West Coast Bias: Karma catches Torres, Kaleta

Carolina Hurricanes' Drayson Bowman (21) is checked by Buffalo Sabres' Patrick Kaleta (36) on Friday, Sept. 27, 2013, in Raleigh, N.C. (Gerry Broome/AP)

In the “what goes around comes around” file, two prominent NHL hatchet men find themselves on the other side of the injury this week.
Raffi Torres’ knee injury has forced him off the ice for seven months. Even he admitted to San Jose Mercury News writer David Pollock, “it could be karma biting me in the butt.” Few, if any, have thrown more dangerous hits in the National Hockey League over the past decade than Torres, who suffered complications after ACL surgery last season.

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If anyone has been more reckless than Torres, however, Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta would be the guy. That was Kaleta on Wednesday night against the Jets, getting drilled from behind into the glass by Dave Lowry’s boy Adam, who was suspended for one game Thursday.

“If you’ve followed my career you’ll notice I’m attracted to that sort of stuff,” Kaleta said post-game, a healthy gash on his lip. “I’ll be fine.”
It was Kaleta’s first home game in almost 14 months, back to Oct. 10, 2013, when he took a 10-game suspension for a head shot on Columbus’ Jack Johnson. He’s been in the minors and on the IR since, but has now played in two games for Buffalo.
Across the league in San Jose, at age 33, Torres’ recurring knee troubles are certainly career threatening.

“I’m just trying to be hopeful and that when I start skating it’s not affecting me,” Torres said. “If I can play at the level I need to play at, I’ll keep going. If not, we’ll have to sit down again and reassess the situation.”
Speaking of levels of play, do you think Minnesota and Dallas were both hoping for a little more production from off-season signings Thomas Vanek and Ales Hemsky? Vanek has one goal (11 points) in 21 games for the Wild, while Hemsky is still goal-less, with just five helpers in 21 games. Both are on three-year deals, with Vanek making $6.5 million per, Hemsky $4 million. And they have just one goal between them in 42 combined games.
My favourite Pat Quinn line, to a radio man whose gift certificate had not been honoured by the shirt-maker when Quinn tried to cash it: “It may not be your fault, Morley. But it is your problem.” He froze out the radio man for a few visits, offering up assistant coach Rick Ley, then resumed the pre-game coach’s interview.

As for Viktor Tikhonov, I am honoured to say I interviewed him once, when the Russian club teams were touring the NHL in the mid-80s. He always knew more English than he let on, often speaking over his Russian-English translator to answer a question he’d easily understood. Engaging and significant hockey men, each of them so accomplished. It’s an honour to have met them both.
Martin Brodeur said this to our Damien Cox, upon his pending try out in St. Louis: “I didn’t like the way things ended last year in New Jersey. Twenty years from now, at least now I’ll be able to say I gave it my best to play one more year.”

Here’s hoping he doesn’t regret it. Marty is another whose greatness as a player was rivalled by his off-ice demeanour. Hope he’s starting in St. Louis come playoff time.
Thanks to Hockeyanalysis.com, we see the Calgary Flames rank second in the NHL, behind only Tampa, with a team shooting percentage of 9.4. That’s one of the reasons for their surprising start, and one of the primary markers for those who believe Calgary can’t sustain this.

Last year only one team (Anaheim) finished the season with a shooting percentage better than 9.0. Among regular players, Jiri Hudler leads the NHL with a shooting percentage of 28.6. He’s got 10 goals already and is on pace for 36 goals, despite only surpassing the 20-goal mark twice in his career. His best was 25 goals for Detroit in 2011-12.
It’s a great story being penned in Nashville, where the Predators have jazzed up their play, and sit atop the Central. Plus, they’ve got Calder Trophy favourite Filip Forsberg who came over in that trade for Martin Erat, a deal that GM David Poile didn’t even want to make.

“Martin asked to be traded. He didn’t believe in us anymore,” Poile told the Edmonton Journal’s Jim Matheson. “I had several conversations to try and talk him down. If Martin never came to me, we wouldn’t have traded him at all.”
The Edmonton Oilers players were questioned about their lack of response on Saturday when rookie Leon Draisaitl was boarded by Chicago defenceman Michal Rozsival. Meanwhile, head coach Dallas Eakins was questioned over when he might begin to limit the ice time of defenceman Justin Shultz.

Well, when Ryan Garbutt stuck his knee out (earning a two-game ban) on Taylor Hall Tuesday in Dallas, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins led the charge of Oilers players looking to put some gloves in Garbutt’s face. And by Thursday night in St. Louis, Schultz was in the press box, a healthy scratch by Eakins. Either Schultz was vastly over-rated by NHL executives when he emerged from the University of Wisconsin, or the Oilers have wrecked this kid. He is nowhere near an elite defenceman at this point, 144 games into his NHL career. Most scouts say the real number for judgment is 250 games, however.

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