News and Notes: Gary Bettman insists there’s no tanking in the NHL, new coach Rick Tocchet booed in Canucks debut, and more

Photo credit:Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Cam Lewis
1 year ago
There are no NHL teams that are tanking.
That’s what commissioner Gary Bettman on Tuesday, as he held an impromptu media availability ahead of the Canadiens and Bruins game at the Bell Centre in Montreal that he was attending.
“Nobody tanks because we have a weighted lottery,” Bettman said, when asked if teams were actively trying to lose games so that they could increase their odds of landing a franchise-changing talent in Connor Bedard at this year’s draft. “You’re not going to lose games to increase your odds by a couple of percentage points. That’s silly. And, frankly, suggesting tanking I believe is inconsistent with the professionalism that our players and our coaches have. Nobody tanks. Our players and our coaches do their best to win.
And, again, just because you may finish with the worst record in the league you’ve got something like a 75 per cent chance that you’re not going to get the first pick.”
When looking at the teams at the bottom of the standings, there are a handful that actually put in an effort over the off-season to get better, but things haven’t worked out. The Ottawa Senators traded for Alex DeBrincat and signed Claude Giroux, the Vancouver Canucks added Andrei Kuzmenko and Ilya Mikheyev and re-signed J.T. Miller, the Anaheim Ducks signed Ryan Strome and John Klingberg, and the Columbus Blue Jackets made a big splash with Johnny Gaudreau.
The two teams in which you could definitely make the argument that they’ve punted the season in order to try to win the golden ticket with Bedard are the Chicago Blackhawks and Arizona Coyotes, who sit 31st and 29th respectively in the league standings.
The Coyotes blew it all up in the summer of 2021, trading Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Conor Garland away while taking on every bad contract in the league in order to stockpile picks. In the summer of 2022, they did nothing to improve their roster, but they also didn’t jettison young players who actually make the team better, like Jakob Chychrun and Clayton Keller, so it’s more of just a rebuild.
The Hawks are probably the most egregious example of a team tanking. They moved a pair of young forwards in DeBrincat and Kirby Dach in the off-season for draft picks and replaced them with guys on one-year deals like Max Domi and Andreas Athanasiou who could be flipped for more picks at the trade deadline. They also traded for Petr Mrazek, who posted an .888 save percentage in 2021-22, which sort of reeks of a team trying to lose games.
I don’t think tanking is that much of a problem in the league right now. More teams are trying to win than are trying to lose, but I also don’t think that Bettman is correct in saying that nobody is tanking because the last spot in the league doesn’t guarantee the top pick. If you’re bad, you might as well be really bad for that 25 percent chance of getting Bedard. Even if you miss, second or third overall isn’t bad, either.
Speaking of bad teams…
The Canucks kicked off the Rick Tocchet era on Tuesday night with a 5-2 win over the Blackhawks. As demonstrated above, that probably doesn’t mean much, but they outshot Chicago by a whopping 47-to-14, their most dominant showing of the season.
Fans in Vancouver let their displeasure about how the organization handled the coaching change by booing Tocchet in the early stages of the game, while one person threw a jersey on the ice just four minutes after the puck was dropped in the first period
Tocchet took it all in stride, joking after the game that fans were chanting his middle name…

Quick notes…

  • The St. Louis Blues got some reinforcements as both Vladimir Tarasenko and Torey Krug were activated from the Injured Reserve on Wednesday. Krug had missed 13 games with a lower-body injury while Tarasenko missed 10 games with a hand injury. The Blues own a 23-22-3 record, good for 11th place in the Western Conference, six points out of the final playoff spot.
  • Sticking with the Blues, Jeff Marek suggested on the 32 Thoughts Podcast that the Oilers might be interested in defender Niko Mikkola. If the Blues decide to sell before the trade deadline, the biggest names they could move are Ryan O’Reilly and Tarasenko, but Mikkola could provide a team with some depth on the blueline for cheap. He has a cap hit of $1.9 million and is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

Check out these posts...