Blake’s Takes: Summer Heat

Last week was a surprisingly busy week in hockey. Although, the news that was reported last week was closer to what TMZ would report on rather than NHL.com. Regardless, this week’s takes will consist of a drug-related suspension, a few new uniforms, and some fun predictions of our newest crop of captains!  

1. Kuznetsov Suspended by IIHF

[Photo by Michael Miller]
You might remember back in May that Capitals’ winger Evgeni Kuznetsov was under fire when he was caught on video that showed him in the same room as a white substance that looked like cocaine after the Capitals won the Stanley Cup back in 2018. The NHL did not find Kuznetsov of any wrongdoing then. A couple of days ago, the IIHF announced that Kuznetsov has been suspended from all IIHF competitions for four years after he tested positive for cocaine. He will be eligible to return on June 12, 2023, which means if the NHL allows its players to play in the next Olympic Games, Kuznetsov will not be eligible in 2022.

This is an interesting story because there are multiple parties at play. The first is the IIHF. This suspension is strictly on all IIHF competitions, which means Kuznetsov is barred from the World Championships and potentially the Olympics for the next four years. However, considering the Capitals frequently make deep playoff runs and the NHL might not allow their players to play in the next Olympics, the suspension might not prevent Kuznetsov in playing in any major tournaments.

The next party at play is the NHL. This suspension does not affect Kuznetsov’s NHL career in any way. Interestingly, the NHL only suspends players for using performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs) and not recreational drugs like marijuana and cocaine. The league does test for them, but the players are not disciplined for them.

First, if Kuznetsov is struggling with any sort of addiction or dependency, I hope he gets the help he needs.

That being said, I don’t think this should get that much attention. There are a lot of people that use drugs recreationally without any issues. And if Kuznetsov is one of those people then we shouldn’t be getting too upset or suggesting he go to rehab or anything like that. I think this issue brings to light the NHL’s stance on recreational drugs. I’m in favor of not punishing a player for using them but think it’s wise to monitor their use. Each franchise should be aware if their players do become dependent on illicit substances, but not if they do not become an issue. This is a much more progressive policy than other leagues have. For Kuznetsov’s sake, he better hope that the NHL doesn’t allow their players to go to the Olympics in 2022, or he is going to be in some hot water with his Russian teammates.

2. The Canes’ New Uniforms

[Photo Credit: Carolina Hurricanes/NHL]
The Hurricanes have done everything right this offseason. After a fairytale run to the Conference Final last season, they have capitalized on that attention and have stayed in the news. This week, they unveiled their new alternate jerseys.

The Tampa Bay Lightning need to take notes on these all-black threads. Unlike Tampa, the Hurricanes incorporated their primary team color in their alternates jersey. The red pops when laid against the black and the colors blend together well. I’m also a big fan of the Canes alternate logo, which hasn’t been seen in a few years. This is one of the better alternate jerseys in the NHL and I hope the Canes wear it as much as possible this season.

3. Maroon Moves On

After helping his hometown Blues win their first Stanley Cup in team history, Patrick Maroon is on the move again. Maroon signed a one-year deal worth $900,000 with the Tampa Bay Lightning. Maroon famously left larger offers on the table last summer to sign with St. Louis so he could be closer to his family. He famously scored the game-winning goal in double overtime of Game 7 to finish off the Dallas Stars to help the Blues advance to the Western Conference Finals.

Maroon will serve as a depth forward and a veteran presence with Stanley Cup experience for Tampa. The Lightning already have all the top-end talent in the world, so adding a great locker-room guy is one of the few ways they could improve. I was surprised to see Maroon sign for such a lower dollar amount. It’s not uncommon to see players sign for hometown discounts or to sign for cheap when they sign with a contender. But I’ve never seen a player do it after winning it all the year before. I would have thought Maroon would have re-signed with the Blues to stay close to home or would have cashed in for one last payday. He did neither.

