Brandon Sutter

Canucks’ Brandon Sutter needs surgery, likely out for season

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) — Vancouver Canucks center Brandon Sutter will have sports hernia surgery again and is likely done for the season.

The team said Tuesday his recovery is expected to last six to eight weeks.

The operation is on Sutter’s right side. He sports hernia surgery on his left side in 2015.

Vancouver entered Tuesday eight points out of a wild-card spot in the congested Western Conference. Its regular season ends April 6.

Sutter hasn’t played since a Feb. 9 victory over Calgary. The 30-year-old forward also missed 30 games earlier this season after he separated his shoulder during a win over Minnesota in October.

Canucks don’t see Pettersson injury as dirty play as they await MRI results

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The city of Vancouver is holding its breath hoping for the best for Elias Pettersson one day after he left the Canucks’ game against the Montreal Canadiens after getting tangled with Jesperi Kotkaniemi.

Already ruled out for Saturday’s game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the team is waiting for the full results from an MRI on his right knee.

“I’m walking fine. I feel better today than yesterday, so that’s good,” Pettersson told Sportsnet’s Nick Kypreos.

“I think we both just fell down and I maybe fell on his leg. I’m not sure what happened,” Kotkaniemi said. “I don’t want to hurt anyone. I said this morning that he’s a good player, so everyone in the League wants that he’s on the ice, so so do I.”

While some Canucks fans were seeking blood having now watched their stud youngster get injured for the second time this season, his teammates and head coach Travis Green didn’t see anything malicious in the play.

“I think it was just two guys in a bit of a battle,” said forward Brandon Sutter. “Looked like Petey tried to get body position to try and hold him up and kind of got tangled and went down. It was kind of an awkward fall and it’s unfortunate. Hopefully it’s nothing too serious.”

“I’ve watched it a lot of times. First of all, it’s not a dirty play by their player at all,” Green said afterward. “[Pettersson] gets hooked a little bit. Petey actually pushes back on him, leans back and probably tries to give a little bit of a reverse hit, and two young guys fall to the ice. It’s not a penalty.”

Pettersson, who was named to the Pacific Division All-Star team this week, leads all rookies with 22 goals and 42 points

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT Morning Skate: Business trip for Panthers; Notre Dame, Michigan going outdoors

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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.

• It might be a trip to Finland, but it’s all business for the Florida Panthers. [NHL.com]

• Dallas Stars netminder Ben Bishop is no fan of goalie analytics. “When it’s some old hockey fan that doesn’t even get the shots right on the game, how are they going to get that right? You go to every different building, and sometimes they count the dump-ins as shots on goals. Well, half the buildings don’t count those, because they don’t know the rules. When you go to some buildings, and they don’t count it, and there are four or five shots that don’t count. … That’s what’s frustrating. That’s what you get paid on. That’s your job.” [ESPN]

• The Notre Dame and Michigan men’s teams will play outdoors at Notre Dame Stadium on Jan. 5 at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. [USCHO]

• An upper-body injury will keep Vancouver Canucks forward Brandon Sutter out “weeks.” [Sportsnet]

• When it rains, it pours for the Vancouver Canucks when it comes to injuries. [The Canuck Way]

• The Erik Karlsson-Marc Edouard Vlasic pairing isn’t breaking up anytime soon for the San Jose Sharks. [Mercury News]

• The Pittsburgh Penguins had a great road trip in Western Canada. What can they take away from it? [Pensburgh]

• A look at how puck luck in the NHL affects the standings. [TSN]

• It looks like Ryan Murray is finally starting to put it together for the Columbus Blue Jackets. [1st Ohio Battery]

• “We’re finding our way, we’re finding our identity as a team.” The San Jose Sharks are coming around after a slow start. [NBC Bay Area]

• Depth scoring is needed for the Tampa Bay Lightning. [Raw Charge]

• A look at the Chicago Blackhawks as the calendar is about to turn to November. [Faxes From Uncle Dale]

Michael Rasmussen will see his development continue at the NHL level with the Detroit Red Wings. [MLive]

• Why the Boston Bruins should let Jaroslav Halak take the No. 1 goalie job for a while and allow Tuukka Rask to rest. [Black and Gold Hockey]

• Will we ever see another offer sheet signed? [Spector’s Hockey]

• “John Ziegler Did More Harm Than Good for Hockey” [Puck Junk]

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

More NHL teams than ever are entering season without captain

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Over the past 24 hours Jack Eichel (Buffalo) and Anders Lee (New York Islanders) have been announced as captains of their respective teams. For the Sabres, Eichel will be their first captain since Brian Gionta wore the “C” during the 2016-17 season, while Lee will be filling the role that was left vacated when John Tavares signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs in free agency.

