For my 3rd installment of NHL Award Previews (see Norris trophy and Calder trophy articles), I will cover the Messier Leadership Award. It is the newest award, with its introduction in 2007. The Messier Leadership Award has been presented to Chris Chelios, Mats Sundin, Jarome Iginla, Sidney Crosby, and reigning awardee Zdeno Chara.
What do these players have in common? They have all stepped up to lead their teams when they were needed most. Chelios won in 2007, the year after Steve Yzerman retired. Yzerman was not only the longest serving captain of the Red Wings, but the longest serving NHL captain of all time with a 20 year tenure. Those are some big shoes to fill, and Chelios did that without even wearing a “C”. When Chara won the award last year, he was both the captain of his team and a recent Stanley Cup winner.
Messier’s choices show a wide range of players. Some have formal leadership roles, while others step up when they see fit. Some players are defensemen, while others are forwards. Some leaders thrive in community initiatives off the ice, while others see on-ice success. Winners of the award have also been from a wide array of countries including Canada, USA, Slovakia, and Sweden.
According to Messier, this year’s candidates are Dustin Brown of the LA Kings, Ryan Callahan of the NY Rangers, and Shane Doan of the Phoenix Coyotes.
- Dustin Brown helped lead the Kings to their Stanley Cup win. He has respect from his teammates and rightfully so. Kings defenseman Matt Green said (about Brown), “Well, he’s not a rah-rah guy, we don’t have too many of those guys in the room. But he knows how to lead, and he does it by example.”
- Ryan Callahan led the Rangers into the playoffs as the #1 seed in the Eastern Conference. Callahan inspires his team by getting down to work and scoring goals when his team needs it. He is also an important leader for Rangers fans as the first NY native to wear the coveted Rangers “C”.
- Shane Doan was instrumental in gaining the Coyotes first ever division title. The Coyotes also had an amazing playoff run despite low fan engagement and ownership issues. According to Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, “You don’t see all the things happening behind the scenes, in the dressing room, the inspiration he is to the other guys there, how he cares about this team and winning”.
All three players are fit to win the Messier Leadership Award. They are inspirational, talented, and are the go-to man for their respective teams. So who will win? Logic tells me it will be Doan who has faced so many club/off-ice issues and yet so much team success. However, it is hard to imagine that Mark “We are going to win it” Messier not choosing a Ranger as talented as Ryan Callahan.
Here is a video of Torres’ nasty shoulder hit on Hossa in the Coyotes vs. Blackhawks 4/17/12 playoff game .
Torres got a 25 game suspension for this hit. Even though this is a injury-causing shoulder hit, 25 games is a long time. This ensures that Torres will not play until part of the way into next season (and he will definitely miss the rest of the playoffs this year).
I was left to wonder if I have ever seen such a long suspension in the NHL. I did some research and there were some (but not many) suspensions that were for 20+ games (only 5 in total that were for 25+ games). Needless to say, the video footage is hard to watch. I was surprised to see how much these suspension-causing penalties differed. Torres got in trouble for throwing his shoulder into an illegal hit, but some of these other suspensions were caused by punching, cross-checking, slashing to the face, and even an attack on a referee.
Check out the hit that ended Steve Moore’s career and got Todd Bertuzzi suspended from March 2004 until August 2005.
30 games is the highest number of games a player has ever been suspended for. That record goes to Chris Simon of the NY Islanders for stomping on the leg of Jarkko Ruutu.
Chris Simon also got a 25 game suspension for slashing Ryan Hollweg in the head. This might be the worst one to watch. Ouch.
And lastly, the only player who was suspended from the NHL for life was Billy Coutu of the Boston Bruins in 1927. He started an all-out bench-clearing brawl in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final when he attacked two of the referees (yes, tackling was involved). The NHL ban was dropped after a couple years, but Coutu never played again. Unfortunately for all of us hockey fans, there is no footage of this event (considering it was in 1927). And just to put that in perspective, that was 2 years before there were any rules about off-sides in the NHL.
Do you think the Torres suspension was fair? Should he have received 25 games? Now we just have to wait and hear if Torres is going to appeal his suspension.
Will Seattle ever have an NHL team? It seems that the issue keeps coming up from various sources in the NHL and Gary Bettman made it sound like it was definitely possible. A couple questions arise when discussing this issue:
Why now? Well, plans are being unveiled for Seattle’s new arena that will be easily accessible for both basketball and hockey teams. San Francisco’s Chris Hansen (who is actually from Seattle and is a hedge-fund manager) is interested in bringing a basketball team back to Seattle. He has bought up land near Safeco Field (see the Seattle Times picture to the left) which is in the perfect location for a new arena. The question is, will Seattle be able to get both a basketball team (which is what Hansen and his investors seem most interested in), or will there also be opportunity for a hockey team to move into the arena?
