32 Thoughts: So many questions, not enough answers around Corey Perry

Corey Perry. (AP)

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• And starting a new tradition at the Hockey Hall of Fame

Corey Perry cleared waivers Wednesday afternoon, and the Chicago Blackhawks terminated what remained on his one-year, $4-million contract. He has 60 days to file a grievance, which, if he wins, would restore the financial compensation. 

The NHLPA cannot proceed unless Perry agrees. It wanted to grieve on Patrik Berglund’s behalf during the 2018-19 season, but the player refused. So that termination went unchallenged.

Whatever happens with his salary, Perry will not return to the Blackhawks. That door is closed.

There are still so many unanswered questions, ranging from “What exactly happened?” to “How could this have been handled better?” 

Something happened during last week’s trip to Columbus that initiated the internal investigation. During his media conference, Chicago GM Kyle Davidson was asked if law enforcement is involved or if this is a criminal matter. Twice he referred to Perry’s transgression as a “workplace matter.” The organization’s statement claimed he violated “the Blackhawks’ internal policies intended to promote professional and safe work environments.”  

During the six days between Perry’s first scratch and Davidson’s availability, the Blackhawks were caught in a storm of their history, social media in 2023 and legal responsibilities. Even though they have a different front office and management team than in 2010, they are expected to hold a higher standard and be more transparent than any other NHL team because of what happened with Kyle Beach.

According to several sources, when Davidson met with the players on Tuesday morning, he emphasized the Blackhawks could not afford any kind of behavioural indiscretion. (As he said publicly later in the day, he did not tell them what occurred.) 

It’s very likely their legal team (or their human resources team) imposed an information blackout until the investigation was completed, or if this became a criminal matter — which it hasn’t. Unfortunately, during that time, the situation devolved into an online mess. Now, you’ve got a real problem: your lawyers are telling you to keep quiet because you must follow protocol, while an insane rumour is gathering steam across social media. 

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Several people I spoke to in the past few days say their organizations have put an external public relations firm on retainer for this reason. It’s not uncommon to be so tied up in the middle of a maelstrom that you cannot see (or don’t have time to see) the macro view. That’s where someone comes in and says, “You’ve got a serious situation that requires immediate attention. Deal with it now.”

Whenever I speak to young reporters, I explain to them that it is a great field and there is more opportunity than ever to dictate your own path. I also tell them that when you become a public figure, you will face open criticism. It can be very legitimate. Maybe your performance is bad or you get something wrong or they reasonably disagree with your opinion.

However: people are going to say things to you online that a) they wouldn’t have the guts to say to your face and b) that you can’t believe someone would say or think about you. Maybe it’s your race, your sex, your weight, your background, what you reported or just because.

It’s not right, and it shouldn’t happen. But it does, you can’t escape it. You must pick your battles, because online fights rarely end well, are bad for your mental health, could affect your reputation or employment status and signal to the biggest trolls they can get under your skin — motivating them to do it again. 

In this case, whether people think it’s funny or they want to believe it, it goes absolutely wild. And, one of the worst things about where we’ve gone is the “pile-on,” where more people jump in — and do what they can to pile-drive the target even more into the ground.

Anyway, where I’m going with all of this is it’s one thing if you’re a public figure. You shouldn’t have to deal with anything anywhere near this extreme, but there’s a knowledge that, unfortunately, it’s baked into the pie. Where I thought there was a real failure is it affected a private person. And now it’s happening again as online Inspector Clouseaus move on to their next “target” in this situation. Admittedly, it can be challenging to decide when is the right moment to step in, but there needed to be a quicker response this time.

There’s a lot to be concerned and disappointed about in this case. Something happened that caused Corey Perry to be cut from the Blackhawks. Someone else in the organization was affected. And people got smeared for absolutely no reason. 


