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Stars’ Benn forced from game after questionable hit

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Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn was forced out of Wednesday’s game against the New Jersey Devils after taking what appeared to be a late hit from New Jersey forward Miles Wood in the second period.

Benn had tried to dump a pass off the boards to Tyler Seguin moments before he was crushed. Woods lined up Benn, who had his head turned, and drilled him.

Isolated, the hit itself appeared to be of the clean, shoulder-to-sternum variety. But add in the fact that Benn had already passed the puck away and the hit becomes questionable at best.

Here it is:

Wood was assessed a five-minute major for interference on the play.

The hit also sparked a melee between several players. Esa Lindell of the Stars and New Jersey’s Stefan Noesen each got roughing minors for extracurriculars. John Klingberg was also given a cross-checking penalty for going after Wood.

The Stars announced later in the period that Benn would not return because of an upper-body injury.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

Backes to have hearing for hit on Devils’ Coleman

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Bruins forward David Backes is in hot water, again.

The 34-year-old will have a hearing with the NHL’s Department of Player Safety for an illegal check to the head on Devils forward Blake Coleman on Thursday night. It’s a silly thing for anybody to do, but Backes should know better considering he’s battled concussions over the last few seasons.

Keep in mind that Backes was suspended three games in March for delivering a shoulder to the head of Detroit Red Wings forward Frans Nielsen. The fact that he’s been disciplined over the last 18 months means that he’ll be considered a repeat offender. So it’s possible that the Bruins will be without their veteran forward for a while.

Not only did Coleman stay in the game, he also managed to find the back of the net twice in the Devils’ 5-2 victory. Backes received a two-minute penalty on the play.

That sure looks like a hit that deserves a multi-game suspension.

Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.

Martin Brodeur on new role with Devils, Hall of Fame (PHT Q&A)

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It’s been a busy few months for Martin Brodeur. In August, he left his position as St. Louis Blues assistant general manager to take on the role of executive vice president of business development with the New Jersey Devils, the franchise that he spent 1,259 of his 1,266 NHL games with. A little over two months later he was inducted as part of the 2018 Hockey Hall of Fame class.

In his new gig with the Devils, he’s still getting a grasp on everything but he’s finding his hockey playing background is coming in handy.

“I think the fact that I played the game of hockey, I think there’s a lot of value for the business people here to kind of pick my brain about what the game’s all about, what the players are comfortable and not comfortable to do,” Brodeur said. “I played here so long I know a lot of people around the arena. I’m sure it’s going to get a lot different moving forward, but right now it’s really a learning curve, sitting down with meetings and understanding a little bit about the business and where everything’s coming from.

“I’m fortunate to work with [Devils president] Hugh Weber, who’s been president in different organizations. He’s been here for a little while and it’s nice to learn and see how everything works on that part. They’re teaching me about business and I’m teaching them a bit about the game of hockey at the same time. It’s been good.”

Brodeur works 3-4 days a week and commutes back to his home in St. Louis to spend weekends with his family. After spending 55 days in Europe last season while with the Blues, the Hall of Famer wanted to take a step back and enjoy retirement.

We chatted with Brodeur earlier this season in his office inside Prudential Center to see what life was like these days for the legendary netminder and how he’s enjoying the switch from hockey operations to business development.

Enjoy.

Q. How did you go from playing to assistant GM to this position?

BRODEUR: “It happened quickly. [Blues GM] Doug Armstrong called me and said he needed me for a couple of months. I was going to retire anyway and so I said I’ll try it. I had never played for a different organization and it always intrigued me a little bit, so I took the challenge and went over there. When everybody got healthy I was not going to play, so I said it was time for me to move on. I was getting ready to get back to Jersey and Doug asked me if I wanted to stay as an advisor for the rest of the year — watch the games, travel with the team. I already had my apartment there and I told my wife I might as well just check it out and find out if I like it or not. I did that the rest of the year and I was going to move back to Jersey and [Doug] called me up and offered me the assistant general manager job.

