Media Clips - Columbus Blue Jackets

 Columbus Blue Jackets News Clips January 27, 2015 Columbus Blue Jackets PAGE 02 Columbus Dispatch: Blue Jackets: Second‐half push for playoffs will be all uphill PAGE 04 Columbus Dispatch: Blue Jackets notebook: Richards enjoys All‐Star festivities as a fan PAGE 06 Columbus Dispatch: NHL: Honda provides Ovechkin with Accord for charity PAGE 07 Columbus Dispatch: Blue Jackets, Capitals at a glance PAGE 08 All‐Star Game a wish come true for one hockey fan PAGE 10 Blue Jackets face second‐half hangover PAGE 14 USA Today: Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky out with groin injury Falcons/Prospects NHL/Websites PAGE 15 Columbus Dispatch: Around the NHL: Penguins’ Crosby won’t play in game tonight Weekend Takeaways: Phaneuf’s true value PAGE 16 1 Blue Jackets: Second‐half push for playoffs will be all uphill By Aaron Portzline – January 27, 2015 Oh, right. The regular season. After a weekend bathed in radiant glow, Nationwide Arena was a chaotic deconstruction site yesterday, with workers loading crates, moving risers and removing signage after All‐Star Weekend in Columbus. Amid this, the Blue Jackets got back to work after a four‐day break yesterday, knowing they need an incredible second‐half run if this season is to have any meaning. The Jackets host the Washington Capitals at 7 tonight in Nationwide. “We have 37 games to go,” general manager Jarmo Kekalainen said. “We have to win 25 of them to give ourselves a chance. That puts us in the mid‐90s (in points). “It’s not going to be easy, we know that. But we’ve done it before.” The Blue Jackets have ended the past two season on stunning runs, barely missing the playoffs in 2012‐
13 and finishing as the No. 7 seed last season. They recently tore through December with a 10‐1‐1 record. “It’s in us,” right wing Jared Boll said. “We’ve shown we can do it. “We’re not happy where we’re at. And it doesn’t look good, if you do the math. But we know it’s possible. It’s just important for every guy in this room to do more, to play better. We have to bring it every night.” There are two huge hurdles in front of the Blue Jackets. They entered play a whopping 14 points behind eighth‐place Boston in the Eastern Conference, an almost insurmountable deficit even though Columbus has played three fewer games than the Bruins. This might be the more damning view: the Blue Jackets are two teams and 12 points ahead of last‐place Buffalo, and 14 points and four teams behind the Bruins. Right now, the Blue Jackets are closer to the basement than a playoff seed. “Hopefully the guys took this (All‐Star break) to get away, enjoy themselves and miss the game, miss being at the rink a little bit,” center Brandon Dubinsky said. “We need to be re‐energized for what’s going to need to be a pretty special push here, if we’re going to find a way to get in.” That gap would be hard to close with a healthy Sergei Bobrovsky, but the All‐Star goaltender will miss 4 to 6 weeks because of a groin injury. That means the Blue Jackets face their next 12 to 20 games without their best player. “That’s just the way things have gone for us this year,” Dubinsky said. “You have to play with the cards you’re dealt. It’s a big opportunity and a big task. It’s a big hole. We’ve always been fighters. No matter what happens, we’ll fight to the end.” 2 The Blue Jackets recalled goaltender Anton Forsberg and right wing Josh Anderson from minor‐league Springfield yesterday. Asked how the McElhinney‐Forsberg rotation might work with Bobrovsky on the shelf, coach Todd Richards said, “It’s Curtis’s ball.” “His play has been very good. He has been solid, made some big saves at big moments and has won some big games for us. And he did that last year, too.” In his past six outings, McElhinney is 3‐1‐0 with a .937 save percentage and 2.03 goals‐against average. That includes a 34‐save, 3‐1 victory in Boston on Jan. 19 that snapped a four‐game losing streak. “It’s going to be a matter of us getting results on a nightly basis,” McElhinney said. “For us, we need results right now.” 3 Blue Jackets notebook: Richards enjoys All‐Star festivities as a fan By Shawn Mitchell – January 27, 2015 Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards had intended to spend All‐Star Weekend away from Columbus, lounging for a couple of days at a resort in western Pennsylvania with his wife, Maryann. Instead, he elected to stay in Columbus and soak in the experience with his family. For one weekend, coach became fan. “It was a different experience, when you’re up on the