the westminster news
Published by the students of Westminster School
By Ryan Jainchill '23
(Above: Troy Terry scoring in Vancouver.)
Through about a month of play in the NHL season, many storylines are starting to form. Players are breaking out, bouncing back, and struggling, as well as more turmoil surrounding the league’s public image headline the news. Here is a look at the good and the bad of this young season.
Up: Troy Terry, Forward, Anaheim Ducks
After 14 games played this young season, Troy Terry has blossomed into one of the Ducks’ next stars. Terry leads Anaheim with 19 points in these 14 games and is currently riding a 13-game point streak. Terry has taken the league by surprise with 11 goals and eight assists on Anaheim’s top line alongside Ryan Getzlaf and Adam Henrique. After an abysmal 2020 campaign, the Ducks have risen to third in the wide-open Pacific Division. His hot streak will likely tail off soon, but for the moment, Troy Terry’s abilities have given a Ducks franchise that has sat near the bottom of the league for a while some hope for the future. Besides Terry, a core of youngsters including Trevor Zegras, Mason McTavish and Jamie Drysdale could make the Ducks a team to fear in upcoming seasons.
Down: Kaapo Kakko, Forward, New York Rangers
The second overall pick in the 2019 Entry Draft by the Rangers, Kaapo Kakko, has struggled big-time recently — no points through nine games and a minus-two rating. The young 20-year-old Finnish winger finally buried his first goal Nov. 15 against New Jersey. Kakko plays on the second line with Artemi Panarin and Ryan Strome, two phenomenal players. Getting second-line power play time on a talented Rangers squad is impressive, but no tallies on the score sheet through the nine games is not what the Rangers expect from Kaako. This performance should cause concern for Rangers fans. The team drafted Alexis Lafreniere with the first overall selection in 2020 and expected Kakko to blossom alongside him. Instead, the latter has had ups and downs and will need to prove something to the Rangers in the next few months if he wants to stay with the team; his entry level contract expires at the conclusion of the season, making for his future in New York possibly uncertain with the teams cap situation and many extensions kicking in on July 1.
Down: The Arizona Coyotes
To put it simply, Arizona is not very good this year. Not good at all. They started the season 0-10-1 before finally defeating the Seattle Kraken in early November. To complement how bad they are on the ice, finding stability with their management in the city of Glendale, Arizona, has caused further turmoil. For starters, the 2019-20 Coyotes started the season hot, traded for star Taylor Hall, got into the expanded pandemic playoff, defeated the Nashville Predators in four games, then got destroyed by the juggernaut Colorado Avalanche. Due to this surge in expenditures, the 2020-21 Coyotes had almost no cap space remaining. The team struggled for periods and had little space to maneuver around impending cap issues and mediocre performance. So, second-year general manager Bill Armstrong — hired after predecessor John Chayka was fired — traded away most value pieces, prospects, and draft picks for cap relief. Captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland were sent to Vancouver for a first-round pick and bad contracts. Christian Dvorak was shipped to Montreal for draft picks. Darcy Keumper was sent to Colorado for a first-rounder and a prospect. Alex Goligoski, Derek Brassard and Michael Bunting were all let go in free agency. All of these moves come with the asterisk of the Coyotes owning no first-round pick in 2021. This was because of the illegal scouting of prospects by Chayka and the previous administration. The Coyotes were without a first-rounder in 2021 until the OEL/Garland trade and were stripped of a second-round draft pick the year before. One bright spot of this terrible start to the season is that most of the awful Chayka acquisitions — plus some from Armstrong moves — expire at the end of the season. Only six out of 27 players to play a game for the team are under contract past next season. Arizona has eight picks in the first two rounds of the 2022 draft, along with available cap space. But a growing separation amongst the team and the city they call home is an issue that NHL executive Gary Bettman and the rest of the higher-ups need to fix before the team finds more success.
