NHL Week in Review (December 20-26)

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It is that time of year again as the NHL has gone through their Christmas break and is ready to begin the heart of their season.

As the league is set to approach the halfway mark the focus, at least for a few weeks, shifts to across the Atlantic where the best young players are putting on a show.

The World Juniors are a big tournament in some places and that is no truer than in the NHL’s biggest market, Canada.

The Juniors are a holiday tradition in Canada as Boxing Day has been a day to sit and watch Team Canada in their first game.

It is getting to be a bigger tournament every year as international hockey is only getting better.

The major teams throughout the world never took the Juniors too seriously but with an influx of new young talent from around the world these countries have a different attitude.

As a part of that different attitude there are more countries looking to the NHL to see how their team will be put together.

That is because more players than ever are in the NHL or the AHL and it is up to the NHL club to decide if the young stars will get to attend the tournament.

It seems to be a constant question among NHL teams and the league in general as their relationship with the IIHF continues to be tenuous.

The NHL is the pinnacle of hockey throughout the world and despite multiple other leagues attempting to match them, none have reached that level.

Yet despite their standing some of the biggest titles in the world of hockey all are under the umbrella of the IIHF.

So with the best players playing in the NHL and also wanting to represent their countries under the IIHF both governing bodies need to have a good relationship.

Yet there is one big difference between these two groups, one invests millions of dollars into their players and the other doesn’t pay players.

Playing for your country is strictly voluntary but it still provides the risk that any hockey provides and for the NHL that is not a good thing.

Investing millions of dollars into a player and having them injured while playing a game that has nothing to do with their team is the ultimate risk.

So there is a debate every year around the World Juniors and every four years around the Olympics.hockey-sidebar

The league and every team have to decide how important these tournaments are and what they can get from the tournaments.

After all if their great player participates and finishes in fifth place or lower is there really much of an advantage.

This year there were multiple teams that waited until the last minute to release their young stars to their national teams.

They debated whether or not the Juniors have a real purpose for the development of their players.

Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Mike Babcock even stated that he wasn’t sure if there was a purpose.

That was concerning for Finland and Sweden as Kasperi Kapanen and William Nylander were both key pieces to each team’s hopes.

Both played in the AHL and therefore were at the mercy of the Leafs to decide whether they get to go.

In the end the Leafs released both players to their teams as they joined a number of NHL prospects in the tournament.

This constant debate only continues in the coming years as the Winter Olympics approaches again in a market that the NHL has no interest in, at least right now, in South Korea.

It seems like a simple decision after the negotiations to go to Russia went down to the wire but it is not as simple as one might think.

The NHL is interested in China and after South Korea hosts the Olympics it will be Beijing’s turn for the Winter Olympics.

That may make the NHL think twice about stopping their players from attending the games in the near future.

The relationship between the IIHF and NHL is only highlighted at this time of year as the Juniors get underway and teams watch nervously as the future of their teams play in Finland.

(Other News this week in hockey)

Worst Fears Realized
A major concern of NHL teams with the Juniors is seeing a future prospect go down with a serious injury and for the Los Angeles Kings and Toronto Maple Leafs as Adrian Kempe and William Nylander both went down with hits to the head

Stamkos Responds
The rumours surrounding Steven Stamkos have been around all year as his contract ends at the end of the season but despite the rumours connecting him everywhere in the league he stated in an interview that he wants to stay in Tampa Bay

Another Legend Lost
The list of Canadiens legends is long and among the best list in the sport and a member of that list was Dickie Moore who passed away this week but will always be remembered for being a member of the five-peat in the long list of Canadiens accomplishments


Key Scores:
Washington Capitals 7 – 3 New York Rangers
– For most of the year the Rangers were sitting on top of their division for most of the start of the year but the Capitals have taken over and showed just how good they have been by easily getting past the Rangers in a battle of the top two teams in the Metropolitan

Dallas Stars 6 – 3 Minnesota Wild
– The stars have emerged as the best team in hockey and they showed what has made them so great putting up great offensive numbers against the Wild who were just trying to climb the rankings the Central

San Jose Sharks 5 – 3 Los Angeles Kings
– The Kings had solidified their spot at the top of the Pacific division but the Sharks are coming for their spot and took a chunk out of their lead with a big win against the Kings to get closer to unseating them

Washington Capitals 3 – 1 Montreal Canadiens
– The two best teams in the east faced off looking to show who truly was the beast of the east and when the final whistle blew it was the Capitals who came out on top while the Canadiens continued to struggle without Carey Price

Next Week:
Edmonton Oilers vs. Calgary Flames (Sunday December 27th; 9:00 pm ET)
– The Battle of Alberta may not have the same fire behind it with both teams sitting at the bottom of the league but the Flames are beginning to get some momentum and will try to continue it against their provincial rivals

Chicago Blackhawks vs. Arizona Coyotes (Tuesday December 29th; 9:00 pm ET)
– The Blackhawks did not start the year as they were used to but it seems like they are back on track moving up the Central standings and will try to continue the climb against the Coyotes who are trying to continue an unlikely season

Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins (Friday January 1st; 1:00 pm ET)
– It is one of the oldest rivals in the sport and now it will be taken outside as the Canadiens travel to Foxborough at Gillette Stadium for the NHL winter Classic where two top teams and bitter rivals fight it out

New York Rangers vs. Florida Panthers (Saturday January 2nd; 7:00 pm ET)
– The Panthers are quietly rising in the Atlantic division and they will try to prove that they are good enough to compete with the best teams in the league as they take on the Rangers who sit near the top of their division

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