Top 10 NHL stories of 2015

With the Maple Leafs down 4-0 on the road against the Montreal Canadiens, someone in the crowd decides to show what they think of the teams play.

Looking back at the calendar year in NHL hockey affords a different and welcome perspective. Typically, we’re used to organizing seasons by starting in September and ending in June.

But a glance back at 2015 reveals a Stanley Cup winner, an entire summer, and a brand new season that brought with it a whole host of changes. Players got chased or traded out of town, off-ice issues had the hockey world looking within, while Steven Stamkos remains unsigned in Tampa.

Just think about where the Maple Leafs were in January versus now in December.

What did the year in NHL hockey look like in 2015? Here are the 10 biggest stories, from one winter to the next.

1. The Maple Leafs collapse

The first half of 2015 was perhaps the worst stretch for the Toronto Maple Leafs in a decade. The team was losing games badly, at one point dropping a contest with the Nashville Predators by a score of 9-2.

Fans were fed up and they began to throw their $200+ jerseys onto the ice at home (and away) games. It was a dark time for all involved but the home of the club, the Air Canada Centre, wouldn’t stand for the threaded protests. Three men were charged for their actions in a January incident. Don’t even get us started on “Salute-gate.”

Read the full story here: Charges laid for Maple Leafs jersey thrown on ice

2. Evander Kane‘s exit out of Winnipeg

It started with a track suit in the shower and ended with a trade to Buffalo. Evander Kane’s exit from Winnipeg was well documented and right in the middle of the saga was this report from Sportsnet’s Chris Johnston.

After Kane had been deemed a scratch for a game against the Vancouver Canucks, it was reported that he had in fact missed a team meeting and was not on the team bus prior to the tilt. Efforts made to reach Kane by phone were unsuccessful until an hour before puck drop.

Read the full story here: “Kane skipped game after incident with teammates”
Bonus big read: Evander Kane: Problem Child?

3. Former NHLer Steve Montador dies at age 35

The hockey world faced another death in the family in 2015 when 35-year-old Steve Montador passed away in February.

The former defenceman suffered several concussions over the coure of his career and in 2013 he spoke openly about his bouts with depression. The story re-opened discussions around player safety and the well-being of retirees, prompting his friend Dan Carcillo to speak out on his behalf in a video for The Players’ Tribune.

“He did a lot for the union on our team, and then league-wide. He was friendly with everybody and a great teammate,” said Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp at the time.

In December, Montador’s family filed a suit against the NHL, alleging the league collected data on concussions as far back as 1997 but failed to warn Montador about the dangers.

Read the full story here: Former NHLer Steve Montador dead at age 35

4. Oilers win draft lottery again, select Connor McDavid

Connor McDavid, the consensus No. 1 draft choice ahead of the 2015 entry draft, was going to change the fortunes of whichever team selected him. Stop us, Edmonton Oilers fans, if you’ve heard this line before. While the Buffalo Sabres and Arizona Coyotes finished 30th and 29th respectively in 2014-15, it was the Oilers who won the lottery and drafted the wünderkind, making McDavid their fourth No. 1 overall draft choice in the past six years.

Read the full story here: Oilers win NHL draft lottery, right to McDavid

5. Maple Leafs lure head coach Mike Babcock

The biggest free agent in the NHL in 2015 was a coach with a Stanley Cup and two gold medals to his name. Mike Babcock chose the Toronto Maple Leafs over all other suitors thanks to a strong pitch from president Shanahan.

“I’m proud of Shanny, I’m proud that he dreamt big,” Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment president and CEO Tim Leiweke said. “He got the big whale.”

The eight-year deal for $50 million made him the highest paid coach in the league.

Read the full story here: Mike Babcock to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs

6. Kings terminate Mike Richards‘ contract

The Los Angeles Kings staff were sitting at the draft table in June when GM Dean Lombardi discovered that Mike Richards had been stopped at the Canadian border and charged with possession of a controlled substance. Not only did it spell the end of Richards’ time with the Kings, but it sparked a debate about the conditions under which a players’ contract could be terminated.

The Kings had dealt with other off-ice discretions with forward Jarret Stoll and defenceman Slava Voynov, and later hired former player Brantt Myhres to counsel the team on off-ice personal issues.

Read the full story: Sources: Kings found out about Richards at draft

7. Maple Leafs trade Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins

With a new regime in Leaf land changes were bound to come, and Phil Kessel had been the face of an unsuccessful franchise for six seasons. Mike Babcock had been named coach but Lou Lamoriello had not yet been made general manager. This was a Brendan Shanahan call, ironically, after he said the team wouldn’t be making headlines on July 1.

Said Shanahan, “This is about a recognition on our part that what we’ve been doing here and the group that we assembled here wasn’t getting the job done.”

Read the full story here: Maple Leafs trade Phil Kessel to Penguins

8. The Steven Stamkos contract saga

Whether it was leading his Tampa Bay Lightning to the Stanley Cup Final, favouriting tweets, or shifting from centre to wing, Steven Stamkos was one of the most talked about NHLers in 2015. He’s gone from the top of the playoff mountain in June through to a struggling Lightning group in December — all while the subject of his expiring contract moves further to the fore. In September, as the 2015-16 season was set to start, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman laid out all Stamkos possibilities in the following article.

The longer the team and player hold their ground, the more we’re drawn to the story.

Read the full story here: Lightning preparing for all Stamkos possibilities

9. P.K. Subban donates $10 million to Montreal Children’s Hospital

Montreal Canadiens defenceman P.K. Subban is one of hockey’s biggest personalities, sometimes a divisive one.
But in September, an off-ice gesture of his was one everyone could get on board with. Subban donated an astounding $10 million to the Montreal Children’s Hospital, one that the hospital called “the biggest philanthropic commitment by a sports figure in Canadian history.”

As a thank-you, the hospital named its three-storey atrium in honour of Subban. He is in the second season of an eight-year, $72-million contract.

Read the full story here: P.K. Subban making $10-million donation in Montreal
Bonus big read: Why hockey needs P.K. Subban

10. Patrick Kane case

The summer following his third Stanley Cup celebration saw Chicago Blackhawks superstar Patrick Kane accused of rape after an incident in his home in August.

The case took a strange turn in September when a supposed rape kit showed up on the doorstep of the mother of Kane’s accuser. Shortly after the accuser’s lawyer made this claim during a press conference, he withdrew as her counsel after it became clear there were “fabrications” in the story about how the bag was found.

Ultimately, Kane did not face charges after the accuser decided to no longer cooperate in the investigation and the district attorney investigating the case, Frank A. Sedita, III, declared the “so-called case” to be “rife with reasonable doubt.”

Read the full story here: Lawyer for Patrick Kane accuser withdraws as counsel

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