Brendan Shanahan

Colin Campbell to step down as league disciplinarian, Brendan Shanahan to replace him


The days of feeling as if the NHL is being run as if a shadow government with conflicts of interest existing in a hush-hush manner are coming to an end.

Colin Campbell, the Senior VP of Hockey Operations for the NHL, will be stepping down from his position as the league disciplinarian at the end of the season. Gone will be the talk of conflicts of interest and perhaps gone with him will be the cloud of mystery that surrounds any and all decisions on punishment (or non-punishment) of players and the “Wheel Of Justice” means that decisions are handed out.

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Campbell won’t be stepping down from his VP position, he’ll just be relinquishing his duties as the judge, jury, and executioner of player discipline issues. While that job unto itself is a thankless one with GMs and players around the league constantly in your ear, emails revealed that Campbell was taking advantage of his position in the league to potentially influence calls in favor of his son Gregory, currently with the Boston Bruins. Campbell also lashed out against referees for not calling out dives. Marc Savard caught Campbell’s ire in one email in particular calling him “the biggest faker going.”

Perhaps the breaking point for Campbell came thanks to a radio appearance in April when he was questioned by TSN Radio’s James Cybulski about his decision to not suspend Raffi Torres for his hit on Brent Seabrook during the Canucks first round series against Chicago. Campbell went on a tirade against Cybulski and was angered at having his take on the play and the situation questioned. Campbell sounded like a guy who was at his wits end after a year of having his abilities questioned and the very apparent conflict of interest consistently being discussed. That conflict of interest even spurred a column before the start of the Stanley Cup finals posing some nonsensical conspiracy theories from one Vancouver columnist who once again called Campbell’s conflict of interest into question.

NHL VP of hockey and business operations Brendan Shanahan will take over the position as the league’s disciplinarian. Shanahan is a former all star player over 21 seasons with five different teams (New Jersey, St. Louis, Hartford, Detroit, New York Rangers). Over that time, he knows a thing or two about tough play amassing 2,489 penalty minutes as well as 656 goals and 1,354 points in what will someday be a Hall Of Fame career.

Shanahan is a smart guy and an innovative one on top of all that. What he’ll need to do is to help remove the smoky room aspect to this job and make it far more transparent and consistent. That won’t be easy with 30 GMs always wanting punishment to be tougher on other teams and easier on their own. Shanahan will have to realize that the “old boys” network that seemed to exist under Campbell won’t work anymore and that making sure to punish heinous acts on the ice get to be more understandable to the players and to the public. Getting a guy that’s not far removed from the game (Shanahan retired in 2009) helps that out because he’s got a better understanding of what’s going on out on the ice and has a better idea of the evil that lies in the hearts of some players.

Here’s to hoping this leads to a far more understanding era of punishment in the league.

Kyle Connor expected to be healthy scratch for Jets

WINNIPEG, MANITOBA - OCTOBER 23:  Goalie Cam Talbot #33 of the Edmonton Oilers pushes Kyle Connor #81 of the Winnipeg Jets  during the 2016 Tim Hortons NHL Heritage Classic hockey game on October 23, 2016 at Investors Group Field in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Jason Halstead /Getty Images)
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Jets rookie Kyle Connor played just 10:09 in Sunday’s outdoor loss to the Oilers, and tonight in Dallas it appears he’ll be a healthy scratch for the first time in his NHL career.

Connor was not among the 12 Winnipeg forwards taking line rushes this morning. The 19-year-old has just one assist in his first five games as a Jet. He’s a minus-5 and has also struggled in terms of possession, as evidenced by his 38 percent Corsi.

The 17th overall pick in the 2015 draft, Connor spent one year at the University of Michigan before leaving school to turn pro. He’s eligible to be sent to the AHL this season, something the Jets are no doubt considering.

Winnipeg has a number of potential call-ups on its farm club, including Marko Dano, Quinton Howden, Andrew Copp, Nicolas Petan, and Jack Roslovic.

