News Playoff Blog: Tough not to root for cast-off Canes

Journalism school is mostly a misty, water-color memory for me, but I have retained some of the basic tenets I learned at Carleton University back in the 1980s, including: get two unconnected sources to corroborate facts; strive to always write clearly and succinctly; and don’t mix alcoholic beverages the night before a big exam (OK, I suppose I didn’t need to attend J-school for that lesson).

Then there was the grand-daddy of them all: always retain objectivity.

Mission accomplished. Mostly. When it comes to covering NHL hockey, particularly in the playoffs, it’s a challenge to remain Switzerland at all times.

Take the Carolina Hurricanes, a team built to find that soft spot in your heart. Cripes, there are so many castoffs on this club they’d fit right in with Rudolph and Hermey the Elf on the Island of Misfit Toys.

Most of the core of the team – aside from Eric Staal and Cam Ward – have been unwanted, unloved and undervalued at different points in their careers. The evidence:

• Playoff hero Jussi Jokinen was placed on waivers twice this season by Tampa Bay.

• Inspiring Chad LaRose was never drafted.

• Erik Cole and Matt Cullen unceremoniously left Raleigh, only to return after not being able to live up to expectations elsewhere.

• The Blackhawks gave up on one-time prized prospect Tuomo Ruutu before shipping him south.

• Joni Pitkanen and Joe Corvo were whipping boys in Edmonton and Ottawa, respectively.

• Sergei Samsonov has been set free so many times in his career, he’s featured on Greenpeace posters.

• Heck, even Ray Whitney is a three-time, free agent signee and one-time waiver wire pickup during his career.

On the other hand, they’re now all millionaires who live in a favorable year-round climate and get their summers off. Hmmm, maybe that objectivity reflex is kicking in again.

Capitals GM George McPhee is playing something of a dangerous game by calling out the officials for the power play discrepancy in his team’s series against Pittsburgh.

READ ALSO:  Montreal Canadiens part ways with six scouts, opting not to renew contracts

On the one hand, we get his point. Watching Game 3, I kept waiting for a march of Penguins to the penalty box after Washington was assessed six consecutive minors.

Credit to the referees, however, for maintaining their integrity. In the new NHL, even-up calls are supposed to be passé. As long as the officials are calling it as they see it, there should be no complaint. That the Capitals were doing much of the chasing in Game 3, it stands to reason their fatigued players were going to hook, hold, trip and obstruct more frequently.

The risk McPhee runs by going public with his beefs is two-fold:

1.    It could backfire. He has challenged the refs’ competency or integrity. Either way, it could get their backs up.

2.    He has furnished his team with an excuse to lose. Positive leadership doesn’t look to assign blame, but rather seeks ways to change. Now that the head-honcho has blamed the refs – in part – for the loss, it allows his players to adopt the same mentality, opening the door for increased negative behavior/results.

It was clearly a calculated gamble on McPhee’s part to try to diminish the power play discrepancy – it stood 17-9 in Pittsburgh’s favor through three games. He just better hope he didn’t overplay his hand.

Show off your hockey knowledge by entering The Hockey News’ FREE Playoff Challenge!’s Playoff Blogs, featuring analysis and opinion on the action from the night before, with insight on what happened and what it all means going forward, will appear daily throughout the NHL playoffs. Read more entries HERE.

Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to His blog appears every Friday.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.