New York Rangers v Philadelphia Flyers

Trash talk: How far is too far?

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By now, most people are familiar with Wayne Simmonds’ “alleged” slur directed at Sean Avery. Simmonds has denied using the word and the league refused to punish the Flyers forward because there none of the on-ice officials actually witnessed it. Part of the reason that the story has gained so much traction is because Simmonds was actually captured on video using the alleged term. Part of it is because Simmonds himself had just been a victim of a racist act only days before in London, Ontario. Regardless, the emotional climate around the game was already at a fever-pitch when Simmonds and Avery had their war of words.

One NHL coach thinks that things have gone too far. Boston Bruins head coach Claude Julien said things have gotten out of control with the trash talk that occurs on the ice. In fact, Julien thinks that it’s time to start punishing players for trash talk that crosses the line:

“There’s a rule in place for certain type of language — whether it’s to referees and stuff like that, you certainly can get tossed out of a game. I’m one of those guys that believe that you know you shouldn’t be crossing the lines. There’s some things that are being said out there that are really crossing the line. Whether that’s been like that decades ago, I’m not quite sure. People are going after divorces or calling people certain names that I don’t even want to allude to here, but there is a fine line I think that has to exist.”

Let’s be clear: this isn’t first time anyone has used this particular type of language on the ice. In fact, it’s probably not the first time that exact word was use in Avery’s direction. It doesn’t make it right—but let’s not pretend like this is the first time anything like this has happened. If HBO had all 40 guys mic’d up every single game, we’d certainly hear language that would make Bruce Boudreau blush. One of the main reasons this is a huge story is because it was caught on tape.

The difference today is just how far the slurs and taunts go these days. Julien had more to say:

“There’s gamesmanship and then there’s crossing the line, and, you know, I think more and more, players today are going further than they used to.”

“You’d hoped that it would be policed by themselves, by having a little bit more respect for each other. They are part of a player’s association and they should all be part of a group. There should be at least that kind of respect that exists.”

Policing language on the ice is a slippery slope that the NHL should want no part of policing. Something that is deemed offensive to a guy like Rocco Grimaldi may be just a normal part of speech for other players around the NHL. Then again, something that Sean Avery or Wayne Simmonds may say in the heat of battle may be acceptable to them—but not acceptable to a player who is in the middle of a slump and struggling to make a team. Will the NHL be responsible to hand down a fine or suspension each and every time a player is offended by an opponent?

It’s a tough situation because many people (including this writer), do not condone a player using the Simmonds particular slur. Just like there are slurs that are highly offensive to African American athletes, Simmonds alleged insult are those that will strike a nerve with GLAAD. Just about every demographic has a few words that cross the line.

These are the easy cases—there’s no place in the game for that kind of language. Most would say there’s no place in society.

Here’s the question: who draws the line what is accepted and what is not? There’s a rather large gray area here because different people have different standards. Obviously, this is a touchy subject so we want to throw it out to the readers. What do you think? Do you think trash talking should be limited or should players continue to have free reign over what is said on the ice. Do you have any ideas of how the league could logically police trash talking?

Andreychuk confident that Stamkos will re-sign in Tampa Bay

Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos (91) competes in the hardest shot competition at the NHL hockey All-Star game skills competition Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
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Former Tampa Bay Lightning player Dave Andreychuk is now a member of the club’s senior management team, and he’s confident that the Bolts won’t lose Steven Stamkos to unrestricted free agency this summer.

“Steven is going to come back. He’s going to be fine,” Andreychuk told Hockey Central today, per Sportsnet.ca.

“I still believe that Steve Yzerman is trying whatever he can do to sign Steven Stamkos, and I believe it will happen.”

Andreychuk — whose official title is VP Corporate & Community Affairs — is not part of the Lightning’s hockey operations, but presumably he speaks with Yzerman, the general manager, from time to time.

Of course, the challenge for Yzerman goes well beyond re-signing the captain. Even with an owner that’s willing to spend to the cap, it simply may not be possible to keep Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Ben Bishop, Nikita Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, and Jonathan Drouin.

