No Consistency – No Surprise

I really should just change my website to keep track of the lack of consistency in the meting of punishment when it comes to dirty hits. This time around, we get a noob to the dirty hit pool in Marian Hossa.

Where have I seen a hit like that before…

Oh right.

So what’s the difference here? Well, Alex Ovechkin was suspended for two games for his hit and Marian Hossa gets to keep on playing since he’s never done something like this before.  Wait, sorry, that’s the reason I’m assigning to him. The master of the Wheel of Justice himself, Colin Campbell, had something different to say:

“I have made the decision that this play does not warrant supplemental discipline after considering all of the facts, including reviewing the video and speaking with Mr. Hossa.   This play is distinguishable from recent incidents by a number of factors, including the degree of contact involved; the fact that the consequences of the play do not appear to be as severe; that this was a hockey play involving a race for the puck; that Mr. Hossa is not a repeat offender and that the call of a major penalty by the Referee was significant and appropriate.”

Smell that? Yup, that’s the barn yard so let’s pull a Mike Rowe and go Dirty Jobs on analyzing this steaming pile of poo.

Colin says:

This play is distinguishable from recent incidents by a number of factors, including the degree of contact involved

Joe’s translation:

I know what you’re all going to say, it’s exactly like the Ovechkin hit and I’m going to put my foot down and say that it’s not. There, now it’s the Gospel According to Colie. If I can call Matt Cooke’s hit on Marc Savard a shoulder instead of an elbow, I can tell you that if you compare this hit to Ovechkin’s on Brian Campbell you must be some kind of jerk. Sure they’re both a push from behind that helped the player crunch himself into the boards and get hurt, but that’s where it ends. Hey, at least it didn’t happen on an icing play. Suck it.

Colin says:

The fact that the consequences of the play do not appear to be as severe

Joe’s translation:

Dan Hamhuis didn’t go get hurt for 6 weeks like that big pussy Campbell, therefore I get to be thoroughly inconsistent and make all you armchair geniuses get your Cheetos stained undies in a knot. By judging this hit based on the lack of severe outcome, whereas with other plays that are as dirty or less so that result in serious injuries, I can make a total mockery of the system every time I say that we don’t dole out suspensions based on the outcome and do so instead based on the act.

Colin says:

That this was a hockey play involving a race for the puck; that Mr. Hossa is not a repeat offender and that the call of a major penalty by the Referee was significant and appropriate.

Joe’s translation:

Races for the puck are OK, except on icing. That’s the new rule, bitches! Also, Hossa being a first timer means a get-out-of-scrutiny free pass for Ol’ Soupy! Also, the referee’s did put the guy in the box for five minutes, what else do you want? You want him tossed from the game?  Pssh, nonsense. How else were we to twist the knife in the Nashville fanbase by having him score the game winning goal in OT? Don’t worry though, next time he hits someone like that again maybe we’ll suspend him. If we feel like it. Or if the officials don’t kick him out of the game and give Ol’ Soupy another free pass!  Woooooo!

Pictured: A poor excuse for a sock puppet. Also, Scooter from “The Muppet Show”

I didn’t expect there to be any suspension for Hossa at all. Campbell’s total lack of consistency and his (and the league’s apparent help) with allowing guys who are first-timers to get away with one “oops” moment, especially if they’re stars, has become all too transparent. I know it and Greg Wyshynski at Puck Daddy knew it would be like this too and so did numerous others. Just because we’ve gotten wise to the game and sheer nonsense that goes into the NHL offices ability to make the waters as murky as possible when figuring these things out doesn’t make it any better.

The glaring lack of consistency as well as the underlying message that’s delivered when first-time offenders get the proverbial slap on the wrist from Ol’ Soupy for pulling off a scummy play is frustrating and yet still entirely too predictable. I know most fans were stunned just to see Marian Hossa deliver a hit of any kind but the fact that it turned into a lightning rod of controversy shouldn’t be all that stunning.

All that aside, my problem here, like always, is the extreme lack of consistency shown by the league regarding these things. I guess it’s what helps my Wheel of Justice become more popular, for which I am semi-thankful, but I wouldn’t feel too bad if it ended up being a product of a bygone era. Until that day comes, spin away you crazy wheel.

Wheel Of Justice: Morally Bankrupt

From the “in case you missed it” files, there were a couple of questionable (read: scummy) hits recently that were brought to the attention of NHL Disciplinarian Colin Campbell.  One of the hits I took a look at the other day in my post analyzing the broadcasts from Colorado and Washington regarding David Koci’s dirtbag hit on Capitals defenseman Mike Green.  For the video of that hit (take your choice of which one to watch) I kindly ask to check it out there.