1. In the aftermath of Shane Pinto’s suspension, agents, players and teams were searching for what happened so that none of their players would repeat the transgression. As previously reported, the NHLPA came up with a list of things for players to avoid when wagering. That’s happening again with Perry’s termination. Never mind the public desire for information, people inside the sport want clarity. (Since you’re asking, I don’t believe I know enough of the details.)

There is certainly a feeling the Blackhawks are more sensitive than any other franchise — understandably — but with millions of dollars at stake in so many cases, there is a desire for specific knowledge of what occurred or what behaviour specifically to avoid. Those of us who work in an office environment should know what’s acceptable and what isn’t, but sometimes more clarity is requested. This is one of those cases, as it could also determine whether or not Perry resumes his career elsewhere.

2. Man, that is weird seeing Patrick Kane in a Red Wings jersey. As word spread that Detroit was the landing spot, some people who knew him said they dropped their guard — admitting they weren’t surprised. Kane wanted to go to the Rangers last season, but had periodically discussed Detroit as a possibility if he ever needed another option.

On a personal level for him, it makes sense for family reasons, being close to his personal “hubs.” From a hockey perspective, there’s old partner Alex DeBrincat, his belief they are going in the right direction and a legit spot on the roster for what he brings. They had the cap room, too, to push salary a bit higher than most of their competitors. When teams first started contacting Kane last summer, he preferred term. But, as he recovered from surgery and reconsidered, he became more open to the idea of a one-year contract to see how things played out. There were two or three teams, apparently, that made visits to watch Kane skate. Red Wings GM Steve Yzerman met with Kane face-to-face. As crusty as Yzerman is, one agent (not Kane’s) said that when he decides he wants someone, he makes it very hard to say no.

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3. In the aftermath of his signing, a couple teams said they were very impressed with how much detail Kane brought to the discussions. It’s not entirely surprising since he’s always had a high hockey IQ, but it was obvious he’d watched their games and knew where he could fit or help. Kane was careful to point out that he would work to earn whatever spot he’d get, but it was obvious he saw what made sense.

Florida pitched hard last summer, and I think it was willing to offer more money than what had been reported. I’d seen $1 million or less, and although the Panthers couldn’t go as high as the Red Wings, I believe the number was higher than that. Boston, Buffalo, Colorado and Vegas were also in there, with the Bruins shielding their interest until late. Toronto met through Zoom with Kane while the Leafs were in Sweden, but it wasn’t realistic. Kane liked the idea of Dallas, but that never gained much traction as the Stars consider defence a more important target. 

4. Yzerman made an interesting comment about how the hip procedure has improved over the years, which makes him hopeful Kane can get to a high level. Recent examples — Nicklas Backstrom, Ed Jovanovski, Ryan Kesler, Andy Murray — show recovery, but not to the fullest athletic ability. Kane said he’s already noticed a difference from last season. “I was pretty much straight-legged, trying to make plays. It’s tough, you play the game on one leg, you’re trying to go one way, it’s very limiting. Where I’m at now, I can go both ways. I think the biggest thing is the crossover, left-over-right. That was a move I really struggled with, probably wasn’t even a crossover. Was more of a hopping on my left leg to get over to my right side. … The ability to weight shift on both legs was very exciting to me.”

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5. Toronto is down three defencemen: Mark Giordano (injured Tuesday, length of time to be determined), John Klingberg (could be rest of the season) and Timothy Liljegren (already out three weeks). As they consider what to do, the biggest question might be, “Is this the year to spend key assets on rentals?” A less-costly depth option, OK. Someone with term or that you know you can sign, all right. But a pure rental? Do they think that makes sense for this team, this season?

6. Vancouver created cap room trading Anthony Beauvillier to Chicago. The Canucks are going to scour the market for defence; some names you’ve heard, some we haven’t considered. Ethan Bear is possible, too, although he won’t be ready to play until closer to Christmas. The Conor Garland sweepstakes slowed down because he’s played well, there’s no longer as much of a salary crunch and another right-shot, Andrei Kuzmenko, is struggling. As Rick Dhaliwal reported Wednesday, the Canucks are not interested in moving their first-round draft pick.

