Trevor Gillies returns from suspension, lays dirty hit on Cal Clutterbuck

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Last night saw the return of Islanders enforcer and all-around bad seed Trevor Gillies. Gillies missed the last nine games after being suspended for his part in the brawl that erupted between the Islanders and Penguins. Gillies was banned for delivering a disgusting elbow to the head of Penguins forward Eric Tangradi. Upon being removed from the game, Gillies stood at the exit door taunting Tangradi while he laid on the ice.

With that brand of charm and manner of play, Gillies returned to the ice against the Minnesota Wild. Early in the second period, Wild forward Cal Clutterbuck delivered a questionable hit to Isles rookie Justin DiBenedetto. After that hit, Gillies then checked Clutterbuck up high around his head unknowingly putting Clutterbuck down on the ice. Clutterbuck received a minor penalty for boarding DiBenedetto while Gillies received a five-minute major for checking from behind and a game misconduct. You can see video of the play here on YouTube.

In the video you can see that Gillies goes out of his way to hit Clutterbuck in the head. If Gillies feels like he was doing right by his teammate who had just taken an iffy hit, that’s his opinion. Gillies said as much afterwards.

“There was no intent to injure him. I saw him hit DiBo and I just made a hit on him. That was it.”

Of course, his way of meting out justice was completely wrong. Considering this was the perfect instance of a Rule 48 violation for a blow to the head, expect Colin Campbell to weigh in in a big way on this hit.

The key here, of course, is seeing if it’s right to separate the incident itself from the perpetrator. In this case, it’s virtually impossible to do that. Gillies has shown that he’s a heartless goon and has no qualms about delivering a hit that may or may not injure an opponent. He showed zero remorse in what he did to Eric Tangradi and while his quotes after tonight’s game show that he’s at least aware he made a mistake, you figure he’s saying all the right things so as to make it appear that he made a mistake.

On Versus,  Mike Milbury did not hold back in his thoughts on Trevor Gillies and what he brings to the ice in hockey.

“I love guys that play tough hockey but this is a guy that doesn’t get it. This is a guy that crosses the line and doesn’t know what’s appropriate and what’s inappropriate behavior in a hockey game and that’s a dangerous, dangerous thing. When you have guys like that it’s not just to win a hockey game, it’s to get rid of some personal demons that he has in his own background. It becomes scary.

“The league has to step in here and the Islanders general manger, the Islanders coach, and the Islanders owner have to figure this out. They’ve embarrassed themselves here one time too many. OK you have an incident, that happens from time to time, but Garth Snow should be embarrassed for his team and so should Jack Capuano. They happen to be friends of mine. I hope they get it and if they don’t get it, I hope the league gives it to them.”

If that wasn’t harsh enough, Milbury capped it off saying this:

“He’s not a hockey player. This guy is not a hockey player. Get him out of the league as soon as you can. When you have that, he’s not trying to play hockey, he’s trying to make a personal statement.”

Now the ball is in the court of Colin Campbell. Now he’s got a guy who is fresh off a nine game suspension for laying one scummy hit on an unsuspecting player’s head and in his first game back from that suspension, a suspension that was supposed to teach him a lesson about what not to do in the NHL, he goes out and does the same brand of thing that got him in trouble just two weeks ago.

Gillies is now a repeat offender and considering how harsh his first punishment was you’d have to think that this time around things would be about the same, if not worse, for Gillies. Of course, with  how fickle punishments end up being your guess is as good as ours  is as far as what will happen. He might get the book thrown at him and sat down for 15 games, or he might get the seemingly standard three or four games for violating Rule 48. The lack of black and white rulings in these matters make it impossible to figure it all out.

The league missed out on their chance to really send a message about reckless play before, whether or not they decide to heed Mario Lemieux’s words this time around will certainly put the league under the microscope when it comes to giving a damn about player’s safety and weeding out the bad seeds. The league cannot afford either from their own standpoint or a PR standpoint to come up light on this. Dropping the hammer on Gillies will send the right message.

In prepping Vegas for draft, McPhee cites ‘outstanding’ record with Caps

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George McPhee is a veteran of the draft process, having presided over nearly 20 during his time with the Caps.

This year, he’s in a unique position — spearheading the first draft for the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights — and he suggests his past success should set him up well for the future.

“I think we have an outstanding staff,” McPhee said, per the club website. “I think our draft record in my previous job was outstanding.”

Assessments like these are always up for debate — draft success is somewhat subjective, and there are inevitably a bunch of misses among the hits — but McPhee does have a strong history of drafting and developing players, and could point to the current Capitals as validation to his claim.