All eight of those players need new contracts this summer or next.

Stamkos, Hedman, and Bishop are pending UFAs, while the other five are pending RFAs.

Report: Forsling signs with Blackhawks

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A report out of Sweden says that defenseman Gustav Forsling has signed an entry-level contract with the Chicago Blackhawks.

For the past two seasons, Forsling has been with Linkopings HC of the Swedish Hockey League. In 2015-16, the 19-year-old had six goals and 15 assists in 48 games.

A fifth-round pick of the Canucks in 2014, Forsling was a star at the 2015 World Juniors, where he had eight points (3G, 5A) in seven games for Sweden. He was traded to Chicago in return for Adam Clendening.

“He’s an offensive defenseman that plays very well on the power play and has a big shot,” said Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman upon Forsling’s acquisition.

Assuming the report is accurate, Forsling can probably count on starting his North American career in the AHL.

The Blackhawks are hoping to graduate Rockford d-man Ville Pokka to the NHL next season.

Related: Three major challenges facing the Chicago Blackhawks

Hendricks to captain U.S. at Worlds for second straight year

OSTRAVA, CZECH REPUBLIC - MAY 01:  Matt Hendricks of USA celebrates goal of his team-mates during the IIHF World Championship group B match between USA and Finland at CEZ Arena on May 1, 2015 in Ostrava, Czech Republic.  (Photo by Matej Divizna/Getty Images)
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Last year, Matt Hendricks captained Team USA to bronze at the World Hockey Championships, marking just the second time in the last 11 years the U.S. had medaled.

So, why not go back to Hendricks again?

That’s what USA Hockey opted to do on Wednesday, announcing the Edmonton forward would reprise his role as team captain for the 2016 tournament, to be held in Moscow and Saint Petersburg.

Columbus’ Nick Foligno and Arizona’s Connor Murphy were named alternate captains.

Hendricks had a pretty solid tournament for the U.S. last year, scoring two goals and three points in 10 games — an effort made more impressive by the fact it was his first time representing the U.S. internationally.

The U.S. gets its ’16 Worlds campaign underway on Friday, with a game against Canada at 11:30 a.m. ET. The game will be broadcast live on NBCSN, and a live stream will be available on NBC Sports’ Live Extra.

Prized Flyers prospect Provorov says he’s NHL-ready

Ivan Provorov
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Philly had one rookie defenseman burst onto the scene this year, as Shayne Gostisbehere‘s stellar play earned him a Calder Trophy nomination.

Next year, another freshman blueliner will look to make his own mark.

Ivan Provorov, the club’s first-round pick (seventh overall) at the 2015 draft, says he’s primed to make the Flyers’ roster for 2016-17 — despite the fact he’ll be just 19 years old when the campaign begins.

“I think I’m ready,” he said, per the Inquirer. “But we’ll see what happens. I think I’m going to have another good summer and come ready in September.”

The Flyers have been high on Provorov from the minute they drafted him. He signed his entry-level deal a week after being selected, and impressed onlookers during his time at prospect and training camps.

“He showed us his play is efficient in all areas with and without the puck,” head coach Dave Hakstol said, per CSN Philly. “I thought his competitiveness was very good throughout the two days.

“He was focused and relaxed. He is a composed young man with maturity and confidence. Those are very good traits in a young player.”

This year, Provorov — who’s still playing with Brandon in the WHL playoffs — racked up a whopping 21 goals and 73 points in just 62 games. The potential of adding Provorov’s offensive abilities to a blueline that already features a pretty skilled guy in Gostisbehere is tantalizing.

But, as Flyers GM Ron Hextall points out, Provorov is going to have to beat out an incumbent, and won’t just be gifted a spot on the Philadelphia roster.

“They have to come in and be better than someone else that’s here,” Hextall said of young players looking to crack the lineup. “If that happens, we proved last year that we’ll make room in our roster for a young player that proves to us that he’s ready to play at this level and make our team better.”