Trending Topics: Paille's blindside silliness; the mediocre West

Trending Topics is a new column that looks at the week in hockey 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?

Daniel Paille(notes) of the Boston Bruins is, in my estimation, an honest player. He doesn't play dirty, and if anything, he can often be accused of playing it too timidly.

He certainly wasn't looking to hurt Raymond Sawada(notes) of the Dallas Stars last night. But it was interesting that no one on the Bruins offered even the vaguest defense of his actions, apart from saying he made a bad split-second decision and he feels badly that it happened.

Paille shouldn't have to feel bad about it.

Guys in hockey get hurt on clean plays all the time, and that's what this was. Had Sawada not been in a staring contest with the puck, he would have seen Paille coming and been able to avoid it. Instead, he reportedly broke his nose and separated his shoulder, and once again restarted the headshot hysteria we've all grown to love so much.

(Coming Up: Why the middle of the Western Conference is seriously terrible; helping out Ryan Jones(notes); and your pearls of BizNasty!)

Certainly, there's no arguing that Paille hit Sawada's head on the followthrough. This was after he made initial contact with his shoulder, but in this NHL you're responsible for every millisecond of a hit, and if a guy is injured, that's the only consideration that need be made for determining whether it was "dirty."

This is being written before his inevitable suspension is handed down, but I wouldn't be at all surprised to see him get three or four games.

(UPDATE: From the NHL: "Boston Bruins' forward Daniel Paille has been suspended for four games and will forfeit $23,118.28 as a result of delivering an illegal check to the head of Dallas Stars' forward Raymond Sawada in NHL game #770, last night, the National Hockey League announced today.")

However, Paille did not target the head.

He tried to make a straight-up, east-west hit as the backchecking forward, and he caught a guy who had his head down when he shouldn't have. That's gonna remain on Paille's rap sheet, forever branding him as a headhunter.

Paille did not target the head. He tried to make a straight-up, east-west hit as the backchecking forward, and he caught a guy with his head down. That doesn't make him a monster.

Here's some wisdom from Japer's Rink on the matter: "We should make a new rule: on remotely controversial hits, fans of the hitter or hittee don't get to comment. Too much emotion."

(UPDATE: Someone else who believe Dan Paille didn't target the head? Dan Paille.)

The middle of the Western Conference is seriously terrible

There's an awful tight race in the Western Conference going on right now. Nine teams, all within just five points of each other through Thursday, playing the back third of the season, competing for three playoff spots.

All of them can get it. None of them deserve it.

People have always had mild complaints about the number of teams that make the playoffs in the NHL, and with good reason. Why let more than half the League compete for a Stanley Cup? But the current playoff format is never going to go away and is, in fact, far more likely to be expanded than reduced. So we deal with it.

But no greater case could be made for a reduction of playoff teams than the Western Conference this year, and really, the Eastern Conference last year. In the latter case, none of the four teams that filled out the non-home ice spots would have made the playoffs in the West, though Boston and the Ottawa Senators were, in most respects, perfectly decent teams. That Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers snuck past everyone and into the Eastern Conference Finals after piling up a whopping 88 points apiece in the regular season was an horrific coincidence.

One that will probably be repeated this year.

Listen to this list of teams ranging from so-so to submediocre and realize that five of them will somehow pull into the playoffs: Nashville Predators, Anaheim Ducks, Calgary Flames, Los Angeles King, Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota Wild, San Jose Sharks, Chicago Blackhawks and Phoenix Coyotes. None of these teams are even remotely exceptional. More than half will make the playoffs nonetheless.

Okay, sure, Chicago's pretty good and Los Angeles is coming off a 100-point season of its own, and both of those teams have pretty strong goal differentials. But the Kings have dropped a ton of games recently, and there's absolutely no telling when Corey Crawford(notes) starts playing like, well, Antti Niemi(notes). This year.

Again, there's a very good chance that the Minnesota Wild, who are pretty terrible at almost everything to do with hockey, will make the playoffs. San Jose, with no goaltending to speak of, could too. Calgary has ridden a post-Darryl winning streak to illusory feelings of legitimacy.

Of course, some people might argue that it's not that all these teams are bad, but rather that they're all just so good they cannibalize eachother.

But the truth is quite the opposite. A lot of teams out West are playing in an awful lot of three-point games, and in the middle of the pack, many are against

That's why they've all gone on mini-runs that lead you to believe they can be legitimate playoff threats. Get hot at the right time and anything can happen, right? But these teams are all deeply flawed in at least one important way, and very few have the type of goaltending and/or team defense that can steal a series or three.

The Western Conference has long been the seat of true power in the NHL, with 100-point teams piling up with alarming ease, driven by dominant records against Eastern Conference opponents. From this group of nine teams, only three are above .500 against the East this season. By contrast, eight of them could say the same last year, and the only one that wasn't (Anaheim) was .500 even.

There's not one of these teams that wouldn't get gutted by teams like the Bruins, Capitals or even the Rangers.

So I'm sorry, but I just don't buy that a conference is any good when the second-best team in it is only like 10 points higher than the 12th. Maybe that's just me though.

Hey, help Ryan Jones out

Earlier this year several St. Louis Blues pledged to donate some cash to charity if they reached a certain number of followers, and all eventually hit their goals. Well now the Edmonton Oilers' Ryan Jones is doing the same, pledging $5,000 to a local charity if his account reaches 20,000 followers. So go help help him out, you deadbeats.

Pearls of Biz-dom

We all know that there isn't a better Twitter account out there than that of Paul Bissonnette(notes). So why not find his best bit of advice on love, life and lappers from the last week?

BizNasty on silver linings after his goal this week:

"Tough loss tonight. Scoring when loosing sucks. But I haven't seen a knee drop snipe like that since the OG Brett Hull."

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.

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