I would have taken as much money as possible, but Maroon is a true competitor. If he can win another Stanley Cup and cash in next summer, that would be one of the bolder bets that I have seen work out.

4. Auston Matthews on the Sun Devils?

If you follow college hockey at all, you have heard how Arizona State jumped from the club ranks to Division One. It’s one of the more improbable stories out of NCAA Hockey in recent years. What’s more improbable is how well they have done on the ice. After three years of Division One play, they made their first trip to the NCAA tournament last year.

This past week, they were in the news again, calling upon a local hockey product to help model their new jerseys. That guy was Maple Leafs’ superstar Auston Matthews. Matthews who is from the Phoenix area which isn’t too far from Arizona State’s campus in Tempe, AZ. This promo video ASU produced was awesome. Time and time again I’ve called out the NHL and the hockey community for being too corny, but this video gave me chills. It was super cool to see one of the few players in the NHL with a real personality get to show it off. The jerseys he was modeling were awesome too. I think ASU has one of the best color schemes in college sports and they look great for hockey. Arizona State is doing everything right when it comes to building a program. They have enhanced their brand by working with Matthews and are playing well on the ice. Props to them and Matthews for adding a bit of flair to the hockey world.

5. The League’s Next Captains

[Photo Credit: Michael Miller]
In an interview with The Athletic last week, Auston Matthews said it would be a “huge honor” to captain an NHL team. The Leafs are currently without a captain and have been since trading Dion Phaneuf to the Senators in 2016. Matthews certainly has a shot to be the next Maple Leaf to wear the C. It would be ironic if the next captain of one of Canada’s most iconic franchise was an American. Max Pacioretty did it with the Canadiens so why couldn’t Matthews? Matthews’ quote got me thinking. There are several teams without captains right now. I thought it would be fun to predict who each team’s next captain would be. Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

Detroit Red Wings:
Dylan Larkin –
 I used to think this would be Justin Abdelkader before his swift decline. He is a local guy who plays hard and isn’t afraid to stand up for his teammates. I think Larkin is the team’s next captain for the same reasons. Larkin is also the team’s clear best player and has captained other teams in the past.

New York Rangers:
Marc Staal – 
The Rangers are a tough team to pick. I have frequently seen teams with a lack of direction wait to appoint a new captain until there is a clear and obvious choice. They usually pick a younger player that excites the franchise. I don’t think the Rangers will wait so long to pick a new Captain because of their track record. They were quick to tap Ryan McDonagh after trading away Ryan Callahan. They are also looking to compete very soon and will want to have a captain to lead their resurgence. I think they will pick Staal because he is one of the team’s leaders and has been in NYC his entire career.

Ottawa Senators:
Not on Roster – 
I know this is a cop-out, but there is no one on the current Sens roster worthy of wearing the C. The Senators will wait to pick their next captain when they have a player that is truly deserving of the honor. Unless owner, Eugene Melnyk, is in dire need of cash and names someone just to sell a few more jerseys.

San Jose Sharks:
Logan Couture – 
This was the most obvious of the bunch. After their previous captain, Joe Pavelski left in free agency, that leaves Couture as the natural choice to succeed him. Couture has been with the team 2009 and is one of the game’s best players.

Toronto Maple Leafs:
Auston Matthews – 
He is Toronto’s best player and his teammates look up to him. He is a sexier pick then William Nylander and Mitch Marner because of their difficult contract negotiations. Toronto values him more than they do the other two.

Vancouver Canucks:
Elias Pettersson –
 This one was a toss-up between Bo Horvat, Brock Boeser, and Pettersson. All three are uber-talented forwards that could easily lead the team in scoring next year. I picked Pettersson because he’s the best of the bunch.

Vegas Golden Knights:
Jonathan Marchessault – 
The only obvious choices are Marchessault and William Karlsson. I picked Marchessault because I think he has a higher ceiling and teams want to pick a guy who will be around for a while. ■

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.

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