Sunday, February 13, 2011

Yesterday Around The NHL: Musings re: Kings 4 - Caps 1 and "Olde Tyme Hockey" & NHL Justice (Pens/Islanders)

Well I can't let this morning pass without a brief, very brief comment relative to yesterday's Caps - Kings game. There are several very good recaps around, of course my favorite two are from The Peerless Prognosticator and Red Line Station. They have good recaps and also post game analyses after what was, at the end of the day, one of the worst performances of the season by the Capitals, especially the second period. So Peerless started his recap by asking "Didn't that just ... suck?" - short answer: Yes, it did. That's really all I want to say on this other than if you do read Peerless' recap and today's post, don't do it on an empty stomach, I've been hankering donuts ever since reading them this morning.

Well last night Colin Campbell conducted a couple of in person hearings and rendered his decisions relative to the melee that was sort of a hockey game on Long Island Friday night between the Penguins and the Islanders. I won't even begin to try and approach the decision in the context of any sort of comparative thing as some are trying to do by bringing up the recent Canadeans-Bruins game in which Mr. Campbell's son was a participant. I won't for a couple of reasons which I think are valid: a) I didn't see any of the Bruins-Canadeans game so even if I thought there was value in a comparison, and I do not, I couldn't make one. b) Mr. Cambell recuses himself from review and discipline of games in which his son is involved. Whether you or I truly believe that is also really immaterial. c) The real heart of the matter and our feelings about the incident should be considered i) on it's own merits, ii) in the context of this one game, and iii) in the context of the rules on the books today and what is going on around them - not for example on what made sense or was felt to make sense 5, 10, 15, 20 or even 30 years ago, despite any resemblance one might think there was between the game and the movie "Slapshot."

So here's what I think - basically I'm good with all of Colin Campbell's decisions and judgements, save and only in a minor way, one "non-call/penalty" if you will. Please keep in mind I am not one of those people that Don Cherry reviles as being for the "wussification" of the game of hockey, and while I grew up playing the sport in those same 1970's everybody seems to talk about when they talk "Olde Tyme Hockey", by and large I think the game is generally better now both to play and to watch then it was then. So let's go down the list of the calls and "non-calls" I think Colin Campbell made or didn't make and why in general I think they are right:

1) The 10 game suspension of Eric Goddard - easiest call of all to make, like a delay of game call, and rightfully so - unless you are one who wants to routinely see the return of bench clearing brawls to the sport - automatic by the rules. BTW Eric should get some of the ~41K he now is forfeiting returned to him in the form of free meals, etc. by his teammates, especially Brent Johnson, for the rest of the season.

2) The 9 game suspension of Trevor Gilles for his hit and follow-up punches on Eric Tangradi. So again this is easy to me, any defense Gilles might have wanted to try and say was totally pre-empted by the follow-up punches, it was out of line. Islander fans might point to the prior game hit by Talbot on Comeau, but I say two things - missed calls happen all the time and so do inadvertent hockey hits that cause unitended injuries, and second there is no place in the game for targeting someone or even possibly (I say possibly because I'm not omnipotent so I don't know what was in Gilles head when he hit Tangradi - though Colin Campbell does have to make an educated general guess to do his job) intending to hurt someone intentionally.

3) The 4 game suspension of Matt Martin. Martin's "move" was bush league, punching a guy when they aren't looking is like hitting them below the belt - real men don't do it and hockey is qame for and played by real men. Seriously no place for it. If Martin had confronted Talbot, I'm pretty sure Talbot would have gladly fought him like Talbot indicated in post game comments. In fact I'll bet Talbot was pretty much ready to be confronted by anybody, even Zenon Konopka, on the Islanders - and challenged to a fair up front direct hockey fight. I'll also suggest he was likely prepared to be the object of a few extra, legal checks every time he went into the corner, etc. You know - normal up-front "Olde Tyme Hockey" sort of stuff. Martin targeted Talbot and did it in a way that was, I thought, over the line. The suspension is fair from my perspective.

