Mike Halford

Tom Wilson, Nazem Kadri

Wilson says ‘I’ve never been a dirty hitter’ after teams voice complaints

12 Comments

Tom Wilson knows the reputation he’s developed around the NHL.

But he says it’s not accurate.

“I know that in my career I’ve never been a dirty hitter,” Wilson told the Washington Post, in response to a Sportsnet report that teams have complained to the league about his hits. “I’ve always tried to be an honest hitter. I’ve tried to hit clean. I have pride in my physical game. I don’t hit to hurt people.”

Some disagree with that last remark.

Wilson, 21, has a checkered history over his brief NHL career. He avoided suspension for a hit on Brayden Schenn in 2013 and, last playoffs, ended Isles d-man Lubomir Visnovsky’s season with a thunderous check.

The Islanders were livid with Wilson. Kyle Okposo called him an “idiot” while Thomas Hickey said he “went in to hurt our guy.”

Per Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, GMs have voiced concerns about Wilson and want the league to intervene, like they did with Zac Rinaldo after he hit Sean Couturier.

But maybe the meeting won’t be necessary.

Through rumblings and now the Friedman report, Wilson admits he’s heard. He’s well aware of the reputation he’s built and, while he says it’s not accurate, he admits it affects how he plays the game.

“I hear about that stuff,” he said. “It’s tough to kind of go out there and play the fastest game on earth with that in the back of your head.”

There’s another Tortorella-led team priding itself on blocked shots

John Tortorella
5 Comments

John Tortorella is stressing the need for shot blocking.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one before.

A few years back, as you’ll recall, Tortorella turned the New York Rangers into a bunch of bladed Mutombos, developing a defensive system and philosophy predicated on skaters — forwards and defensemen, specifically — getting in the way of pucks before the goalie did.

Now, that same system is at play in Columbus.

The Blue Jackets had one of their best wins of the season on Friday, beating Nashville 4-0. Most were quick to praise the work of Sergei Bobrovsky — who stopped all 39 shots faced for his first shutout of the year — but Bobrovsky was quick to praise the guys in front of him.

“There were so many blocked shots in that first period,” Bobrovsky said, per the Dispatch. “Fourteen of them, I think. That’s more than I stopped.”

All told, the Jackets blocked a season-high 26 shots against the Preds. And while most will argue these numbers aren’t actually a good thing — allowing 39 shots while blocking 26 means you’re rarely possessing the puck — the Jackets acknowledge this is now part of their identity.

Ryan Johansen told the Dispatch the team talks about shot blocking “a lot,” adding that it’s on frequent display during the club’s video sessions. Johansen also added that Tortorella “takes notice” of players that do it.

Torts, of course, has a strange relationship with shot-blocking.

He says he doesn’t necessarily coach it, insisting it’s a natural part of good team defense. And in 2012 — when pundits carved the Rangers during their block-filled playoff run, saying the style of hockey was borderline unwatchable — Torts got angry.

In response, he called critics of shot blocking “idiots” before explaining his strategic approach.

“We don’t sit in our meetings and say forget about carrying the puck and trying to score a goal and make a play, let’s just block shots all night long,” he said.

Here’s the thing, though: The mentality needed to feverishly block shots is sort of what Columbus needed when Tortorella took over. He always stresses that shot blocking is about sacrifice, grit and doing whatever it takes to win — and after getting so far behind the 8-ball with their 0-7 start, the Jackets were desperate to where they’d do anything to win.

And now, they’ve won six of their last nine games.

Video: Gerbe hurt, won’t return after big hit from Clifford

10 Comments

Carolina forward Nathan Gerbe was forced from Sunday’s game against Los Angeles midway through the first period, after a heavy check from Kings forward Kyle Clifford.

Gerbe had to be helped off the ice by teammates and stayed off for the remainder of the frame. Teammate Brad Malone stepped in to fight Clifford, and the pair both received majors — Clifford wasn’t penalized for the actual hit.

Late in the first intermission, Carolina announced that Gerbe wouldn’t return to the contest.

The 28-year-old had gotten off to a slow start this year, with just one goal and three points in 19 games, but is a lineup regular that averages over 15 minutes per night.

Bruins claim Ferraro off waivers from Detroit

Minnesota Wild v Detroit Red Wings
6 Comments

Landon Ferraro has a new home.

Ferraro, who’s spent his entire career with the Red Wings organization, has been claimed off waivers by the Bruins. The move comes after the 24-year-old appeared in 10 games for Detroit this season, going scoreless with seven penalty minutes.

The son of longtime NHLer-turned-analyst Ray Ferraro, Landon was the 32nd overall pick in 2009 but spent most of his time in AHL Grand Rapids, never really claiming a full-time spot with the parent club, though he did play in all seven of Detroit’s opening-round playoff games against Tampa Bay last year.

With Boston, he could get an opportunity for a more significant role.

The team is dealing with some injuries up front. Chris Kelly is basically done for the year with a fractured femur, David Pastrnak is out with a foot injury and Frank Vatrano is dealing with an upper-body ailment.

Of course, Ferraro is dealing with a knee injury of his own, so it’s unclear when he’ll be available for the B’s.

Preds claim Granberg off waivers from Toronto

1 Comment

One of the NHL’s deepest bluelines has added more depth.

Per ESPN, the Nashville Predators have acquired Leafs d-man Petter Granberg off waivers. Granberg, 23, has appeared in eight career games for the Leafs but none this season, having torn his Achilles in June while training in his native Sweden.

Granberg was initially put on waivers so the Leafs could try to send him down to the Marlies.

A fourth-round pick in 2010, Granberg has spent most of the last two years in the American League, and that’s presumably where he’ll land within the Preds organization. The club’s defense is tremendously deep at the NHL level, so a trip to Milwaukee seems inevitable.