The NHL season is a month old, and a winners and losers column could be written mostly on off-ice issues that have dominated the news.

Kyle Beach should be commended for his lawsuit exposing an alleged sexual assault against him in 2010 by then-Chicago Blackhawks video coach Brad Aldrich, then coming forward as the John Doe in the case. Blackhawks executives Stan Bowman and Al McIsaac and Florida Panthers coach Joel Quenneville, with Chicago at the time, rightly stepped aside after an independent investigation showed how the team mishandled the incident.

That investigation led others to act quickly. The NHL Players’ Association began looking into how it handled the Beach case. The Pittsburgh Penguins settled an earlier lawsuit over a sexual assault allegation. The Anaheim Ducks placed general manager Bob Murray on leave amid an investigation into his professional conduct. He resigned a day later and said he plans to enter alcohol rehab.

Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Robin Lehner took a stand for player safety when he questioned league medical practices in a Twitter thread. He also reached out to Beach.

The NHL got great buy-in on vaccination — fewer than five players were unvaccinated as the season began — but players and coaches have continued to go into COVID-19 protocol. The league suspended San Jose Sharks forward Evander Kane for 21 games for allegedly producing a fake vaccination card.

Here are the winners and losers from action on the ice:

Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid celebrates his goals after weaving through four New York Rangers players.

Edmonton Oilers forward Connor McDavid celebrates his goals after weaving through four New York Rangers players.


Edmonton Oilers center Connor McDavid: He averaged 1.88 points a game in the shortened 2021 season. But he has shown that wasn’t the result of division-only play with 24 points in a season-opening 12-game point streak. That’s a 164-point pace unseen since the days of Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux. McDavid also scored a candidate for goal of the year. And with teammate Leon Draisaitl chipping in 26 points, the Oilers lead the Pacific Division.

Ducks forward Troy Terry: Playing on the top line, he’s having a breakthrough with a 13-game point streak. With 19 points, Terry is one point shy of his career high.

Washington Capitals winger Alex Ovechkin: After scoring a career-low 24 goals last season, Ovechkin has 11 in his first 13 games. The 36-year-old has tied Brett Hull (741) for fourth all-time on the career goal list.

Golden Knights center Jack Eichel: He’ll get the artificial disk replacement surgery he wanted after his trade from the Buffalo Sabres. Plus he has joined a perennial Stanley Cup contender and could be the desperately needed No. 1 center that gets them over the top once he returns in three months.

Carolina Hurricanes coach Rod Brind’Amour: The reigning Jack Adams winner had to deal with a revamped defense after the departure of Dougie Hamilton, plus two new goalies. But the Hurricanes are leading the Metropolitan Division.

Resurgent goaltenders: Sergei Bobrovsky (.946 save percentage) is back to his Vezina Trophy form after struggling in his first two seasons with the Florida Panthers. Carolina’s Frederik Anderson has a .939 save percentage, up from .895 last season in Toronto. Columbus’ Elvis Merzlikins has a .940 save percentage while honoring late teammate Matiss Kivlenieks. Igor Shesterkin (6-2-2; .931 SV% while facing nearly 35 shots a game) is looking more like the goalie whose play in 2019-20 led the Rangers to buy out Henrik Lundqvist. The Philadelphia Flyers’ Carter Hart has improved his save percentage from .877 to .924. Calgary’s Jacob Markstrom has four shutouts, one more than in his subpar first season with the Flames. Edmonton’s Mikko Koskinen has filled in well for injured Mike Smith.


Blackhawks: In addition to the scandal, the Blackhawks started poorly. A team adding reigning Vezina Trophy winner Marc-Andre Fleury and top-pairing defenseman Seth Jones and getting back captain Jonathan Toews from a season-long ailment should be challenging for a playoff spot. But the Blackhawks were defensively porous during a 1-9-2 start. The team fired coach Jeremy Colliton and two assistants, and interim coach Derek King is 2-0.

Colorado Avalanche: The 2021 Presidents’ Trophy winners have had a middling start. Their top line rarely has been together. Nathan MacKinnon missed two games on COVID-19 protocol, Gabriel Landeskog was suspended for two games and Mikko Rantanen went out with an injury. He came back, but MacKinnon (lower body) now will miss three weeks.

Montreal Canadiens: The Stanley Cup finalists are second to last in the Atlantic Division. They’ve been hurt by the absences of captain Shea Weber and goalie Carey Price. Price is back with the team after entering the NHL/NHLPA player assistance program for substance use, but he has no timetable on when he’ll play. Playoff standout Cole Caufield was sent to the American Hockey League after a slow start. Jesperi Kotkaniemi, who left after signing an offer sheet with the Hurricanes, scored in his return to the city.

USA Hockey: Bowman stepped down as general manager. Plus the long time it took for Eichel to be traded means he might not be recovered from his neck surgery in time for the Olympics.

Arizona Coyotes: They weren’t expected to do much because they’re rebuilding and they moved to a tougher division. But they opened the season with an 11-game winless streak before finally picking up a victory.

Seattle Kraken: No one expected them to replicate the first-year success of the Golden Knights, but they are last in a weak Pacific Division. Philipp Grubauer, a Vezina Trophy finalist with Colorado last season, is last in goals saved above expected, according to Money Puck.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: NHL winners, losers: Connor McDavid, Alex Ovechkin soar in first month

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