Tag:Colin Campbell
Posted on: February 19, 2012 10:59 pm
Edited on: February 21, 2012 11:50 am
 

Clock controvery favors Jackets against Rangers

By Brian Stubits

It's a good thing the Columbus Blue Jackets aren't involved in a playoff race this season or else these clock issues would be killing the NHL.

For the second time in a month, the Jackets were involved in a last-second clock controversy in their game against the Rangers in New York. But this time the call went in their favor.

With the second period winding down, Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto beat Jackets goalie Steve Mason and it was originally called a goal. We'll let the Fox Sports Ohio broadcast crew take it from here.

Just in case that video's not working for you, the replays show the puck going in with either 0.1 or 0.2 seconds left. Yet the ruling was no goal, it came after the period had ended. Huh?

That's right, the clock that you see on TV and at games isn't the official clock. As disorienting as that is, the video replay booth is staring at the actual game clock on their feed and in this case, the MSG clock was just a touch behind the actual one, leading to this discrepancy.

Pretty amazing that here we are in 2012 and we still can't have the actual game time on the broadcasts or in the arena. It makes for some unnecessary controversies like this one.

Not to mention it only lends the league to strong criticisms and opens up opportunities for people to start conspiracy theories. This was a makeup call for the Jackets for the blown call in Los Angeles. See how easy that was? There's your conspiracy. Now have fun with it.

The NHL has been looking at the clocks since the infamous situation in L.A. that introduced coulombs and Dean Lombardi's brilliance to everybody. Colin Campbell told Helene Elliott of the Los Angeles Times that the league is fixing this.

“We will find a way to bleed the clock feed into the overheads now. We have implemented a few other items into the clock process as well to make sure there can be no burps.”

Obviously that hasn't been taken care of yet.

In the end, this turned out to be more or less insignificant. The Jackets did tie the game -- on a Rick Nash goal, no less -- and take it to overtime before losing. So the Rangers still got their two points and the Jackets got one that they likely wouldn't have picked up, but they're so far behind the other 29 teams it doesn't much matter. The only way the controversy will hear its read is if the Rangers fall into a tie situation and regulation wins are taken into account.

It's just something that needs to be fixed and ASAP. It's hard to keep having situations like this from an image standpoint.

H/t to Puck Daddy for the video

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 9, 2012 3:08 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2012 3:12 pm
 

Winter Classic Alumni Game possibilities

By Brian Stubits

Part of the fun -- and there are a lot of parts to it -- of the Winter Classic is the Alumni Game. There's nothing like seeing some of the best and most iconic players lacing up the skates again in their old, familiar sweaters.

The next rendition will pit some old Norris Division rivals in the Red Wings and Maple Leafs from Detroit's Comerica Park. It's the revival of an old hatefest, one of the great Original Six rivalries the game has.

Quite frankly, the Alumni Game doesn't seem to be all that fair to the Leafs. The Wings have the last 20 years worth of playoff rosters to pick from of guys who are still in good health and shape while the Leafs? Well let's just say they have hit hard times.

But nobody really cares about the competitive nature of the game -- except maybe for the guys on the ice. It's more about the nostalgia, the fun of honoring some past greats on the ice again.

With that said, here is a look at some potential players for the Alumni Game rosters, the Maple Leafs presented by Adam Gretz and myself bringing the Red Wings.

(Just spitballing here and this is in no way a comprehensive list.)

Toronto Maple Leafs

Goalie: Not one of the strongest positions in recent years, but there are certainly some options. It could probably come down to either "the cat," Felix Potvin, Toronto's starter between 1992 and 1998, or perhaps Curtis Joseph (also a Red Wing for a brief period in the early 2000s) who had some of his best days with the Leafs in the late 90s. One of the newest members of the Hall of Fame, Ed Belfour, spent some time with the Maple Leafs as well, so he could be a possibility to work his way into the game if he's interested.

Defensemen: The trouble with trying to project an entire roster for this game a year in advance is that it's not always made up of players that you would normally expect, or players that spent a great deal of time with the organization or had a ton of success. Example: Dan Rosen of NHL.com passed along the word on Twitter that Brian Leetch would play in the game if asked by the Maple Leafs. Leetch, of course, only spent 15 games in Toronto at the end of the 2003-04 season. Borje Salming seems like a pretty easy choice as he was one of the best players to wear a Leafs uniform over the past 30 years, one of the best offensive defensemen of his era and a hockey Hall of Famer. For purely selfish reasons I'd like to see Al Iafrate suit up just to see how hard he can still shoot a puck.