The other hit came from Ottawa’s 2-0 win over Buffalo Wednesday night and involved a couple of rather notorious figures in the eyes of the NHL:  Senators forward Jarkko Ruutu and Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta.  These two guys have reputations as ugly as anything in the league so when they come together in an ugly play… It’s usually tough to get people to feel bad for the guy that feels the brunt of the attack.  In this case, it was Patrick Kaleta getting the worst of everything.  (Video suggestion: mute the audio unless you want to hear what Rick Jeanneret sounds like on quaaludes)

The fun part about this brutal hit, which knocked Kaleta out of the game, is that there’s nothing accidental about what Ruutu did here.  He was running Kaleta, a guy who plays the game generally the same way as Ruutu, and he was making sure he was going to hurt him because he was clearly gunning for his head.

So you’ve got two obviously dirty and brutal hits and where does the league come down on this, especially since both involved head injuries of some sort?


David Koci of the Colorado Avalanche has been fined for his hit on Washington Capitals defenceman Mike Green, while Ottawa Senators winger Jarkko Ruutu has been fined for his hit on Buffalo Sabres’ Patrick Kaleta.

For those of you checking in on the Wheel of Justice, I’ve got a surveillance photo taken directly from Colin Campbell’s office for how he came up with just a fine for both of these dirty hits.

WoJcloseupYou just know this is how it went down.

I’d like an explanation as to how or why two guys with reputations and, in at least Ruutu’s case, prior transgressions for which he’s been punished by the league get off with fines and no suspensions at all.  I thought curing the league of dirty head shots was a big deal to the NHL but this decision, specifically against Ruutu, is irresponsibly inconsistent by the league.

This isn’t a situation like with Philadelphia’s Mike Richards earlier this year where you could sort of make a case against suspending him for hitting Florida’s David Booth – Jarkko Ruutu’s hit on Patrick Kaleta is scummy, dirty and the exact kind of thing the league should be punishing severely.  Instead, it gets let go with a weak fine. This is where I want the league to be more forthcoming as to why they make the decisions the way they do.  Too many times the result of the hit plays into what the punishment is which means most  of the intentionally dirty stuff that doesn’t connect and seriously injure a player goes unpunished.  A lot of people treat the “intent vs. results” debate as a “chicken or egg” kind of situation, meaning that if a guy’s intent is to put a hurt on another player is there but he fails that makes it OK.

I can’t imagine a line of thought being more violently incorrect.

Take a look at that video of Ruutu on Kaleta again and try to explain to me how Jarkko Ruutu was just playing the game “the right way” and how him gunning for another player’s head (regardless of who that player is) is OK.  I’m sure the excuse is that he was chasing after the puck and checking his man.  Never mind that his man has his back turned to Ruutu the entire time and nevermind that Ruutu also made no effort to play the puck while skating in at full speed from outside of the zone and then delivering a shoulder to the head of Patrick Kaleta.

I can’t imagine there being more things wrong with this entire scenario, but it’s only deserving of a fine in the eyes of Colin Campbell.  The league is busy, again, talking out of both sides of its mouth in regard to head shots trying to placate the Players Union as well as the fans who both clamor for an end to these things and to those who say it’s all “part of the game” and guys should suck it up.

The league can’t make everyone happy here but coming up with some sort of concrete method to the madness regarding dirty play and suspensions for committing offenses like these has to come out of all this.  There have been too many instances where we the fans and I’m sure the players as well are left scratching our collective heads wondering what is going through the head of Colin Campbell when he goes to his smoky back room to come up with some kind of action against offending players.  Every other major sports league has some kind of step-ladder for doling out punishment for breaking the rules like this yet somehow the NHL can’t remove its head from its own ass to create their own.

I know… I’m as shocked as the rest of you are that this is how this league chooses to operate.   After all, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?

How Not To Conduct A Broadcast

Since most folks are going to be talking about what they think the Wheel of Justice is going to bring forth for Colorado Avalanche forward David Koci after brutally charging and boarding Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green as the Avs were down 5-0 late in the second period, I’m going to take a look at something not having to do with what happened on the ice, but rather the broadcast booth for both CSN-Washington and Denver’s Altitude Network.  I’m just hoping I don’t step on the shoes of  Puck The Media’s Steve Lepore too much by doing this.

Checking out the You Tube videos of the hit, the first one I checked out was from Altitude featuring play-by-play man Mike Haynes and color analyst Peter McNab.  Haynes, I admit, is a guy I’m not the biggest fan of.  He’s got a bit of a nasally voice which also bears a startling resemblance to radio talk show host Sean Hannity.  McNab has been the color voice for Avalanche games since the franchise moved to Denver and he’s gotten some big time work doing games on NBC and work for TSN in Canada as well.  Haynes, like anyone doing the hometown broadcast, is most certainly a homer and, in this case, he’s wearing the burgundy quite well.

OK so he’s a bit into the fight and why not, his team is getting trounced and Koci beating in John Erskine’s head might be the one bit of success the Avs might have on the night. That said, Mike Haynes… Act like you’ve been there before and maybe reigning it in a bit after Koci had just delivered a brutally dirty hit might be the right thing to do.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’m certainly not advocating homer broadcasters play it completely down the middle. I’ve only ever worked games as a homer broadcaster and in all of zero of the games I’ve ever called have I ever really played it down the middle.  Don’t believe me?  Well here, give this a listen from the game I did last week between Boston University and RPI.  I’m the color commentator and second voice you’ll hear on there, the play-by-play man is the illustrious Perry Laskaris.

