Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ovechkin's Two Game Suspension - On Contemplation Probably About Right ...

Since it seems obligatory that if you have a blog or other outlet to express your thoughts and you are a Caps fan, you absolutely must publish your reaction to the 2 game suspension of Alexander Ovechkin in response to his 5 minute major for kneeing Tim Gleason, here's mine...

So to have a considered reaction to the result I personally must first get over and ignore the fact I don't think a 5 minute major was warranted for this particular hit, which I will now do, only to probably come back to this after my reaction to the suspension.

So upon contemplating the data at hand and trying to put myself in Colin Campbell's position in the League offices I think the suspension is fair and basically necessary. Here's the data I'm looking at I have a player who in the span of a week has gotten two 5 minute majors and in the "new, improved" NHL I must review every major penalty and consider possible additional disciplinary action. I don't know what the league officials supplied Campbell but I have to believe that whatever the referee(s) saw at the game that they felt warranted the major penalty was well documented and given the situation probably a little amplified since they knew a major penalty to a 2 time Hart Trophy winner would be scrutinized by all. I can either back up my officials and looking at the tape I have to agree it was a knee on knee hit and that Ovechkin was the hitter and Gleason the hitee. It looks on tape like Gleason made a defensive move to try and avoid the hit and that it's very possible, even probable that Ovechkin didn't mean to hit him knee on knee (my basis of that conclusion is at this point it's clear Ovechkin took the worst of the hit). That said, Ovechkin wasn't able to avoid hitting Gleason knee on knee and has to bear some responsibility for it all.

He also has in the past been involved in similar situations. Since I'm going to accept that the 2 time Hart Trophy winner is one of the most talented players in the game today, I'm going to say the only one who can ensure that similar collisions and potential injuries to other players are Ovechkin himself, I have to conclude he needs to feel some repercussions from the issue to ensure he thinks at least a little about it in the future. So I'm going to issue a 2 game suspension to put him on notice that he is now officially "a one time offender" and that while he is indeed an exciting player and free to play the game as he sees fit, just like an expert skier on the slopes, he needs to be in control at all times since 99.x% of the time with his amazing skating abilities and hockey sense he'll be able to avoid situations like this in the future and still "play his game" - a very exciting and fan-friendly brand of hockey.

That's how I have to see it if I were Colin Campbell so I'm okay with this.

However, here's how Mark unabashed Caps fan and total lover of the way Ovechkin plays the game, as well as "Old School" Guy who really is getting dis-heartened by the "wussification" of the NHL as is currently going on sees it.

I watched the game, it was a good move by Gleason and he was looking to draw a penalty on AO - probably for charging or tripping - and that's what should have been called, in this case. That said to be far over the prior two/three seasons the penalty that was called on OV the other night could already have been called many times previously. Hard to take issue with this call now given that. If Ovie hadn't of gotten a major two games prior he probably wouldn't have gotten a major for the Gleason hit, IMO, protestations to the contrary noted and he probably wouldn't have gotten the two game suspension.

I don't think the call on Ovie was either inconsistent with current practice or excessive in light of how things are done today, I just think they are wrong the call the other night to some degree and the way the game is "policed" as well as the rules today in their entirety. To me the inconsistency is the rules get changed to speed up the game in just about every facet and now the League and some fans who don't have big, extremely, fast tough guys on their team like Ovechkin (6-2, 225#), Malkin (6-3, 195#), Brown (6-0, 207#),and Richards (5-11, 195#) , complain when those guys use a combination of their speed, skill, physicallity and the "improved" equipment in today's game to their advantage and "play with an edge." That said if everyone stepped back and looked at why they play the way they do it's a combination of things but all originate with the changes to the game and rules over the past 5 years. That's why commentators such as HOF member Dennis Potvin have pointed out, albeit in relatively muted tones, a contributory thing is the lack of "immediate justice and accountability" since there really can be no retribution. That's why an increasing number of teams are going without an "enforcer" and frankly the ones that have them often participate in games that seem really funny in a weird way and seem to contain staged fights almost as "stilted" as some WWE events.

Because of rule changes and this focus on removing obstructionism and fighting from the game to speed things up and make it "better" to watch, it seems to me, fan posts to blogs and even the occasional player post game comments start to sound like lawyers discussing issues. Comments and discussions ranging from this one above to the post of how so and so ought to be considered a repeat offender or "why didn't so and so get an instigator penalty, he dropped the gloves and the other guy skated away" yadi, yadi, yada. In any case we could discuss the what would have happened in the old days, etc. till the cows come home but isn't the bottom line answer to the question that Potvin and others have quietly posed somewhat rhetorically "Why do these guys often play like there are no repercussions from their actions on the ice?" because as they are leading us, the answer is, "Because 9+ times out of 10 there aren't any?"

Was the NHL really worse to watch back in those bad old days of brawling and "obstructionist" plays? From my perspective, no it wasn't. If you want more goals limit the size of goalie pads, etc in a more constrictive fashion, but the changes to the rules that have and continue to further "wussify" the speed in attempts to speed things up will:

1) Only lead to more and more opportunities for high speed collisions, some of which will undoubtedly be knee -on - knee hits or even worse.

2) Only continue to provide more and more opportunities for skaters to run at goalies rather then be tied up by defensemen in the low slot.


3) Only create situations where "new fans" think hockey is more like basketball and squash then what it was meant to be and debate whether or not their favorites are handsome and cool instead of rugged, tough and get it done kind of guys.

Hey in the end you had to know that like any of the other few things I don't like about the NHL and Hockey I was going to find a way to trace blame for this onto the one thing I most don't like about today's NHL:


DMG said...

The physicality that permeated hockey in the 70s and early 80s and the excessive clutching and grabbing of the mid-late 90s and early 2000s are two completely separate issues. Even if they weren't...frankly I don't see how anyone could prefer watching games where two goal leads were practically insurmountable and players could barely move around the ice.

I'm confused about the central thesis here. To me it reads like you're saying Ovechkin needs to take the suspension in stride and play a his physical, "fan-friendly" game but at the same time the league needs get rid of the enforcer rule so players will slow down and play less physically.

Usually Frustrated Caps Fan said...

DMG: Sorry I was confusing here's my points in bullet form:

1) Because the game misconduct is the second in a week, ColinCampbell has no choice but to issue a suspension. Regardless of how you feel about the issuance of a 5 minute major for this particualr hit, if the on ice officials are to have any relevance and ability to manage a game, the NHL head ofice realy should not revisit the penalty so yes Ovechkin should take it in stride.

2) That said, I didn't think this particular hit was dirty, intentional, etc. and on it's own merits probably shouldn't have warrented a 5 minute major. However once it was issue I refer back to 1 aboive and stand by it.

In response to your points, I can see what you're saying but.

3) I guess with disagree, unlike you I don't have an issue with a two goal lead being "seemingly insurmountable", to my minds eye, whether it takes a 2 goal or 4 goal lead to be insurmountable doesn't matter to me. Also looking at any decade either pre- or post lockout, I didn't check but my guess is we could find different specific examples as a point however, in those years I agree generally a two goal lead was harder to overcome and it certainly wasn't the worst lead in hockey.

I'm not tied to physicallity in terms of bench clearing brawls etc, and though I'm not for clutching and grabbing I do think the "enhanced" interference rule and more frequent enforcement of it including not being able to tieup a guy basically parked in the slot increases the speed of the game to a degree where it's inevitable the more talented skaters will on occassion inevitiably be out of control. Thus I surmie that's what the league wants as fast moving and exciting a game as possible. Since they seem to be "incentivizing" guys to play that way, it doesn't seem logical to me that unless something is blatent and clear init's intent to injure that when as a result of these faster plays, etc a guy gets injured fans should react the way they do (r.e. the lingering resentment re: the Ovechkin-Gonchar knee on knee) not do I think the player involved should be suspended as often as they are being suspend - regardless if their name is "AverY', "Ovechkin" or "Smedrock"....