Tag:Brian Stubits
Posted on: March 1, 2012 1:09 pm
Edited on: March 1, 2012 1:17 pm
 

USA Hockey, Hockey Canada to ban junior fighting?

The Rangers' Brandon Prust (right) in a 2004 OHL fight. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The discussion of fighting in hockey has been ramped up recently for some obvious reasons. Now USA Hockey and Hockey Canada are on the verge of making the biggest statement yet in the discussion to date.

The New York Times reported this week that the two organizations are looking at banning fighting altogether in the junior ranks.

Viewing fighting as a safety issue in light of increasing concussion research, and unwilling to wait for the National Hockey League to propose changes, USA Hockey and Hockey Canada are seriously considering rules that would effectively end fighting in nonprofessional leagues as soon as next season.

The rules would apply to dozens of leagues stretching from near the Arctic Circle to south Texas. Even the three top junior leagues in Canada, major fight-friendly feeder systems to the N.H.L., are considering immediate ways to make fighting a rarity, not an expectation.

“The appetite is there,” said David Branch, the president of the Canadian Hockey League, which oversees the Ontario Hockey League, the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and the Western Hockey League. “The time is certainly right to move forward.”

Talk about a big move. This would have as big an impact as anything in the discussion that continues. These are the leagues that pump the most talent into the NHL. We're talking about the WHL, OHL, QMJHL and USHL among those that this would effect.

It's important to keep in mind that these are players who aren't paid. Chris M. Peters of United States of Hockey notes that is an important distinction to make.

It’s a different story in Junior hockey. These kids don’t get paid (for the most part). While fighting might fill a few seats here and there, the more significant number of people who go to USHL games are families looking to have a little fun at the arena. Maybe it’s different in the Canadian Hockey League, but I’d imagine a good deal of the folks heading to rinks across the little big towns in Canada are going to get a glimpse of future NHL Stars. Whether those future stars knock the snot out of each other is irrelevant to their enjoyment.

Besides, who over the age of 20 would want to admit that the reason they go to Junior hockey games is to watch a 17-year-old get pumped by a 19-year-old?

Peters goes on to note a study that shows that younger brains are actually not prepared to withstand trauma as well as somebody who is older for a variety of reasons, including the strength of their necks.

You don't need me to tell you that fighting is a huge part of junior hockey. But there are a lot of worthwhile points to getting rid of for the junior ranks and that's on the verge of happening. It has already happened at the NCAA and international levels.

There are going to be a lot of people opposed to this, of course. Bruins tough guy Milan Lucic is one who doesn't like the idea. He was known to drop the gloves a time or two in juniors.

“I’m totally against it,” Lucic told The Province on Wednesday.

“I think there will be more injuries because there’d be no fear of fighting. The game will become dirtier. And, for myself, I don’t think I could have made the NHL the way I did without it.”

That might be the case, it might not be. But we might find out soon.

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

Category: NHL
Posted on: March 1, 2012 11:29 am
Edited on: March 1, 2012 11:39 am
 

NHL Award Races: Calder close, Norris not so much

The top two draft picks are in it. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

Welcome to Award Races. For every week the remainder of the season, we will break down two of the awards races at a time and see how they are stacking up as the NHL season hits the home stretch.

We began our Award Races last week by looking at -- in my opinion -- the two most prestigious in the Hart Trophy and the Vezina. One of those races (Vezina) has a clear front-runner then a tight fight for runner-up. The other (Hart) is very tight and will be a battle to the end.

That seems to be what we're talking about this week too, only with the Norris Trophy and Calder. Let's start with the Norris.

At this point, Erik Karlsson seems like a shoe-in for the award. He has taken the points lead and laughed at the rest of the league's defensemen, doing circles around them. He's 23 points ahead of the second highest-scoring defenseman, Brian Campbell. Seriously, he's tied with Henrik Sedin and Joffrey Lupul for sixth in points among all skaters.

Part of the equation that goes into the Norris obviously is how good you are on defense too, it can't be all about offense. But maybe this time it can be, when a guy is just that much more dominant in that regard than the rest of the field. And it's not like Karlsson is completely defenseless. He might not be as good in his own zone as some of the others on this list, but he's responsible enough to garner more than 25 minutes a game in ice time.

So that one is pretty clear. The Calder going to the top rookie? Now this is a race.

At the midpoint of the season it seemed like it was in the bag for last year's No. 1 overall draft pick Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to take the award. Well he's still in the conversation, but he's been joined by others ... and overtaken.

