DETROIT — Of course this happened to the Senators. Of course it did.
This organization has become the laughingstock of the league, and that’s a shame for Canada’s capitol city. But what are the odds that this would happen to any other team — a deranged Uber driver records seven players in the midst of a candid (seemingly private) conversation and then posts it on the internet?
First, good that this driver was fired. And it’s very difficult to feel any empathy for someone who violated the trust of his passengers this brutally, despite him laying out some sob story about liability insurance.
And let’s also make something else as clear as possible: These types of conversations like the one the Senators had on Oct. 29 happen between players daily. These are young guys, venting. To be honest, what they say isn’t all that bad compared to what most of us reporters have heard off-the-record. If you want to hear some really awful things, go into the coaches’ room. How do you think Marty Raymond feels about the effort his players are putting forth on that much-maligned penalty kill?
So out came all the requisite apologies, with the players issuing a joint statement that read, in part: “We’re passionate about our team, and focusing on growing together.” Right, like if they could move Matt Duchene’s burdensome contract that he would be elated to play anywhere else? And then head coach Guy Boucher issued a statement that read, in part: “We have every confidence in Marty Raymond’s coaching.” Right, like everyone isn’t going to be looking at him differently in meetings and practices?
Fact is, this is an organization that continually makes things harder on itself than they need to be. And that starts at the top.
Owner Eugene Melnyk has done many things over the years that leave you scratching your head — which is a kind way of saying that they make no sense. It has helped create this chaotic environment, where it seems like every day there is another piece of off-ice news that makes most around the league just shake their heads and laugh.
Quickly, let’s start with the arena situation. First, Melnyk threatened to move the team from its remote Kanata, Ontario, rink, but then he walked those comments back. He doubled down when he then released this incredibly awkward preseason video with (marginal) defenseman Mark Borowiecki. At least someone had the wherewithal to release the video on Twitter at 10 p.m. on a Monday night.
Then, of course, there is the cyberbullying incident between Mike Hoffman’s fiancé and Erik Karlsson’s wife. What are we, in middle school? The Senators really cleaned that one up, trading Hoffman to the Sharks, who then promptly flipped him to the Panthers.
Then the drama with Karlsson finally came to a head when they traded their all-world defenseman to the Sharks for an indistinguishable bundle. Mind you, they were forced to trade Karlsson not because he was asking out, but because Melnyk wasn’t willing to pay him. The owner said he doesn’t want to keep “underwriting a team,” meaning they’re losing money. But isn’t that the risk you take when you buy a team? If he could actually get the rink built downtown and get a big stake in it, there is no reason the organization shouldn’t be profitable.
Now they have to deal with this video mess. Despite their defensive woes — they’re worst in the league allowing 39.3 shots per game and 4.19 goals per game — they are still 6-7-3 and hardly out of a race in the East where the wild-card spots are wide open.
But these are the Senators. The only thing you can bank on is another embarrassing event for a team and owner that are starting to embarrass the league.
The Boyles’ Beautiful Night
Not a lot of guys in the league more universally liked than the Devils’ Brian Boyle, and Monday was about as poignant a night as could have been drawn up. After announcing earlier that his form of leukemia had gone into remission … after his wife, Lauren, was announced as the NHL’s Hockey Fights Cancer ambassador … and on Hockey Fights Cancer night in Pittsburgh … Boyle found it a good time to score his first career hat trick.
Good for him, good for the Devils, good for the league.
Speaking of disregarding personal trust, a document from the attorneys representing the former players in the concussion lawsuit against the NHL was leaked. This time, it was because the recommendation was for them to take a laughable $18.9 million settlement, with the players getting just $6.9 million, totaling $22,000 per player, according to Forbes.
I’m no legal expert, and I’m sure statue of limitations is restrictive in this case. But isn’t the precedent of the NFL’s $1 billion settlement for almost the exact same argument more influential than the timing of the lawsuit? If I were the players, I might start looking for another law firm.
Part of what makes Evgeni Malkin such a great player is his edge. He finds himself in the middle of scrums much more often than most superstars.
But the fact that the league said he was “bracing for a hit” when he raised his elbow and slammed T.J. Oshie in the head on Wednesday night was wrong. Oshie is not eligible to be hit, and Malkin got him right in the head. Malkin got a five-minute major and was tossed from the game, while Oshie ended up coming back to score the winning goal. I guess that was enough? No, it wasn’t.
…to the Coyotes’ penalty kill. Yes, that might be pretty specific, but it is on a runaway historic pace right now, with nine shorthanded goals in the first 14 games. The most shorthanded goals scored by a team in a season is 36, set by the 1983-84 Oilers (they were pretty good, if you remember). Derek Stepan and the ’Yotes are on pace for 53.
There really should be more focus on how much good charity work is done by NHL players. They sacrifice more time than most people realize.
The Rangers returned from a four-game, nine-day road trip and had Wednesday off. Henrik Lundqvist decided to wake up extremely early and go in to the “Good Morning America” studio and surprise a big-time fan who has beat cancer three times. Good stuff.
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