6. Hockey’s race problem
Bit of a dust-up this weekend, as Colton Teubert, a first-round pick in 2008 who only played 24 NHL games and now is a low-scoring defenseman in Germany, called PK Subban “Monday.”
“Monday” of course is a double-secret racial slur — because “no one likes Mondays” — that Teubert claims not to have known was a double-secret racial slur. Turns out, everyone on Subban’s World Junior team called him “Monday” because no one liked him, or so the claim goes, so Teubert and Brendan Gallagher just call Subban that because that’s what Subban’s teammates have called him for years.
Which, okay, let’s give those two guys specifically the benefit of the doubt. I only know the “Monday” issue because of what was brought up in that above-linked Boston Globe story: A racist cop called a black Red Sox outfielder a Monday and started a small firestorm here in Boston a few years ago. So yeah, maybe Teubert and Gallagher didn’t know the term had racial undertones, but someone in a dressing room somewhere along the line — maybe even in that World Junior group — definitely did.
And I’ve said it before, but that kind of casual “Oh I didn’t know this racist thing I said or did was racist” vein that has been running through the hockey world for all too long. A lot of it is because there just aren’t a lot of people of color in the sport in general, but nonetheless, low-key racism isn’t helping solve that problem.
One need look no further at this problem than to consider that Black History Month, currently ongoing, has been kind of papered-over with Hockey Is For Everyone Month, which is a nice sentiment but not really the same thing. Yeah, the NHL’s version of Black History Month would just be trotting out Willie O’Ree again. And I know there just isn’t a big history of black people in the league to “celebrate” or whatever, but the fact that you can CTRL+F on the NHL.com “Hockey Is For Everyone Digest” and the term “Black History Month” doesn’t come up in 13 days of digests? That’s pathetic.
Because here’s the thing: Saying “It’s for everyone” will definitely come off as painting over Black History Month specifically. That a lot of teams are using Hockey is For Everyone to have Pride Nights is great. But that there is, again, no mention of Black History Month on the NHL’s official site seems like a real problem.
Hockey, unfortunately, has a real case of the I-didn’t-know-I-shouldn’t-say-Mondays.
5. Chicago Blackhawks
Losers of six in a row, Corey Crawford probably should be done for the year if he isn’t actually, and everyone seems to have a thousand-yard stare at this point. If they still felt there was a glimmer of hope, it seems like losing 6-1 to Arizona was a pretty good indicator that, no, it’s really over.
And that’s good, if we’re being honest. Not just because it’s nice to see this club get popped in the nose after all these years of success, but because the playoff runs the last two years maybe did a little more than they should have to convince the team things could flow with the status quo for another three or four years.
I think I wrote something earlier this season basically saying observers will still give them the benefit of the doubt going into next season — the loss of Crawford for a big chunk of the season certainly props up that idea — but if this team is being honest with itself, there needs to be some serious talk about next steps.
There are a lot of bad contracts still kicking around, both due to dollar value and age, and maybe people are now understanding how much this team has relied on Crawford, long underrated, over the last several years.
You wonder how much this team can actually do to change its fortunes, rather than sink deeper into mediocrity (or worse) over the next few years. People are starting to make noise about not only Brent Seabrook not being Worth It on this contract (he isn’t, hasn’t been, and never was), but also Jonathan Toews. And again, it’s like, “Yeah he was never a $10.5 million player,” but what were they gonna do, let him walk or traded him before he was a UFA? They probably should have, but Stan Bowman would have been ripped apart by a bloodthirsty mob.
So I dunno, if Bowman can find a buyer for any of his big-money guys this summer, don’t you have to pull the trigger? If that means offloading Kane, Toews, or even Keith (who’s very cheap by comparison), that’s probably still worth it for the long-term health of the organization. Not that it’d happen, but y’know.
4. Mike Smith is safe
It was looking, for a second there, like Mike Smith was gonna be out for a while.
