What we learned from the last week of play in the NHL:
Did Bob Murray duck the real issue?
The Ducks general manager nibbled at the edge of his swooning team’s problems Monday by acquiring forward Devin Shore from the Dallas Stars for heart-and-soul winger Andrew Cogliano. Shore, 24, had five goals and 17 points in 42 games with the Stars; his personal bests are 13 goals and 33 points in 2016-17. The Ducks’ skid stands at 0-7-4, the NHL’s longest winless streak since the Arizona Coyotes went 0-10-1 at the start of last season. “We’re trying to get younger but we’re also looking for some people with a little more creativity because we’re not scoring enough goals,” Murray said of the Ducks, whose average of 2.37 goals per game ranked 30th through Sunday’s action. He added, “Enough is enough. I’m a bit surprised. I thought some people would be farther along in this sort of vein where they have the experience and they’ve been around enough and know how to do it when the going is tough, and it’s very tough right now.” Murray said Sunday that he’d focus on getting players to raise their games and that he wasn’t considering firing coach Randy Carlyle; Murray on Monday declined to answer when asked how long a leash he has given Carlyle. It should be a short leash if Murray is serious about steering a team with lots of young and individual talent into a cohesive Stanley Cup contender. That’s not happening under Carlyle.
At least they’re talking
Representatives of the NHL and NHL Players’ Assn. met in Las Vegas on Thursday to discuss the collective bargaining agreement, which is scheduled to end in 2022 but can be terminated in September 2020 if either side exercises an opt-out clause this year. “I think we had a constructive dialogue,” Commissioner Gary Bettman told the Associated Press. “But beyond that, we have nothing to announce and I have nothing to add.” He also said, “We’ll see what happens but I’m not looking for a fight.” Translation: He’s looking for a fight. He imposed three lockouts in three labor negotiations and it’s logical to think he will go four for four. The sides planned to meet again this week. Another topic they’re expected to discuss is reviving the World Cup of Hockey in 2020. Also of note: The league tested technology that will track pucks and players and supply fans with instant information on players’ speed, skating distance and other aspects of the game. Microchips were embedded in players’ shoulder pads and special pucks were used in two Vegas Golden Knights home games. The plan is to implement tracking next season. The league and the NHLPA will share the data, which will enhance analytics and increase the number of betting opportunities. It’s interesting stuff with enormous potential. Bettman also visited Seattle, where he promised that the new team — which will make its debut in the 2021-22 season — will host the annual draft as well as an All-Star game within its first seven seasons.
A premier power forward who scored 40 or more goals three times and was the NHL’s third-leading active goal scorer with 437, Rick Nash announced his retirement Friday because of the cumulative effects of head injuries. He was a force in his younger days but concussions slowed him and finally stopped him; his agent tweeted that doctors said Nash would risk further brain injury if he played again. Nash, 34, was dealt from the New York Rangers to the Boston Bruins at the trade deadline last season and suffered another concussion in March. He played 11 regular-season games and 12 playoff games for the Bruins and became a free agent after last season but told teams not to pursue him because he wasn’t sure he’d play. Keith Primeau, another power forward whose career was cut short by concussions, offered a neat summation of Nash’s problem. “I got hit because I gave it out myself,” Primeau told the Columbus Dispatch. “He got hit because he had the puck.”
The Stars aren’t shining
Dallas coach Jim Montgomery didn’t hide his anger after his team lost to also-rans the Philadelphia Flyers on Thursday and St. Louis Blues on Saturday. “Two games in a row where we don’t compete at a level that’s acceptable,” Montgomery told the Dallas Morning News. “It’s everybody. Unfortunately, I’m very frustrated that I have not been able to gain consistency in our performance, and I haven’t been able to change the culture of mediocrity.” The Stars sit near the bottom of the league with an average of 2.63 goals per game, and they’ve been held to two goals or fewer 26 times. Dallas faded out of playoff contention last season and missed for the second straight season. Montgomery was hired away from the University of Denver to change their fortunes, but it’s taking a while. The Stars were third in the Central Division through Sunday’s games but are lucky that the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild have been slumping.
Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, suspended by the team for last Thursday’s game because of an unspecified incident, returned to dress as the backup Saturday and started Sunday in the Blue Jackets’ 7-5 home victory over the Rangers. Uncertainty over the status of Bobrovsky and gifted forward Artemi Panarin, who both can become unrestricted free agents this summer, was expected to hurt the Blue Jackets. But so far, so good: Columbus has won three in a row and seven of 10 and stands second in the Metropolitan Division.