On a weekend lacking in Senators games, it is a good chance to take a look around the NHL to see what is happening outside the bubble of the Nation’s Capital.
COACHES CAROUSEL CONTINUES
Former Senators head coach Jacques Martin was fired yesterday, becoming the 7th head coach to lose his job since the season began. St. Louis, Los Angeles, Washington, Carolina, Anaheim and Los Angeles all preceded the Canadiens in terminating their coaches. It is interesting to see where the replacements have come from. Former veteran NHL coaches were hired in St. Louis (Ken Hitchcock), Los Angeles (Darryl Sutter will officially be named on Tuesday), Anaheim (Bruce Boudreau 2 days after being fired in Washington). Carolina (Kirk Muller) and Montreal (Randy Cunneyworth on an interim basis) went with first time NHL head coaches with AHL head and NHL assistant coach experience. Washington went the furthest to get their new bench boss, reaching into their franchise’s past to bring in former captain and current junior coach Dale Hunter to guide the underachieving club.
THE CONCUSSION CONUNDRUM
Head injuries have gone from being a concern to now being a full fledged epidemic. Twenty-seven players are on the TSN injury report with concussion or concussion-like symptoms. There are four more players listed simply as “Head”, which could mean some sort of concussion-like injury. It not the number of players, but who is getting them. Sidney Crosby, Milan Michalek, Chris Pronger, Claude Giroux, Kris Letang, Marc Staal and Jeff Skinner are among the league’s elite players who are currently suffering from the injury-du-jour. And there is no simple solution, as a number of the injuries happened in innocent collisions with teammates (Michalek, Giroux to name a couple), so while the crackdown on headshots might be making players think twice, it doesn’t seem to be having an overall effect. Bigger, stronger, faster players combined with increased intensity and harder equipment means more head injuries.
-or does it?-
Maybe the increased awareness just means there are not more concussions happening, just that they are being properly diagnosed now and treated with appropriate care. Either way, the game is in danger of losing players to the injury that seems to be on an upward trend and shows no signs of slowing down.
BOSTON MAKES A STATEMENT IN PHILLY
The Boston Bruins made a huge statement Saturday night that they have to be the favorites to repeat as Stanley Cup champs as Tim Thomas pitched a shutout and his teammates put up a 6-spot on the Conference leading Philadelphia Flyers, right on Philly’s home ice. It wasn’t just on the scoreboard that they beat the Flyers, but they also went toe-to-toe with the Broad Street Bullies in the corners and without the gloves on. The Flyers had no answer physically or it appears mentally. After going a pedestrian 3-7-0 in October, the Stanley Cup hangover appeared to be cured once the calendar flipped to November they have gone a ridiculous 18-2-1 and are now tied with the Flyers for top spot in the East.
SELANNE RETURNS TO THE ‘PEG
Teemu Selanne returned to Winnipeg to a heroes welcome on Saturday, 16 years after leaving the original Jets. He was given multiple standing ovations on the evening, and was named third star in Winnipeg’s 3-2 victory over Selanne’s Anaheim Ducks. Selanne was one of the Jets’ most beloved players, and his 76 goal rookie season is a mark that may never be erased from the record books.
A WILD, WILD WEST
The biggest surprise this season, and it shows no sign of stopping, is the play of the Minnesota Wild. As the midway point of the season nears, the Wild lead the Western Conference and the entire NHL with 45 points. They have done this with the 21st ranked offense in the NHL, and not one player in the top 30 in NHL scoring. It has been goaltending that has led the way, as the league’s 5th stingiest tandem, and two goalies (Backstrom and Harding) in the top 10 among NHL regulars in GAA. Then when Harding gets hurt, Matt Hackett comes in and in two appearances has a GAA of 1.01. Even more surprising and impressive is that the Wild allow the second most shots per game (32 SPG), so more work for these goalies seem to make them better.
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