The comments on the second overall pick Gabriel Landeskog's scouting report were promising for instant production. He was seen by most everybody as the most NHL-read prospect in the draft. He has good size already and is a mature player. So his ceiling wasn't believed to be incredibly high, the production was thought to be very good and consistent.

It might have taken him a little while, but now he's showing all of that. Check this out: With the Avalanche making a move to get back into the heart of the playoff race, Landeskog has been great of late. In the last five games he has four goals and four assists while averaging close to 20 minutes a night. Not bad for your first playoff race.

But he has some stiff competition that isn't far behind him at all.

Remember, this is just one man's opinion and there are sure to be disagreements. Feel free to share your thoughts (I know you won't disappoint there).

Award watch
Norris Calder
Erik Karlsson The Ottawa Senators have been the biggest surprise this season and Karlsson has been the biggest surprise for them. In addition to lapping the field in total points, he's also first among defensemen with 15 goals. The offense is just too overwhelming to ignore in his case. Gabriel Landeskog Knowing full well it is not the be-all, end-all of stats in hockey, especially today when advanced metrics are becoming more prevalent, but Landeskog has an impressive plus-22 on the season. That's 13th best in the league. Note: The Avs as a team are minus-5 this season. That has to say something.
Shea Weber Arguably the top all-around defenseman in the game, Weber is a perennial contender for this award, especially as long as he remains in Nashville with Barry Trotz. He's physical and responsible in his own end, explosive and dangerous in the offensive end. There's a reason (lots of them) teams would like to see him in free agency. Adam Henrique He exploded on the scene earlier this season playing with Ilya Kovalchuk and Zach Parise in what became one of the better lines in the entire league. But he has cooled down, scoring just two goals and racking up five assists since Jan. 11. His slip combined with Landeskog's surge puts him here.
Nicklas Lidstrom The 41-year-old has won this award seven times. At age 41, he's going to be hard pressed to win an eighth, but that doesn't mean he isn't having a heck of a season. He's still a huge part of what the Red Wings do and is a quintessential two-way defenseman. It's hard to believe he's his age with how he plays. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins Injuries have derailed his hopes here, to be sure. Points-per-game wise, he's the best among rookies with 15 goals and 23 assists in 43 games. But the fact that he played one game in January and then missed a few weeks in the middle of February has hurt his chances. He has come back with two goals and an assist in the last three, though.
Brian Campbell Without Campbell, there's no telling where Florida would be in the standings. He was the big acquisition of the summer by Dale Tallon and he's found his comfort zone after a scrutinizing time in Chicago. He is second among dmen in points and routinely plays close to 30 minutes a game for the Panthers. Matt Read Of all the rookies playing in Philadelphia this season -- and there are a lot -- Read has been the best, and probably the most surprising. The 25-year-old has 16 goals with 19 assists playing multiple roles for the Flyers. He also has only four minor penalties on the season with no majors. That counts for something.
Ryan Suter Still a bit overshadowed by his teammate Weber in Nashville, Suter is obviously no slouch. He'll be the most coveted free agent this summer if the Predators can't re-sign him. Like Weber he's a good two-way player who isn't as threatening in the offensive zone but can score. He has seven goals and 30 assists. Cody Hodgson He could be a dark horse in this race with his recent trade to the Sabres. In Vancouver he wasn't getting a lot of ice time being stuck between Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler but being in Buffalo could give him a shot to flourish. He has a good starting point with 16 goals and 17 assists despite averaging just 12:44 of ice time per game for the Canucks.

And for a quick look at the rest of the races we'll be checking in on every week.

Hart: Evgeni Malkin, Henrik Lundqvist, Claude Giroux

Vezina: Henrik Lundqvist, Jonathan Quick, Brian Elliott

Jack Adams: Ken Hitchcock, Paul MacLean, John Tortorella

Selke: Patrice Bergeron, Ryan Kesler, Pavel Datsyuk

Top GM: Dale Tallon, Don Maloney, David Poile

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

Posted on: March 1, 2012 9:53 am
Edited on: March 1, 2012 10:01 am
 

Morning Skate: Sabres creeping back in

Miller has wins in four of his last five starts. (US Presswire)

By Brian Stubits

The Morning Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

Playoff Race

10:30 ET, Buffalo at San Jose

Well would you look at that, the Buffalo Sabres are back in the conversation. Somewhat miraculously it's true.

Ryan Miller is showing flashes of the goaltender America came to know two years ago. He's been up to the quality we've come to expect from him in recent games, including Wednesday's shutout of the not-long-ago streaking Anaheim Ducks. As a result -- and of the East's struggle at the bottom -- the Sabres begin the day only five points back of Washington.