“I still live there now. It was good. It was a good learning curve. I think the organization were really good to me. Now it’s just a different challenge. I think to be a good GM you have to understand the business of hockey a little bit and I have no clue. When I was there I was picking Doug’s brain and other people there, and now I’m living it. Obviously, I’m not sure what the future will bring me, I’m not worried about it, but I think I’m learning most of what’s going on in hockey outside of playing the game.”

Q. Did your curiosity for this side of the game develop later on in your career?

BRODEUR: “Later on. When retirement was eminent I had a lot of conversations with [former Devils GM] Lou [Lamoriello] about how it works, where the money comes from, how do guys generate [revenue], just a lot of questions. I wanted to do something to stay busy. I thought hockey was the [direction] I would go in and that’s what I did. It’s just that I didn’t think about how demanding it was and with your family and the little one at home and the wife, it’s like OK, we’ve got to be careful here.

“It’s something that always intrigued me a little bit, that aspect — who deals with what and how everything goes. When you’re in management in hockey you understand a little bit because you’re doing some of the travel for the team, the plane, the hotels, the meals. When you play, everything’s given to you. You don’t even know who’s doing what. You learn a lot about the game when you work on the other side. I was lucky enough to be exposed a lot in St. Louis to everything and now here it’s a different scale because what the Devils are. Right now, I’ve barely touched the Devils. I’ve touched the big umbrellas of the 76ers, Prudential Center, Devils. There’s a lot to learn and a big staff, that’s why I think it’s going to take me a long time because there’s so much — where everything’s coming from, from game ops to season tickets to suites to the 76ers to the building to the renovation of a building, real estate for a big company that wants to build up Newark. So you’re involved in a little bit of everything. It’s been really interesting and a big learning curve for me. I’ve been asking a lot of questions.”

Q. Do you see yourself getting back into hockey ops in the future?

BRODEUR: “Yeah, maybe. That’s not what I’m looking for for the near future. That’s not my goal. Tomorrow if somebody would offer me [a job], I would definitely decline. But in the future I don’t know what I’m going to do. This is good for me, my family. I’m commuting back and forth from St. Louis. This is a good setup. My weekends are spent with my family. I know with hockey ops I need to be ready, I need to be older, I need to get more experience if I ever want to do that again. I might just get really comfortable doing this because so far it’s been good.”

Q. Why didn’t you want to go in the coaching direction?

BRODEUR: “I did it for a couple of months when we fired Ken Hitchcock [in St. Louis]. I enjoyed it. I think it’s really rewarding. At one point it just got to be a lot of downtime, especially for a goalie coach because it’s not like you’re doing the X’s and O’s. But it was a fun experience, I really liked it. I think if I didn’t have a family that would be an unbelievable job to have. It’s not for everybody but I enjoyed it. I thought I was OK at it, I don’t know how good I was. But my goalie played well, so that was good.”

Q. You won Stanley Cups, Vezina Trophies, Olympic gold medals, you have a statue outside. Has the magnitude of being a Hall of Famer hit you?

BRODEUR: “It’s mind-boggling. First, you don’t expect to get a statue, that’s for sure, and you don’t expect to be in the Hall of Fame. Winning a Stanley Cup, that’s your goal, that’s what you work for. I played a team sport so you go out there and success is driven by the people that are around you and it makes you better. You can distinguish yourself a little bit out of the pack and people give you accolades, but when that phone call happens, even though everybody thought I was going to get the phone call you still, when you get it, it’s something.”

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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.

Devils’ Vatanen with one of the saves of the year

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Do you remember when you were young and your coaches kept telling you never to give up on a play?

To keep playing until the whistle sounded?

Yeah, Sami Vatanen was listening.

There have been a lot of good saves in the NHL this year. Great ones, too. But most of them have come from goalies — the ones tasked with, and paid for, stopping the puck.

