Hey everyone. It’s Dan Mount and I’m here with more of your Friday NHL headlines. This week I’ll talk about the devastating injury to Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos and the retirement of Milan Hedjuk. As always, you can leave comments below or follow me on Twitter @DanMountSports.
I did a column last week about how the Tampa Bay Lightning were a nice surprise to start the NHL season. However, things can change in instant and that happened when Tampa Bay’s star player Steven Stamkos broke his tibia in a game Monday against the Boston Bruins. The injury has him out for up to 4-6 months. The injury is first major one of his career and he’ll miss games for the first time since he was a healthy scratch in three games during the 2008-09 season.
Stamkos was back checking when he got tangled up with the Bruins’ Dougie Hamilton. If you look at the video, I don’t think there was any ill intent on the part of Hamilton. It was just one of those things where a guy goes down and crashes into the post.
He did have surgery for the injured leg, which doctors called “successful,” and Stamkos vowed that he will come back "stronger than ever" and wants to play for Team Canada in the Sochi Olympics. Detroit Red Wings coach (who will also coach the Canadians in Russia) said that he will keep the high-flying scorer on the roster until the last minute.
Despite Stamkos wanting to play, the injury leaves a ton of questions. Stamkos provided a guy that can help take the pressure off of Sidney Crosby. Jonathan Toews will also have to help out a little more at the center position.
It’s not just Team Canada that is going to have to deal with the loss of Stammer. The Lightning will be faced with the task of trying to replace Stamkos’ scoring load. They still have the ageless Martin St. Louis and have been playing great in new coach Jon Cooper’s defense-first system. (Stamkos even bought into it.) Cooper says the team can still succeed and will take on this test. It is going to be a bit of a tough road for Tampa Bay, but Cooper is convinced the team can make the playoffs. The defense has played better, but they’ll miss their playmaker.
I do hope Stamkos returns sooner rather than later. He is one of the most exciting players in the game. Crosby and Ovechkin get the headlines, but they also have a lot of people that don’t like them. However, Stamkos is universally respected and is known to casual fans. He is one of the faces of the league, and I would like to see him back.
Hedjuk hangs it up
Earlier in the week, one of the good guys of the NHL called it a career when longtime Colorado Avalanche forward Milan Hedjuk said he's retired when he talked to Czech outlet Blesk (The original interview is in Czech, which is where Hedjuk is from.) and translated (awkwardly) by The Denver Post.
Hedjuk has been injured for the season and has been only a witness to the hot start by his team. Hedjuk said that he wanted to wait until after the season to officially retire, but was told by his agent to wait to see if other teams were interested in acquiring him. He said that he’ll officially announce his retirement soon.
Hedjuk was a great offensive player and his statistics show it with 375 goals and 430 assists in 1,020 career games. (All of which were with Colorado.) Hedjuk also became a team leader and guided the team through the rough patches of the last couple of seasons.
It’s very rare these days to see a player stick with one team as Hedjuk has done. He’s been a rock for this franchise. (How can anyone forget this goal celebration.) The arguments have already started on whether or not he should be enshrined in the hall of fame. His production dipped over the last few seasons, but he will be a part of Avalanche lore. I do think he’ll get his number retired or he’ll get a night dedicated to him. It’s going to be weird not to see him in a Colorado sweater.
Let’s take a look at some games this weekend to watch.
Toronto at Buffalo, 7 p.m. ET (Rogers Sportsnet Ontario, MSG): We could have some leftover bad blood from the whole preseason stick slashing incident and fights.
Washington at Detroit, 7:30 p.m. ET (Comcast Mid-Atlantic, Fox Sports Detroit, NHL Network): Ovie and company take on a Red Wings team that’s starting slower than I thought.
N.Y. Rangers at Montreal, 7 p.m. ET (CBC (regional coverage), MSG2, RDS, NHLN): Could the Rangers be without Michael Del Zotto as he’s rumored to be part of a trade?
Tampa Bay at Phoenix, 8 p.m. ET (CW44, Fox Sports Arizona): Life without Steven Stamkos has been easier than I thought so far after the Ning beat Anaheim 5-1.
San Jose at Chicago, 7 p.m. ET (Comcast Sports California, WGN): A possible Western Conference final preview?
It’s now time to look at the best and worst of the week.
The Rangers and J.T. Miller channel their inner-NHL 94 with this teamwork goal against the Panthers.
Toronto’s Nazem Kadri barrels into Minnesota’s Nik Backstrom and gets a 3-game suspension for it.
Who blew up the Death Star?
Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen decides to take a break during the game against Calgary.
That’s it for this week. See you on Monday.
Dan Mount is an NHL and college football writer for TJRSports.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY.