The NHL All Star weekend will take place next weekend, so the regular season will grind to a halt after a handful of games Wednesday night. That means for the few days after that, we’ll hear about the skills competition, who will be playing, who won’t be in the mix and who will end up winning the $1 million in prize money. There will be other storylines going on as well for this week but with the likelihood of deals being made just about zero, it’s safe to say that the All Star festivities in the Music City will carry the week.
This week, however, had other things besides just the All Star weekend to mull over. There were sucker punches, cheap shots, plenty of goals, lengthy win streaks coming to a halt and a team making the decision to suspend a young player after he made it clear that he didn’t want to play in the minors. We still await to see what happens with potential expansion and a handful of other things. For example, will Gary Bettman ever become a competent commissioner? What about the salary cap next season with the fast devaluing Canadian dollar? Let’s take a look at what’s been going on in the NHL.
John Scott Gets to Play in All Star Game: We discussed at length the fact that social media, in all its glory or idiocy, depending on where you fall on the whole “let every drunk guy have the ability to influence who represents the league in a showcase” debate, selected John Scott to the All Star Game. Not only was he selected, he gained the most votes of anyone in the Pacific Division and was named the team’s captain. After the league asked him to step aside while still getting to attend as if he was an injured player and he refused, he was dealt to Montreal and banished to the minors.
There was plenty of bantering back and forth about what would happen regarding Scott, his slot for the All Star Game and whether the Coyotes would get a replacement player to take his spot. When it was all said and done, the dust settled and smoke cleared, the league made the decision to allow Scott to represent Arizona in the All Star Game and participate. So, the Coyotes end up with no real representative after deciding to deal him away, you have Montreal GM Marc Bergevin talking about how “he had to make the trade but he can’t tell you why” and Bettman merely looks like an idiot for creating this situation.
What’s the aftermath of the whole thing, other than what we already mentioned? The league is now stating that they plan to change the voting system for next season. How those changes will be implemented and what they will be remains to be seen.
Stevie Y Drops the Hammer: Whether you liked the Detroit Red Wings or hated them, you had to respect Steve Yzerman. He was the quintessential teammate that did everything the Red Wings asked of him. He killed penalties, he scored goals, he set up teammates, he was a leader on the ice and in the locker room. When the Red Wings needed to try and find money to fit other guys in under the salary cap, he took a pay cut.
Now that he is in the front office running the Tampa Bay Lightning, Yzerman is a take no prisoners guy as the general manager. Jonathan Drouin, who was highly touted as the 3rd overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, hasn’t proven himself at the NHL level. In 89 career games, he has a total of six goals and 40 points. The Lightning, unconvinced that he’s ready to play in the pros, made the decision to send him down to the minors. Drouin had two goals and an assist in seven games with the Syracuse Crunch in the AHL. Things changed earlier this week as the dynamic between the disgruntled young player and the team shifted again.
Drouin demanded a trade after being sent down and the team was looking for potential trade partners. Wednesday, Drouin refused to report to Syracuse, setting off a back and forth between the player, his agent and the organization. The Lightning, with Yzerman as its mouthpiece, made the decision to suspend Drouin indefinitely without pay. The statement from his agent was that Drouin wanted to sit out so he wouldn’t be injured to scuttle a potential deal. The team has stated that they are looking to make a deal in the best interests of the franchise, meaning that a deal may not be made in the near future. In the meantime, there is speculation around the league that Drouin’s trade stock is dropping by the minute due to the issue.
Kane Running Away With the Scoring Race: Normally, the scoring race is fairly competitive and isn’t decided until late into the season. This year, it seems to be merely a formality as the Art Ross Trophy is seemingly destined to wind up in the Windy City. Whether any other hardware ends up in Chicago, which has seen its fair share of awards and titles coming their way in the last few years, remains to be seen.
Patrick Kane has 30 goals and 42 assists for 72 points in 51 games so far this season. That gives him a hefty 15 point advantage over Jamie Benn of the Dallas Stars. What’s more impressive is the adjusted statistics, which are based on the time when the league was more offensively gifted as opposed to the offensively drained sport now. According to Hockey Reference, Kane’s numbers this season, if based on their system, would translate to 56 goals and 78 assists for 134 points. That would put him on pace to break Wayne Gretzky’s records of 92 goals and 216 points. He’s on pace to score 118 points this season, which would be the fourth-most points in the league since the 2005-06 season.
Should Kane pull off the Art Ross Trophy, he’ll be the first U.S. born player to win the trophy in league history. If he hits the century mark in points, he’ll be the first U.S. born player to reach that mark since Doug Weight had 104 points in the 1995-96 season.
Other News and Notes: This week saw the end of a 12 game win streak by the Blackhawks, who were beaten 2-1 by Tampa Bay and then blanked 4-0 by Florida. The Panthers had a 12 game win streak of their own snapped a couple weeks ago as they were skunked 6-0 by Calgary. The current longest win streaks in the league are the four game runs by New Jersey and Colorado.
Milan Lucic of the Los Angeles Kings was suspended one game for a sucker punch of Arizona’s Kevin Connauton Saturday night. The hearing on the incident was quick and the punishment was handed down Sunday afternoon. He served his suspension Sunday against the San Jose Sharks and expects to be back in the lineup when the Kings host the Avalanche Wednesday night.
In other news, the Edmonton Oilers were happy to hear that Connor McDavid, who was the first overall pick in the 2015 NHL Draft, is progressing from his injury. He’s targeting his return to the lineup on February 2, right after the All Star break. McDavid will go down to the AHL and practice with the Bakersfield Condors though he won’t play in any games. Whether his return will do anything for the Oilers’ playoff chances will remain to be seen. The Oilers sit eight points out of one of the three guaranteed playoff spots in the Pacific Division and 11 points behind the second wild card spot in the Western Conference.
The NHL all star break is in just one weeks time! Check out today’s free NHL predictions!