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NHL Winners and Losers from Week 13

Each week in the NHL brings forth its winners and losers. Mike Stephens takes a look at the highs and lows around the league from the past week.
Zach Fucale

Each week in the NHL brings forth its winners and losers. 

It's my job to parse through the action and determine who fits which criterion. It ain't much, but it's honest work. 

So, without further adieu, let's take a look at the winners and losers of week 13 of the NHL season. 

Loser: Any Team that Signs Evander Kane

Look, "intangibles" are a trait that tends to get overvalued in NHL circles. This is mainly because they don't involve math, therein allowing hockey men to attribute them to a "gut feeling" and seem smarter than they actually are. 

Which is fine. Let them have their fun.

But while intangibles are not as essential to the roster construction process as the old heads might make you think, that doesn't mean they don't matter at all. 

Over an 82-game season, being "good in the room" holds value, as players are more likely to succeed when surrounded by teammates that have collectively bought into the overall goal of winning -- or, at least, are capable of being stomached for the bulk of a workday.

Kane – and I cannot stress this enough – does not foster those warm and fuzzy feelings of camaraderie. 

In fact, he's perhaps the most toxic lockerroom presence the league has at the moment, leaving carnage in his wake wherever he goes.

Just check the tapes. 

Dustin Byfuglien straight up led a mutiny against Kane during their days in Winnipeg when the then-23-year-old winger wore a tracksuit to a meeting in violation of a team policy, causing Byfuglien to throw that same tracksuit in the shower to send a message. 

“There’s a standard that everyone needs to live up to,” future Jets captain Blake Wheeler said of the incident at the time. 

“If you don’t like it then there’s other places to go.”

So, weeks later, Kane did go to another place: Buffalo, the beacon of organizational functionality. 

How did that turn out? 

“Shut the [expletive] up, you selfish [expletive],” screamed then-Sabres defender Justin Falk at Kane during a practice in January of 2018. 

This outburst, which the team tried to shrug off as a competitive disagreement, came minutes after Kane had apparently gotten tangled with teammate Zach Bogosian during a drill that caused the veteran defender to fall into the boards and be helped off the ice. 

Not great!

So, a little over a month after his latest debacle, Kane was shipped to the Sharks, where, upon arriving, he pledged to be the model citizen he'd never been at any point of his hockey-playing career, and was rewarded with a seven-year extension. 

Fast forward to the present day, and the honeymoon is long over. Kane's teammates have gone on the record on multiple occasions times to state how they've avoided making contact with their polarizing co-worker, and reportedly barged into their exit meetings with Sharks management last season to state that they did not want Kane back with the team. 

Management listened, and yet were still forced to pick up the pieces after Kane managed to somehow violate the NHL's COVID-19 protocols despite being banned from Sharks training camp in September, ultimately earning him a 21-game suspension. 

And those are just a few of Kane's hockey-related transgressions. It's the tip of the iceberg, baby!

I don't care how many goals this guy can score. I don't care if he can magically turn the puck into a loveable sea otter that becomes my best friend and accompanies me on a series of whimsical adventures. 

Wayne Gretzky himself would not be worth this headache. And any team that hitches their wagon to Kane -- of which, reportedly, there are many -- instantly becomes a loser in my eyes. 

Winner: Zach Fucale 

Gosh darn it. I just love stories like this. 

Zach Fucale was a second-round pick of the Montreal Canadiens in 2013. He turned pro in 2015, and has since played for nine different teams across numerous different organizations in three different leagues, compiling one of the more prolific journeymen resumes modern hockey has seen to date. 

Fucale was even in the ECHL roughly 12 months ago, suiting up for his lone game with the South Carolina Stingrays in an attempt to keep his professional hockey career alive amidst a global pandemic. 

Now, Fucale is an NHL record holder. It's funny how life works. 

The 26-year-old debuted with the Washington Capitals earlier this season and has since kicked his big-league career off with a bang, earning the NHL record for the longest shutout streak to start a career on Saturday night by holding the Minnesota Wild scoreless through the 3:43 mark of the second period. 

When Fucale was grinding away in the minors for the past seven years, riding in cramped buses across middle America to play in half-empty barns while surviving off of as much rest stop food as his per-diem afforded him, it's hard to imagine how far he likely felt from the Hockey Hall of Fame. 

But after Saturday's performance, that's almost certainly where his stick is headed. And I, for one, could not be happier. 

Follow your dreams, kids. 

Loser: The Toronto Maple Leafs (With a Multi-Goal Lead)

Dear reader, I just want to personally say that your "it was 4-1" tweet on Saturday night was absolutely hysterical. Truly, a work of art. When I read it, my body began convulsing with laughter, achieving an ecstasy I did not previously know was possible. I then immediately fell to my knees to curse the heavens for not granting me the breadth of comedic genius that you have clearly had since the day of your birth. 

How do you even come up with this stuff? Is it hard to formulate such a cutting-edge joke that no one in human history has ever thought of before? Are you aware of your newfound status as a comedy pioneer? Someone about which children will read about in history books as perhaps the funniest person to ever live? 

Bless you, dear reader. Bless you!

No, but seriously, the Leafs blew another 4-1 lead on Saturday and deserve all the heat they have gotten and will continue to get until it happens again. 

At a certain point, you have to stop doing "The Thing". But the Leafs can't. They crave embarrassment, as Saturday's collapse to the Avalanche served as the fifth blown 4-1 lead by the team since 2013, when the meme was birthed. 

How is this even possible? This is a curse that spans eras, transcends cores, and has sept into the very bedrock of the franchise. 

These collapses date back to the Dave Nonis era, for Pete's sake. The Leafs have had two different GMs since then, along with three different head coaches, and a roster facelift that has sent quite literally every single player who suited up for that fateful game seven in 2013 out the door. 

And yet, life finds a way. 

All you can do is laugh, really. I certainly am. This is funny to me. Ha-ha. I love it. 

(Life is pain). 

Winner: The Hockey Diversity Alliance

Watch the video. Buy the tape. And support this undeniably important cause. 

It's impossible to overstate just how fearless the members of the Hockey Diversity Alliance are for leading the charge against racism and intolerance that plagues hockey to this day. 

Wayne Simmonds, Akim Aliu, Trevor Daley, Matt Dumba, Anthony Duclair, Chris Stewart, Nazem Kadri, and all other members of the organization are heroes. That is an unquestionable fact. 

But the bravery of the HDA is not shown solely in their attempt to spark change in a community that harbors (and even empowers) countless people who hate them for no reason other than the color of their skin. 

No, their bravery shines through in the way they have gone about it.

Anti-racism messaging in hockey has always been presented in a neat, sanitized little package of "be kind to everyone" epithets that are quickly forgotten after puck drop. It's better than nothing, I guess. But, clearly, it's not enough.

The HDA has eschewed all pleasantries with their #TapeOutHate campaign. And what they've done is provide the public a glimpse into the vitriol that players of color deal with on a daily basis, stripping the hate of its sugar-coated filter and showcasing the true horrors they endure in its rawest form. 

That is a message that cannot be ignored. 

Communicating it, however, does not come easily. Putting these real and unfiltered acts of aggression on display requires those involved in the campaign to unearth past trauma on a public stage, with their pain serving as a plea for the public to spare future generations of a similar fate. 

That takes strength. A strength that those who do not identify with those groups cannot comprehend. 

Hockey is a better place with the HDA. Hopefully, the powers at be will begin to work with them. 

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