Thursday, September 29, 2011

... and the latest suspension goes to ...

Down Goes Frazier !!  Down Goes Frazier !! 

Congrats to Brendan Shanahan on his new disciplanarian role with the NHL, and on the fine job he is doing so far.  I'll reserve any sarcasm built into that last statement until we all find out what decision he makes on the latest 'head shot' to review ... Brendan Smith on Benn Smith in last nights game with the Blackhawks.

For those in Detroit that didn't venture onto the internet to find someone streaming the game (thank you and are pissed that Versus blacked out the game even though Detroit was on the road (i don't get that either) the video clip is here ...

I'll now give you two reasons why this coming season is going to be frustrating and awkward for players, officials, AND fans.
#1 - Shanny is new to the position and has to be tough in order to get his point across as well as gain the respect of players, coaches, and GMs.
#2 - Players are going to have to decide when not to take that risk and cut across the middle of the ice, risking a hit like that, and learn to respect the defenceman coming after them and back off of the puck.

Its always been a game of chicken and so far no one has learned their lesson. The defenceman is ALWAYS going to do what he can to prevent a shot on goal and thats exactly what Brenden Smith did. Caught him in the head instead of the sholder ?  OOPS ... my bad ... but thats what you get for putting your head down and chasing after that puck in the first place.

A Mike Babcock quote eatracted from Chuck Pleiness' blog...
“So, the interesting thing about the league now, and I don’t doubt his shoulder hit his head … is there any responsibility on the puck carrier, toe-dragging, sliding sideways, to look after himself,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said after the game. “Is there or no? It doesn’t appear like there is anymore, is there?"

Chuck's full blog post can be found HERE

Sometimes the offencive player has to take some or all of the responsibility for a hit like that and, depending on what Shanahan's decision is on this one, this could be a good learning experience for all forwards playing the game. Leave your head down and you're going to get whacked. If Brenden Smith gets all of the blame for the hit then its going to be a long season with an obnoxious amount of suspensions, and a bazillion games ending in unusually high scores because no one is going to want to throw a body check anywhere for fear of suspension.

League officials trying to create new rules in order to protect players is one thing ... abusing those rules and instilling fear into the player instead of teaching them to respect one another is another thing. Placing blame on the wrong player will cause more harm than good and raise more questions than it answers.

In the old days, after a hit like that, benches would have cleared and we would have had a gold old donnybrook at center ice. Fans would have been out of their seats, yelling and screaming at the tops of their lungs, further deepening the rivalry between these two original 6 teams. But, because of the enforcer misconduct penalty, all we saw was minor pushing and shoving and name calling in one corner. Last years Don Cherry 'your mother wears army boots' comment would fit here perfectly.

The pendulum swings both ways, and unfortunately, we are currently swung in the wrong direction ... the direction of league involvement and the attempt to remove fighting from the game. Some day we'll see that pendulum swing back the other way when the league gives up and says, "look, we've done all we could to protect you guys from each other and it didn't work. You want control of the game back so here ya go. No more suspensions, no more instigator rule, police yourselves". That will be the day players learn to respect one another more. That will be the day sticks and elbows come down. That will be the day refs won't look like the bad man and will be able to once again do their jobs properly.

Until then, Brendan Shanahan will have a job with the NHL. Until then he will have to release an new video every 3 days explaining his current suspension. As of 5:45pm, Shanny had his meeting with Brenden Smith and there is no official decision until tomorrow. Here's hoping Shanny makes the right decision and doesn't ruin an entire season of hockey.

Friday, September 2, 2011

... And Belak Makes Three

By now, everyone and their grandmother has written an article and expressed their opinion about the 3 NHL "tough guys" that have died in the past 3 months, and it is disgusting to see so much misinformation being spread.

First ... for those total morons that insist on lumping Bob Probert into this mess I say get a clue.  Probie was on a boat enjoying life with his family when his heart decided to explode.  You only get X amount of beats out of a heart and Probie used his all up.  If it weren't for that, he'd still be here, commenting on those others that have passed.

Second ... yes it's sad, shocking, and thought provoking when something like this happens, but do we know all of the circumstances as to why ?  No we don't.  At this time we can only assume it had something to do with their envolvement in hockey and the role they played.  We all know what happens when we 'assume' anything.  To assume their deaths had anything to do with them being 'enforcers' on the ice is just a knee-jerk reaction which could cause more problems than it fixes.

Being an enforcer in the NHL is a unique role in pro sports and it makes me wonder how much the instigator penalty influences their 'technique' and behavior both on and off the ice.  Because of that one penalty, fights pretty much have to be set up or pre-determined. Gone are the days when any random player can jump a guy the second he makes a stupid mistake.  The instigator penalty has shortened the list of players that will drop the gloves, and made those that do feel more isolated.  Eliminate the penalty and even the playing field ... get everyone involved and the 'enforcer' won't feel so alone.  For all we know, it may also lead to fewer stupid penalties like high sticks, stray elbows to the chin, head shots etc.  If all players know they are fair game and will get the crap beat out of them at any given time, maybe it will clean the game up and players will have more respect for one another, making it a safer game to play.

If we set aside our emotions and take the time to properly investigate each death individually, we will eventually come to a proper conclusion that may or may not involve hockey.  Depression ?  Perhaps, but not necessarily hockey related.  Until that happens, its all just speculation.