Top questions of the 2015–16 NHL season

Photo by Jeff Vinnick via http://thescore.com

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. October 6, 2015

Here’s to another year of hockey, and, like the start of every school year, we have to wonder who will excel, what surprises will occur, and how all the changes will affect the grand scheme of things. Overtime storylines will play out on the ice, and we’ll learn the answers. Until then, these are the top question entering the 2015–16 NHL season:

Will Connor McDavid lead the Oilers to a playoff berth (and beyond)?

McDavid is marketed as the next Sidney Crosby, but will Edmonton—with its poor development system and defensive support—drain the talents of another first overall draft pick? Will McDavid be able to do what Nail Yakupov, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and Taylor Hall couldn’t? It took Crosby three full seasons before captaining the Penguins to a championship. How long will it take McDavid? No rush. The bar is low. For now, synergistically, Edmonton as a whole can aim for the next level and make it into the playoffs. Easy.

How will three-on-three overtime affect the overall standings?

The shootout has not been eliminated, but with three-on-three overtime, it might as well have been. I love this new tie-breaking format, however, I’m disappointed to see the end of four-on-four—if only there was some way to integrate that. Needless to say, with opening the ice for key players and reducing the flip-of-the-coin factor of shootouts we can see more skilled teams earning points. For example last season the Los Angeles Kings won 2 of 10 overtime shootouts. Those lost points could have ultimately gotten the former Stanley Cup champions into the playoffs, where they would have surely dominated.

Can coaching changes turn the tides for underachieving teams?

Mike Babcock to Toronto, Peter DeBoer to San Jose, Dan Bylsma to Buffalo, and Todd McLellan to Edmonton—these are a few of the high profile coaches standing behind new benches this season. The only reason coaches are moved is because their old teams are failing to achieve certain goals and their new teams have limited options. I don’t believe any coach can singlehandedly turn a franchise around, and as great as their track records are—especially for Babcock and Bylsma—I believe it’ll be a few years before they can make their mark. The thing is, will their new teams be so patient?

Will the Western Conference dominate the East again in the finals?

For five of the past six years, the winner of the Stanley Cup playoffs has been from the Western Conference. On top of that, those five victories were from two teams, the Los Angeles Kings and the Chicago Blackhawks. These two “dynasty” teams will be hard-pressed to continue this pattern as many of the Eastern contenders have seen improvements. This might be the year the New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, or Tampa Bay Lightning learn from their tribulations and win four series in a row. There are also a few dark horse contenders with generational players—Alexander Ovechkin and Jonathan Tavares both have optimistic teams ready to face-off—ready to take their legacy to supremacy. This year, I believe the two teams matched in the finals will be turning the page on the Kings’ and Blackhawks’ dominance.

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Why NHL in Vegas is a low-stakes gamble—but is it most deserving?

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The ‘best’ cities for NHL expansion

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. Oct. 1, 2015

The National Hockey League has kept their cards close to their chest in terms of when and where the next expansion franchise—if there is one—will be. As far as competition goes, Las Vegas and Quebec City are the two frontrunners, being the only two cities to submit their $10 million application fee. While eyes are on the prize, both of those cities have things working against them when it comes to adopting a NHL franchise.

Las Vegas, known for its sultry heat and abundant amount of entertainment, may seem like a bizarre place to watch hockey. In addition, having never been home to a major sports team, Las Vegas doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. Bets are on for whether such a venture would be successful or not. We would hate to see it become another inescapable desert disappointment, (cough cough) Phoenix, I mean, Arizona.

All I can say is that the heat will not be what harms their chances; it will be the fan base. At the moment, Hockey Vision Las Vegas, an organization seeking committed hockey fans to buy tickets, is aiming to convince the league that there is a strong desire for hockey. I believe there is a fan base in Vegas, but not necessarily from the locals.

Las Vegas is a vacation hotspot with 40 million people visiting in 2014—many of whom came during the winter season, i.e., hockey season. This is a perfect opportunity to lure in spectators who would not have an opportunity to see hockey otherwise.

I know that Vancouver fans will happily drop $500 for flights and an all-inclusive trip to Vegas to see a Canucks away game against the Las Vegas team. But would those living in the Sin City bother seeing their own team? The fact is that any Canadian hockey fans would be excited to see their team in Vegas, but if that’s the case, why not have the expansion take place closer to home?

