First things first: I am thrilled to be writing for XNsports.com! Thanks to Tom Fitzgerald and co. for bringing me on board!
There’s been no shortage of noteworthy stories around the NHL the last couple weeks and since I haven’t written a “Murph’s Musings” for a bit now, and being that “Festivus” started Monday it’s time to vent and get some thoughts off my head!
–Suspended Bruins winger Shawn Thornton is allowed under the current collective bargaining agreement signed almost a year ago to appeal his 15-game suspension given to him December 14 for his actions in the now infamous Bruins-Penguins game on December 7 that also saw Penguins winger James Neal get suspended five games for a knee to the head of Bruins winger Brad Marchand. While it’s highly unlikely Thornton will win his appeal, it’s in the best interest of not only him if he feels he was given an unfair suspension but of all NHL players for Thornton to test this new process of appeal. The players missed half a season and fought hard for this right to appeal and should use it when they see fit. Regardless of public opinion on whether he deserved what he got, more games or less (I think less!) it is now part of the suspension process. So for all those righteous media and fans who during the lockout at this time last year were 100 percent behind the players — whether they were wrong or right – please spare me your hypocrisy. For those wondering when this current appeal will be resolved, Thornton has met with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and Bettman is expected to present his written decision by Friday. Thornton then has the right to bring his case to an independent arbitrator should Bettman deny the appeal. That independent arbitrator can then uphold, increase or reduce the number of games. According to a source close to Thornton, he will proceed to an arbitrator if as expected Bettman upholds the suspension.
–Thornton’s teammate Milan Lucic has made some headlines this month, once for using his fists and another for resisting the use of them. Following an embarrassing 6-2 loss to the Canucks, Lucic decided to blow some steam off with some old friends in his native city and unfortunately became a YouTube sensation. But it turned out Lucic was not to blame for the unwanted notoriety as according to him, and many witnesses there, the Bruins’ leading goal scorer (with 12 lamplighters) as of Sunday was sucker-punched by some bonehead and as that video shows resisted physical retaliation.
But did a spirited fight with Oilers forward Luke Gazdic in his team’s previous game on Dec. 12 have similar motivations? That Gazdic-Lucic bout was one for the ages and both Lucic and Gazdic showed uncommon passion and hate for two combatants that have never faced each other. Well, it just so happens that Gazdic is Croatian and Lucic is Serbian. At last check, those are two longtime rival ethnic backgrounds and according to a Croatian friend of this scribe that resides in Vancouver, that wouldn’t be the first time hatred between Croatians and Serbians has carried onto the streets of Vancouver. Lucic said he was pursuing legal charges in the matter and to this date his assailant has not been identified so there is nothing to date that would indicate this had ethnic motivations. But still it was an interesting observation by this Croatian hockey fan that claimed his heritage hasn’t prevented him from being a huge fan of Lucic’s game.
One more note on Lucic, according to a Hockey Canada source, Lucic could become the first Canadian of Serbian decent to represent Canada in the Olympics. Many have – and in the eyes of this scribe unfairly – knocked his skating and said he wouldn’t be a fit for the larger ice surface in Sochi, but apparently Lucic has proven otherwise and worked his way into bubble status.
–Just wondering, are the Bruins regretting not bringing Jaromir Jagr back? Or are the Canadiens who are rumored to be looking for a “finisher” on the trade market wishing they granted Jagr’s longtime wishes to play for them? Heading into his team’s final game (at Chicago) before the Christmas break, the 41-year-old future hall of famer – who seems to reach a milestone every other game – had a seven-game point streak going with eleven points during that span. Jagr’s latest milestone came in a 5-4 overtime win over the Capitals when he scored his 694th career goal, tying Mark Messier for seventh on the NHL’s all-time list. He leads the Devils in points with 33 and right now is one of the best free agent signings of the 2013-14 season.
— Speaking of the Habs and their rumored search for some scoring help, the always-connected Larry Brooks wrote that Montreal could be willing to make a Max Pacioretty trade—their leading goal scorer this season. Brooks mentioned the Rangers, Islanders and Flyers as all having inquired about Pacioretty who has 15 lamplighters heading into his team’s game at Nashville Monday. The American-born and Tri-State native Pacioretty has never been shy about his feelings when things are going wrong or about the love-hate relationship the rabid Montreal fans cast upon him and his teammates. A Canadiens source told “Murph’s Musings” that has not gone unnoticed by teammates and management so maybe that’s why Pacioretty is the subject of such trade rumors? But still, if GM Marc Bergevin is looking for scoring then why trade away his leading goal scorer and the closest thing the Habs have to a power-forward?
–While many feared the worst for the L.A. Kings when 2012 Vezina Trophy winner Jonathan Quick went down with a groin injury in early November, TSN NHL Network analyst and co-host of ‘Leafs Lunch’ on TSN 1050 Jamie McLennan told me on “Murphy’s Hockey Law” back on November 16 that the Kings would be just fine because not only did they have Ben Scrivens – who was just starting to find his game – but they also had called up the relatively unknown and undrafted Martin Jones who the Kings signed as a unrestricted free agent in 2008. McLennan watched Jones make a name for himself at the junior level with the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL and pointed out that the 23-year-old North Vancouver, B.C. native was off to a solid start in the AHL with the Kings affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs.
Well, McLennan was right as heading into action Monday night, Jones was off to the second best start in NHL history for a rookie goaltender. Per the NHL and their daily “NHL Morning Skate” emails to the media, Jones is 8-0-0 with a 0.98 goals-against average, .966 save percentage and three shutouts in his first eight NHL games. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the second netminder in NHL history to win his first eight games, matching Bob Froese of the 1982-83 Flyers. Jones also is the first goaltender to start and allow two or fewer goals in each of his first eight games since 1938-39, when Bruins netminder Frank Brimsek began his NHL career with a 12-game streak. Besides the amazing emergence of Josh Harding as a Vezina Trophy candidate as he battles multiple sclerosis, Jones may be the feel-good of the season as we enter the Christmas break.
–Being based in Montreal now (one of, if not the best hockey cities in North America and the world) there is no shortage Olympic hockey talk dominating the airwaves for me to listen to. As one might imagine there has been plenty of opinion on whether the reigning Norris Trophy winner P.K. Subban should be on the Olympic roster in Sochi for Hockey Canada. My vote is yes. Subban is just too skilled a player to leave off that roster and could be just the type of player that provides those key momentum changing moments needed in a two-week tournament. But whether it’s hockey not being as relevant in the United States and even more so where he plays, there hasn’t been enough conversation over one of the most consistent and skilled U.S. born defenseman. Since the last Olympic season (2009-10) and entering this season, Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle had recorded 195 points which was second most amongst all NHL defenseman during that span. Duncan Keith was first with 211 points. Between the 2009-10 season and this season he was a combined plus 32. He is a two-time all star and was a main reason the Coyotes reached the conference finals in 2012. Heading into action Monday, Yandle had 22 points in 35 games. It would be an even bigger oversight than Subban being left off the Canadian roster should USA hockey do the same to Yandle.
— Finally since Christmas Eve is Tuesday, I leave you with one of my favorite Christmas tunes and for all my loved ones and my supporters, I’m “the lucky one, came in 18-1” thanks to you!