Derek Boogaard believes NHL teams value enforcers, Red Wings question that belief

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boogaardparros.jpgI don’t know anyone who would ever want to get in an argument with Derek Boogaard. In fact, I’m a bit scared to even write about the guy. He’s an intimidating human both on and off the ice so when he says that he feels there’s still a role for enforcers in the NHL, I’m not going to argue with him. People I would argue with, however, are NHL general managers. John Shipley of the St. Paul Pioneer Press has the story.

The 6-foot-7, 260-pound left wing remains one of the top two or three most-feared enforcers in the NHL, which is why the Rangers’ Glen Sather was one of what Boogaard said were about 10 general managers who came calling July 1, the first day of free agency.

“That’s more (teams) than Gabby was dealing with last summer,” said Boogaard, who shares agent Ron Salcer with Marian Gaborik, with whom Boogaard will be a teammate again. “Ronny was surprised; he told me he thought there would be four or five teams (interested).”

Not to quibble with the Boogey Man, but I’d guess he had more suitors because his price was an easier fit on most teams than the $7.5 million a year Marian Gaborik got. One thing to note about the four-year $6.6 million deal Boogaard got from the Rangers though is because there’s a man in the Ranger front office that knows a bit about Boogaard and what his skill set can provide an NHL team: Former Minnesota Wild general manager Doug Risebrough.

“Obviously I know a lot about him,” Risebrough said Friday, “but the ultimate decision to bring him was left to the Rangers people. My information was on what kind of person he was, how he was to deal with, what kind of player he was.”

Risebrough has always liked Boogaard. He signed him to a three-year extension that paid him $1.025 million last season and on Friday called him “arguably the second-most popular player the Wild ever had.”

“I always feel good when I see someone make the most of an opportunity,” Risebrough said. “Clearly, Derek had an uphill battle to play in the NHL based on his skills and experience in juniors, but he worked hard and got better.

“He always told me the light went on when he was playing in the East Coast League. People told him if he wanted to play in the NHL, he had to get in better shape and work on his skating, and that’s what he did.”

I’d have to guess that Risebrough’s recommendation to Rangers general manager Glen Sather was even more glowing than what he told the St. Paul Pioneer Press because to lock up a guy who averages about eight minutes a game for four years and more than $1.5 million a year is a huge commitment. Taking advice from a guy that managed to run an organization into a hybrid of salary cap and developmental hell, however, is what I’d call questionable.

The real debate here presides over whether or not enforcers truly do have a role in the league anymore, a debate that has fans in Detroit talking lately.  Wings general manager Ken Holland has had a little bit to say on the issue lately in particular speaking about a Niklas Kronwall’s injury suffered at the hands of Habs enforcer Georges Laraque.

There clearly was a sense, Holland said, that the Stanley Cup winners in 1997 and 1998 were built on toughness and skill, with Martin Lapointe and McCarty especially suited to the roles of third- and fourth-line forwards, and Brendan Shanahan, Bob Rouse and Jaime Pushor on the roster.

But all of those players brought clear talents to their game, beyond quick fists and an enthusiasm to serve and protect.

“But, Scotty Bowman was never one for the one for the one-dimensional tough guy,” Holland said. “I’ve never been one. I think come playoff time those guys are obsolete, although they can be more valuable and important over 82 games.

“It’s been an ongoing topic of conversation, for us. At times the answer’s been, yes. At other times, it’s no,” he said. “But whether you have a guy like that on the team, or not, I don’t know, does Georges Laraque decide not to stick his leg out? Probably not.”

Skill and toughness versus straight toughness and fighting ability is where the line is drawn for many teams, often sometimes ending up with teams hiring agitating forwards that rarely drop the gloves and instead opt to make questionable hits (Patrick Kaleta, Matt Cooke and Jarkko Ruutu come to mind).

Obviously the game has trended towards more skill and more speed, but the role of an enforcer seems to come more into play with a team lacking a team-wide physical brand of game. After all, if everyone isn’t out there being aggressive and checking, you can’t have them get out there and get pushed around by teams that will do it. The Red Wings have always employed a team brand of toughness since they’ve become an annual Cup contender while the Rangers, at least last year, seemed to come at you in waves of tough guys with Brandon Prust and Jody Shelley.

Looking at the teams that have won the Stanley Cup each year since the lockout (Carolina, Anaheim, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Chicago) you’d be hard-pressed to find a definitive goon on any of those teams. Anaheim is the one outlier of the bunch because most of that team would punch their own grandmother to win the Stanley Cup. One thing that all of those teams were, though, was tough all around. It remains to be seen if the Rangers expensive gamble on an elite enforcer will pay off how they want it to.

