Saturday, October 23, 2010

Rick Rypien vs the Fan vs the NHL

Pow, Right in the Kisser

So the verdict is in, and Rypien gets six games. According to the practically canon code of conduct of the NHL, in chart form below, this seems about right. Normally I'd cite a bunch of other suspensions, and take shots at the NHL's impartial dispersal of supplementary discipline, but what's the point at this stage anyway.

Needs No Introduction

It is rather interesting that the stadium crew did have a hand in this all happening, as the tunnel cover was not in place, but that certainly does not excuse such an egregious error in judgement. It is worth bearing in mind that there were failures in several layers, not just the fan (fan behavior will be a post for another day, I'm sure) and not just Rypien. At least the NHL suspended Rypien, because the No Fun League let Giants RB Jacobs' helmet flying into the stands incident go unpunished and somehow swept it under the rug all together. While the NHL is still a second-rate league at best to the NFL, at least the NHL did something.

I'll close with this: What exactly did the fan say to piss Rypien off that much?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Villains are good for the NHL

This NHL season has gotten off to a great start, with a ton of exciting surprises. The Islanders, Leafs, Predators, Avalanche, and Stars are leading their divisions, with the Leafs and Stars both starting 4-0. The Capitals are 3rd in the league with 5 fights through 5 games, and the Red Wings are 10th in the league with 3 fights through 5 games. We have seen some shocking upsets in the fight category, most notably Engelland dropping Orr with a huge right hand, TKOing the #1 contender. Steve Macintyre obviously made the most headlines with his crushing KO of Raitis Ivanans, who has yet to play in a game since that opening night embarrassment.

However, despite the great stories we have seen, there is still this dark cloud getting in the way of the sun in hockeyland. Michael Cammalleri, frustrated by Nino Niederreiter doing his job (throwing bodychecks, being annoying), decided to slash the kid from behind, injuring him in the process, instead of being a man and handling it with his fists, earning himself a one-game suspension to start the year. James Wisniewski, in an incredibly hilarious moment of misjudgment, decided to show his true feelings for Sean Avery, resulting in a two-game suspension. Sean Avery, never to be outdone, decided to slash Mike Komisarek from behind, then again after Komisarek turned around, when the referees were engaged in a scrum on the other end of the ice. Patrick Kaleta, the classy player he is, attempted a headbutt, earning himself a nice fine.

Why is this good for the NHL?

Because it brings attention. Guys hate the Matt Cookes, the Patrick Kaletas, the Sean Averys of the league, just as they hated the Esa Tikkanens, Ulf Samuelssons, Matthew Barnabys of the game back when the average American could name at least five NHL players. Hockey is on Sportscenter now, even if it's us watching Matt Cooke do his darndest to injure a player who is unaware of his presence. Of course, we could do without the injuries, but the dirty plays and annoying habits of these pests gets our sport on national television. Even if it is in the 48th minute of Sportscenter, sandwiched between bowling and Not Top 10. It's better than nothing.

It also brings passion. Guys running around like clowns because Bettman decided to let them do whatever they want under the umbrella of the instigator makes players like Alex Ovechkin square off with Steve Downie. Or Pavel Datsyuk to fight (and beat) Corey Perry. While I love a good heavyweight fight, there is nothing I love more than seeing skill guys get pissed off and take matters into their own hands. I love having enforcers on the team, but I am not a fan of the pretty superstar turning to his big brother to handle his light work. That's unhockey.

So go on Carcillo. Go beat up more Marion Gaboriks. Because it makes the sport relevant, and makes for damn good hockey.


In other news, here's an excellent Mike Richards interview:

I thought penguins had good balance on ice. Guess not.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The NHL's Big Problem (One of them anyway)

The Canadian Judge Punishes Craig Anderson For A Terrible Dive

At the tail end of the Avalanche at Flyers game, when Colorado was flopping at sight of anything orange to "draw" a penalty, the unthinkable happened. The NHL actually called an unsportsmanlike conduct - DIVING penalty. Yes, diving. Now goaltender interference was also called, but it's a start. Here's to hoping that the NHL cracks down on this sissy embellishment trend, and even further, maybe make diving a double-minor. Technically, calling a 2-minute minor for being a bitch isn't family friendly, so, a 4-min double-minor for diving sounds reasonable when an opposing penalty is called, and just 2-min minor when there is no opposing penalty. Yes, make the diving player's team KILL a penalty instead of MANUFACTURE a power play. That will stop embellishment in its tracks, as there will be a severe risk to go with the potential 'reward'. The league's long-term success or failure depends on the NHL cleaning up the on ice product, and this bush league soccer faking-death crap has got to go. Who knows what Bettman will do next...

Bruce Boudreau, what are you thinking?

This offseason, the Caps traded for DJ King, obviously to protect the young guys who kept getting run. However, for some reason, he has not played yet.

The Thrashers, a division rival, and the Capitals have had a few good battles over the years, including in 2006 when Erskine, Brashear, and Bradley fought Hossa, Vishnevsky, and DeVries, after a deliberate cheapshot by Andy Sutton. Atlanta beefed up this summer, bringing in Byfuglien and Eager, but scratched Boulton presumably because King was scratched. This could have made for a pretty entertaining show, and maybe the Caps would have had a better chance to win had they come out swinging to start the season - instead they looked flat.

Next up, the Devils, a tough team with speed and a lot of talent. There were some late fireworks, capped off with PLLL going at Marcus Johansson. Sure, it's easy to say that Leblond had no business going at a non-fighting rookie, but it's smart to say that the rookie had no business being on the ice at the time. Especially when the Caps have the last line change.

When Leblond gets on the ice, after the three fights in rapid succession, Erskine needs to immediately be sent out also. Throw in the remaining "tough" players: Laich, Chimera, Knuble, Schultz. Maybe put Erskine on the wing and play Carlson on defense with Schultz. Give the team the best chance to stick together and protect each other. There is no excuse for putting the "next big thing" in harm's way, just to prove a point, or calm the game down a notch. The fans were loving it, the Devils weren't done and obviously weren't going to be stopping, and by putting out Johansson, Boudreau was setting a bad example and showing his glaring flaws as a head coach.

Then, against Ottawa, a team with Matt Carkner and Chris Neil, two guys who don't make their paychecks doling out tape to tape passes, King is still benched. After both Ottawa goals, King could have stepped in and taken either player off the ice for 5 minutes. Carkner, who was fourth among Senators defense in ice time, and is the only physical presence on that blue line, would more than likely oblige, and the Capitals would be better off.

The Capitals did not seem calm tonight, and were significantly outshot through regulation. The hometown team did terribly in the faceoff dot, which stalled any momentum the two regulation goals scored did provide. Two excellent justifications for a fight. Calm the team down, and build some momentum.

Boudreau obviously does not want King to protect the team, and now apparently he does not want to use him to build momentum. What will he use him for? An extra body for practice? An injury fill-in? What are you thinking, Boudreau? Do you want to keep your job? I would bet that another bad playoff push and you're done, so you might want to get your ducks in a row now and try to show other teams that you can effectively use all of the weapons at your disposal, because I hope you won't be behind the bench here much longer.