Monday April 6th, 2015

Off The Draw

• Remember when it looked as though the Predators had secured their spot atop the Central Division with a bold pre-deadline trade that repatriated Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli from the Maple Leafs?

“He’s a top-four defenseman on pretty well any team right now,” Nashville GM David Poile gushed about Franson, who was the key to the deal. “He was always big and great on the power play. Now he’s much more of a well-rounded guy.”

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Franson, a regular on Toronto’s top pair, was slated to play on the second unit with the Preds, adding the element of veteran depth that every contender craves. Instead, he’s become a spare part, or worse, on a team that’s stumbling to the finish line. In two of his past five games he’s been nailed to the bench for most of the third period after his failure to make simple plays led to opposition goals. In Saturday night’s 5-4 loss to Dallas it was his inability to clear a puck from the crease that allowed fourth liner Colton Sceviour to pick up the loose change and put the Preds in a 3–1 hole.

It’s clear that coach Peter Laviolette is only willing to give Franson as much leash as he earns. Franson played a smart, efficient game against Vancouver last Tuesday and was handed 22 minutes as a result, just a few days after he’d been limited to a season-low 7:15 by another painful error against Tampa Bay. The opportunity is there for him, but he has to do something with it ... or spend the rest of the game as the grocery stick.

Ultimately this trade will be judged by Franson’s impact in the postseason. At the moment though the deal is not looking good. That doesn’t bode well for the Preds or for Franson, who just a few weeks ago looked like he might be the most sought-after free-agent defenseman on the market this summer.

• According to multiple sources, Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw will not face supplemental discipline after taking a flying leap at the head of Blues defenseman Barret Jackman on Sunday night.

NHL
Report: Blackhawks' Andrew Shaw not fined for hit on Barret Jackman

That’s disappointing news but, sadly, not at all surprising.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety has always leaned heavily towards punishing the results of illegal contact rather than the intent, but after Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien was suspended last week there was reason to hope that was changing.

Byfuglien’s crosscheck to the back of J.T. Miller’s neck left the Rangers forward with nothing more than a little discomfort, but it earned the Jets star a four-game ban just the same. That was the right call because assaulting a defenseless player from behind is something the league strongly discourages (in theory, anyway).

The optics were just as bad, if slightly more comical, in this incident. Although the point of attack in Shaw’s case was different, the intent was clear. After seeing Jackman corral the puck behind the St. Louis net, Shaw took four direct strides towards the defenseman. Jackman was in a vulnerable position having just moved his pass along the boards as Shaw arrived at his target. There was a chance to deliver a hard shoulder-to-shoulder check. Instead, Shaw leapt off his feet, appearing to take aim at Jackman’s head.

That Shaw timed his hit poorly and made contact with the defenseman’s shoulder instead was probably the key to the DoPS decision, as was Jackman’s ability to remain in the game. Either way, the call is rubbish. It’s not like Shaw could argue that he was trying to avoid contact with his victim’s head. After all, it’s one thing for a player’s feet to leave the ice while he follows through on a hit. It’s something else entirely to jump toward a player’s head before contact is made. At least, it should be.

There’s no way to defend that as a good hockey play, but by passing on a chance to discipline Shaw that’s exactly what the DoPS is doing. And that’s a joke.

• The revelation that former Toronto mayor Rob Ford had been quietly appointed to the Hockey Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors back in December sounds like a bad April Fool’s joke. Sadly, that’s not the case. The seat on the 18-member board is one of three under control of the city. And now that he’s there, he essentially can serve as long as he chooses ... for life, if he wants.

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It’s worth pointing out that Ford will have no say in who is and isn’t elected to the Hall. That’s the province of the Selection Committee. And it’s possible that Ford, who currently serves as a city councilor, landed the position because nobody else wanted to add another slate of meetings to their schedule.

Still, it’s inconceivable that a man who became a late-night laughingstock as a result of allegations of drug and alcohol abuse was the best choice to represent the city in this capacity. While he still has sizable support in some parts of Hogtown, the man is toxic. Anything he touches is lessened by association.

Neither the Hall nor the NHL has the power to remove Ford, but the city does. Faced with another public relations black eye, Toronto needs to replace him on the board. Immediately.

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• Congrats to Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, who became just the second player in franchise history to hit the 40-win milestone in Sunday’s 2–1 victory over the Red Wings. He’s now one victory behind Olaf Kolzig for the team’s all-time mark, and with two games left this week he has a chance to set a new record. There’s also a chance the Caps might want rest him with a playoff berth clinched a team record 36 consecutive starts under his belt, but look for Holtby to play against both the Bruins and Rangers this week

Hot links

NHL
Dubnyk, Hammond, Rinne headline list of Masterton nominees

• Dave Stubbs offers a painful and personal look at the passing of hockey legend Elmer Lach. Our condolences to Dave and the Lach family.

• Is expression of religion becoming more acceptable in the NHL? Amalie Benjamin offers a fascinating look at the emergence of faith in hockey.

• Could this statistic offer some insight into the struggles of some of the league's established teams this season?

• With the final regular season game set to be played there this weekend, here's a look back at the history of Nassau Coliseum.

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