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Sens deal with some bad business

By Lori Bennett National Sports Columnist

NHL Noise

They say that bad things come in threes, and the Ottawa Senators are wishing that were the limit. The Sens are being hard hit with a string of bad circumstances, including the Shane Pinto gambling suspension, and injuries to Erik Brannstrom, Thomas Chabot and Artem Zub. This week the adversity continued with the NHL imposing a penalty related to the 2022 attempted trade of Evgenii Dadonov. On Wednesday, Nov. 1, the league announced the penalty for Ottawa’s role in a voided trade of Dadonov would be the forfeiture of a first-round draft pick in one of the three upcoming amateur drafts. The NHL assessed that GM Pierre Dorion had given the Vegas Golden Knights incorrect information about the no-move clause in Dadonov’s contract, and this resulted in the Knights having to nix a trade to the Anaheim Ducks because the Ducks were on the player’s no trade list. New owner Michael Andlauer acted quickly, relieving Dorion of his duties, and handing the Interim GM title to recently added President Steve Staios’ job description. The Sens will apparently take their time to fill the role for the long term. That’s not all Andlauer did. He held one doozy of a press conference where he accused the league of not being transparent with him during his purchase of the Ottawa Senators franchise. He said he had not been properly informed about the pending Dadonov situation, or the suspension that was about to be leveled on Pinto, perhaps to ensure that “the seller got the best price possible”. One is hard-pressed to judge this disciplinary call from the NHL. It’s bad business. The former GM misrepresented a player’s contract situation in the facilitation of a trade. But one does wonder where the NHL draws its morality line. It wasn’t too long ago that multiple members of the management group of another NHL team covered up a sexual abuse scandal and experienced a lesser penalty. Yes, some lost their jobs, as Dorion did, and there was a fine, but losing a first rounder hurts more. Two of your favourite teams have had a slightly different start to their seasons than was expected. On Thursday night, both the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs were in action, and they went into their games with different outlooks. The Habs are deep in a rebuild, and this season was always expected to be developmental. But then they lost centreman Kirby Dach and defenseman David Savard, and it looked like it would be a very long year indeed for the bleu blanc et rouge. But the Habs went into their game against the Arizona Coyotes with a 5-2-2 record, fresh off a shootout loss to the Stanley Cup Champion Vegas Golden Knights. In Arizona, the team that had put the Champs through their paces didn’t really show up. They were outplayed by the Coyotes — at times dominated by them — and the result was a 3-2 loss. To make matters worse, the Canadiens lost another player to injury as Rafael Harvey-Pinard did not finish the game after receiving a hard hit and falling awkwardly. It feels like the trips to the doctor will never stop for the Habs. The Leafs are in the wide-open part of their window, and they ought to be Stanley Cup contenders, but you wouldn’t know it from their start. They went into their game on Thursday against the Boston Bruins with a 5-3-1 record, trailing the lowly Habs in the standings, and pending unrestricted free agent William Nylander leading the scoring. In Boston, Matthews and Marner got back to their scoring ways, each notching a goal in regulation before taking the Bruins to overtime. Ultimately, a shootout was necessary to resolve this one and it was the Bruins who came out on top with the 3-2 win. After ten games, Montreal and Toronto had the exact same record at 5-3-2. The difference is that Montreal is pleasantly surprised by this outcome and the performance of its up-and-coming group, while folks in Toronto are asking questions about the sluggish start. Realistically, it’s too early to cause any excitement for either club. A couple of Canadian greats announced their retirement this week. Joe Thornton, after 24 years in the NHL, announced through a beachside video that he had hung up his skates. He wasn’t unemployed for long. He will be working with Calgary Flames AGM Brad Pascall on the management group for the 2023 Spengler Cup. Paul Stastny has also retired after 17 seasons, and he’s not likely far behind Thornton in finding an off-ice role in hockey. Another hockey career ended this past week, but on tragic terms. Adam Johnson, who spent several years in the Pittsburgh Penguins system, died tragically in England last weekend. Johnson was playing with the Nottingham Panthers and sustained an injury from an opponent’s skate and was later pronounced dead in hospital. An inquest into the circumstances of his death will be held. The tragedy has given life to a player safety discussion that has been ongoing for years. There are several areas of a hockey player’s body that are unprotected and vulnerable to skate cuts in a sport that is fast and physical. Equipment experts have been trying to perfect cut-resistant fabrics that are comfortable to wear and that cover the ankles, wrists and neck. The most adopted so far are cut-resistant socks that help protect the vulnerable area just above the skates. Following the tragedy, many leagues are making neck protectors mandatory, and some NHL players are making the voluntary shift to wearing them. Certainly, all should be motivated to prevent any such tragedy from happening again.

Blue Jays Babble

On Wednesday, Nov. 2, the Texas Rangers won their first ever World Series and the 2023 Major League Baseball season came to a close. We are officially in the offseason, and that means business for the Toronto Blue Jays is about to pick up. What happens in the weeks and months ahead will determine how much we enjoy ball next summer. As of Thursday, eligible players in expiring contracts became free agents. There is a five-day window when their current teams have exclusive rights to negotiate with them, so by end of day Monday, Nov. 6, we will have a sense of which Blue Jays are likely leaving town. The Jays have five free agents — third baseman Matt Chapman, starting pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, relief pitcher Jordan Hicks, centre fielder Kevin Kiermaier and first baseman Brandon Belt. Realistically, fans have likely seen the last of all these guys in the baby blue. During this five-day window is also the time when contract options are decided. For the Jays, the guys to watch are utility player Whit Merrifield and reliever Chad Green. At the end of season presser, it didn’t sound like Merrifield would be back, but we’ll see what unfolds when emotions are cooler. Based on how their season ended, we can expect the Toronto Blue Jays will look very different next season. The next few days set the stage for what we can expect from them this winter. There might not be any bats cracking in Toronto, but management needs to make some strong swings in the next few weeks. Before we know it, we’ll be talking about Spring training.

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