Even after those announcements there are still six teams in the NHL (approximately 20 percent of the league) that will be entering the 2018-19 season without anyone being designated as the “captain” of their team.

Those teams include…

  • The Vegas Golden Knights, who are going forward with the same leadership by committee approach they took during their expansion year (a “23 captains mentality as coach Gerrard Gallant likes to put it).
  • The Toronto Maple Leafs have not named a captain since Dion Phaneuf was traded during the 2015-16 season and will go forward with Tavares, Patrick Marleau, and Morgan Reilly as alternate captains.
  • After having just three captains (Nicklas Lidstrom, Henrik Zetterberg and Steve Yzerman) over the past 32 years the Detroit Red Wings will not name a replacement for Zetterberg following the end of his playing career, instead going with four alternate captains in Dylan Larkin, Frans Nielsen, Niklas Kronwall, and Justin Abdelkader.
  • The New York Rangers are going with five alternate captains following the mid-season trade of Ryan McDonagh a year ago, naming Chris Kreider, Jesper Fast, Mike Zibanejad, Mats Zuccarello, and Marc Staal to the role.
  • The Ottawa Senators are not naming a captain following the trade of defenseman Erik Karlsson just before the start of training camp.
  • In Vancouver, the Canucks are filling the leadership void left by Henrik Sedin’s retirement with a quartet of alternates that includes Brandon Sutter, Bo Horvat, Alex Edler, and Chris Tanev.

In almost all of these situations the teams have opted to phrase it as a “leadership by committee” approach. While the majority of these teams are just starting massive rebuilding projects and just lost their long-time captain (either by trade, free agency, or retirement) within the past few months, Toronto and Vegas are playoff teams a year ago and both expect to be contenders for the Stanley Cup. Vegas was actually playing in the Stanley Cup Final just a few months ago without an official captain.

Regardless of the circumstances, it’s a unique situation because the NHL has never had a season where this many teams are entering the season without a captain. Just look at the past 25 years as the most recent example, where only once did the league have more than three teams without a captain … and that season was this past season when there were four such teams.

It is probably not yet time to say the role of the captain as we know it (a player having the letter “C” stitched on their jersey) is going away (how often do four teams lose captains in one four-month stretch), but it certainly seems teams aren’t as concerned about that letter being stitched on a player’s jersey as they used to be.

Just consider that since the start of the 2014-15 season (a stretch of only five years) there have been 16 teams to enter a season without an officially designated captain on their roster, including the six teams this season. In the 20 years prior to that there were only 19 such teams, or less than one per season on average.

At the end of the day everyone in a locker room knows who the leaders of the team are, whether they have a letter on their jersey or not. Everyone knows who is going to be the player to speak up, who is going to be the player to “lead by example,” and who is going to be the player to “hold everything together.” You should not need a letter to recognize that.

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Six NHL teams that made themselves worse this summer (so far)

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A good rule of thumb in sports is that if you are not doing anything to make your team better, you are actively making it worse.

Earlier this week we looked at six teams that have done the most to make themselves better this summer (so far) and it’s only natural to take a look the other side of that spectrum with a few teams that have managed, one way or another, to make themselves worse.

We still have a few months to go before the season begins so none of these rosters are complete or final and there is still time for all of them to find ways to improve.

Just consider this as an offseason progress report through the draft and the initial free agency signing period where the biggest moves tend to get made.

1. New York Islanders — The New York Islanders hired the reigning Stanley Cup winning coach and a Hall of Fame, three-time Stanley Cup champion general manager and none of it is going to matter in the short-term.

John Tavares is gone. They lost Calvin de Haan. They acquired a bunch of fourth liners to go with the rest of their fourth-liners and are paying the entire group a ton of money. Robin Lehner should be a little bit of an upgrade in net, and they still have Mathew Barzal to build around, but you can not replace John Tavares with Leo Komarov, Matt Martin and Valterri Filppula and come away looking better.

Losing Tavares stinks, and given the circumstances there probably was not much else they could have done to keep him from going to the Maple Leafs, but that doesn’t mean you have to compound the problem by making all of the other corresponding roster moves.

