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Roy's return spurs Habs to victory

By Lori Bennett

National Sports Columnist

NHL Noise

With the NHL trade deadline rapidly approaching, the playoff picture is slowly shaping up and teams are making decisions to be buyers or sellers. The Vancouver Canucks will undoubtedly be buyers. After a couple of seasons of struggle, the Canucks sit atop the Western Conference standings and look to be a real post-season threat.

On Sunday, Jan. 21, the Canucks rewarded the leadership behind their resurgence when they announced a contract extension for President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford. Rutherford is responsible for hiring GM Patrik Allvin and, along with Allvin, for bringing in Coach Rick Tocchet. A team that recently had tear-it-down-rebuild on its lips is now in the “Stanley Cup contender” conversation.

Having traded for defenseman Nikita Zadorov back in November, the Canucks are believed to be looking to add a top-six forward in advance of the deadline. A new home for Andrei Kuzmenko, who has not been able to regain last season’s form under his new head coach, might also be on Allvin’s agenda.

The Edmonton Oilers made a move on Monday, Jan. 22, announcing they had signed veteran free agent forward, Corey Perry, to a one-year contract. GM Ken Holland told the media the deal had been finalized on the weekend, but he had held the announcement until Monday. He added that he had been “after Corey the last few years.”

It's an excellent move from Holland. Despite an off-ice incident that led to the termination of Perry’s contract, followed by some time in the NHL’s player assistance program, Perry has been playoff gold for several teams in recent years.

His grit and leadership, combined with a scoring touch that has aged but not retired, is exactly what the doctor ordered in Edmonton. Perry was already at practice with his teammates on Monday and was expected to make his debut with the Oilers before the All-Star break.

This is not the first time Holland has selected from the slightly damaged rack. Almost two years ago to the day, the Oilers signed Evander Kane following a terminated contract and an NHL investigation. That decision has served them well, and Holland expects Perry to fit equally well, providing scoring depth in the forward group.

The Oilers have been on a heater. On Thursday night they hosted the Chicago Blackhawks and claimed a 3-0 shutout win on the strength of two goals from Connor McDavid and one from Zach Hyman. The victory had them at 15 wins in a row and chasing a Pittsburgh Penguins record of 17 wins from the 1992-93 season. The Oilers were believed to be dead in the water earlier this season, but a coaching change turned out to be the ticket.

Meanwhile, in Ottawa, the new leadership group is planning a retool of the rebuild that former GM Pierre Dorion said was over. GM Steve Staios is reportedly open to moving some assets to land veteran leadership that can support the young core through its development. Names like Vladimir Tarasenko and Jakob Chychrun have been floated as being available for the right price. I’m not sure what that says about their leadership so far in Ottawa.

The Sens weren’t just thinking subtraction. After missing the first half of the season due to a sports betting suspension, restricted free agent Shane Pinto re-signed last week and returned to the Ottawa line-up. He scored his first of the season on Tuesday night in Montreal.

On Tuesday, the Toronto Maple Leafs activated forward Ryan Reaves from the injured reserve list. In a weekend interview with Sportsnet’s Luke Fox, Reaves disclosed that he had been “ready for a couple of weeks now.” The comment had many wondering if the Leafs had resuscitated “Robidas Island” to deal with Reaves, who has not played at a level to justify that three-year contract he signed in the summer.

Tyler Bertuzzi had to be away from the team for the birth of his child, and that opened up a roster spot. But this is a temporary solution. It remains to be seen how GM Brad Treliving will deal with his summer error.

On Thursday night, Coach Patrick Roy and the New York Islanders were in Montreal to face the Canadiens. After a lengthy hiatus from the NHL, Roy is back.

Last Saturday, Jan. 20, GM Lou Lamorellio announced that the Islanders had fired Lane Lambert, and had hired Roy as their new head coach.

Lambert had been in the position less than two years, and the Islanders had struggled to find consistency during his tenure. With the Islanders two points outside of a wild card spot, Lamorellio made his move. We can’t predict that the Isles will find consistency, or a playoff spot, with Roy at the helm, but they have most certainly found passion.

Not long after the hire, video began circulating of Roy at practice, shouting out directions and asserting himself all over the ice. Behind the bench on Sunday, he was lively in his first game and his team claimed him an overtime win. Roy had not coached in the NHL since leaving the Colorado Avalanche on the eve of the 2016-17 season, citing lack of input into personnel decisions.

After a few games of lackluster play, Habs fans were hoping that Roy’s return would be enough to energize them. A video montage during the anthem had the whole building, and many watching from home, in goosebumps. Roy was on the big screen, making highlight-reel saves, hoisting the Stanley Cup, and dishing out the winks.

Fans got their wish. Montreal took an early lead with first-period goals from Nick Suzuki, Cole Caufield and Sean Monahan. The Canadiens held a 3-1 lead deep into the third period when veteran forward Brendan Gallagher was penalized for an illegal check to the head of Adam Pelech. The Islanders scored twice in the ensuing five-minute major and the game was tied. It looked like Roy would be the hero, but at 17:48 it was Monahan who would wear the hero’s cape.

It feels like a Patrick Roy – Martin St. Louis rivalry might be in its infancy.

Hockey Canada

On Wednesday, Jan. 24, The Globe and Mail broke the news that five members of Canada’s 2018 world junior hockey team had been given a date by which to surrender to police authorities in London, Ontario to face charges of sexual assault.

These charges are believed to be connected to the sexual assault of a young woman in a hotel room by several members of Team Canada following a gala in June of 2018. These allegations have not been proven in court, but the report would suggest the Crown is prepared to proceed with charges. As of press deadline, London Police had not confirmed the story.

Several members of the 2018 team are currently under contract and playing with NHL teams. When the scandal broke in 2022, some players made statements denying they had attended the gala, or if they had, denying any involvement in the incident. Recently several of those players have taken leave from their NHL teams, resulting in speculation about who the accused may be.

If the report is validated and London Police lay formal charges following a press release, it will signal the beginning of an unprecedented reckoning that will serve to indict hockey culture, regardless of what is the outcome of the charges.

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