Last Night’s News 📰
COLE HARD CASH: Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Ian Cole was fined yesterday for kneeing Winnipeg Jet Mark Scheifele in Tuesday’s game. Cole was docked $5,000, the maximum allowable under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which will go toward the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund.
MARNER’S MALADY: After missing the past three games, the Toronto Maple Leafs announced that Mitch Marner will be out 3-4 weeks due to a shoulder injury. Marner sustained the injury in practice when defenseman Jake Muzzin delivered a hit on Friday.
JERSEY, MASK, SWAG: New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood debuted a new paint job, as the Devils wore a third jersey for the first time in franchise history. Matching the theme of the aptly named “Jersey” jerseys, Blackwood’s mask had a scripted “Mask” included on the backplate.
ALL SWEDISH AND FINNISH: Team Sweden and Team Finland announced their rosters for the 2022 International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF) World Junior Championship set to be held Dec. 26 to Jan. 5 in Alberta, Canada.
Top-Shelf Thursday – Top Playoff Non-Participants
It’s been a great month for Jack Eichel. Not only was he able to get artificial disk replacement (ADR) surgery, but he now also has a chance to make a playoff appearance for the first time in his six-year career. Since it is crazy to think that the second-overall pick has not played a single postseason game, we at the Morning Skate decided to look into some other players who have yet to make a single playoff appearance in their career.
#3 Mackenzie Blackwood
The New Jersey Devils goaltender has been in the league for four seasons but has yet to appear in a postseason game. It was 2017-18 when the Devils last made the playoffs, while Blackwood didn’t make his debut until the 2018-19 season. Patience is a virtue for the 6-foot-4 Blackwood, who may still be a few seasons away from his first appearance.
#2 Tyler Bertuzzi
Bertuzzi has spent the past six seasons with the Detroit Red Wings, and like New Jersey, Detroit has been in a rebuild that whole time. Hockeytown last made the playoffs during the 2015-16 campaign, while the 6-foot-1 forward joined the franchise the year after. Luckily for Bertuzzi, it appears this may be the season he finally plays hockey past the regular season.
#1 Jeff Skinner
At 29 years old, Skinner has played nearly 800 NHL games without a single trip to the postseason. It has been 11 seasons without a quest for the Cup for Skinner and will likely become 12, as the Buffalo Sabres are currently ranked bottom-five in the league. With a contract that most teams are unwilling to touch, Skinner may be running out of chances.
Still on the Schneid
On Tuesday night, in a 5-4 home win over the Columbus Blue Jackets, Toronto Maple Leafs’ offseason acquisition Nick Ritchie finally notched his first goal of the season, snapping a 26-game drought with his new club. While his teammates were pretty hyped for him, it was kind of about time for a guy who has been healthy and is getting top-six opportunities.
We’re deep enough into the 2021-22 NHL season that anyone who has played in a reasonable amount of games and receives regular ice time should probably have a goal or two. Yet, here we stand with some pretty good players having not found the back of the net. Come on guys, any day now!
Blake Wheeler – Winnipeg Jets
Yes, the Jets captain and 1,000-game veteran still has yet to hit the back of the net this season despite registering 13 assists. The 35-year-old missed a few games earlier this season, but he has still dressed for 20 to date. You’d think that would be enough for a guy with 279 career goals to light the lamp once.
Thomas Chabot – Ottawa Senators
Goalless defensemen are unquestionably more understandable than a forward who hasn’t scored, but Chabot’s 0 in the scoring column is still a bit curious. The Senators’ blue line anchor averages 27:26 of ice time (TOI) per game, more than a minute greater than the next highest TOI logger (Darnell Nurse, Edmonton Oilers).
Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks
For Toews, just being back on the ice and playing is an achievement after missing the 2020-21 season with chronic immune response syndrome. While everyone understands the patience required in Toews’ recovery process, things tend to get a bit awkward when you consider that the Blackhawks have $10.5 million of cap space dedicated to a player sporting a minus-14 with no goals and nine assists in 25 games.
Joonas Donskoi – Seattle Kraken
While there might be bigger names still without a goal this season (Zach Parise and Loui Eriksson come to mind), those tend to be aging veterans who have settled into depth roles. At 29, and playing for the expansion Seattle Kraken, Donskoi should theoretically be getting ample opportunities to score. However, the Finn has yet to notch a goal to go along with his 12 assists. Come on, Joonas, get Kraken!
Changing the Locks
On Wednesday night, there was colossal news surrounding the Arizona Coyotes and how they may be locked out of Gila River Arena by the City of Glendale for unpaid arena charges and delinquent tax bills. This is surprising news, even for an organization that has seen a continuous loop of problems for the past few years, from changing ownership to making late bonus payments to players.
Let’s talk hypothetically here, as the Coyotes are still in the desert and will be presumably staying there for now. However, this could change quickly, and if NHL commissioner Gary Bettman decides that this has been a failed experiment, where does this franchise go next? Here are three potential options.
It seems like Houston is destined to be the next landing spot for an NHL team, as Tilman Fertitta, owner of the NBA’s Houston Rockets, has been adamant about wanting a franchise. In 2017, John Shannon reported that Fertitta asked more questions directly to the league than the representatives themselves, as he was doing his due diligence. Considering they are already in the loop, and this has been going on for nearly half a decade, Houston is the favorite to be the next landing spot, and the Coyotes’ situation could present an opportunity.
There is still a chance it will happen one day, and it could be sooner than you imagine. Considering Atlanta got two options at housing an NHL team, Quebec City can return. However, there is a narrative out there that Bettman will not want to bring a franchise back to the city, as he explained in 2016 why the league rewarded a team to Las Vegas instead. “Unfortunately, the state and volatility of the Canadian dollar undermined the achievement of that objective relative to the Quebec City,” Bettman claimed. It may happen someday, but the odds are against a reunion in the immediate future.
Although not as popular of an opinion, there is a good chance that Kansas City will eventually get an NHL franchise in the next few decades. The city currently has a team playing in the ECHL, the Kansas City Mavericks, at Silverstein Eye Centers Arena. Bill Daly, the NHL’s Deputy Commissioner, stated in an email from 2017 that, “Kansas City has never been entirely off our radar screen.'” If they can find an owner that makes the investment, there is a willingness from the league to make this fit work.