Mike Gillis

Canucks GM Mike Gillis not pleased with hit on Mason Raymond, speaks out on injury

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The discussion of Mason Raymond’s neck injury has dominated today’s off day before Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. Raymond left Game 6 after taking a crunching hit from Bruins defenseman Johnny Boychuk and the hit left Raymond with fractured vertebra in his neck, an injury that had the medical staff sending him off to Mass General Hospital to be treated and examined further. Raymond will likely miss the next three to four months of action thanks to the injury.

Today, Canucks GM Mike Gillis spoke with the media in Vancouver after Canucks practice and explained his view of the hit and vented his frustration with the situation plainly. When asked if he spoke with the league about the play, Gillis let loose.

“I haven’t had any discussion with them after last night. All I can tell you is my observations of the hit. I didn’t see the puck around him. I thought the Boston player used a can opener and drove him into the boards with enough force to break his back. That’s what I saw.”

The “can opener” move is a quick and subtly dirty one so Gillis’ description of the hit is eyebrow-raising on its own. When pressed to compare this play with that of what happened to Nathan Horton thanks to Aaron Rome’s major interference penalty that saw Horton knocked out of the playoffs with a concussion and Rome suspended for what amounts to be the length of the series, Gillis didn’t quite take the bait.

Q. Mike, given that, then, and given the suspension earlier to Aaron Rome and the heavy hand the league brought down, are you expecting any kind of supplementary discipline, and if there isn’t, will you be disappointed that there isn’t?

MIKE GILLIS: I’m not in charge of supplementary discipline, so I’m not the right person to ask about that.

I think when you see the severity of that injury, the way our doctors described it to me, very, very dangerous, and, you know, I’m always disappointed when you see any player get injured. I was asking Lawrence when the last time we saw a broken back occur in the NHL. I can’t recall it other than an incident here a number of years ago.

But it wasn’t a chipped vertebrae or cracked vertebrae. It’s broken through the belly of his vertebrae, so it’s a very serious injury. You never want to see any player on any team have an injury like that.

One of the curious sights through that entire situation last night was seeing Raymond helped off the ice without the assistance of a stretcher or a backboard or anything else meant to help keep the neck safe. Gillis did have an explanation of sorts for that.

“I don’t know why. I’m unsure. I think because he began to move his feet and he had feeling. We wondered about that as well, but I haven’t had the chance to ask Mike. But our trainers are excellent trainers, so I’m sure they felt there was no risk at that point because of what he was saying and what he was doing on the ice,” Gillis said.

We’re not about to play armchair doctor here but given how serious the injury is (Raymond is still at the hospital in Boston waiting to be fitted with a corset and cleared for travel so he can fly home) it’s stunning to know that he was able to get up and do that. At the very least, we’re glad to hear that the prognosis is good for Raymond and while he may be out of action until November, it looks like he’ll be all right to play again at some point.

The Canucks are going to miss him in Game 7 and Jannik Hansen will likely have his hands full trying to replicate what Raymond brings to that line with Chris Higgins and Ryan Kesler. As for the the Canucks being upset that the league isn’t taking a look into taking action against Boychuk, it’s a tough play to go wild about as a person with no ties to either team.

Canucks fans and brass want Boychuk to sit down and that makes sense for them, but it’s hard to come up with a reason for doing so in this case. The result was ugly but that doesn’t necessarily mean that something illegal happened.

WATCH LIVE: Bruins at Capitals – Wednesday Night Rivalry

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Even with two games in hand, some might be surprised to see the Washington Capitals tied with the Boston Bruins in standings points in early December.

That’s the case on Wednesday Night Rivalry, as a somewhat up-and-down Capitals team (which is glad to welcome T.J. Oshie back) hosts a Bruins squad that’s riding a three-game winning streak.

It should be an interesting matchup on NBCSN, which you can also watch online or via the NBC Sports App.

Click here for the livestream.

Rangers mostly dodge a bullet: Nash only expected to miss a week

NEW YORK, NY - DECEMBER 06: Rick Nash #61 of the New York Rangers moves the puck along the boards during the second period against the New York Islanders at the Barclays Center on December 6, 2016 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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No one wants to hear “It could be worse” when injuries are really piling up, but … uh, it could be worse for the New York Rangers.

At least, it could have been worse for Rick Nash. The team announced that he’s only expected to miss about a week after undergoing an MRI related to a groin injury.

It’s been a redemptive season for Nash, so it’s nice to see that it isn’t getting totally derailed. Granted, injuries like these can linger even if a guy returns to the lineup, so we’ll need to see if he gets back to 100 percent.

