It's What's Up, What's Down, which is yet another effort in sports journalism to deliver information through a simple and easily understandable medium. Here we look at the players, teams and things building toward something, and the players, teams, and things accomplishing squat.
Up: Vegas getting real about Eichel?
What's the mark of a truly efficient organization? Consistent and sustained success is obviously the primary goal in hockey, but in a league where it is nearly impossible to stick around in the elite tier for extended periods of time, the answer is to always stay productive. Be it building up, tearing down, or taking advantage of a competitive window, you want to be working toward something, not staying stagnant.
The Vegas Golden Knights are, for the first time, learning that things don't always go according to plan and expectations aren't always exceeded. Dealing with myriad injuries, Vegas basically brought the Henderson Silver Knights plus Alex Pietrangelo and Jonathan Marchessault through Toronto on Tuesday night, losing 4-0.
With Mark Stone, Max Pacioretty, William Karlsson, Alex Tuch, and Nolan Patrick missing time for various reasons and lengths as we speak, it seems expectations have to be re-adjusted. No longer are the Golden Knights expected to win the Pacific Division and perhaps the Presidents' Trophy. Intentions, it seems, have to be tweaked.
So, how to stay productive?
There is a glorious opportunity here to keep pushing things forward with former Buffalo Sabres captain and injured star Jack Eichel still floating about in limbo. This apparently isn't news to the Golden Knights, with ESPN's Emily Kaplan's latest report being that it's down to the Golden Knights and Calgary Flames on the Eichel front.
If GM Kelly McCrimmon needed a push in the right direction, or a reason to up the ante, the current state of the Golden Knights, and the uncertain direction of the season, should be it.
Best case scenario: the Golden Knights acquire Eichel, and his path to recovery begins and ends in time for him to be added to a postseason roster after the team squeaks into the tournament.
Worst case scenario: the Golden Knights stay productive in a down season, acquiring a legitimate star for pennies on the dollar to set themselves up for several more seasons of contention.
It seems obvious that Vegas should make this move now.
And I've heard Peyton Krebs be called untouchable so many times through the process to know he'll be the centrepiece in the trade.
Up: Lehner's voice
Speaking of remaining productive, it seems Robin Lehner intends to be regardless of what happens on the ice. Moments after taking licks from the Maple Leafs, the Golden Knights' starting netminder was able to push aside a difficult outing to speak briefly about the more important issues in the NHL.
"Everything I'm doing is for Kyle Beach," Lehner said when asked about his role in the NHLPA meeting on Monday.
He added: "I think we have to do more. Do what's right for Kyle. That's the main point."
Lehner noted that it's a tricky time with teams and players in the throes of a whirlwind, Olympic-condensed schedule. However, he said that obligations can't distract from the point, and he's encouraging teams, players, and groups to hold dialogue around the issue, because ignoring it will only help promote it.
"All players need to take this seriously if we want change and culture change."
For his part, Lehner found the time to connect with Beach over the phone to relay his support, and share a promise that he would be a proponent for change.
As for what needs to happen, Lehner said simply that those that knew about the incident need to be held accountable.
"That's part of healing — getting some justice."
Lehner brought other issues to the fore before the fallout of the investigation into the Chicago Blackhawks and former video coach Bradley Aldrich's sexual assault of Beach. He vowed to keep talking about other issues bubbling beneath the surface, including the Eichel saga and the use and advocation of prescription medication, in a revealing Twitter thread.
Lehner was since pulled into conversations with the NHL, where hopefully he's being heard.
As one of the few determined to speak out and be a voice for change, the NHL would be wise to listen to what Lehner has to say.
Down: Standing idly by
Cues were important for the Winnipeg Jets, who discussed GM Kevin Cheveldayoff's role in the Blackhawks' sexual assault cover-up publicly for the first time on Tuesday.