7. For the second time this week, three Edmonton executives/scouts were in Columbus. Monday, goalie Spencer Martin beat Boston. Wednesday, Elvis Merzlikins faced Montreal. There’s reason for speculation. Daniil Tarasov is close to returning, meaning they’ve got one too many goalies, unless the Blue Jackets plan to keep three. Edmonton plays Thursday in Winnipeg and then not until next Wednesday versus Carolina. Jack Campbell is scheduled to play Wednesday night for AHL Bakersfield and then this weekend. His last two starts are a 30-save shutout and 33 saves in a 4-2 loss (featuring an empty-netter). If he plays well, it is possible he gets his call-back.

8. When Edmonton fired Jay Woodcroft, the Oilers were eight points out of the playoffs. When they won their third in a row on Oct. 15, it was down to six. Now, after another three-game streak culminating with Tuesday’s victory over Vegas, it is five. You’ve got to go on streaks and can’t afford valleys. The biggest factor is that Connor McDavid and Mattias Ekholm finally look healthy. McDavid went from 91st in NHL scoring to 10th in 10 days. The Oilers asked Paul Coffey to go behind the bench, because, after firing Dave Manson, they felt it was imperative that someone who knew the players was there instead of looking for a coach who would need time to acclimate. For now, it’s settled down the group.

9. One thing Edmonton and Minnesota have in common? They’ve both made coaching changes. Another? They are among the NHL’s worst teams in goal differential below expected. (Essentially, that’s their actual goal differential compared to what it should be based on the quality of chances for and against.) I don’t have access to the teams’ private data, but a few sources indicate it is similar to what’s available. Per the great Moneypuck, Edmonton is 24 goals worse that it should be (32nd) and Minnesota, 20 (31st). As Alain Vigneault said, “If my goaler is better than your goaler, I win. If my goaler is worse than your goaler, you win.”

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10. No one was surprised Wild GM Bill Guerin went for John Hynes as Dean Evason’s replacement, considering their history going back to AHL Wilkes-Barre. Guerin was badly wanted not to make Evason a scapegoat for Minnesota’s disappointing start, but you reach the same point Edmonton did — forced into doing something. It’s very similar to Chuck Fletcher and Mike Yeo in 2016, where Fletcher determinedly held onto Yeo until realizing there was no other option. Minnesota doesn’t really have a lot of value to trade that Guerin would even want to move. One thing I heard about Hynes in Nashville was the young players liked him, because, especially as last season unfolded, he put them in position to succeed. The Wild need Matt Boldy to get going, so it was great to see him score Tuesday for the first time in 12 games.

11. Not sure about Hynes’ term yet, but teams are really pushing back on contract length for coaches. Kris Knoblauch got this year and two more in Edmonton. Todd McLellan’s extension in Los Angeles was for one year. New Jersey’s Lindy Ruff wouldn’t say what he received, but it isn’t believed to be more than two years (and there may be an option involved). Coaches certainly have noticed.

12. You can see the strain on D.J. Smith. Ottawa’s new ownership/management is trying to set the tone of how they will run their organization: patiently, calculated and with purpose. I’ve mentioned this before, but when Mike Andlauer and Steve Staois took over, the players told them there was too much distraction/craziness around the team. They wish to show they will limit that. One of the theories is that if the Senators do decide to make a change, they’d rather make one than two (interim to permanent choice) for this reason.

13. Despite rumours to the contrary, I don’t sense Ottawa is interested in moving Thomas Chabot.

14. Sidney Crosby has 24 points in 21 games, on pace for 94. The NHL record for most points by a player aged 36 or over is 103, by a 40-year-old Gordie Howe in 1968-69. Next is Joe Sakic’s 100 at age 37 in 2006-07 and Wayne Gretzky’s 97 at 36 in 1996-97.

