February 14, 2011
Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend's events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.
I was 100 percent on board with Mario Lemieux's statement about the Islanders' suspensions. I really was. What the Islanders did was disgusting and has no place in hockey. I thought that they probably got off a little easy, even with the $100,000 fine to the team. So as I was reading through it, there was a lot of head nodding.
"Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be." Yes.
"But what happened Friday night on Long Island wasn't hockey. It was a travesty." Yup.
"It was painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that." True.
These points are irrefutable. Only the most loathsome of Islanders fans (and believe me, they exist) would actually say that this was all part of the game and a team coming together.
Mario continues: "The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed." Agreed again.
The NHL really needed to be far harsher with EVERYONE involved, especially minor league thug Michael Haley, who got off with no punishment at all for his role in escalating the matter unnecessarily.
Frankly, I think both Jack Capuano (and maybe even Garth Snow) should have been disciplined more heavily by the league as well. Much of the hate-fest on Long Island was ratcheted up by their giving Haley a call-up and a dozen shifts or so. That they voiced no concerns about their teams' actions, and even supported them -- evidenced by Snow's repugnant presser on the matter, especially the part where he says the Islanders "showed restraint" -- exhibits an appalling lack of compunction for what was in no uncertain terms a bad day for hockey.
But then Mario started to go a little overboard when talking about what needs to be done about this.
(Coming Up: Avs coach on the hot seat; Modano's return; Michael Grabner(notes) is incredible; Kopitar finally scored a goal; Marian Hossa(notes) is MIA; Braydon Coburn(notes) schools Jeff Skinner(notes); Bruins care not about the Kampfer family; nastiness in the Panthers' system; Cam Fowler's(notes) brilliant game-winner; the importance of being Tobias Enstrom(notes); Alex Ovechkin(notes) smells; David Backes(notes) bleeds Joffrey Lupul(notes) is a hypocrite; Roberto Luongo(notes) saves everything; and an absurd Rangers trade proposal.)
"We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players," he said. "We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action."
And he is of course correct. Even ignoring the Matt Cooke(notes)-shaped elephant in the room (no small task), the League does need to stiffen punishment for most infractions, because forfeiting a few thousand dollars and a couple games clearly doesn't serve as much of a deterrent in most cases.
But really, how much more can be done, realistically? Precedents have been set, in previous cases and now here as well. Next time this happens, likely in the distant future, there will already be baselines in place. Nine games for actions like Gillies', four for Martin's. That's how it is.
The last line, though, is where he lost me. It makes him look like an absolute infant.
"If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to re-think whether I want to be a part of it," he positively whined.
Well that's just gross. I've seen it espoused that Mario's choosing to speak out lends additional gravity to the message, and makes it worth listening to.
Why? Because he's earned that level of respect? Please.
If Lemieux is going to resort to threatening to take-his-puck-and-go-home, then he's invalidating what should be an incredibly easily-won argument, and forfeiting what respect he's owed. It's a tactic that worked for him in the past with the whole "garage league" quote. But that's what children do when they're not getting what they want.
You can bet this method, boo-hooism though it may be, carries a lot of cachet down at the head offices. Can't have the owner of one of the league's most prominent franchises, who happens to be the second-best player to ever play the game, lying down in a toy store aisle, kicking and screaming that Bettman and Campbell won't buy him all the Ninja Turtles.
I know it's not the best example, because it would have been none of his business, but if this had been Mario choosing to come out after a similar incident between the Islanders and Blue Jackets, that would have been something worth listening to and respecting. But because it's his team, that dulls the force of his supposed convictions, and that he threw in the petulant temper tantrum at the end in sickeningly self-serving.
If we're to believe that we should consider this proclamation from Mario important because he almost never speaks out, then it stands to reason that, as a whole, the NHL would suffer little if he were no longer part of it. We haven't heard a word from Bobby Orr in forever. Until his 50th birthday last month, we hadn't heard much from Gretzky since he got run out of Phoenix. Nonetheless, the league seems to be doing just fine overall.
It would probably do KO without another owner who whines when things don't go his way.
What We Learned
Anaheim Ducks: What a great goal by Cam Fowler in OT on Friday night.
How did all those teams pass on this kid?
Atlanta Thrashers: Toby Enstrom came back over the weekend. The Thrashers went 1-4-1 without him in the lineup and Dustin Byfuglien(notes) had one point without him on the opposite point. Neither is a coincidence.
Buffalo Sabres: Lindy Ruff is now the third-longest tenured coach in North American sports, behind only Tony LaRussa and Gregg Popovich. He is also first on the list of guys I can't believe still have a job after 14 freaking years.
