NHL Week in Review (February 15-21)

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The ugly side of the NHL arose once again this week as another death took a former player too soon. Steve Montador is the type of player that seems to fit the bill in these cases as a player that was never exceptionally great but good enough to play in the NHL. He was not necessarily a tough guy but he was a tough defenceman that was never at the top of the scoring charts but had a great stay-at-home game that many defenceman don’t have in this age. Montador had bounced around for years remaining in the NHL until 2012 when a concussion changed everything. He had been through concussion before but the latest one was the one that would start the end of his career. He was sent to the AHL and in 2014 signed a one-year deal with Medveščak Zagreb of the KHL. That was the last team he would be a part of as his career was finished with little to no options. Concussions had ended his career and according to his family they had also changed him greatly. His brother has stated that he was no longer the same person that he grew up with. Something had changed in Montador and much of that change had been attributed to the concussion that he had suffered. Event Montador himself realized this as he had become an advocate for brain injury research and donated his brain to the Canadian Sports Concussion Program. Studies on his brain have yet to be done but it is suspected that he suffered from depression due to his multiple concussions. Whether he had the beginnings of CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) that has been linked to depression and dementia will not be seen for some time. Montador’s death was not a suicide as ruled by the coroner and the autopsy has yet to conclude what truly happened to the former NHL defenceman. With his concussion history though there are plenty of theories that his concussions may have had some kind of effect in the end. The death is a tragic one and one that has come too soon for a good player. Whether or not the concussions he suffered had a true effect in any part of his death the fact is that the NHL is in a position where the death of a player at a fairly young age, especially one who had issues with concussions, begins the discussion around concussions in hockey. That is even truer when the player in question was set to begin his own legal action against the league. With someone so involved in the concussion issues of the league the talk around the NHL this week started up again about the one thing that most leagues that have plenty of contact would prefer to go away. Concussions in all contact sports have become a serious issues with reports of former players continuing to suffer from lingering effects from these head injuries. As the NHL moves into a new era they are looking to create a place where these injuries will cease to exist. It is not a simple problem and one that won’t be solved any time soon. The only sure-fire way to solve the issue of concussion is to rid the game of all contact which would essentially remove one of the most exciting parts of the game. Removing hitting takes the physicality out of the game and although there are advocates for that process the fact is it has become a major part of the game. The physicality along with the skill and speed is what makes NHL hockey so popular. A sport that can at once be rough and beautiful is what makes the league great and taking that out would only do harm. The NHL has attempted to take the unnecessary hits out of the game, hits to the head that are the main cause of concussions. Meanwhile former players continue to suffer and lawsuits continue to be brought to the forefront of the NHL. The league continues to deal with these issues and despite the fact that Montador’s death may not have been related to his concussion issues it does point out yet another player who had concussion issues is gone too soon and his fight against concussions is over too soon. The fight against these issues will continue though and unfortunately the reality is that there will be more loss of life before a solution is found.

(Extra Thoughts on this week in hockey)

Kessel up for grabs?
The Toronto Maple Leafs have already been given the go ahead by ownership to make big changes to the team and with the trade deadline approaching the rumours are swirling with the team’s top scorer, Phil Kessel at the top of the list

Vigneault reaches 500
Alain Vigneault has seen plenty of success in his time as a head coach in the NHL and for that success he has amassed a number of wins including his 500th win this week as the head coach of the New York Rangers

Miracle on Ice reunion
The Miracle on Ice is possibly the greatest accomplishment in USA hockey history and the members of the USA Olympic Team from 1980 joined together at the arena where they beat the big red machine of the Soviet Union


Key Scores:
Chicago Blackhawks 2 – 1 Pittsburgh Penguins (SO)
– The Blackhawks and Penguins have been two of the strongest teams in the NHL over the past few years but both have not been playing their best hockey as they head towards the trade deadline but the Blackhawks took this win sending the Penguins down the rankings again

New York Rangers 6 – 5 New York Islanders
– The Battle of New York is becoming all the more important as the playoff hunt approaches as both teams sit at the top of the division and could soon begin a battle for the #1 spot down the stretch

Detroit Red Wings 3 – 2 Chicago Blackhawks (SO)
– The Blackhawks continued to struggle this year as they have not been able to be as dominant as usual and against one of their oldest rivals in the Detroit Red Wings they once again fell short losing in a shootout

Los Angeles Kings 2 – 1 San Jose Sharks
– Marion Gaborik put an exclamation point on the second outdoor game in California when the Kings took on the Sharks at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara to end the outdoor schedule for another year

Next Week:
Vancouver Canucks vs. Boston Bruins (Tuesday February 24th; 7:00 pm ET)
– The Canucks and Bruins do not have a long history but it is a good history as the Bruins beat the Canucks in 2011 for the Stanley Cup in a great series that remains a thorn in the sides of all who follow the Canucks

Minnesota Wild vs. Nashville Predators (Thursday February 26th; 8:30 pm ET)
– The Nashville Predators are the best team in the NHL right now as they look to continue their run through the league and towards the playoffs including this game against the Wild as they try to run away with the Central Division

Los Angeles Kings vs. Anaheim Ducks (Friday February 27th; 10:00 pm ET)
– The Ducks and Kings have long fought it out for the Pacific Division for years but this year is a different story as the Kings continue to struggle to find their way to the top of the division while the Ducks sit almost uncontested in first

Buffalo Sabres vs. Florida Panthers (Saturday February 28th; 3:00 pm ET)
– The Sabres and Panthers have long been the two teams fighting it out for the worst team in the league and this year the Sabres are winning that race as they take on the Panthers in another edition of the toilet bowl

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