Now while Haynes got caught up in the heat of the moment  and went a little monster truck rally with the fight, he certainly kept it professional after the commercial break and gets kudos for that but given the situation with a player down on the ice and the assailant then duking it out for his transgressions… Perhaps the better part of valor would’ve been to say, “Koci had to know this was going to happen and if this is his way of firing up his team…” and then drive it into lecture mode.

I’ll call that my foreshadowing moment because as we check out CSN-Washington’s broadcast featuring Joe Beninati on play-by-play (who I’ve ripped on plenty both here and on Twitter) and Craig Loughlin on color, you’ll see exactly how to handle this situation on the air.

Amazingly, Beninati (who I chide constantly for hamming up his broadcast delivery) hits this right on the nose the whole way through and Loughlin who is about as big of a homer color man as there is in the business, provides some spot-on perfect analysis of everything the whole way through.  Loughlin is informative and analytical while Beninati delivers the correct kind of delivery for the situation with equal parts disgust, somberness and “Oh shit, this is going to be a brouhaha. ”

To get this kind of tempered production out of Beninati helps make me look like a jerk whenever I pick on him about his work on Versus.  That said, his work on Comcast Sports Net-Washington is generally pretty good and I find that I don’t mind listening to him call Caps games on there.  This also helps show me why folks from D.C./Virginia/Maryland that hear him for the entirety of a season would think I was being an unruly mob of one when trashing the guy.

My bad folks.

I’d have to assume this is just what the difference is between a guy who has done national broadcasts versus a guy who is strictly a hometown guy and for that I should go a little easier on them, but what’s the fun in that?  The fun in this, this time around, is that I’m now sticking up and lauding Joe Beninati.  I’m clearly losing my edge here.

Daniel Carcillo: Best Goon or Dumbest Goon?

I’ll admit here that I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for the goons of the NHL.  It sounds really effeminate to say that being as how I’m a dude, but it’s true.  I’ll sit around with my friends and we’ll throw out the names of legendary 1980s and 1990s goons and try to one-up each other.  Sure, most of these guys weren’t very good at hockey (Dennis Vial) and those that were had major issues of their own (Bob Probert).  For some reason, for those of us that grew up in that highly impressionable era of hockey through the 80s and early 90s the guys that dropped the gloves were always memorable and with the way the NHL has gone out of its way to try and “clean up” the game in recent years, they’ve taken on an aura all to themselves.

From the moment that Tie Domi ended his NHL career, the NHL landscape for pugilism seemed barren and it looked as if fans of the dirty side of hockey were going to have to keep a wandering eye towards the AHL to get their mixed martial arts of hockey fix.  After all, when you’ve got characters like Dennis Bonvie and Brian McGrattan accumulating over 500 PIMs in a single season, you have to respect the effort that goes into being that damn disruptive.  After all, not everyone is going to be a Crosby, Zetterberg or an Ovechkin – some guys are going to be Stu Grimson or Tiger Williams or Chris Nilan.

This is where Daniel Carcillo stepped in.

Two years ago, Carcillo was getting ice time in Phoenix when he made his NHL debut.  He played in just 18 games, but piled on 71 penalty minutes in that time, a pretty hefty haul considering the NHLs PIM leader in 2006-2007 was Philadelphia’s Ben Eager with 233.  Phoenix had another guy doing dirty work that season in Josh Gratton so Carcillo’s road to eventual goon-borne glory was blocked.

Come 2007-2008, Carcillo was a man on a mission accumulating an astonishing 324 PIM in 57 games.  Think about that.  He missed 25 games that season and still out-PIM’ed the second place finisher Jared Boll by 98 minutes.  That’s historic goonery not seen in the NHL since Peter Worrell of the Florida Panthers went bizonkers (thanks Gary!) and loaded up with 357 PIMs in 2001-2002.

The difference between the goonery back in the day and the goonery now, however, is how it gets put together.  Back in the 1980s, it’s fair to say that the big gun goons were all out to get after each other.  Most teams were able to pile up PIM totals that would make Lil’ Gary Bettman wet his pants and cry if they were to happen these days.  Well, moreso than he does nowadays anyhow.  I’ll just pick out a season at random and take a look at the PIM leaders from that season.  Let’s check out 1987-1988.

PIM Leaders

  1. Bob Probert 398
  2. Basil McRae 378
  3. Tim Hunter 337
  4. Richard Zemlak 307
  5. Chris Nilan 305
  6. Jay Miller 304
  7. Gord Donnelly 301
  8. Rick Tocchet 299
  9. Torrie Robertson 293
  10. Steve Smith 286

Now for those who were critical that the NHL was a goon league back in those days, keep in mind that Mario Lemieux scored 70 goals that season and lead the league in scoring (yes, even over Gretzky) with 168 points.  That season saw 12 players score over 100 points.

