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.