Seeing Winnipeg get a team back in 2011 must have given Quebec City a lot of hope. The reason they lost the Nordiques in 1995 to Colorado was because their facilities could not match the new NHL standards. That’s all changed now; the Videotron Centre gives the city some legs to stand on when trying to earn the NHL’s attention. It’s designed with hockey as its sole purpose. With that being the case, it’s just a matter of time before hockey returns to French Canada.

However, Quebec could get a franchise again via a different route: the Carolina Hurricanes have been rumoured to be on the move. This means the former Hartford Whalers franchise could possibly move north of the border… wouldn’t that be nice?

Las Vegas and Quebec City are as different as cities come, but for hockey, I believe these two places are apt choices. Nevertheless, I hate seeing so many NHL franchises concentrated on the East Coast. We are due for a couple of purely western teams. For selfish reasons, I would rather see an expansion team in Seattle or Portland before a team in Quebec City. One thing lacking for Vancouver fans is an opportunity to go on road trips to see our regional rivals. If Seattle can make a push when the next expansion round comes around, that would be exciting news. But for now we’ll take what we can get, and be happy we don’t live in Atlanta.

Lend a hand and a liver

Photo of Eugene Melnyk via Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Celebrity status is fair game in organ donation

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in the Other Press. June 2, 2015

How can you tell whether or not the world cares for you? You know when people are willing to band together and offer a critical part of themselves to keep you alive.

When the owner of the Ottawa Senators, Eugene Melnyk, was diagnosed with liver complications and needed a new one to survive, he and his supporters reached out to the public. Crowd sourcing for an internal organ is in many ways taboo—shameless even—but realistically there is no shame in wanting to stay alive. With one in three people dying during the donor-waiting process, time was a luxury he didn’t have.

The criticism was that Melnyk used his celebrity status to leapfrog other candidates awaiting transplants. Such behaviour was unethical. But how can you blame a dying man for using what he had created his whole life—his status—to stay alive. Placed in the same life-or-death situation, you would do the same. You should do the same.

The matter was that Melnyk was never a part of the general waiting list. He created his own list from people who would have otherwise not have become donors. Five hundred people came out of the woodwork to save this man. Only one volunteer was needed, but more than 20 said they would continue the process, donating their organs to someone else in need. It was not Melnyk’s intention, but for a small moment he was able to place the spotlight on an often-forgettable circumstance.

I don’t believe any person is more deserving of life than anyone else. But if I were diagnosed with any organ complication and needed a donor, I would like to think that I would do more than wait patiently. I would pull out your liver and use it as my own if I could. I would pull out your liver and give it to someone I love if I could. We are designed to care about those who are most close to us and those who have influenced us positively. It’s not that we idolize or worship these people, it’s because they matter to us. Let it be our way of thanking them for enriching our lives.

Thinking of asking for such an important aspect of someone’s life—an organ—to stay alive really makes me rethink the way I treat those I love around me. Should I become ill, will I receive such an outpouring of love? Will 500 volunteers come forward to save me? Will they for you? Then pause, really ponder, and ask yourself: why wouldn’t they?

O ‘it’s not a big deal’ Canada

Image via AP / Petr David Josek

Russians walk off the ice, Canadians should shake it off

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. June 2, 2015

We won. They acted like poor sports—or as they put it, they made a “mistake.” After the annual World Hockey Championship, with the Canadians beating the Russians 6-1, the majority of the losing team skated off the ice as “O Canada” began to play. Whether it was an act of disappointment, bad sportsmanship, or political displeasure, it didn’t look good for the organization and the individual players. Still, there is nothing more awful than being forced to watch someone else celebrate, especially after getting plastered.

I have played hockey games—not at the international level, but still competitively—and I know how it feels to want something and then have someone beat you for it. Fuck them, right? I’ve shaken their hands, I’ve congratulated them, and now you want me to stand patiently while they sing their silly national song? We lost. Let me leave. What more do you want?

I get it. There is a patriotic aspect to international sports; that is why the Olympics and World Cups are so popular. But we don’t need the opposition to look sad while our song plays. Generally speaking, I’m not a big fan of national anthems at sporting events altogether. I’ve heard “O Canada” and “The Star-Spangled Banner” so many times they’ve lost all meaning.