Now?  We’re lucky to see five players get 100 points in a season.  The first two seasons after Gary’s sport-crippling lockout are exceptions thanks to the insistence to help goal scoring via the power play.  Guys that rack up tons of penalty minutes are even more rare, whether you want to pin the cause on that to the incredibly bogus instigator rule or to the possibility that the game has moved beyond having guys out there strictly to enforce the “code” on the ice.  I don’t really subscribe to one idea or the other, but I am a firm believer in the instigator rule being totally bogus.

carcillofarvaOfficer Carcillo doesn’t want a God damn liter of cola.

Where this all came out to the forefront was last night when Daniel Carcillo managed to find a way to put his Philadelphia Flyers on a nine minute penalty kill, thanks to him trying to punchasize Washington Capitals Matt Bradley’s face.

Carcillo received a five-minute major for fighting, a two-minute instigator penalty (duh) and a two-minute minor for cross-checking. That’s a pretty hefty effort, especially when Matt Bradley picked up nothing… Since all he did was body check Daniel Carcillo cleanly.  Carcillo also got spanked by the Wheel of Justice to the tune of four games, a number that somewhat makes sense because Carcillo is a rather notorious character at this point.

I get that it’s Carcillo’s job to fight and inspire his teammates and certainly that kind of play isn’t exactly frowned upon in Philadelphia but Carcillo is developing a bit of a habit of not choosing his moments wisely. Take a look at the playoffs last season where he decided to fight Pittsburgh’s Maxime Talbot and managed to not only inspire the Penguins but also the entirety of the Pittsburgh fan base. That kind of stuff is not what you’re paid to do if you’re Dan Carcillo.

I will say that my friends and I were initially amazed and impressed with Carcillo’s ability to consistently find his way to the penalty box and act out like an “old school” goon and while I’m not about to speak for them here, Carcillo isn’t from the same class of goon as those legends from the 80s and 90s.  He’s a different sort of creature, perhaps a guy who came along 10-15 years too late, but it’s tough to even make that assessment about him because he plays the game with such little respect for others on the ice.

Let’s face it, Matt Bradley was about another five seconds away from dropping the gloves with him and indulging his wont to fight… but he didn’t wait and cold-cocked him instead.  Much like Officer Farva from the movie “Super Troopers” Dan Carcillo’s shenanigans are cruel and tragic and above all else, ill-timed.  Flyers GM Paul Holmgren can talk all he wants about how he disagrees with Carcillo’s suspension and there are some intriguing arguments to be found as to why it’s “too much” but the Flyers knew exactly what they were getting when they brought him aboard and to be surprised at all that he does things like this or to get kid glove treatment from the league is just completely stupid.

Perhaps someday the Flyers will get their act together and stop appeasing the meathead part of their fanbase and outfitting the team with more goons than talent but as long as Bobby Clarke’s shadow looms around the organization, the Broad Street Bullies image is going to be impossible to shake.  Would Carcillo have fit in well with Dave Schultz and Bobby Clarke in the 70s?  Absofrigginlutely.  In today’s NHL though… Carcillo is a man out of his element and comes off more like a clown than an intimidator.

The Wheel of Justice Needs Oil

Hey remember when Alexander Ovechkin hit Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta from behind and was assessed a major penalty and a game misconduct for doing so?  I mean it was just last week so unless you got too hammered avoiding your relatives before, during and after Thanksgiving I can give you a pass there.  If you did forget about that, it’s OK, the buzz cooled off right away after that because Kaleta ended up being the reckless scumbag he is and did something just as dumb as Ovechkin did except he injured Philadelphia’s Jared Ross.

Problem there for some folks was that Ovechkin wasn’t suspended for his hit while Kaleta was, even though both hits were almost identical right down to the players being hit being stupid enough to turn their backs on the on-charging players putting themselves in the position to get injured on their own.

Well funny thing happened tonight in Raleigh as Alex Ovechkin was at it again, this time Carolina defenseman Tim Gleason draws the fire from Washington’s Mad Russian.

Ovechkin not only gets injured on his own from this hit but he again picks up a five-minute major and a game misconduct for his trouble. Considering how Ovechkin was helped off the ice, kicking him out of the game is akin to suspending a starting pitcher in baseball for four days for beaning a guy, the punishment wasn’t going to affect him anyhow because Ovechkin probably wasn’t coming back to play anyhow.

So once again, Colin Campbell is going to get the call to decide what, if anything, will be done to punish Ovechkin for this hit.  Folks are already debating wildly whether or not Ovechkin hit Gleason knee-on-knee on purpose or not (he didn’t, why would he bother?) and whether or not suspending a guy who plays the game at such a break-neck speed with ridiculous bullish aggression will do anything to “send a message” to him at all (it won’t, Ovechkin is going to play that way regardless).

wheelofjusticeWill the Wheel of Justice come up Superstar again?

What this hit does remind me of is Ovechkin’s run-in with Pittsburgh’s Sergei Gonchar last season in the playoffs for which Ovechkin was not punished for.  It’s the same brand of hit where Ovechkin doesn’t deviate his course, the defender tries to make a move to get by but Ovechkin is moving too fast for them.  While that hit came during the heat of the playoffs, this time it comes fast on the heels of another hit that produced yet another game misconduct.