Forwards: The first three names here should be pretty easy to pick: Mats Sundin, Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark, a nice mix of skill, grit and as Brian Burke likes to call it, "truculence."

Other players to consider: Alexander Mogilny, Tie Domi, Gary Roberts, Steve Thomas, Dave Andreychuk.

Detroit Red Wings

Goalie: Chris Osgood. That pick is too easy. He just retired, hanging up the skates after last season. He spent 14 of his 17 NHL seasons playing for the Wings, which included three Stanley Cups. Hard to imagine Ozzy won't be there.

Defensemen: This is assuming Nicklas Lidstrom will still be active with the Red Wings, otherwise he would be in this spot. So I'm going to go with Chris Chelios for one and let's say Mark Howe for another, even if he only played three seasons in Detroit. Larry Murphy could be another. There's a long enough list of guys who spent some quality time in Detroit to fill out a corps.

Forwards: Here's where it gets fun. Brendan Shanahan will be in town any way, might as well skate up for the event. Apparently he's eyeing it too, and will try to get Steve Yzerman to join him. Can't imagine Stevie Y won't show. The best of all, though, is that Gordie Howe could make an appearance for a shift. The list of guys up here goes on and on.

Others to consider:

Kris Draper, Sergei Fedorov, Darren McCarty (needs to happen), Colin Campbell (Shanny and Campbell? Too good to pass up), Alex Delvecchio, Kirk Maltby, Brian Rafalski.

Others who passed through like Brett Hull could also have spots. So many to choose from.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 2, 2012 2:23 pm
Edited on: February 2, 2012 2:35 pm
 

Kings' Lombardi's clock response you have to read

By Brian Stubits

If you thought the story involving the Kings and Blue Jackets clock error was crazy enough, we present to you what Kings GM Dean Lombardi told Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com.

(Note: We are not liable if your mind is blown by the following. Reader discretion is advised.)

"Those clocks are sophisticated instruments that calculate time by measuring electrical charges called coulombs -- given the rapidity and volume of electrons that move through the measuring device the calibrator must adjust at certain points which was the delay you see -- the delay is just recalibrating for the clock moving too quickly during the 10 -- 10ths of a second before the delay -- this insures that the actual playing time during a period is exactly 20 minutes That is not an opinion -- that is science -- amazing devise quite frankly."

All I can say to that is Wow. I'm speechless. So instead I'll leave it to Dr. Emmett Brown.

Yes, there are all sorts of politically correct or even less P.C. answers a GM could give to being asked about this error. Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson took the less P.C. route on his blog earlier Thursday.

"It is an amazing coincidence that with the Kings on a power play at STAPLES Center and with a mad scramble around our net in the dying seconds of the third period of a 2-2 hockey game that the clock stopped for at least one full second. I can only think of two ways in which this would have happened. Either there was a deliberate stopping of the clock or the clock malfunctioned."

Going the much safer route, Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster, whose team is hoping for one of the last spots in the Western Conference playoff picture, said his team can't worry about it.

“It is our understanding the NHL is already investigating this matter.” Feaster said. “Moreover, as Colin Campbell was quoted as saying, once the game is over it is over. There is nothing the NHL is going to do, or can do, to correct the situation if, indeed, there was a mistake made in that game.

“Rather than crying over what happened in a game in which we did not take part, our time and energies are devoted to our own team and doing everything we can to win the games we play and in so doing qualify for the post-season. We sincerely believe that is a much better and more efficient use of our time and effort.”

Of course, none are even in the same realm as that Lombardi gem. I think. Maybe he could answer that one for me.

But seriously, here is the genius of it (besides the quantim physics involved): It's beyond almost everybody's comprehension that it sounds completely legitimate. Not that I'm implying it isn't true, but even if it weren't, who'd really know? Probably not many. Pure genius.

