Sami Salo, Brad Marchand

Columnist gives detailed analysis of NHL rats


Toronto Star columnist Joseph Hall has compiled an interesting list of hockey rodents.

Yes, rodents. They’re all the rage right now thanks to two incidents — one, Toronto GM Brian Burke’s “the rats will take this game over” rant from last week and two, noted Boston Bruins rat Brad Marchand getting suspended five games for low-bridging Vancouver’s Sami Salo.

Bottom line: It’s a rat’s world out there. Everybody else is just living in it, trying to get by, scraping cheese off the tops of discarded pizza boxes.

In his piece, Hall identified eight top rats — or “agitators,” a label they’d probably prefer — as well as a host of honorable (dishonorable?) mentions. See what you think.

Vancouver: Alex Burrows, Maxim Lapierre

Quotable: “Burrows, an effective scorer, has been accused of performing penalty drawing dives — a signature rat stunt — while Lapierre has a trash-talking reputation and has dished out his share of questionable hits.”

Pittsburgh: Matt Cooke

Quotable: “Cooke has cleaned up his act considerably this year after Penguins management told him the routine would end his career.”

Dallas: Steve Ott

Quotable: “Unlike many in this category, Ott will throw down this gloves. But he’ll take it to the gutter.”

Tampa Bay: Steve Downie

Quotable: “His coup de grace came in 2007 as a Flyer when he launched himself off the ice to take the Senators’ Dean McAmmond into the boards.”

Chicago: Dan Carcillo, Dave Bolland

Quotable: “With his maniacal, gap-toothed grin, Dan Carcillo resembles a young Bobby Clarke, the prototype in this category. Teammate Bolland is know for both his lively stick and mouth.”

Buffalo: Patrick Kaleta

Quotable: “[He] was suspended three games in November for head butting Jakub Voracek — the third time in two years he’s been caught using that technique.”

Hall also tagged Columbus’ Derek Dorsett, Nashville’s Jordin Tootoo, New Jersey’s David Clarkson, Ottawa’s Nick Foligno, Phoenix’s Raffi Torres and Toronto’s Colby Armstrong as “Agitators All”. Even if you disagree with the classification, you have to admit there’s a large number of ratlike agitators in the league right now and, compellingly, a number of quality teams employing them.

Of the current top 10 teams in the league, Vancouver, Boston, Chicago, Ottawa and Nashville have players on this list (also: the first-place Rangers only recently parted ways with Sean Avery; fourth-place St. Louis has Scott Nichol.)

It’s interesting to see more and more teams go this route, and it begs the question: Like they once did with enforcers, will every team soon employ a full-time rat?

The Panthers are healthy scratching Bolland, and he is their highest-paid forward, but they insist they’re not sending a message

Dave Bolland, Derek Nansen
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It feels like there’s a story brewing in Florida, where Dave Bolland — the team’s most-expensive forward, at $5.5 million a season — has been a healthy scratch for three consecutive games.

But according to head coach Gerard Gallant, there’s nothing to see here. Move along.

“There’s nothing to talk about,” Gallant said, per the Miami Herald. “He sat out, our team is playing well. There’s nothing more than that. We have to sit two guys and I like the way we’re playing. The next game is a different game. We may change something up, who knows.”

Bolland had just one goal and five points in 18 games prior to getting parked in the press box. Well, technically he got dropped to the fourth line before hitting the press box, but you get the idea. He’s not exactly in Gallant’s good graces.

Not helping Bolland’s case is the fact that, as Gallant pointed out, the club is playing pretty well without him. The Panthers have rebounded from a rough start to November by winning back-to-back games against the Islanders and Red Wings, which set them up nicely for the remainder of this current five-game road swing.

Florida has games still to play in St. Louis, Nashville, Columbus and New Jersey. It’ll be interesting to see when — or, if — he draws back into the lineup.

In closing, a reminder that Bolland’s in the second of a five-year, $27.5 million deal.

Canucks rookie Virtanen exits with upper-body injury, won’t return


After sitting out Friday’s game in Dallas, Vancouver’s Jake Virtanen had to be excited at drawing back in for tonight’s game against the Ducks.

Unfortunately, the excitement didn’t last long.

Virtanen suffered an upper-body injury after playing just 1:45 in the opening frame, and was ruled out of the contest during the intermission. It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it looks like Virtanen was injured on a hit by Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf.

Virtanen didn’t take another shift following the incident, and Getzlaf was given a minor penalty on the play.

While we don’t know what the injury is or it’s severity, losing Virtanen for any length of time would have ramifications for the Canucks and this year’s Canadian entry at the World Juniors. There has been talk of Virtanen possibly being released by the Canucks to participate in the tournament; last year, he was part of the team that captured gold in Montreal and Toronto.

Virtanen has played in 18 games for the Canucks this year, scoring one goal and four points while averaging 10:17 TOI per night.

McLellan sounds off on Oilers after shutout loss in Toronto

Todd McLellan

Edmonton lost for the fourth time in five games on Monday, a 3-0 defeat in Toronto that marked the second time in a week the Oilers have been shut out.

Needless to say, the head coach wasn’t happy.

In a fairly blunt and harsh assessment aimed at a variety of players, Todd McLellan had some choice words for what he called a “disappointing” effort.

Some of the more choice quotes:

“I didn’t think we were a very hard team. I didn’t think we stood over a lot of pucks. I didn’t think we won a lot of battles along the boards. I didn’t think we were competitive enough in a lot of areas.”

“When I look at the trip as a whole, we had some key, key people really under-perform on the trip. Significant minus numbers, not hitting the score sheet. It can’t always be the [Leon DraisaitlTaylor Hall line] that provides that.”

It’s fair to suggest that last one was directed at Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle.

Nugent-Hopkins has just two points and zero goals in his last five games, with a minus-8 rating. Eberle is pointless entirely, and also at minus-8 over the same stretch.

They’re hardly the only Oilers not pulling their weight at the moment, however. Edmonton has lost 15 times in its first 25 games, a figure that suggests there are more problems that just a couple of underachieving forwards.

Just ask McLellan, who all but admitted his team has issues matching up.

“We’re not where we need to be,” he said. “We’ve got work to do as a team, work to do as an organization to get bigger, stronger, harder, and physically win more battles than we lose.”

Roy: Avs ‘need, expect more’ from Varlamov


The tough times continue for Semyon Varlamov.

After another unsuccessful outing on Monday — allowing four goals on 27 shots in a loss to the Islanders — Varlamov was subjected to a familiar refrain: Patrick Roy saying the Avs need more from their No. 1 netminder.


You can hear all of the head coach’s comments in the video above but, for brevity’s sake, here’s the Varlamov stuff:

“It’s not easy for him. Obviously we need that extra save and we didn’t get it on the road. It’s hard to win if you’re giving four goals on the road.

“We just need more from him. He’s our No. 1 guy and we’re behind him, but we need, we expect more from him.”

There has to be serious concern about Varlamov right now, if there wasn’t already.

His save percentage through seven games in November (.891) is marginally better than it was through seven games in October (.889), and that’s not the only alarming stat. Varlamov’s yet to record a shutout this year, yet to record back-to-back victories and has given up at least three goals in six of his last seven starts.

Not good.

Compounding things for Colorado are the standings. The Avs are now 9-14-1 and mired in the Central Division basement, meaning that — if they have any hope of going on a tear and getting back into playoff content — they’ll need to do it soon.

Which means they might not have the time, or the patience, for Varlamov to find his game.