Brent Sopel

Marc Crawford Suspension
Getty

Marc Crawford will return to Blackhawks’ bench after suspension

2 Comments

Assistant coach Marc Crawford has been away from the Chicago Blackhawks since Dec. 2 as the team investigated incidents of player abuse during his previous NHL coaching stops.

The team announced on Monday evening that Crawford will remain suspended through Jan. 2 following the investigation, and will then return to the team’s bench.

Crawford and the team both released statements. Those statements address the incidents, the investigation, the suspension, and the steps Crawford has taken.

The Blackhawks said they do not condone his previous behavior, and during their review confirmed that Crawford proactively sought counseling in an effort to improve.

He began the counseling in 2010 and has continued to go through on a regular basis.

Crawford’s statement

Crawford issued a few more in-depth statement. Here is an excerpt.

Recently, allegations have resurfaced about my conduct earlier in my coaching career. Players like Sean Avery, Harold Druken, Patrick O’Sullivan and Brent Sopel have had the strength to publicly come forward and I am deeply sorry for hurting them. I offer my sincere apologies for my past behavior.

I got into coaching to help people, and to think that my actions in any way caused harm to even one player fills me with tremendous regret and disappointment in myself. I used unacceptable language and conduct toward players in hopes of motivating them, and, sometimes went too far. As I deeply regret this behavior, I have worked hard over the last decade to improve both myself and my coaching style.

I have made sincere efforts to address my inappropriate conduct with the individuals involved as well as the team at large. I have regularly engaged in counseling over the last decade where I have faced how traumatic my behavior was towards others. I learned new ways of expressing and managing my emotions. I take full responsibility for my actions.

You can read the full statements via the Blackhawks’ website.

The incidents

Just before Crawford stepped away from the Blackhawks, former NHL player Sean Avery told the New York Post that Crawford had kicked him back in 2006 when they were with the Los Angeles Kings. Several other players that played under Crawford also came forward with stories, including Harold Druken, Patrick O’Sullivan, and Brent Sopel.

Druken called Crawford “hands down the worst human being I’ve ever met” for his verbal and physical abuse that included derogatory comments about Druken’s background.

O’Sullivan had also shared similar stories about Crawford’s coaching tactics.

Other incidents around the league

• The stories regarding Crawford started to resurface following Bill Peters’ exit from the Calgary Flames.

Peters resigned from the Flames after it was revealed he used a racial slur against former player Akim Aliu when he was head coach of the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs. That was followed by defenseman Michal Jordan detailing how Peters had punched and kicked players on the Hurricanes’ bench, a claim that was backed up by then-assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour.

•  Shortly after Mike Babcock was fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs, a story surfaced detailing how he made then-rookie Mitch Marner rank his teammates from hardest working to least hardest working, and then informed the players at the bottom of the list of Marner’s ranking.

• Former Red Wings forward Johan Franzen also shared his own personal experiences with Babcock, calling him the worst person he had ever met.

More: Crawford on leave from Blackhawks

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.

Top 10 craziest non-hockey NHL injuries (not our list, someone else’s)

2 Comments

Dustin Penner’s pancake-related injury has inspired Sportsnet.ca to compile a top-10 list of the “craziest non-hockey NHL injuries.”

Our favorite? Former goalie Glenn Healy cutting his hand for 40 stitches while cleaning his bagpipes. In hindsight, his biggest mistake was buying bagpipes made of knives.

Honorary mention goes to then-Canucks defenseman Brent Sopel, who threw out his back picking up a cracker in 2007. Although in fairness, it was a Triscuit, and you could chuck one of those through a brick wall.

Notable omission from the list is another former Canuck, Michael Grabner, who in 2009 tore up his ankle playing soccer in the hallway before a game.

“I just jumped up and my heel got caught on the wall and I landed on my toes and rolled over,” explained Grabner.

/pictures it and tries not to laugh

//laughs, but doesn’t feel bad because he recovered, scored a bunch of goals and now he’s rich

KHL calling: Brent Sopel headed to Russia; Alex Kovalev to follow?

With the NHL free agent market all but running out of jobs for those available, some players are taking the initiative and finding work elsewhere.

Former Penguins star and former Rangers and Canadiens forward Alex Kovalev is reportedly heading to the KHL. According to sources, Kovalev will sign a deal with Atlant Mytishchi to play hockey next season in his home country. Kovalev spent last season with the Ottawa Senators and Pittsburgh Penguins and scored 16 goals and 18 assists in 74 games combined with each team. In his time with the Penguins, he scored just two goals and five assists.

