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the World According to JR
Posted On Wednesday, 02.01.2012 / 12:14 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Preds' brilliance, Coyotes' struggles intrigue Roenick

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com. "World According to JR" appears every Wednesday and includes Roenick's sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

Two teams out in the Western Conference have piqued my interest this week. One is red-hot and deserves our attention; the other is near and dear to my heart, but needs some type of jolt to get back in the hunt. Read on to find out who I'm talking about and why:


What's Clicking?

The Nashville Predators are on fire despite having very little fanfare around them other than Ryan Suter's contract talks.

The Predators don't get the respect and the attention they deserve, but I can tell you they're a team I didn't like playing against. They're a very tough, stingy, competitive team, and it seems their coach, Barry Trotz, is a wonderful guy.

He's extremely smart and he seems like a good players' coach. He always has a very solid, sound system that he displays to his team. His team believes in the system and plays hard for him. Every single night they are disciplined, they work hard and they are sound defensively.

If there is any one knock against the Predators it would be their lack of consistent goal scoring, but lately they've found ways to win games by scoring goals. Mike Fisher is scoring like crazy right now. When Martin Erat starts scoring a little bit more, the Predators are going to be even harder to beat than they are right now, and in the last 15 games they are 13-2.

Look at the standings. Nashville is only three points behind the top spot in the National Hockey League, and yet you don't really hear anything about that. It's disappointing to me, because the Predators have paid their dues. They've sat in the basement, worked their way back to respectability, and now they are arguably one of the strongest and most disciplined teams in the NHL.

Pekka Rinne is one of the best goaltenders in the world and he's anchored by probably the best tandem in the NHL with Shea Weber and Suter.

Hopefully Suter's contract situation doesn't distract this team and he's able to sign eventually. We'll see what happens with that, but right now I'm just very impressed watching this team play hard together, play a very organized system.

Trotz is one of the most tenured coaches in the NHL right now, and I don't think anybody should question why he's been in Nashville for so long. His team really loves playing for him and always responds to his coaching tactics.

I would not want to play this team in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Trust me, I know they're a very difficult and frustrating team to play.

What's Missing?

The Phoenix Coyotes are very dear to me. They're a team I love to cheer. You can see how hard they work on a consistent basis and are backed by a fantastic coach in Dave Tippett, but they're also a team that I seriously worry about right now.

The Coyotes lost Tuesday night at home to Anaheim and are just 3-4-3 in their past 10 games. They sit No. 12 in the Western Conference because for some reason they can't get over the hump; they can't string three, four or five wins together to find their way back into the top eight.

They're a team without any major superstars or big-time goal scorers they can market and be that game-breaker, so in my opinion GM Don Maloney has to start thinking about making a trade for a proven scorer before it's too late. He has to do it in order to have an opportunity to make the playoffs this season.

And we all know how important it is for the Coyotes to make the playoffs and get that extra revenue from selling out the building for playoff games. They can't afford to miss the playoffs.

Radim Vrbata is trying his hardest to be that offensive punch, but Phoenix is not going to rally around Radim Vrbata. I mean no disrespect to him, because he's a fantastic player and he should have been in the All-Star Game this year, but the Coyotes need a marquee player.

The first name that comes to mind is Jeff Carter from Columbus. I know he has a big contract, 10 years and millions still left on his deal, and he has not played his best as a Blue Jacket. But this could be one of those cases where desperate times call for desperate measures.

If they want to get into the playoffs, they need a marquee guy that is going to score on a nightly basis. And I don't think they're going to be able to get a consistent, marquee goal scorer on the cheap.

The Coyotes are a very difficult team to play against because of their defensive structure and hard work, but they always seem to lose in overtime or by one goal. And by getting a marquee goal scorer, if they can, I think the Coyotes can make the playoffs and therefore make some extra money that would greatly enhance the interest in Phoenix.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.25.2012 / 10:42 AM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick: All-Star Game will be great, but needs Ovi

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick is penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick offers sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

All-Star Weekend is upon us, so naturally this blog entry has to do with all things All-Star related. There is so much to appreciate at this time of the year, but there's also one storyline this week that really disappointed me:

What's clicking?

