The Chicago Blackhawks, defending Stanley Cup champions, continue to search for answers amid a frustrating period of struggle.
They’ve won only three times since the NHL schedule resumed from the Olympic break, and have lost two straight to Central Division opponents – Colorado and Nashville. The latest defeat came Friday against the Predators.
The Blackhawks twice trailed by two-goal deficits, and were unable to complete the comeback, despite carrying the run of play in the third period.
“We’re putting ourselves in tough situations by not starting well and just getting away from our team game, so not much of an explanation, but we know we need better right now,” said Blackhawks’ captain Jonathan Toews, as per the Chicago Daily Herald.
“We need to get out of this kind of trend that we’re in right now.”
You’ll recall Toews was also not pleased after the club’s loss to the Avalanche earlier this week, saying, “It’s time to play hard,” with every team now charging ahead in the stretch drive.
This recent rough patch has seen the Blackhawks slip to third in the Central Division, one point back of the Colorado Avalanche and seven behind the St. Louis Blues.
“Our speed, pace, puck support and work ethic have eroded a little bit, particularly the last two games,” said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville, as per Tracey Myers of CSN Chicago.
The Los Angeles Kings and Mike Richards may be nearing a settlement in their dispute over Richards’ terminated contract, TSN’s Bob McKenzie is reporting.
You can read the report for all the details, but we’re sure curious about this part:
If a settlement is reached, there’s no word yet on what salary cap penalties the Kings would still face. There’s bound to be something, but not likely as onerous as the full value of Richards’ contract, which carries with it a cap hit of $5.75 million. If there’s a settlement, Richards would undoubtedly become a free agent though there’s no telling at this point what monies he would be entitled to from the Kings in a settlement.
The issue here is precedent, and what this case could set. The NHL and NHLPA can’t allow teams to escape onerous contracts through a back door, and many are adamant that that’s what the Kings were attempting to do in Richards’ case.
The NHL wants to take an educational approach — not a punitive one — to deter its players from using illicit drugs like cocaine.
“My interest is not to go around punishing people,” Bettman told Sportsnet today.
“My interest is getting players to understand the consequences of doing something that could jeopardize this great, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that they’ve been given, to play in the NHL.”
While some players have expressed surprise at hearing that cocaine use is growing, the anecdotal evidence of substance abuse has been very much in the news, from Jarret Stoll‘s arrest to Mike Richards’ arrest to, more recently, Zack Kassian‘s placement in the NHL/NHLPA’s treatment program.
“We don’t have the unilateral right to do things here. We need the consent of the Players’ Association,” Bettman said. “It’s not about punishment. It’s about making sure we get it to stop.”
Related: Cocaine in the NHL: A concern, but not a crisis?