More from Eye on Hockey

Clock error helps Kings; Jackets GM responds

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 2, 2012 9:33 am
Edited on: February 2, 2012 4:52 pm
 

Clock error helps Kings; Jackets GM's reaction

By Brian Stubits

When it's not your year, it's just not your year. What other non-sensical explanation can the Columbus Blue Jackets have after Wednesday night's loss to the Los Angeles Kings?

In a 2-2 game and the Kings on a power play in the final minute, the Kings pulled their best Staples Center co-tenant Kobe Bryant and pulled a rabbit out of their hat by way of a Drew Doughty goal with 0.4 seconds left in the game. That's bad enough for the Blue Jackets.

Making it worse? It probably shouldn't have counted. There was nothing wrong with the goal itself and the puck did go in before the clock showed 0:00.00. However the clock should have already been at 0 when Doughty scored.

Here is a look at the goal from the broadcast perspective.

If you were watching the action on the ice leading up to Doughty's goal, you probably didn't notice what was going on with the clock. So here's another angle, one you can't miss.

The clock comes to a stop for roughly a full second at the 1.8 mark. If Doughty scored with 0.4 left on the clock ... you can see why the Blue Jackets are upset.

"I don’t have any official report," Blue Jackets interim coach Todd Richards said to the Columbus Dispatch. "But watching the replay and talking to the producer who does our show [On Fox Sports Ohio], the clock stopped at 1.8 and stopped for 1.5 seconds. They scored with 0.5.

"I’m really disappointed for the players."

I suppose it's possible that the clock on the broadcasts didn't match the actual game clocks, but that's something I'm not going to put my money on.

One of the things I love about the Blue Jackets is the accessability and outreach of their general manager Scott Howson. He's active on Twitter. He even has his a blog he posts rather candid updates on. Here is some of his latest entry (the blog has since been removed because Howson reportedly felt some opinions were "made too strongly")

I spoke with (NHL Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations) Colin Campbell on two occasions after the game. Sometimes in watching the game on television there can be confusion with respect to the game clock. Some television broadcasts use their own game clock that is not official with the rink. However, and after double checking, Colin confirmed that we were actually seeing the official game clock stop for one full second. Therefore, when you do the math, Drew Doughty actually scored 0.4 seconds after time had expired, which means the goal should have been disallowed and should have gone to overtime. Colin has promised me that the NHL will investigate this to try and figure out how this happened.

It is an amazing coincidence that with the Kings on a power play at STAPLES Center and with a mad scramble around our net in the dying seconds of the third period of a 2-2 hockey game that the clock stopped for at least one full second. I can only think of two ways in which this would have happened. Either there was a deliberate stopping of the clock or the clock malfunctioned.

It’s easy to say that this doesn’t matter. We, the Blue Jackets, are in last place and it is likely not going to affect our place in the standings. However, in my opinion, this matters in many respects. It matters to our players, to our coaches, every person in our organization and our fans. In talking with our coaches and Craig Patrick, our players played with passion, tenacity, grit, determination and competitiveness after a rather embarrassing loss in San Jose the night before. This tremendous effort was put in without four of our top six defensemen (James Wisniewski, Nikita Nikitin, Marc Methot and Radek Martinek) and with Jeff Carter, Ryan Johansen, Mark Letestu and Kristian Huselius also out of the lineup. We will never know if we should have had one point or two points in the standings. What we do know is that we should not have had zero. Anyone who has competed at a high level of sports knows that when you put everything into a game, the result matters. And to have the result altered unfairly stings.

Colin Campbell spoke up for the league on Thursday.

"We didn't even look to go back and say 'OK, did something happen [with the clock]?'" Campbell, the NHL's senior executive vice president of hockey operations, said.

"When it crosses the line [and] you review it, you back the puck out and you see what the clock was. And the clock was 0.4 [seconds].

"And then after the game, minutes after the game, we see [it and say] 'Holy cow.'"

Campbell spoke further with the Columbus Dispatch.

"This is a tough pill for the Columbus fans to swallow, and we know that," NHL VP of game operations Colin Campbell told The Dispatch.

The NHL began investigating the incident late last night and has had multiple conversations with Howson. The league has acknowledged to Howson that the goal should not have counted, and they're looking into it further, to the extent that NHL staffers are on the way to Los Angeles to investigate.