Up: The Florida Panthers
Moving away from the drama in the desert, the sunshine state has two extremely competitive clubs. The Tampa Bay Lightning and their back-to-back Stanley Cups garner most of the attention, but the Florida Panthers across the state in Miami. Forget their attendance woes; this franchise is on fire. Captain Aleksander Barkov and forwards Jonathan Huberdeau, Anthony Duclair, plus many newly acquired players, lead one of the most explosive offenses in hockey. On the backend, Aaron Ekblad and MacKenzie Weegar aid the best goaltending tandem in the league — Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight, rated two of the highest at the position. Both have plus .900 save percentages and close to 2.00 goals-against averages. Bobrovsky, bouncing back from two bad seasons in Florida, holds a $10-million contract for the next five years. Knight, a rookie, is showing his potential as a star-caliber goalie. The Panthers lead the highly competitive Atlantic Division, placing ahead of their rival Lightning, Boston Bruins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens, all playoff teams from the prior season. Impressive, right? Despite all the success, the team was forced to let go of head coach Joel Quenneville for his role in the 2010 Chicago Blackhawks scandal. Members of the Blackhawks are in some deep trouble amidst the alleged sexual assault by one of their former assistants on his players. Andrew Brunette, named interim head coach, has kept the Panthers streaking, but the team's biggest test will come with the sustainability of great goaltending and offensive performance.
Down: The handling of the Kyle Beach situation
Going back to the topic of the Chicago Blackhawks, much was hidden from the public until recently. The 2010 Blackhawks scandal and alleged assault by former assistant Brad Aldrich on former player Kyle Beach have had the league scrambling for answers. To keep from sharing explicit information, the whole story cannot be shared because some information is not publicized. The NHL is trying its hardest to cover up the entire situation regarding Beach and those in the Blackhawks organization. The effects of the original cover-up by the Blackhawks have come to light as of recently. Some of those involved still play roles around the league. As mentioned, Quenneville resigned as head coach of the Panthers. Kevin Cheveldayoff, currently general manager of the Winnipeg Jets and general manager of that 2010 team, was almost forced to do the same but alleges no knowledge of such events. Stan Bowman, the Blackhawks’ president of hockey operations, resigned in October. Star players were accused of using degrading slurs towards Beach. Since the incident happened so long ago, many are already retired. But those who are still playing are being questioned, like superstar Blackhawks tandem Captain Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. But what has many concerned is the NHL’s cover-up of the scandal. Bettman and his crew fined the Blackhawks $2 million for the incident, the same amount Arizona was fined for John Chayka’s actions. Putting it into perspective is disgusting. The cover-up of sexual assault by an employee who was brushed away because the team won the 2010 Stanley Cup was treated similarly to a team trying to gain competitive advantages? As bad as cheating was, it is incomparable to a sexual assault scandal, and Bettman trying to push it away is disgraceful. Millions have come out in support of Beach and his bravery for revealing himself as the anonymous target. The NHL has remained relatively silent during this, leading many to question Bettman’s job. Even with Beach revealing himself, there is still another unnamed victim who was sexually assaulted by Aldrich at the age of 16. Beach’s bravery to reveal himself as the victim of such heinous crimes is remarkable, and the NHL’s need to keep a sturdy public image has made his road to justice even tougher.
Up: Fans in the Stands
A year and a half separated the last two regular-season games at total capacity — March 11, 2020 concluded with the Los Angeles Kings defeating the Ottawa Senators in overtime. On Oct. 12, 2021, the Pittsburgh Penguins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in the first game with maximum attendance. Although the 2021 playoffs — from the second round to the finals — featured almost total capacity in American arenas, the seven Canadian franchises had a season of no fans. Not until game six of the Toronto-Montreal series in the first round of the playoffs were fans allowed in the Bell Centre in Montreal. That Montreal team played in nearly full capacity arenas in Las Vegas and Tampa but had a less than 20% home capacity. Luckily, packed crowds are welcomed back in the 31 active NHL arenas (the New York Islanders have not yet played a game in their new arena at the time of writing). This offseason, a new franchise joined the league up in Seattle. In early October, their first home game against Vancouver featured some of the loudest cheers for fans when Vince Dunn scored the franchise's first goal on home ice. Crowds roared up in Edmonton when Connor McDavid split four Ranger defenders on his way for a tying goal, a goal many have called the best they have seen in years. Tyler Bertuzzi lit up Little Caesars Arena in Detroit with a four goal game against Tampa. Old rivalries were renewed in Toronto when Boston came to Scotiabank Arena. Vegas Golden Knights fans welcomed the new acquisition of star Jack Eichel after a trade from Buffalo. Many teams have benefited from the return of fans, and it is easy to tell by the excitement of players and fans.