2. Ottawa Senators — What is really scary here for the Senators is the fact they have not even traded Erik Karlsson yet.

This might be the worst situation of any team in the NHL given everything that is happening with this organization, on and off the ice.

They absolutely had to trade Mike Hoffman but even that made them look bad because they ended up getting a worse return for him than the team they traded him to did. When Karlsson is sent out this might be an early contender for worst team in hockey.

3. Montreal Canadiens — You can’t really blame them for Shea Weber being injured and missing the next five-to-six months following surgery.

You can blame them for trading P.K. Subban for an older player with a worse contract whose career already has a ton of miles on it and was likely to start breaking down physically before that contract expired.

You can also blame them for fumbling Alex Galchenyuk‘s career and then trading him, one-for-one, for a player that doesn’t address their biggest issue (goal-scoring) and has scored just 18 goals over his past 163 games. By comparison, Galchenyuk scored 19 this past season and the only time over the past four years he scored less was when he scored 17 in 2016-17 … in only 60 games.

They also brought back Tomas Plekanec on a one-year contract after he wasn’t particularly good for them a year ago and is now one year older.

It is going to be a lonely year for Carey Price, especially if they finally complete a Max Pacioretty trade.

4. Vancouver Canucks — I just … I just do not get it. I just do not get what is happening here or what the plan is or how the Canucks plan to get better and rebuild this team back into something that is worth watching. There is nothing wrong with adding Jay Beagle or Antoine Roussel to your team in a bottom-six role if you are contending team because they could probably help out and be useful in such a role.

But why — WHY!? — if you are the Vancouver Canucks, a team that has not made the playoffs in three years and has won fewer games than every team in the NHL (Vegas excluded) during that stretch, do you need to not only sign them, but sign them to matching four-year contracts?!

Do they necessarily make the Canucks worse? Probably not, because it’s not like the Canucks’ bottom six last year wasn’t a disaster, but how do long-term contracts to bottom-six players make the long-term situation here any better?

Combine that with the fact that Henrik and Daniel Sedin (still productive players a year ago) are retired and the fact that Brandon Sutter is probably going to have to take on an increased role as a result and it just looks like another bleak season on the horizon in Vancouver.

5. Chicago Blackhawks — The Blackhawks’ biggest issue in 2017-18 was goaltending thanks to the combination of Corey Crawford missing most of the season while none of his replacements were up to the challenge of filling that spot. As the 2018-19 season draws near we still have no real concrete update on Crawford’s status as he recovers form his mystery “upper-body injury” and their approach to improving the depth behind him was to sign, quite literally, the least productive goalie in the NHL (at least among goalies that have received regular or semi-regular playing time) over the past six years.

Chris Kunitz might still have a little something left in the tank as a depth player and the price is certainly right on him, but the addition of Ward and the uncertainty around Crawford is scary.

They have been mentioned as possible landing spot for Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Justin Faulk, and that would be a great way to improve a defense that has rapidly declined in recent years. Whether or not they can get it done remains to be seen, but the roster as constructed (as of this moment) looks similar to the one that disappointed a year ago.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins — With all due respect to Jim Rutherford, Mike Sullivan, and Sergei Gonchar and everything they have accomplished over the past three years I am going to need to see something from Jack Johnson to prove he will not drag their defense down the way he has literally dragged down every defense he has played on throughout his career.

Matt Cullen was an incredible depth player on their past two Stanley Cup winning teams, is by all accounts a great locker room presence, and costs next to nothing against the salary cap. That is all great for the Penguins. But he is also going to turn 42 years old this season and father time eventually comes for everybody. You could argue that it started to get the best of Cullen in 2017-18 when the Minnesota Wild were absolutely caved in possession-wise when Cullen was on the ice. Are they really better than they were at the end of the season, even when taking into account the likelihood that Derick Brassard has more to offer than he showed in the playoffs? Not convinced.

Rutherford’s tenure in Pittsburgh has been a healthy mix of brilliance and head-scratching decisions. You can not argue with two championships in four years. But that does not mean he is above criticism or second-guessing because just last summer he had an offseason that made the roster worse and resulted in him jettisoning every player he acquired within a year. This summer so far does not look much better.

At the same time, also not convinced that he does not have another blockbuster up his sleeve that will turn the look of the offseason around. That is just how it goes with Trader Jim.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.