3 names that you'll probably see more of this NHL Season
The game of hockey is an ultimate test of strength, skill, endurance, and mental fortitude. In the best professional ice hockey league in the world, players are soldiers who are expected battle for their team 82 times a season. At any moment or over a period of time, a player can suffer from any number of circumstances resulting in a leave of absence or performative regression. It is not an easy task to make the NHL and it is even more challenging for players to stay there. This article will explore the unique situations of three NHL stars who are looking to bounce-back in the 2021-2022 NHL season.
A World Junior Champion, two-time Olympic gold winner, and Chicago Blackhawks captain, Jonathan Toews sat out for the entirety of the 2020-2021 NHL season. Before the start of last year, Toews announced he would be taking a leave of absence because he was feeling "drained and lethargic". Worry and speculation regarding the captains' physical and mental health began to circulate in the hockey world. During his time off, Toews said he received tremendous support from all his friends, family, teammates, and the organization. Later on, Toews announced he was diagnosed with a rare condition called Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome, a condition that occurs when an immune system is in an overactive state, resulting in the body producing antibodies that don't recognize the self. This explains why Toews was unable to continue playing in the greatest league as one of the greatest players last year. Chicago has been a dominant team over the past decade, winning three Stanley Cups, and Toews will want nothing more than success, as he returns to lead the team after being on the sidelines while his team missed the playoffs. Toews is set to return to his second line center position with his usual big special-teams’ responsibilities. With new additions like Tyler Johnson, goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury, and defenseman Seth Jones, it should be interesting to see if Toews and the Hawks have what it takes to go for another cup run this era, or if one year on the sidelines solidifies the demise of what was arguably the most dominant team during the 2010’s.
The most infamous player currently in the NHL is star defenseman, Tony DeAngelo. DeAngelo, more than anyone, is looking for a big bounce-back season after a dismal start to his last year with the rangers, amplified by the controversies surrounding him and his character. DeAngelo has struggled to maintain a positive public image ever since his days in junior hockey. During his tenure with the Sarnia Sting, he was suspended from the OHL for violating their harassment, abuse, and diversity policy. Despite concerns, DeAngelo was a highly-touted blueliner and was selected 19th overall by Tampa Bay in the 2014 NHL Draft. For the next few years, he bounced between teams in the AHL and NHL, eventually solidifying his spot on the New York Rangers defensive core. DeAngelo was headed into last year off a career high; 53 points in 68 games. During the summer of 2020, Tony was facing major backlash online due to his political tweets, but regardless of the digital drama, it was expected he would succeed as a top-pair defenseman. However, the Rangers struggled early while his play evidently declined, DeAngelo became frustrated. Following an overtime loss against the Penguins, DeAngelo and goaltender Alexander Georgiev got into an altercation after leaving the ice. That was the last time DeAngelo wore the blue and red, as the organization placed him on waivers just 6 games into the season. His contract was eventually bought out by the Rangers, then on July 28th, the Carolina Hurricanes announced they had signed DeAngelo to a one-year deal. This decision was not taken lightly by the media nor the Hurricanes fanbase, but after losing their top defenseman, Dougie Hamiliton who signed in New Jersey, they hope DeAngelo can step in with similar value at just a fraction of the cost. DeAngelo has been playing well in his first few games as a Hurricane during the preseason and will start the year on the top defensive pairing and powerplay unit. Despite the backlash and controversy, I think the Hurricanes management team is confident in their decision, and it would be enjoyable to see DeAngelo propel his career in the right direction with a new start in Carolina.
The NHL player who has the most question marks surrounding his name is the former Buffalo Sabres captain, Jack Eichel. The 24-year-old American center is currently at the lowest point in his career. Since joining the Sabres 7 years ago as a young college phenom, he has served as the face of the franchise, wearing the “C” for the past three seasons. Today, Eichel and the Sabres organization are in a very complicated and toxic state. Tensions between the two have peaked over the last year as Buffalo finished dead-last among the league. Buffalo played their last 33 games without their captain, as Eichel suffered a herniated disc from a game against the Islanders in early March. It was later determined that Eichel required surgery, and that an operation would have him out for 2-3 months. Still, Eichel remains at the mercy of the Sabres medical team who will not condone an artificial disc replacement, and have urged Eichel to opt for fusion surgery. It was becoming evident to the hockey world that around this time, Eichel was finally becoming fed up with his playing career in Buffalo. On September 24th, it was announced that Eichel had officially been relieved of his captain duties, after having a disconnect from the team prior to the offseason. Although it is almost certain that Eichel will never play another game for the Sabres, much of his future is unknown. Eichel has made it clear that he is willing to play for any of the 31 other teams in the league in order to accommodate being traded. There has been a tremendous amount of rumours and speculation regarding a Jack Eichel trade, but the situation remains still and equally frustrating for all those involved. The hockey world is impatiently waiting to see Jack Eichel return to the ice in a new set of threads, in hopes that he will continue his scoring habits after surgery, but this time, on a winning team. Eichel has only ever played pro hockey in the city of Buffalo and has yet to play in the NHL playoffs. You can bet that wherever Eichel goes, a much-needed fresh start will be provided, along with a massive spotlight.