A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. Until further notice, I will be operating at 50 per cent capacity.
Sure, the left-shot defenceman is a league-worst minus-29 this season. You’d be a minus-129 if you skated nearly 25 minutes a night (and started the majority of your shifts in the D-zone) for the worst team in the NHL.
Chychrun, the 16th-overall pick in 2016, is only 23 years old.
He is signed through 2024-25 with a bargain cap hit of $4.6 million.
The question isn’t “Who would be interested in a potential trade for Chychrun?” It’s: “Who wouldn’t?”
Or even more pressing: Why doesn’t Arizona want to build around him? Is it his injury history? (Chychrun is currently on IR and has already endured two major knee surgeries.) An unhappiness?
every single team in the nhl should be in on jakob chychrun. pic.twitter.com/1u3or6E6Pu
— sallyWally (@lucasseider) December 16, 2021
As Elliotte Friedman has reported, the Coyotes are gauging interest. And in a rental market thin on bona fide top-four defenceman, a workhorse like Chychrun with favourable term would rocket to the penthouse of the trade class.
But at what point does GM Bill Armstrong commit to a core? Outside of forwards Clayton Keller, 23, and Nick Schmaltz, 25, Chychrun is the only Coyote signed to a regular contract beyond 2023.
Armstrong has already accumulated eight draft picks in the first two rounds of the 2022 draft and is likely to stockpile more picks and prospects with some of his deadline rentals.
Does he really need futures more than a legitimate hockey player at good value like Chychrun?
Something feels odd about this one.
2. The NHL lost two wonderful personalities this week.
Ben Bishop was one of the most welcoming and joyful goaltenders you could speak to, and for him to go out on something less than his own terms was heartbreaking.
On the flip side, Jets coach Paul Maurice sounds like a man who was at peace with moving on, even though he was unable to bring Winnipeg to the promised land.
Maurice’s media availabilities were can’t-miss. His blend of insight and wit, thoughtfulness and loyalty remains unmatched.
A Paul Maurice quote instantly made your story better.
The league is worse off with these two not in it.
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) December 14, 2021
3. Even with Bishop hanging ’em up, the Stars still have three goalies on their roster.
Incredible to think how Anton Khudobin went from Stanley Cup finalist starter to unclaimed waiver bait in under 15 months. Dallas’s other two netminders, Jake Oettinger (RFA) and Braden Holtby (UFA) are in the final years of their deals.
Things are tense again in Texas, with the Stars losing five straight.
Oettinger has to be the goalie of the future there, but if Dallas can’t rally into playoff position and I need a goalie, I’m bidding on Holtby over Khudobin.
He’s won a Cup, and he’s had a decent rebound season. Holtby’s .922 save percentage is his best in five seasons.
4. John Tortorella wanted to follow up his criticisms that Trevor Zegras and Sonny Milano’s “Dishigan” goal might not be the best thing for the game. Tortorella says he reached out to Zegras and Ducks coach Dallas Eakins to clear the air, and he blamed the media for trying to create a rift.
“I hope he does it again, quite honestly,” Tortorella said on ESPN’s The Point:
From “The Point” yesterday on ESPN2 and now on ESPN+..Torts on his Trevor Zegras alley oop goal comments… pic.twitter.com/kjwSClKnTX
— House Of BuccZegras (@Buccigross) December 17, 2021
Meanwhile, you can add Team Canada’s women to the number of players trying to duplicate the magic:
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) December 16, 2021
5. Asked Chicago Blackhawks interim coach Derek King how Dylan Strome, 24, has handled this trying season in which he’s been healthy scratched frequently and heard his name spun in the rumour mill.
“I’ve had some good conversations with Dylan,” King replied. “I wanted to see some emotion come back. Like, tell me you want to be in the lineup or you're mad. He says, ‘I can help this team,’ and I know he can.
“The big thing with him was to just get him to stay in the battles. Don't accept defeat on the wall. Sometimes you lose the puck, and it’s like, ‘Ah,’ and you just let it go. Stay in those fights. And he's doing a better job, but he needs to be better at it. And I think if he does that, it's hard to take him out of our lineup. Because his skill level is, we need him to score goals.”
