2011 NHL Entry Draft - Round One

Shanahan explains how he’ll approach his new role as league disciplinarian

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There are plenty of things to look forward to next season. Will the Bruins be able to repeat? Will the Canucks be able to take the next step? Will all of the Panthers’ changes make a difference in the standings? The list goes on and on. But one of the most interesting changes has nothing to do with an individual team. How will Brendan Shanahan do as the NHL’s new head disciplinarian? It’s an important question that will shape the game as much as any individual play, player, or team on the ice next season.

Since the moment it was announced he’d be taking over for Colin Campbell, Shanahan has explained the importance of communication at all levels. Not only is it important to make the right decisions for each possible suspension, but it’s important that everyone knows what goes into each decision.

From his introductory press conference:

“I think communicating with the players, I think communicating with my peers at the NHL, and I think communicating with the NHLPA and some of my friends there. I think it’s just a matter of really building a consensus, moving towards next season, using the next few months to sort of prepare myself for when the season starts.

But I absolutely think that in this day and age constant communication is important. I remember as a player you really don’t think about supplemental discipline until it’s happening to you.”

Part of the communication process will be the transparency of the suspension process. Time and time again, fans and media members alike have been dumbfounded with the league’s decision making process revolving around controversial plays. Part of Shanahan’s plan is to make sure everyone knows the thought process that goes into each and every hearing—whether a suspension is warranted or not. Recently he told Nicholas Cotsonika of Yahoo! Sports his plans for the upcoming season:

“You might not agree with our decision, but you’re going to understand how we got to that decision. This is not a black-and-white job. It’s not completely predictive. But over a certain amount of time, I hope that they sort of start to understand what the strike zone is.”

Hopefully people will start to understand the guidelines by the end of the season. If Shanahan plainly explains what constitutes a hit, what doesn’t, and why they made each decision, the players will be able to adjust their games accordingly. Unfortunately, just because the league office aims to be more consistent and transparent, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will immediately trickle down to the players. Suspensions will be important to send messages, but not everyone will receive the message until it happens to them.

Again Shanahan talks to Cotsonika on Yahoo! Sports:

“I’m still a big believer that one- and two- and three-game suspensions for certain infractions to certain players are really effective teaching moments. Maybe a hockey play goes bad, or there’s a play on the edge and something happens. A two- or three-game suspension has a devastating effect on them, and they change their behavior.

“There are other players that sort of seem to keep reappearing, and the communication I’ve had from players and the union—for the sake of the game and the safety of the game—those are the guys that might be dealt with a little bit harsher.”

It’ll be interesting to see what happens the first time someone delivers a questionable hit next season. Instead of spinning the “Wheel of Justice,” next year, we should get a glimpse behind the curtain for the first time ever. We’ve always been left with questions like, “What were they thinking with that suspension?” Now, we’ll replace those questions with, “I can’t believe that is why they gave him a suspension!”

Hopefully down the road, those statements will finally be replaced with, “Yep, that decision makes total sense.” Hey, we can dream, right?

After 20-game absence, Elias to make season debut for Devils

Patrik Elias
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It took a while, but Patrik Elias‘ campaign is ready to get underway.

Elias, who’s yet to play this year because of a knee injury, says he’ll be in the New Jersey lineup tonight when the Devils host the Blue Jackets at Prudential (per The Record).

The 39-year-old’s presence should provide an emotional lift in front of the home crowd.

A lifelong Devil — only Ken Daneyko and Martin Brodeur have appeared in more games — fans may be witnessing Elias’ last year in uniform. It’s fair to suggest he could be on the verge of retirement, given he’s in the last of a three-year, $16.5 million deal and will turn 40 in April.

As for tonight, it’s not yet official who Elias will play with — or how much he’ll play. He did take line rushes with Jacob Josefson and Stefan Matteau at Tuesday’s practice.

After three-game absence, Johnson back for Bolts this week

Carl Gunnarsson, Tyler Johnson
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The Lightning have a busy stretch of the schedule coming up, with three games in the next four nights.

And it sounds like they’ll get a big lineup reinforcement to help them through it.