Chris Hansen and investors have talked about bringing in an NBA team to Seattle and it seems possible considering the amount of money and passion behind the idea. Hansen has continuously talked to Seattle media about how the Supersonics impacted his childhood. Hansen has his eyes on prize (which happens to be the Sacramento Kings) and seems focused on bringing the sport he loves back to the city he grew up in.
But, what does this mean for potential Seattle hockey? According to Gary Bettman, Seattle (as well as 5 other cities) seem to be options for a hockey team that might re-locate. Bettman has stipulated that definite arena plans must be made before the NHL will approve a relocation. And every other city that seems to be an option doesn’t seem very simple. Quebec would love for a new team to come up North, but the Nords’ old arena is fairly small and rundown. Kansas City was another option raised, but is mid-America really the best place to attract hockey fans and why hasn’t any team committed to the new arena since it was built in 2007?
According to the Globe and Mail, AHL Chicago-Wolves owner, Don Levin came out today and told Hansen he would be interested in getting involved with bringing a hockey team to Seattle. This is a major step in getting Hansen and his basketball-minded investors to start thinking about the dual-benefits of a multi-purpose/multi-sport arena. NHL Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said that Don Levin has been interested in owning an NHL franchise for the last couple years.
And where would this team come from? It is nearly impossible to start a team from scratch in the NHL, and with realignment talks already in the works, this deal probably needs to go through fast. The only team that I think really has a chance of being relocated is the Phoenix Coyotes. Their fan base is weak, attendance is the second-worst in the league, the team is being run by the NHL, they have only won a couple more games than they have lost, and Arizona is not quite a place where ice-cold hockey fits in with the local culture. Not to mention the fact that the Coyotes have been losing money ever since they left Winnipeg to come to Arizona. But will Levin be accepted by Hansen? Will he be able to lure the Coyotes up North?
Alexander Ovechkin announced last week that he is skipping the NHL’s All-star weekend. After his announcement, many mixed reactions surfaced about his decision. His statement said, “My heart is not there. I’m suspended, so why I have to go there? I love the game; it’s great event. I’d love to be there, but I’m suspended. I don’t want to be a target. I feel I’m not deserving to be there right now. If I’m suspended, I have to be suspended, so that’s why I give up my roster [spot]”
Ovechkin was still upset about his suspension for his hit on Penguin Zbynek Michalek. Even Verizon Center owner Ted Leonsis and Capitals GM George McPhee came out to say that they both disagreed with Ovechkin’s suspension. You can see the suspension hit and explanation video here:
Players weighed in on Ovechkin’s decision through twitter. Andy McDonald of the St. Louis Blues was especially upset with Ove’s decision (see tweet below). Another NHL player who took a different approach to Ove’s decision was twitter-addict Paul Bissonnette of the Phoenix Coyotes. He tweeted: “Hey, it’s too bad Ovechkin isn’t going to the All Star Game. NHL could have added a rap battle to the skills competition.”
Clearly players have different options on Ove’s decision, but what about the NHL’s viewpoint? Well, it seems to be wishy-washy. In 2009 the NHL started to crack-down on players deciding not to attend the All-star game. Both Nicklas Lidstrom and Pavel Datsyuk were suspended for a game because of their decision not to go. In addition, an injured Sidney Crosby avoided suspension by flying out to the game and doing promotional work for the NHL even though he wasn’t playing. But this year, the NHL has not suspended anyone for not attending the All-star game. Ovechkin did not prove he was hurt (a stipulation enforced in 2009) and he did not go to help out with the promotions for the NHL.
The NHL’s decision to not suspend Ovechkin, Selanne, and Lidstrom (both Selanne and Lidstrom sited their age as their reason not to play in the game) could mean increased all-star back-outs in the future. If all-star players decide not to participate in all-star weekend it could mean a serious annual revenue loss for the NHL. Sponsors might back out, fans wouldn’t get hyped about the event, and merchandise sales would plummet. I mean, who would watch an all-star game with no all-star players?
Another argument regarding the NHL’s decision not to suspend Ovechkin is he is no longer as important to the NHL as he was a couple of years ago. For the past year and a half Ove has been in a major slump that has begun to eliminate his role as one of the main ‘faces of the NHL’. Without putting up the numbers, how can Ovechkin be viewed as one of the most important all-stars? Would the NHL be as accepting to a player like Evgeni Malkin or Pavel Datsyuk if they made a statement that they would not attend the All-star game?