"We're not questioning (the clock operator's) integrity," Campbell said. "But we're going to open all doors and examine everything, to see what happened and how we can keep it from happening again."

In the grand scheme of things, you figure this isn't a whole lot to get worked up about. The Blue Jackets are dead last and would probably be better off not getting a point or two in the long run to make sure they have the best odds come lottery draft time. Good luck telling that to the players and fans who feel robbed, though.

Where this could possibly be a bigger deal is if the Kings sneak into the playoffs by a point. They are currently holding onto the seventh spot out West, so if it comes down to the slimmest of margins, this will be remembered. Of course it's entirely possible the Kings would have earned the second point in overtime, but just playing the odds the Kings have the second most post-regulation losses this season with 10.

And I'll just say this: Before the conspiracy theorists start, save your breath. No way stopping the clock for that short of time could be predicted to be enough to allow Doughty to score in that spot. Any possible theory I can think of is pure lunacy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: January 5, 2012 11:58 am
Edited on: January 5, 2012 3:25 pm
 

Barch suspended one game for insensitive remarks

By Brian Stubits

Florida Panthers forward Krys Barch was given a game misconduct in the team's New Year's Eve victory over the Montreal Canadiens at the end of the first period. Why he was booted remained a mystery until after the game when it was revealed the reason for his ejection was his use of a racial slur toward Habs defenseman P.K. Subban.

After the hearing was delayed for a couple of days (the Panthers haven't played a game since then), the NHL announced on Thursday that Barch was suspended one game for insensitive remarks.

Notice the use of the language. Insensitive remarks instead of racial slur. Barch was adamant that what he said wasn't racist. Barch told Jesse Spector of the Sporting News that Colin Campbell didn't see it as racial.

"If there was any question that this was racial, you'd be done five to 10 games, and [the decision] would be done the day after," Barch said, quoting Campbell.

"I never would ever say anything unjust or racial toward somebody else," Barch told Sporting News.

As for what he said, we'll never know for sure. But Jeff Marek of Sportsnet reported that it was something along the lines of "did you slip on a banana peel?" after Subban fell to the ice following a scrum.

Here is the statement from Campbell regarding his decision.

"Mr. Barch has admitted making the remark, but denies that the comment was racially motivated,” Campbell said. “While we accept Mr. Barch’s assertion, as a player in the National Hockey League, he must be held accountable for making a comment that, in the context in which it was made, and in light of the entirety of the circumstances, was offensive and unacceptable.”

If that's what he said, I'm failing to get the logic of it all. If Campbell doesn't see that as a racial statement -- very much in the air, some will see it that way, some won't -- then why is it suspendable at all? What about using a Vaudeville-esque comedy bit in a chirp is seen as being worthy of a suspension if you don't believe it was a racial statement?

“There is no debate over what was said,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “The content or the context of the comment can and should be debated over what the intent of the comments were. I have a lot of respect for Krys Barch and how he’s handled himself the past five days. This has been extremely tough on him. At the end of the day, all the information was laid out there. We respect the league’s decision and move on.”

There are a lot of people that are going to be taken aback by the brevity of a one-game suspension for Barch's alleged actions. It seems to be a light sentence when compared to Sean Avery getting six games when talking about his ex-girlfriend and using the term sloppy seconds. Many are going to say it's another example of Campbell's old wheel of justice. Remember, it's still Campbell's duty to deal with player conduct cases, not Brendan Shanahan's.

This is in pretty stark contrast to Avery, who clear-as-day said his suspendable words to the gathered media. Plus, the intent of Barch's words is debateable, those of Avery were not.

It's worth noting that Barch called Subban personally and explained to him that there was no racial intent behind his comment at all and Subban understood.

To me it feels like the suspension is being given to Barch because the NHL feels there has to be a suspension. This was a much-discussed story when it happened. But I just can't understand how the NHL can view it as non-racial but still worthy of a suspension. It feels like an image decision more than anything.

More NHL Discipline News Here

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 31, 2011 9:55 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 10:56 pm
 

Panthers' Barch ejected for alleged racial slur

By Brian Stubits

It's been an eventful end to the year in Florida. On Friday there was the scrum in the closing seconds of the game that saw Tomas Kopecky punch the Rangers' Michael Del Zotto after being hit in the head with Del Zotto's stick. After the game Florida's Krys Barch talked about there would be scores to settle when the teams meet again next week.

