Colin Campbell exposed: Says Marc Savard is “biggest faker going”; berates officials for picking on his son

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If you’ve ever thought that NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell might’ve had it out for your team regarding punishment or handled the Marc Savard-Matt Cooke scenario in a highly-questionable manner considering Cooke wasn’t suspended for his hit on Savard, consider today to be your day of vindication.

Tyler Dellow of mc79hockey.com has uncovered e-mails between Campbell and former head of NHL officiating Stephen Walkom that outline how Campbell gets in Walkom’s ear in situations when infractions against his son Gregory (then of the Florida Panthers, now of the Boston Bruins) he found to be wrong.

We also find out that Colin Campbell doesn’t think very highly of Bruins forward Marc Savard, a dislike that might have roots going back to the days when Campbell coached the New York Rangers and Savard was a young forward he coached. There’s almost too much information here to quote and share with you, but we’ll give you the juiciest bits to chew on. We really can’t recommend highly enough going to Dellow’s site and reading the entire piece.

At the heart of the matter here is Colin Campbell and Stephen Walkom discussing the officiating work of (now former) referee Dean Warren. Campbell was incensed with Warren’s work and sought to get Warren fired for his inconsistent officiating and was in the ear of Walkom to let him know his thoughts on how he’s doing. Warren was fired and challenged the NHL in court over his firing saying his work with the NHLOA lead to his dismissal. If you’re wondering how these e-mails were available to be found, it’s because they’re part of the record pertaining to this case. Mike Murphy who is mentioned here is the NHL’s vice president of hockey operations.

This e-mail from Campbell to Walkom in particular is ripe for discussion. Names were already removed from it and the only edit we’re doing is to edit some of the colorful language used. We don’t want this post to get nixed by your sensitive work filters for naughty language. Again, we stress to you to go read the full post to get the full story on how things go down.

A couple weeks later Mike Murphy or Mr. Walkom (it was not clear which) wrote to Mr. Campbell (and Mr. Walkom) that Mr. Warren had “missed high stick on [player] with 130 left in the game…..hard for a Ref to see….[general manager] will be whining’. Mr. Campbell replied:

To Stephen Walkom/Tor/NHL@NHL
Subject Re: Delayed Penalties/High Sticks 02/#/2007 4:24 pm

A bend in the road is a dead end if you round the corner and Dean Warren is standing there. Your answer re: his high stick calls and the score of the game were horse sh**. The 3rd call on [player] was while they were down 5 on 4 and on a def zone face off vs that little fake artist [player] I had him in [city] biggest faker going. And Warren fell for it when he grabbed his face on a face off. Your supposed to see the act, not call the embellishing act. Dean Warren has to go with [referee] There must be a way to get rid of this guy. Is there a way we can tract (sic) and total minors called by referees this year. We could then get the minors they call per game. … or with 2 [referees on the ice] it is impossible? Warren and [referee] out of [club’s] games. Give them to [referees].

Stephen Walkom to: Colin Campbell 02/#/2007 04:39 PM

that’s funny yet not funny….I think we have that data but it may work in his favour….that’s why I’m against data and more about IT….he doesn’t have it, never had it, and is average at best, probably never get it,

OK I’m going to stop it….

From: Stephen Walkom
Sent: 02/#/2007 08:09 AM
To: Mike Murphy
Cc: Colin Campbell
Subject: Re: ….. / …….

Terry ran into …….after the game who was upset, linesmen…………..viewed the play but no injury could be found therefore no call [player] was saying to Terry that he was injured but the guys didn’t see anything but spit and gatorade residue….therefore no double minor….

Re [player]
Colin Campbell to Stephen Walkom, Mike Murphy
02/#/2007 09:21 AM

I know Murph and Kinger like [player] as a player but my view of him is this exactly…he puts his whining ahead of the game. I don’t think this is a regular occurrence (…..getting screwed) and …..exploded ………over the disallowed goal. He may be uncontrollable by ………….and……………..as I think his frustration level has hit a high point. He hates officials as well. He is still pissed off at [referee] for a call he missed in the playoffs years ago as I remember him bugging Murph about it. Let’s give him Warren and [referee] than (sic) he will really have something to whine about.