The league is in a tough spot because if they suspend him they’ll get heat from ticket buyers in Washington and elsewhere the Caps play on the road in the coming week (Philadelphia, Tampa Bay, and Buffalo) and fans there will be upset they won’t get to see him (well, maybe not Buffalo fans).

The other side of it is if he’s injured for any amount of time, what good is a suspension to him anyhow?  Big deal, he’s going to miss games anyhow so what good does tacking a game or two onto that do for sending the message that the league doesn’t have a superstar bias.

What do I expect the league to do?  I expect that the NHL’s version of Pat Sajak, Colin Campbell, will inquire as to what Alex Ovechkin’s injury status is and then craft a response based around that.  Since Tim Gleason wasn’t injured on the play (he came back to play in the game) that’s not at issue here for the league, instead the aggressor is the one who is hurt.  Why do I suspect that will be the case?  The league is gutless and they want to save face.

That said, if Ovechkin is hit with a suspension (whether it’s rendered toothless by an injury or not) there’s a lot of people that will feel vindicated for one reason or another.  Whether it’s because they believe in the “superstar bias” or they believe that Ovechkin is a reckless player whose had this coming to him for a while won’t matter because they’ll be happier than anything.  If there’s no suspension however… The league’s spin-meisters better be crafting up a beauty of a response because the pitchforks and torches are out already.

Thanksgiving Turkey: Alex Ovechkin

Thanks to all of you who keep up with my erratic posting schedules and hell-bent mania for picking on the head of a league that can’t get out of its own way to success.  You, the reader, is the kick in the pants I occasionally need to keep on going and other times you’re the great folks who provide me with the adulation I so desire.

Enjoy all the turkey you can handle today America.  And mashed potatoes.  And can-shaped jellied cranberry sauce.  And carrots.  And… Sorry, I passed out starving for a moment.  The house is filled with so many glorious and gluttonous smells right now it’s tough to focus.

For my Canadian readers and the rest of you who stumble upon me elsewhere… Happy Thursday, here’s some video of an NHL superstar being a turkey.

Looks like Alex Ovechkin might get to spend some time after the holiday letting his belt loose with his hand down his pants after the holiday because… Well, that’s just straight dirty.

alexovbundyAh jeez Gary, can’t you see I’m busy?

I know it’s how he plays all the time, but timing is everything and that was not it.  It’ll be curious to see if the NHL actually does anything to Alex though since the guy he hit (Patrick Kaleta) isn’t exactly viewed as “good people” by the other players.  Time to break out the ever-popular Wheel of Justice.

Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Ott

In just a matter of days Colin Campbell’s idiotic Wheel of Justice has gotten enough of a workout to make even the most veteran spinner of the wheel tired and it seems that there’s a definitive line in the sand being drawn over who or what will get you actually punished by the NHL.

First there was all the stuff we talked about here before about Mike Richards and Tuomo Ruutu, then in the last couple of days Dallas Stars sandpaper-like forward decided it was high time he got back into the act of being a huge creep and managed to do so twice in the same game against St. Louis.  First with a highly dubious low-bridge hip check on Carlo Colaiacovo then later on with a hide-your-eyes ugly knee-on-knee hit with B.J. Crombeen.

Just brutal.

Dallas Stars fans and St. Louis Blues fans alike have come to verbal blows over at St. Louis Game Time while the guys at Defending Big D take the opposing stand and, frankly, I can’t blame Blues fans for being pissed because Steve Ott is your run of the mill talented forward that gets his jollies being an asshole. Now take what you saw in Ott’s hit on Colaiacovo and now soak in what you see from Los Angeles Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi with his hit on Columbus’ Jason Chimera.

Again, really nasty business and an unneeded low blow of a hip check and this goes for Steve Ott as well. There’s no need to get that low on a player you’re looking to stop. None at all and the only reason you’re doing it is because you’re being a dick. Ott’s a dick and Scuderi, this one time, is also a dick.

That is, not completely… At least in the eyes of Colin Campbell. Rob Scuderi has already been let off for previous good behavior and received a fine for his hit. Meanwhile, Steve Ott will have a telephone hearing with Colin and the Wheel of Justice to determine how long he’ll be suspended for as the league is looking into his hit on Colaiacovo and not the hit on Crombeen.


Far be it from me to try and figure out where, exactly, any of that makes sense because it doesn’t, but I’d like to think that Campbell will at least mention in passing the Crombeen hit because that’s about as dirty as it gets. He leaves his leg out there while Crombeen skates by and there’s absolutely ZERO doubt in my mind that Ott was looking to injure him.

With all of that said…

What in the blue hell is it going to take for there to be any modicum of consistency out of Colin Campbell’s game show studio of an office when it comes to dangerous hits in the game?  Mike Richards gets no suspension for his hit on David Booth.  Tuomo Ruutu gets a three game suspension for his dirty play on noted scumbag Darcy Tucker.  Rob Scuderi gets a fine for his low bridge action on Jason Chimera even in spite of Scuderi having a relatively clean record and now Steve Ott is going to see some sort of action taken against him.  I’d like to assume it’s going to be a suspension but you just don’t know what the Wheel of Justice will turn out.

