Red Wings injury woes shed light on bright future

By Brad Constant; Jan. 30, 2014

After sometime off and even a little time off the grid, the Hockey Ref is back just in time to get geared up for the rest of the season. So without further ado, let’s get right to it….

The Detroit Red Wings’ injury-prone season continues as the Olympic break approaches. In fact, it’s safe to say that the Red Wings’ season has been severely hampered by injuries.

Currently Detroit is without powerhouse veterans Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg. Plus Johan Franzen has just been placed back on the injured reserve list due to more concussion symptoms while Stephen Weiss is recovering from a sports hernia surgery. At one point the Red Wings’ injury list also included Darren Helm, Joakim Andersson, Daniel Alfredsson, Jimmy Howard and Jonathan Ericcson.

But there has been a bright spot to come out of Detroit’s injury woes thanks to the team’s young players who have revealed a promising future for the organization.

Players like Tomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist have stepped up their games. Truth be told, they look like they could be the most suitable replacements for Datsyuk and Zetterberg when the Euro Twins retire. Granted, there is no way to completely fill the skates of Datsyuk and Zetterberg. But Tatar and Nyquist have shown that they have a knack for scoring and making plays game in and game out. Here some proof with sick highlight numbers one and two belonging to Tatar, and number three belonging to Nyquist.

Other young players like the aforementioned Andersson, Riley Sheahan and Tomas Jurco are all big bodies coming in at over six-feet-tall. Andersson looks like the better defensive forward while Sheahan and Jurco seem more offensively inclined. Sheahan has a cannon of a wrist shot and Jurco has hands that could put him on highlight reel after highlight reel.

On the back end there are players like Brendan Smith, Brian Lashoff and Danny Dekeyser. Smith still has a problem with turnovers, but there is promise in his game. Lashoff looks like he’ll make a solid number five or six defenseman. But Dekeyser looks the most promising off all. The former Western Michigan University Bronco has all the makings of a top defenseman in the National Hockey League; size, vision and skill. We can’t wait to see how he turns out in a couple of seasons as he looks the most likely to fill the void left by Nicklas Lidstrom – well, he looks like he can fill a good portion of the void at least.

Lastly, Petr Mrazek has been called upon over the last couple of seasons to step in and man the net. During those appearances he has shown tons of growth, and even recorded his first NHL shutout early this season. The Red Wings could be in a very good position with goaltenders if he continues to grow and mature.

What does all this mean? Simple, the Red Wings’ future looks good, and young. It’s been awhile since Detroit has not been comprised of a majority of players over 30-years-old, and with the salary cap the team cannot splash into free agency to add star power like it has in the past. So the Red Wings have been forced to groom their young talents faster than usual. But it seems to be paying off, and we could see the Red Wings return to the position of league powerhouse again if the youth movement continues on its upward trajectory.

Latest NHL news; Monday, January 13

By Brad Constant; Jan. 13, 2013

We’ll get things started off with an update on Tampa Bay Lightning sniper Steven Stamkos, who is making great progress after breaking his leg in early November. Here is the bleacherreport.com story.

Lastly, the Washington Capitals gave us a feel-good story by granting the wish of young Braden Nienaber, who was diagnosed with Langerhans cell histiocytosis, a rare childhood disease similar to cancer in which white blood cells multiply too quickly, causing bone and organ damage, according to csnwashington.com. You can check out the CSN story here for all of the details. But be sure to watch the video of Nienaber throwing Buffalo Sabres’ Captain Steven Ott out of the ceremonial faceoff.

Kid throws Ott out of ceremonial faceoff

 

NHL suspends Neal for 5 games, how many will Thornton get?

By Brad Constant, Dec. 10, 2013

People can go round and round about whether they think James Neal or Shawn Thornton was the dirtier player in Boston last Saturday night, Dec. 7. In fact, there is such a debate on Twitter that can be read on BleacherReport.com. But when it comes down to it, both players showed the uglier side of hockey and deserve to be suspended.

All of this got started when Pittsburgh Penguins’ defenseman Bruce Orpik hit Boston Bruins’ forward Loui Eriksson. At first it looked like another hard hit that happened to leave Eriksson woozy and slow to get up. But the replays show that Orpik did catch Eriksson on the chin, although it doesn’t look intentional, in our opinion. Either way, there is concern for Eriksson since he has already missed five games this season with a concussion after being the victim of another dirty hit. Watch the video below and see the hit that sparked everything.

Now enter our main villains, starting with the Thornton of the Bruins. As expected, the Boston tough guy went after Orpik during their first shift on the ice together. Thornton tried to like heck to get Orpik to fight but the Penguins’ defender wouldn’t drop the gloves and Thornton ended up getting a minor penalty.

However, things would escalate again later in the first period when our other villain, and Penguins’ forward, Neal kneed Boston’s Brad Marchand in the head as the Bruin forward was on the ice. As usual a gathering of players occurred, including Orpik and Thornton. But things got nasty when Thornton slew footed Orpik and punched the Pittsburgh defenseman in the head while he was on the ice. Watch the video below of both incidents.

As you can see, Orpik leaves the ice on a stretcher and was taken to a local hospital. Marchand got up and escaped major injury.

