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Jim Cerny's Rink Rap


November 19, 2009 4:16 PM

Strange Days Indeed


I am not sure if it's a black cloud or a full moon, but there's something wreaking havoc on the National Hockey League so far this season.

As discussed here before, the amount of injuries to star players is off the charts. Plus there have been a string of strange incidents that add to the question: what the heck is going on here?

Two more stories from today fit right in with what has been par-for-the-course over the first quarter of the NHL season.

First, the Los Angeles Kings placed winger Ryan Smyth (above photo) on Injured Reserve this morning. So down goes another star player---and another one who was off to a very strong start this year. Smyth joins the likes of Alex Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jonathan Toews, Cam Ward, Brian Gionta, Simon Gagne, Sergei Gonchar, Roberto Luongo, Marc Savard, Joe Pavelski, and seemingly half of the entire Detroit Red Wings roster as star players forced to the sidelines for an extended period of time.


Smyth, who was thriving with 23 points (9-14-23) in 22 games during his first season out in LA, suffered an "upper body" injury during Monday night's game against Florida. The Kings announced today that he will miss at least a month of action, a severe blow to a team has thrived with Smyth skating on its top line alongside the league's top scorer Anze Kopitar.

"All these injuries that are happening to key players around the league, everyone is going through it and no one is going to feel sorry for you," Kings coach Terry Murray told ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun.

Actually, I find it most interesting that Murray would even speak to anyone associated with ESPN.com. You see, you could make the case that Smyth is on IR because ESPN.com put the whammy on him earlier this week.

On Monday, mere hours before Smyth suffered his injury, Scott Burnside at ESPN.com included a segment in his column making the case for Smyth to be a part of the Canadian Olympic Hockey team. Citing his great play this season, and his past contributions to Canadian entries in international competition over the years, Burnside detailed why the 33 year-old Smyth deserved a call from Team Canada's Steve Yzerman.

Then WHAM! Smyth gets hurt, is out a month or more, and the Olympics---while still a possibility---become more of a long shot.

So this one may have less to do with black clouds and full moons than with ESPN.com's hockey analysis! Just think of it as the hockey version of the Sports Illustrated cover jinx.

If we argue that Smyth's injury has more to do with Burnside and a jinx, then it can be said that the clouds most certainly found their way to Minnesota, where all hell was breaking lose at Wild practice today.

To quote Michael Russo, the fine Wild beat writer for The Star Tribune, from his Twitter update (@Russostrib) this morning, "This is an angry practice."

Russo reported that head coach Todd Richards was in rare form, "plenty of lectures, smashing sticks against glass", he Tweeted. Then Russo added, "(Kyle) Brodziak chopped stick in half, (Mikko) Koivu threw stick four rows deep."

Sounds like good times in Minnesota.

But really they are just taking a page out of the Calgary Flames book. Apparently there was a shouting match in coach Brent Sutter's office following Calgary's 3-2 home-ice loss to the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday. Though it can not be confirmed who was shouting at whom, it was reportedly loud and angry.

Sun Media's Randy Sportak reported that Sutter downplayed the incident afterwards, saying it was just the normal course of doing business in the NHL.

"It's a high level of competition where there's a lot of emotion and a lot of intensity involved," stated Sutter. "Those things are going to happen at different times."

Sutter made sure to add that this incident "is no one else's business...that's the way it is."

Coaches flipping out. Star players being shelved almost on a nightly basis.

Black clouds. Full moons. Sportswriter jinxes.

Can't say things are boring this year in the National Hockey League.

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