It is really cool that with Ottawa hosting the All-Star Game, the fans there really got behind their players by voting and getting four of them onto the rosters. That shows a lot of commitment and a lot of loyalty from the fans to their players, and you can tell that they're really excited about having the All-Star Game come to their city.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.18.2012 / 3:51 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick: Credit to Kovalchuk, concern for Leafs

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick is penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick offers sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

I have to give some kudos and offer my respect to one of my least favorite players, but I also have to get critical with one of my favorite teams. Read on to find out what I'm talking about:

What's clicking?

Ilya Kovalchuk is really playing like the player that he should be, and that's a really good sign for the New Jersey Devils.

One of the reasons this team is winning is because their best player is doing the little things he's supposed to be doing to allow his team to win. He's working harder defensively, and his coach is playing him more in penalty-killing roles because of his speed and because of how well he's playing. When you play well, your coach is going to reward you with more ice time.

Kovalchuk is very focused on scoring goals and being one of the best players in the game, and that's pretty commendable for him.

I've been all over him in terms of his team mentality. I've called him selfish. I've called him a lot of different things, but I've been impressed with his dedication to Pete DeBoer's system and how he's been playing to the system. You know what, he's scoring goals and he's one of the hottest guys in the League right now because of it.

I can be mean, but when you're playing well and playing properly, within the team rules and the team concept, I can appreciate that, too. And I need to give a lot of respect to Kovalchuk for his recent play. I hope he keeps it up because if he does, the team will continue to do well and creep up the board to secure a playoff spot.

Hey, I will say that Kovalchuk is not one of my favorite players. I have no problem telling you that, but I do appreciate his dedication to the team and that his work ethic seems much more focused. I recognize good, solid hockey when I see it. He has more success when he plays a team-oriented way.

What's missing?

I'll go on record and say the Toronto Maple Leafs are one of my favorite teams because of their fan base, their history, and it was also one of my favorite places to play because of the fans, their knowledge, and the history behind the Maple Leafs.

But Toronto's last playoff appearance was in 2004 when we [the Philadelphia Flyers] knocked them out with one of my favorite goals of my career against Eddie Belfour. Since then, it's been a downhill spiral.

The Maple Leafs started off so hot, but they've lost three in a row and now they're ninth in the Eastern Conference.

At the beginning of this season it looked like they were on the right path to getting out of that playoff funk. They started out so hot and Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul were off to career years, but now the Leafs have lost three in a row and they're again flirting with the possibility of missing the playoffs.

One of my favorite coaches, Ron Wilson, just received a contract extension and some people might have scoffed at that, but this is less about coaching and more about putting enough talented players on the ice. Brian Burke is a very savvy, smart GM, but because of Toronto's inconsistencies in winning hockey games and with missing the playoffs looming again, he needs to make a trade.

Burke needs to get somebody that will help the Leafs secure a playoff spot for this year, and he needs to do it now because time is running out for the Maple Leafs. How much are the fans and the media going to allow with this team missing the playoffs?

It's funny, though, because I don't know if it's goaltending, defense or offense. It befuddles me as to why this team can't find consistency.

It has to be the players, and Burke, being as smart as he is and being this close to the trade deadline, he has to start shopping people around and getting on the "I need" list for players to help his team get into the playoffs.

The Toronto Maple Leafs need something, and they need it now.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.11.2012 / 5:58 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick: Handing out some midseason hardware

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick usually offers his sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League, but with this being midseason week in the NHL, J.R. decided to hand out some hardware.

Everybody has their own list, so I thought I'd give you mine. Here are my midseason picks for the six big trophies in the NHL:

Calder Trophy

It's not a big secret that it's Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Edmonton Oilers.

It still amazes me that Edmonton thought about sending him back to juniors. He's dazzled with his ability to handle the National Hockey League, and he seems way older and more mature than his age would suggest. Boy, oh boy, does he have a bright future, and he definitely gets the early nod for rookie of the year because of the amazing pace with which he has started his career.

Norris Trophy

This is a real close one for me. The two guys I believe are right there are on teams that aren't at the top of the League, but they're good teams and they're going to be in the playoffs.

