The big buzz around the National Hockey League this week, of course, was about the All Star weekend, which was held in Nashville this year. There was plenty of excitement going around as the NHL had a new format this season with the four divisions each having a team of representatives. The teams played three on three in the contest this season with the Central Division facing the Pacific Division All Stars in one semifinal and the Atlantic Division All Stars taking on the Metropolitan Division in the other semifinal.
The winners faced off in the de facto championship game with a cool $1 million at stake for the winning team. While that breaks down to a little under $91,000 per player, which is a drop in the bucket for most of these guys, it was part of the changes in the system for this season. Instead of a 60 minute game, each of the semifinals was a 20 minute contest with the intermission coming at the 10 minute mark. The winners of those semifinals went on to face each other in the proverbial championship. For more on that and other interesting tidbits from the week in the NHL, read on.
John Scott, From Afterthought to MVP: We’ve discussed the ongoing saga that surrounded John Scott and his circuitous route to becoming an All Star last week. The decision was finally made that Scott would get to play in the All Star Game and he came through in the way that most people would never have expected. After all, we’re talking about a guy that has five career goals in 285 regular season contests to go along with 542 penalty minutes.
So, of course, we’d have a real life Hollywood ending to this whole confused, aggravating, irritating story that put the NHL on the map for all the wrong reasons. Scott scored two goals, including the first goal for the Pacific Division in their 9-6 semifinal win over the Central Division All Stars in the semifinals. He even got into a mock scrap with former teammate and the league’s leading scorer, Patrick Kane, after Kane lit the lamp. Scott’s performance was impressive and may have been the catalyst to push the Pacific Division over the top.
In the championship game, Scott was held off the scoresheet. Of course, so was pretty much everyone else in the contest. There was just one goal in the contest: Corey Perry’s goal at 13:38 on assists from Daniel Sedin and Brent Burns gave the Pacific Division a 1-0 victory over the Atlantic and the bragging rights as the champions of All Star weekend. For his performance on the ice, Scott not only got a windfall that is equal to nearly one-sixth of his salary, he was named the MVP of the All Star Game as well.
He may go back into obscurity as he’ll be playing in the AHL for Montreal’s farm team but for one weekend only, Scott is on top of the hockey world. In the process, he may have shot a pair of middle fingers at Gary Bettman, the league office and the media who questioned whether his daughters would be proud of him playing in the All Star Game.
No Timetable For Expansion: The big hot button issue besides the All Star weekend is the continuing thought process about how the league will handle potential expansion. The league is currently evaluating the applications from Las Vegas and Quebec City. While there is rampant speculation around the media and the league that the potential delay could be in order to give Seattle an opportunity to step in and actually put together a bid to try and get in the mix, commissioner Gary Bettman has shot that concept down. It was reiterated that the league is going to solely evaluate the current bids that were in before the deadline.
There has been little to report as the executive committee that is dealing with the potential expansion situation met a couple of weeks ago. There is no meeting for the NHL Board of Governors slated until June, though Bettman could convene one sooner if necessary. The one thing that came out over All Star weekend regarding the subject is that the decision, whenever it comes out, will have one of three outcomes. The league will either choose to expand by one team, expand by two teams or not expand at all.
The prevailing thought process, at least at the moment, is that the league will likely vote to expand by one team. If that’s the case, Las Vegas would have the clear advantage as they are a city that would fit in the Western Conference. In addition, the Canadian dollar continues to take a beating in the currency market, which could make it tough for a new team to be economically viable. That becomes even more prevalent in Quebec, which already has Montreal.
Gary Bettman’s Contract Extended to 2022: Speaking of Bettman, who has had his fair share of issues since taking over as NHL Commissioner back on February 1, 1993, it seems as if NHL fans aren’t going to be rid of him anytime soon. Despite dealing with three lockouts, including one that wiped out the entire 2004-05 season, Bettman has trudged on in efforts to keep the league moving forward. The league has expanded from 24 to 30 teams on his watch and it seems that the league’s population will grow in the next couple years.
It was announced Sunday that Bettman signed a six year extension that will keep him as the head of the league through 2022. Coincidentally, that is the same time that the league’s current CBA with the NHLPA expires. Granted, there is the potential to opt out on both sides in September 2019 but it seems unlikely that anyone will jump at that given the way things have unfolded in recent years. So, good, bad or indifferent, fans, owners, players and the league in general are stuck with Bettman at the helm.
Dennis Wideman to Face League Discipline: Dennis Wideman is normally known as a pretty even keeled, clean player. He’s put up two goals and 17 assists on the season while being one of the steadier defensemen for the Flames. In Calgary’s 2-1 loss to Nashville at home Wednesday night, Wideman was crushed on a hit by Nashville’s Miikka Salomaki. After he got up and was skating toward the bench, Wideman, either intentionally or unintentionally, depending on who you ask, cross-checked linesman Don Henderson into the boards.
Wideman wasn’t penalized on the play and eventually apologized to the on-ice officials. He made the following statement after the game:
“I took a pretty good hit down in the corner and had some pretty good pain in my shoulder and neck,” Wideman said. “I was just trying to get off the ice and kind of keeled over. At the last second, I looked up and saw [Henderson] and couldn’t avoid it. I went up to Donnie and apologized to him on the ice.
“I didn’t see him. I didn’t know where to go and how to get out of the way. I’ve been around for a few years, and I think I’ve treated every official with the utmost respect, and I would never intentionally try to hit a linesman or a ref. It was completely unintentional, and I already apologized to him.”
Regardless of what Wideman said or felt, the league made their decision pretty quickly. Wideman was suspended indefinitely on Thursday and is scheduled to attend a league disciplinary meeting on Tuesday. If recent events prove to be any indicator of what to expect, Wideman could see a 10 game suspension in his future. That could be a major blow to a Calgary team battling for their playoff lives right now.
The NHL season gets back in the swing of things on Tuesday night. Keep your eye out here for all the updates and NHL betting tips that we have for you on the ice.