If you’re curious about who in the world Campbell is so hot under the collar discussing, Bruins fans might want to take a keen eye to who Dellow was able to do the detective work to find out which game this was in reference to and who the interested parties were that managed to draw Campbell’s ire. Those of you who have suspected that nepotism and old grudges might rule Campbell’s world, you’re about to get a huge dose of vindication.

OK – this one I think we can nail down. We know that Campbell is upset about a situation involving a team that was already down to 5 v 4, on a defensive zone faceoff against a “little fake artist” who Campbell had (presumably in New York when he coached the Rangers. We also know that it was that player’s third penalty of the night. We can assume, from the chair’s description of this as being a few weeks after some earlier February emails, that it was in late February.

As it so happens, there is a game featuring players that meet this description. On February 24, 2007, Dean Warren reffed a game between the Bruins and the Panthers. At 13:29 of the second, Alexei Semenov was called for high sticking. Marc Savard, who played for Colin Campbell when he coached the Rangers, came out over the boards. He glided towards the dot where he faced off with Panthers penalty killer…Gregory Campbell. The puck was dropped and Campbell was called for high sticking. His third penalty of the game.

This is the only game from February, 2007 that meets the description.

So to dumb things down here this is what we’ve got:

  • Colin Campbell thinks that Marc Savard is a “little fake artist” and  “the biggest faker going”
  • Colin Campbell gets really upset when his son is made a fool of by a referee
  • Colin Campbell holds a huge grudge

Dellow’s piece goes on to analyze a few more e-mails from Campbell to Walkom and finds yet another instance when Greg Campbell was wronged by an official and Colin Campbell blew his stack about it to Walkom. I don’t think we need to make it any clearer what an extremely large conflict of interest this is for not just the players on the ice, but also the integrity of the officials working a game where Greg Campbell is playing.

Oddly enough, this off-season we saw Greg Campbell end up in Boston, the same city where Marc Savard plays. Did the Bruins feel they got the short end of the stick when Matt Cooke wasn’t suspended after taking Savard’s head off and thought that if they brought Greg Campbell on board they’d get a fairer shake from the league? It’s not likely the main motivation, but having dad peeking over his son’s new team’s shoulder every game can’t hurt. At the very least, when Savard returns to the lineup that first day in the locker room might be a lot more interesting now.

Amusingly so, Colin Campbell comes off out of all this looking like a hockey parent out of control doing the sorts of things with his position of power that parents that run their kid’s pee-wee league do to make sure that their child always ends up on the all-star teams. After all, he ends up e-mailing the head of officiating to yell about his kid not getting a fair shake, one of the officials indicated in this whole situation has already lost his job (Dean Warren), and the discussion about Campbell having an extreme conflict of interest in having his job and a relative playing in the league can now no longer be pooh-poohed as not being possible since this is a professional league.

Instead, you’ve got a league official ruling the roost with a chip on his shoulder, playing favorites towards his own son, and a grudge towards at least one player he used to coach. There is absolutely zero way for this to look good on the NHL to have a person in a position of power, a man who makes the decisions on who gets suspended or not and for how long, to work with a clear mind and without bias when he’s clearly got some problems with some players and officials. How the NHL decides to answer to this will be fascinating. Regardless of what kind of PR-friendly way they answer to this, the NHL looks horrible because of it.

It’s hard to believe that Colin Campbell will keep his job much longer after this. All the chatter and innuendo that was made with a wink and a nod about how Campbell plays favorites is no longer funny when it’s found to actually be true. It’s not as if Campbell has been without controversy already concerning his decisions on virtually everything, the spotlight has been on him for a long time as it is and now those that have been highly critical of him have the smoking gun they’ve been dying to see.

