Quick Shifts: Kyle Beach is no bust — he's a blessing

Watch as Florida Panthers' new interim head coach Andrew Brunette speaks to the media about Kyle Beach and how the game of hockey needs to learn from this to make sure it doesn't happen again.

A quick mix of the things we gleaned from the week of hockey, serious and less so, and rolling four lines deep. We stand with Kyle Beach.

1. Inside a buzzing United Center Wednesday night, as rowdy folks in KANE and TOEWS sweaters filled the seats, I sat down underneath the Chicago Blackhawks 2010 championship banner, flipped open my laptop, and clicked play on the Kyle Beach interview.

Courageous and selfless, what Beach told Rick Westhead over those 26 minutes stirred this furious knot of anger and pride, sympathy and disgust, sadness and admiration.

I’ve seen a guy hobble around in the D-zone with a broken leg and keep blocking shots. I’ve seen another guy play through a playoff series with a broken rib and separated shoulder. And another skate half a series on a torn ACL.

But I’ve never seen a hockey player do anything as brave as what the left winger for the TecArt BlackDragons did this week.

Sometime between learning that Joel Quenneville was, indeed, stepping behind the bench in Florida and hearing the Blackhawks make a Native American land acknowledgement over the loudspeaker — but say nothing of Beach to their own fans — I lost interest in the game.

Supposedly, hockey hates late hits. But damn if we’re not always five steamboats behind.

On gay rights. On weeding out racism. On hiring women. On concussion prevention. On sex crime.

On doing the right thing right away.

“Everyone just feels terrible for him and hopes he can get some solace at the end of this,” Taylor Hall said. “Every culture needs to keep getting better, and hockey is no different.

“Hockey’s a game with a bit of an old boys club, and there’s definitely some secrecy and things that need to change — and hopefully they can.

“There needs to be change.”

Us reporters do, too.

What we'd helped build as a "big game" felt insignificant.

It would be nearly impossible to hear Beach’s words — drenched in pain and hope — and think you couldn’t do better. Be better.

Consider what we might not know.

Colleague Gord Stellick flipped back at all the draft classes from 1993 through 2018. He discovered that Beach was the highest-drafted player (11th overall in 2008) among all those 26 years to never play a single NHL game.

To have his dream stolen and buried and flooded over by an army of Zambonis.

Not John Doe’s dream. Kyle Beach’s dream.

Kyle Beach isn’t a bust.

The system is busted.

Kyle Beach teaches us we need to think a little kinder before we act. Before we pass the buck or pass judgment. Before we write.

“It’s crazy to me that one man couldn’t stand up and say, ‘No way. We have to get this straightened out right away,’ ” John Tortorella said on ESPN.

“If it’s your kid, would you act this way?”

2. There’s no doubt Morgan Rielly — who inked an eight-year, $60-million extension Friday — could’ve fetched a higher AAV elsewhere, and the Toronto Maple Leafs’ commitment to their No. 1 D-man should be seen as a further endorsement of the core.

If you want to argue that Rielly’s skating might fall off in the back half of his extension, you’d have a point. If you think Dubas could reasonably replace everything Rielly brings to the group in next summer’s free agent market for $7.5 million, you’re delusional.

Kyle Dubas’s Maple Leafs are pot committed to three more cracks at the Cup: 2022, 2023 and 2024. Maybe Auston Matthews signs an extension of his own beyond that. Maybe not.

With blue-chip prospects scarce and so many draft picks already spent, Rielly’s minutes would be extremely difficult to replace via trade or internally.

And yet Rielly’s 50 per cent raise, albeit team-friendly, already summons questions about how the GM fills out the rest of the roster.

Phil Kessel’s $1.2 million of dead money slips off the books, Jason Spezza will always re-sign for the league minimum, and the cap ceiling is expected to rise to $82.5 million.

But Toronto has already committed $75.3 million to 15 players for 2022-23.

That leaves roughly $7.2 million to fill in the blanks and give raises to some RFAs (Rasmus Sandin, Pierre Engvall, Ondrej Kase, Timothy Liljegren).

The biggest question and top priority: How much does No. 1 goalie and pending UFA Jack Campbell (currently a bargain at $1.65 million) command?