4) The $100K fine to the Islanders for as Colin Campbell stated - "The Islanders also must bear some responsibility for their failure to control their players" You might argue the amount, trust me it's a lot of money but to Mr. Wang it's not a check he cannot write nor as some in the blogsphere have alluded is it anything that might bankrupt the Islanders as a going business concern. I think a fine is certainly fair and I do feel that the NY Islanders should be penalized disproportionately compared to the Penguins because after getting out to a 6-0 lead in the first ~26:30 of regulation play, they used the freedom that lead gave them to target some of the Penguins they clearly felt did not respect them or their organization. The Islanders did that with apparently no effective effort, if one was made at all, by the Islanders coaching staff to "reign things in" or keep them under control throughout the majority of the game. Is $100K fair - certainly doesn't seem to bad or too much considering the fines that were basically levied on the suspended players in the form of forfeited salaries: Goddard - $40.3K; Martin - $41.6K, and Gilles - $24.2K.

5) So the first known non-call/suspension has to do with Zenon Konopka who was summoned to the hearing apparently because there were some questions concerning his involvement in one of the "scrums" after he came onto the ice during a legal line change and joined an ongoing altercation. During the game he received a roughing penalty and a misconduct during the third period. After the hearing he did not receive any further discipline. From what I saw of Konopka's conduct during the game, this was absolutely the right call by Mr. Campbell and the NHL. In fact, after watching the game, I have respect for Konopka, the most penalized player on the Islanders so far this season, that I certainly did not have for him last season when I watched him as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Konopka played a total of 20 shifts for 13:41 TOI and the only two penalties he took all night were the roughing penalty and the 10 minute misconduct that were reviewed. He was 15 for 23 in the face-off circle and did a fair amount of penalty killing for the Islanders, in short, he wasn't anywhere near the goon I thought he'd be in a game like this. I agree with Mr. Campbell, Konopka's conduct warranted no further discipline, in fact I was surprised Campbell felt the need to include him in these proceedings but I guess that's to some degree because he is the team leader in PIM, or at least was before Friday evening's game.

6) No fine to the Penguins as a team, at all. I already indicated that I felt the Islanders deserved a disproportionate amount of blame and attention relative to the supplemental discipline meted out, but will reiterate that before making my point on this one. Mr. Campbell apparently did not feel the Penguins as a team deserved a fine and that his review indicated they did not fail to control their players in a manner similar to how the Islanders failed to control their team. I just cannot reach the same conclusion given the fact the Islanders were given 183 PIM including 5 Game Misconducts and 6 Misconduct penalties, while the Penguins received a total of 5 Game Misconduct and 5 misconduct penalties. Further watching the game's third period it did not seem to me that Penguins head coach Bylsma and Assistant Coach Granato had any more or less control of their players than their Islanders' counterparts had. In short I grew up in a household where we were always taught, and punished on the grounds that "it takes two to Tango" and, while I will agree much of the chaos on Friday evening was rooted in or started by the actions of the Islanders; I just think strongly the NHL missed an opportunity to tell ALL coaches and teams everywhere that participating in things like Friday evening's strange excuse for a hockey game will not be tolerated or allowed to stand when they failed to also issue a fine to the Penguins as a team. If it were me I would have sent that signal with a $50,000 fine to Penguins.

At the end of the day what I lament most about the decisions and the statements made by Mr. Campbell is I look at the whole story in it's entirety and conclude that the instigator penalty is alive and well in the NHL. To some reading this that statement will seem out of "left field" on several fronts so let me explain. I think these sorts of things wouldn't happen so much if players could police the game themselves without the fear of putting their team at a man disadvantage just by attempting to start a hockey fight to send a message to an opponent that they will not tolerate things like, even unintentional, blind-side hits. I also feel the message sent by the $100K fine to the Islanders and no similar penalty to the Penguins says the NHL in general and Colin Campbell in particular feel the instigator should indeed suffer significantly more than anyone else involved in a "hockey fight" or similar activities. To me that's not a good thing. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I'd like to see the instigator penalty abolished altogether. I'd also like to see the embellishment penalty be something that a referee cannot call if someone has been actually fouled. Please explain the logic to me of punishing someone for what you think is embellishment in the way they fall to the ice, after you agree they have been tripped, etc.? But I digress, I only think that if say in the first period, before the Islanders got up 6-0, the Islanders felt an appropriate player could go out on the ice and accost Talbot, have a really solid, knock down drag out Hockey Fight and not worry about an instigator penalty, perhaps and just perhaps, this entire game, especially the second and third periods might have been different and NOT have been such a chaotic "Cage Match/Rumble". Either that or maybe the league should forbid ANY player on an NHL roster from watching Ultimate Fighting.

In the meantime, the Caps are in action in Phoenix tomorrow night - LETS GO CAPS!!!!

No comments: