Honda NHL SuperSkills

Northwest Division Watch (February 4th)

With the All-Star break over, it’s time for the NHL playoff races to intensify. Every week, we’ll provide updates for each division’s outlook. The biggest contenders and/or closest races will receive the greatest amount of attention.

Bold = playoff contender; Italics = likely lottery fodder.

Northwest Division outlook (February 4-10)

1. Vancouver Canucks (33-10-9 for 75 pts; 52 Games Played)

Current streak: Four wins in a row.

Week ahead: Three home games: vs. Chicago (Friday), vs. Ottawa (Monday), vs. Anaheim (Wednesday).

Thoughts: The Canucks need not worry about their division foes; their main competition is with the Philadelphia Flyers for the Presidents Trophy right now.

2. Minnesota Wild (27-19-5 for 59 pts; 51 GP)

Current streak: Three wins in a row.

Week ahead: @ Phoenix (Sat), home vs. Colorado (Wed)

Thoughts: As of this writing, the Wild are the seventh ranked team in the conference. They’ve gotten there in a fairly efficient 51 games, so even if their light week makes them drop back into the pack, they are in fairly solid shape. The next seven days may lack for quantity, but they need to wrestle as many points from those two playoff contenders as possible.

3. Calgary Flames (26-21-6 for 58 pts; 53 GP)

Current streak: Six wins in a row.

Week ahead: Three home games – vs. Los Angeles (Sat), vs. Chicago (Mon), vs. Ottawa (Wed).

Thoughts: Counting next Friday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, the Flames will play their next four contests in Calgary. They’ve jumped back into playoff contention, but need every point they can get.

4. Colorado Avalanche (25-20-6 for 56 pts; 51 GP)

Current streak: Three game losing streak.

Week ahead: Home vs. Anaheim (Sat), @ Phoenix (Mon), @ Minnesota (Wed).

Thoughts: The heat is on Colorado right now. The Flames passed them by in the division but played two more games and only hold a two point lead. Meanwhile Craig Anderson & Co. get three cracks on the bottom three teams in the West’s top eight. I’d say they can sleep well at night going a Meatloafian two out of three in those contests.

5. Edmonton Oilers (15-27-8 for 38 pts; 50 GP)

Current streak: Two straight losses.

Week ahead: Three road games – vs. St. Louis (Fri), vs. Columbus (Sat), Nashville (Mon) and one home game vs. Chicago (Wed).

Thoughts: Anyone want Sheldon Souray? No? Oh … OK, then.

Jason Demers tweets #FreeTorres, gets mocked

Los Angeles Kings v San Jose Sharks - Game One

Following his stunning 41-game suspension, it looks like Raffi Torres has at least one former teammate in his corner.

We haven’t yet seen how the San Jose Sharks or the NHLPA are reacting to the league’s hammer-dropping decision to punish Torres for his Torres-like hit on Jakob Silfverberg, but Jason Demers decided to put in a good word for Torres tonight.

It was a simple message: “#FreeTorres.”

Demers, now of the Dallas Stars, was once with Torres and the Sharks. (In case this post’s main image didn’t make that clear enough already.)

Perhaps this will become “a thing” at some point.

So far, it seems like it’s instead “a thing (that people are making fun of).”

… You get the idea.

The bottom line is that there are some who either a) blindly support Torres because they’re Sharks fans or b) simply think that the punishment was excessive.

The most important statement came from the Department of Player Safety, though.

Bruins list Chara on IR, for now

Zdeno Chara

Those who feel as though the Boston Bruins may rebound – John Tortorella, maybe? – likely rest some of their optimism on the back of a healthy Zdeno Chara.

It’s possible that he’s merely limping into what may otherwise be a healthy 2015-16 season, but it’s definitely looking like a slow start thanks to a lower-body injury.

The latest sign of a bumpy beginning came on Monday, as several onlookers (including’s Joe Haggerty) pointed out that Chara was listed on injured reserve.

As Haggerty notes, that move is retroactive to Sept. 24, so his status really just opens up options for the Bruins.

Still … it’s a little unsettling, isn’t it?

The Bruins likely realize that they need to transition away from their generational behemoth, but last season provided a stark suggestion that may not be ready yet. Trading Dougie Hamilton and losing Dennis Seidenberg to injury only make them more dependent on the towering 38-year-old.

This isn’t really something to panic about, yet it might leave a few extra seats open on the Bruins’ bandwagon.