Vatanen’s job, as a defenseman, is to prevent shots. But every once and a while he, too, is called upon to keep the puck out of the net. And he did one hell of a job doing so on Friday night against the Ottawa Senators.

Just watch this sequence above. It’s incredible.

NEWARK, NJ – DECEMBER 21: Sami Vatanen #45 of the New Jersey Devils blocks a shot by Brady Tkachuk #7 of the Ottawa Senators during the second period at the Prudential Center on December 21, 2018 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils defeated the Senators 5-2.(Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

There’s Vatanen flailing across the crease to try and keep the puck from entering the net. And he does it so perfectly.

The result, too, is spectacular, with the Devils going in on a 2-on-1 and Hall scoring.

The moral of the story here is never give up. You never know what might happen.


Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

No hearing for Tom Wilson after another controversial hit (Update)

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(UPDATE: There will be no hearing for Wilson, per Bob McKenzie.)

The debate over the next day or so is going to be intense.

Did Washington Capitals forward (and resident bad boy) Tom Wilson deliver another dirty hit on a fellow NHLer? And if so, how does the NHL’s Department of Player Safety navigate that minefield?

Wilson was tossed from Friday’s game against the New Jersey Devils after clipping forward Brett Seney, who had just been stopped on a break and had retrieved the rebound,  dumping the puck back deep into the Capitals’ zone. With Seney’s back turned, Wilson delivered the glancing blow.

To where? That’s what will need to be looked at over the next 24 hours.

Here’s the hit:

Officially, Wilson was given a five-minute major for an illegal check to the head and a game misconduct. There are several angles of the hit that can be seen. Some look like he caught shoulder, others look like the head was the principle point of contact.

If it’s the latter, buckle in.

Wilson was already suspended this season for 20 games (later reduced to 14 through an arbitrator) for drilling St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist with a blindside hit to the head.

PHT’s Adam Gretz put together a quick rundown of Wilson’s recent history prior to his 20 game suspension earlier this season — four suspensions in 105 games.

  • His first suspension came last year in the preseason when he was suspended two preseason games for interference on St. Louis Blues forward Robert Thomas. While Wilson had carried a reputation for being a physical player that played right on the edge, he had, to that point in his career, only been fined by the NHL so he only missed two preseason games. A very minor and meaningless slap on the wrist.
  • But in his first game back from that two-game suspension, he boarded St. Louis’ Samuel Blias, which resulted in the punishment instantly being cranked up to a four-game regular season ban.
  • After going through the remainder of the regular season and the first round of the playoffs without another play that reached the level of supplemental discipline, he was given a three-game postseason ban (probably comparable to a six-game regular season suspension) for a hit to the head of Zach Aston-Reese, knocking him out of the playoffs.

A couple things of note on the latest hit: the hit was avoidable, which the DoPS pointed out in the video explanation for Wilson’s 20-game suspension, also stating that he took a poor angle of approach, which seems to be the case again. It’s a blindside hit.

You don’t need the reminder, but Wilson is a repeat offender.

“The hitting aspect of the game is definitely changing a little bit, and I’ve got to be smart out there and I’ve got to play within the rules,” Wilson told the Washington Post during his latest suspension. “And at the end of the day, no one wants to be in the situation that I’m in right now. I’ve got to change something because obviously it’s not good to be out and not helping your team.”

Smart has been one of Wilson’s buzz words for a long time.

Everything had been going swimmingly for Wilson since returning from his latest suspension. His sixth goal during a five-game goal-scoring streak came prior to his ejection.

Wilson has seven goals and 13 points in nine games and appeared to be keeping his nose clean.

For what it’s worth, Seney was able to return to the game.

Following the game, Seney told reporters that he wasn’t totally sure where the hit caught him.

Capitals coach Todd Reirden weighed in after the game.

Reirden was incensed on the bench when Wilson got the boot and appears he was still fuming after the game.

Washington plays their next game on Sunday afternoon, so George Parros isn’t taking Saturday off.

Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck