Hi all! We want to invite you to participate in our newly launched referral program if you have not done so already. It’s a great program that rewards you while simultaneously helping the newsletter continue to grow. If you are a subscriber to the Morning Skate, you should have received an email yesterday with an invite. However, if you aren’t already a subscriber, all you need to do is click on the Morning Skate banner above. That will take you to a page where you can sign up. Once you’re subscribed, you’ll soon receive an email inviting you to participate in the referral program. Thanks!
Last Night’s News 📰
RESPECT & INCLUSION: At a Board of Governors meeting on Thursday, the NHL announced partnerships with the Respect Group, an anti-harassment organization, and Jopwell, an industry leader in diversity and inclusion. The NHL’s goal is to utilize these partnerships and bring leaders together to discuss how to improve the culture of the league.
RUTHERFORD TO THE RESCUE: Yesterday, Jim Rutherford was hired by the Vancouver Canucks to serve as president of hockey operations and interim general manager while he leads the search for a permanent replacement. Rutherford spent 20 seasons as GM and president with the Hartford Whalers/Carolina Hurricanes and seven seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins, winning three Stanley Cups with the two organizations.
FLOWERS FOR FLEURY: Montreal native Marc-André Fleury became the third goaltender in NHL history to earn 500 wins, as the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Canadiens at the Bell Centre on Thursday night. Fleury joins Hall of Famers Martin Brodeur (691 wins) and Patrick Roy (551), becoming the fastest to do so in 901 games.
FASTEST TO 400: Speaking of fastest, Jon Cooper, head coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning, became the fastest NHL coach to reach 400 career wins. Doing so in his 659th game, Cooper is currently the longest-tenured coach in the league.
Let’s look back at some of our favorite moments from this past week:
If you didn’t know who Trevor Zegras was before this week, you should absolutely know who he is now. He made the price of admission worth it in Buffalo when he executed an alley-oop pass to teammate Sonny Milano, who then batted the puck into the net. Zegras’ reaction to the goal made the play that much more enjoyable for fans to watch.
A True Teammate
Michael McLeod is a bottom-six forward for the New Jersey Devils and, while he has impressed in the faceoff circle with a 60.2 faceoff win percentage, was scoreless through his first 23 games this season. That was until Jack Hughes unselfishly passed him the puck to put into the Flyers’ empty net. After he scored, McLeod thanked Hughes, making this one of the most wholesome moments of the week.
Bruce! There It Is
The Vancouver Canucks have been in the headlines this week thanks to some major organizational changes. Their fans have been through a lot but are happy with the decision to hire Bruce Boudreau to replace Travis Green as head coach. So happy that within Rogers Arena, chants of “Bruce! There it is” erupted and were loud enough to be heard on the broadcast. Of course, Boudreau had a great reaction when asked about it after the game.
Blast From the Past
The Vancouver Canucks announced yesterday that the club hired Jim Rutherford to be the president of hockey operations and intern general manager. This choice makes sense, as he has plenty of experience with multiple organizations, including the Carolina Hurricanes and the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Rutherford won three Stanley Cups over his 27 seasons, so he has done something right. Let’s look at three of the best trades during a career that has spanned over three decades.
Acquiring Phil Kessel From Toronto
Starting off this list is a monumental move in Penguins’ history, as this helped pave the way for the team’s future success. Kessel needed a fresh start in a new city, and Rutherford gave him that opportunity by acquiring him in a blockbuster deal on July 1, 2015.
Giving up Nick Spaling, Kasperi Kapanen, Scott Harrington, and a first- and a third-round pick in the 2016 NHL Draft for Tim Erixon, Tyler Biggs, and a second-rounder in addition to Kessel was a no-brainer. Making it even better, the Maple Leafs retained $1.2 million of Kessel’s average annual value (AAV) for the remaining six years of his deal.
Acquiring Mark Recchi From Pittsburgh
Looking back at a trade made 15 years ago, this was another move resulting in an immediate Stanley Cup for Rutherford’s team. Carolina gave up Krys Kolanos, Niklas Nordgren, and a 2007 second-round pick, as the Hurricanes acquired Recchi in a trade deadline acquisition.
He scored seven goals and 16 points in 25 games during the Hurricanes’ Cup run in 2006, which tied for sixth on the team during the postseason.
Acquiring John Marino From Edmonton
This was not a monumental move at the time, but it paid off immensely for the Penguins and still does to this day. Marino had yet to play in an NHL game and made it clear to the Edmonton Oilers that he wouldn’t sign with their team coming out of the NCAA.
He was acquired for a conditional sixth-round pick in the 2021 Draft and is now playing a top-four role for the team.
Spezza’s Suspension Is Longer Than…
Wait, six games?? The second-longest suspension of the season (behind Evander Kane’s 21-game ban)—one that is now being appealed by the NHL Players’ Association—was handed down to Jason Spezza, a respected 19-year NHL veteran who had never been suspended prior to this week.
Granted, there’s no doubt that Spezza’s charging knee to the head of a fallen, prone Neal Pionk was an act worthy of suspension. Seeking retribution for Pionk’s knee-on-knee hit on Rasmus Sandin a minute prior, the 38-year-old clearly had intent to injure the Winnipeg Jets’ defenseman, even if he was probably looking to lay him out with an open-ice hit before Pionk went to the ground. But again, six games?
If it doesn’t seem like a lot, consider that only three recent player suspensions have been longer, and those were dished out to the likes of Kane, Nazem Kadri, and Tom Wilson, players well acquainted with the Department of Player Safety. As further proof, here are other recent acts by players that should have, but didn’t, merit suspensions of equal or greater length to Spezza.
Brendan Lemieux – Biting, 5 Games
As of this morning, Brendan Lemieux has officially served his five-game suspension and is free to return to the Los Angeles Kings’ lineup, all the while his teeth marks may still be embedded in the hand of Brady Tkachuk. In one of the more bizarre scenes on the young season, Lemieux bit the Ottawa Senators agitator while the two foes were engaged in a skirmish during their game on Nov. 27.
Tomáš Jurčo – Cross-Checking a Referee, 1 Game
We’re switching leagues here, as Tomáš Jurčo is currently playing for Barys Hockey Club in the KHL, but the crime/punishment contrast is nonetheless staggering. One day after Spezza’s hit on Pionk, Jurčo responded to an on-ice official getting in his way by angrily cross-checking the poor guy. There’s a video and everything. Apparently in Russia, deliberately using your stick on a zebra keeps you out of the lineup for only one game.
Mark Scheifele – Flattening Jake Evans, 4 Games
I suppose this one’s going back a bit, but the brutal Mark Scheifele hit on Jake Evans in the Jets/Canadiens second-round playoff series won’t soon be forgotten, except maybe by Evans. For charging across the ice at a player poised to close out the game with an empty-net goal and delivering a high hit rather than making a play on the puck, Scheifele was handed a four-game suspension. Evans, meanwhile, missed nine games with a concussion.