restricted free agent this summer. Financial terms of the deal are not yet known.

During the 2016-17 season, Kempny’s first in the NHL, he appeared in 62 games for the Blackhawks and scored two goals to go with eight assists.

With Kempny added back into the mix for next season the Blackhawks now have seven defensemen under contract as Kempny joins Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Gustav Forsling, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Michal Rozsival.

Veterans Brian Campbell and Johnny Oduya are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1.

 

Canucks GM wants Miller back, bringing rebuild into question again

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For one fine trade deadline, it seemed like the Vancouver Canucks and GM Jim Benning saw the light.

They actually moved veterans for assets, and interesting ones in that. They were, gasp, considered one of the winners of the trade deadline. There was the indication that a rebuild might finally be in action. Better late than never, right?

Well … maybe that was just a brief reprieve.

The Vancouver Province’s Ben Kuzma reports that Benning threw the word “competitive” around when describing why he wants to re-sign 37-year-old Ryan Miller and why he isn’t looking to trade valued defenseman Chris Tanev and declining blueliner Alex Edler.

Sensible if debatable

His reluctance regarding moving the two defensemen is easier to understand. Tanev, 27, is in his prime at a nice cap hit ($4.45 million through 2019-20). A competitive team would want him, and if Benning is convinced the Canucks are close to being just that, then it makes sense.

Edler staying is a little simpler. He has a no-trade clause and doesn’t want to go.

Now, one can argue that Tanev would be best served being moved for high-quality pieces. And perhaps Benning should at least try to convince Edler to accept a trade.

A strange direction in net

But Miller?

“As we’re transitioning these young players into our lineup, I feel that if we have solid goaltending on a night-to-night basis, we can be competitive,” Benning said Thursday, according to Kuzma.

Now, that story discusses why Miller may or may not accept a return, but one would guess that he won’t have a ton of offers. At least not offers that would involve a chance for more “platoon” or even starter-type work rather than explicitly labeling him a backup.

Really, that’s beside the point, because it’s confounding that Vancouver wouldn’t want to go in a younger direction.

You can read that sort of discussion as the Canucks once again wanting to have their cake and eat it too. They seemingly want to “reload” instead of “rebuild.”

Perhaps there’s some smoke-screening going on here. Maybe Benning’s more interested in moving parts than he lets on; it could be that he wants to drive up Tanev’s price by playing coy about moving him.

Still, on their face, the comments don’t exactly inspire confidence for a fan base that must be getting a little irritated by management that, to many, seems delusional about this team’s potential.