These decisions could wait until summer, but whether it’s trading a veteran D-man (Jake Muzzin, T.J. Brodie, Justin Holl) or mid-tier forward (Alexander Kerfoot), the Rielly signing almost certainly demands more roster movement is on deck.

3. Sheldon Keefe’s healthy-scratching of Justin Holl — a defenceman the Leafs went out of their way to protect in the expansion draft — is a message sent.

Yes, Holl missed one game due to illness, but until Saturday, his spot in Toronto’s top four had been solid under Keefe.

“Justin Holl has not played near his level that we’ve come to expect,” Keefe said Friday. “He’s not the only one.”

Holl doesn’t have a point. He’s minus-7. Partner Jake Muzzin is minus-8. The coach is tired of seeing his go-to shutdown pair getting caved in.

Eager to see how Toronto’s rejigged D setup fares against a middle-of-the-pack Detroit Red Wings offence that is without a dangerous weapon in Tyler Bertuzzi and should be tired after Friday’s OT loss to the Florida Panthers:


4. As his Red Wings return to Canada for the first time after losing 6-1 in Montreal, I’d be curious to know how Detroit general manager Steve Yzerman feels about leaving his leading scorer, Bertuzzi, on the other side of the border.

Despite some trade interest, Yzerman signed the power forward to a two-year, $9.5-million contract that takes him to UFA. Detroit is 4-1-2 when playing in the States, where Bertuzzi has put up six goals and nine points in seven games.

Albeit a long shot, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Wings could eventually face a Canadian team in the post-season. Three teams in the Atlantic play north of the border.

"I'm vaccinated, and my family is vaccinated. I'll leave it at that." Yzerman told reporters, once Bertuzzi made his choice.

5. Forbes dropped its list of the highest-paid NHL players.

Connor McDavid rightfully ranks No. 1, earning an estimated $16.4 million over the last 12 months. In addition to his league-high salary, the MVP raked $4 million in off-ice income from endorsements, appearances, memorabilia and licensing deals.

Matthews had nabbed the No. 1 spot from McDavid in 2020. He comes in second place with $12.2 million this year.

These figures are no joke, of course, but the total income of the league’s stars has dropped 27 per cent since 2019. Combined, the NHL’s 10 highest-paid players will collect $117 million, down six per cent from last year. That number pales next to the elite of the MLB ($357 million), NFL ($418 million) and NBA ($714 million).

The pandemic and the increased escrow that came with it plays a major factor.

In order, Erik Karlsson, Carey Price, Mitchell Marner, Artemi Panarin, Tyler Seguin, Sidney Crosby, Nikita Kucherov and Sergei Bobrovsky round out the top 10 earners.

6. Sometimes talk is nothing more than that.

But how William Nylander has conducted himself on the ice, off the ice, and in front of reporters this season shows a tangible step in growth.

Massive OT goal Wednesday by the Maple Leafs' most consistent player in this rocky early going.

I’m buying into this narrative as Nylander the leader.

7. A Jack Eichel trade to the Vegas Golden Knights would make a ton of sense.

The Buffalo Sabres are off to a fine start without their former captain, and the Knights — forever in win-now mode — have stumbled out of the gate. Sending Eichel to the Pacific would mean only seeing him for two revenge games per season.

Vegas’s lack of centre depth was a serious factor in their conference championship losses to Dallas (2020) and Montreal (2021), and running out William Karlsson, Chandler Stephenson, Nicolas Roy and Jake Leschyshyn isn’t getting it done.

Stephenson (nine points in eight games) is fine value, but Eichel would give Vegas a true game-breaker and an upgrade from Karlsson (three points, minus-3 rating) at the top of the lineup.

The timing here is fascinating: With Beijing just over three months away, could Eichel recover from his preferred surgery in the nick of time?

8. Crazy/concerning “it’s early but…” stat: Among the top-10 Canadian goaltenders in 2021-22 save percentage, none of them are on the team’s long list for Olympic selection.

With the Winter Games fewer than 100 days away, there’s a chance Canada won’t be able to bring the country’s hottest goalie. Cam Talbot, Tristan Jarry, Mike Smith and Tristan Jarry are all off to fine starts... but are not on the list.

