We’re closing in on the end of the first round of the NHL playoffs and the notable nastiness on display in most series has become a central focus of your mailbag submissions this week. Here’s hoping the league does more to keep the focus on the games themselves. Until such time (which may never arrive), let’s delve into your questions. Thanks as always for them.
Adam, I am just looking at the Raffi Torres hit on Marian Hossa. How can the NHL make a ruling on this kind of hit and actually affect the team the guilty player plays for? It's a 4th liner taking out a 1st liner. How is there any way that this can balance out? Who cares if Torres is banned from hockey for four games or 10, or even a full season?
The Coyotes can play another player who is just as effective as Torres, but the Blackhawks can no way replace what Hossa brings to their team. It's a huge win for Phoenix, regardless of the ruling. I am surprised that more teams aren't running top players. It almost feels like you need to pluck a top player off the other team’s roster to make up for, or even hurt them more, than the team that was hurt by injury. Your thoughts?
Rob Stroh, Waterloo, Ont.
You’re preaching to the choir, my friend. For years, I’ve consistently said the league’s inconsistency on supplemental discipline is a reason the games have backslid into their current state of barely-constrained chaos. Because the NHL refuses to create a fine/suspension policy that is black and white and can’t be construed to cater to the league’s star players, nobody knows what is or isn’t over the oft-referenced “line.”
And clearly, after the nonsensical $2,500 fine to Shea Weber for his introduction of Henrik Zetterberg’s head to the glass, players understand they’re going to have to seek revenge themselves for perceived wrongdoings. The league sure isn’t willing to step up and drop serious punishments on players across the board, so I don’t blame NHLers for taking matters into their own hands.
But whether it’s Daniel Sedin missing much of Vancouver’s first-round series against L.A., or Hossa missing the latter part of the Hawks’ tilt against Phoenix, an increasing number of fans are incensed that the game has become as much about survival as it is about skill, physicality and toughness. Some people can’t discern the difference between those qualities, but pro sports like the NFL and pro rugby definitely can.
In sum, this stuff keeps happening because the NHL tacitly endorses it. When the league has wanted to change something in the past – the so-called Sean Avery Rule, or the Ilya Kovalchuk attempted “salary-cap-circumventing contract” – they put their institutional foot down immediately and don’t makes excuses. That they continue to do so when it comes to player safety makes it clear where their priorities lie – and I wish they would get up and lie elsewhere.
Adam, what moves do you think the Penguins will make at the draft and/or in free agency? Ryan Suter? Bryan Allen? Barret Jackman? Thanks.
Jordan Falkner, Natrona Heights, Pa.
First of all, if the Pens manage to fight back in their series against Philadelphia and enjoy a deep playoff run, I can see GM Ray Shero making relatively few changes to the roster. But if they do go out in the first round, there could be some serious alterations made. In some ways, the Pens may have finally arrived at the place Tampa Bay was at the end of the Brad Richards/Vinny Lecavalier/Martin St-Louis era: with the knowledge that their embarrassment of riches in terms of high-end star forwards didn’t allow them to balance out their roster.
Pittsburgh still has many fantastic pieces in place – I really don’t need to tell you who those players are, do I? – but the roster is starting to look particularly old outside of their core stars. And I think they really missed role players such as Mike Rupp and Max Talbot, both of whom went elsewhere because the Pens couldn’t afford to retain their services.
Now, I wouldn’t say you’re likely to see Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin traded. But given they’ve got more than $59 million committed to the salary cap for next season, I’d say Jordan Staal is a decent possibility to be moved to give Shero more flexibility. He might choose to use that to bolster a defense corps that looked worn down this post-season, or a backup goalie to ease the load on Marc-Andre Fleury.
In any case, a first round exit for the Pens will lead to some type of significant change. Expectations have been set far too high to allow them to return with the same group.
Adam, I understand protecting the goaltender, especially when they are in a vulnerable position. However, why do the officials allow the constant playground scrums after nearly every frozen puck? This constant bickering gets in the way of the game. Last I checked, pushing people around after the whistle doesn't win games, putting the puck in the net does! Should the officials dole out more penalties for the extracurriculars?
Kyle Anderson, Las Vegas, Nev.
I’m with you. At a time when other sports leagues are doing their utmost to compact the single-game sports experience, the NHL is allowing games to drag on by not cracking down on the post-whistle face-washes that follow virtually every play, clean or otherwise. It’s tedious in the extreme and I’d love to see the league institute some kind of countdown clock forcing all players to line back up for the next puck drop within 30 seconds or one minute.
That’s what basketball does to get players to move the ball over the half-court area in a reasonable amount of time (eight seconds) and what major league baseball does to ensure pitchers don’t take forever on the mound (they get a maximum of 12 seconds to throw a pitch when the bases are empty). And it’s high time the NHL followed their lead and forced players to do away with the jawing and other assorted nonsense and just play.