It shouldn’t be like pulling teeth to get some kind of ground rules set for punishment in this run-by-ninnies league.  Every other league seemingly has their act together and manages to avoid having the smokey room discussions about what to do when their players run afoul of the rules but not the NHL.  One man’s knee-on-knee hit is another man’s sloppy seconds.

There’s zero consistency from the officials on the ice and there’s absolutely zero consistency or accountability from the officials in their offices in Manhattan.  The league is gutless for not trying to set any sort of measuring stick for even the most basic of offenses and apparently doles out suspensions based on some hazy measurement of what a player has done in the past.  It’s time to keep track of these things and keep the fans in the know where everyone stands.  After all, if we all know who the scumbags are and what the dirty hits look like, what the hell is the purpose of paying Colin Campbell too much money to be really terrible at his job when any of us common-folk could do just as good if not better than he can from our couch.

This friggin’ league…

(UPDATE:  Steve Ott suspended two games courtesy of the ever fickle Wheel of Justice)

To Hit Or Not To Hit (Update)

This weekend has brought about the resurrection of the “blows to the head” debate courtesy of two different yet interlinked plays.  Friday night’s game between Colorado and Carolina brings an added twist of what happens when a bad thing happens to Darcy Tucker.

Tucker was taken off the ice on a stretcher and received a concussion on the play as well as 40 stitches.  Ruutu has been slapped with a three-game suspension for the hit.

I’m not going to be a facetious jerk-off about this, I am going to ask this bluntly:  Who, aside from Toronto Maple Leafs fans who still worship the ground Tucker walks on, feels bad for what happened to Darcy Tucker after receiving that vicious, dirty hit from Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu?

Feel free to comment if you do because I’d love to hear why you feel bad for him because in my mind, I find it very difficult to muster up any sort of sympathy for him because when you play the game the way he’s chosen to over his 16 seasons in the NHL, eventually someone’s going to get you.  Sure, you love the hell out of a guy like Tucker when he’s on your team but the second he’s gone you’d like him out of the league one way or the other.  Just ask Michael Peca.

I’m fighting every urge in me to stay quiet about this entire thing because absolutely nothing good will come out of this, but it’s the elephant in the room.  Tuomo Ruutu lays a dirty hit on an unsuspecting player and does disgusting damage to that player… Only issue being that the player he hit is a guy who often times in his career has done the same exact thing numerous times in his career.

Is it justified?  No, certainly not… But I doubt you’d find a jury outside of Denver or Toronto that would convict Tuomo Ruutu for his offense in this case.  What will happen to Ruutu is he will eventually get paid back, more than likely in January when the teams meet again in Raleigh and Tucker will most likely be able to go after him on his own.  You do have to wonder though if hockey karma wasn’t just getting one up on Tucker itself after all the mayhem and ill will he’s brought upon himself over the years for playing the game the way he does.

Everyone has to pay the piper at some point and while Ruutu was completely in the wrong in this situation laying a vile and disgusting hit…  Perhaps the piper was tired of waiting.

Then you’ve got the oranges to Darcy Tucker’s apples on Saturday night when Philadelphia’s Mike Richards laid an absolutely brutal hit on Florida’s David Booth.

David Booth, like Darcy Tucker, was knocked unconscious and carted off the ice on a stretcher. Unlike Tucker’s situation, Richards’ hit on Booth was, by the book, perfectly legal but with great hesitation.  Watch the replay as much as you can stomach and you’ll see that Booth didn’t commit any of the textbook sins that a player who gets destroyed in open ice commits.  He wasn’t skating with his head down all the way, he wasn’t admiring his pass – he was just playing the game – a game that can be violent and dangerous at times, but that doesn’t mean that Mike Richards has to make a hit like that in that situation and both the Panthers and Flyers are doing their best to speak up for themselves, dander up and everything.

For what it’s worth, Richards received a five-minute major for interference which will allow Colin Campbell to spin his Wheel of Justice to see if he wants to send a message for hitting a prone and unsuspecting player or not.  It’s at a time like this where maybe, just maybe, sitting down a high-profile team’s captain down for more than a few games might send the message that the league intends to be serious about protecting its players.

I know it gets mentioned again and again whenever you see a terrifying scene like this unfold where paramedics with stretchers come out to cart a guy off the ice but at some point the NHL needs to jump in to help the players.  Hell, if the NFL has done something in their ultra-fast, ultra-violent sport then perhaps taking a page from their book isn’t the worst plan of action, even if it results in quarterback-like complaints being raised by fans and players.

