Tag: PHT Top 13 of 13


PHT’s top 13 of ’13: Anti-fighting movement gains momentum


Hockey is a sport that fosters passionate debate, but few topics have as entrenched supporters and dissenters as much as fighting.

To some, fighting is at the core of the game and an integral part of the NHL; others see it as barbaric, outdated, and, in the age of increasing awareness of concussions, downright irresponsible.

This year saw an increase in the debate and new momentum for those that oppose sparring matches. With head injuries becoming an increasing concern, the fear that fights might lead to concussions is a key argument against it. One of the better recent examples of that is George Parros, who has dealt with two fight-related concussions this season.

The first one you could write off as an unfortunate accident, but the second is harder to dismiss:

Even before Parros’ second head injury of 2013, Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman wondered why the league was handing out suspensions for head hits courtesy of checks, but fighting was still penalized by a mere five-minute penalty.

“We’re stuck in the middle and need to decide what kind of sport do we want to be,” Yzerman argued. “Either anything goes and we accept the consequences, or take the next step and eliminate fighting.”

Yzerman was joined by Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero, Carolina Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford, and legendary coach Scotty Bowman in his call for change.

At the same time, there’s clearly a fair amount of fan support for fighting, at least among PHT readers that overwhelmingly voted it belongs in the NHL. The players have continually, and overwhelmingly, supported its role in the game, too. Ditto for general managers like Calgary’s Brian Burke.

Why the support for fighting? Depends who you ask. Some advocates support dropping the gloves as a form of entertainment and an expression of the ferocity of the sport; others argue it actually prevents injuries by allowing players to police themselves. Still others feel fights can stop a bad situation from getting worse.

The latter is certainly the belief of New Jersey Devils enforcer Cam Janssen, who suggested that Boston’s Shawn Thornton’s recent attack on Penguins defenseman Brooks Orpik wouldn’t have happened if Orpik had agreed to fight after delivering a hard hit to forward Loui Eriksson.

Other players, like Detroit’s Daniel Alfredsson, feel that’s an old-school view that shouldn’t be followed any more. Instead, Alfredsson thinks that hits should be ruled on by the referees and left at that.

Finally, it’s worth noting that not all fights are created equal. When Philadelphia goaltender Ray Emery skated the length of the ice to force Capitals netminder Braden Holtby to fight him, there was widespread condemnation.

NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan “hated it” and commissioner Gary Bettman also voiced his displeasure.

But while this year’s incidents may have helped fuel the debate over fighting, it doesn’t sound like any major rule changes are on the near horizon for the NHL, which has repeatedly maintained “there is not an appetite to change the rules with respect to fighting.”

PHT’s top 13 of ’13: Vancouver’s goaltending soap opera


It captivated fans of professional hockey for months — in fact, longer than an entire year.

The Vancouver Canucks goaltending saga that began in April of 2012 — when Cory Schneider was put into the starting role ahead of Roberto Luongo — came to a dramatic end, well, once the 2013-14 regular season got underway in October.

The controversy itself, though, ended at the 2013 NHL Draft, when the Canucks dealt Schneider to the New Jersey Devils in return for the ninth overall pick, which turned into Bo Horvat.

The day before the draft, news broke that Schneider, a former first-round pick of the Canucks back in 2004, was indeed available on the trade market.

For the better part of a year, rumors swirled that Luongo, tied into a 12-year, $64 million contract, was going to be traded. He was not.

Canucks general manager Mike Gillis had exhausted all attempts to move Luongo, who had a no-trade clause in his contract. On trade deadline day in April, Luongo was suddenly taken off the ice in the waning minutes of practice to Gillis’ office inside Rogers Arena to waive his no-trade clause.

Speculation was rampant, but no deal was ever completed.

It led Luongo to give an emotionally charged press conference later in the afternoon in which he uttered the now famous phrase, “my contract sucks.”

Gillis tried to throw water on Luongo’s comments after, when he met with the inquiring minds.

“When you have a day like this where your whole life could be turned upside down, then you speak to you guys (media) right after, I think there’s an opportunity for things to be said that in the clear light of day might not be reflective of how he really feels,” Gillis told reporters.

