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RA's NHL Round-Up: Pens GM Abruptly Resigns, It's Parity Time, Chayka Gets Pee-Pee Whacked

*This is some pretty significant news that broke as I was writing this blog. As Rutherford notes in his statement, it is unusual to have a GM abruptly resign seven games into a new season. Though headlines and ledes haved cited "personal reasons", the statement itself doesn't. We now know it wasn't health-related...

It sure doesn't sound like the 71-year-old is retiring and he doesn't say anything about stepping away from the game. So it's not a stretch to infer that something work-related occured to make him suddenly think "this was the right time to step away" from a team on a five-game point streak. 

If that's the case, there are plenty of teams around the league that would love to add his expertise and wisdom to their front office. If he is retiring and just didn't make it public at this time, then Rutherford has certainly earned it. He's been one of the more successful NHL execs over the last 30 years and was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2019. The Pens came out of the gate sluggish and lost their first two to Philly before winning four straight them clawing back to force OT in Boston last night.

*The '20-'21 NHL season started on January 13th. Four of the five games that day went over the posted total; two of them had nine goals. There was just a single game decided by a goal (in OT). One team won by four goals, two others won by three, and the other by two. But in the ensuing two weeks, things done changed and the league is tighter than a drum made of sphincters.

Of the 13 games played last night, 10 were one-goal affairs and five of those 10 required OT/SO to determine a winner. Two of them had empty-net goals to provide a two-goal win. Just one was a blowout. Finding puck line covers (-1.5) has gotten significantly tougher since Opening Night. That's because parity is ruling the NHL right now. 

If you arbitrarily remove the top three and bottom three teams, you have 25 teams all within five points of each other. Nearly 30% of the league currently has six points. Teams that weren't given a chance by many are playing some eyebrow-raising hockey (what's up LA and NJ). Games have been much closer and I think the MLB-style schedule is a factor. Teams are showing that they really don't want to lose two in a row, let alone three. So we're getting more competitive affairs. Things will only intensify as guys get sick of each other and the hate ratchets up. At this current rate, I wouldn't be surprised if several playoff spots are determined on the last couple of nights of the regular season.

*Dallas and Florida are the only teams yet to lose a game. Of course, they've only played three each due to COVID bullshit. But that doesn't make the Dallas power play any less impressive over the first two games...

The Stars had an off-night last night in their 2-1 OT win over Detroit and went 'just' 1/4 on the man-advantage to drop the team PP% down to 56.3. The Ducks are the only team yet to score a PPG this season as they're 0-for-16.

The NHL did announce a handful of make-up dates that are sprinkled throughout February and March where the schedule allows. But some of the Central teams are gonna be putting in some work from now until early May.

Giphy Images.

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*Former Arizona GM John Chayka has been suspended by the NHL for the remainder of 2021 due to "conduct detrimental to the league and game" and Commissioner Gary Bettman also noted that Chayka "breached his obligation to the club". 

Back in July just before his then-team was about to play in the bubble, Chayka dropped a Batman smoke-bomb and peaced-out on the Coyotes. It was a stunning move from the league's youngest GM and speculation was rampant. The team left no gray area in how it felt with its statement: "…Chayka has chosen to quit on a strong and competitive team, a dedicated staff, and the Arizona Coyotes fans…". 

To complete the he-said, he-said, Chayka stated, "I love our players, coaches, staff and fans and I very much wish I could be with the team in Edmonton. Sadly, the situation created by ownership made that an impossibility."

From Elliotte Friedman's typically excellent 31 Thoughts piece

Almost 27 years ago, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman suspended Mike Keenan for 60 days and fined him $100,000 for signing a contract with St. Louis while coaching the Rangers in the playoffs. The Blues were fined $250,000, and Detroit (which also tried to get him) was fined $25,000. Even adjusted for inflation, John Chayka’s suspension, which amounts to 17 months through Dec. 31, looks very steep by comparison.

A couple of executives said they weren’t surprised Bettman would send a powerful message enforcing contracts because owners wouldn’t want their GMs following any precedent. But it’s hard to make true judgement without seeing the full ruling.

New Jersey asked for and received permission to speak to Chayka — a private plane was sent for the interview — so I’m really curious to read it. In a lot of ways, the next move is the Devils’.

Like he says, it's tough to shit on a guy without knowing all the details. Chayka wasn't the first guy and won't be the last guy looking to grab onto a new vine before letting go of his current one. But doing it with years left on his deal in the manner in which he did got his ass sidelined for a year when it comes to the NHL. Whatever it was, Gary didn't like it and saw fit to punish and further embarrass the fancy stats guru.