The problem with the situation with Richards’ hit is that by the books it’s legal and suspending a player for a technically legal hit seems completely backwards.  The problem here is that Booth had no chance to protect himself because by the time he sees Richards coming, he’s already eating his forearm and shoulder.  This is where the NFL tie-in works.  The NFL has start penalizing players in games and fining them after the fact for hitting players who are in a defenseless position.  I’m thinking mostly of wide receivers in this case when safeties or linebackers use the occasion of a pass thrown too high or out of reach to decimate the receiver trying to make the play.

Would it be unreasonable to ask the same of NHL officials?  After all, when the league added the five-minute major for interference it was meant to curb out of the way hits where players would end up injured.  The penalty was semi-correctly called in this instance (it wasn’t textbook interference, but the violence was there), but to say it is a deterrent would be stretching the truth.

Sure the Panthers will get their shot at redemption at Richards a few times this year, but they didn’t even really stand up for Booth tonight so… What then?  The Panthers are now without one of their top players indefinitely and the Flyers will be without their captain for perhaps a few games.  You never know what will happen with that crazy Wheel of Justice.

My problem with it is that Richards has to know better than this, he is the captain of a team after all, even if it is the crazy Flyers.  He has to know that by gunning for a guy in that matter you’re going to be hitting him in the head, unless he’s just a really crappy judge of a guy’s skating speed.  Hitting a moving target is certainly hard enough, but hitting a guy is pretty easy to do when you’re skating as hard as Mike Richards does and he has to know he’ll make a more effective play if he hits him body-on-body rather than body-on-head.  So why does it appear when watching it and taking into effect how it plays out when you’re watching it at full speed that Richards is gunning to hit him up high?  I’m not going to go all Zapruder film on you with this but if Richards’ intent is to hit Booth shoulder-on-shoulder he missed badly.

What does anyone learn out of this anyway?  At this point, nothing at all, just keep playing the same old way because there’s no need to rock the boat.  Both Ruutu and Richards did wrong here, one more obviously so than the other.  One guy did so by the book while the other guy burned the book on Darcy Tucker’s doorstep while the neighbors all are secretly happy he did so since he’s had it coming to him for a while.  Does it make any of this any better?  Not in the least because you’ve got two guys out of action thanks to unnecessary head shots.  Perhaps Mark Messier better get a move on with his new helmet to help players out.

Better yet, perhaps the players can just have a little bit more respect for each other on the ice and not look to kill each other whenever they’re given the opportunity whether it’s by the rules or not.

Update: Mike Richards will not suspended by the NHL for his hit.  With me not having my wits about me and forgetting that Colin Campbell’s son plays for the Panthers, I forgot that he cannot hand down a punishment.  Instead, NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly got to spin the Wheel of Justice and it came up “zero games” for Flyers captain Mike Richards.   I’m not entirely surprised by this considering it was a legal check, but chalk it up as another blown opportunity for the league to start sending a message to the players.

Game 2: Department of Redundancy Department – Detroit Wins 3-1

Stop me if you heard this one before.

Detroit beats Pittsburgh 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Finals.

Me breaking out Yogi Berra is apparently rubbing off in a big way because not only are Detroit and Pittsburgh in the Finals for the second straight year, but now the Red Wings have come out on top of the Penguins by identical 3-1 to scores in each game this year and are once again ahead in the Finals 2-0… Just like they were last year.

Invoking more of the acid flashbacks to last year was Valtteri Filppula who scored the game-winning goal in tonight’s Game 2 in a play that’s come under some major scrutiny from at least one very famous Penguins blog. Have a look for yourself and see what you think, highlights from NBC:

The contention from the Penguins loyalists comes from the stick-work from, who else, Marian Hossa. On the play you see Pens forward Pascal Dupuis try to maneuver away while be harassed by Hossa. Hossa lifts the stick, he stick checks him all while Dupuis’ stick breaks in his hands. I’ll admit, his reaction to having the composite lumber fall apart in his hands had me fooled but after the replay… Well, that’s just crappy luck.

What stuck out to me here is that Dupuis instantly tried to sell a call and stopped playing. Now, I know selling a call is all part of the game… You don’t stop skating to yell though. Dupuis realizes a couple seconds too late that he has to keep playing and by that time, Detroit is at the half-boards and firing away and then the scrum ensues leading to Filppula’s insane backhand goal.

After all that, however, that goal wasn’t the backbreaker. Filppula’s goal made the score 2-1 but a familiar face from Game 1 was going to notch his second goal of the series and coincidentally enough it would again be the goal to make the game 3-1. The fresh-off-the-TV video from NBC:

From that point on in the third period, the Penguins were toast and it showed for the better part of the next ten minutes of play as Detroit toyed with and puck-controlled for that time. Puck control was a huge issue for Detroit in the first 30 minutes of this one as they found themselves uncharacteristically turning it over and dumping and chasing rather than staying back and patient.

Give the Penguins a lot of credit here as their forecheck forced the issue on Detroit but the Red Wings seem to always find a way to bend and not break and to resist the waves of pressure.

