NHL Awards 2017

Hart Trophy: Connor McDavid
Most Valuable Player

Ted Lindsay: Connor McDavid
Best player as voted by NHLPA

Norris Trophy: Brent Burns
Best defenceman

Vezina Trophy: Sergei Bobrovsky 
Best goaltender

Calder Trophy: Auston Matthews
Best rookie

Selke Trophy: Patrice Bergeron 
Best defensive forward

Lady Byng Trophy: Johnny Gaudreau
Most gentlemanly player (61 points and only 4 penalty minutes)

Bill Masterton Trophy: Craig Anderson
Dedication to hockey (took a leave of absence to care for wife fighting cancer)

Jack Adams Award: John Tortorella
Coach of the Year

General Manager of the Year: David Poile

King Clancy Memorial Trophy: Nick Foligno
Leadership/humanitarian (Foligno and wife donated $500000 to hospital that operated on new born daughter)

NHL Foundation Player Award: Travis Hamonic
Core Values of Hockey (Created D-Partner program for children who have suffered loss of family member, encourage them to be open in talking about grief/loss)

Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award: Nick Foligno

Art Ross Trophy: Connor McDavid
Highest scorer

Maurice Richard Trophy: Sidney Crosby
Top goal scorer

William M. Jennings Trophy: Braden Holtby
Fewest goals scored against

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Congratulations to all the winners!

The 2017 NHL Entry Draft

The New Jersey Devils won the draft lottery – thanks to expert Taylor Hall – and with their first overall pick, they selected Nico Hischier. Nolan Patrick went second to the Philadelphia Flyers, and third selection, Miro Heiskanen, went to the Dallas Stars.

In previous years there has been a clear number one rookie (Auston Matthews and prior to that Connor McDavid), however there wasn’t a clear cut favourite between Nolan and Nico. The two rookies have been spending a great amount of time together in the weeks leading up to the draft and there was no animosity between the two as Nico just edged Nolan for the first spot. In doing so, he became the highest ever drafted Swiss player… and some may say it’s destiny.

 

Full draft results can be found here.

Hockey Is For Everyone* (*Mostly Everyone)

During February, the NHL hosted a “you can play” month whereby they declared that hockey was for everyone. One of the prospects in this year’s draft is Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who was raised by two mothers. Nancy and Fran met whilst playing hockey, and had Jaret skating at 18 months old.

Anderson-Dolan is expected to be picked by the second round. He had a 70 point season with the Spokane Chiefs. Whilst at pre-season camp, he was invited to participate in VO2 testing – to measure the ability of the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to supply oxygen to muscles. This is usually reserved for veterans, but Jaret, at 16 years old, had a test number in the mid 60s and not a single other player reached 60 – then in his second season with the Chiefs, he hit high 60s which is generally the highest score in the NHL combine.

The player is hard working, eats organically, and studies sport psychology (good lad), and during “hockey is for everyone” ensured his stick was taped with the rainbow pride tape. The entire team followed suit despite issues with the tape being poor quality and breaking some players’ superstitions about their equipment.

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In a sport where trashtalking is the norm, he has faced backlash over his two mothers in the past. Whilst going through the WHL bantam draft, he was told by some teams that they would not take him because of his two mothers. But sure, hockey is for everyone, right?

“I can’t change people’s opinions. If that’s how they feel about it, I’d honestly rather not be in that organization if they’re going to be like that. I’d rather be in an organization with the Chiefs where they support it completely. Maybe that ended up with me falling in the draft a little bit, but I don’t really care, honestly. I’m proud of my moms. I’m proud of my uncles, my aunties, everyone I know that is openly gay. I have no shame about it, and neither do they.”

Good luck to Jaret in the lead up to the draft and beyond. He’s sure to be a great representative of the sport!

Stanley Cup Playoffs Round Two

It’s with a heavy heart that we bid farewell to half of our teams until next season. See ya in October: San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames, St Louis Blues, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, and the Montreal Canadiens. But to the remaining eight… welcome to round two – four wins down, twelve to go.

