Trending Topics is a column that looks at the week in hockey, occasionally according to Twitter. If you're only going to comment to say how stupid Twitter is, why not just go have a good cry for the slow, sad death of your dear internet instead?
A lot of times, being a good quote and a pretty skilled player can go a hell of a long way.
In the same way that the media can demonize players who repeatedly face supplementary discipline as "dirty" and "cheap" — think Matt Cooke circa 2010 or Brad Marchand today — and even as the team's own fans decry the decriers, they can also circle the wagons around any player who they have decided is Good In The Room and Plays The Game The Right Way.
In fact, the most important thing you can do in this sport is Play The Game The Right Way. Ask PK Subban, who has only once ever been hit with supplementary discipline (a max fine back in January), but was long criticized for not playing hockey as it was meant to be played, whatever that means. So, when he was fined, some said, "Finally, this guy gets his due." Then they waited a beat and said, "What do you mean he's not a repeat offender?"
Perception makes up a huge part of who does and does not play properly and clouds our judgment of just about everything.
Take for instance, oh, I don't know, someone like Shane Doan. Hoo boy does everyone love Shane Doan. Good ol' boy from Alberta. Wears cowboy hats and ropes steer in the offseason and probably gets some dirt on his dungarees. Yessir, there's a good honest player and a true leader of men.
You might remember on Wednesday night, he picked up a three-game ban from Sheriff Shanahan's office for targeting Jamie Benn's chin with a flying chickenwing elbow that would have gotten him multiple games if it had come in the preseason, November, today, or the Stanley Cup Finals.
Maybe the easiest decision Shanahan has made in a month. Three games, see ya later.
But Shane Doan, being such an Honest Player, was quick to issue an apology, as any good leader would:
"I accept the NHL's decision and ruling. I am thankful that Jamie Benn was not hurt on the play. I recognize how bad it looked but there was no intent to injure him…"
Well, hey there Shane, let me stop you right there.
That would be pretty easy to believe from a pillar of the hockey community such as yourself, if you hadn't, y'know, just picked up a fine for boarding Mark Giordano seven days ago. That was a play in which Doan was at the faceoff dot while Giordano was facing the endboards with the puck in his feet, and Doan just ran right through him.
Impossible to judge intent? Sure it is, but let's not ignore the fact that someone had just shoved Doan to the ice with ease, causing a turnover, seconds before this hit.
(And Doan was, as you can imagine given his status as a Stand-Up Kind of Player, incredulous that any penalty would be called on him at all.)
But OK, isolated incidents, you might say. Reaction plays, maybe. I can buy that. Oh, except, that's right, he also got suspended three games for this gross hit on poor Dan Sexton just because he turned the puck over in the attacking zone. Sexton, somewhat miraculously, wasn't injured.
And so what we have here is a guy making his third illegal play in 17 months or so, none of which actually injured someone but all of which very easily could have. And yet no one is putting Doan up there as one of the guys who needs to be run out of the game on a rail because he's just too dangerous for the new NHL. In fact, the reaction immediately after the hit was almost uniformly, "I don't think Doan is a dirty player, but…"
This was only made worse when Doan apologized. Soon after, USA Today's Kevin Allen, as good and knowledgeable a guy as there is in the hockey media, swooned:
"Even when Shane Doan is in the wrong, he remains classy. Knowing him as a I do, I can say his apology was heartfelt."
Yuck. How is this not universally considered exactly what it is: a transparent attempt to save face after two incidents in less than a week?
Remember how little stomach we had for the "heartfelt" Matt Cooke apology? If he was really sorry, he wouldn't have constantly tried to hurt people, etc, etc. And remember how we were often, sickeningly, lectured by Penguins fans that Cooke simply plays on the edge and has so many other uses to his employers besides putting people in the hospital?I'm not entirely sure that what's happening now is any different.
Actually, no. The difference between Cooke and Doan is that Cooke has actually made good on his apology and been a really clean player this season. It remains to be seen as to whether Doan actually takes that third-grader-who-doesn't-actually-think-he-did-anything-wrong apology to heart, but there's one thing you can bet on for sure.
If Cooke re-offends, everyone will say, "See, I knew that scumbag wouldn't change."
If Doan re-offends, which, by the way, seems far more likely, everyone will continue to think it was just an instance of an Honest Player who accidentally crossed the line. For the fourth time.
Please shut up, John Tortorella
Speaking of hypocrisy, how about John Tortorella getting hot at Peter DeBoer for starting three fourth-line thugs in Cam Janssen, Ryan Carter, and Eric Boulton?
Like, he was super-duper angry, guys. Hoo boy was he just hopping mad. Oh jeepers.
So mad, in fact, that he went out and started his thugs, like Mike Rupp and Brandon Prust, and, because he was short a guy to fight Carter off the draw — mind you, the opening draw — he had Stu Bickel, a defenseman, line up at center.
And thus began three days' worth of hemming and hawing from the two coaches and the national media alike, the latter of whom more or less universally decided that this "staged fight" was bad for all involved. It wasn't, of course, but we'll get to that.
Meanwhile, DeBoer was condemned for his role in it. How dastardly, starting three thugs on the road against a team that his team dislikes. What a monster. Except Tortorella did it back in December.
And of course, if Torts was so mad about it, the thing that no one on Earth has brought up, apparently, is that he was under no obligation to start his fighters. I don't buy the argument that if the Rangers had rolled the Richards line out of the gate, that Janssen and Boulton would have pounded Gaborik's face into a fine paste. They're thugs, and they don't serve a much larger role beating people up at this point, but they're not monsters. There is, still, The Code. All of that went unnoticed, however, by Tortorella's cartoonish mime act of face-reddening displeasure. All he lacked was steam coming out his ears and maybe his head turning into a thermometer.
What macho showmanship. Henrik Lundqvist said he'd never seen his coach so upset.
"NO ONE COMES IN TO OUR HOUSE AND STARTS THEIR FOURTH LINE AGAINST US!!!!"
"But coach we just did it to them like three mon…"
"WHO DO THEY THINK THEY ARE?"
Not to say it wasn't a successful tactic. The Rangers worked New Jersey over pretty good in that one. And I suppose we don't even know whether that was all play-acting on Tortorella's part. If so, the Academy Award for best leading performance goes to him.
But all the people, including Tortorella, who think DeBoer was a real jerk for doing that terrible thing he did might want to look at who really started it.
Pearls of Biz-dom
We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette. So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?
BizNasty on getting out there: "Been spending my day commando because one of my teamates decided it would be funny to hide my underwear at the rink. Actually feels great."
If you've got something for Trending Topics, holla at Lambert on Twitter or via e-mail. He'll even credit you so you get a thousand followers in one day and you'll become the most popular person on the Internet! You can also visit his blog if you're so inclined.
- Shane Doan
- Matt Cooke