15. Got a big laugh out of this bit from Winnipeg’s social media team, ripping Dylan Samberg for how many unread messages/emails there are on his smartphone. Some of those guys are lying. No way everyone else on that team is so close to zero, there’s too much spam. Samberg also got hammered for his screen-time. What games does he play? “Euchre, daily crossword, stuff like that,” he said Monday.

Winnipeg’s got the 11th-best winning percentage in the NHL. One of the unsung performers is the 24-year-old defender, playing his second full season. Paired with Nate Schmidt, he’s known more for his defensive acumen, but told a funny story about scoring his first NHL goal. That was Dec. 4, 2022, against Anaheim, a floater from the blue line. “When I got back to the bench, Brenden Dillon and Neal Pionk started calling me the muffin man,” he said, laughing.

A naturally quiet type, Samberg said playing with the outgoing Schmidt is forcing him out of his shell. “You know when (Nate’s) there, you can hear him,” he said. “Before every game, and every practice, he’s telling me, ‘Make sure you talk on the ice. Let’s have a lot of chatter.’ Pushing me to communicate more. He brings it out of me. At the beginning, I didn’t like it, but it makes me a better player. And it helps the team.”

Samberg does a nice job of protecting the blue line, saying it was something drilled into him when he arrived at NCAA Minnesota-Duluth. “Good gaps make the game easier,” he said, before adding that Jets coaches want the next phase of his growth to be joining the rush a little more, especially if he’s the fourth man up-ice.

16. Samberg told an interesting story about one training-camp presentation. Representatives from a company called Novus Global did a session with the players about properly delivering messages or constructive criticism. “When you approach someone, are you coming with an open hand or a closed fist? A closed fist is more negative. Can you approach with more of an open hand?” The mood is always lighter when you’ve snared 65 per cent of the available points, but it’s a good way of thinking about things. 

17. Was great to see Jets coach Rick Bowness return, meaning that wife Judy is making good recovery since suffering a seizure. I asked Samberg if there was much adjustment between Bowness and Scott Arniel, who ran the bench in his boss’s absence. He had a really good answer that while everyone wanted to see Bowness return, when you are preparing for games, players must be all-business and treat the situation like a coaching change. 

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18. Couple other good ones from Samberg. He talked about his first NHL shift, Jan. 13, 2022, versus Detroit. “I was very nervous,” he said. “But I made a breakout play to Pionk.” It seems like such a small thing, but that little play was such a confidence builder for him. “You have to keep working, but it taught me, ‘I can do this,’” he said. Player who he sees coming and groans? David Pastrnak. “Very, very deceptive.” 

19. Great, great idea suggested by Predators’ broadcaster Willy Daunic: If a team gets a bench minor, the team with the power play can decide who serves the penalty. I loooooooooove this idea.

20. Story I was happy to see this week: Columbus’s Dmitry Voronkov indicating he wouldn’t leave the Blue Jackets due to homesickness. That’s no joke, and more players have wrestled with it over the years than we realize. Talented player, too.

21. During Hall of Fame weekend, I started what I hope is a new personal tradition, asking the inductees what was the best compliment they received. It was an interesting mix of the expected and the unexpected. Tom Barrasso immediately spoke of Mario Lemieux. “He would tell me, ‘I believe you will get it done. You are the guy who will get it done’ (for the Penguins).” Ken Hitchcock said it was when former players such as Mike Modano, Rick Nash and Keith Primeau later said, “You were really tough on me, but now I understand why.” Mike Vernon mentioned two handwritten notes he received: one from Lou Lamoriello upon the announcement of the goalie’s induction, another from former University of Michigan head football coach Lloyd Carr. Carr coached the Wolverines to a national championship in 1998, the same year Vernon won the Stanley Cup in Detroit. They met at a luncheon, and Vernon was surprised a week or so later when Carr wrote to tell him how much he loved Vernon’s competitive fire. As I stood next to Vernon, I realized there’s basically zero chance he’d be given the opportunity to play goal in the NHL today, given his size.