Over 18 NHL seasons, Kovalev has scored 428 goals and amassed 1,024 points but at 38 years-old he’s lost a step and isn’t as dynamic of a scorer as he once was. While it’ll be sad to see him leave the NHL, he’s seen the game rocket past his abilities to be a big time offensive producer.

source: Getty Images

Former Montreal defenseman and Stanley Cup winner with the Chicago Blackhawks Brent Sopel announced via Twitter that he’s headed to Russia to play in the KHL. Making his signing all the more official was the posting made by Sopel’s wife on her blog saying as much.

Sometimes, well most of the time, things don’t go as planned.  This is one of them.  We have been back in the Syracuse area visiting family for over a week now, and Sopes and Paul returned to Chicago two days ago.  I received a phone call that he signed with the KHL.  Metallurg Novokuznetsk to be exact.  The hardest part is that he’s got to leave by August 9th – not much time.

While Kovalev’s departure would be sad, Sopel’s is a bit surprising given that he’s got some defensive abilities on the blue line and is a capable shot blocker. Last season with Atlanta and Montreal, Sopel had two goals and five assists all with the Thrashers. With the Canadiens, Sopel registered no points and was a -1 in plus/minus in 12 games. Being a defensive defenseman means not scoring points and not getting noticed in your own end.

There’s certainly a place for Sopel in the NHL, but waiting it out and potentially ending up with a two-way deal and winding up in the AHL at some point isn’t too appealing. You can’t fault Sopel for going for the sure thing and the sure money, even if it is so far from home.

Best of the rest update: The remaining top free agents on the market

3 Comments

We’re over three weeks removed from the start of free agency and the signing season was quick to start and now heads into its slower days as teams rosters have filled out. While some teams have yet to get to the salary floor, the big money deals are all but over with and finding that key depth contributor to perhaps lead to a Stanley Cup run next summer can be tricky.

As it is, there’s a host of guys with famous names still out on the market and with recent salary buyouts and arbitration rejection there’s a few more interesting names out there for teams to sniff around at. By interesting we mean guys you know and might even ask, “He’s still playing?” about.

Without further ado, here’s the free agent hit-list as it stands according to the wise guys at CapGeek.

At forward you have recent buyout victims Chris Drury and J.P. Dumont. Drury’s days with the Rangers are over with and as an experienced third or fourth line center he could be useful for a team in need. Perhaps a team like Ottawa or Phoenix could stand to have a guy like him to help provide depth and leadership to the host of youth on both rosters.

If veteran centers are your thing, there’s also Mike Modano and Kris Draper who spent last year in Detroit, Todd White who spent time with the Rangers, and John Madden who played in Minnesota last year.

Dumont could bring some solid big-body depth to a team in need along the wings. He was able to do reasonably well there for Nashville over the last few seasons, but last year was a bad one for him with reduced ice time and just 11 goals.

Other wingers with some name recognition and perhaps a little bit to bring to the table include Sergei Samsonov, Alex Kovalev, Cory Stillman, and Ethan Moreau. If you want pure offense and potentially frustrating production there’s always Nikolay Zherdev whose 16 goals in 56 games with the Flyers last year showed that he’s still able to get it done in the NHL after a year in the KHL.

Teemu Selanne is still, technically, an unrestricted free agent the word out there is that if he doesn’t sign with the Anaheim Ducks again, he’s going to hang it up for good. Here’s to hoping we see Selanne back in black and orange for one more season.

At defense, the recently let go Chris Campoli heads the list of available and useful players there. The Blackhawks and Campoli went to arbitration early so the Blackhawks could refuse his arbitration victory and set him free. With older options like Bryan McCabe, Scott Hannan, Steve Staios, Steve Eminger, Craig Rivet, and Brent Sopel out there on the market, a team in need of another experienced defenseman has some options available to them.

A team like the New York Islanders that needs to reach the salary floor and has a need for more experience on the blue line could go dipping into the pool here but don’t expect Campoli to be their possible target, they’ve been there before with him. Besides, the Isles are busy with a reclamation story of a different kind.