The active roster has 11 players that were original draftees (Braden Holtby, Philip Grubauer, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Tom Wilson, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Nicklas Backstrom), with goalies Holtby and Grubauer — both fourth-round picks — emerging as pretty good finds.

McPhee’s strategy? Go big or go home.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever played it safe going to the draft,” he explained. “I believe in swinging for the fences, and trying to find someone who can be a real difference maker. The difference makers are those core guys on your team, those 4-5 players that become elite players are the ones that can really take you a long way.

“They are hard to find. Those are the ones I’d like to swing for.”

At this year’s draft in Chicago, Vegas should have a shot at landing an impact guy. The club will have the same odds of winning the lottery as the team that finishes with the third fewest points this season and, though it’s considered a weak draft overall, there is some serious talent at the top end.

WHL Brandon’s Nolan Patrick, QMJHKL Halifax’s Nico Hischier and OHL Windsor’s Gabriel Vilardi are all considered high-end prospects and — importantly — all three play center. For a team that’s building from scratch, filling that position is of vital importance.

McPhee acknowledged this is a weaker draft, but contended those are the ones “where the best teams excel.” He theorizes that with fewer quality players available, the strongest teams emerge with the good ones.

He also shared how the Golden Knights plan to land ’em.

“We’re really aggressive,” he said. “We try not to play it safe very often.”

B’s ink prospects Fitzgerald, Johansson to entry-level deals

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Boston has brought a pair of talented youngsters into the fold.

Forward Ryan Fitzgerald, who just wrapped his senior season at Boston College, and defenseman Emil Johansson — who spent this year playing in the Swedish Hockey League — have signed their entry-level deals and will begin playing with the club’s AHL affiliate in Providence.

Fitzgerald — who’s father, Tom, is the assistant GM in New Jersey — scored 31 points in 34 games for BC this year, serving as an alternate captain. He was originally taken by Boston in the fourth round (120th overall) of the ’13 draft.

Johansson, 20, was a seventh-round pick in ’14 that’s panned out pretty well. He scored a career-high seven goals and 17 points in 49 games for Djugardens this year, appearing in three playoff contests.

 

 

Ducks send Stoner to AHL on conditioning loan

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Clayton Stoner is going to play some hockey again.

The Anaheim Ducks announced today that the 32-year-old defenseman has been assigned to AHL San Diego on a long-term injury conditioning loan.

Stoner has not played since Nov. 15. He had abdominal surgery in December, at which point the Ducks said he’d miss an additional 4-6 weeks. But a setback in his recovery extended the time frame.

“The setback was kind of just me trying to get back maybe a little bit quicker than I should,” Stoner told the O.C. Register recently. “And I wasn’t ready. Things have been good here for a little while so hopefully I’m just trying to string some days together and earn a spot back and kind of prove that I can be healthy and stay healthy.”

Panthers didn’t want to trade Crouse, but Bolland contract was ‘strangling’ them

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Interesting note here from Florida head coach Tom Rowe who, last night, watched former Panther prospect Lawson Crouse play in Florida for the first time since being traded to Arizona.

Crouse was the price the Panthers had to pay to unload Dave Bolland‘s contract on the Coyotes last summer. Rowe wasn’t involved with the Bolland signing, but was involved in dumping the contract — he was Florida’s assistant GM at the time the deal went down.

His take, from the Miami Herald:

Florida traded Crouse to the Coyotes last summer as part of a salary cap dump; Arizona took on the final three years and $16.5-million of Dave Bolland’s contract in exchange for a top prospect — in this case, Crouse.

“We got criticized for giving up on a great young prospect but we had to,” Rowe said. “That contract was strangling us, cap-wise. …

“When we traded him, our scouts were furious. I’m not going to lie. But we had to do something and that was trade Lawson. I’m sure, to this day, he’s still sour about it.”

Crouse, who Florida took 11th overall at the 2015 draft, has five goals and 11 points through 64 games this year, averaging 11:50 TOI per night. Those numbers don’t jump off the page, but they do need to be taken in context — Crouse is only 19 years old, and the 10th-youngest player to play in the NHL this season.

Bolland, meanwhile, hasn’t played since December of 2015, due to a variety of back and ankle injuries. His time in Florida was largely forgettable — after scoring the $27.5 million pact, he played just 78 games in a Panthers uniform, scoring 28 points.  It’s widely regarded as the worst deal GM Dale Tallon has made during his time with the organization.

Shortly after taking on his contract, Coyotes GM John Chayka said Bolland wouldn’t be healthy for the “foreseeable future.” The 30-year-old has two years remaining on his deal, at $5.5 million annually.