This Columbus story keeps developing new angles.
Just a couple of days after being benched by new coach John Tortorella in his first game as coach of the Blue Jackets, star centre Ryan Johansen not only left the team because of illness, it’s now been revealed he suffered from a heart-related problem in the off-season.
Columbus Dispatch writer Aaron Portzline reported late Sunday night that Johansen was hospitalized at least once during the summer because of an accelerated heart rate, and that report was confirmed by Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen.
Kekalainen, however, also told the newspaper Johansen’s current ailment is not heart-related.
Until feeling ill and leaving the team on Saturday, Johansen had played in 202 consecutive games.
This latest news adds an intriguing layer to the sometimes contentious relationship between the player and the team. Last year, Johansen staged a brief holdout as part of a nasty contract negotiation with the team during which Columbus president John Davidson declared the centre’s contract demands to be “extortion.”
Johansen eventually signed a three-year, $12 million deal.
This year, the 23-year-old pivot got off to a slow start, as did the Jackets, who were 0-7 when head coach Todd Richards was fired and replaced by Tortorella. In Tortorella’s debut, a loss to Minnesota, Johansen didn’t see the ice in the final minutes as Columbus tried to stage a late-game rally.
Where this all goes now will be intriguing to watch. Apparently, after the episode during the summer, the Dispatch reported, the Jackets flew Johansen to Columbus for tests, and he was cleared.
The Jackets next game is Tuesday against New Jersey.
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It’s the offence in Montreal that’s making the strongest statement.
For while every conversation about the Canadiens seems to quite rightly begin and end with goaltender Carey Price, who is simply picking up where he left off last season when he purloined all the nicest hardware the league gives out at the end of the year.
But the Habs didn’t score like this before.
Now, you could argue that pumping in 12 in two games on Friday and Saturday against weaklings Buffalo and Toronto is not an achievement akin to climbing Everest. Moreover, having Price in goal most nights gives a team confidence to move forward knowing the back end is covered, and Saturday’s 49-save performance against the Leafs was evidence of just that.
But Mike Condon was the goalie of record Friday against the Sabres, and the Canadiens were able to record a 7-2 triumph.
No one should believe scoring almost four goals a game, as the 9-0 Habs have done, is sustainable in Dead Puck Era II.
But it does suggest this team is certainly capable of improving significantly on last season’s per game output of 2.61 goals per match, which ranked the team 20th of 30 NHL clubs, or the season before that, when at 2.55 goals per game, Montreal struggled to score even more.
All of Montreal’s best offensive players - Max Pacioretty, Tomas Plekanec, P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov and Brendan Gallagher - are producing in the early going. Pacioretty is making it seem like the broken leg he suffered in the off-season never happened, while Subban and Markov already have 20 points between them. Even Alex Galchenyuk, whose move to centre has been viewed as a critical element this season for the club, may have only one goal, but he’s got seven points in nine games.
Throw in three goals each from Torrey Mitchell, Dale Weise and Lars Eller, and you’ve got an offence that’s really clicking.
All the mythical Flying Frenchman poetry aside, the Habs have only led the NHL in scoring once (2007-08) in the last 35 years. This hasn’t been their way of doing things most of the time; staunch defence and excellent netminding have been their calling cards.
Price is still the face of the Habs. But perhaps it’s the offence that really might mean this team has a chance to go all the way.
At the other end of the spectrum from Montreal would be the Anaheim Ducks, as punchless right now as punchless can be.
Seven games, one win and six goals scored. Ugh.
What in the world has happened to Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry? They combined for a single shot on Saturday in Minnesota, and neither played 18 minutes. Neither Getzlaf nor Perry has a goal this season, but that can also be said about Ryan Kesler, Jakob Silfverberg and newcomer Carl Hagelin.
Now, as a team, the Ducks have a shooting percentage of 2.3 per cent, and the statistical likelihood is that will increase significantly. But when? In time to save Bruce Boudreau’s job?
Three road games in four nights starting tonight in Chicago could demonstrate the Ducks are poised to turn this around, or force GM Bob Murray to make a move, and maybe with his head coach.
The most intriguing roster for next year’s World Cup might be the under-24 squad, managed by Stan Bowman and Peter Chiarelli. As it stands, there is no set quota for Canadians or North Americans, and it’s believed the early rosters being put together might be weighted more towards Canadians.
That said, one of names under consideration is Auston Matthews, the 18-year-old Arizona native who will likely go first overall in the NHL draft next summer and is currently playing in Switzerland for Marc Crawford’s Zurich squad.
Eric Lindros played in the ’91 Canada Cup before he’d skated a single NHL game. The same might happen with Matthews.
Sportnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported Saturday night that Tortorella almost didn’t get the Columbus head coaching job last week because the Blue Jackets didn’t want to cough up a second round pick as compensation.
Tortorella wasn’t working and had been fired by Vancouver, so as had been the case with other recent coaching and executive hirings, the question was again asked as to why the Canucks deserved any compensation when Columbus came calling.
This is a hot topic, and the thinking is the NHL just might reverse itself in the near future and go back to a non-compensation system.
It was interesting to see winger Byron Froese promoted to Toronto’s NHL lineup ahead of youngster William Nylander, Connor Brown and Kasperi Kapanen. Leaf management has sworn up and down it wants to give its youngest prospects lengthy apprenticeships in the minors, and this decision was evidence of that.
Meanwhile, Peter Holland was benched by the Leafs on Saturday for the Montreal game. Vets Michael Grabner and Roman Polak were healthy scratches earlier this season as head coach Mike Babcock tries to heighten the internal competition for roster spots.
Don’t expect a female referee or linesman to show up in an NHL game near you in the near future.
But is a female official likely somewhere down the line? Absolutely.
The NBA and NFL have already hired female officials, and there was one female in attendance for the NHL officiating combine open to midget aged players in August. Next summer, the league will hold another combine for CIS and NCAA players, and officiating boss Stephen Walkom is hoping more females may apply.
“We’re looking for talent,” said Walkom, emphasizing that excellent skating skills are the No. 1 criteria.
“We welcome male and female applicants.”
It stands to reason that women who reach high levels in the sport might find officiating a way to stay in the game.
Meanwhile, in St. Paul the Wild have been using the services of consultant Alexandra Mandrycky in their hockey ops department for several months. Women may slowly be finding a way to be influential in the world’s top hockey league.
One of the more fascinating teams to watch right now is the Detroit Red Wings. A fourth straight loss to Calgary in overtime on Friday night after failing to hold a lead had some suggesting the Wings have regressed, but then they fought back themselves from a deficit to win in Vancouver 24 hours later.
With Pavel Datsyuk out, not to mention Johan Franzen and Brad Richards, the kids are playing an even bigger role this season than was anticipated. It’s hard to say exactly where the Wings are right now, hard to say how quickly Jeff Blashill is gaining the ears of an NHL roster filled with players who skated for him in the AHL.
Dougie Hamilton has been struggling in his first year in Calgary, and there’s a rumour about him and his departure from Boston that just won’t die.
The speculation is that among the issues Hamilton had with the Bruins was the fact he wanted them to acquire the rights to his brother, Freddie, and Boston either couldn’t or wouldn’t.
Dougie landed in Calgary at the draft, and this month the Flames acquired Freddie in a trade. GM Brad Treliving, when asked about the rumour, said the Flames actually tried to make a deal for Freddie at the March trade deadline, and said he’d never heard the rumour before.
Peter Chiarelli, who was GM of the Bruins before being fired in May, preferred not to comment.
U.S. officials were in St. Louis last week touring the city as part of choosing the site for 2018 world junior hockey championships. St. Louis, Buffalo and Pittsburgh are the finalists.
If St. Louis is chosen, it would be a major change of philosophy for U.S.A. Hockey, which has chosen sites in recent years based on their proximity to the Canadian border. In Grand Forks, North Dakota in 2005 and Buffalo in 2011, officials elected to pick sites accessible to Canadian hockey fans by car, and both events were a success.
Missouri isn’t quite so accessible. It would be a bit of a gamble for U.S.A. Hockey.
Nobody’s saying much - actually, nobody’s saying anything - but there’s definitely a growing sense the contract talks between the Los Angeles Kings and star centre Anze Kopitar have stalled, at least for now.
Why? Well, there was a sense that the Kings needed to sort out the situations of Slava Voynov and Mike Richards. But that’s been done, and yet nothing for Kopitar on a new contract.
He was hoping to get it done in the summer and has made it clear he wants to stay in Los Angeles. Needless to say, a lot of folks are puzzled over this one.
The demotion of Karri Ramo by the Flames last week left the Wild as the only team in the NHL carrying three goalies. The situations, however, couldn’t be more different.
In Calgary, there was ongoing uncertainty over whether Ramo or Jonas Hiller was No. 1, and whether youngster Jonio Ortio should be given a shot. In Minny, the pecking order is crystal clear; Devan Dubnyk is the starter, Darcy Kuemper is the back and starter-in-waiting, and Nicklas Backstrom is the odd man out.
The Wild would trade Backstrom, and he’d like to play somewhere else, but given their goaltending difficulties of recent years, the Wild wouldn’t mind keeping him around at least for the short term as insurance and aren’t so anxious to alleviate their cap situation by just dumping Backstrom and his $3.4 million deal on another club.