At the end of Vancouver’s season, when the Canucks were swept out of the playoffs by the San Jose Sharks in the opening round, Gillis said it was “unlikely” Luongo would be back with the team, as another off-season approached.

Luongo is back, although he did leave Sunday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets with a lower-body injury and is currently listed as day-to-day.

But it took a considerable effort from Gillis and even new head coach John Tortorella to prompt Luongo to come back to Vancouver, a city he thought he would no longer be calling home.

“We have a really good relationship. It isn’t strained or adversarial at all. I think he’s going to be fine. He’s a consummate professional,” said Gillis over the summer. “Roberto will be our No. 1 goalie. I feel very optimistic about it.”

Luongo did finally make his decision. He announced it in a televised interview with James Duthie of the NHL on TSN panel just prior to Canada’s Olympic orientation camp in Calgary.

“I … moved on personally,” Luongo said during the interview.

The 34-year-old Luongo currently has a record of 16-9-6, a goals-against average of 2.24 and a save percentage of .920. If healthy, he’s also in the running for Canada’s 2014 men’s Olympic ice hockey team.

PHT’s top 13 of ’13: Pens go cold in Eastern Conference final


The Pittsburgh Penguins looked unstoppable heading into the 2013 Eastern Conference final; instead, the Boston Bruins swept them in stunning fashion.

However you look at the numbers, the end result was a total offensive collapse for the Pens, who topped the NHL in scoring last season before lighting up the New York Islanders (scoring 25 goals in six games) and Ottawa Senators (22 in five games) in the opening two rounds.

One round later, a team built by GM of the Year Ray Shero — and loaded up with deadline acquisitions Jarome Iginla and Brenden Morrow — scored a measly two goals in a baffling four-game sweep.

Maybe most stunningly, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin failed to score a point.

Let’s take a game-by-game look at how this shocking series turned out.

Game 1: Boston wins 3-0

The B’s battered Pittsburgh in a game that was so wild, even Crosby, Malkin and the likes of Patrice Bergeron engaged in the nastiness. You know things are bad when the NHL’s 26-year-old poster child blames the officials for things getting out of control.

But boy, did things sure get out of control:

Game 2: Bruins dominate 6-1

Crosby’s assessment of the June 3 loss was succinct and sufficient.

“Tonight was terrible,” Crosby said. “There’s no other way to describe it.”

Rare relief for Crosby, Malkin and other Penguins scorers came with the distraction of a goalie controversy, as people debated whether Marc-Andre Fleury should get his starting job back from Tomas Vokoun.

Game 3: Penguins fall in double-OT thriller

The Penguins made some changes when the series shifted to Boston, including dumping Iginla to the third line. Pittsburgh pushed Boston to a second overtime period, yet a nice bit of work by Jaromir Jagr and a mistake by Kris Letang opened the door for another huge Patrice Bergeron game-winning goal:

After the contest, Letang’s assessment was blunt:

We’re not doing anything good at all.”

This seemed to stand in contrast to the all-out Bruins; their work ethic was highlighted most dramatically by Gregory Campbell during this memorable moment:

Game 4: Bruins end sweep with shutout

Fittingly, Boston ended the series by showing off its staunch defense:

Crosby believed that the Penguins deserved better, yet the sweep opened up a flood of criticism … which the Penguins’ front office mostly ignored.

And, hey, that patience has worked out lately … although many will argue that it won’t matter until the Penguins make it happen in the postseason.

PHT’s Top 13 of ’13: Harding thrives in face of adversity

Josh Harding

In November of last year, Minnesota Wild goalie Josh Harding was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), a chronic disease that can disable the central nervous system of the body causing mild symptoms like numbness in the extremities or severe ones such as paralysis or loss of vision.

Despite being handed such a devastating diagnosis at a young age, the 29-year-old Harding is fighting through it, inspiring sports fans and fellow sufferers of the disease at the same time.

In his first start following his diagnosis, he shut out the Dallas Stars. While he suffered a pair of setbacks while undergoing treatment, including a stint that kept him out for nearly three months, he returned in late April.