Calgary Flames: The Flames lost to the Canucks 4-2 on Saturday, making it the first time they'd lost in regulation in 10 games. I honestly can't believe that streak happened. Even Olli Jokinen(notes) played well during it.
Chicago Blackhawks: Marian Hossa really needs to get going here. Just one assist in the last four games and he's missed a bunch of time to injury this year. Good thing he's signed up through 2021. I like three-quarters forgot about that and holy hell. He's already 32. Oh man.
Detroit Red Wings: Mike Modano(notes) will probably be back later this month, perhaps against the Dallas Stars of all teams. Maybe afterwards he can come out in their jersey, skate around a little bit, then sign somewhere else at the end of the year.
Edmonton Oilers: You know how you know when you're a bad hockey team? You lose to the Senators. The Oilers dropping a 5-3 decision gave Ottawa its first win in 13 games. Not to be outdone though, Nikolai Khabibulin(notes) lost his 14th in a row. It was Brian Elliot's first win since late December. These are two atrocious teams right here.
Florida Panthers: I don't know how a business arrangement between two professional sports teams can get too ugly, but the partnership between the Panthers and Rochester Americans is really, really, realllllllly ugly.
Los Angeles Kings: Anze Kopitar(notes) scored against the Capitals on Saturday, giving him a goal for the first time in 11 games. The Kings are 12-3-0 when he scores, and 18-19-3 when he does not. So I think this means Terry Murray's gonna want more goals out of the guy.
Montreal Canadiens: David Desharnais(notes) has looked really good lately, with 11 points in 18 games (six in his last three) and the first star against Toronto on Saturday. Not bad for a guy who was in the ECHL as recently as 2008.
New Jersey Devils: After Friday's 2-1 win over surging San Jose, Jacques Lemaire is eighth on the all-time coaching wins list with a whopping 601, only four back of Ron Wilson. And oddly you don't hear him bring that up any time someone even makes the slightest move to perhaps question a decision he made.
New York Islanders: Can we talk for a minute about how great Michael Grabner has been for the Isles? Here's a guy the Canucks traded as a throw-in for Keith Ballard, and who the Panthers simply let walk. Now he's pretty much the second-best player on the Islanders this season with 24 goals, on pace for an easy 30.
Ottawa Senators: Mike Fisher did the classy things many athletes do when they leave a city. He took out an ad in the Ottawa Citizen thanking the fans for their support. I didn't see the ad, so I don't know whether he thanked Bryan Murray for getting him the hell off the Senators.
Philadelphia Flyers: Textbook work by Braydon Coburn to get in little Jeff Skinner's kitchen. Two big clean collisions and he draws a penalty from the kid.
Phoenix Coyotes: Radim Vrbata(notes) scored against the Blackhawks on Saturday and added the game's only shootout goal after regulation. Shockingly, that makes four in his last three games and five in his last six. Where did that come from?
San Jose Sharks: It's interesting that on the Sharks' recent 9-0-1 run, their special teams barely improved at all. Power play jumped from 22.2 to 22.4, and the PK went from 81.8 to 81.9. But what does that tell you? Better five-on-five play, which is more important than anything.
St. Louis Blues: The Blues are 4-9-4 in their last 17 games, and were eight points out of the playoffs after their loss to Minnesota on Saturday. They, too, are clearly distraught over the ongoing Albert Pujols situation.
Toronto Maple Leafs: Joffrey Lupul is the latest to pile onto the PK Subban(notes) is a Jerk Who Doesn't Respect the Game bandwagon. The Brash Young Defenseman didn't take his visor off before their fight. Left unmentioned is that in all of Lupul's previous NHL fights, he kept his windshield firmly in place as well. All aboard anyway! Toot toot.
Gold Star Award
As mentioned above, Michael Grabner is pretty good. He had five goals, including a hat trick, and an assist in two games between Friday and Sunday.
Minus of the Weekend
Brent Johnson(notes) not only gave up seven to the Islanders, but by coming out of his crease to exchange words with that idiot Michael Haley, he escalated an already absurd situation and is part of the reason Eric Godard(notes) got suspended for 10 games.
Play of the Weekend
Skip to about 1:30 in on this video to see the Bolts blow a two-goal lead inside 52 seconds to go. Tampa won in OT but this Carolina comeback was pretty cool.
Perfect HFBoards trade proposal of the week
User "Zuccarello Awesome" wants to mix things up.
To Carolina: Gaborik, Staal, Anisimov, Del Zotto, 2nd
To New York: Skinner, Ruutu, Pitkanen, McBain
Yup, that is a proposal alright.
I'm not greedy. As long as I've got my health, my millions of dollars, my gold house, and my rocket car, I don't need anything else.