Welcome back to Screen Shots, a regular THN.com column in which we take a look at a trio of topics and break down our analysis into a few shorter paragraphs. No time like the present in getting down to business:
– Edmonton fans and media were rightfully angered by the nasty knee-on-knee hit Los Angeles Kings defenseman Alex Edler laid on Oilers superstar Connor McDavid Wednesday night.
Amazingly, and for those who claim Edler is just some misunderstood competitor, the fact is this is the same player who has put knee-on-knee hits on unsuspecting opponents multiple times in the past.
Edler injured then-Toronto-Maple-Leafs winger Zach Hyman in April 2021 with a knee-on-knee hit, and at the 2013 IIHF World Championship, he injured Team Canada forward Eric Staal with a knee-on-knee hit. In the Hyman incident, Edler was suspended for all of two games, and the World Championship incident got Edler a four-game suspension.
There is a troubling history here, and Edler has to take ownership of it.
None of the aforementioned supplemental disciplines were sufficient to dissuade Edler from crossing this line again. It’s embarrassing that the NHL subjects players to this nonsense. It shouldn’t matter whether a knee-on-knee hit is made on a top-tier talent like McDavid, or some bubble player on a one-game NHL recall – when this action happens, and it happens repeatedly with the same antagonist, something harsher than a ban of approximately 2.5 percent of an NHLer’s season is called for.
This isn’t all about Edler. He’s not some boogeyman. But there must be a serious message sent to players – the game and its fans invest too much love, time and money in its athletes to watch them lose their careers because of reckless play. Harsher supplemental discipline penalties would go a long way toward enforcing a safer work environment.
– Minnesota goalie Marc-Andre Fleury’s injury isn’t going to help the thoroughly wishy-washy Wild. Minnesota hasn't gone on a winning streak of more than two games this year, and their offense (averaging 2.60 goals-for per game) is fifth-worst in the league. They're also pretty much salary capped-out until the deadline. And Fleury’s understudy, Filip Gustavsson, hasn’t been strong, posting a 1-3-1 record in five appearances this season.
Now that St. Louis –winner of four games in a row – is on its way back to playoff contention, the Blues are only two points behind Minnesota for fourth place in the Central Division standings. If you’re looking at trends, you can make a good argument the Wild are going to trend down the standings while the Blues look to be trending up. Minnesota must hope Fleury gets back to action quickly. Otherwise, the Wild could be on the outside of the playoffs looking in this season.
– Finally, it’s sad, but not at all unfamiliar, to see the Buffalo Sabres free-falling through the Atlantic Division standings. After getting out to a 7-3-0 record to start the current season and once again looking like they're finally getting better for good, the Sabres have lost seven consecutive games – all in regulation time – and they were outscored 33-17 in that span.
They don't have an easy game in any of their next seven games, going up against Toronto, Montreal, the Blues, New Jersey, Tampa Bay, Detroit and Colorado.
This painful stretch is the kind of devastating turn of events that can single-handedly bury a team's playoff chances. Maybe the Sabres turn it around in time to challenge for the playoffs, but this all feels so familiar.
Last year, Buffalo started out 5-1-1, then began a five-game losing skid starting Oct. 31 that lasted into the second week of November. A slump through the holidays essentially ended their playoff hopes then and there.
This year, they start 7-3-0, but in the beginning of November, their losing streak begins, and so far, they aren’t able to pull out of the nosedive.
Call it deja vu, or just deja ‘ew’, but this is why Sabres fans have become accustomed to despair. Regardless of Buffalo’s roster and management changes, they're getting the same terrible story, every year, and they know the end of that story (never mind the majority of it) isn't fun.