After Saturday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens, Barch might not be there to take part in the settling.

The enforcer the Panthers acquired earlier this season in a trade from the Dallas Stars was given a game misconduct at the end of the first period when the teams had a fracas in front of the net. At first it wasn't immediately clear as to why.

Then George Richards of the Miami Herald reported that the word from the linesman Darren Gibbs was that the reason for the ejection was the fact that Barch hurled a racial slur in the direction of Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who is black.

Renaud P. Lavoie of RDS in Quebec confirmed after the game that Barch was ejected for using a racial slur. He reported that Subban didn't hear the insult but the linesman did.

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon had no comment at the end of the second period but team general partner Cliff Viner shared his disappointment over the incident with the Herald.

“This is not what the character of this organization is about. Period. I'm devastated by that kind of behavior. That is not what we're about as an organization, a team, coaching staff, hockey operations.

"Dale, I'm sure, will be very critical of this. I hope they talk to the team and let them know this is unacceptable. You play hard, you fight hard. But that's not part of any competition."

After the game, Panthers coach Kevin Dineen addressed the Barch incident (also from the Herald).

Said coach Kevin Dinnen: “We have a broken up player back there. He feels extremely bad that there was an insinuation that something inappropriate was said. Now it's a league matter. Obviously the Florida Panthers and Krys Barch are really shoken up about this."

Subban told the Montreal media that he didn't hear a slur and that no one else on his team did either. Erik Cole added that he heard something but wasn't sure what. To paraphrase, he said it could have been something related to Subban's parents.

As Dineen said, now it becomes a league matter. That means it will fall to the league offices, but not Brendan Shanahan's desk. Instead, player conduct issues fall under the jurisdiction of Colin Campbell, the former discipline czar.

Barch's agent, Scott Norton, said he spoke to his client after the game and defended Barch.

"Spoke to client Krys Barch and I 100% stand behind him that there was no racial motivation at all involved! Truth will come out. I have known Krys Barch since he was 15 yrs old, and he is a quality, character human being. He did not, nor would ever, make a racial slur."

Unfortunately, this is something that is still seen around hockey. Even infrequent cases are still too often. Remember in a preseason game between the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers in London, Ontario, Philly's Wayne Simmonds, also black, was moving in on net in the shootout when a fan threw a banana peel on the ice.

Nor is it the first time that Subban has had to deal with some racial insensitivity, if it did happen here. Last season some fans thought it would be a good idea to wear blackface to a game while wearing "Subbanator" shirts.

You don't need me to tell you there is no place for discrimination in the game. When you start to think that it is no longer a problem in the sport, something like this happens. I'm not here to call Barch a racist, I don't know him personally. But if he did use a racial slur he is going to be viewed as such by many.

More NHL Discipline News Here

Photo: Getty Images

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: December 31, 2011 2:02 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 2:03 pm
 

Raffi Torres fined for elbow on Jan Hejda

By: Adam Gretz

One of the most common complaints about NHL discipline, whether it was under Colin Campbell in previous years or the current leadership of Brendan Shanahan, is the sometimes overwhelming lack of consistency from one incident to another. If you're going to call it one way for one play, make it the same way across the board.

It rarely, if ever, seems to work out that way.

The NHL's disciplinary committee was busy on Saturday announcing a couple of fines, and along with the surprising non-suspensions of Tomas Kopecky and Mike Rupp following Friday's Rangers-Panthers game, the NHL also announced that Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres has also avoided the Shanaban for his blindside elbow to the head of Colorado's Jan Hejda earlier in the week (Here's the play, in case you missed it the first time around).

Instead of missing any games, Torres was simply given the maximum fine of $2,500.

Message: not sent.
Hejda is expected to be in the lineup for the Avalanche on Saturday when they visit the Anaheim Ducks.

There was also no penalty called on the play, and it recieved little attention in the aftermath. It almost seems that unless a player is seriously injured (or injured at all) and it's a play that's shown on highlight reels across the league the NHL has no interest in handing out a stiff punishment.

More NHL Discipline News

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter.
Posted on: December 24, 2011 12:38 pm
Edited on: December 25, 2011 4:33 pm
 

Top NHL stories and moments in 2011

By Brian Stubits

There was a lot of good in 2011, but also a lot of bad. By bad, I really mean tragedy. It was an unforgettable yet forgettable year all at the same time.

As we hit the heart of the holiday season, here is a look back at the year that was in hockey with the top 10 moments/storylines of 2011.

10. Summer acquisitions -- This is when the magic happens in the NHL's salary cap world and franchises are made or destroyed.

It was over the summer that two teams in particular built the nucleus for their surprising starts this season, the Minnesota Wild and Florida Panthers. Minnesota was the host for this year's NHL Entry Draft and really did leave an impression. Not only did they come away from the draft with a few new prospects in their system but they also swung a deal to land Devin Setoguchi from the San Jose Sharks for Brent Burns. The Wild swung another deal with the Sharks that landed them Dany Heatley for Martin Havlat. Of course their biggest summer acquisition might have been the hiring of head coach Mike Yeo.

The Panthers meanwhile continued to use the draft to make their system better and also swung a big trade, taking on Brian Campbell's big salary from the Blackhawks in exchange for Rostislav Olesz. That kicked off a wild spending spree that lasted through free agency and the core of the team that's in first in the Southeast was built just like that. Like the Wild, they also found themselves a new coach who has returned big dividends early in Kevin Dineen.

The unrestricted free-agent class was led by the pursuit of Brad Richards, who eventually signed with the New York Rangers after a day of courting, including from the Maple Leafs while GM Brian Burke was in Afghanistan. But the most intrigue was on the restricted front where Steven Stamkos' future was wildly speculated before re-signing with the Lightning and Shea Weber stayed with the Predators after the biggest arbitration award ever.

A couple weeks in the middle of the year set up the last couple of months in the year and even with what was perceived as a weak free-agent class, this year was no different.

Look back: Free-agency tracker

9. Winter Classic -- As sad as it is to think about, games hardly ever are the top stories in sports any more. But in hockey, the Winter Classic will always matter, it's that big of a showcase and spectacle for the NHL.

As is the case with every Winter Classic -- as fans of all the less-fortunate teams will remind you -- it was a marquee matchup of two high-profile teams from the East with the Washington Capitals and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Caps eventually prevailed in a game that might be the most memorable Winter Classic thus far for a variety of reasons, one of them makes an appearance later on this list.

But first of all the lead up to the game featured the first 24/7: Road to the Winter Classic series on HBO and it was riveting. While technically most of it aired in 2010, it is tied in with the Winter Classic so it counts. It left fans anticipating the next version like a kid awaits Christmas, this year's version featuring the Flyers and Rangers.

Mother Nature also left her mark on the game. It was the first Winter Classic thus far that the weather was so uncooperative that they had to delay the start of the game. Unseasonably warm temperatures and rain in Pittsburgh led to the game being pushed to the night and it did provide a pretty memorable setting at Heinz Field. 

Look back: Caps win Winter Classic 3-1

8. Realignment -- While the fruit of this labor will be seen starting in 2012, it was a large conversation for the entire second half of the year, spurred by a development that appears further up this list.

I don't know if there was a person in hockey -- both within the game and covering it -- that didn't have their own idea for how the realignment should be done. In the end the six-division format was blown up, an effort that was from all accounts led by Gary Bettman himself.

The biggest drama in the whole saga revolved around the Detroit Red Wings' desire to move to the Eastern Conference. Well, without an Eastern Conference to move to any more, I guess you could say that was taken care of.

Look back: NHL announces realignment

7. Lokomotiv plane crash -- The KHL is to the NHL as the NHL is to ESPN. That is to say the only time we ever seem to hear about the KHL is when something bad happens.

Unfortunately, that was the case this summer when the airplane carrying the KHL's Yaroslavl Lokomotiv team barely got airborne before it crashed, killing everybody on board except a member of the flight crew.

The tragedy was already tough enough for the hockey community in North America simply for the fact sheer sadness of the lethal error. But what made it really hit home in the NHL was the number of former NHL players who died in the crash.