The Rangers certainly aren’t at full-strength right now. Their laundry list of injured forwards is quite daunting, even for a team with vaunted depth at that position:

(It sounds like Pavel Buchnevich is still quite a ways from returning, sadly.)

Alain Vigneault sells the biggest benefit of these issues: opportunities for other players – including Oscar Lindberg – to step up.

“I just think this is part of the NHL and it is what it is. It’s there and you deal with it,” Vigneault said . “You get a lot of players at different times that wish that they can get more ice time to prove that they can have a bigger role and that they can do more. Well, no better time than the present for us right now.”

Double whammy to Habs centers: Galchenyuk, Desharnais out 6-8 weeks

MONTREAL, QC - NOVEMBER 08:  Alex Galchenyuk #27 of the Montreal Canadiens looks on during the warmup prior to the NHL game against the Boston Bruins at the Bell Centre on November 8, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Montreal Canadiens defeated the Boston Bruins 3-2.  (Photo by Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
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Thanks to two knee injuries, the Montreal Canadiens suddenly seem pretty slim at center.

The team announced two unfortunate and strangely similar timelines for important centers: both Alex Galchenyuk and David Desharnais are expected to miss six-to-eight weeks with their knee issues.

It will be a challenge for Michel Therrien to make everything work, to the point where you wonder if maybe he’ll move a player from the wing to center (hey, Max Pacioretty DOES want an elevated role, if you believe the rumors about discontent).

Tomas Plekanec becomes that much more important to the Canadiens, and one might assume that Andrew Shaw may go back to the middle. LNH.com’s Arpon Basu listed some options, in case you’re more of a visual learner:

Yeah, not ideal.

The road ahead

It isn’t all bad news when you look at Montreal’s overall situation.

For one thing, they gave themselves a nice cushion, as they currently lead the Atlantic Division by five points. With four games in a row and six of seven at home, they may be able to manage these tough losses pretty well in the short-term.

The real challenges might come late in December and early in January. They play seven road games in a row – though with a break around New Year’s – and nine of 10 away from Montreal from Dec. 23 – Jan. 12.

While they’ve suffered some minor bumps in the road so far, this is their truest test of 2016-17. It should be interesting to see how they handle this.

Pre-game reading: On the Isles and John Tavares

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— Up top, that time John Scott was named MVP of the All-Star Game. The big man announced his retirement today.

— New York Post writer Brett Cyrgalis believes the Islanders must do a better job of surrounding John Tavares with talent. Otherwise, Tavares might decide to leave. The Isles are certainly going to be an interesting team to watch. There’s all sorts of speculation that the new ownership group wants to bolster the front office, with former Canucks executives Mike Gillis and Laurence Gilman hearing their names floated as potential hires. Tavares can become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2018, and just like Steven Stamkos not too long ago, other markets already have their eyes on him. (New York Post)

— Speaking of the Canucks, GM Jim Benning will not be approaching any of his players about waiving their no-trade clauses. That includes Alex Burrows, Jannik Hansen, and Alex Edler, three veterans who could theoretically be dealt to help a rebuild. “These are the guys we want to keep and build our young players around,” said Benning, who’s said similar things in the past. (The Province)

— Elliotte Friedman’s latest “30 Thoughts” includes a prediction that the NHL will be in Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics, but it remains to be seen about the 2018 Games in South Korea. “For the first time, I’m not so sure. The NHL does not like the IOC and the owners don’t like the toll this season’s compressed schedule is taking on the players.” Which begs a pretty good question — If the NHL skips out in 2018, will the IOC even allow NHLers back in 2022? (Sportsnet)

— ESPN columnist Scott Burnside thinks the NHL should take a pass on the 2018 Games. “When we talk about the Olympics in terms of growing the game, what game are we talking about growing? The NHL game and the Olympic one are sometimes mutually exclusive. Forget the time difference and the difficulties of scheduling Olympic games during North American prime time. The more important question — and ultimate incentive for owners — is: Did the Olympic games in Japan, Italy and Russia do anything to promote the NHL game globally? The answer is pretty simple: No.” (ESPN)

— Good news about Craig Cunningham, who’s been speaking with his Tucson Roadrunners teammates via FaceTime. “It was nice to see him smile. He was cracking jokes just as if he were here the next day. It was pretty funny. He said he wanted us to come pick him up and take him to the rink. He was joking around. Stuff like that.” (KVOA)

Enjoy the games!