The act made the team look like they had “no class” as Don Cherry would say. We all know what type of player Ilya Kovalchuk is, and the fact that he led the way was no surprise. But let’s not forget about the players that stayed on the ice, including superstars Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. Hockey is a team sport, but sportsmanship is an individual game. If you are going to punish anyone, punish the players individually, not the whole organization.

Then again, what punishment would fit, especially during this heated tumultuous time between North America and Russia? Hockey may be the glue that keeps people together, but it is not a Band-Aid for international problems. Punish players, but don’t punish the game of hockey. It’d be a shame to see Russia banned from the tournament next year. It would be a shame if we couldn’t beat them again next year.

For now, I’m happy giving the Russians the benefit of a doubt. In the heat of the moment, people do things that are in poor taste, but in the long run, nobody was hurt. So whatever, our national anthem wasn’t for them anyways.

Rotating goalies make 2015 playoff interesting

Andrew Hammond photo by Harry How

Young and veteran goalies trade off chances in net

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. May 4, 2015

Twenty-four goalies entered play in the first round of the 2015 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. With 75 per cent of the teams using more than one goalie, it makes competition ever more unpredictable. Goaltending has always been hailed as the defining factor when it comes to the playoffs. A goalie can steal a game and win a series all on his own. And this year quality goaltending remains an important ingredient for any team’s success.

While rotating goaltenders can get you to the finals—remember when the Philadelphia Flyers with Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher lost to the Chicago Blackhawks—it rarely wins you the championship. The script this year is a bit different though for a number of teams. The Ottawa Senators and the Vancouver Canucks earned playoff berths this year all because of the valiant play of their backup goalies. Sadly when it came down to crunch time, (i.e., a seven-game series) Andrew Hammond and Eddie Lack were unable to pull off any miracles.

However, it was interesting seeing the veterans step in to salvage the series. Number one goalies Craig Anderson of the Senators and Ryan Miller of the Canucks, ended up starting their respective game six elimination games. One might believe that if the coaches were to start their number ones initially the result might have been different, however, with such stellar performances from the rookies and sophomore goaltenders the fans might have been outraged to see that. Hindsight is only so useful in hockey.

The result was perhaps inevitable. You need your number one goalie to perform like a number one goalie if you want to win the Stanley Cup. If you bet on your number two, it’s a huge gamble. There are exceptions of course. In 2006 Cam Ward of the Carolina Hurricanes came in to replace Martin Gerber early in the playoffs to lead the Hurricanes to the championship.

Teams with sound goaltending like New York Rangers, Anaheim Ducks, and Montreal Canadiens are the undeniable favourites this year. Having consistency on the backend does more for a team than build confidence. With solid goaltending, a team can intimidate the opposition. In a sense, with a goalie as consistent as Carey Price or Henrik Lundqvist, opponents are down a point before the game even begins.

Of the teams that have advanced to the second round, the Calgary Flames and the Chicago Blackhawks are the two most notable teams that have succeeded with a rotating goalie strategy. While it has worked so far, if one goalie does not step forward and take the sole responsibility—have reliable performance day after day—then they will surely be eliminated. The Blackhawks are facing the Minnesota Wild with Devan Dubnyk, who has really come into form since escaping Edmonton. It’s hard to bet against the experience of the Blackhawks, but going with the theme, inconsistent goaltending may end up being their downfall.

Canucks: The enigma heading into the trade deadline

Vancouver Canucks right wing Zack Kassian photo by Elise Amendola/Associated Press

As usual, there is not much the Canucks can do

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. March 3, 2015

Not even Alan Turing can solve the Vancouver Canucks this year, as the team nobody expected much from is currently hanging on in a tight race towards the playoffs. It’s hard to tell how the Canucks will play heading down the stretch. Winning games against teams like Pittsburgh and Chicago, and losing games against Calgary, New Jersey, and of course, Buffalo, leaves a lot to question. Such inconsistency is nothing new for the Canucks, but one wonders what good exchanging players would actually do for the team.