His return came just in time to start in the playoffs against the Chicago Blackhawks in place of injured starter Niklas Backstrom. The Wild lost in five games to the ‘Hawks, but Harding built off that experience in a big way.

Overcoming MS to play at all helped earn Harding the 2013 Masterton Trophy for perseverance. He followed that up with the creation of a charity, Harding’s Hope, to help those with the disease.

And he didn’t stop there; his play to start the current season has people thinking he could win a different award: the Vezina Trophy.

With Backstrom again dealing with injuries to start the 2013-14 campaign, Harding seized his opportunity to play and has dazzled throughout the year, going 18-5-3 with a league-leading 1.55 goals-against average and a .939 save percentage.

The Wild are challenging for a playoff spot in the incredibly difficult Western Conference and have Harding to thank for a lot of their success.

Dealing with MS has its pitfalls, however, because it never goes away. He was put on injured reserve on Dec. 19 to undergo a change in treatment of the disease. Wild GM Chuck Fletcher says it’s not a major situation, but it’s a reason to be concerned nonetheless.

Dealing with an incurable disease like MS is difficult regardless of a person’s situation. Watching Harding excel through it all has been incredible to witness.

PHT’s top 13 of ’13: Flyers buy out Bryzgalov

Ilya Bryzgalov

After falling just shy of winning the Stanley Cup in 2010, the Philadelphia Flyers were swept in the second round of the 2011 playoffs.

At that point, the Flyers thought they were one good goaltender short of a parade. Sergei Bobrovsky had been solid in his rookie campaign, but the inexperienced netminder struggled in his first playoff run and the organization wasn’t prepared to take a chance with him leading the charge again.

Instead, they dealt forwards Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in separate trades to free up the cap space necessary to sign Ilya Bryzgalov to a nine-year, $51 million contract in June 2011.

“He does give us stability,” Flyers GM Paul Holmgren said at the time, per TSN.ca.

Yeah, that didn’t happen.

Instead, what the Flyers got was one of the most remarkable blunders in recent history. Bryzgalov wasn’t always bad, but never justified his paycheck. Despite that, it was stunning to see the plug being pulled on the experiment after just two seasons as Holmgren called Bryzgalov a “costly mistake” after buying him out.

Part of Holmgren’s motivation might have come from Bryzgalov’s interviews as much as his struggles on the ice. After just one campaign, the Flyers GM had already complained that his goaltender shouldn’t act like he was on Comedy Central.

In that vein of not taking things seriously, Bryzgalov also reportedly fell asleep during a team meeting, took issue with the Philadelphia media during an interview and had some problems with the Russian media as well.

When he was bought out, Bryzgalov did thank the Flyers, but his agent Ritch Winter blasted the team’s defensive system and claimed it was “terrible for goaltenders in Philadelphia.”

Goaltender Steve Mason might disagree with that. He’s just one of the many players that has been positively impacted, some more bizarrely than others, by Bryzgalov’s move to Philadelphia. In the end, perhaps that’s the weirdest part of this story.

Carter and Richards obviously won the Stanley Cup within a year of getting traded, but they weren’t the only ones that could be called winners in all of this.

Bobrovsky was dealt eventually too because of Bryzgalov’s presence and he went on to win the Vezina Trophy. His rise combined with Bryzgalov’s ongoing struggles in Philadelphia, led to Mason finally getting a change of scenery that has, for the most part, been a plus for him.

You could even say it helped Mike Smith as he got a golden opportunity with the Coyotes after Bryzgalov snubbed them in favor of Philadelphia. Smith took full advantage of that opportunity and that led to him getting a six-year, $34 million contract.

In the end, it’s hard to even call Bryzgalov a loser in all of this because, while he obviously had different expectations in mind when he left the small market Phoenix Coyotes in pursuit of the Stanley Cup, he’s still going to make roughly $1.6 million annually through 2026-27.

So the only obvious losers in all of this were the Flyers, for two reasons: 1) they’ll be writing checks for over a decade to a goaltender they barely got any use out of and no longer want anything to do with, and 2) he completely failed provide the stability that Holmgren sought.

As such, Philadelphia’s quest for its first Cup since 1975 goes on.