With goalies, the availability list is short and the market may be impossible to get through. After Detroit signed Ty Conklin to be their backup goalie once again, for guys that are still out there they’ll have a hard time finding work. That means for Pascal Leclaire, Marty Turco, and Ray Emery landing an immediate NHL job may not happen. Waiting around for injuries to happen elsewhere across the league will help potentially lead to ironic headlines in the future. For Turco, it could mean an earlier start to a television career.

The pickings are slim, but there’s help to be had for some teams out there. The key will be to not make a signing end up being too foolish to make it work.

Still need free agent pickups? Buyer beware as free agent crop is awfully thin now

2 Comments

It’s nearly been a week since free agency began to officially kick off the NHL offseason. After all the signings we’ve had since last Friday, chances are if you haven’t found what you’ve needed for your team you might be out of luck. If you’re wondering who else is still out there, CapGeek has been doing a good job of keeping their lists updated as to who your team might be interested in.

Of course, if your team is in dire need of help virtually anywhere around the ice, they might be in some big trouble. As for who the best of the rest might be, we’ll take a look at each set of positions (forwards, defensemen, goalies) and show you who the next wave of guys to sign might end up being.

Forwards

Depending on what your needs are, you could still find a little bit of what you’re after. If you need depth scoring and perhaps an aging veteran to spice things up there’s no one better to pick than Alex Kovalev. He’s 38 years-old and coming off a season that saw him split time with Ottawa and Pittsburgh scoring a total of 16 goals adding 18 assists.

source: Getty ImagesIf Kovalev doesn’t do it for you, there’s always the slightly younger Sergei Samsonov. Last season, Samsonov split time with Carolina and Florida scoring a total of 13 goals with 27 assists. Through his whole career he’s been a 40-point player so if you need a little scoring on your third line, go for it. The other more interesting skill forwards to be had include: Cory Stillman, Vinny Prospal, Nikolai Zherdev, and Rob Schremp.

If you’re in need of a speedy winger that can help kill penalties, Fredrik Sjostrom is available as is Steve Bernier. If you’d rather have a physical winger guys like Mike Grier, Brad Winchester, Ethan Moreau, and Eric Boulton. If you’d rather sign an older center who may just have a year or two left in them there’s always Mike Modano, Kris Draper, Brendan Morrison, or John Madden.

Then again, if signing agitators and fighters is what your team needs look no further than Jarkko Ruutu, Eric Godard, or Cam Janssen. With Godard you get a guy that will come off of the bench to defend your goalie in a fight and with Janssen he’ll make sure to book his fights in advance on Twitter.

The selections here aren’t mind-blowing, but if depth is what you need then you’re in luck. There’s also Teemu Selanne who’s technically a free agent but if he doesn’t play for Anaheim, he’s probably not playing in the NHL ever again. Sorry Winnipeg.

Defensemen

source: Getty ImagesIf you’re in need of a top flight defenseman, you’re better off trying to swing a trade elsewhere. If you’re looking for a second or third pairing guy then there’s a few choices that could pan out well and play in certain roles well. If your team needs another power play quarterback type Bryan McCabe is available. Other offensive-like guys are Anton Stralman and Sami Lepisto who were both set free from Columbus.

Defensive defensemen are key as well and should a team need a guy that can body up reasonably well and play sound defensively former Caps defenseman Scott Hannan or Habs blue liner Brent Sopel could work out well. Hannan is a bit more physical while Sopel will also double up and block shots as well. Former Predators defenseman Shane O’Brien could fit the bill for that role as well although his penchant for bad penalties could scare teams off.

Paul Mara could also be a nice complimentary defensive role player, especially if you’re in need of a guy to get in Alex Ovechkin’s business often. Other names to be found here: Anssi Salmela, Freddy Meyer, Karlis Skrastins, Steve Eminger, Jason Strudwick, and Mike Lundin.

If your team is in need of guys that have wild last names, defense is where it’s at with both Jeff Woywitka and Severin Blindenbacher both formerly with Dallas.

source: Getty Images

Goalies

Here’s where things get dicey, there’s not many guys left if you want someone with NHL experience. Of those available you have your choice between a guy who’s still young but injury prone in Pascal Leclaire, feel-good veteran in Ray Emery, perennial backup favorite Ty Conklin, and elder statesman Chris Osgood.

Failing that a team could try to keep Marty Turco away from being a TV star or could think that Joey MacDonald did enough with Detroit last season to earn a backup job.

As it is, most jobs are spoken for in goal both in starting and backing up and Detroit is the one high profile spot remaining and that could be down to Ty Conklin or another year on pins and needles with Osgood.