The first guy is Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators.

Brian Campbell
Defense - FLA
GOALS: 3 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 33
SOG: 67 | +/-: 2
Karlsson has been fantastic all season. He has been consistently strong offensively and defensively. He's been excellent, especially on the power play. On a team that has struggled through parts of the year, Karlsson has not really had many low points. He's been a model of consistency, which is both impressive and totally necessary in Ottawa.

Nipping at Karlsson's heals, and people may think I'm crazy for this, is Brian Campbell of the Florida Panthers.

There's not much hype or attention down in Florida, but the Panthers quietly had a fantastic first half of the season and Dale Tallon bringing Campbell there is a big reason why. He has enhanced the Panthers' overall production. His coast-to-coast rushes have been exciting to watch. He's a defenseman that can control the game. And he seems to be having a lot of fun.

Right now for the Norris it's a push between Karlsson and Campbell. It's still up in the air.

Vezina Trophy

This has to go to Henrik Lundqvist of the New York Rangers, but this is a close one. In fact, because of Lundqvist, Tim Thomas and Brian Elliott, I think this is going to be as close a Vezina race as we've seen in the last decade.

The goalies this year have just been phenomenal, but Lundqvist has allowed the Rangers to not only become the No. 1 team in the League, but he has allowed them to win games this year regardless of whether the forwards score goals. That is a pretty impressive feat.

Thomas is again defying the laws of age and continuing the highest level of play, but he did have a tough start at the beginning of the year so I'm going to give Lundqvist the nod because of his consistency night in and night out.

Jack Adams Award

This is going to a guy that didn't even start the year as a coach. It's Ken Hitchcock of the St. Louis Blues.

Hitch has done something that not many people have the ability to do, which is go into a team that is struggling, a team that couldn't win any games, that was battling with its confidence, and totally turn it around. In fact, I think the term total remodel is an understatement for what Hitchcock has accomplished in St. Louis. Their structure, their system, and their overall attitude and desire to win -- it's all different. This team believes it can win every single night and works hard every single night.

I feel bad for any team that has to play the Blues in the first round of the playoffs because they seem to be on a roll and playing like warriors.

Selke Trophy

Joe Pavelski
Right Wing - SJS
GOALS: 16 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 30
SOG: 121 | +/-: 13
This is always a tough one, but I'm putting someone down here that will surprise a lot of people. It's Joe Pavelski from the San Jose Sharks.

Todd McLellan trusts this guy in every aspect of the game. He puts him on the power play. He puts him on the penalty kill. He starts him in overtime. He uses him in the shootout. Pavelski is so smart in his defensive play, but he doesn't get any credit out there in San Jose because of Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Dan Boyle and Brent Burns. Pavelski is, without question, a guy that should be getting attention for being one of the best defensive forwards in the League that can also play offensively. It's a lot like Ryan Kesler was last year. He's just a great player.

A close second would be Patrice Bergeron of the Boston Bruins. He's such a good penalty killer and he's so smart defensively with his positioning that he makes the Selke race close, but I still like Pavelski by a hair.

Hart Trophy

Claude Giroux
Right Wing - PHI
GOALS: 18 | ASST: 30 | PTS: 48
SOG: 103 | +/-: 5
The big one is an easy one. Hands down the most exciting player for me to watch this year all the way around the boards has been Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers.

His toughness, grit, goal-scoring, playmaking, work ethic and importance to the team have all been such important elements for the Flyers this season. He's really benefited from Jaromir Jagr being there, learning from a veteran, but Giroux's confidence seems to be off-the-charts high right now. Some of the moves he makes, the timing of them, the timing of his goals, show he's a big time player that rises to the occasion. And I love his mentality. He plays the game with a lot of grit, an edge, and he's in the perfect place in Philly because the people there can appreciate his game.

He has been by far the most valuable to his team.
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Posted On Wednesday, 01.04.2012 / 9:30 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Still in awe over Winter Classic

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

It's been a few days since the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic, but I'm still in awe over the entire event. Plus, the problems that the Buffalo Sabres have been having all season are still mystifying to me. Read on to find out more of my thoughts on both:

What's clicking?

