Nichushkin Banned, Boring Bedard? Coaches, NHL Awards Back in Vegas, and Other Blackhawks Bullets

Connor Bedard for FanDuel promo code
Connor Bedard for FanDuel promo code

Some incredibly sad and undoubtedly frustrating news broke just before the Colorado Avalanche took the ice for an important playoff game on Monday evening. Forward Valeri Nichushkin, who is tied with Edmonton’s Zach Hyman for the NHL’s postseason lead with nine goals (in only eight games) won’t score another goal this offseason. Or for a significant portion of next year. The NHL and NHLPA announced Nichushkin has been placed in Stage 3 of the Players Assistance Program — a 6-month ban without pay — for violating the terms of the program. Multiple outlets have reported Nichushkin failed a drug test.

This is sad because Nichushkin, 29, has sought help from the program previously. He’s had multiple issues in the last couple years, and this is the second straight postseason during which he has disappeared from his team because of off-ice issues. First and foremost, my hope is that he gets the help he needs to defeat his demons.

On the ice, the Avs learned of the suspension after their morning skate on Monday. They lost the game to the Dallas Stars and now look up at a 3-1 series deficit against the best team in the Western Conference. And, again, without their leading scorer. And Nichushkin just completed the second season of an eight-year, $49 million contract. This is not grounds for the Avs to terminate the contract, but his age makes a buyout suddenly intriguing for a team with already limited cap space moving forward. Again, my hope is that he can find peace. But this puts the Avs in a tough spot.

  • Apparently Connor Bedard needs to find his inner Alexander Ovechkin. “Act like you’ve been there before” doesn’t work in international hockey. At least according to Jakub Voráček. During the Czech broadcast of Sunday’s game, he commented that Bedard not celebrating his goals more was disrespectful of his opponents. Voráček, who played in the NHL for 15 years, wants Bedard to go off like he’s hosting a Fourth of July parade every time he lights the lamp. And scoring a couple against Great Britain and again against Denmark — two teams Canada expected to beat and did with relative ease — didn’t register enough on the wow factor for the broadcast booth on local television.
  • I’m just fine with Bedard not showing up inferior teams in an international men’s tournament. We saw plenty of emotion from him during his rookie season in the NHL. He’s far from boring after scoring important goals when it matters most. We’ll see what he has in store for Austria this afternoon.
  • You know who else needed to celebrate more? Philipp Kurashev — after he scored the eventual game-winning goal in the shootout for the Swiss on Monday.
  • I started off this morning with some thoughts about coaching as the Blackhawks move forward with their rebuild efforts in the coming year. More than any other professional sport right now, the coaching carousel in the NHL is churning at a pace that likely isn’t good for the game. Lots of older guys getting jobs (again — Lindy Ruff) while other organizations search for the right fit to change the trajectory of their franchise. In Chicago, I continue to be a big fan of Luke Richardson. The future is bright, and he’s a big part of that reality.
  • I don’t often have stories from the Associated Press included in our bullets, but there was a banger on Monday that’s worth your read for a number of reasons. Tim Reynolds and Stephen Whyno wrote about the ridiculous amount of coaching turnover in the NHL, comparing it to other professional leagues and also looking at the problems inherent in making as many changes as quickly as they’re happening in the NHL right now. It’s a terrific read. A couple things that stood out:
  • Job security is basically an oxymoron in the world of professional coaching, and the turnover rate right now in the NHL is wild. In the four biggest U.S. pro sports leagues — Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NFL and the NHL — there are 124 teams, so there are 124 head coaching positions. Only 45% of that current total have been in their current jobs for more than two full seasons.

    The NFL has about 60% of its coaches going into Year 3 or more, and the rate is 53% for both MLB managers and NBA coaches.

  • I wrote about Richardson suddenly being among the longest-tenured coaches in the NHL when Toronto fired Sheldon Keefe last week. As the Blackhawks build a roster to take a step forward this summer, there’s a lot to be said for the continuity the Blackhawks are building behind the bench as well as with the roster that’s performing each night.
  • It appears one individual who has some interest from teams but still doesn’t have the green light to interview is former Blackhawks bench boss Joel Quenneville. David Pagnotta at The Fourth Period has reported he still doesn’t have the okay from the commissioner’s office to be in the mix for a head coaching gig.
  • On Monday, the NHL announced the NHL Awards show will take place at 6 PM CT on Thursday, June 27. The ceremony will take place at the newly opened Fontainebleau Las Vegas and will be broadcast live on ESPN in the United States. The only Blackhawks player up for an award this year is Connor Bedard, the favorite to win the NHL’s rookie of the year.
  • Blackhawks prospect Roman Kantserov was a finalist, but he did not win the KHL’s Rookie of the Year award. The league announced its winners on Monday.
  • Big happy birthday wishes to Patrick Flowers, who’s a stud and a fantastic coworker and colleague here.
  • Finally, the NBA’s Draft Combine is taking place right now. So the Bulls should be paying attention. Here’s hoping they are — and they pick someone who can help them sooner than later when the draft takes place.
  • written by

    Tab Bamford has been writing about the Chicago Blackhawks for almost two decades. He joined Bleacher Nation as the lead Blackhawks writer in May 2022. Tab is a member of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and is the author of two books about the Blackhawks: "100 Things Blackhawks Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die" (Triumph Books) and "Chicago Blackhawks: An Illustrated Timeline" (Reedy Press, 2021). Find him on Twitter/X/Instagram/Threads at @The1Tab

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