James O'Brien

150719_BlueJackets

Rather than firing staffers, Blue Jackets chalk up insane run of injuries to bad luck

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Instead of giving the 2014-15 Columbus Blue Jackets a failing grade, it’s tempting to hand them an “incomplete” considering the absolutely ridiculous run of injuries.

Of course, every good organization has to ask a soul-searching question in such times: is it blind, cruel luck or do some people need to be replaced?

As ugly as that spate of injuries was, the Blue Jackets aren’t being reactionary with firings and scapegoating, as the Columbus Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline reports.

“We’ve studied our doctors, we’ve studied our trainers, we’ve studied how our players are conditioned,” Team president John Davidson said. “It’s just flat-out bad luck what we went through last season.”

GM Jarmo Kekalainen observed that “nothing was out of order” when the team studied how the medical and training staffs handled various situations. While he believes the franchise is always looking for ways to improve, it doesn’t sound like he’s blaming anyone … except maybe the hockey gods?

This year-by-year injury breakdown shows just how extraordinary this past season really was for Columbus:

By finishing 2014-15 strong and adding Brandon Saad to the mix, the Blue Jackets are one of those teams that have real potential, although we’ll need to wait and see if that is only realized in video games where you can turn injuries “off.”

Toews says Ducks, not Lightning, were Blackhawks’ toughest opponent

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There’s a scene in “Talladega Nights” where Will Ferrell’s character deeply insults someone, but feels like he can get away with it by saying “with all due respect.”

It was hard not to think of that moment when Jonathan Toews praised the Anaheim Ducks’ efforts just a little bit more than the Tampa Bay Lightning’s opposition at a Blackhawks fan convention.

“No disrespect to Tampa because I think they far exceeded our expectations for what they were able to do and how difficult they made things on us,” Toews said, according to the Associated Press.

Still, he said the Ducks series “stands out to me in the last number of years as far as the challenges.”

(Attention Los Angeles Kings fans: you might be able to really stretch the limits of context and get mad about this, too, if you’re really bored.)

One can nitpick certain aspects of Blackhawks – Ducks and Blackhawks – Lightning to praise one over the other. Every game of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final was tight, while the Western showdown featured some high-scoring contests, especially when Chicago ran away with things at the end.

Still, it’s no secret that many believe that the West is still the best of the two conferences, possibly by a large margin.

It would be silly to make too much bulletin board material out of these comments, but maybe there is the sense that “Captain Serious” agrees about one conference standing head and shoulders above the other.

In an amusing bit of scheduling, the Blackhawks’ first games against those two opponents are consecutive contests at United Center, as they host the Lightning on Oct. 24 and the Ducks on Oct. 26. Maybe the 2015-16 versions of these teams will make a different sort of impression on Toews?

PHT Morning Skate: Seguin admits Sharp dethrones him as the sexiest Star

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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.

Tyler Seguin on the burning question in Dallas: is Patrick Sharp better looking than he is? (Dallas Morning News)

Former NHL-er (and Calder Trophy winner) Bryan Berard’s story keeps getting sadder. (National Post)

The case for signing Brad Boyes. (TSN)

Enjoy this spirited Q & A with NBC’s beloved Doc Emrick. (Sportsnet)

Update: Frederik Andersen still loves Legos. (The Hockey News)

What it was like for one fan/blogger falling in love with the Detroit Red Wings. (Winging It in Motown)

The AHL provided this handy guide of NHL affiliations, in case you’ve (understandably) had difficulty keeping track of the changes.

This seems like the perfect thing to stare at while you’re not really working on Friday morning.

Duncan Keith on ‘extremely difficult’ year off the ice, from divorce to Sharp rumors

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From a hockey standpoint, this past year was incredible for Duncan Keith. The same can’t be said for the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman’s off-the-ice life, though.

Keith spoke candidly about raising his son after going through a divorce – and the rumors that surfaced regarding former teammate Patrick Sharp – in an interview with the Chicago Tribune’s David Haugh.

“I’m not going to lie: It has been a long year and extremely difficult,” Keith said. “I know there was a lot of talk throughout the year regarding Sharpie and that was all a complete fabrication as well. My divorce had nothing to do with anything except what was between me and Kelly-Rae, and that’s where I’d like to keep it.”

The 32-year-old* explained that dealing with the tough situation meant finding a sanctuary in the form of “turning the switch to hockey.”

Just about anyone would agree that the results were stupendous: an All-Star Game appearance, that memorable Conn Smythe run and his third career Stanley Cup victory. Sometimes anecdotal accomplishments stand out to people as much as anything else, and Keith’s heavy-minute iron man routine in the postseason likely made many lasting impressions.

It’s not just about the personal glory, though, as the elite blueliner pondered the connections he’s made. Keith explained that Sharp ranks along with Brent Seabrook as “one of his two best friends in hockey.” He seemed wistful about the departures of Sharp, Johnny Oduya and Brandon Saad.

“Anytime you play with someone for a long time you’re going to develop chemistry, a bond and a friendship and I was really close with those three guys,” Keith said. “Sharpie, I played with for 10 years. It’s tough to say goodbye …”

These tough times serve as a reminder that summers aren’t always just for recovering from the physical turmoil of a long season; they’re also an opportunity for players to see their families when they need them the most.

The full article is a great read, so check it out here.

* – His birthday was on Thursday, when that Chicago Tribune story came out.

Caps hand Chris Brown a two-year, two-way pact

Jarred Tinordi, Chris Brown,
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The Washington Capitals really beefed up on Thursday.

After making the Zac Sill signing official, the team also announced that Chris Brown agreed to a two-year, two-way contract.

Perhaps they’ll need Brown on nights when Sill and/or Tom Wilson need to ice their knuckles?

Brown hasn’t really piled up penalty minutes during his sparse NHL appearances (21 PIM in 22 career NHL games spread out over four seasons, most recently with the Capitals). He wasn’t shy about dropping the gloves last season, getting into six fights in the AHL during the 2014-15 regular season and two preseason bouts at the NHL level.

The 24-year-old showed a dash of scoring ability in the AHL last season, too, with 28 points in 64 contests as a member of the Hershey Bears. Brown also played five games with the Caps in 2014-15, scoring one goal.