I've done a lot of cool things in my lifetime and have been involved with a lot of really neat events, including All-Star games, the Olympics and the Stanley Cup Final, but the Winter Classic was one of the coolest things I've ever done. The best thing I've ever done was go to the Vancouver Olympics, but last weekend's Winter Classic was one of the most fun and best-run events I've seen in a long time.

My hat goes off to the NHL for putting on a first-class event. My hat goes off to the Rangers and Flyers for the support they gave the Winter Classic. And, I certainly tip my hat to the fans that came out, all 45,000 for the alumni game and the 47,000 for the big game. That just goes to show you how supportive these fans are in both of these cities.

The buildup to the even was spectacular, too.

For both teams to open up and allow HBO's cameras to go inside and get up close and personal not only in the locker rooms, but on the buses, on the planes, in the hotel rooms and in their homes was just phenomenal. Those are forbidden territories to media, but the coaches and the teams allowed that to happen and by doing so allowed people to get up front with the National Hockey League and its players from their living rooms.

Getting to play in the alumni game was tremendous. To be in the same locker room with Bernie Parent, Bob Clarke, Mark Howe, Eric Lindros, Mark Recchi, Rick Tocchet -- it was a true treat. To be on the ice with 45,000 people watching, I can't remember being in an environment that took my breath away, and that really took my breath away. It's the only way I can describe it.

Seeing the amount of sweaters that were worn out there, it was inspiring.

Again, the NHL really succeeded in pulling off another great celebration of the game. The Winter Classic is a huge hit and a huge bonus for the NHL and its fans.

What's missing?

I remain perplexed by the struggles of the Buffalo Sabres. I really just don't get it. I don't understand why this team has struggled to win consistently. They have solid, strong forwards, good defenseman and in my opinion a guy who should be one of the best goalies in the NHL in Ryan Miller, but it's not working.

What is wrong with Miller, both physically and mentally? He just doesn't seem to be the same guy I'm used to watching. He's letting in a lot of shots that in past years he would have stopped. He seems to be struggling in the crease with his positioning. I think he's battling a confidence issue right now, and I don't know why it has been going on for so long.

Maybe it's because Ryan Miller got married in the offseason and his wife lives in L.A., so there is that separation. But, that's personal stuff that you have to deal with, that you have to put aside and forget about when you're on the ice.

Lindy Ruff is a good coach, but for some reason the guys and him just aren't connecting with the work aspect that needs to be done. They're struggling to win the games they do win, and they're not beating teams they should beat.

They barely beat Edmonton on Tuesday because the Oilers came out and totally dominated them in the work aspect. That leads me to wonder why the Sabres aren't working hard enough for Ruff.

They do deserve some benefit of the doubt because their injuries have been immense, and now Christian Ehrhoff is out as well. They have used 33 different players in the lineup and they have lost 173 man-games to injury. It is hard for the coach to find any cohesiveness with all those injuries because he is forever mismatching combinations, so you can't get into any kind of groove.

But there is still the work ethic problem and the issues that Miller seems to be having.

Let's hope that Buffalo can get everybody healthy, working hard, and clicking so they put together the push to the playoffs that those fans deserve. It is a really good fan base and it's always good to see the Sabres battling come playoff time.
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Posted On Saturday, 12.31.2011 / 7:17 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick: Alumni game provided return to young days

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com every Wednesday during the season. Roenick, though, couldn't limit himself to one blog this week.

He suited up in the Molson Canadian 2012 NHL Winter Classic Alumni Game on Saturday and wore No. 97 for the Flyers. Roenick finished a plus-1 in 12:48 of ice time. He was introduced after Eric Lindros, who received the loudest and longest ovation from the 45,808 at Citizens Bank Park. He was robbed by Rangers goalie Dan Blackburn. But, the experience was magical and Roenick fulfilled some childhood dreams.

Here is his experience, in J.R.'s own words:

There I was, standing on the top step of the Phillies dugout, waiting to be introduced and listening to the roaring ovation that Eric Lindros was getting. It was such a great introduction for him. He deserved a really good ovation for what he's done for this city and the city acknowledged what he's done. It is a class move by this town and I think Eric really appreciated it.

