I didn’t pick the best week to go on vacation. While I was gone, the Blackhawks scandal developed in full, and Jack Eichel was finally traded. I’ll lead off with both of those topics in this column. As usual, I’ll share my thoughts on a few other notable stories across the NHL.
1. Ex-Blackhawk Comes Forward Regarding Sexual Assault
A few months ago, it was reported that Brad Aldrich, an ex-video coach of the Chicago Blackhawks was accused of sexually assaulting a member of the 2010 team. Over the last two weeks, investigators published their report and it has sent shockwaves throughout the hockey community. Kyle Beach, a black ace during the 2010 cup run, came forward and identified himself as a survivor of Aldrich’s abuse. I was on vacation last week so I didn’t get a chance to cover this story. Most, if not all, of the dominos, have since fallen, here’s where we’re at.
After the report was published, Hawks’ president of hockey operations Stan Bowman, son of legendary coach Scotty Bowman, has resigned. Senior director of hockey administration Al MacIsaac is also no longer with the team. Both men were executives with the Hawks in 2010. The Blackhawks were also fined $2 million for their failure to handle the issue.
Joel Quenneville, who coached the Blackhawks to their three Stanley Cup victories in the 2010s, resigned as the head coach of the Florida Panthers as he failed to act when made aware of the matter in 2010.
Most importantly, Kyle Beach, the survivor of Aldrich’s abuse, has bravely come forward and has shared his story. He did a great interview with TSN you can watch below.
Blackhawks’ owner Rocky Wirtz requested Aldrich’s name be removed from the Stanley Cup. That request was granted, too.
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This is a terrible situation and my heart goes out to Beach. It took tremendous courage for him to come forward the way he did. It’s sad that his reports were not taken seriously by members of the Blackhawks organization and Aldrich was not dealt with earlier. Their failure to act resulted in Aldrich later inappropriately touching a Blackhawks intern’ and then the sexual assault of a high school student.
While it is horrific this situation wasn’t handled in 2010, the world has changed and these types of stories get more attention now. Hopefully, the increased media attention and attitude towards these things 11 years later will result in more actual change across the NHL and other sports leagues.
Again, my heart goes out to Beach and his family.
2. Jack Eichel Traded to Vegas
The Jack Eichel saga is finally over. To recap, Eichel wanted out of Buffalo because they were rebuilding and because they wouldn’t let him get the surgery he wanted on a herniated disk in his neck. The Sabres then stripped him of the captaincy and the two sides were in a stalemate.
The Golden Knights swooped in a rescued Eichel, trading Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, a future first, second, and third-round pick. Eichel is under contract for four additional years after this season, but his no-movement clause kicks in after this season. Eichel’s AAV is $10 million. The Knights will allow Eichel to get the artificial disk replacement surgery her preferred over the fusion surgery.
🚨 OFFICIAL 🚨
The Golden Knights have acquired Jack Eichel and a conditional pick from the Buffalo Sabres in exchange for Alex Tuch, Peyton Krebs, and two conditional picks.
— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) November 4, 2021
If you’re interested in Eichel’s comments, he spoke with TSN in an interview after the trade. You can watch the interview below.
What a coup for Vegas. Yes, they’re interesting right now, but they add one of the best centers in the league to an already stacked roster. Vegas now has the following players under contract: Eichel, William Karlsson, Jonathan Marchessault, Alex Pietrangelo, Shea Theodore, Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, and Robin Lehner. A Stanley Cup isn’t guaranteed, but they have as good a shot as anyone when they return to full health. Oh yeah, everyone, I listed above other than Pacioretty is under contract for at least another three years. Vegas’ window to win is wide open.
In regard to Buffalo, I don’t understand the medical stuff so it’s hard to comment. If their doctors felt so strongly that Eichel shouldn’t get his choice of surgery that they were willing to let him walk because of it, that’s their prerogative. However, Buffalo has been trying to build a winner for almost two decades and trading Eichel doesn’t get them any closer. They haven’t proven they can identify talent through the draft or make smart moves in free agency. When healthy, Eichel is a top-20 player and known commodity. They gave him up for a shot to find someone half as good as him in the draft.
While I respect Buffalo for sticking to their guns, this doesn’t help their reputation with free agents or around the league. Props to Vegas for taking a chance and collecting all-star level talent in hopes to win their first Stanley Cup.
3. Marian Gaborik Officially Retires
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Marion Gaborik has finally officially retired. Gaborik hasn’t played since the 2017-18 season, but his contract was moved around quite a bit in the few seasons since. Gaborik played 17 seasons in the NHL for the Minnesota Wild, New York Rangers, Columbus Blue Jackets, and Los Angeles Kings. His contract was moved to the Ottawa Senators and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Gaborik played 1,035 games, scored 407 goals, and added 408 assists. Gaborik was selected to three All-Star Games, one All-Star Second Team, and won the 2014 Stanley Cup with the Kings after being traded at the deadline.
In his prime, Gaborik was one of the most-exciting players in the NHL. His best seasons were with the Wild and Rangers.
My favorite Gaborik moment was when he was tripped up by Dominik Hasek while he was playing with Minnesota. I was watching this game live and I thought this play was crazy. I then realized how great of a player Gaborik was.
Congrats on a great career and I wish him the best of luck in retirement.
4. Brady Tkachuk Named Sens’ Captain
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What a few weeks for Brady Tkachuk. First, he signs a massive seven-year $57.5 million contract and now he’s been named captain of the Ottawa Senators. The 22-year-old is the first player to captain the Senators since Erik Karlsson wore the C during the 2017-18 season.
After years of issues in every capacity, Tkachuk is a ray of hope for the Senators’ franchise. Ottawa has put a few pieces in place including Thomas Chabot. I don’t think Tkachuk will be the best player on a Stanley Cup-winning team, but, he has a ton of potential and is proof that the Senators can do something right. The youngest Tkachuk becomes the second Tkachuk to be named captain. His dad, Keith, captained the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes franchise with stints in both cities. Now we just have to hope that Matthew is named the next captain of the Calgary Flames and we’ll have a Tkachuk captaincy sweep.
5. McDavid Scores Early Goal of the Year
You all know I like to include my favorite highlights in my column. This week’s highlight is courtesy of Connor McDavid. Just in case you forgot, McDavid is still the best player on planet Earth.
Stickhandling past an entire team shouldn’t be possible yet I can think of a few times where McDavid has done it. This goal was so improbable you can see McDavid can hardly believe it. It’s rare to see him get that hype, but he does so here because he knows what he just did was sick.
We should all recognize how blessed we are to be alive at a time where we can watch McDavid play hockey. ■