Now before we get too far ahead of ourselves, it's time to remind everybody that the chances still aren't good and that's a lot of ground to make up still. According to Sports Club Stats, the odds the Sabres make the postseason are still only 4.1 percent. A win tonight in San Jose, however, then we're talking. They would hop two teams and move into 10th place, just three behind Washington (and we'll wait to see what Winnipeg does).

The Sharks meanwhile are still fighting for a playoff spot that is in no way guaranteed to be theirs right now. They just grabbed a huge 1-0 win over the Flyers the other night in San Jose to give them a little breathing room from the eighth-place chasers.

8 ET, Florida at Winnipeg

The Panthers are one of the rare teams that have had success this season in Winnipeg. They have played their twice and won both times. In those two games, Kris Versteeg scored five goals. To put that into context, he has 22 on the season, so nearly 1/4 of his goals have come at MTS Centre despite play 2/59 of his games there.

So the good news for the Jets? Versteeg won't be playing. That's a huge plus for a team that really needs this game at home. Winnipeg enters the night with four fewer points despite three more games played. Win this one and the Panthers stay within reach, fail to pick up any points and, well, that gets to be a big task.

But luckily for the Jets, the eighth seed in the East is still available too. They enter the night one point behind Washington there and can jump back into playoff position by the end of the evening. Again though, they have all those games in hand. That's why their margin for error is so slim, they need to pick up 2/3 of the points available the rest of the season to have a good shot.

9 ET, Calgary at Phoenix

The good news for the Flames as they head to face the Coyotes? The calendar no longer shows February. Phoenix was literally unbeatable (in regulation) for the month going 11-0-1 which included a comeback win in Calgary a week ago.

With that game a key culprit in the equation, the Flames have been slipping lately despite playing a home-heavy schedule. Perhaps getting away from home -- however unlikely that is -- might help them get back on track. It's about time they do if they want to keep in the conversation. Because right now they are four points back of being in with two teams in between them.

And it's not a terribly big secret why the Flames have lost four in a row. Miikka Kiprusoff can only be superman back there for so long. Without him it's hard to picture Calgary still being in the race. In the last four games, however, he has given up 15 goals as well as picking up a loss in two shootouts.

On the other side they face the hottest goaltender this side of ... well anywhere. You can already write Mike Smith's name in pen for the first start of the month of February. He was 11-0-0 in the month. My word.

Others worth watching

10 ET, St. Louis at Vancouver: Hoooo boy, this should be a good win. By virtue of a tie-breaker, these are the top two teams in the Western Conference. Heck, if the Blues win, they're in the lead for the Presidents' Trophy. Plus they have four straight wins on the road. Buckle up.

9 ET, Columbus at Colorado: The Blue Jackets might be out of it, but the Avalanche certainly aren't. They have the opportunity to move into the eighth spot in the West tonight. Pretty remarkable for a team that has been as streaky as they have.

7 ET, New Jersey at Boston: There isn't a whole lot here on the Devils' end. They are somewhat comfy in, but they'd like to start winning again to feel a little better. The Bruins actually find themselves in a division race. They have been mediocre (yes, really) for well over a month now.

Your promised miscellany

  • Wednesday's Winners & Losers
  • Rangers captain Ryan Callahan might be out for the Rangers' game against the Hurricanes tonight. (Rangers Rants)
  • A look through the mirrors back to an age of smoking in hockey. (SI)
  • The Ducks' slim playoff chances are getting even slimmer now and the team is showing some frustration. (O.C. Register)
  • ECHL coach Nick Vitucci lost his mind with the officials and went on one hell of a tirade. (Puck Daddy)

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

Posted on: February 29, 2012 3:25 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 3:27 pm
 

Vlasic hit latest to not warrant suspension

By Brian Stubits

Marc-Edouard Vlasic is the latest player who will not face a supplemental discipline hearing. An NHL source told CBSSports.com earlier on Wednesday that no hearing had been scheduled and Renaud P. Lavoie of RDS in Canada later reported that no hearing will be scheduled.

Late in the Sharks' 1-0 win on Tuesday night against the Flyers, Daniel Briere was chasing the dumped puck into the corner boards when Vlasic's contact from behind sent Briere head first into the boards and into a heap on the ice.

There wasn't even a minor called on the play, which turned out to be pretty key with the Flyers trying to score so late in the game. Briere didn't seem like the biggest fan of the play after the game (from the Philadelphia Daily News).