Which, normally, you’d say “What’s the big deal?” But Smith is still somehow .921 this season (backup David Rittich is .927, of course) and really propping up the Flames’ playoff chances, against all reasonable expectation coming into the season.
But instead, Smith is only gonna be out for a handful of games. Given how narrow things are in the Pacific, even that could be bad news if Rittich can’t keep things together (Jon Gillies is his backup, and his AHL numbers this year are merely fine). But it’s a lot better than if he were going to be out, say, 10 or 15 games.
The Flames need every advantage, apparently, to stay in playoff contention. Which, maybe that’s whypeople are saying they should fire Glen Gulutzan, because their roster is otherwise very good. Having Smith miss only a handful of games will only help them.
And boy that’s a weird thing to say.
3. The McDonagh sweepstakes
I’m not so interested in what happens with Rick Nash because I think the team for him is probably going to overpay, and potentially for a pure rental. I like Nash as a player, but if he’s not sticking around long-term the destination is not as intriguing to me.
Ryan McDonagh, on the other hand, is probably still a top-20 defender in the league despite having a rough year (please, do not look at his underlyings) on a bad team. But unlike Nash he’s also signed for next season. One wonders who would trade for him — Boston? Tampa? — and what they’d have to give up. Nashville, constantly linked to Rick Nash all of a sudden, isn’t a destination for McDonagh but they’re very likely to be the team coming out of the West barring total disaster and a few big surprise upsets.
What’s interesting is that because the Rangers have a lot of desirable players and there are probably only four or five credible Cup contenders — most of them in the East — McDonagh is probably the most attractive option that’s going to be available. Everyone but Nashville needs blue line help, but would Boston or Pittsburgh prioritize that over help up front? That’s a coin flip.
2. The Leafs are streaking
The Leafs have won eight of nine but are still basically guaranteed to be the No. 3 team in their division. They’re third in the Atlantic but tied for fifth in the entire league. Tough bounce, but they can play with and beat any team in the league.
No coincidence, then, that the Leafs really started this run around the same time both Willy Nylander and Mitch Marner started heating up at long last. Nylander has 13 points in his last 10 games. Marner has 11 in the same stretch (though five of those came in one game against lowly Ottawa). They’re both probably going to end up around 60 points for the season now, if not a little more if they keep up the hot hand.
The Leafs’ real problem this year? Well it’s still the Polak thing. But the other problem was the lack of secondary scoring. Until these two kids started going off, some just-okay offensive seasons from James van Riemsdyk (lots of goals, few assists) and Nazem Kadri (a good amount of both) were all that kept the lights on while Auston Matthews (47 points in 48 games) was off the ice.
They’ll be in pretty good shape as long as Freddie Andersen can maintain his high, high, high level of play; he’s .931 since Nov. 4, after starting .895 in 13 games. But if they can add a legit second scoring punch for the long term here — and certainly they have the talent to do it — look out.
Seeing these nice boys go out and win their first Beanpot in 30 years was very fun.
Canucks prospect Adam Gaudette had a hat trick! Flyers prospect Cayden Primeau was excellent in net! Blues prospect Nolan Stevens scored this great goal!
Northeastern's Nolan Stevens evened the score with this power-play goal in the first period. Watch BU and Northeastern battle in the 2018 Beanpot final on NESN. pic.twitter.com/h9WTVZ8rQc
— NESN (@NESN) February 13, 2018
The Beanpot is finally good. I love college hockey!
(Not ranked this week: Not-watching Olympic hockey.
The women’s and men’s tournaments are now formally underway, and that’s nice, but I also really don’t want to be waking up at 7 a.m. to watch a bunch of AHL players, y’know. I’m certainly not staying up to watch the ones that start at 2:40 a.m.
However, folks, there’s a USA/Canada women’s game at 10 tonight, and if you’re not clearing your scheduled for that one, I dunno what to tell ya!)
(All statistics via Corsica unless otherwise noted.)