NHL Week in Review (February 26-March 4)

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The free agency era in sports truly changed the face of every major professional league and the path of every major league.

Before free agency was introduced a player would make it to a team and would never leave making them a legend in that city.

In the NHL players like Maurice Richard, Dave Keon, Bobby Hull, and so much more became legends in their cities because they never left those cities.

All of the successes for each team came with those players leading the way and their entire careers were spent in the cities that they started with.

It was great for the fans and the teams but not necessarily great for the players who had no power at all.

They couldn’t get paid any more than they were and they couldn’t threaten to leave because there was no system in place to deal with players moving teams aside from trades.

It wasn’t until 1995 when the NHL adopted free agency in a wave that swept across every professional league in North America.

The era of free agency had begun and with that, the era of the legends in one city began to disappear.

Players began to wait until the end of their contracts to see what else was out there and often they found a bidding war that helped them choose a new team.

Teams began trading players knowing that a big payday was coming and they couldn’t afford it so instead of seeing the player walk away and getting nothing from it, they could trade to get another player or a draft pick.

Players began to move more and more throughout the years and after decades of free agency the player that stays in one city is almost entirely extinct.

There are only a handful of players who are good enough for teams to shell out the big money to keep them in the same city.

It is tough for those legends to establish themselves and with their constant movement, the fans can have varying reactions.

Players have a lot of different reasons for leaving a city by choice and sometimes they have no choice in the matter.

When a player leaves for selfish reasons, like getting a bigger contract or after some unrest in the locker room, fans tend to turn on them pretty quickly.

Jerseys will be burned and boos will be heard every time they touch the puck in their return as they go from a beloved player to one of the most hated.

That isn’t the case every time though as some players will leave after spending years in one city but never winning a championship in order to try to get that title.

Most of the time the fans realise that and they won’t unleash the hate that other players get when they leave a city.

The same can be said for trades as players have little choice in the matter unless they request a trade, and teams often appreciate these players when they return.

That was seen this week when the free agency era struck home for the Montreal Canadiens and their fans.

This off-season the NHL world was rocked when out of nowhere the Canadiens traded away their top player in PK Subban to Nashville for Shea Weber.hockey-sidebar

The debate had started as to whether or not the trade was a win for either team but the fact was that Subban was gone from the only city he knew.

He had been a somewhat polarising figure in the city as his flashiness got under the skin of traditionalists and excited a new generation.

He had also established himself in the city through his amazing charity work with the children’s hospital.

That work and his personality made him a beloved player as well but that didn’t matter when he was traded away.

The true appreciation of Subban in Montreal came out in a big way this week when Subban returned to Montreal for the first time.

The Canadiens played a tribute video to Subban and the fans gave him a long standing ovation bringing tears to the defenceman’s eyes.

It was an emotional night but it is one that has become far more common as players continue to move throughout the NHL.

The movement does have one major advantage though as it makes everything more event with more teams able to compete at a higher level.

That came into focus this week as well when the Trade Deadline came and went with a few moves that will be interesting to watch.

More legends will be made in the next month as the NHL heads into the heart of the playoff hunt with more than a few teams in the fight to earn a spot.

(More on this week in hockey)

Deadline Day
Like many had thought the Trade Deadline day came and went without much movement but that didn’t stop a number of teams from making some bigger moves in the days leading up to the deadline

Strange Days in Detroit
Detroit is the home of hockey in the USA and they have been a constant in the playoffs with a historic 25-years streak of making the playoffs but that seems like they are going to end that streak as they sit near the bottom of the standings as the playoff race heats up

Playoff Race
The playoff race is underway as the Trade Deadline Day is over and the end of the regular season is in sight with the playoffs race heating up although some teams are faltering at the wrong time like the Maple Leafs who have fallen out of the playoffs


Key Scores:
San Jose Sharks 3-1 Toronto Maple Leafs
– For the Leafs this was a chance to prove that they are a team that can compete with the best teams in the league and although they put up a fight they came up short beginning a fall out of the playoffs

Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 Pittsburgh Penguins
– Two powerhouse teams faced off as both are likely headed to the playoffs this year with a shot at the Cup and they got a shot at each other first with the Blackhawks coming out on top of the defending champions

Montreal Canadiens 2-1 Nashville Predators
– PK Subban made his emotional return to the only city he knew after the trade this summer and he came back with an assist but it wasn’t enough for the win as the Canadiens took the win and stopped a slide.

Winnipeg Jets 3-0 St. Louis Blues
– The Jets and the Blues are two teams that will need to fight for their spot in the playoffs and their fight against each other will turn out to be important as well as the Jets took the win to move closer to a spot

Next Week:
San Jose Sharks vs. Minnesota Wild (Sunday, March 5th; 6:00 pm ET)
– The top two teams in the west face off in a match-up of teams vying for the Stanley Cup this year as they look to take the win and move ahead in the conference standings with great seasons under their belts so far

Detroit Red Wings vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (Tuesday, March 7th; 7:30 pm ET)
– For the Maple Leafs, the reality of a playoff berth is sinking in but they have struggled in the last few weeks to remain a playoff team and now they take on an old rival to get back into the hunt

Pittsburgh Penguins vs. Edmonton Oilers (Friday, March 10th; 9:00 pm ET)
– The Penguins are the defending championships and look like they will be headed to the playoffs again while the Oilers are hoping to break their playoff drought with every game getting more important

New York Islanders vs. St. Louis Blues (Saturday, March 11th; 8:00 pm ET)
– Two teams sitting right on the edge of the playoffs are facing off and both need more points if they want to continue their fight for a playoff spot as games like this only become more important as the weeks move on

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