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Preds/Blues

For the first time in NHL history, an 8th seed swept a first seed and I think we all became fans of the Nashville Predators for the way they took out the trash. When Shea Weber was traded for PK Subban, a lot of people thought it was a crazy move. Blackhawks captain, Jonathan Toews, certainly was relieved, but too bad… the lmao.pngPreds are more than one man! Elite goal tender, Pekka Rinne saved 123 of 126 shots he faced giving him a tasty .976sv%, but rival goalie Jake Allen has also been incredible with a .956sv%, and since Mike Yeo took over the Blues _ months ago, the team have allowed less than two goals a game average. Yet before players can get to the goal, they have to get past Josi, Ellis, Ekholm, and Subban, who have been defending spectacularly. Firing from the offense, Blues have Vladimir Tarasenko, Vladimir Sobotka, who has tumblr_oorr91sO9T1wngza3o1_500returned from three years in the KHL, and Paul Stasyny, back from injury. The Preds have Ryan Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson, Filip Scorsberg Forsberg, and should hopefully have Colin Wilson back from injury after missing round one. This will be the tightest series in the Western Conference because the teams are so evenly matched.
Prediction: Blues win in seven (I’d really love it to be Nashville though…) 

 

Ducks/Oilers

The Oilers will be feeling pretty proud that they knocked out the San Jose Sharks in six games as the Sharks were last year’s runners up, and the Oilers haven’t been in the playoffs for a decade. That being said, the pressure from fans is high, but they have captain Connor (McJesus) McDavid who has won the Art Ross trophy this year for most points – in only his second season. (Let us not forget that he spent a few months out in his rookie year following a dirty hit into the boards that broke his collar bone). The Ducks always surprise me when they consistently make the playoffs… I forget they exist because I never come across their fans (should have stayed as the Mighty Ducks). In their 22 year history they’ve made the playoffs 12 times, and of those twelve times, they have been the division champion a staggering six times, and won one Stanley Cup. They swept Calgary, so they’re doing something right. Talbot was outstanding in goal against the Sharks, and the Oilers have no significant injuries in the team, but they’re inexperienced – particularly in the playoffs – and up against a very physical, (sometimes dirty) experienced team with the likes of Kesler, Bieksa, Getzlaf, and Perry.
Prediction: Ducks win in six. 

Rangers/Senators

I’m not sure if anybody expected the forgotten Canadian team, the Ottawa Senators, to make it past the first round but the Bruins were sluggish this season and niggled by injuries, so they had an easier opponent. Last time the New York Rangers faced the Canadiens, the Habs were without Carey Price and were beat in six. They declared that if they had their brickwall of a goaltender they’d have beaten the Rangers; well they had him this time and they still got whooped by the Rangers. The Sens are carried more often than not by Erik Karlsson, but so far Bobby Ryan and ex-Ranger, Derick Brassard, are leading in goals and assists in the post-season. The Rangers are favourites to win here. In their last fifteen matches, NYR have taken ten of them. Rangers have good depth; Zuccarello led the team in points, but hot on his tail were Miller, Stepan, and Kreider then they also have the King of Sweden, Henrik Lundqvist in goal.
Prediction: Rangers to win in five. 

Penguins/Capitals

This is gonna be the best match up – without a doubt. I am biased as HELL but I’ll be cheering for Pittsburgh – but they have the players to back it up. They’re without Kris Letang and Carl Hagelin who are on injured reserve, as well as

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The End of Crochkin? Say it ain’t so!

Matt Murray who is unable to skate. Their fourth highest point scorer was Sheary with 53 points in his first full season… to put that into perspective Zuccarello, the point leader for rangers, had 59. Kessel notched up 70, Malkin had 72, and Crosby leads the league with an 89 point season. However, hot on his tail was all star Nicklas Backstrom with 86 points. Ovi scores 33 goals and 36 assists – don’t accuse him of not passing again. Big scorers all round in these battles. It’s not just about the points; both teams are notoriously close in terms of cohesion and play like well oiled machines. Whilst Holtby has a .925sv%, Fleury has the edge at .933sv% for the playoffs. However, the Pens are without Murray to back him up, and Fleury can be shaky at times during playoffs in previous years. The big worry for the Caps – besides the two headed monster and the other penguins – is that they tend to fall apart during the playoffs despite being a regular season juggernaut. Still, the Caps ended Toronto’s playoff dreams in game seven whilst Justin Bieber was in attendance in his Maple Leafs shirt, shame.
Prediction: Penguins take it in seven (I really hope)

 

 

 

RISE AND SHINE… IT’S PLAYOFF TIME!

The Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing which means hockey season is almost over. However, the race to sixteen wins is underway and the first round has already conjured up some expected and unexpected surprises.

For those unfamiliar with the NHL playoff format, after an arduous 82 game season (that’s per team – bit ridiculous, but if you’re a season ticket holder then at least you get your money’s worth) the top four teams in each division make it through to the play offs. The teams in the Western conference face off against each other, and same for the east then in the final, the champion of the West plays the champion of the East to be crowned the Stanley Cup Champion. Now, you need sixteen wins to lift that cup, four wins in each round – seems simple enough, but each round can go to a maximum of seven games which in theory means a team could have an additional 28 games in the post-season. When you consider pre-season starts up in September, these players give up almost their entire year to hockey.

Here’s how the first round is looking:

stanley.jpg  Toronto managed to sneak into the playoffs, so that city has already gone insane at the prospect of lifting a cup. However, Toronto is leading 2-1 against the Washington Capitals. The Caps are a juggernaut in the regular season, but seem to have a meltdown each year in the playoffs. Maybe one day Ovi will get his cup. What’s great about Toronto is that there are so many rookies on that team (Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Hyman, Kapanen, Brown, Zaitsev, Soshnikov, and Gauthier) who have a combined 112 goals, 283 points in the regular season. Even better is that if they got swept then a Chris Brown concert would have been played at the Verizon Center, however an over time win in game 2 forced a game five which will be played there and Chris Brown will be rescheduled, nice.

Last year no Canadian teams made the playoffs, this year Toronto and Edmonton make a long anticipated come back together with the Calgary Flames, the Ottawa Senators, and the Montreal Canadiens. The Habs are leading 2-1 against the New York Rangers, another of the Original Six teams, so these two heavyweights have had many match ups in their illustrious history. Another Original Six team, the Boston Bruins are currently losing 2-1 to the Sens. All’s well in Canada so far…

Head west to Alberta and Edmonton are leading 2-1 against the San Jose Sharks, last year’s runners up. The Flames are truly going up in flames. They’re facing the Anaheim Ducks who are currently leading 3-0 in the series; the Flames have not won in Anaheim in THIRTEEN YEARS. Yikes!

Another FANTASTIC result is that Nashville are leading 3-0 against the Blackhawks. In the first two games, elite goaltender Pekke Rinne recorded two shut outs and two assists. A goal tender had more points than the entire Blackhawks roster, amazing. Of course, the motto of the Chicago Blackhawks is “one goal” so many memes ensued. Not only are Nashville on the verge of sweeping Chicago, their captain’s wife, Carrie Underwood, sang the national anthem last night and was incredible.

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Elsewhere, reigning champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins are leading Columbus 3-0, and St Louis are leading 3-0 against the Minnesota Wild.

No matter what happens for the remainder of the post-season, we’re gonna see some really great hockey!

Bettman vs the Olympics

What’s greater than representing your country in the Olympics? Skipping it and competing in the same league as per usual, according to NHL commissioner, Gary Bettman. Negotiations between the NHL and the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) are fraught with tension. On the 21st March, the commissioner had this to say, in regards to the 2018 Winter Olympics:

Assume we are not going

We, being the NHL players who would be representing their countries in PyeongChang. The main issue is that because it falls in January/February, the NHL season must shut down for almost three weeks in the final push for the playoffs. The added weeks cause the season to lengthen… the final game of the Stanley Cup in 2014 was played on June 13th and the pre-season then began three months later on the 21st September. But it’s less than three weeks, once every four years… IT’S THE OLYMPICS. If they want to shorten the season then cut down on the number of games, collapse teams, remove the all-star game or the recently introduced bye week.

There is also a thinly veiled concern for “player injuries” – this is coming from a league that sparsely enforces its player safety, shows little consistency, displays favouritism, and has lawsuits against it from former players due to the effects of repeated concussions. I say their concern is not genuine because they do not show much concern for fourth liners, but because their star players are at the Olympics – the ones who draw in viewers and the cash – they worry about the size of their wallet.

This is terribly disruptive to our business

For big bosses like Bettman, hockey is just that, a business.

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Candid photo of Bettman guarding his gold

However, to players who have given their entire lives to this sport, the opportunity to represent their country on the biggest stage and win a gold medal means everything. IT IS THE DAMN OLYMPICS. Bettman is complaining about the costs involved in sending the players (around $15-20  million due to accommodation, charter costs, and insurance),but as the majority of these players are on contracts worth millions of dollars per year, I’m sure they’re capable of producing the money as individuals to have the chance to play for their country.

Take the Russian Machine, Alexander Ovechkin, for an example. He’s said that if the NHL refuses to send players then he doesn’t care and is going anyway. Ovi is the face of the Washington Capitals franchise and if he says “nope, I’m out” then others might follow suit. Caps owner, Ted Leonsis, has even given Ovi his blessing to go to the Olympics.

He knows I have his back on this one. If this is what’s so important to him and he wants to go to the Olympics, he should be able to do that. Alex has meant so much to us. He doesn’t ask for much back. I’m not shy about saying it, I would support the player in this instance.

And if Ovi goes, what if his team mate Backström decides he wants to play for Sweden? And if Crosby says he wants to win his third gold and leave the Penguins for three weeks? And if McDavid and Matthews want the opportunity to represent their country for the first time? Who will stand in their way?
Another of Bettman’s issues is that participating in the previous Olympics has had no benefits to the NHL. Olympic games would be broadcast in the morning in North America due to the time difference and in February, only hockey and basketball are the major sports on. It’s absolutely ridiculous. People will still tune into the Olympics no matter what time of day it is hosted.

We don’t get content for the NHL Network, we don’t get content for our social media platforms and NHL.com

GET OVER IT

Bettman pushed the World Cup of Hockey enough – a poor man’s replica of the Olympics – but hockey exists outside the NHL of course. Canada and the USA would most likely send teams made of AHLers, college athletes, or ex-NHLers. Russia could come with a very strong KHL team (and Ovi leading the way as an abdicator). But here is the real kicker… Bettman is keen to line his pockets with as much money as possible, or so it seems: With the arrival of the Las Vegas Golden Knights, the NHL has ANOTHER team in the desert. He also would like to penetrate the Chinese sports market because there is lots of cash to be had there. Guess who is hosting the Olympics in 2022… Cha-ching, China! The NHL planned to hold games every year there in the lead up to generate interest* in ice hockey, but Rene Fasel, head of the IIHF has declared:

If the NHL doesn’t come to Korea, they can’t just go to China.

Yikes! The greedy heads of the NHL could potentially shoot themselves in the foot and lose this lucrative Chinese market if they do not participate in the Korean Olympics.

That being said, the NHL didn’t agree to the Sochi Olympics until June 2013, so it is still up in the air… at least until Bettman stops throwing his dummy out of the pram.

*cash, you know it’s for cash. These new “fans” would have to watch games first thing in the morning… oh wait wasn’t that an argument against going to Korea?

 

Concussions Part II – Hockey & Concussions

Elite hockey players are fast and physical athletes therefore it is one of the sports with an inflated risk of concussion due to collisions and checks, despite players wearing helmets. Whilst the majority of concussions will resolve themselves in 7 – 10 days, some players experience post-concussion syndrome – most notably Sidney Crosby.

During the Winter Classic game in 2011, Crosby took a headshot from David Steckel then five days later, Victor Hedman ran him hard into the boards. After his concussion diagnosis, Crosby missed a staggering 68 games. However, only eight games into his comeback, Crosby collided with liney Chris Kunitz and was out for another 43 games. The player himself admits he questioned whether he would ever recover enough to play professionally again. Since that first bout of head injuries, he has gone on to win an Olympic gold in Sochi, a gold world championship medal, the world cup of hockey, the Stanley Cup, the Conn Smythe, and the Hart trophy, as well as various MVP awards. Yet, in 2016 Crosby was diagnosed with a concussion again following an incident in practice.