The team has been plagued with injuries since October, and, as trends continue, will remain so deep into the playoffs. If I were in Jim Benning’s shoes, I would wear some slippers because it’s going to be an uncomfortable few months. The Canucks need depth on defence and another top-six forward to play the role of goal scorer if the third or fourth round is where they want to end up. But gone are the days of blockbuster trades. Acquiring a game-changing player is almost impossible, especially for the Canucks. And yes, I am ignoring the whole Mats Sundin thing.

While the focus on whether to deal or keep Zack Kassian is the storyline heading into March, many are forgetting about Shawn Matthias, who has also been contributing with stellar plays the last couple of weeks. As an unrestricted free agent in the summer, it might be an opportunity to see what the market has to offer while their stock is still high. Derek Dorsett and Brad Richardson are two other players who may be shipped off early for prospects, but that is unlikely to happen. Yes, in terms of baiting teams to offer us their superstars or future superstars, we are pretty much doomed.

And assuming Ryan Miller can return to form in time without rust, we can least feel confident that the net will be secure. But that is only if Eddie Lack can carry the team for a month. He had his chance before when Roberto Luongo was injured last year, and the result was far from impressive. Well, here’s his chance to earn his position again. If only J. K. Simmons were behind the bench yelling at (motivating) him, right? The community has shown nothing but love for Lack, but believe me, if he chokes and causes the Canucks to miss the playoffs this year, we’d better pass the Sedins a couple of shovels to dig him a grave between Alex Auld and Dany Sabourin.

I’d be thrilled if the Canucks are able to make a trade before the deadline. I believe they need one. But for what? There’s nothing out there, and if there is, the prices are too high. It’s time for us Canucks fans to do what we do best and just sit on our laurels and wait until it’s all over—yet again.

TeamSnap Assists League and Club Organizers With All-Star Communication and Management Tools

For the longest time, team sports have had reputations as being poorly organized.

It was not because the coaches were incompetent or because the players were disorganized; it was because there was a lack of easy-to-use tools. In addition, the market for communication, management, and scheduling apps is as crowded as a defensive zone in the fourth quarter.

TeamSnap, an application designated for teams and clubs management, has a simple philosophy to break away: elite customer service and great user experience.

Team communication is paramount, whether it’s on the field, on the rink, or even on the way to practice. People need to know where to be, when to get there, and what to bring before they can score goals, make saves, and win big.

“We need to let people know about what’s happening in the way they want to be informed,” said Dave DuPont, CEO of TeamSnap. “If they want to use email, fine. We send 40-million emails a month now. If they want a text message, that works too. If they prefer Push, that’s cool. If they just want to use the native mobile app—we were one of the first in the industry to introduce that—then they can use the native mobile app.”

It’s not uncommon for venue and game time to change last minute. There isn’t always time to inform every person individually, and mass messaging on certain platforms will be neglected because the player or participant is already on the road.

Most of us understand the pain and hassle of organizing an event. Most of us also know the headache when a certain aspect falls through. But with TeamSnap, all the organizer or coach has to do is change—for example—the time of the event on the TeamSnap calendar and every member will be informed in the manner they desire.

Another element of a successful team is accountability. Because of the leniency of technology, people have gotten a little flakey or unresponsive when it comes to invitations. One of TeamSnap’s popular features is the “availability.”

“We make it super easy for folks to say if they are coming,” said DuPont. “They can confirm if they are coming, they can confirm if they are bringing the orange slices and beer. And that is all tabulated and everyone can see it, if the organizer wants everyone to see it. And it can be changed automatically. That is just the sort of thing that makes everybody’s life a lot easier.”

With over seven million users and an infrastructure that informs people, TeamSnap is taking it to the next level by broadcasting in-game experiences. Chat, scores, and highlights can all be crowd sourced during the game. Everybody on the sidelines can contribute and offer an experience for those who aren’t there.

Unlike Twitter, TeamSnap is a private social network. Only those accepted by the team’s inner circle will be able to receive updates, stats, and conversations.

While the experience on TeamSnap is familiar across the board, different sports require different approaches for a fine-tuned experience. Every game and every league has little subtleties and TeamSnap accommodates by allowing organizers to modify templates.

“We are most valuable for folks that are particularly sensitive to saving time and having great communications,” said DuPont. “A hockey team in general is going to be more sensitive to that issue than a pick-up baseball or pick-up football team. If you have a certain ice time, you want to make sure everyone is there on time.”