Babcock’s had his fill of goalie questions, thanks

SUNRISE, FL - JUNE 26:  Head coach Mike Babcock of the Toronto Maple Leafs looks on prior to the first round of the 2015 NHL Draft at BB&T Center on June 26, 2015 in Sunrise, Florida.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Mike Babcock is aware Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good this season.

He’s also aware that Toronto’s goaltending hasn’t been good the last few seasons.

Thing is, he doesn’t want to talk about it.

“It’s five games in, isn’t it?” Babcock replied on Tuesday, when asked about the Leafs’ shaky netminding so far, specifically the play of Frederik Andersen. “Let’s just take a deep breath here.”

And here’s a transcript of what followed (courtesy Sportsnet)!

Reporter: The guy on Saturday night said the Leafs goaltending has been lousy this year.

Babcock: Who did?

Reporter: The guy on Saturday night — Don Cherry.

Babcock: Oh, OK. Well now that I know where I’m getting my facts from, here we go. Come on. Let’s move on. What’s next here? Holy [expletive].

Reporter: No, but seriously, it’s been an issue for this market probably since Ed Belfour left, and I’m wondering if there’s anything to that.

Babcock: But I’m not dealing with that. This is what I would tell you. We think we have a really good goaltender. At the World Cup I had three outstanding goaltenders, and they all talked about how much time it usually takes to get ready.

Our guy didn’t have that opportunity because of his injury. We’re real comfortable with him. Do we think he’s played as good as he’s capable of playing? No. Do we think he’s going to? Yes.

Babcock’s right to suggest it’s too early to start grading Andersen. First, there’s the adjustment from playing behind a good team in a small market (Anaheim) to playing behind a “growing team” in a massive, pressure-packed market like Toronto.

There’s also the additional pressure that came with Andersen’s acquisition price (a first- and second-round pick) and his subsequent contract extension (five years, $25 million).

The injury suffered playing for Denmark in Olympic qualifying was definitely a setback, as there’s no doubt some games for Team Europe at the World Cup of Hockey would’ve better prepared Andersen for the season.

Still, it’s hard to look at his numbers — 1-0-3, .879 save percentage, 3.63 GAA — and not be at least a little concerned.

Unless you’re Mike Babcock, that is.

Related: The list of struggling netminders is a long one, as it’s been goals galore to start the year

Elliott gets the start in return to St. Louis

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 24: Matt Stajan #18 and Lance Bouma #17 of the Calgary Flames congratulate Brian Elliott #1 after a shootout win against the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center on October 24, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Flames defeated the Blachawks 3-2 in a shootout. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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Brian Elliott will be in Calgary’s crease against his old team tonight in St. Louis.

Even though Elliott played last night in Chicago, it was an easy decision for Flames head coach Glen Gulutzan. Elliott had easily his best game of the season against the Blackhawks, stopping 31 of 33 shots in a 3-2 shootout victory. The 31-year-old turned away all seven Chicago shooters in the breakaway competition, helping the Flames to just their second win of the young season.

“I definitely wanted that one,” Elliott told reporters afterwards. “We haven’t been playing like we wanted to and the guys came out and had a heck of an effort.”

Elliott started 164 games for the Blues during his five years in St. Louis. Last season, he backstopped them to their first conference final since 2001. He was then traded to Calgary in June, paving the way for Jake Allen to become the full-time starter in St. Louis.

Related: The list of struggling goalies is a long one

Crosby on track to make season debut tonight

NEWARK, NJ - JANUARY 30: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins waits for a face-off against the 
New Jersey Devils during the third period at the Prudential Center on January 30, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)
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Yesterday, Sidney Crosby participated in a full-contact practice.

Today, it appears he’ll make his season debut when the Penguins host the Panthers tonight in Pittsburgh.

“He had a strong practice this morning,” head coach Mike Sullivan said, per the club. “Everything is pointing in the right direction. If he’s comfortable, he could play.”

Crosby has missed just six games due to the concussion he sustained during practice on Oct. 7. Given his history with concussions, if he plays tonight, it has to be considered a best-case scenario. Certainly, there had been fear he could be out much longer.

For the record, Crosby told reporters he’ll be a game-time decision.