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Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
It's very easy to think of the KHL as a backwater league not worth the attention of anyone outside former Soviet Bloc countries. The league collects players who, for some reason or another, can't hack it in the NHL; and when highlights do make it across the oceans they seem in large part to show a deeply inferior and laughably weird league.
The number of horror stories you hear about the KHL is also high. Players not getting paid. Players maybe getting blackmailed. The shadowy specter of vaguely scary and definitely armed oligarchs hanging over the league's richest teams while the poorest field teams that would kill to have a few has-beens to mix in with their never-wases. The abominable playing, medical, and travel conditions. And so on.
For everything that's wrong with the NHL, at least it isn't the KHL.
The problem with the world's greatest league is that it is intransigent when it comes to so many things that make the league safer; and even when it does move, all anyone really does is complain.
There's already been so much curmudgeonry this season about hybrid icing that you'd think a blown call is worse than a broken ankle. The fighting debate is growing obnoxious because its most vocal supporters can't just admit they want to watch MMA on ice. And we're about three years away from purists bemoaning the influx of visors for making the sport to European or something.
So when there's a rash of players being stretchered off the ice as a result of dirty hits, and everyone starts talking about how important it is to get the rats out of the game forever, the number of solutions offered for doing so remains more or less at zero, more or less steadfastly. "You just can't force these guys out of the game!" is a pretty common cry these days, even as everyone agrees that maybe you probably should.
The problem is that the league has shown little interest in trying to legislate them out.
The last two lockouts have come with all involved acknowledging that the NHL had all the power, and it used that to foist all sorts of draconian rollbacks of players' rights, while leaving alone supplementary discipline in most ways.
Remember the $2,500 max fine? At least they got that bumped up to a cool $10,000.
But now the players have more rights to appeal the lengthiest suspensions — those of six games or more — to higher authorities than Brendan Shanahan; Patrick Kaleta, a guy who deserves to be run out of the game with pitchforks and torches if ever there was one, is using that to appeal his 10-game ban for his seventh bit of supplemental discipline in the last three season. Seventh. Your seventh time appearing before that board in your entire career should just get you outright banned, and Kaleta gets to walk around thinking 10 games is too many.
The NHL Department of Player Safety effectively found itself castrated in this regard, and therefore viewable only as bread and circus to the larger, league-wide problems it is in theory meant to sort out, by Raffi Torres. Another among the repeatest of repeat offenders, Torres just about tried to decapitate Marian Hossa in the playoffs and Brendan Shanahan had the guts to actually throw the guy a 25-game suspension.
It was bold but it was necessary, because plays like that from guys like that have no place in the sport, and that's the only way anyone is ever going to learn. That would have included 12 regular-season games the next season, but Gary Bettman rolled that back to eight. This served as a pretty strong reminder to everyone that the league didn't actually care about this kind of thing all that much. Not really, anyway.
Which of course brings us to today, and Kaleta thinking 10 games is entirely too many even as illegal plays, ugly and injurious, happen with greater frequency. The most basic question you can ask at that point is, "How dare he appeal that?" You get why he's doing it but the gall it takes to actually follow through is considerable. The NHL has no way of saying no, and will therefore probably allow this thing to continue in perpetuity until something very serious indeed happens to one of the league's biggest stars as a result of such a player.
The KHL, though, has seen enough.
Until this week you probably didn't remember Matt Murley, who played 62 games in the NHL, and you'd almost certainly never even heard of Grigori Panin, whose only experience outside a Russian domestic league was six games in World Juniors nine years ago. Then you heard of both of them very much, thanks to the excessively dirty hit the latter laid on the former in a clear intent to injure. The KHL threw Panin an 11-game ban (about a month after he was also suspended for one game), which is sizable, but then took it a step further than the NHL ever will.
The KHL's Disciplinary Committee issued a notice over the weekend saying that due to the huge uptick in "players sustaining serious injuries as a result of boarding, kneeing, attacks from behind and attacks to the head," that it would be doing something about it.
"This is an alarm bell we cannot ignore," committee head Valery Kamensky said, which is something Bettman and Co. would never say about this kind of thing ever.
Now, the KHL says it "will be far more severe" when it comes to supplemental discipline on hits that cause injury. The latter issue is a bit sticky, because suspending to an injury itself isn't necessarily the best idea, but the intent behind the move is a very good and commendable one.
It would be nice to see the NHL follow suit, particularly when it comes to repeat offenders.
The fact of the matter, of course, is that the NHL probably won't or even can't start throwing down bans in excess of more than five or six games. The NHLPA would throw a fit, and besides, the CBA has so many player protections built into it in this regard — and almost exclusively in this regard — that they'd all just get appealed down anyway. There should be a three-strike system, maybe five strikes, but that's the only way guys like Max Lapierre and Kaleta and even Alex Edler (who you'll recall went knee-to-knee on Eric Staal over the summer) is ever going to learn.
The KHL shouldn't be in front of the NHL on any player safety issues, and yet here we are. The European giant saw a problem and is now moving to address it. Its North American superior has mostly just thrown its hands up.
"What can you do?" isn't a good enough response. "What should we do?" is a good starting point.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: After whom does Ducks rookie Hampus Lindholm pattern his game? Kenny Jonsson, Nick Lidstrom, Erik Karlsson, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson. You know, standard stuff. Basically, if you're a Swedish defenseman, Hampus Lindholm is gunning to steal your game.
Boston Bruins: After the game, someone finally woke Tuukka Rask up to let him know he posted a 23-save shutout against the Lightning.
Buffalo Sabres: On top of everything else, the Sabres still have no idea how to properly use Mikhail Grigorenko. Say, shouldn't Darcy Regier be fired already?
