Taylor Fedun ranks as the latest victim of NHL’s archaic icing rules

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New head of discipline Brendan Shanahan faces some tough issues when it comes to revamping the NHL’s suspension systems. One of the most difficult questions to answer is: “How do you make the game safer without eliminating a necessary physical element from defensive play?”

Brendan Smith’s hit on Ben Smith earned a deserved punishment, but it at least falls under the category of normal hockey checks gone wrong. To some extent, there’s only so much the league can do unless they want the game to turn into flag football on ice.

That being said, the sport needs to give a good, long look at measures that would eliminate unnecessary risks. The clearest area is in the way the NHL officiates icing. Kurtis Foster is among the players who suffered from one of the most dangerous collisions in the sport: when an opposing player (usually a forechecking or “crashing” forward) delivers a bit hit on another player (typically a defenseman) who is about to touch the puck to earn an icing whistle.

From the looks of things, Edmonton Oilers defenseman Taylor Fedun (pictured on the left) is the latest victim of the league’s touch icing policy. Fedun was carted off on a stretcher during tonight’s preseason game against the Minnesota Wild after his skates got tangled up in Eric Nystrom’s stick, forcing Fedun to hit the boards in an awkward way. Nystrom was attempting to cancel out an icing call on the play; he received a five-minute major for boarding and game misconduct, which means he might be Shanahan’s latest disciplinary case.

Update: Fedun suffered a broken right leg from that fall, according to The Associated Press. Oilers head coach Tom Renney described it as a “complex fracture” and hinted that Fedun will be out for the season, but that’s far from an official confirmation.

There are three basic schools of though on icing calls. The first one wants the rule to stay the same, pointing out the occasionally thrilling chase for the puck. The second group would prefer “hybrid icing” which would give officials leeway to decide if a puck pursuit is merited or if the play should be whistled dead. Finally, there’s a growing legion of people who want the league to follow other levels of hockey by instituting “no-touch icing.” (Don Cherry ranks as one of that group’s most prominent members.)

Personally, I’d prefer the league to experiment with hybrid icing. If it works out well, keep it that way. If the subjectivity causes almost as many bad collisions or controversial calls, then go all the way to the no-touch rule.

Either way, the current icing setup is inching its way toward becoming an archaic – some might even ague primitive – rule. The NHL is making a lot of steps in the right direction, which just makes it that much more baffling that they’re not being more progressive with an unnecessarily dangerous part of the game that rarely ranks as anything more than a tedious, time-wasting procedure.

NCAA standout Foo leaving school, will sign NHL deal this summer

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Spencer Foo, who racked up a whopping 62 points in 38 games this year for Union College, is forgoing his senior season to achieve his “life long dream of playing in the NHL.”

Where that dream takes place remains to be seen.

Foo, 22, won’t be back at Union in the fall, but will complete his spring term at Union and not sign with a pro organization until summer, per the Daily Gazette. The decision comes after a banner three seasons in school, capped off with a junior campaign in which he was nominated for ECAC Hockey Player of the Year and shortlisted for the Hobey Baker.

Foo has reportedly drawn interest from the Flyers. There have also been rumblings of the Oilers being in the mix — Foo is an Edmonton native — but it appears nearly every team has some level of interest. Consider this, from LA Kings Insider:

The Kings are among the teams involved in [Foo’s] courtship, and asked where the stiffest competition was coming from, I was told, “about 29 other teams.”

Foo is an undrafted free agent, so there’s no real rush for him to make a decision. Sounds like NHL teams are more than willing to wait it out.

Announcing the Hobey Hat Trick: Aston-Reese, Butcher, Vecchione

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Northeastern’s Zach Aston-Reese, Denver’s Will Butcher, and Union’s Mike Vecchione are the three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award.

Aston-Reese, a 22-year-old forward, had 31 goals and 32 assists in 38 games this season. Undrafted, he signed with the Pittsburgh Penguins earlier this month.

Butcher, a 22-year-old defenseman, had seven goals and 29 assists in 41 games for the Frozen Four-headed Pioneers. A fifth-round pick of the Avalanche in 2013, Butcher is still unsigned and is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent Aug. 15. It remains to be seen if the Avs will offer him a contract, though it’s been reported they will.

Vecchione, a 24-year-old forward, had 29 goals and 34 assists in 38 games. Undrafted, he’s expected to sign with an NHL team shortly — possibly the Flyers or Wild.

Jimmy Vesey, Jack Eichel, and Johnny Gaudreau were the Hobey Baker winners in each of the last three years.

After 12-game absence, Boychuk back for Isles

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The New York Islanders, four points back of the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference and having lost their last two games, will get a huge boost tonight on the blueline.

Johnny Boychuk, who’s missed the last 12 games with a lower-body injury, will return to the lineup on Thursday when the Isles take on the Flyers in Philadelphia. It’ll mark the first time the veteran defenseman has played since getting hurt back on Mar. 3.

(Boychuk draws in at the expense of Thomas Hickey, who’ll sit tonight.)

Needless to say, this is a massive addition for the Isles. Boychuk was averaging close to 21 minutes per night and had 21 points through 59 games before his injury, and led all New York defensemen in shots on goal.

The Isles are going to be an interesting team to watch down the stretch. It’s tough sledding, with five of their final seven contests being played on the road, though that’s mitigated by the fact they’re playing a bunch of teams outside of the playoff picture (Philly, New Jersey x2, Buffalo and Carolina).

McAvoy has the talent to improve Bruins right now

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Charlie McAvoy could be in the Providence Bruins’ lineup as soon as Friday against Albany.

Providence also plays Saturday and Sunday, so even if it’s not Friday, the 19-year-old defenseman is expected to get his first taste of pro hockey sometime this weekend.

Of course, the real question is when his Boston Bruins debut may occur.

“He has the attributes to be able to play NHL games right now, absolutely,” said Bruins GM Don Sweeney, per the Providence Journal. 

McAvoy has yet to ink an NHL contract. He’s in Providence on an amateur tryout after making the decision to leave Boston University. If he plays an NHL game this season, the first year of the three-year entry-level contract he’ll sign would be burned.

Hence, Sweeney’s desire to see McAvoy in the AHL before making any decisions.

“This gives an opportunity for him, first and foremost, to get a chance to play professional games, which is another level for him. [We’ll] evaluate from there,” said Sweeney.

It’s certainly possible, given McAvoy’s talent, that he could help the NHL Bruins right now. The bar is essentially Kevan Miller, Boston’s third-pairing defenseman on the right side. (If McAvoy were a left shot, the bar would be slightly lower, with all due respect to John-Michael Liles.)

The NHL Bruins, who’ve yet to book a playoff spot, have six games left in their regular season. They host Dallas tonight, Florida Saturday, and then they’re in Chicago Sunday.

Assuming McAvoy stays with Providence all weekend, his first real chance to get into an NHL game would be Tuesday against Tampa Bay.

Stay tuned.

Read more: Bruins will leave door ajar for McAvoy