The first month of the shortened 2021 NHL season has come to a close and it certainly did not go without it’s fair share of soap opera-esque moments. While we won’t cover it in today’s article, the NHL has announced more postponements of games from teams like the Philadelphia Flyers to the Boston Bruins. The North Division seems to be the only of the four divisions without any game postponements or outbreaks.
Now, we could debate the morality of the NHL in deciding to continue the season despite these massive outbreaks, but where would that get us? At the end of the day, I’m sure many people are beginning to question the likelihood of finishing this season all the way through, but we’ll get there when we get there. For now, let’s go over some important news from this past week which includes Mikko Koivu announcing his retirement after 16 NHL seasons, Patrik Laine getting benched after just a few games with his new team, and breaking down this years Ottawa Senators roster and why they appear to be struggling more than expected.
Koivu Announces Retirement
The former Minnesota Wild captain announced on Tuesday that he has decided to retire from the NHL. Koivu, 37, was picked 6th overall in the 2001 NHL draft and went on to play 15 season with the Wild, being captain for 12. Koivu then signed a one year deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets this past offseason, playing 7 games total and registering a mere 2 points.
Throughout his entire career, Koivu registered 711 points in 1,035 games, a majority of which coming from his time in Minnesota. He also became the first player in franchise history to play 1,000 games on December 1st, 2019. He was nominated for the Selke numerous times throughout his career, but was unfortunately never able to walk away with one.
After announcing his retirement, and after everything that went down in Columbus between Pierre-Luc Dubois and John Tortorella, fans began speculating whether this has to do with Tortorella’s decisions to scratch him for Monday’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. Koivu commented that being a healthy scratch did not play a part in his decision; his announcement stemmed feeling like he couldn’t keep up in the league anymore. Ultimately, he felt his time in the NHL had come to a bittersweet end and was ready to move on to the next phase of his life. He states he hopes he can still find a way to incorporate hockey into his life.
Laine Benched in Columbus
With the tension between Dubois and Tortorella and bringing Laine into Columbus, all the talk lately has been centered around the Columbus Blue Jackets. Now, it’s no secret that John Tortorella has been known to be a relatively harsh and hostile, and that’s reflecting on the team once again.
Tortorella benched Patrik Laine for the entirety of the third period in their game against the Carolina Hurricanes after trading to acquire him just two weeks ago. After the initial reaction from the media, Tortorella stated that it wasn’t because of his shift that led to the Hurricanes tying goal; he stated there was an off ice altercation between Laine and an assistant coach that led to the decisions to bench Laine for the remainder of the game.
Simply put, Tortorella has never been known to be the nice guy and play it easy with his players. Cam Atkinson stated, “If you’re not giving 100% and looking like you’re trying, he’s going to sit you. It’s no secret. It goes for everybody, myself included. I’ve been that guy.” Unfortunately, Laine had to learn the hard way.
I’m sure this won’t be the last time Laine bumps heads with Tortorella. Will Laine be next to request a trade out of Columbus? Tortorella continues to stir the pot and seems to only be pushing his players and fans farther away from him.
The Ottawa Senators Continue to Struggle in the North Division
I think it’s fair to say that the Ottawa Senators are performing about as well as everyone expected them to, which isn’t saying much. They currently sit last in both the North Division and the league with a 2-11-1 record, their only 2 wins coming against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens.
Why are the Senators struggling to win games, you ask? Well, let’s take a look at their roster. They are the 27th youngest team in the league in the middle, well stuck in the middle, of a rebuild. The first line of Tkachuk, Tierney, and Brown is fairly decent, but still struggles to keep up with the likes of other first lines such as Hyman, Matthews, and Marner. The Senators ultimately lack depth; they have two lines that can compete against other NHL teams while the other two struggle substantially.
Now, that’s not to say these lines are bad by any means. The Senators have looked pretty decent between all four lines and all defensive pairings, however, given the format of the divisions this year, the competition is too much for them to handle. You have players like Galchenyuk and and Stepan facing off against players like Vesey and Spezza; at the end of the day, the Senators will always lose that battle.
Pierre Dorion has also been trading players for picks left and right, hoping to develop a successful prospect pool that will dominate the NHL in years to come. This, unfortunately, means that this team will continue to struggle as the rebuild progresses and more new players are brought in.
As much as everyone loves to hate on and make fun of the Ottawa Senators, general manager Pierre Dorion continues to make moves that are in the best interest of the rebuild and his future team. This can be seen with the recent acquisition of Tim Stützle in the 2020 NHL draft and Dorion trading away players for future draft picks and young players. Within five years, the Senators are expected to be a much better team with developed players from their current prospect pool. Do you think the Senators will pick up pace soon? Or will they be stuck in this rebuild for years to come?
Join us here next week as we go over three more highlights! Will Senators win some games in between that time? Only time will tell.