“I wasn’t expecting to be bulldozed there,” Briere said. “It was a dangerous play, there’s no doubt about it. Usually when you’re in a vulnerable position like that, guys will try to bear-hug you or go around you. It was scary. I think I got fortunate that it wasn’t worse than it is. I knew there was someone coming, but I just didn’t think I was going to get run over like that.”

Remember, Briere just came back from a concussion a few weeks ago. That had a few more people in orange and black holding their breath. But Briere did return to the game a short while later. It was a little surprising he didn't go to the quiet room considering his recent concussion and the fact that he admitted to reporters after the game that he was dizzy and a bit lost.

Back to the decision not to take any action from the league. While this one does not seem as egregious as others recently -- particularly the decision to do nothing to David Clarkson -- I thought there was a chance. We've seen similar calls this season. I can see the merits on either side of the equation in this one. It didn't seem particularly malicious from Vlasic and he did seem to slow down before impact.

It just seems like Brendan Shanahan has decided the first half of suspensions was enough, doesn't it? It seemed like every other day or even more often in the first few months there was a new suspension video from Shanahan. Now they've become as rare as Scott Gomez goals. There has only been one suspension handed down since Alex Ovechkin's just before the All-Star break, Minnesota's Warren Peters.

Has the play really been that much cleaner since the All-Star break? Did the message finally get through to the players? Well I haven't noticed as many bad hits so that's working, but only one play in more than a month that warranted a suspension?

I'm not going to make the leap here, I'll just say it's a little bit more intriguing to look back at the reports from earlier in the season about some GMs complaining about how tightly Shanahan's era was being run.

More NHL Discipline news

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

Posted on: February 29, 2012 12:54 pm
Edited on: February 29, 2012 12:56 pm
 

Caps owner Leonsis' stylish new Rally Poncho

Looking stylish Ted. (Ted's Take)

By Brian Stubits

You want to know the real reason why the Washington Capitals scored two goal in the final four minutes on Tuesday night that possibly saved their season? Thank their owner Ted Leonsis.

Don't thank him for paying the salaries and running the franchise. Well do that if you want to, but that's not the point here. Nope. Thanks his lucky Capitals poncho. Really.

Leonsis is unique in the ownership world, he's very interactive and open. He runs a blog called Ted's Take where he can be a bit unfiltered.

In his latest post about the Capitals after the dramatic 3-2 OT win over the Islanders, Leonsis explained his new good-luck charm.

My friend Seth Hurwitz gave me a Caps poncho that he bought in Mexico – it is so ugly it is beautiful. He insisted I wear it to rally the team! I did – and boom – we get the two points! Thank you Seth! Rally Poncho!

Go Caps!

Boy, earlier this season there was the Rally Balloon at Verizon Center, now the Rally Poncho? Well at least the poncho can stick around as it won't deflate or risk being popped.

I think Leonsis might have a marketing opportunity here to expand his fortune.

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

Posted on: February 29, 2012 11:44 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 11:47 am
 

Video: Condra misses wide-open net point blank

By Brian Stubits

We've had our share of Goal of the Year candidate posts this season -- like this recent one from Evgeni Malkin. Some of them are just too good to ignore.

This isn't one of those posts.

No, this is the other side of things, the ugliest misses of the season. The latest entrant into the competition was Erik Condra's miss in Tuesday night's 1-0 Senators win over the Bruins.

I sure am glad the Sens didn't need another goal otherwise, ouch. I mean, he just missed a completely unobstructed cage from just a shade outside of the blue paint.

Luckily for Condra and his pride, I don't think he'll take home the shame of the top blooper this season. Craig Smith's miss earlier this season is going to be really hard to beat. They even started the goal horn in Nashville prematurely.

My favorite part about the Smith scene -- completely underrated, by the way -- is Sergei Kostitsyn coming over to give Smith a hug and then slowly slinking away once he realizes it was no goal.

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

Posted on: February 29, 2012 10:17 am
Edited on: February 29, 2012 10:29 am
 

Morning Skate: Stars keep playoff push going

The Stars go searching for a fifth straight win. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Morning Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

Playoff Race

7:30 ET, Pittsburgh at Dallas (NBC Sports Network)

The teams in the Atlantic Division (excluding the Islanders) are in an interesting spot here. Barring a miracle, they aren't going to catch the Rangers but none of them is fighting for their playoff lives either. Maybe New Jersey has to worry if they lose a few more -- maybe -- but they're six points up on ninth-place Winnipeg. So they're left playing big games seeing that it's playoff push time and all, but nothing all that impactful.

But you find ways to make them meaningful. For example, only one non-division winner is going host a first-round playoff series as the four seed. That's no doubt worth playing for. And that's what the Penguins are going after right now.