In a fun twist, it turns out the one guy who could keep us from talking about Sean Avery all day on Monday over his fight is the same guy that decided to sit Avery down for six games for saying nasty things about an old girlfriend. Colin Campbell might very well get a permanent vacation for colorful language of his own.

(Update: The NHL has responded to the situation and their take on things won’t help quiet down the public outcry)

Laine makes interesting comments about future with Jets

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Not long after Kyle Connor probably made Winnipeg Jets fans feel a little less anxious about lingering RFA impasses among two big stars, Patrik Laine had an interview with Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston that could make that discomfort rise to a boil.

At least, depending upon how much you read into things. Overall, I’d say: maybe don’t, although as Laine said, “anything could happen.”

You can see a chunk of the interview in the video above, and note that Laine seems pretty relaxed about the whole thing … but he also didn’t exactly guarantee that he’ll stick with Winnipeg.

“Well you never know. It’s still business, you’ve got to be prepared for anything,” Laine told Johnston on Friday. “But yeah, you never know where you’re going to play next year so I’m just prepared for anything.”

Johnston’s full report is worth reading beyond the video, as it includes additional details. Some are promising (Laine is working on his explosiveness, and aware of criticisms of his play off-the-puck) and unsettling (Laine apparently said contracts talks have been “non-existent”).

Again, it’s probably wise for Winnipeg fans not to get too stressed. Most notably, RFA’s are restricted free agents for a reason: teams exhibit a lot of power over their negotiating options, restricting Laine’s ability to play anywhere else. In the past, that often allowed teams to get huge bargains for second year contracts; Laine’s current teammate Mark Scheifele only carrying a $6.125M cap hit through 2023-24 is a prime example of the savings teams can soak up.

This summer could serve as a turning points where high-profile RFAs see the way NBA players are flexing their negotiating muscles, and getting a little more say in their own paths, or at least not rolling over as easily when it comes to trying to get the maximum dollars they can in this context.

Laine, of course, is far from the only RFA in this situation, and that’s the rub: players are waiting for the first shoe to drop. The Athletic’s Craig Custance provided a fascinating breakdown of the standstill for forwards like Laine as well as defensemen like Charlie McAvoy (sub required), with an anonymous agent making it sound like this is almost a game of chicken: no one wants to blink first, and possibly miss out on more money.

“There is a little of, ‘I don’t want to go first,’” The agent told Custance. “If you’re Rantanen, you’re waiting for Marner. If you’re Marner, you’re waiting for Rantanen. … And you can couple that with, there’s not a ton of urgency right now.”

In Custance’s report, he notes that the Colorado Avalanche haven’t brought offers to Mikko Rantanen, who has discussed his situation with Laine, according to Johnston.

It begs the question: could it be that maybe Laine is nudging the Jets to try to break the ice? Is this interview just a matter of timing, and Laine is merely playing it cool (or even playing “hard to get”?).

Yes, teams are waiting for that new benchmark comparable to be set, possibly in Mitch Marner‘s prominent proceedings with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

But if you’re the Jets, maybe you want to at least dip your toes in the water and see if Laine actually wants to just get something done? Winnipeg is particularly justified in wanting to try to skip in line as, again, the Jets must settle things with Laine and Connor. Earlier this week, Connor went as far as to say that he’d prefer a long-term deal with the Jets, yet would also consider something short-term.

If things thawed out with Connor, maybe they could with Laine as well?

Either way, it’s tough to imagine this ending in any way other than the Jets signing both Connor and Laine. The bigger questions likely revolve around key resolutions: how much, and for how long?

Of course, while it’s difficult to imagine Laine not eventually signing with the Jets, it’s also foolish to say that this will necessarily be easy for Winnipeg. Perhaps that’s the biggest takeaway from what may ultimately be a harmless — if a bit unsettling — interview.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 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.

Burning questions for Montreal Canadiens in 2019-20

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Montreal Canadiens. 