Per LA Kings Insider — the Kings are in Tampa tonight — Bolts head coach Jon Cooper confirmed that Tyler Johnson will be back in the lineup “at some point” this week, after missing the last three games with an upper-body injury.

Johnson has been out of the lineup since taking a Dave Bolland hit on Nov. 14. The timing of the injury was lousy, especially since Johnson looked to be rounding into form — after a rough October in which he failed to score a goal and had just five points in 12 games, Johnson was playing well in November, with three goals and five points in his first six games.

There’s no denying the Bolts could use Johnson back in the mix.

The club has been ravaged by injury lately and is currently without the services of Ondrej Palat, Jonathan Drouin and Cedric Paquette at forward.

The injuries are a big reason why Tampa is off to a mediocre 10-9-3 start. That said, the team has looked good in each of its last two games — a 2-1 win over the Rangers in a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference Final, followed by a 5-0 blowout of the Ducks on Saturday.

As for when Johnson might get back in? The Bolts play tonight at home against L.A., on Friday in Washington, then back at home on Saturday against the Islanders.

Will the Bruins re-sign Loui Eriksson?

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Loui Eriksson, one of the key pieces Boston acquired in the Tyler Seguin trade, is in the last of his six-year, $25.5 million deal and will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

And, at least for now, there doesn’t appear to be much certainty about his future as a Bruin.

“I’ll never, ever comment publicly in regard to individual players and negotiations and such,” B’s GM Don Sweeney told the Boston Herald this week. “Whether (comments) come out from the other side or wherever, they’re not going to come from me.

“He’s a big part of our team and he’s off to a really good start.”

Eriksson is certainly off to a good start — nine goals and 18 points in 20 games, his highest points-per-game average (.90) since coming to Boston, and the second-highest of his career.

He’s also playing nearly 20 minutes per night, enjoying great chemistry playing alongside David Krejci and, after an injury-riddled first year as a Bruin followed by last year’s playoff miss, seems to have really found his groove.

So why the silence on the extension front?

Two weeks ago, Eriksson told the Globe his agent, J.P. Barry, hasn’t had any discussions with Sweeney about re-signing in Boston.

“There’s not much you can really do about it now,” the 30-year-old Swede explained. “I’m trying to focus on playing good and trying to help this team as much as possible. Then we’ll see what happens after this year.”

Obviously, money is a factor.

Looking ahead, Boston’s current cap crunch doesn’t project to get much lighter. The club already has $61 million in salary committed for next season (per War On Ice), and Sweeney has to be mindful of other important contracts on the horizon.

Torey Krug is a restricted free agent at year’s end, and in line for a raise on the $3.4 million he made this season. Brad Marchand will be a UFA following the ’16-17 campaign.

And you’d think Sweeney would want to keep money free to eventually sort out Boston’s defense. The blueline has been an issue this season; it’s also getting old and will likely need an injection of new blood in the near future.

There’s also the question if, should he head to free agency, Eriksson couldn’t be replaced internally. The B’s are flush with young wingers — Jimmy Hayes, Brett Connolly, Seth Griffith, David Pastrnak, Frank Vatrano and Alexander Khokhlachev are all 26 or under — which could make Eriksson expendable.

PHT Morning Skate: There’s a third Strome brother on the horizon

Ryan Strome, Johnny Boychuk
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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Matthew Strome — the younger brother of the Isles’ Ryan and the Coyotes’ Dylan — is making waves as a 16-year-old rookie with OHL Hamilton. (NHL.com)

Vern Fiddler caught country legend George Straight’s hat at a concert this summer. He’s apparently received big money offers for the lid, but isn’t willing to sell. (Ottawa Sun)

Is Anders Nilsson the Oilers’ No. 1 goalie? (Edmonton Journal)

Good piece here on Max Pacioretty‘s captaincy in Montreal. (New York Times)

Some appreciation for gritty Leafs forward Leo Komarov. (Toronto Sun)

According to this piece, GM Marc Bergevin has been the Habs’ MVP this season. (Montreal Gazette)