Strome skated a season-high 20:02 in Wednesday’s overtime win over Washington and has three points in his past four games.
6. In 1999, King scored the final goal for Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens (against Chicago no less).
So, where’s the puck?
“Maybe the Leafs have a secret room for all their treasures.”
7. Nothing feels aligned anymore. Amid a three-day span in which 90-odd NHL players and personnel entered COVID protocol and games got postponed and Canadian arenas chopped attendance to zero or 50 per cent and beer leagues and kids’ leagues hit pause, I got an email encouraging folks to buy tickets to March’s 40,000-capacity Heritage Classic outdoor game between the Leafs and Sabres.
The Minnesota Wild players have been on each other, preaching safety during the Christmas break with families coming to town.
Marcus Foligno warned his teammates that the Winter Classic is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity they could miss due to a positive test.
Here's what it'll look like:
8. As of Sunday, you cannot eat or drink at a concert, movie theatre or sporting event in Ontario. Fun.
Very low on the scale of concerns these days, but that projected $1 million increase in the NHL’s salary cap by the Board of Governors sure looks to be in jeopardy.
9. Auston Matthews matched the likes of Dave Keon by opening his Maple Leafs career with six consecutive 20-goal seasons, which is impressive.
More impressive: Keon scored as few as 20 and never more than 28 in his run and always had the benefit of playing a minimum of 64 games. Matthews’ lowest total is 34, and his feat includes two pandemic-shorted campaigns.
“It's pretty humbling,” replied Matthews, when informed of the record he tied Tuesday. “Obviously, what [Keon] means to this organization and the city of Toronto, just to be in the same sentence as him is very humbling.”
Matthews is on a 13-goals-in-10-games run, and his last six games have been played without No. 1 setup man Mitch Marner at his side.
Don’t take what you’re witnessing for granted, Leafs fans.
First Leafs player to score 20 goals in his team's first 30 games in back-to-back seasons since Lorne Carr in 1942-43 & 1943-44
— Sportsnet Stats (@SNstats) December 15, 2021
10. James Reimer told a fun story after defeating the Dallas Stars in a 34-save performance in San Jose Saturday:
“When they were reviewing the goal, I heard four fans banging on the glass. I don’t know their names, so if they’re watching this: thanks a lot.
“Usually I don’t pay attention because they’re just trying to get in my head or something. But they were our fans — so why would they be trying to get in my head? They kept banging on the ice. They were adamant, pointing at the ice.
“I finally looked down and one of my straps had come off. It was flopping on the ground, and it had broken.
“So, part of the win tonight goes to those four fans who helped me out.”
So proud of James playing in his 400th game! He has earned every single second he has played & continues to be an amazing husband, dad & team mate. Thank u to our family, friends & everyone who has cheered for him in Toronto, SJ, FLA or Raleigh. U all have made 400 memorable pic.twitter.com/U9q1LfaM5C
— April Reimer (@april_reimer) December 12, 2021
11. Visiting Edmonton this week, Wayne Simmonds recalled the first time he shared the ice with Connor McDavid, at the 2015 BioSteel Camp at St. Mike’s in Toronto ahead of the No. 1 pick’s rookie year.
“It looked like he didn't want to embarrass the older guys out there. So, he was kind of floating around, but you could still see that he was way better than everyone else,” Simmonds smiled. “You could tell he was going to be special.”
Now, of course, “Davo” (as Simmonds calls him) has no qualms with embarrassing his peers. What runs through Simmonds’ mind when he sees those McDavid highlight-reel strikes.
“You just hope you don't end up on the other end of it, to be honest with you.”
12. Adorable Tweet of the Week (Year?) goes to Nashville Predators goalie Connor Ingram:
Playing hockey for a living is just an everyday battle to tie your skates like your dad used to
— Connor Ingram (@CBIngram1) December 12, 2021