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Screen Shots: Blackhawks, Habs and Ducks

The Blackhawks are back in the news, the Canadiens are painful to watch and the Ducks haven't slowed down. Adam Proteau is back with another Screen Shot column.

This week’s Screen Shots column has what all Screen Shots columns have: a handful of different hockey topics, in bite-sized portions. What more could a writer ask of an increasingly short-attention-span audience? I forget, as that feels like so long ago. Anyhow, on to this week’s topics:

– The Chicago Blackhawks and Kyle Beach announced Wednesday they have come to terms on a settlement in Beach’s negligence lawsuit against the team. Hopefully this brings peace of mind to the former NHLer.

As importantly, here’s hoping this is one of the final times we hear of a player being abused. But you can understand why scepticism abounds that Beach’s case is one of only a few. Given earlier instances of wrongdoing, it only makes sense there have been others in the game who have taken advantage of its autocratic leanings to commit serious offenses.

This is why we have to take great pains to guarantee predatory behavior ceases to be a factor at any level of the sport. All it takes is complacency for terrible things begin happening again, and if we want a future in which we’re always talking hockey and never talking about abuse suffered while playing hockey, we have to do the legwork and be more vigilant and willing to speak out than we’ve ever been before. If not, it’s only a matter of time until the next abuse case comes to light.

– The Montreal Canadiens have played 30 regular-season games this year, and with an Atlantic Division-worst record of 6-21-3, they aren’t concerned about “load management”, with their uninjured players, they’re concerned about overload management – as in, all this losing is overwhelming, and what left there is there for the Canadiens to play for in the next 52 games?

We can hear all the platitudes of, “They’re playing for their jobs next year” we want, but in the boots-on-the-ground, day-to-day wear and tear of a season lost before the holiday break, it’s a bleak thought to picture how frustrating the next four months are going to be for the Habs. One of the biggest tasks for Jeff Gorton, Montreal’s new head of hockey operations, is to ensure youngsters such as Nick Suzuki and Alexander Romanov aren’t soured on the experience of playing in one of hockey’s most demanding markets in a season like this one.

The sooner they can show their young talent the good side of playing in Montreal, the more likely they are to get their signatures on contract extensions. The longer it takes, the more chance there is of a Jesperi Kotkaniemi-type saga playing out again. In that sense, every game from No. 31 to No. 82 still has great importance to the Canadiens.

– The Anaheim Ducks have been one of the few unexpectedly hot teams to start this season to maintain a large degree of success. The Buffalo Sabres came out strong, but sunk near the bottom of the Atlantic Division in short order. The San Jose Sharks won the first four games they played this year (and six of their first nine games), but they’ve gone 9-10-1 since, and currently sit in fifth in the Pacific Division, but with the Pacific’s third-worst points percentage (.534) and as losers of four of their past six games, the Sharks likely aren’t going to scare anyone this season.

The Ducks, though, have managed to stay prominent in the Pacific: after winning two of their first three games this year, Anaheim dropped six straight. However, rather than fading to the bottom of the Pacific as many (this writer included) imagined they would this season, the Ducks won their next eight games and have turned into a real threat that currently sits atop the Pacific Standings with a 17-9-5 mark.

Credit for that surely goes to Anaheim’s players, but we also can’t forget about the impact of head coach Dallas Eakins on the Ducks. Once considered a one-and-a-half-season washout after 113 games running the bench in Edmonton, Eakins is making the most of his second shot at an NHL head coaching gig. A new-school hockey mind who approaches each of his players differently, Eakins is proving (a) second time’s the charm; and (b) the Ducks were wise to stick with him for the past two years despite not making the playoffs either year. Sometimes a coach really does need a little bit longer to put his stamp on a group, and it sure looks like Eakins falls into that category.


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