22. Caroline Ouellette and Pierre Turgeon took a different route, not talking about specific compliments they received, but people who gave them stern, honest and constructive criticism. Ouellette mentioned longtime Canadian national team player France St. Louis telling her that if she wanted to be more than a one-time Olympian, she had to commit to elite-level conditioning. “That scared me, that if I wasn’t more committed, I might not last,” Ouellette said. “France was always in the best condition. I appreciated that she cared enough to tell me.”

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Turgeon recalled a meeting with the great Al Arbour. The former Islanders coach called him into his office and told the 1,000-point scorer that if he didn’t do a better job of learning how to win puck battles, he would fall far short of his potential. I was fascinated this is what Turgeon picked, but working with Glenn Healy and Kelly Hrudey taught me how much Arbour’s players loved him, because of how much he cared and pushed them to be great. In Turgeon’s case, I covered a game in Toronto (he was playing for St. Louis at the time), where he overpowered several Maple Leafs along the boards and got annoyed when the media was surprised at his prowess. He didn’t remember that, however. 

23. On behalf of his late father, Pierre, Eric Lacroix said the best compliment he heard came during the 2001 playoffs. Colorado beat Los Angeles in Game 7 of the Western Conference semifinal, and later that night, Peter Forsberg had to be rushed to hospital for emergency spleen and internal bleeding surgery. Upon recovery, Forsberg wanted to play in the Stanley Cup Final against New Jersey. Lacroix refused to allow it. (The Avalanche overcame Forsberg’s absence, beating the Devils in seven games.) “My father could be a tough negotiator, but he cared about those players,” Eric Lacroix said. “I remember hearing how Joe Sakic and Adam Foote would be in the hospital as their children were born, and they’d mention how my father would show up.”

24. Apropos of nothing, here’s William Nylander living with the three Hughes brothers in Toronto for three weeks after Nylander was drafted by the Maple Leafs. Jack gave up his room, in return Nylander used his left hand against him in table tennis. Just imagine the carnage created by this foursome.

25. I am closing in on finishing five books written by current and former Sportsnet teammates: Justin Bourne’s Down and Back; Doug MacLean’s Draft Day; Ken Reid’s Hometown Hockey Heroes; Gord Stellick and Damien Cox’s Revival: The Choatic, Colourful Journey of the 1977-78 Toronto Maple Leafs; and Alex Wong’s Prehistoric: The Audacious and Improbable Origin Story of the Toronto Raptors. Really impressive reads for different reasons in each case. I’d recommend all for your holiday shopping. All of them are better than this column, that’s for sure.

26. I hope that behind the scenes, the NHL, the NHLPA and the Player Inclusion Committee are working toward a clear, concise policy on tribute goalie masks, tape, jerseys, everything you can think of. Originally, when Marc-Andre Fleury submitted in September a request to wear his special mask, it was denied because of the new rules at the time. I completely understand why Fleury felt so strongly he should wear his as time progressed. Travis Dermott used the Pride tape, Sergei Bobrovsky and Philip Grubauer wore their Hockey Fights Cancer masks, as they all should have been allowed to — no questions asked, no penalties even considered.

So, Fleury’s undoubtedly thinking: why can’t I then wear a mask with two meaningful tributes, the first for his wife’s Indigenous heritage, the second a quote from his father? Obviously, he did without penalty, just like Bobrovsky, Dermott and Grubauer. I do think, in a world where there’s too much heated conflict with, sadly, it appears, more to come, all leagues are very worried about far more divisive symbols being worn. But that shouldn’t prevent things like Pride tape and special goalie masks being worn. There must to be a way to get together and solve this problem. To me, it’s not only about the negative attention, it’s also about the members of the Player Inclusion Committee. There are a lot of good people on there who don’t need or deserve the sting that comes with these controversies, because they get asked why it happens on their watch. This should be a priority.

Looking for more 32 Thoughts? Check Sportsnet.ca for more later in the week, when Elliotte Friedman shares the latest.

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