The All-Star Game in Atlanta looms large on the NHL scene – and you can bet more than a majority of players are happy to have the break that goes along with it – but it’s business as usual with the mailbag. Your emails sent to the standard location (firstname.lastname@example.org) are always appreciated.
I wanted to know if you finally backtracked about your projections that the Canadiens would be out of the playoffs this year again?
If not, how long will it take you? It is OK for an analyst to make mistakes, we won't hold that one against you.
Rémi Bourget, Montreal
I could’ve sworn I already backtracked and groveled like hell in regards to my ridiculous pre-season decision to slot the Habs in at 15th overall in the Eastern Conference this year. You must’ve missed it, so once more, with feeling:
Yup, I was a complete tool. And yup, I think the Canadiens are a safe bet for the post-season. Don’t know how far they’ll make it once they’re there, but Montreal’s management definitely deserves a lot of respect for sticking with their players and prospects through some bumpy patches. Once Bob Gainey does a little off-season augmenting via trades and free agency, they could very well be a serious Stanley Cup contender next year.
Happy now, Rémi? If not, I can cry like Mark Messier for a while. But after that, I’m done.
Why in the world was Scott Niedermayer chosen for the All-Star Game when he has not even played 20 games this season? I understand he had an astounding season last year, but shouldn't the selection of players be based on this season’s play? I don't think having played less than 20 games warrants an All-Star selection and can think of many more deserving d-men.
Ryan Zimmermann, Dallas, Texas
A few other readers also had their britches scorched by Niedermayer’s selection, and I’m with all of you on this one.
Say what you will about whether he should’ve been allowed to sit out the early part of the season, but Niedermayer’s choice to do so should immediately have disqualified him from an All-Star selection.
Someone who’s played a full half-season, such as Brian Rafalski, Niklas Kronwall, or Brent Burns, would have been a much more appropriate pick.
OK, I want to know why you support the instigator penalty. Let me give you an example. A certain Boston Bruin named Shane Hnidy hits a certain Montreal Canadien named Steve Begin from behind. While Begin goes off injured, Tom Kostopoulos comes in and starts a fight with Hnidy. Hnidy gets five for fighting, nothing for the hit from behind. Kostopoulos gets five for fighting, plus two and 10 for instigating. To put it simply, instigating is nonsense. Hnidy was the instigator, because he delivered a dirty hit. Of course, he should have gotten five minutes and another 10 for the hit, plus maybe a suspension (depends on the extent of Begin's injury, in my opinion), but we all know the referees (and the league) are useless on hits from behind.
Kostopoulos went in to stand up for his teammate. It is not two enforcers going at it for no reason; this is one player standing up for another. I can't stand the enforcers, like Ottawa's Brian McGrattan who plays two minutes a game, or Toronto's Wade Belak.
But when a player who logs regular ice time gets in a fight, it's okay by me. Earlier in the game, Sergei Kostitsyn and Chuck Kobasew got in a fight. Nothing wrong with that; it's two regular players.
The point is, I do feel the instigator needs to be reworked. Remove it from the game, but add it in the after game. In other words, if there's someone who really deserves the instigator penalty, make it an automatic one-game suspension, but nothing during that game. If the refs think they really deserve it during the game too, to get a power play, give them an extra roughing or something. Anyways, based on what I pointed out, can you tell me again why you stand by the instigator?
Kevin S., Ottawa, Ont.
I’m not inextricably tied to keeping the instigator rule, as you can see by my suggestions for a perfect NHL.
And, while I can understand what you’re getting at, to me, it all comes down to the backbone of the league – or, more aptly, the lack thereof – in doling out supplementary discipline after any and every incident of unsportsmanlike conduct. The problem is, in instance after instance, the NHL has demonstrated a tacit acceptance of both staged (think Georges Laraque/Raitis Ivanans) and spur-of-the-moment fighting, as well as out-and-out insanity of the Chris Simon variety.
As I’ve noted a number of times now, I don’t think you can ever completely eliminate fighting from the NHL; however, every fight has to be punished with an immediate ejection from the game (as occurs in any other civilized pro sports league), and, depending on the severity of the throw-down, the player or players should face additional suspension(s), particularly if they’re repeat offenders.
If the NHL went that route and severely punished players, I’d be happy to do away with the instigator rule. But as long as the powers that be refuse to drag this game into the modern age, you have to protect not just the stars, but all players from the base nature of both themselves and of coaches. The instigator remains the best way to do that.
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