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Screen Shots: Marchand, Coaching Carousel, PEI Hockey

Adam Proteau takes a look at Brad Marchand's suspension appeal, the NHL coaching carousel, and PEI Hockey's crackdown on racism.
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Once again, it’s time for a Screen Shots column, in which we take a brief look at a handful of hockey topics. 

Let’s get to it, shall we?

– Boston star winger Brad Marchand isn’t happy with the six-game suspension handed down to him by the NHL’s Dept. of Player Safety for attacking Pittsburgh goaltender Tristan Jarry on Tuesday. 

That’s hardly news; which player has ever come out and heartily agreed with punitive measures taken against them? However, Marchand’s current woes with the league are entirely of his own making. 

This time, he made two crucial errors in his unique, adversarial brand of hockey:

The first mistake he made was in going after a goalie. Unless there’s a situation where the goalie strikes first with an egregious action – as happened when Sabres netminder Aaron Dell interfered with Senators winger Drake Batherson; Dell received a three-game suspension for that indefensible act – NHL players do not have a license to go anywhere near goalies in such a physical manner. Remember the Sean Avery unsportsmanlike conduct rule change? Same principle. 

The league has a clear line separating skaters from goalies, and Marchand crossed that line Tuesday.

The other mistake Marchand made was being a repeat offender. This suspension was the second of the season for him, and the eighth suspension of his 12-and-a-half-year NHL career. League officials do not like seeing the same player show up time and again to receive supplemental discipline. This is one of the reasons why Colorado center Nazem Kadri received a whopping (for the NHL, anyway) eight-game suspension in last year’s post-season. That suspension was the sixth of Kadri’s career. 

The league doesn’t want to give the impression its previous suspensions didn’t have a restraining effect for any one player, so they send an increasingly stern message with every additional infraction.

Of course, the NHL might not see players like Marchand and Kadri get repeat suspensions if the initial suspensions were sufficiently harsh. 

When even repeat offenders fail to get a suspension for at least one-tenth of the regular season, they’re under no real pressure to rehabilitate their behavior. But Marchand should know full well he’s going to be in the cross-hairs of the league for the rest of his career, and better govern himself.

- One follow-up note on my column yesterday on the NHL’s coaching carousel

One of the more interesting angles on new Montreal Canadiens interim head coach Martin St. Louis is whether he can overcome the challenges often encountered by former superstars who decide to become head coaches. 

As we saw during his time running the Arizona Coyotes, Hockey-Hall-of-Famer Wayne Gretzky couldn’t replicate the magic he made as a player when he went behind the bench for the Yotes for four seasons (2005-2009). Granted, he wasn’t working with the most skilled group of players, but Gretzky never made the playoffs one time in those four years, and finished his stint with the team with a 143-161-24 record.

There are instances where talented NHLers can become solid head coaches. 

Rick Tocchet was a hell of a player for 18 seasons, and he may yet get another coaching opportunity down the line. But, by and large, the coaching position isn’t a job for guys who have made millions of dollars as players. The best players of all time usually say to hell with the constant pressures of a coaching career, and prefer to live out their days going golfing and to alumni gigs. This isn’t to say St. Louis won’t be a terrific hire for the Habs. It’s just an observation that players like him are the exceptions to the rule when it comes to great coaching.

- Finally, here’s a thumbs-up to Hockey P.E.I. for suspending five amateur youth players 25 games apiece for uttering racial slurs during a game in Charlottetown in November

Putting an end to this garbage is just as important as suspensions against high-profile professional hockey players. There are no excuses for such appalling behavior at any level, but it would be nearly as bad to see a slap on the wrists for anyone found to be involved in racist acts. A 25–game suspension is a good start to let offenders know there is no room in hockey for bigots, and repeat offenders should face a lifetime ban from organized games. 

We need to pluck out racists at the grassroots level if we want to have a long-term impact on inclusiveness in the sport. 

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