And, it was nice coming after him because there was still some of the residual applause. That was great.

When you're out there at the start of the game, first of all you're thinking that you just can't get hurt. I was like, 'Oh please, don't pull anything.' A lot of us haven't played for a long time.

We had to make sure there was respect, and there was a lot of it on both sides.

The ice was expectedly just OK, so we weren't going to have very crisp passes or plays, but the intensity was actually pretty good. I honestly thought the guys worked hard, and I was especially impressed by watching Bobby Clarke, Reggie Leach and Bill Barber because they were moving the puck well and had a couple of great chances to score.

But, I don't think anybody can disagree that our goaltenders stole the show.

We have to start with Bernie Parent. He played well and didn't allow a goal in his four minutes of ice time, but it wasn't just the way he played -- it was so much more. After not being on the ice for 34 years, for him to come out and get the ovation that he had; it put chills up my spine. What a wonderful man and the way they acknowledged him here, you know why he's such an icon in this city.

Then Mark Laforest and Neil Little shut the door for us. It'll probably be the lowest scoring alumni game in the history of alumni games, and it definitely was Neil Little's best game as a Flyer. Especially at the end, he kind of looked like Denny Lemieux, he was getting peppered so much.

Overall, it was just amazing to be out there. To be down on the ice and look up in the stands and see the amount of people in this building all standing up, it was inspiring. I really was in awe. It was such a great experience. I have never been in something like this and I'm very proud I got to do it, especially in a Flyers uniform.

What it also did was give me a new appreciation for the Winter Classic because it felt like I was a kid again, playing outside with my buddies, playing a little shinny game on the pond. It really brought me back to those days -- even though it was a little warmer than I remember.

To look up and see the blue sky, the clouds, the people around and a lot of familiar faces that brought me back to my days here, it was just really awe-inspiring to me.

And, being on the ice with Clarkie, that was amazing. I'm just happy he kept his stick down, though he did clip one guy so at least we saw some of his old antics again.

It was also nice playing with Kenny Linseman, 'The Rat.' I grew up watching him play and just loving it because I was a big Bruins fan growing up, and I remember him just driving people crazy when he played for the Bruins.

I'd like to think we played pretty well together.

One of the great things I'm so happy I did was right before we came out for the third period a couple of us got all the boys to sign our jerseys. I mean, if you're in a room with all these legends and you don't get some kind of memorabilia from them shame on you. This jersey is something that I'll hang in my living room.

This experience is going to live with me forever.

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Posted On Wednesday, 12.28.2011 / 9:29 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Blues are clicking, Habs are missing -- a lot

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season.

Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

On my mind this week is a Western Conference team on the rise and an Eastern Conference team that appears to be on the cliff, in danger of falling over. I'm talking about the Blues and the Canadiens. You should read on to find out why:

What's clicking?

Ken Hitchcock came into the perfect scenario in St. Louis, with his style matching the makeup of the Blues. This team doesn't have any superstars, so they all listen, are very attentive and are clearly responding very well to Hitchcock's hard style of coaching.

Alexander Steen
Left Wing - STL
GOALS: 13 | ASST: 11 | PTS: 24
SOG: 113 | +/-: 20
The Blues the last five years have been built on speed and defensive mentalities. They don't have any big goal scorers, but they have guys like Alexander Steen, David Backes and David Perron, among others -- and these are all good two-way players, which is perfect for Hitchcock. The trade they made last year in getting Chris Stewart and Kevin Shattenkirk really bolstered this team to have more of an all-round competitive aspect to it. That also has helped Hitchcock.

I think they're one of the hardest working teams in the League for the way they attack the puck and play the puck with so much aggression. Hitchcock's defensive mentality, in-your-face, hard-work mentality also works well with the makeup of the players who already were on the team when he got there in early November.

It was like a match made in heaven for Hitchcock and the St. Louis Blues, and that's why they've been so successful.