Let’s explore three questions for the Habs as 2019-20 approaches …

1. Which Carey Price will show up, and how often?

With that $10.5 million cap hit, Carey Price remains a questionable investment in the eyes of many (myself included).

Still, the 2018-19 season restored some hope that Price could at least be an above-average, if not occasionally elite, goalie for the Canadiens. He managed a .918 save percentage last season, which matches his career average. Considering the heights of Price’s career, that’s a remarkable achievement.

But you must also consider the low points of Price’s career, simply because the Habs have traveled through those valleys quite a bit lately. Price played poorly in 2017-18, and was limited to just 12 games played as recently as 2015-16, so it’s not a given that Montreal will receive great play from Price.

As a side note: it’s his birthday. Here’s hoping it’s a happy one, especially since Price earned about a million cool points for the touching moment he was a part of during the 2019 NHL Awards, as you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

He’s certainly someone who’s become easy to root for.

[MORE: 2018-19 Review | X-factor | Under Pressure]

2. How many players already bumped against their ceilings?

The sheer number of Habs who enjoyed career years is remarkable, from Max Domi to Jeff Petry to Phillip Danault. Even traded-away forward Andrew Shaw often played over his head.

How many of those performances are repeatable?

The advice to tap the brakes is worthwhile with Domi, in particular. Contrast his brilliant 2018-19 season (28 goals, 72 points, 13.8 shooting percentage) with a rough final year in Arizona (nine goals [four empty-netters], 45 points, six shooting percentage in 2017-18) and you’ll realize that it’s dangerous to simply pencil in the same results from year to year.

It’s not all gloom and doom. While the “sophomore slump” is a threat, Jesperi Kotkaniemi could also take another big step forward. Shea Weber could be healthier, which may or may not lead to a healthier power play. And, if you’re hoping for anything to repeat, strong five-on-five play usually isn’t a fluke, at least when you keep most of the same players on a team, and most of them are pretty young.

Still, it’s possible that improved power play work might offset a slight drop-off, rather than supplementing a resounding team at even-strength … but we’ll see.

3. Will Marc Bergevin remain patient?

When it comes to judging the Habs’ GM’s work lately, it feels like people have been grading Bergevin on a curve: “Hey, this didn’t work out as badly as we thought.”

That friendly outlook might not last very long, and if Bergevin’s seat starts to heat up again — they’ve missed the playoffs for two straight seasons, and three of four — then there’s the risk that he’ll make reckless moves to try to save his job.

As scrappy as this team is, forking over draft picks and/or prospects for quick fixes could really sting. Thankfully, Bergevin didn’t spend big during the past trade deadline or in free agency this summer (aside from a baffling Ben Chiarot signing), so he’s shown some discipline.

Bergevin’s one of the league’s most entertaining GMs because he’s willing to be bold, though, so we’ll see how long he can be stoic and not make a splashy move, beyond the occasional facetious offer sheet.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 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.

Will poor power play doom Canadiens again?

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Each day in the month of August we’ll be examining a different NHL team — from looking back at last season to discussing a player under pressure to identifying X-factors to asking questions about the future. Today we look at the Montreal Canadiens. 

Despite finishing with 96 standings points – more than the Golden Knights, Stars, and Avalanche out West – the Montreal Canadiens failed to make the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

As much as they might be tempted to grumble about the East being deeper than the West last season, the Canadiens should instead turn that “What if?” discussion inward, and wonder: what if we figured out our power play? The Habs finished the season with a +13 goal differential overall, and their even-strength heartiness becomes even more impressive once you realize that Montreal was -14 when you consider the sum of its special teams.

Fittingly for a team that once saw P.K. Subban as a scapegoat, you can’t blame the PK, either.

Instead, the penalty kill stood out like a sore thumb that was throbbing with pain. Montreal’s 13.2 power-play percentage was the second-worst in the NHL, and they actually scored the fewest PPG overall with just 31.