Having hit critical mass in such markets as Vancouver (2,200 teams and the third largest in Canada), TeamSnap is aiming to add more value to the users involved by providing goods and services related to sports. The data stored in TeamSnap, such as experience level, type of sport, and start of season, can all be utilized by brands to offer products and services that fit the players and the teams’ needs. A coach can inform a brand of the team colour, and in return the brand can recommend shoes and jerseys of that colour for the players.

DuPont added: “We take an altruistic view of this. We aren’t trying to maximize pageviews or anything like that—we just want to be the indispensible tool for teams.”

Stars without a purpose

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Give the NHL All-Stars something to play for

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. January 20, 2015

The format for selecting the top players to be involved in the annual NHL All-Star Game and Super Skills has been an experiment for many years. Fan voting, player drafts, and the executive choices from the NHL have all been tried. Not that the games themselves have any merit except a little bit of bragging rights for the players and some excitement for the fans. The selection process is often more surprising than the actual event itself. With all that being said, how can we give a little more life to a game that doesn’t matter?

From the old-fashioned World versus North America to the current Eastern versus Western Conference battles, we always see some key players left off the roster. With the fans in charge of selecting the top six players in each respective position this year, we can see a huge flaw within the voting system. Five out of the six players voted are from the Chicago Blackhawks and one player from the Buffalo Sabres. The NHL then went on to select the remaining 36 participants.

This fan voting system, however, leads itself to some less-than-serious picks. Nothing against Zemgus Girgensons of the Sabres (who?), but with over 1,500,000 votes, beating out players with double his point total, I must say he is occupying a spot that doesn’t belong to him. Thanks, fans! This reminds me of the year where the Canucks’ Rory Fitzpatrick nearly earned himself a spot on the All-Star roster with the help of fan voting and a Twitter campaign. Fitzpatrick was well-liked, but far from All-Star material. The conspiracy is that the NHL stepped in and voted Fitzpatrick out near the tail-end of the voting process.

Another problem just happens to be a publicity ploy. A fantasy draft format will take place on January 23 to decide the two teams. Nick Foligno of the host city, Columbus, will be the captain of one team and Jonathan Toews of Chicago, the captain of the other, will vie for the best suited players, or their own teammates and friends. As proven from the past years, this is a popularity contest and less of a serious team construction.

All-star games, currently jokes masqueraded as sporting events, could have some value. The MLB puts pressure on the game by giving playoff home-field advantage to the team that wins. The NHL could use this. Here’s a hypothetical example: if the Eastern Conference wins in the All-Star Game last year (if there was one), then in the Stanley Cup Finals, the New York Rangers would have the home-ice advantage instead of the LA Kings because of the All-Star Game victory, even though they were both seeded forth in their conference.

The All-Star Game is often a lacklustre event, full of showboating and antics. It’s barely a hockey game. Sure, the MVP gets a new car or something and the winning team gets a celebratory pat on the back, but what’s the point? Make them play for something.

The games should be about building an elite team to compete for an advantage that will come into play when it really matters. I agree that it would be a shame if a player were injured, but hell, I want to watch hockey, not figure skating!

Canucks quarter mark grade

The Vancouver Canucks have an optimistic start

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. December 2, 2014

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Although I’m hesitant to give the Canucks an “A” grade for the first quarter of the season, I cannot deny that they have exceeded expectations. The Sedins look to have found the spark that made them league leaders in bygone years, and with secondary contributions from the likes of Nick Bonino, Alexandre Burrows, and Chris Higgins, Vancouver supporters are hopeful that the production will continue at the same rate, if not better.

Currently holding onto first in the Pacific Division, right in the crosshairs of the Anaheim Ducks, the new-look Canucks have placed themselves in a formidable spot for the playoffs. The concerning detail is that some contenders who have made the post-season in prior years are currently absent; the San Jose Sharks, Dallas Stars, and Colorado Avalanche all have had a disappointing start to the 2014/15 season. Surprisingly, opponents such as the Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators, and Winnipeg Jets are proving to many that the Canucks aren’t the only ones who can have surprise success.

A season is full of unpredictable events. Last season the Canucks went 22-11-7 before New Years and ended up 36-35-11. They finished in the 12th position and missed the playoffs by a wide margin. One can anticipate the Tortorella-esque antics aren’t going to repeat themselves with Willie Desjardins behind the bench. Desjardins has kept his cool in pressure situations and has shown to make solid decisions that benefit the team, although they may appear to be risky.

