Nicholas J. Cotsonika
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports16 hrs ago
Tim Thomas is hungry again. He sits just inside the door of the dressing room after his 14th straight start, barechested, balancing a pizza box on top of his goalie pads as he wolfs down an entire cheese-and-pepperoni pie.
The man took a year off from hockey at age 38. He left the NHL while playing at an elite level for an elite team, the Boston Bruins, and said he did it because he was drained.
Now he has returned at age 39, and he’s trying to find his form for a struggling team, the Florida Panthers. He has the energy to play night after night after night, hoping maybe, just maybe, he can return to the U.S Olympic team, too.
It’s surreal. But at this moment, he has won back-to-back games, and he’s smiling.
“The reality is, it is an NHL season, so there are ups and downs even if you’re really ready to play,” said Thomas on Saturday night after a 2-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings. “But you know, I am enjoying myself. You go through time periods possibly where things aren’t going well, where you have to remind yourself just how lucky you are to even be in this league and to be playing.”
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports2 days ago
It should have been the best of the NHL – the Pittsburgh Penguins versus the Boston Bruins on Saturday night, a rematch of the Eastern Conference final, skill and speed and defense and toughness and all that good stuff.
Instead, it was the worst of the NHL – a seek-and-destroy hit, a concussion, a sneaky-dirty knee to the head, a vicious attack, another concussion and a stretcher, then finger-pointing and lies and apologies.
In the aftermath, it's like sorting garbage at the dump. This stinks. This stinks more. This stinks most. You have to draw distinctions, but the overwhelming overall stench leaves you holding your nose.
And it's going to get worse.
The Penguins' James Neal has only a phone hearing with the NHL's department of player safety for kneeing the head of the Bruins' Brad Marchand, which means he will receive a five-game suspension or less – which means the league is going to blow it at least in this instance.
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports4 days ago
Steve Mason sat on the plane in Columbus, waiting to take off for Philadelphia, ready to get off the ground again. He remembers thinking to himself: “This is your second chance. Some people don’t get second chances. You better make the most of it.”
It was April 3. The Blue Jackets had traded him to the Flyers at the deadline. He had won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s rookie of the year in 2008-09, but his career and confidence had crumbled so badly, he had thought his first chance might be his last. Quitting had crossed his mind. Now he was headed to a goalie graveyard, of all places, to find new life.
“I was thrilled,” he said.
The Flyers had booing fans, critical media and a long list of failed goalies. Was Mason really the answer for Philly? Was Philly really the answer for Mason? Only one way to find out. Mason quickly signed a one-year extension worth $1.5 million even though he was due a $3.2 million qualifying offer, not knowing if that offer would come, knowing what he had to prove.
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports5 days ago
Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s weekly Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include Sidney Crosby’s 500th NHL game; P.K. Subban’s Olympic chances; Claude Giroux’s confidence; Sean Couturier’s hot line; plus notes on Team Canada’s roster selection process, Steven Stamkos’ rehab, Henrik Lundqvist’s contract and the salary cap.
FIRST PERIOD: Taking stock as Sidney Crosby hits 500 NHL games
Of all the things Sidney Crosby has accomplished, reaching 500 regular-season NHL games seems pretty pedestrian. Until you stop and consider a couple of things. Like, wait a minute, isn’t he Sid the Kid, or wasn’t he not that long ago? He’s 26 already?
“He’s getting old in the league now,” said Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma. “He’s getting upward in age.”
On the other hand, shouldn’t he be on 600-something by now?
“Looking back,” Crosby said, “I probably think about how many I’ve missed more than playing 500.”
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports6 days ago
Remember something as you digest Henrik Lundqvist’s seven-year, $59.5 million contract extension: The New York Rangers did not just hand the King his ransom. The deal did not get done before the season started. The deal did not get done until Wednesday.
General manager Glen Sather did not give Lundqvist an $8.5 million salary-cap hit – not only the highest of any goaltender in history, but $1.5 million higher than any other goaltender has right now – until Lundqvist played hardball at the table and played below his standard on the ice. Lundqvist was just a healthy scratch in back-to-back games for the first time in almost two years.
Make all the arguments you want about this being too much term and too much money for a goaltender, especially a goaltender who turns 32 in March. Sather might even agree with you. He obviously wanted less term, less money or some other combination. That’s why he tried to hold firm.