Watson reinstated to Predators’ roster after suspension

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Forward Austin Watson has been reinstated to the Predators’ roster after serving an 18-game suspension for domestic abuse, and he issued a statement apologizing to everyone for the June incident that cost him the start of the season.

Watson issued the statement Wednesday through the NHL Players’ Association thanking his family, friends and the Nashville Predators for their continued support.

”It is a privilege to play in the National Hockey League, and I am grateful to be able to once again compete with my teammates,” Watson said. ”I apologize to Jennifer, my family, Jennifer’s family, my teammates, the Nashville community, and the Nashville Predators for the negative attention that has come from the events on June 16th.”

Commissioner Gary Bettman suspended Watson for 27 games on Sept. 12 for unacceptable off-ice conduct after an investigation and a hearing with Watson after he pleaded no contest in July to a charge of domestic assault stemming from an incident in June. Arbitrator Shyam Das reduced the suspension to 18 games, allowing Watson to return to the ice Thursday night in Arizona.

The NHL does not have a written domestic abuse policy and has chosen to judge each incident separately. Slava Voynov is currently still suspended indefinitely for a 2014 incident.

Watson concluded his statement asking for privacy on this issue.

”Out of respect for my family’s health, well-being, and privacy, I will have no further comment on this matter moving forward,” Watson said.

The Predators, who are wrapping up a five-game road trip in Arizona, also issued a statement saying Watson has served his suspension and the organization continues to support Watson, his girlfriend and their baby as they work together as a family. The team statement also noted that the Predators also will have no further comment ”on this matter.”

More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

PHT Morning Skate: Paul Martin retires; Nylander wait continues

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• Up top, introducing “Desert Gold,” an inside look into the Vegas Golden Knights’ incredible run to the 2018 Stanley Cup Final. Watch the first episode on Saturday, Nov. 27th on NBCSports.com and Facebook Watch.

• Paul Martin’s 14-year NHL career has come to an end as the longtime defenseman has announced his retirement. [Gophers]

Sidney Crosby‘s status for Thursday’s game against the Tampa Bay Lightning is unclear after he was evaluated for an upper-body injury following practice. [Tribune-Review]

• Did you hear about the Twitter accounts that were recently created and have put out a strong defense of the Ottawa Senators? Never a dull moment. [Silver Seven Sens]

• With six of their next seven games away from TD Garden, the Boston Bruins are hoping to build some momentum. [Bruins Daily]

• Cassie Campbell-Pascall and Mark Chipman will join the Hockey Hall of Fame Selection Committee, replacing writer Eric Duhatschek and the late Bill Torrey. [HHOF]

• The longer the Toronto Maple Leafs wait to sign William Nylander, the more beneficial it could be for them. [TSN]

• Speaking of Nylander, here are 29 reasons why the Tampa Bay Lightning should trade for him. [Raw Charge]

Erik Haula’s injury has opened the door for Cody Eakin as the Golden Knights forward showed Wednesday night. [Sin Bin Vegas]

• The 2019 NWHL All-Star Game will be held in Nashville as part of a doubleheader with the Predators on Feb. 10. [NWHL]

• The only choice for the Calgary Flames when it comes to Mike Smith is patience. [Flames Nation]

• How sustainable is this start by the Vancouver Canucks? [Sportsnet]

• NHL superstars talk about the key issues surrounding the next CBA. [ESPN]

• The next few weeks are pretty important for the future of the Anaheim Ducks. [Anaheim Calling]

• “For the first time in program history, Sun Devil Hockey cracked the top-20 in this week’s USCHO Coaches’ Poll at No. 18 after the best start in program history.” [Sun Devils]

• The Dallas Stars power play is really missing John Klingberg. [Blackout Dallas]

Niklas Kronwall’s presence has been impactful for the Detroit Red Wings this season. [Octopus Thrower]

• Finally, what a save by Worcester Railers goaltender Evan Buitenhuis:

Golden Knights chase Gibson, demolish Ducks

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Heading into Wednesday’s 5-0 win for the Golden Knights, you could see Vegas and Anaheim as two teams suffering through very different circumstances.

On one hand, John Gibson was frequently bailing out Anaheim despite the Ducks allowing waves of scoring chances. Conversely, the Golden Knights fired shot after shot, yet found themselves on the wrong end of the scoreboard far too often to start 2018-19.

Well, the Golden Knights got to Gibson (and Ryan Miller) early and often on Wednesday, and it didn’t really require a barrage of shots … even if the dour Ducks defense sure seemed overwhelmed as ever.