Their opponents on Wednesday night, however, have a lot greater sense of desperation. That's because the Stars enter the night in a three-way tie for the final playoff spot in the West (holding the tie-breaker with a game in hand). Dallas would be thinking about hopping into the division race if the Coyotes weren't hotter than the Phoenix summers. They have won four straight games and have gained no ground on the Coyotes.

Now none of the above means the Penguins are going to come coasting into the game while the Stars come guns a blazin'. They wouldn't be in the position their in if they did that ever. In today's NHL you can't do that against any team. It's just something to remember if you notice a difference in "compete level."

It also marks, by the way, the first time that James Neal has come back to Dallas to face his old team (and Matt Niskanen, of course). Seeing the season that Neal is having with his brand new contract extension has to be a little painful for the Dallas faithful thinking of what could have been.

Oh and don't forget about Evgeni Malkin. He has five goals and two assists in his last three games. I hear he's good.

8 ET, Toronto at Chicago

This game should be sponsored by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Free Falling could be the theme song.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are in a tail spin that Chuck Yeager would have a hard time pulling out of. They've lost five in a row, most in ugly fashion. They've lost nine of their last 10 games. The fans are chanting for the coach to be fired. They are on the verge of falling completely out of the playoff race, going into tonight's game four points behind eighth-place Washington. The Leafs are as close right now to 14th in the East as they are eighth.

Well OK, I guess it's a pretty typical end of February in Canada's biggest city.

But let's not forget about America's Second City here and Chicago. They are going through their own swoon. They have only four wins in their last 16 games and bring a three-game losing streak into the battle with the Leafs.

If they were to get no points tonight, the Blackhawks would legitimately have to start worrying about being on the playoff bubble. Right now they are only three points up on teams 8-10 and will have played more games than all of them. When teams come into Chicago this out of sorts, the Blackhawks need to be able to deliver the next blow.

I'm not sure who is more desperate for the two points tonight.

Others worth watching

9:30 ET, St. Louis at Edmonton: The Blues are in fight for the Central Division crown with the Red Wings and have finally found their form on the road. They've won three straight away from home but the Oilers seem like a perfect team to play spoiler the rest of the way.

10 ET, Buffalo at Anaheim: To be frank, but of these teams is all but done in the playoff race. It would be remarkable if either made it in. But I'm still going to dub this a "loser leave town" match. Don't win this game and you can definitely forget about it.

Your promised miscellany

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

Posted on: February 28, 2012 1:53 pm
Edited on: February 28, 2012 2:58 pm
 

Clarkson avoids suspension for flying elbow

By Brian Stubits

First to the news. David Clarkson of the Devils is not going to be suspended for his charging attempt on New York Rangers forward Brandon Dubinsky on Monday night.

From the Newark Star-Ledger:

No league hearing has been scheduled today, although a call from Brendan Shanahan and/or a fine is possible.

The fact that Clarkson did not hit Dubinsky in the head will work in his favor. The incident took place at 19:27 of the second period with Clarkson getting a charging minor.

Dainius Zubrus did catch Carl Hagelin in the head during a second period roughing incident, but that won't come to much, either. Zubrus may also get a warning call from Shanahan.

Before going any further, here is the hit in question one more time.

I can't say I'm surprised there will be no suspension forthcoming for Clarkson. That's what I expected, honestly. But I'd lie if I said it doesn't upset me. I don't know why it actually angers me a little, I just know it does.

As the Ledger writes, "The fact that Clarkson did not hit Dubinsky in the head will work in his favor." Why is this so? Why should the result of the play have a bearing on this? Fact of the matter is that he tried to hit Dubinsky. What other explanation is there for his pole-vaulting technique that included a chicken wing. I don't think it was an attempt to fly.

This isn't an analogy I necessarily want to bring up but it is comparable in my mind -- on a basic level, nothing more. Imagine if somebody's attempt at murder doesn't go as planned. Would somebody get away with failing to execute their plan? Of course not. They would be locked up in jail. Just because they failed in doing so doesn't mean they didn't try to do so.

Again, I'm a bit loathe to make the comparison to murder. Change it to blackmail if you want, or any other crime that would fit. The point stands this is one of if not my biggest complaints about the punishment criteria right now. Brendan Shanahan has said that injuries don't factor into the decisions to suspend, just the sentencing, the length of the suspension. Well if the reason there was no suspension here is because there was no injury, then how can that be?

To be clear, for the most part I have objected very little to Shanahan's decisions this year and I have really appreciated the transparency. But this one bothers me.

More NHL Discipline news

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

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com