The National Hockey League has already comeback and issued Neal a five-game suspension. We say well done Brandon Shanahan and the NHL Department of Player Safety.

But that leaves us wondering what type of suspension Thornton will get. He is currently suspended indefinitely as he awaits an in-person hearing schedule for Friday, Dec. 13. We believe that a suspension of at least 10 games can be expected, and here is why.

Although, Thornton has no previous disciplinary history with the NHL, the League takes whether or not the victim of any infraction was injured. So while people may think that the headaches and neck stiffness that Orpik is experiencing are not that severe, the memory loss that has occurred is. In fact, Orpik cannot remember anything from after Saturday night’s national anthem. Memory loss is a brain injury, and brain injuries are as severe as injuries get.

So as we wait the NHL’s ruling, we leave with a video from the Department of Player Safety telling us why Neal received a five-game suspension. We also ask that you let us know who you think is the dirtier player by answering our poll below (there is a bet riding on this with the winner getting a free lunch so your participation is very important).

Former players file concussion lawsuit against NHL

Big hits are have always been a part of hockey. Will the new lawsuit against the NHL eliminate big hits from the game? (Photo courtesy of the russianmachineneverbreaks.com)

Big hits are have always been a part of hockey. Will the new lawsuit against the NHL eliminate big hits from the game? (Photo courtesy of the russianmachineneverbreaks.com)

By Mike Larson, Nov. 26, 2013

We all knew it was going to happen sooner or later, and on Monday, a group of former National Hockey League players dropped the bomb.

Ten former players have filed a class action lawsuit, basically saying that the NHL didn’t do enough to protect them during their careers.

This wasn’t unexpected. After the National Football League agreed to pay $765 million to 4,500 former players who sued the league on the grounds that it didn’t protect them, everyone knew it was just a matter of time before hockey players got involved.

As of now, 10 players are involved, but it’s likely hundreds, if not thousands more will join it. According to Pierre LeBrun of ESPN, the players involved are Gary Leeman, Brad Aiken, Darren Banks, Curt Bennett, Richard Dunn, Warren Holmes, Bob Manno, Blair Stewart, Morris Titanic, and Rick Vaive.

So…it’s not exactly a star-studded list. At first glance, the only player who we even recognized was Darren Banks, and that’s only because he played a season for the Detroit Vipers of the now defunct International Hockey League. And we’re not even sure why Banks is suing. He only played 20 career NHL games, but whatever.

The suit, which is being handled jointly by a law firm in Laguna Hills, Calif., and another firm in Baltimore, alleges that the NHL should have done more to protect players from head injuries.

Here’s an excerpt of a release from the lawyers:

“The class action lawsuit, which is being leveled against the National Hockey League on behalf of former players, alleges that the NHL has failed to effectively respond to the head injuries sustained by players. The lawsuit contends that the NHL had behaved negligently and fraudulently in regards to the player sustained head trauma over the past decade.”

So here it is. The concussion discussion has officially made it into the hockey world. Sure, people talked about it before in terms of players like Eric Lindros and Paul Kariya, but it always seemed the conversations were about player toughness, not about safety.

But danger is the rule and injuries are an accepted rule in any contact sport, right? Is it fair for players, (at least one of the players involved in this lawsuit played without a helmet even though the league mandated that all incoming players had to protect their domes) to act like they didn’t know the sport was dangerous? Is it fair to blame the league?

I guess those are questions for the lawyers.

However, if what happened in the NFL case is any indication, this thing could get really expensive for the NHL.

How Stamkos’ injury affects all of hockey

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Tampa Bay Lightning star Steven Stamkos broke his tibia on Monday.

By Brad Constant, Nov. 12, 2013

Tampa Bay Lightning forward and offensive powerhouse Steven Stamkos broke his tibia after crashing into the goal post while playing against the Boston Bruins as part of the Bruins’ Veterans’ Day game on Nov. 11. The impact on Stamkos and the Lightning is obvious, he is out three to six months, according to bleacherreport.com (watch the GIF here), and the team is without its leading scorer. But Stamkos’ injury affects more than just the Lightning, it affects all of hockey.

Mainly, the National Hockey League is without one of, if not the most, natural goal scorers in all of hockey. Stamkos’ name may not be as well known as Sidney Crosby’s, but the man can score goals. He scored 60 of them during the 2011-12 regular season and was tied for the league lead with Alex Steen at 14 goals so far this season (check out hkref.com for Stamkos’ full career stats).

Simply put, Stamkos is a joy to watch play hockey. He is Brett Hull-like in his ability to find open space. His shot, whether it be a slapper, wrist or snap shot, is a thing of beauty – all youngsters out there should try to emulate him. Plus he loves scoring so much it’s contagious.

It’s a pity that fans around the league won’t be able to see his talent till his return. Even worse is the fact that he may very well miss the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, a platform in which hockey fans worldwide could watch him score again and again. Team Canada will be fine since it’s, well, Canada…obviously. The Canadians are stacked with talent.

As hockey fans, we here at The Hockey Ref can only hope for Stamkos’ speedy recovery. We love watching him play, as long as it’s not against our favorite teams.

So have at it Steen, the stage is set for you to show us what you’ve got and win the scoring title this season.

Check out Yahoo! Sports for a video of his injury and obvious pain afterwords.