concourse walking around before the game,” said Richards, who even did some shopping in the arena Blue Line store. “You take it for granted sometimes how all these people get in those seats. Where did they all come from? It’s a credit to everyone behind the scenes. It was a great, great event.” Richards said he spent time on Saturday in the All‐Star Winter Park in McFerson Commons, when he watched the Under‐18 AAA Blue Jackets play the Cleveland Barons on the outdoor rink. “That was just as the 5k was finishing, so there were lots of people down there,” Richards said. “It was great. And we spent time in stores and tents, just talking to people.” And the snow slide on Nationwide Blvd.? “I didn’t trust myself to go down the slide,” Richards said. On Sunday, Richards made appearances at the Fan Fair in the convention center and attended the All‐
Star Game. A half‐speed game and its record 29 goals made him cringe, as it would any NHL coach. But Richards, a three‐time International Hockey League All‐Star, understood. “You want to put on a show,” he said. “It’s about entertaining. But coaches and goalies probably feel the same way.” Another honor Blue Jackets center Ryan Johansen was named the NHL’s first star of the week after scoring two goals and adding two assists during his MVP performance in Sunday’s All‐Star Game and winning the Breakaway Challenge event in Saturday’s Skills Competition. Johansen has 17 goals and 26 assists in 45 games and leads the team in points and assists. He is the only NHL player to have had two points streaks of 10 games or more this season, including a 13‐game streak that ended last week that is the longest in the NHL this season. Bobrovsky placed on IR As expected, the Blue Jackets placed All‐Star goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky on injured reserve and recalled goaltender Anton Forsberg and forward Josh Anderson from minor‐league Springfield. Bobrovsky is expected to miss 4 to 6 weeks because of a groin injury, the team said. 4 Forsberg was selected to start in tonight’s American Hockey League All‐Star Game in Utica, N.Y., but was pulled from the event after Bobrovsky was injured on Wednesday. “I wanted to be there, too, but it’s better to be (in Columbus),” Forsberg said. Slap shots Defenseman Ryan Murray (knee) and center Artem Anisimov (torn triceps) practiced yesterday but are not expected to be cleared to play tonight against Washington, Richards said. … Goaltender Curtis McElhinney is expected to start against the Capitals. “Right now, it’s McElhinney’s ball,” Richards said. “There is confidence in Curtis that he is going to step in and do the job.” 5‐sports‐report‐lead‐art‐
gcv106qka‐1.html NHL: Honda provides Ovechkin with Accord for charity By Shawn Mitchell – January 27, 2015 The seemingly strange wish of Washington Capitals captain Alex Ovechkin to be picked last during the NHL All‐Star fantasy draft on Friday doesn’t seem so strange anymore. Ovechkin made it known during the draft that he wanted to win the booby prize of a Honda Accord that came with being one of the final two picks. It didn’t happen — Ovechkin was selected by Team Foligno with the 35th pick — but his efforts captured the attention of a Honda representative. It turns out that Ovechkin wanted the car to donate to the Washington Ice Dogs, a program in Laurel, Md., for children and young people with developmental disabilities. Ovechkin had formed a bond with one of the team’s players, and he saw it as a chance to help. That was not known by Honda or the NHL on Friday, however. “Everyone was wondering why a guy like him wanted a free car,” Honda North America spokesman Chris Abbruzzese said. So Honda reached out to the NHL and learned why, Abbruzzese said. They met with Ovechkin and his representative on Saturday and came up with a plan: If Ovechkin did not win the Accord that came with being named the All‐Star Game MVP on Sunday, Honda would provide him with another. Ovechkin was presented with a giant key and the promise of a new Accord after the game. 6‐card‐1‐27‐art‐gcv106r8p‐
1.html Blue Jackets, Capitals at a glance Staff – January 27, 2015 Blue Jackets at a glance • Past 10 games: 4‐6‐0 • Power play: 24.3 percent (fourth in NHL) • Penalty kill: 79.5 percent (19th) • Injury update: G Sergei Bobrovsky (groin), LW Brian Gibbons (knee), RW Nathan Horton (back) and LW Boone Jenner (back) are out; D Ryan Murray (knee) and C Artem Anisimov (triceps) are doubtful; LW Matt Calvert (illness) is probable. Capitals at a glance • Past 10 games: 6‐2‐2 • Power play: 24.4 percent (third in NHL) • Penalty kill: 79.5 percent (21st) • Injury update: D John Erskine (neck), D Dmitry Orlov (wrist) and LW Aaron Volpatti (neck) are out. 7‐all‐star‐game‐make‐a‐wish‐foundation‐012615 All‐Star Game a wish come true for one hockey fan By Alison Lukan ‐ January 27, 2015 With the NHL All‐Star Game having come to Columbus this past weekend, it's easy to imagine many wishes were granted. A city was granted the wish to host the event. Fans were granted the wish to meet their favorite players. Athletes were granted the wish to be named an All‐Star. But perhaps no wish granted was more significant than the one fulfilled for New Jersey's Alex Zelikovsky. Alex, who will be 14 in February, was born premature and is fighting a life‐threatening neurological condition. He is a quadriplegic and non‐verbal. But Alex finds joy in hockey, so the Make‐A‐Wish foundation decided to fulfill his wish to attend an NHL All‐Star Game. "Alex loves hockey. He has always has loved hockey," said Alex's mom, Jamie. "We take him to many Devils games and travel for other games as we can. When we realized the All‐Star Game was in Columbus, it was a perfect fit for Alex ‐‐ all of our favorite players playing in one spot at the same time." The request was one that Make‐A‐Wish was happy to fulfill. The organization grants opportunities for children who meet very specific criteria to have a special experience that is their own dream or goal. John Hykes, development officer for the Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana chapter said that when the New Jersey chapter contacted him about Alex, they immediately got to work. "We are one of 62 chapters across the country," Hykes said. "We all have the same goal that whenever we can work together to put a smile on a kid's face that's what we're going to do." Alex's wish had been to just attend the All‐Star Game, but the Blue Jackets, the Blue Jackets Foundation and the NHL decided to bring more to the experience. The Zelikovskys received a heroes' welcome at the Columbus airport, and Alex received a bag full of autographed gear from Jackets All‐Stars Ryan Johansen, Nick Foligno and Sergei Bobrovsky. "We do this because we have a unique ability to be bring hope, strength, and joy back to a kids life," Hykes said. "These are kids who live in a climate of 'no.' They are often told no to sleepovers, no to vacations because so many things become obstacles and they get in the way ‐‐we're in a position to say yes. To say 'yes Alex, you can come to an All‐Star Game.'" The NHL also provided a hotel room, tickets to Fan Fair, Winter Park activities, the All‐Star Skills Competition on Saturday and some VIP events surrounding the weekend. But the highlight came from a private meet and greet for Alex, his two brothers, and his parents with the All‐Star players on Saturday. The Make‐A‐Wish Foundation helped fulfill Alex Zelizovsky's wish to attend an NHL All‐Star Game. He met every single player including All‐Star team captain, and Blue Jacket, Nick Foligno The Make‐A‐Wish Foundation helped fulfill Alex Zelizovsky's wish to attend an NHL All‐Star Game. He met every single player including All‐Star team captain, and Blue Jacket, Nick Foligno "Words can't even describe the experience of not only meeting one player but every single player," Jamie said. "I just want to say thank you to the players. They were unbelievably kind and caring to Alex, a lot of them got down on their knees to talk to him." 8 One of the first players they met was New Jersey Devil forward, Patrick Elias. As the representative from Alex's hometown team, Elias was honored to spend a few minutes with the family. "It's tremendous to see what this kid goes through and the battle he has to deal with in his life," Elias said. "And it's not just him but his family that is affected. They were soaking things in and very happy to be around this whole event. I'm privileged that I could just meet this gentleman and hopefully put a smile on his face." Elias definitely helped make Alex's day. And the impact is one that will hopefully not only be felt this weekend but long term. Hykes said that follow‐up surveys done by Make‐A‐Wish show that these experiences have a positive impact on the recipients ‐‐ giving them something significant to look forward to, or find motivation in, as they go through treatment regimes. Blue Jacket All‐Star Ryan Johansen spent time with Alex Zelikovsky of New Jersey. Attending All‐Star Weekend was Alex's wish come true ‐ granted by the Make‐A‐Wish Foundation Blue Jacket All‐Star Ryan Johansen spent time with Alex Zelikovsky of New Jersey. Attending All‐Star Weekend was Alex's wish come true ‐ granted by the Make‐A‐Wish Foundation "We are just so grateful," Jamie said. "Living with someone who has a lot of physical disabilities and is in a wheelchair, sometimes you stumble on a lot of roadblocks. To have Make‐A‐Wish and the NHL take it above anything we could have ever wished for, it's a great feeling as a mom to see Alex so happy." In addition to Elias, Jamie said Alex was excited to meet Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, Capitals captain Alexander Ovechkin, and the hometown Blue Jackets players. "I've never had the opportunity to meet someone on that level of success as a professional athlete," Jamie said. "To see them be so kind and gentle and literally get on their knees to say hello or rub his arm ‐ they are just the warmest, nicest group of people. To have every single player meet our son is really a dream come true." As the family now returns home, they will travel with souvenirs, but more importantly memories of what they called a wonderful weekend in a really nice city with unbelievably friendly and helpful people. "When we go home we'll put these photos together," Jamie said. "We'll be able to look back on them and relive these moments and it will bring us so much joy." 9‐custance/post/_/id/4791/blue‐jackets‐face‐tough‐second‐half‐
climb Blue Jackets face second‐half hangover By Craig Custance – January 27, 2015 COLUMBUS, Ohio ‐‐ Blue Jackets president John Davidson was standing outside the Hilton in downtown Columbus when a couple of young fans wearing hockey jerseys walked toward him. He pointed at them, smiling with their dad, and said that’s what the All‐Star weekend was about. Not the half‐effort on‐ice product that concluded All‐Star weekend on Sunday evening. “It’s more just [about] the little ones, all smiling,” Davidson said when we chatted earlier in the weekend. As far as vibes go, Columbus had a great one all weekend long. The sport was celebrated and in turn it reflected extremely well on a city that’s not necessarily known as a prominent professional sports town. It supported a theory that players who have gone through Columbus have suggested for years: If the Blue Jackets ever got consistently good, this would become a destination city for NHL players. Davidson has seen it happen already. "[Ryan] Johansen wants to stay. [Sergei] Bobrovsky, [Nick] Foligno, [Brandon] Dubinsky ‐‐ some of them could have hit the market,” Davidson said. “They all want to stay. Every one of them, whether they’re single or married with families or not. It’s a really good spot.” Now that the All‐Star party is over in Columbus, the players and their fans may have to deal with the hangover. The Blue Jackets were crushed by injuries during the first half of the season, and coming out of the All‐Star break they have to play without starting goalie Bobrovsky, who is out with a groin injury. According to one source, the Blue Jackets aren’t expecting him back anytime soon. As much as we admire the Blue Jackets' work ethic and pluck, it could be a disastrous second half for the team in the standings. But that may not be such a bad thing for the long‐term health of this franchise. When the Blue Jackets made a December charge, they relied heavily on Bobrovsky’s goaltending, along with a power play that is No. 4 in the NHL at 24.3 percent. Bobrovsky was 9‐1‐1 with a .937 save percentage in December. The bad news is that he’s gone, and backup Curtis McElhinney is 4‐6‐1 with a .907 save percentage. The worse news is that this team is awful at even strength. They are currently No. 26 in the NHL in controlling just 46.3 percent of even‐strength shot attempts. The power play may keep things close, but shaky goaltending plus tilted ice is a bad combination for the near future in Columbus. What does it mean for the far future? The Blue Jackets are currently No. 25 overall in the NHL with 43 points, and they’re closer to catching Buffalo in the basement than they are to catching anyone ahead of them in the wild‐card race. 10 Getting in the Jack Eichel and Connor McDavid race isn’t nearly as fun as hosting an All‐Star Game, but landing one of them would catapult a team already being built the right way into a potential power. Imagine a group of centers that included McDavid, Johansen, Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov. They’ve got a potential franchise defenseman in Ryan Murray. Bobrovsky is capable of carrying a team for long stretches, as he’s already proved. “The question mark with him is in the playoffs,” said an Eastern Conference executive. “He really hasn’t gotten a chance.” That won’t change this season, but one more lottery pick for an organization that GM Jarmo Kekalainen has already stocked with young talent might change that for a long time. If the All‐Star festivities proved anything, it's that the hockey fans in Columbus are a bunch that deserves to root on a powerhouse. Nine other takeaways from All‐Star weekend in Columbus: 2. Looking ahead to next year's ASG Davidson said groups from Nashville have visited Columbus during the weekend in preparation for the 2016 All‐Star Game. According to the Predators, their contingent included a couple of owners, the COO, CEO and other team employees. At the very least, let’s hope they steal the idea of the giant snow slide. Davidson sees similarities between the two markets, which should make for another entertaining weekend next year. “Park your liver,” Davidson joked. “That one is going to be fun.” 3. Stamkos must leave cap room for others ... Steven Stamkos eased fears in Tampa Bay and dashed hopes in Toronto when he told colleague Pierre LeBrun that he was hoping to get a long‐term deal done similar to the one Chicago used to lock up Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews this summer, one year before they would have hit free agency. Stamkos has one year left on his current contract and can officially sign an extension on July 1. The Lightning will remind Stamkos and his representatives at Newport that they can’t squeeze every last dollar out of the team if they want to surround him with talent in a cap system ‐‐ especially considering the price tag is going to go up fairly dramatically on some of the young talent in the system. Tyler Johnson's and Ondrej Palat's deals expire one year after Stamkos’ does. Nikita Kucherov is a restricted free agent in 2016‐17. Victor Hedman can be an unrestricted free agent in 2017‐18. The Blackhawks duo left money on the table to stay in Chicago, and the Lightning will hope they get the same treatment from Stamkos. 4. ... but he could really cash in Players are always worth more on the open market, and it’s crazy to imagine what Stamkos might get if he ever did decide to test it. One agent (not at Newport) estimated that the Stamkos price tag would be significantly higher on the open market than the Kane and Toews contracts (matching eight‐year, $84 million deals). “From a pure regular‐season production standpoint, he has an argument to be higher. Of course, he has no Cups,” said the agent. “If he were to get the open market, he’d get seven years at $12‐14 million [per season], I would think.” 11 5. Projecting Stamkos' actual AAV One way agents come up with comparable salaries during negotiations is by focusing less on the annual average salary of similar players and more on the percentage of the salary cap their salary occupied when they signed. For instance, when Alex Ovechkin signed his deal with the Capitals, it was worth $9.54 million when the salary cap was $50.3 ‐‐ good for 19 percent of the salary cap. A comparable under the new CBA would be Evgeni Malkin, who earned an AAV of $9.5 million when the cap was $64.3 million (14.8 percent of the cap). Using that number and projecting a salary cap of, say, $74 million in 2016‐17, Stamkos could expect an annual salary of $11 million. That makes an eight‐year extension worth $88 million a nice projection for Stamkos and the Lightning. 6. Kopitar deal coming soon, too? Anze Kopitar is in the exact same position as Stamkos when it comes to his contract. He would be an unrestricted free agent in 2016‐17 and can sign an extension on July 1. The Kings weren’t thrilled with the Kane and Toews deals, thinking they skewed on the high side and, like the Blackhawks, every dollar counts for Los Angeles, a franchise that squeezes the upper limits of the salary cap. So has Kopitar thought about his next deal? “Actually, I haven’t,” he said when I asked. “The last few years have been pretty crazy. It’s been a lot of hockey. ... I’m sure I’m going to start thinking about it when the time is right, which is at the end of the season.” 7. Expanded tracking chip usage on the way? The tracking chip each player wore during the All‐Star Game was a glimpse at the future of data collection in the NHL, something that could happen as soon as next season, according to an NHL source. It was fascinating to watch it in action on tablets, collecting everything from average speed to exactly where each player goes on the ice and who they’re playing with at all times. The phrase repeated often by league representatives is that the NHL wants to get a complete and accurate digital history of everything that takes place in their games. The NHLPA just wants to make sure this data doesn’t end up hurting the players. “Look, you always have generalized concern as to whether you can create meaningless statistics, whether those will be used in some way that would be inappropriate,” said NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr. “You would have to negotiate those things, if we get that far.” 8. Two sides to the player tracking argument Mathieu Schneider, who works closely with Fehr at the NHLPA, said the concerns coming from players about the tracking technology comes more from the older generation than the younger. “There’s definitely the younger generation coming in that grew up with a lot of the technology that is more open than the veteran guys,” said Schneider, who joked that these are the same older players who call social media “The Facebook and The Twitter.” 12 Jonathan Drouin agreed completely. The 19‐year‐old had no issues or concerns with the tracking technology and looks forward to its implementation. “The older guys in this league haven’t had that or anything close to that,” Drouin said. “We’ve had, since I was 15, technology in junior, midget, all that stuff. It’s growing in the game and is getting even better.” Some have raised concerns that it might create data used against players in contract negotiations or even eventually arbitration. Drouin joked that coaches will be the early adopters when it comes to using the data to find holes in a player’s game. “It’s probably not going to help us,” he said. “The coaches will be on us for that. It’ll be fun to see what evolves.” 9. The NHL's advanced stats expansion Despite what ultimately happens with the player tracking data, the NHL is already moving forward with a more robust stats package on In February, the league will launch a stats package that will include advanced stats like Corsi and Fenwick that currently exist on independent websites. The league currently has no intention of preventing programmers from automatically grabbing the new data off their website, so that means any stats they provide could lead to more advanced stats developed by independent analytics experts. “We’re not trying to put anybody out of business,” said NHL COO John Collins. “You’re allowing a hard‐
core fan to go as far down the rabbit hole as they want to go.” 10. World Cup TV partner up in the air One announcement that didn’t come at the 2016 World Cup news conference is exactly who will be televising this huge event in Canada and the United States. The smart bet would be on current partners NBC and Sportsnet getting the deal, but negotiations are ongoing. This is a joint production between the NHLPA and the NHL, and many players have long expressed the opinion that it might be smart to get other major networks invested in the sport. “We’re talking to potential partners there. We’ll have an announcement soon,” said Collins. “I think our partner with the PA is interested not only with the current partners about how this could help grow the core business organically. ... I think it’s also an opportunity to talk to people who want to have a chance to be involved with the NHL and NHLPA on these events. Maybe open up an additional pipe.” 13‐goalie‐bobrovsky‐out‐4‐6‐weeks‐with‐
groin‐injury/22353279/ Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky out with groin injury By Mike Brehm – January 27, 2015 COLUMBUS, Ohio ‐ The Columbus Blue Jackets, one day after hosting a successful All‐Star weekend, announced bad news that could affect their outlook for the rest of their season. The team said Monday that No. 1 goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky will miss four to six weeks with a groin muscle injury. The news wasn't surprising because Bobrovsky wasn't able to put weight on his right leg when he was helped off the ice Wednesday after stretching to try to stop a shot. The injury kept him out of the All‐
Star weekend. But the impact is devastating because the 2012‐13 Vezina Trophy winner had been one of the NHL's best players in December to give the Blue Jackets hopes of getting back into the playoff hurt. A January slide, though, leaves them 14 points out. The Blue Jackets, who made the playoffs last season for the second time in franchise history, have been devastated by injuries this season, including a broken finger that cost Bobrovsky eight games earlier this season. Nathan Horton (back) has yet to play and Boone Jenner and Artem Anisimov have had two long‐
term injuries. Bobrovsky had signed a four‐year, $29.7 million extension this month. The Blue Jackets called up goalie Anton Forsberg on an emergency basis. 14‐crosby‐wont‐play‐in‐game‐
tonight.html Around the NHL: Penguins’ Crosby won’t play in game tonight Staff – January 27, 2015 Pittsburgh Penguins center Sidney Crosby will miss a game tonight against Winnipeg after undergoing treatment for a lower‐body injury. Coach Mike Johnston said there’s a possibility that Crosby could return on Wednesday, when Pittsburgh plays at Washington. Crosby, a two‐time NHL MVP, received an injection to deal with the injury on Thursday, causing him to miss the All‐Star festivities over the weekend at Nationwide Arena. Center Evgeni Malkin did not practice with his teammates yesterday and is out indefinitely, also with a lower‐body injury. Johnston said he didn’t know how much time Malkin will miss. Kings release Richards The Los Angeles Kings released Mike Richards, perhaps ending their relationship with the veteran center, who has lost his scoring touch. If the Kings can’t work out a trade for Richards, he could be assigned to their American Hockey League affiliate in Manchester, N.H. Richards was a key part of the Kings’ two Stanley Cup championship teams in the past three seasons, playing a responsible two‐way role and providing leadership. But his plummeting offensive production hasn’t matched his exorbitant contract for years in Los Angeles, which acquired him from Philadelphia in 2011. Richards, who turns 30 next month, has only five goals and 10 assists in 47 games this season — not the numbers expected of a player with a $5.75 million annual salary‐cap hit for the next six seasons. The Kings are in need of a lineup spark after hitting the All‐Star break in ninth place in the Western Conference. Notable • The Colorado Avalanche will be without top defenseman Erik Johnson for three to eight weeks because of a knee injury. Coach Patrick Roy said the team received an update on Johnson after he had a scope yesterday. Johnson made the All‐Star Game but was unable to participate. The 26‐year‐old has a career‐high 12 goals this season. • The Buffalo Sabres suspended rookie defenseman Nikita Zadorov for failing to report to the team on time following the All‐Star break. The Sabres did not say how long the suspension would last, but general manager Tim Murray said he anticipates allowing Zadorov to rejoin the team sometime this week. The penalty was handed down after Zadorov missed yesterday afternoon’s practice. 15‐takeaways‐6/ Weekend Takeaways: Phaneuf’s true value By Damien Cox – January 27, 2015 More than ever this year, NHL players at the all‐star game seemed to embrace the concept that putting on a worthwhile event is at least half their responsibility, and maybe more. Starting with the fantasy draft on Friday, the players showed their humour and willingness to be something more than stoic and serious in front of the cameras and tape recorders. Nick Foligno and Ryan Johansen really were hometown stars, while Jakub Voracek’s comedy bit with Johnny Gaudreau was good fun. All in all, the notion that the players and the owners are partners in the event, and that the players have to do more than just show up, was evident. Now, if the players could just convince each other a little more effort in the game would make it better. In fact, just a tiny, wee bit more effort would help enormously. Some suggest giving the players an expensive watch for all‐star participation would increase their effort. But they already tried putting money on the table, and that didn’t work. They’re all extremely wealthy as it is. Go back to conference play, with the winner getting home ice in the Cup final? That doesn’t seem to have any legs, certainly not with the commissioner’s office. The union might be more inclined to scrap the draft and the skills competition, but those are probably better events than the game itself now. So the status quo for the foreseeable future seems the likely scenario. Other weekend takeaways: The contract turned albatross: It was December, 2007 when Mike Richards signed a 12‐year, $69 million contract with Philadelphia. Since then he’s been traded – worked out pretty well for him – and today he found himself on waivers with five years still left on the deal. It does make you think twice about the concept of “locking players up,” that seems to be the norm these days. Of course, 12‐year deals are no longer