Anyone who knows anything about Nikita Kucherov knows that his work ethic is off the charts. They would also know that his tolerance for b.s. is minimal at best. I think we can add all-star skills competitions to the things that he would consider b.s. Scheduled to compete in four events, the Lightning superstar may not have been at the top of his game.
In the one-timers challenge he finished next to last.
In the passing challenge he finished tied for last.
In the accuracy challenge he finished last.
In the stick handling he finished last.
The Toronto crowd let him have it with a cascade of boos during the passing challenge when it was apparent that his engagement level wasn’t quite at 100%:
He did not qualify for the later rounds and his night was done early. Following the competition, he insisted that he was having fun out there, “It was fun. I had a lot of fun and I enjoyed it. It was a cool new, kinda of drills and it wasn’t my night, but you know, I enjoyed it.”
Was it an epic troll job? Was he participating only because the league insisted he be there? Who knows. While fans of other franchises got way too worked up about it, we all know that he loves hockey, he loves winning, and he loves doing anything he can to improve his game and help his team win. Chances are he’ll be back on his game today during the 3-on-3 tournament when he has a chance to help his team win $1 million.
While the Lightning aren’t back in Toronto until April 3rd, I’m pretty sure the fans in The Big Smoke won’t forget and will greet him with even more boos (especially if the Leafs and Lightning are battling for a spot).
In other news, Connor McDavid actually won the skills competition.
Crunch drop game to Belleville [Syracuse Crunch]
Max Groshev had the lone goal while Matt Tomkins stopped 16 of 18. The two teams are back at it again tonight.
TRRRRRRRAAAAAAAADDDDE [Eyes on the Prize]
Sean Monahan is on the move again. The Canadiens’ forward was traded to the Winnipeg Jets for a 2024 first-round pick and a conditional third-round pick in 2027. Montreal had acquired Monahan and a first-round pick prior to the 2022-23 season as Calgary was looking to shed salary. He played well enough for the them to move the unrestricted free agent for another first-rounder. That’s pretty solid work by Montreal.
Kings fire Todd McLellan [Jewels From the Crown]
Todd McLellan’s All-Star Break has been extended indefinitely as he was relieved of his duties as the Kings have stumbled out of a playoff spot after a hot start to the season. Assistant coach Jim Hiller will serve as an interim coach.
The NHL had completed its own investigation into the 2018 incident involving the Canadian World Juniors team. He stated that since it is an ongoing judicial matter, he didn’t want to “interfere with or influence the judicial proceedings.” He did confirm that the four players charged are still under contract and will get paid (and also count against the salary cap).
NHL returning to the Olympics [NHL.com]
After being absent from the Olympics for over a decade, the NHL has committed to sending its players to the 2026 and 2030 games. We haven’t seen them in the Olympics since 2014, meaning an entire generation of players was close to missing the chance of competing for gold. They also confirmed that in 2025 they will conduct the Four Nations Face-off, an international tournament that will pit players from Canada, the United States, Sweden, and Finland against each other. They hope that leads into a full World Cup of hockey tournament in the future.