Here’s a look at where the six goalies on Team Canada’s Olympic long list stand.

Carey Price: He’s the incumbent, the favourite (if available), and the most recent Canadian netminder to backstop his club to the Cup Final. He’s also in the NHL/NHLPA Player Assistance Program with no timeline, understandably, to return.

Darcy Kuemper: An inconsistent 3-3 start with his new club in a pressure-packed contract year. But Kuemper is quietly an above-average goalie (.916) with a decade of NHL experience. He helped a somewhat underdog Team Canada win a gold medal at the 2021 worlds.

Jordan Binnington: Stood on his head leading the 2019 Blues to a championship. Since then, his save percentage has hovered around league average, he hasn’t won a playoff game, and his record (including post-season) shows just as many losses as wins: 52-37-15. On the bright side, Binnington is passionate and off to a fine start with St. Louis.

Marc-Andre Fleury: Three-time Cup champ. Reigning Vezina champ. Long history with Team Canada as two-time world junior silver medallist and a backup option in Vancouver 2010’s golden run. Will be 37 when the puck drops on Beijing. The poor guy has been thrown to the wolves on a bad Chicago team and is off to a troublesome 0-4 start with a .839 save percentage.

Carter Hart: His 2020-21 campaign (9-11-5, 3.67, .877) was nothing short of a disaster, and the Flyers’ eagerness to give up Grade-A chances didn’t help. But Hart has rebounded nicely in the early going here, posting a winning record (4-2-1) and a .915 save percentage.

MacKenzie Blackwood: A fine young goalie, but one with only 105 NHL games played. No playoff experience. His career save percentage (.911) is about average, but he’s never played behind a contending team.

9. Jack Campbell worked on a few new technical aspects to his game with goalie coach Steve Briere over the summer, but he won’t reveal what those are.

Maybe it’s the poke-check, seeing as how the Leafs netminder has already busted out the old-school manoeuvre three times in seven appearances.

“It’s a full kamikaze move,” applauds Marner. “That's a hell of a move as a goalie.”

Campbell successfully busted it out on the Rangers’ Dryden Hunt and, most recently, Chicago’s MacKenzie Entwistle, who is not a NHLer I just made up. He also tried it on Ottawa’s Drake Batherson and missed; the puck deflected off Campbell’s pad, then in the net off Batherson’s foot. But the goal was called back an offside challenge.

“Guys are good in this league, so you gotta be unpredictable a little bit. I’d never really done that one before,” Campbell explained of the Entwistle stop.

“I’ve seen (Marc-Andre) Fleury do it a couple times. And I just thought the angle he was taking that it was the right move, and it worked out.

“It's just competing and not thinking. You're just battling — and that's when, I think, everybody's at their best.”

10. I saw a theory out there that the reason Joel Quenneville and Stan Bowman weren't fired but rather resigned is because a firing would result in full payment of their contracts, whereas a forced resignation would entail a loss of salary (Quenneville had more than $15 million left on his deal.)

That's not necessarily true.

A private settlement could be reached upon resignation, and the public may may never know the percentage of future salary those men received.

Were their contracts terminated with cause, or without cause?

"Settlements happen all the time in separation cases, so this isn’t a one-off," a source says.

11. Quote of the Week.

Pretty boy” Marner, flashing a crooked smile, when he realized he needed a trip to the dentist:

“The mouth just went numb on me. I didn’t know how bad it was. I was kinda going off on my knees, and I saw one of the Carolina fans. And he just gave me a disgusted look. I knew it wasn't good…. I’m definitely gonna try to fix it up a little better, look a little more presentable. Little bit of a hockey face.”

12. When the Hockey Hall of Fame removes Kyle Beach’s alleged abuser’s name from the Stanley Cup, it won’t be an unprecedented bit of historical correction.

Championship teams submit a list to the engraver. And in 1984, then-Edmonton Oilers owner Peter Pocklington sneaked the name of his father, Basil, onto the best trophy in sports.

The problem: Basil Pocklington was not officially affiliated with the club, and the addition slipped through the NHL’s proofreaders. Once the error was caught, the engraver was instructed to X-out Basil’s name like a bad tattoo removal.

Peter protested that it was the engraver’s mix-up all along.

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