Alex Tuch gave Vegas a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission, but the Golden Knights truly shot as accurately as archers during the second period. They added two more goals to end Gibson’s night early (three goals allowed, nine saves), and it didn’t stop there. As if to cement the notion that this wasn’t all Gibson’s fault, Cody Eakin‘s second goal of the night looked alarmingly easy considering that it came shorthanded:

Sure, there were some odd moments, like Nick Holden receiving unlikely credit for this goal:

Perhaps Vegas receiving the bounces they haven’t enjoyed much this season (but practically bathed in during that magical 2017-18 campaign) amplified the score a bit, yet the Golden Knights seemed like the faster, more dangerous team when the game was actually in reach. They made it look easy at times against a Ducks team that honestly seems pretty hapless against oft-criticized head coach Randy Carlyle.

As you might expect in a lopsided contest, there were some promising overall developments for Vegas, ones that the Golden Knights likely hope to carry over beyond this one-sided affair.

While Gibson’s looked like his best self from last season much of this year (but not tonight), Marc-Andre Fleury has failed to channel his magic from 2017-18 on most evenings this season. He was dynamic when he needed to be against the Ducks, however, stopping all 29 shots for the 51st shutout of his NHL career.

The Golden Knights must be heartened by the work they saw from Max Pacioretty, too. “Patches” came into Wednesday with a paltry two goals and zero assists in 14 games, including a five-game pointless streak, prompting some to compare him unfavorably to Tomas Tatar already. One game isn’t going to keep this from being a tough start. Even so, two assists (on the first two goals of the game, when the match was still in dispute) could really boost the winger’s confidence.

Vegas still has some work to do, and Anaheim remains ahead of the Golden Knights following this result. The Golden Knights can take quite a bit from this win nonetheless, including some comfort in seeing that their efforts can yield results, from goals to victories.

Meanwhile, the Ducks get another reminder that Gibson can’t save their tails every night.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

The Buzzer: Rantanen, Avs beat Bruins in battle of NHL’s best lines

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Three Stars

1. Mikko Rantanen

Tonight’s game between the Avalanche and Bruins featured a heavyweight battle between possibly the two best top lines in the NHL, and those trios delivered.

While David Pastrnak (one goal and one assist) ranked among the B’s who contributed, the Avs really had no answer for Mikko Rantanen, Nathan MacKinnon, and Gabriel Landeskog.

All three of those Colorado stars scored at least a goal in the Avs’ 6-3 win, yet Rantanen stood tallest with a goal and two assists. With that three-point performance, Rantanen now holds a pretty comfortable NHL points lead at 29 (MacKinnon, Patrice Bergeron, and Connor McDavid are tied at second with 26).

If you’re outrageous and need another nugget, consider that both of Rantanen’s assists were first ones, so he also racked up primary points on Wednesday.

2. Cody Eakin

The trio of Eakin (two goals), Alex Tuch (one goal, one assist), and Max Pacioretty (two assists) loomed large during Vegas’ dominant 5-0 win, doing their damage when the game was still within reach.

You could make an argument for his linemates – Tuch’s goal was the GWG, for one thing – but Eakin grabbed two goals, including a matter-of-fact backhander during a shorthanded rush.

As much as the Golden Knights must miss Paul Stastny, Eakin has been heating up lately. This impressive performance extends the former Dallas Stars center’s point streak to fie games (four goals, two assists).

3. Corey Crawford

OK, this is a tough one. After all, Marc-Andre Fleury‘s shutout (29 saves) features one more save than the one Corey Crawford authored (28 saves). “MAF” made some dazzling saves to maintain that goose egg, too.

It’s nice to spread the wealth to multiple teams in the three stars, and beyond that, the margin of error was different. While Fleury was maintaining a shutout, Crawford couldn’t make a mistake, as the Blackhawks only managed one goal in that 1-0 victory against the Blues. Maybe Chicago would have offered more if forced, although the Blackhawks’ 18 SOG don’t inspire much confidence.

The sheer meaning of Crawford’s shutout pushes it over the top.

Most immediately, it ended Chicago’s eight-game losing streak.

More personally, Crawford managed his first shutout in more than a year, and in doing so powered new head coach Jeremy Colliton to his first win as an NHL head coach.

Was Fleury’s shutout objectively better? Maybe, so consider him 3a to Crawford’s 3b if it’s really important to you.

Injuries

Highlights

Rantanen definitely helped MacKinnon score the game-winner:

Jake DeBrusk deserves three stars consideration thanks to his two goals in a losing effort for Boston:

Little Flower? MAFjr?

Nick Holden also had a two-point night, thanks in part to this odd tally:

Factoids

Blake Wheeler kept his point streak going, even if it was *yawn* just one assist. Slacker.

MAF is moving up the ranks.

Scores

CHI 1 – STL 0
WPG 3 – WSH 1
COL 6 – BOS 3
VGK 5 – ANA 0

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.