The one glaring issue with the series to this point, however, is the difference between the defensemen of these teams. It’s already unfair to have the Red Wings roll out there with Nick Lidstrom, Brad Stuart, Brian Rafalski and Nick Kronwall. Adding 6’5″ former NHL Draft Mr. Irrelevant Jonathan Ericsson to the mix and having him produce (he scored Detroit’s first goal tonight) and help out on the special teams with seamless effectiveness turns the tide even more in favor of Detroit.

Penguins defenseman Hal Gill in his natural state.

Pittsburgh’s extreme lack of solid play on the blue line is becoming more noticeable and bigger efforts in shutting down Detroit’s third and fourth lines, never mind the top two lines, are needed out of guys like Rob Scuderi and Hal Gill who have looked beyond abysmal through two games.

Scuderi was a -1 and Gill a -2 in Game 2 and Gill, while a solid shot blocker and space-taker-upper, is slow and prone to grabbing and holding out there something for which he should be fortunate the officials are letting go. So far through the first two games, Scuderi is -3 while Gill is a -4.

Not good.

Topping off the amazing coincidental party was how a game that was virtually decided managed to have some shenanigans break loose involving one of Pittsburgh’s super-duper-mega stars. Tonight, it was Evgeni Malkin’s turn to embarrass the Penguins as he instigated a fight with Detroit’s Henrik Zetterberg after a fracas near the Detroit net, sparked by Maxime Talbot spearing goaltender Chris Osgood into flopping like Vlade Divac. Take a look:

Now, really, this whole Déjà vu thing takes a life of its own in this situation if you’ll think back to last year’s Game 2 and what occurred that night:

OK a questionable hit from a Penguins player leads to Osgood hitting the ice and then we’re playing the feud where Evgeni Malkin gets made to look really bad against someone from Sweden. Last year it’s Johan Franzen and this year it’s Zetterberg.

I really don’t know how this can play out any more similar than it has already.

The one “issue” that came up out of tonight’s schoolyard horsing around was that Malkin was booked for instigating a fight in the final five minutes of a game, something that according to the NHL Rule Book leads to an automatic one-game suspension.

Of course, if you believed the league was going to stick by that rule in the playoffs, you’re crazy as less than an hour after the game, Colin Campbell didn’t even bother to spin his Wheel of Justice and said that there would be no suspension for Malkin.

The one stark difference between this year and last year in spite of the results is the professionalism coming from Pittsburgh’s locker room, namely from head coach Dan Bylsma. While guys like Crosby and Malkin are busy running around like idiots and Maxime Talbot is too busy mouthing off at Marian Hossa or jabbing at Chris Osgood, Bylsma keeps his head held high and offers no excuses and points no fingers.

Imagine the explosion if Michel Therrien were in charge this year? Ye gods.

Here’s a look at Bylsma’s comments in the post-game press conference from tonight:

Q. Did you see the Hossa hook-slash on Dupuis before the second goal, and if so, what did you make of the whole sequence?

COACH BYLSMA: I think the way I saw the replay that our guy was trying to get the puck out. Hossa came in and used his stick to lift up their guy’s stick. You can make the judgment. The referee made the judgment that it wasn’t a hook.

I can slow it down and look at it myself and make my own judgment, but that was what happened. We failed to clear it with that hook and it led to the goal.

Pretty calm and collected there and it’s that kind of thing this Penguins team needs in that locker room so they don’t lose their heads and run around like idiots. Too bad Dan Bylsma wasn’t with this team last year.

Compare that to what Michel Therrien was ranting about after last year’s Game 2 loss:

It’s really tough to generate offense against that team. They’re good on
obstruction. It’s going to be tough to generate any type of offense, if the
rules remain the same. So it’s the first time we’re facing a team that the
obstruction is there, and we’re having a hard time skating to take away ice.

We took two penalties tonight on the goalie. We never take penalty to
the goalie in the playoff. I’ll tell you something, I reviewed those plays.
He’s a good actor. He goes to players, and he’s diving. Took away our power
play. Got to get focused. I know our players are frustrated right now. It’s
tough to play the game. But Osgood did the same thing against Dallas under

It’s like night and day.

Should the “history repeating itself” theme continue, Pittsburgh will take Game 3 and get talk of this being a series once again started in earnest. That said, if Detroit gets Pavel Datsyuk and/or Kris Draper back in the lineup on Tuesday life gets even more difficult for the Penguins because right now, they’re having a very hard time keeping up with the Red Wings AHL Invasion Unit of Justin Abdelkader, Ville Leino and Darren Helm. Adding in an MVP Candidate and a defensive face-off wizard only makes the Penguins hill to climb even more treacherous.

The Cost of Words

Colin Campbell’s Wheel of Justice was called in to weigh the cost of words against NHL Officials in regard to Joel Quenneville’s loony outburst after Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Wheel spit out a $10,000 fine for these words:

“I think we witnessed probably the worst call in the history of sports there,” Quenneville said after the game. “Nothing play. “They scored, it’s 3-0. They ruined a good hockey game and absolutely destroyed what was going on the ice. … Never seen anything like it.”


Let’s go back down the notable checklist of punishments from the Wheel of Justice.

It all makes complete sense.

Stupid NHL.