What also matters is that goalie Jaroslav Halak has been a whole lot better since Brian Elliott has been on this major tear. You love to see that goaltender competition, two guys fighting for the No. 1 job. That always brings out great numbers in goaltenders. The same thing happened in Minnesota, and now it's happening in St. Louis.So, I tip my hat to Hitchcock and the Blues for the massive turnaround they've made in the last month and a half. They've put themselves in the top four teams in the West and are looking to put themselves in the top two or three teams in the League.

What's missing?

With injuries and a shortage of talent, Montreal Canadiens General Manager Pierre Gauthier has to take a big part of the responsibility for the way the team is struggling. Defenseman Andrei Markov being injured for the last couple of seasons is one of the biggest blows that any team has had in terms of injuries in the last two or three years. He's such an important part of their team. But it's kind of crazy to watch this team struggle when they have a goalie as good as Carey Price. That tells me they have too many weak points.

The Canadiens don't have a playmaker every night that sets up their goal scorers, among them Michael Cammalleri. He's one of the best snipers in the National Hockey League, but Cammalleri needs to get fed the puck and use his quick release to his benefit. Tomas Plekanec, who might be their best playmaker, is two games on, one game off, two games off, one game on. And, unfortunately he doesn't appear to have the speed or strength to be that playmaker for Cammalleri every single night.

Erik Cole
Left Wing - MTL
GOALS: 14 | ASST: 11 | PTS: 25
SOG: 114 | +/-: 2
Erik Cole has had a decent season, but he doesn't have anybody to play with that can match his speed. He needs someone to keep up with him, but instead he's finding himself having to slow down a lot to be effective.  Max Pacioretty is having a very solid season, but he's more of a workhorse, a defensive-style forward that is being forced into scoring goals because the rest of his team doesn't do that very well.

The Canadiens also are a very small team that gets pushed around too much. Their lack of size and speed in the big and fast NHL forces them to work extra hard to win games. That's never a recipe for extended success. It becomes way too tiring emotionally and physically on a team.

When they have breakdowns defensively and the puck goes into the back of the net, they can't find the offense to counter that. So it's up to the GM to make a move very quickly to get somebody in there with size, somebody that can put the puck in the net and stand in front of the net to become that presence on power plays. The Canadiens are in a situation where if they continue to sputter the way they are, they're going to be out of the playoff race by the end of January. That is just unacceptable in Montreal.

It's nice seeing the blue, red and white playing in the playoffs and not battling these offensive demons they have right now. For crying out loud, Cammalleri and Cole need some help.
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.21.2011 / 5:35 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

JR: Rangers, Flyers seek upper hand in Classic preview

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick will be penning a weekly blog for NHL.com this season. Look for new entries from, "World According to JR," every Wednesday. Roenick will offer sharp, can't-miss opinions on What's Clicking and What's Missing in the National Hockey League.

The Flyers and Rangers have at it Friday night in a preview of the 2012 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic while a team on the other coast is going through a coaching change that better get them steered in the right direction. It's all on my mind this week, so read on …
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Posted On Wednesday, 12.14.2011 / 7:26 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

League needs help from players to limit concussions

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick is blogging for NHL.com this season. In today's blog, Roenick provides his personal opinions about what's proved effective in reducing concussions and preventing further symptoms among NHL players, plus what the League and its players still need to do.

With so many star players now sidelined with concussions or concussion-like symptoms, the topic has to be explored. Here are my thoughts:

What's Clicking?

The game is different today. It's not the same game it was when I started in the late '80s, and it's still not even the same game from the early 2000s. This is a big-business sport where you have extreme physical contact, extreme speed and extremely talented players that are in peak athletic condition.

For those reasons, concussions seem to be more rampant nowadays. We can put the blame on the speed and ferocity of the game, because whether you get hit in the head or you don't, the surge and the way your body is jolted every time you make contact with somebody rattles your brain. That is very important to understand.

Back 20 years ago we didn't think of it that way. We didn't think about hurting ourselves. We thought of it as pain and something we had to play through. Actually a lot of guys thought it was honorable and manly to play through concussions, broken bones and pulled muscles -- but in actuality the damage we did to our bodies could end up being life-altering down the road. That remains to be seen.

But let's take it back to the present. Due to all the research that has been done on concussions and considering what the National Hockey League now knows about concussions and how it plays in part to your brain, this is an issue that must be taken very seriously. Your brain and heart are the most important parts of your body. If they go, there's no sense in going on.