Among those who died in the crash were Josef Vasicek, Karlis Skrastins, Ruslan Salei, Pavol Demitra and head coach Brad McCrimmon, all of who were in the NHL at some point in their careers. In the case of McCrimmon he was a member of the Detroit Red Wings coaching staff as recently as last season before he took the chance to be a head coach in Russia.

Nothing from the ordeal was more chilling than the sad, sad story from a professional driver in Dallas who was tasked with picking up the family of Skrastins to drive them to the airport hours after the tragedy. Honestly, I'm getting emotional just thinking about it again. It was truly a horrible day for hockey.

Look back: Lokomovit team plane crashes

6. Vancouver riot -- For the second time in as many Stanley Cup trips for the Vancouver Canucks, the hockey-crazed city erupted into a violent storm following its team's loss in the decisive Game 7. A similar eruption happened in 1994 after the Canucks fell to the New York Rangers.

The night began with a massive gathering in the streets of Vancouver for the fans to all watch the game together on a big screen. Many saw that as an ill-fated moment from the start and boy were they right. Soon after the game and season were finished, the hooligans of Vancouver were just getting started.

Looters took to the streets to cause mayhem, and cause mayhem they did. The result was a night full of rioting embarrassing to the city, a lot of videos to live on in YouTube glory (like this classic), at least 25 people being charged (including Miss Congeniality) and the romance, sports and maybe general photo of the year, the "riot kiss" seen up above.

The unfortunate part (OK, one of them) was the fact that the riot completely overshadowed what was really a great postseason and season for the Canucks. Vancouver was the best team all regular season long and as fine of a year as they ever have.

Look back: Riot erupts after Stanley Cup Finals

5. Brendan Shanahan takes over -- There has been no bigger overarching story in the second half of the year than what Shanahan has been doing as the new head of player safety having replaced Colin Campbell. His arrival on the job has coincided with the attempt to expand and clarify Rule 48.1, the one dealing with headshots. The focus has also been ramped up on boarding.

His impact has been felt from the get-go. In the preseason he was very busy and then really sent some shock waves through the league when he suspended Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski for eight games.

It's at the point now that every questionable hit is immediately scrutinized and I'm still not sure if that's good or bad. Obviously the good is that it continues to put a microscope on bad hits in an attempt to rid the game of them. On the bad side, some clean hits get more attention than they should and the consistency of punishment applications has been a bit bedeviling, just ask the Sabres fans.

However Shanahan has done something that I've yet to find a person complain about and that's making videos for each and every suspension wherein he explains exactly what the thought process was that led to the decision. The first one he made in the preseason was a breath of fresh air and welcome transparency. All season he's been a busy, busy man.

You know you've watched a lot of Shanahan suspension videos when you can recall that he has done videos in front of three different backdrops and you can tell when he gets a haircut.

Look back: A look at Shanahan's handy work

4. Winnipeg Jets return -- At one point, it looked like the old Jets -- the Phoenix Coyotes -- were going to be the team to move to Winnipeg. Fans were elated as it seemed that with a clear potential ownership group and new, albeit small, arena, the NHL would be coming back to the 'Peg after 15 years.

Then they pulled a little switcheroo on everybody when the Coyotes announced they were staying in Phoenix for another year, so attention turned to the Atlanta Thrashers. A few transactions later and hockey was back in Manitoba (and the NHL had to realign -- Winnipeg in the Southeast?).

The push was one to rename the team the Jets like the old franchise in town and after much debate, the fans won out, although a new logo would be introduced. Not lacking in flair, the Jets showed off their new uniforms in an unveiling at a military base with the players wearing the new duds walking out of a cargo plane.

The first game of the Jets. 2.0 came in their new home at the MTS Centre and they fell in defeat to the Montreal Canadiens, but you couldn't tell. The great hockey city that is Winnipeg was happier than a pig in you-know-what just to have the NHL back. When Nik Antropov became the first player to score for the new Jets, the roar was deafening. Maybe the best way to measure the city's appreciation and love for having hockey back would have been with decibels.

After a slow start (again, they were the Thrashers) the Jets have really come to find a comfort on home ice, as many thought they would. With a 12-6-1 record at home this season, the Jets have the best home mark in the Eastern Conference next to Boston's 13-6-1. It seems that a little excitement really can go a long way.