While it’s dangerous to assume that the Canadiens will remain a possession powerhouse in 2019-20, it’s something Claude Julien frequently manufactures in his teams. If Montreal can stay at least strong in that area, then the power play is a big X-factor: can it at least rise to the level of average, or even good, after being a huge detriment last season?

[MORE: 2018-19 Review | Under Pressure | Three questions]

Questions of personnel

For the most part, Canadiens GM Marc Bergevin was justified in not being too busy in free agency (although he can be charged with not taking advantage of teams who were capped out and had to get rid of valuable players like Nikita Gusev, Erik Haula, and so on).

It would have been nice if the Canadiens might have gone after a mid-level sniper, though.

Montreal has some strong playmaking talent in the likes of Jonathan Drouin and Max Domi, but when you look at that roster, you don’t see a ton of finishers. Apologies to Joel Armia, but when he’s a key triggerman for your power play, you’re not exactly going to leave opponents cowering in fear.

What might change

So, it’s important to weigh the lack of improvements against the instinctive assumption that things are almost bound to get better just by natural regression.

And, truly, there are signs that things should at least bump closer to average.

There are telltale signs that Montreal was a little unlucky. According to Natural Stat Trick, the Canadiens’ power-play shooting percentage was 10.23, the fourth-lowest in the NHL last season.

Again, the personnel question looms large, as Natural Stat Trick puts Montreal’s expected power play goals at 34, instead of 31, so it’s not like that would be a night-and-day difference if luck leveled out. Simply put, the Canadiens are going to need to improve.

One personnel difference could be more Shea Weber. The defenseman with a bazooka shot only played in 58 games last season, and while it’s risky to demand Weber hit close to 82, he might be healthier in 2019-20.

The thing is, just about every successful power play unit creates the meat of their chances from high-danger areas, whether those come from right in front of the net on dirty rebounds, slick plays starting behind the net, or sweet snipes from “Ovechkin’s office.”

Relying too much on Weber howitzers would be a mistake.

Yet, that doesn’t mean that Weber cannot benefit this unit. It would actually be intriguing if the Canadiens decided to experiment a bit, including maybe having Weber slip into that “Ovechkin office” for the occasional scoring chance. If not Weber, the Habs should probably try to find someone who can bury opportunities at a higher rate, perhaps even prospect Nick Suzuki.

Overall, the Canadiens’ power play is a big X-factor, and it remains to be seen if they can improve from within in 2019-20.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 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.

Sabres go gold and bold to celebrate 50th season

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If you’re the type of person who has a closet full of hockey sweaters, then the Buffalo Sabres are probably forcing you to make some room for the next couple of years.

First, the Sabres announced that they’re going to royal blue for 2020-21 (here’s hoping they stick with that for at least one more season, so they can use the cheesy line “royal blue in 2022”). Then, today, they unveiled some pretty slick duds to celebrate their 50th season in 2019-20.

It’s gold and bold to the point that the Nashville Predators might grumble a bit.

Here’s a decent shot of the crest and other details:

Photo by Bill Wippert/via Sabres

Pretty sharp, and the gloves remind me a bit of the Vegas Golden Knights’ look, which is a good thing.

The team announced that they’ll sport this look for 13 home games, which should had a throwback vibe since their road opponents would be wearing darker sweaters, as opposed to the current standard of road whites. The Sabres are scheduled to wear them on these dates:

October 5 vs. New Jersey Devils
November 2 vs. New York Islanders
November 29 vs. Toronto Maple Leafs
December 2 vs. New Jersey Devils
December 12 vs. Nashville Predators
December 27 vs. Boston Bruins
January 30 vs. Montreal Canadiens
February 6 vs. Detroit Red Wings
February 13 vs. Columbus Blue Jackets
March 5 vs. Pittsburgh Penguins
March 21 vs. Chicago Blackhawks
March 22 vs. New York Rangers
April 4 vs. Philadelphia Flyers

You can check out some more shots of the anniversary look here. What do you think of these jerseys?

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 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.