Calgary Flames: In what world is it "crushing" for the Flames of all the freaking teams in the world to lose to the San Jose Sharks? It's the Sharks! And the Flames! Calgary should be dancing in the streets after actually scoring three. Good lord.
Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes scored four goals in the second period en route to a 4-3 road win, and the 'Canes are now (somehow) 21-5-5 in their last 31 against the Isles. That includes a 10-1-2 run on Long Island. They might wanna move to Uniondale once the current tenants move to Brooklyn.
Chicago Blackhawks: Seems all those complaints about the Red Wings having to play in the Western Conference have moved slightly southwest. What a load of crap by crybaby idiot Steve Silverman. Had Silverman his druthers, this is how the Central would currently look: "Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Detroit, Minnesota, St. Louis, Toronto, Winnipeg." Detroit twice. Good stuff.
Colorado Avalanche: Seriously this play from Matt Duchene to set up a Ryan O'Reilly goal. Seriously.
Columbus Blue Jackets: Big ups to Marian Gaborik for not biting on the Vancouver media's attempts to get him to put John Tortorella on blast. "Nothing really happened between me and him, if that’s what you’re asking." Upon hearing this Tony Gallagher made a mental note to run Gaborik down in an unrelated column at some point in the near future.
Dallas Stars: Tyler Seguin on his impending return to Boston: "I don’t know if I’ll be booed or cheered. There will likely be a lot of boos." Funny, the Boston media said "a lot of boos" was why he got traded in the first place.
Detroit Red Wings: Darren Helm is available for next Saturday's game, and he'll bump Jordin Tootoo out of the lineup. Adjust your fantasy teams accordingly just kidding.
Edmonton Oilers: No timeline for Taylor Hall's return and now that Yakupov-for-Miller-and-Vanek trade looks a lot more sensible doesn't it!!!!
Florida Panthers: The league is just standing there with a stopwatch waiting for the Panthers to decide they want to sell off all their mediocre veterans for second- and third-round picks. Should be any day now.
Los Angeles Kings: The Los Angeles Clippers will cover up all the Lakers' and Kings' banners when they play home games this season because they don't want to be reminded that they're supposed to win championships and stuff.
Minnesota Wild: Much like a production of Peter Pan, if the Wild's fans believed in corsi hard enough, the team would have beaten Florida on Saturday instead of losing 2-1 in a shootout. They went 1-2-1 on the road trip despite outshooting Buffalo, Toronto, Tampa and Florida 114-89.
Montreal Canadiens: To the surprise of no one, Daniel Briere has a concussion. Which is why you don't sign Daniel Briere.
Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: This space will, I think, probably just end up being reserved entirely for beautiful goals scored by Seth Jones, the truest of True Americans.
New Jersey Devils: The Devils are using Cory Schneider for two consecutive starts. The clock on Martin Brodeur boo-hooing about playing time starts: Right now.
New York Islanders: Another guy who has a concussion is Lubomir Visnovsky. That puts the Isles D corps in rather an interesting position now, doesn't it?
New York Rangers: First Henrik Lundqvist gives up four on 19 to the Devils. Then Marty Biron retires. No Rangers goalie is safe from the ravages of what the Sharks did to them a week and a half ago.
Ottawa Senators: I would argue that this is the Chris Neil-est goal Chris Neil will ever score, since he won't ever be able to actually punch the puck into the net.
Philadelphia Flyers: The Flyers say Paul Holmgren's job isn't in jeopardy for some reason I don't understand. Ah yes, stunning organizational incompetence. It all makes sense now.
Phoenix Coyotes: Mike Ribeiro needs to score more? Really? He has seven points in nine games. That's literally his career average scoring.
Pittsburgh Penguins: Kris Letang is "close" to coming back which is good because the Penguins offense could really use the boost.
San Jose Sharks: What a play by Joe Pavelski to set up the first of six Sharks goals, four of which he ended up figuring into.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues retreated to South Carolina to work on their special teams in secret for a few days. It's all very cloak and dagger and it's also not a joke. Here's Ken Hitchcock: "Starting Sunday, we have things that we want to put in place in those three days … things that we want to enhance, especially on special teams. It’s going to give us a chance with no observation coming from the league." See? I wouldn't lie to you.
Tampa Bay Lightning: How'd Saturday's game with the Bruins go for you, Jon Cooper? "The only thing good about tonight was probably the national anthem." Early quote of the year candidate, as long as you don't count Joe Thornton's you-know-what quote, which you can't because it was "off the record" from what I've been told.
Toronto Maple Leafs: The Leafs are starting to lose because they can't hold onto the puck. Who saw this coming? …Ohhhh, right.
Vancouver Canucks: The Canucks are trying Ryan Kesler with the Sedins because they're pretty much out of forwards who haven't skated with them. Next stop: the Sedin-Sedin-Luongo line.
Washington Capitals: See guys what were you all worried about? That Martin Erat trade is working out great!
Winnipeg Jets: The Jets are winning but now they're not winning correctly. It's like Winnipeg doesn't even want the team any more.
Play of the Weekend
Oh like it was going to be anything else.
Gold Star Award
Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, and Anze Kopitar make up the best second line in the league. Williams and Kopitar each had three points on Saturday, and Brown had just the one goal. They also had even-strength corsi differentials ranging from plus-12 (Brown) to plus-17 (Kopitar). Williams fell into the middle at plus-14. That's an incredible night at the office.
Minus of the Weekend
Tomas Hertl, you stop making goalies retire right this instant, young man.
Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week
User "iFan" has me saying, "iDon'tKnowAnyMore!!!!"
Yakupov and Barrie
Edler, Schroeder (or a 1st) and a 2nd
Maybe this cow is trying to communicate with us in the only way it knows how - with its feces.