Look back: Thrashers relocate to Winnipeg

3. Sidney Crosby's concussions -- This was the biggest development to come out of the aforementioned Winter Classic in Pittsburgh. Sidney Crosby caught an elbow to the head from the Capitals' David Steckel that rocked the game's best player pretty good. He certainly appeared out of sorts but was back in the lineup a few days later against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

A check from Victor Hedman led to Crosby experiencing another concussion and he didn't play again for the rest of the season. He finally did return to game action in November, playing eight games before being shut down again for post-concussion symptoms.

Before he went down, Crosby was on pace for one mammoth season. To illustrate how good he was playing before the injury, he still finished the season as the Penguins' leading scorer by a whopping 16 points despite playing only 41 games.

For literally almost a year, the hockey world sat and waited for word on Crosby returning. There was speculation he could come back for the Penguins' playoffs games. There was talk that he might retire. None of that happened, but what did do was bring another reminder of the seriousness that are concussions.

It's not good business for the NHL when the top players aren't on the ice, let alone the best player. I'd like to think it isn't the case, but you have to wonder if Crosby's absence didn't go a long way in facilitating the NHL's actions on trying to remove bad hits as well as enacting strong concussion protocols.

The way the Penguins have handled the Crosby situation has been one of the best parts of all -- or maybe the only good part, depending on your point of view. They have been incredibly patient the entire time, insisting they didn't want to do anything to jeopardize Crosby's health and future.

But because of his most recent setback, Crosby Watch 2011 will move on into Crosby Watch 2012.

Look back: Crosby's recovery efforts

2. Deaths of Derek Boogaard, Rick Rypien, Wade Belak -- The NHL's summer of sorrow began in late spring when the tragic news came down of New York Rangers and former Minnesota Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard's death. The autopsy concluded he died of a lethal mix of alcohol and Oxycodone.

Later in the offseason the NHL was then shook by the news of deaths of Rick Rypien and Wade Belak, separated by only two weeks. Both players were fighters themselves, each suffered from depression and both apparently committed suicide (Rypien's was classified as such, Belak's death treated as such by Toronto PD).

The news of their deaths was sad and shocking in their own right. These were all players 35 or younger who all shared a role in their hockey careers. It was also a catalyst for the discussion of fighting in hockey. No tie can be drawn between each of their deaths and fighting, but it at least begged the question.

Since the three players died, the conversation has picked up. It was really spurred along by the New York Times' in-depth piece that looked at the life of Boogaard and the study of his brain. The findings of the Boston University lab found Boogaard's brain was already showing signs of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, a deterioration of the brain due to repeated blows to the head.

Look back: Boogaard | Rypien | Belak

1. Bruins win Stanley Cup -- If he didn't already have the designation by all before, Tim Thomas certainly earned it in the playoffs. He is the best goalie in the world.

Thomas pretty much put the Bruins on his shoulders and carried them past the Vancouver Canucks in a great seven-game series that led to the Bruins hoisting their first Stanley Cup in 39 years. Of course Thomas topped it off with a shutout in Game 7 and took home the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP, an incredibly well-deserved award.

But in addition to Thomas, it was one heck of a series. The first six games were won by the home team. We had one game ending a few seconds into overtime. Who can forget the man that scored that goal, Alex Burrows, was caught biting Patrice Bergeron in a scrum and the resulting taunts at Burrows from the Bruins later on.

There was Nathan Horton getting leveled and concussed in Boston in a moment that some feel changed the series. The Bruins responded to that by running the Canucks out of their building in Games 3 and 4. Horton made another impression when he was seen pouring TD Garden ice on the rink in Vancouver before Game 7, a superstitious move that will live in Bruins lore.

We had Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo pumping Thomas' tires after critiquing his aggressive style in net. Then of course item No. 6 on this list, the post-series riot in Vancouver.

The series was about as memorable as it gets. The ratings were as good as they have been in decades, too. And the Bruins' post-championship romp back in New England became a legend with a reported $156,679.74 bar tab that included one Amstel Light. It kicked off a great summer tour with the Cup for the Bruins, Michael Ryder's Cup mishap included.

There is no disputing the Bruins earned the right to lift Lord Stanley's Cup after one great Final.

Look back: Bruins win Stanley Cup

Photo: Getty Images

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