Three Periods: Little rookie breaks out big-time in Boston; ex-Isles star Bob Bourne joins NHL concussion lawsuitNicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports12 days ago
Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s weekly Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include Torey Krug’s rookie breakout for the structured Bruins; more former players joining the brain-trauma lawsuit against the NHL; how Jonathan Ericsson went from last in the draft to a “lifetime” deal with Detroit; what Clarke MacArthur, Kyle Turris and Bobby Ryan have in common as they click for the Senators; plus notes on the Ducks, Blues, Penguins and more.
FIRST PERIOD: Why is little Torey Krug scoring big for the Bruins?
Torey Krug is 22. He is 5-foot-9. He has played only 43 NHL games – 28 in the regular season, 15 in the playoffs. So how has he become an offensive dynamo on the blue line for a team known for its experience, toughness and structure?
Talent, of course. Confidence, of course. But it’s coaching and context, too.
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports14 days ago
When the prospective owners of the Phoenix Coyotes recruited investors earlier this year, this was part of their pitch: We’re not buying the team. We’re buying 1/30th of the National Hockey League.
The NHL had just gone through another lockout. But now it had a new labor agreement that reduced the players’ share of hockey-related revenue from 57 percent to 50 percent, at a time when league revenues were poised to pop.
Total HRR had grown from $2.2 billion to $3.3 billion in the seven years between lockouts. The league expected to generate $1 billion more in national revenue over the next three years, with things like outdoor games and, oh, let’s see, a new Canadian TV contract. The owners would split that 30 ways.
“I like to say that the NHL is where the NFL was 20 years ago,” said Anthony LeBlanc, the Coyotes’ president and CEO, in an interview last month. “If you see what is driving television advertising these days, it’s sports. It’s 100-percent sports. It’s the only thing that is DVR-proof. It really is. That’s how television networks make their money, and look at what they’re paying the NFL. The NFL, every team is profitable.
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports15 days ago
Three years ago, Hockey Canada held a concussion seminar in Montreal. The participants received a packet that included a welcome letter from Ken Dryden, the Hall of Fame goalie and member of parliament.
Dryden wrote about how we think back on the past and wonder why we could have been so wrong. He went from slavery to smoking to sports. Why did football and hockey players go so long without helmets? Why did hockey goalies go so long without masks? He wondered what people would think in 50 years about how we have handled head injuries.
“Knowing what they know then, some hints of which we know now, these people of the future will wonder, ‘What could they have been thinking? Why didn’t they do more?’ ” Dryden said.
Well, forget 50 years. The future came Monday, when a class-action lawsuit was filed against the NHL alleging the league knew or should have known the dangers of brain trauma, promoted and profited from on-ice violence, did too little too late to address the problem, and caused harm to former players.
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports18 days ago
Tie game. Third period. Carolina took two penalties on the same shift, and out came Manny Malhotra to kill the 5-on-3. This is what the Hurricanes had signed him to do. This is what he had fought back to do. He won a faceoff. He blocked a shot, and then another, and then …
In a split-second, the puck rose off the stick of the Detroit Red Wings’ Henrik Zetterberg and struck Malhotra somewhere scary. In the visor? In the helmet? You could hear puck on plastic all the way up in the press box, but it happened so fast and so far away that you didn’t know which piece of plastic. After all Malhotra had been through, you held your breath.
On March 16, 2011, Malhotra was playing for the Vancouver Canucks. He was not wearing a visor. A deflected puck struck him in the left eye and altered the course of his life and career. After undergoing surgeries to repair the damage, he returned in the Stanley Cup Final that year. He played the 2011-12 season and began the 2012-13 season, and then the Canucks shut him down against his will because they feared for his safety. He didn’t return to the NHL until Nov. 1, and only after he proved he could still play in the minors.
- Nicholas J. Cotsonika at Yahoo Sports19 days ago
Nicholas J. Cotsonika’s weekly Three Periods column appears on Thursdays. This week’s topics include theories about the West’s domination of the East; an update on the NHL and NHLPA’s plans for a World Cup; how Seth Jones has come back to earth a bit; the Flyers are back in playoff contention; and which rookie Mike Babcock put in the same class with Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg.
FIRST PERIOD: Why are the standings so lopsided toward the West?
Mike Babcock couldn’t believe it. When a reporter said 28 points ranked eighth in the West but first in the East, the coach walked away and checked the back wall of the dressing room, where the Detroit Red Wings post the standings on an eraserboard.
“Thank god we’re in the East,” Babcock said.
That was Tuesday morning. It was even crazier Thursday morning. Thirty points ranked eighth in the West but no one had 30 points yet in the East. The top eight teams in the NHL standings were all in the West.