Keeping Bo Horvat has been a defining moment in the season, and a key decision for Desjardins and the Canucks as the season progresses. While some coaches will choose to send rookie players back to junior for more conditioning and a chance to participate in the World Junior Championship, Desjardins recognizes the tangible and intangible skills that Horvat has. The 19-year-old first round draft pick’s 81.2 per cent face-off win against a Chicago team with Jonathan Toews makes him an asset the Canucks can ill-afford to lose.

In the crease, Ryan Miller is performing as advertised. Leading the league in the only category that matters—wins—Miller has an opportunity to take the Canucks to a level that the Blues and the Sabres could not reach. His attitude and persona are a fresh taste for fans that had gotten used to the Luongo/Schneider controversy. Vancouver, dubbed the goalie graveyard in the late ‘90s, has been a place where goaltenders’ careers fade into obscurity. Miller, being an aging veteran, understands that he doesn’t have many chances left to make his mark, and Vancouver in the next few years will likely be his resting spot.

The Western Conference is as brutally competitive as ever with eight teams having only six points difference. The standings will likely be shuffled a few more times before the clock runs out on the season. Although the Canucks are doing well in the first few months and fans are optimistic, all it takes is a rough streak to put them off the mark for the playoffs. And it’s also important to mention that the Canucks only have one more game left against the Oilers. So all the easy games are pretty much gone.

Top players should not have ‘Jackass’ injuries

Connor McDavid of the Erie Otters. Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

Prospect Connor McDavid’s injury proves that some players shouldn’t fight

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor
Formerly published in The Other Press. November 17, 2014

Emotions run high in a game of hockey, but when a valuable player goes down for an asinine play such as a meaningless fight, the team pays the price.

In the wake of Erie Otters’ star player, Connor McDavid’s hand injury—received in a fight against Bryson Cianfrone of the Mississauga Steelheads—the hockey community is once against putting the topic of fighting on the discussion table. The debate is not whether fighting is good or bad for the sport, but why do star players continue to risk injuries fighting? In McDavid’s defence, he is 17 years old and probably felt invincible. How could he not? He is touted as the most promising prospect since Sidney Crosby.

No doubt missing five to six weeks out of such a defining year in his career will leave him regretting his decision, perhaps leading him to think twice before dropping his gloves again.

It seems as though every year a top player gets injured. Last year, Steven Stamkos went out with a freak leg injury after crashing into the opposition’s net, and this year Taylor Hall is missing games due to a similar incident. John Tavares missed a portion of last season as well after a hit during the Sochi Olympics. And this year we already saw the absence of top forwards, including Zach Parise, Mike Cammalleri, T.J. Oshie, and Radim Vrbata. Injuries happen all the time and rarely does skill level factor in. Many would say that injuries in hockey are unavoidable.

Nevertheless, fights are always avoidable, especially if it involves an elite player like McDavid. The cause of the fight was because Cianfrone had allegedly slashed McDavid numerous times during the game, and out of frustration, the top prospect took matters into his own hands—thus injuring it. Hockey teams need to protect their star players. It doesn’t matter which league they’re in. If they want to win, they’ll need their best players.

Remember the overall effect of losing Crosby to a concussion? Fans want to see the grittiness of the game, but they also want to see the skills of the elite players. And any player that suffered an initial injury would tell you that the game never feels the same afterward; there is an instinctual need to be careful and stay safe.

For McDavid to injure himself in junior may not impact his draft standing, but in a sport where high impact is part of the game, he probably doesn’t want the label of damaged goods before his is selected either.

There will always be a target on the backs of the best players, and it’s up to the rest of the team to protect their top assets. There was a reason why Wayne Gretzky avoided fisticuffs at all cost. He didn’t need to fight; he had a big guy like Marty McSorley to protect him. The reason why there is still a place for enforcers in the game is because top players shouldn’t get injured fighting. As long as fighting remains, which in my opinion it should, then enforcers need to defend their goal scorers.

Sure, it was McDavid’s fault for getting into the fight and hurting himself, but the player who should feel the worst is the guy on the team assigned to protect him.