possible. Still, L.A. undoubtedly now wishes it had exercised a buyout option on Richards last summer. Gone and not forgotten: If you thought it was a bit peculiar earlier this season when the Tampa Bay Lightning honoured Marty St. Louis this season after he had demanded a trade out of Tampa last season, you might have been more satisfied with the reception of boos Rick Nash got at the all‐star game from Blue Jackets fans, both when he was introduced and every time he touched the puck. They even cheered when he missed the net on a breakaway in the first period. The perception here, right or wrong, is that he demanded a trade out of Columbus, and apparently they aren’t forgiving him. Not yet, anyway. Voracek, on the other hand, received generous applause as a former Columbus draft pick. Leafs for sale: Interesting to read speculation out of Dallas that the Stars might have a prominent place for Dion Phaneuf on their blueline, noting that the cost to get Phaneuf out of Toronto would be enormously high. Shows the fishbowl of Toronto, with so many suggesting the Leaf captain is 16 untradeable, might skew perception a tad. Unlike Richards, Phaneuf is at the very least a good player in the league, just not the star and captain some wish he was. Goalie angst: Fun was had by all, yes, on the all‐star weekend. Well, except for Marc‐Andre Fleury. The Penguins goalie was lit up for seven goals on Sunday and was reportedly ticked off about it afterwards. Being razzed by Columbus fans who got to know Fleury in the playoffs last year made it more miserable. Creating leverage: It’s hard to say at this point whether the NHL will return to the Olympics in 2018 or beyond. But by setting up a World Cup schedule for 2016 and 2020, the NHL has at the very least increased its bargaining power with the IIHF and IOC. Moreover, if players start to feel they enjoy the World Cup as much as the Olympics, they may be less insistent on continuing to pursue Olympic medals. Young guns still uncertain: The NHL still hasn’t set out a date of birth eligibility requirement for the 23‐
and‐under World Cup entry, and the thinking there is they want to set the date in such a way as to capture the most possible Canadian and American players. They could just go with the Sept. 15 date that decides draft eligibility, but they may choose to go later on the calendar to make more players eligible. Hard to ignore: Good line from Buffalo GM Tim Murray at the CHL Top Prospects Game last week. “You show up saying I’m not going to watch Connor McDavid. But he forces you to watch him anyway.” Sabres listening: Murray, by the way, says he isn’t being cagey and holding on to his available players as long as possible before dealing them closer to the trade deadline. “I’m not waiting,” he said. “I’m ready to go now.” Improving draft stock: Ottawa 67s forward Travis Konecny had to be the big individual winner at the prospects game with his two‐goal performance. He fell in recent NHL Central Scouting rankings after being seen as possibly a top 10 pick last fall, and looked like he’s intent on working his way back. He played on the best line in the game (no surprise) with Erie superstar Connor McDavid. The third member of the line was Halifax winger Timo Meier, a Swiss‐born forward who some NHL scouts believe could play in the NHL next season because of his size and North American style of play. Pairing for the future?: Team Orr, coached by Bobby Orr, won the game 6‐0, and a big reason why was the defensive pairing from the Brandon Wheat Kings of Ivan Provorov and Ryan Pilon. Provorov was ranked 10th by Central Scouting in its mid‐term rankings, and Pilon was ranked 31st. A clever NHL general manager might see fit to draft both in June, and set himself up with a lock‐down pair for a decade. Racing for the Rocket: Should be a good stretch run for the Rocket Richard Trophy, with Rick Nash, Vladimir Tarasenko, Steve Stamkos, Tyler Seguin and Alex Ovechkin all in serious contention. Back to reality: Zemgus Girgensons had all the attention he could possibly want on the weekend after finishing first in all‐star voting (with a little help from Latvia) with more than 1.6 million votes. Now he gets to back to being 168th in NHL scoring and back to being with the Buffalo Sabres, losers of 15 of their past 16 games. Giving masked men a voice: It really was amazing on Sunday to listen to Carey Price chat with the broadcasting crew while he was facing shots from some of the best players on the planet. Imagine that in a regular season game. Won’t happen, but we can dream, can’t we? 17