I applaud the NHL for doing all it can to protect the players from injury, not only current injuries but future injuries. And, yes, sometimes the players need to be protected from themselves.

Hockey players are proud people. They want to be looked at as tough, as guys who can play through injuries and do what is best for the team. Doing that at times can be a serious health risk, so I'm glad the NHL has taken such an aggressive stance in making sure that when guys get their bells rung they go to a quiet room, get evaluated and either go back in the game or sit out to rest.

I hope it doesn't go too far to the point that every time players get hit they go down and call for suspensions. I hope the guys are tough enough to play through the injuries they think they can play through and they think they should play through. The concussion issue is front and center now, and with so much attention on it players are fearful for their well-being and teams are fearful for their players.

Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins are the main subjects behind that -- but like the NHL, I applaud the Penguins for how smart they've been in treating Crosby's injury as cautiously as they are. Their approach is what is best for the player, but I worry about Crosby's future in the National Hockey League. The fact that he had a setback after a seemingly normal body-contact situation that happened in a game arguably sets off more alarms than the 10 months he sat out.

The Penguins and Crosby will have to evaluate how bad this is and whether his body is capable and built to withstand the contact that professional hockey demands night in and night out. I'm concerned because I really enjoy watching Crosby play, and I would like to see him play for the next 15 years and dazzle us.

What's missing?

We can no longer ignore the stupidity of the hits that are still happening today despite the fact that the players know the concussion aspect is such a big part of the game and sports in general.

You saw Chris Stewart get suspended for hitting Niklas Kronwall from behind. You saw Andy Sutton get suspended for jumping in the air -- a 6-foot-6 and 240-pound defenseman jumping in the air -- to hit Alexei Ponikarovsky. These hits are absolutely unnecessary and the stupidity is beyond belief.

Brendan Shanahan probably never thought he would be so busy doling out suspensions because of the lack of intelligence of so many players in very dangerous situations.

NHL players have to understand that it is a different game, a more powerful game in a different era, and the respect of the players' well-being has to come into play at every area of the ice.

There are too many hits from behind near the boards. There are too many elbows to the head. There are too many blindside hits.

It's one thing to hit strong and hard, but it's another thing to throw elbows, have knee-on-knee hits, hits from behind, cross checks on defensemen who are four feet from the boards.

I'd like to know when is the respect factor is going to come back into the game.

Let me also be clear -- I wasn't the fairest hitter. I left my feet. I hit guys from behind. I had my fair share of dirty hits and cheap hits. I hit to inflict pain at times, without question. I needed that intimidation factor because of my size.

Shame on me, but it was a totally different mentality when I played the game. This game today is much faster, much stronger and more scrutinized because it is bigger business. These players are worth much more than they were when I started, and they better start adapting to the new era of the National Hockey League by respecting each other.
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Posted On Monday, 12.12.2011 / 4:05 PM

By Jeremy Roenick -  NHL Network Contributor /NHL.com - World According to JR

Roenick builds his team of top American talent

NHL analyst and former All-Star Jeremy Roenick pens a weekly blog for NHL.com this season called, "World According to JR." It runs every Wednesday and will again this week. However, with the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame induction ceremony Monday night in Chicago, Roenick decided to write a special blog entry catered to Americans in hockey. Roenick was inducted into the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame last year.

Let me start by saying what an honor it is to have Gary Suter, Chris Chelios, Keith Tkachuk, Ed Snider and Mike Emrick join me in the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. All five are truly legends not just in the American hockey world, but the entire hockey world.

It is an annual tradition at the time of the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame inductions to debate the best American-born players. But what about the next generation of U.S. Hockey Hall of Famers? More appropriately, what about this generation of American hockey stars?
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Quote of the Day

I don't know how he does it. I don't know how he gets his body parallel with the player and pulls it through his legs like that. I know he's tried it a couple times in practice and it's never worked, so how he does it in a game, it's incredible.

— Capitals defenseman Mike Green on teammate Alex Ovechkin's highlight-reel goal against the Devils on Saturday