Empathy, or what the NHL severely lacked, was at the forefront for Jets owner Mark Chipman, who spoke honestly, compassionately, from personal experience, and with research about sexual assault and cover-up. The organization did what was perhaps unpopular, backing Cheveldayoff while also acknowledging the pain and suffering Beach went through.
Cheveldayoff spoke apologetically to Beach and with regret about the assumptions he made about the systems in place to protect players and employees, but also defended his inaction, stating again that it was not clear to him until this summer that Beach had been sexually assaulted.
"Knowing what I know today, I wish I could have been an empowered bystander," he said.
Naturally, there were mixed opinions based on the two-sided nature of the dialogue.
The Jets trust Cheveldayoff, believing that his role in the failure to report and acknowledge Beach's abuse was minimal at worst, and that his knowledge of what happened was inappreciable. It's the same conclusion the NHL had drawn after Jenner & Block's private investigation, despite the fact that it was found that Cheveldayoff was involved in a meeting in which the topic was at the very least broached.
But despite being told in a "general inquiry about inappropriate texts and verbal comments" and being apparently informed in that meeting that the matter "would be investigated," Cheveldayoff still could have done something.
I recognize that might be considered unfair, but what about this has been fair to Kyle Beach?
Preconceived notions have, naturally, influenced the thought process here, which Chipman illustrated in his comments about Cheveldayoff's character.
"He didn't know about the harm that had been done to Kyle," Chipman said "He couldn't have known. However, if he had known, the Kevin Cheveldayoff that I know would have acted, and would have done whatever it took to make sure Kyle received incredible levels of support, that some time was taken to ensure those around him knew how to support him, that Kyle's privacy would have been protected, and that the perpetrator wouldn't have been in any position that would have possibly allowed him to harm anyone else."
It seems Cheveldayoff will survive this, which may in fact be the correct conclusion to draw from his involvement or lack thereof. But the onus remains, and the Jets need to act on their words and be proponents of change, regardless.
Chipman vowed to use his influence in the NHL to acknowledge and work on resources to fix the systemic issues in the league, and now it's on the rest of us to keep that organization, and the other clubs, in check.
Up: Being truly awful
With respect to the Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Edmonton Oilers, St. Louis Blues, and Calgary Flames, who have three regulation losses combined, not a single team is executing on the game plan better than the Arizona Coyotes right now.
Built to be bad, the Coyotes have one point from 10 games to begin the season and have lost their last eight games in regulation. Arizona has both scored the fewest goals in the league and allowed the most, losing on average by nearly three goals per outing. It has the club on pace to hold a season-long goal differential of minus-238.
Of course, it's been so bad that it's good. The Coyotes deliberately ripped it down to the studs over the offseason, taking on poor contracts and dead money in an effort to build it back up in the most efficient way possible.
If the season ends with Shane Wright slipping on a No. 1 overall Kachina jersey, the pain will obviously be worth it.
But boy is it going to be a long season for those guys — namely the only high-end player on the entire roster in Jakob Chychrun.
Tough start for Jakob Chychrun:
10 GP: 0 G, 0 A, 0 P, 20 PIM, -16
— Nick Alberga (@thegoldenmuzzy) November 3, 2021
Up: Core Four
It came versus a severely diminished version of the Golden Knights, but the Leafs had one of those special nights offensively with their $40-million forward core. This coming at a time where the Maple Leafs had yet to have both top partnerships really playing well at the same time in what's been a bit of a disjointed start to the season.
It was only the 12th time ever that Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander scored in the same game over the course of six seasons. The Leafs are 11-0-1 in those games, with the lone loss coming versus the Islanders in the first-ever contest Matthews, Marner and Nylander each dotted up the scoresheet together.
Perhaps it shouldn't be considered a surprise that the Islanders claimed that one win from 12 games.
Stats aside, the Leafs are starting to turn things around after a really difficult start from a star aggregate standpoint. Credit Sheldon Keefe for making a change with his top players after having so much success last season with Matthews and Marner in particular.
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