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The cursed jersey

Coach Sullivan said at the time “Injuries are a part of our game. Part of the challenge for us is to try help Sid get healthy as quickly as possible”. It’s understandable that the Penguins wanted their captain and star player back quickly, but hurrying him back from a concussion could do more harm than good – particularly given his prior history. As it happens, Crosby missed six games but that was all.

Whilst Crosby is the most well known NHLer to suffer drastically from the effects of concussion, there are several others. Jeff Skinner, who won the Calder in his rookie year, hasn’t been able to hit the heights expected of him and injuries have likely played a role in this. During his second season, Skinner missed sixteen games following a concussion then suffered another head injury in the lockout-shortened season. A relatively productive season occurred in 2013-14 with Skinner scoring 33 goals, but again last season he suffered his third concussion in four years – and he’s only 24. It’s worrying.

Not every player is the face of the franchise, Sidney Crosby, who perhaps is allowed more time to recover to ensure he’s in pristine condition. For other players, there is an underlying need to get back in the team quickly, especially for a 3rd or 4th liner – professional sports are tough, and you’ve gotta fight for your position to show that you deserve to be on the team. As concussions are diagnosed by a symptom checklist, I question whether some players have omitted details because they’re eager to be back in the line up  – putting themselves at further risk. Likewise, once you’ve received an injury, you don’t want it to happen again and in a physical game like hockey, you can end up playing scared – not making hits, not rushing to the net etc. It’s also interesting to note that video analyses of concussions during a five year period in the NHL showed that at the time of contact the player was often not in possession of the puck and often penalties were not called on the play. Checks to the head are too frequently being dismissed by officials or are being played off as accidental; one of Skinner’s concussions arose from his face hitting Matt Niskanen’s elbow – or so Niskanen said. Whilst many occurrences are clean hits, there are some players who play dirty and go for the head or take cheap shots which is something the NHL needs to tighten up on.

The most frequent cause of concussions were collisions with another player and nearly half occurred in the first period. This could be due to the higher energy/adrenaline levels in the beginning, easing into the game and adjusting spatially, or setting the tone for how physical the game will be.

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The Jets’ Patrik Laine – who leads all rookies in scoring – suffered a concussion on the 7th. It was a hard hit, but not a dirty one. He was spotted watching the team train on Sunday (8th) in good spirits, but did not feel 100% to play. Here’s hoping he makes a full recovery. That being said, at the beginning of this season, the NHL introduced “spotters” to games. Teams still have a responsibility to identify and report players who ought to be removed from play and evaluated for concussion, but additional support is now provided following an agreement between the NHL/NHLPA. Central league spotters will monitor games from the player safety room in New York where they can authorise a player’s removal from play if they exhibit certain visible signs. Teams who violate this ruling will receive punishments, likewise a player may not be re-admitted to the game until he is cleared to. More can be found here.

Whilst this should be seen as a good move, some players are already mad. McDavid was taken out the line up for a concussion check just as his team was on the verge of a 5-on-3 against the Wild. The captain said of the incident “obviously the spotter thought he knew how I was feeling”. Whilst McDavid’s frustration is understandable, over 100 ex-NHLers are suing the league due to the treatment of their concussions and the concealment of information regarding later issues, including dementia or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. And it’s not just in the NHL,  similar law suits have been brought against the NFL.

To sum up, concussions – whilst considered minor – can actually have prolonged and worrying implications that affects players’ careers and later life. The newly implemented spotters will be able to react and remove those players believed to have suffered a concussion, but do nothing to actually reduce a concussion occurring. As a parting note, hockey is a sport where players are expected to drop the gloves and fight; an enforcer can fight once or twice a month, so should fighting – which increases the risk of head injuries – be banned?

Can I just make a final confession, though? I don’t care what people remember about me as a hockey player, but please remember this one thing: I didn’t love to fight. The actual 30 seconds of fighting was fine. Your adrenaline takes over and the competition of battling at such a high level is actually enjoyable. The problem is all the anticipation of having to drop the gloves with another very skilled individual who can hurt you. The waiting is what drives you crazy. It’s not very easy on your psyche, especially once you have a family. – John Scott for The Players Tribune