It was a relatively-quiet week in the hockey world, but I was able to uncover a few stories worth talking about, including Mike Peluso’s lawsuit against the New Jesey Devils and a revived Dallas Stars.
1. Mike Peluso’s LawsuitEx-NHL forward, Mike Peluso is suing his old team, the New Jersey Devils, former Devils GM Lou Lamoriello, and the Devils’ team doctors during his tenure for putting his well-being at risk. Peluso suffered a brain injury at the end of 1993 and alleges that team doctors intentionally hid the severity of his injuries and told him he could keep playing hockey without having to worry about future brain issues. You can find his full lawsuit here.
I feel awful for all former athletes (mostly NHL and NFL) that are dealing with the effects of brain injuries. Knowing what we know now, this would never happen today. I’m glad the NHL has implemented policies that help prevent these kinds of issues now. Peluso’s case is one of the worst I have heard of from a former athlete. The number of grand mal seizures he has suffered is astronomical and I feel awful for him. I hope this lawsuit serves as a lesson to every front office that player safety must be their highest priority.
2. World Juniors Recap
The World Juniors ended Saturday. Finland took home the gold medal, the U.S. got the silver and Russia the bronze. It wasn’t the most noteworthy tournament, but it did have a few highlights. One of the biggest surprises was Switzerland’s defeat of Sweden in the Quarterfinals. Sweden was the first seed in their group and couldn’t muster a goal against the Swiss. Canada’s failure to get out of the Quarterfinals was surprising as well, especially after a 14-0 thrashing of Denmark in their first game.
In regards to the prospects in the tournament, the two I was most surprised to watch were the Czech Republic’s Filip Zadina and the United States’ Jack Hughes. Neither had the impact their team’s expected them to have. Zadina could only muster one assist throughout the tournament and his Czech Republic team lost to the US in the first round. Hughes had four assists in five games but missed two games due to injury. But his fellow Americans picked up the slack as the U.S. came in second.
One of the big stars of the tournament was forward Grigori Denisenko of Russia. He was tied for the tournament lead in points with 9. Denisenko is currently playing in the KHL but he was a first-round pick of the Panthers last year and I’m looking forward to him making his NHL debut.
3. Unloved Team of the Week: Chicago Blackhawks
As a Detroit fan, I thought it would be fitting to talk about the Blackhawks the day after the Bears lost in crushing fashion to the Eagles. The Blackhawks are currently tied for fourth-to-last place with the Los Angeles Kings with 37 points. We all know that the ‘Hawks longtime coach Joel Quenneville was fired earlier this year, leaving the Blackhawks with little direction. The Hawks are the epitome of the life of a franchise in the salary cap era; it is impossible to sustain success. They had a great run, winning three Stanley Cups in the last decade, but they did it with their best players on reasonable contracts. They have since signed them all to larger and well-earned deals. But the signing of Brent Seabrook to an 8-year $55 million contract is really hurting them. Seabrook has been declining for years now, making his contract unmovable. Not to mention they locked down Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane to matching 8-year $84 million deals. Again, both players earned those contracts, but it makes it very difficult for them to sign other players.
All of Chicago knows this though. If there is a bright spot this year, it’s that Patrick Kane has proven that he is still a top-tier player in the NHL. He has 51 points in 42 games this season, which leads the team. Second-year player, and Farmington Hills native, Alex DeBrincat, is also proving that he is a high-caliber NHL player. He has 33 points in 43 games so far this season. I would expect him to be a mainstay in Chicago for a long time. But, I don’t see the Hawks making any major waves in the playoffs until they find out a solution to Seabrook’s contract and can hit on a few major draft picks.
4. Nikita Kucherov Deserves My AttentionAs much as I have written about Steven Stamkos this year, I haven’t written about his teammate Nikita Kucherov. Obviously, he is coming off a huge year last season, where he was an MVP candidate and scored a career-high 100 points (39 goals and 61 assists). Kucherov has come on strong over the past month, scoring 9 goals and 21 assists over 14 games in December. He currently leads the NHL in points with 69 (20 goals and 49 assists). Kucherov is also on pace for a whopping 135 points (39 goals and 96 assists). 135 points would be the highest mark since Mario Lemieux scored 161 during the 1996-1996 season. What I’m getting at is that Kucherov is having a season for the ages. Not to mention his Tampa Bay Lightning are in first place in the NHL. It’s time we recognize him for the absolute superstar that he is and enjoy the monster season he is having.
5. The Stars are Back
Last week on December 28th, news broke that Dallas Stars CEO Jim Lites had criticized his two superstars in rather scathing fashion. You can read more about the specifics in last week’s Blake’s Takes. I did say that the only way that Lites’ comments have any merit would be if the Stars went on to win the Stanley Cup. They might not achieve that this season, but they do appear to be playing better. Dallas is 3-0-1 since the comments were made and Seguin and Benn have been major reasons why. Benn has played in three of those four games and has scored two goals. Seguin has scored four goals and notched two assists in four games since Lites went on his rant.
Like I said before, I hate how Lites went at his players, but Dallas has been playing better hockey. If Dallas wins the Stanley Cup this season I would expect nothing less than for the Stars to raise a separate championship banner with Lites’ entire rant on it. That way Seguin and Benn can look up to the rafters, see their championship banner, and then look over to remember how much they fucking hate Jim Lites. That’s what I’m looking forward to. ■
Blake Isaacs is a die-hard Red Wings fan that doesn’t go to as many games as he should. He is also a big fan of 7-Eleven Slurpeees, Chipotle, and all things Michigan State. Follow him on Twitter @bisaacs1995.