Monthly Archives: December 2009

GMH On The Road: The Rust Belt Awaits

This week I go on one of the more awesome, and slightly random, hockey-themed road trips I’ve ever done.  This has become a bit of a thing for me, going back to April 2007 when I made it to Denver for the Frozen Four.  That trip was so incredible and life-fulfilling that it’s inspired me to do other trips both great and small.  Whether it meant going to last year’s Frozen Four in, now hockey-mad, Washington D.C., taking a short drive over the Berkshires to take in a Division III NCAA Tournament game or going to Montreal for the NHL Draft it didn’t matter – hockey was the reason and everything about each of those trips made it 100% worthwhile.

The great secret I’ve discovered is the road trip itself and when the college schedule was completed and it was announced that RPI would be heading to Detroit for the Great Lakes Invitational I circled the date and started to ask around to some of the other RPI-mad fans I know to see if this might be something we could do and sure enough… Everyone else was more than fair game and driving (yes, driving) from here around Albany to Detroit seemed to be the way to go about it.  More folks were contacted and more people were interested.  Hey, more the merrier, right?

For two days, this annual Michigan-centric tournament takes over Joe Louis Arena and University of Michigan, Michigan State and Michigan Tech have a battle to see who can be the GLI champion and get a banner hung inside the Joe to state as much.  Every year a fourth team is invited and RPI got the call this time around.  North Dakota was there last year, so it’s not as if a patsy is invited to secure an easy win for someone, although some Michigan fans seem to find RPI to be the weakest team to be invited in a long time.  We’ll see how that goes as Michigan is having a bit of an off year.

Fun thing about getting this many heads together for a plan is other ideas pop up.  The NHL schedule was released and sure enough, the “traditional” New Year’s Eve game at Joe Louis Arena was back on, after being called off for preparation for the Winter Classic last year.  Detroit against Colorado is the game and so another call was made to secure tickets for the gang.  Three nights in a row our band of RPI fanatics (now tentatively bearing the moniker of Collar City Madmen) would be holed up at Joe Louis Arena for a total of at least three games, probably four or five depending on how ambitious we are to see the other games of the GLI.

For myself, getting to see a Red Wings game at the Joe is the icing on the cake.  Look at it this way, about 25 years ago my hockey fandom was kicked into high gear thanks to the local team from RPI winning the National Championship against Providence College… At Joe Louis Arena.  It was that same local team that provided another local team, the Adirondack Red Wings, with a soon-to-be Hall of Fame player in Adam Oates (who was later unceremoniously traded by the Red Wings in one of the worst trades of all time) but helped make that connection to the NHL team I now follow.  Fast forward to now and here I’ll be in the same arena getting to see BOTH of these teams.

This is about as close to a religious experience as this lapsed Catholic will ever get.  I’ll be at the Joe where Oates, Puppa, Carter and Servinis helped lead RPI to their last National Championship and I’ll be getting my photo taken at Gordie Howe’s statue and finding ways to get as many pictures of Steve Yzerman’s banner as one person can get.

It’s my moment damn it, keep your remarks to yourself.

As Ron Popeil might say, “But wait, there’s more.”

This schedule for the trip means that New Year’s Eve will be spent hoping the Red Wings didn’t lose anymore players to injury and maybe pull out a victory and then finding a bar to hole up with the gang, usher in 2010 and then get right the hell to sleep because a road trip to Buffalo is in order for the day of January 1st.  Sure, most everyone will be going bonkers over the Winter Classic in Boston but we’ll be getting geared up for Thrashers v. Sabres at HSBC Arena in Buffalo because, really, you can’t have enough hockey.

Oddly enough, for the limited number of NHL games I get to see live this will be the second time I’ve seen Atlanta play in the last three or four years.  The last time I saw them was down at Madison Square Garden against the Rangers when the Thrashers won in overtime and Ilya Kovalchuk proved to me what a madman on the ice he can be.  Just an unreal, sick talent.  More fun than that, this helps make packing for a trip easy.

RPI jersey?  Check.  Red Wings jersey?  Check.  Old school Buffalo Sabres jersey?  Check.

Good to go!

I know it sounds insane to be fired up for a trip to two cities in the Rust Belt of the USA but here I am writing this up in the wee hours of the morning before hitting the road to get to Buffalo and stay the night there before trekking to Michigan.  What makes going to places like this in the dead of winter when the climate is at its bleakest and these cities are seemingly even less “fun” to visit?  It’s hockey, stupid.  Simple as that.  It’s cities like these where hockey lives and breathes the hardest even when things financially aren’t at their best.  The fans love their teams and when it comes to college hockey at Joe Louis Arena… Well, that’s a big deal there too because state bragging rights are more-or-less on the line and the Michigan-Michigan State rivalry is vicious.  Even going as an “objective” hockey fan for an event like this I would be fired up so you can imagine what the adrenaline rate is now having horses in most of  the races involved here.

The NCAA has made it a point to have better “destination” cities for some of their bigger events (namely the Frozen Four) but it’s places like Detroit and Buffalo (and Minneapolis/St. Paul) where hockey encompasses the lives of the folks there.  Sure some folks can get up in arms over selecting Ford Field as a Frozen Four venue (rightfully so) but their line of thought was right.  For every Tampa Bay the NCAA picks out, they make sure to take care of St. Paul, Minnesota and the Denver too.

As for updates while I’m gone for the week… Don’t expect too much unless I witness something completely insane or I’m duly inspired and want to (potentially) drunkenly ramble when I return back to the hotel room.  If you’re wanting in on crazy stories from the road or photos as they happen, I strongly suggest following me on Twitter @HockeyJoeGM.

If you’re looking for the straight stuff about RPI hockey, you need to be reading Without A Peer and following along with Tom and Gary at their site and with them on Twitter as well @without_a_peer.  I’m sure there will be plenty of stuff to hear from us about while this newest chapter of hockey road trip madness unfolds.

Doing The Right Thing For The Holidays

I know it’s Christmas time (or Chanukah time for others) and that means a lot of folks are winding down their year and stressing out about what to get their loved ones for the Holidays.  It’s that time of year and it happens, I understand.

One thing about this time of year that I got really into when I was working in radio was doing something to help out those that can’t help themselves.  With the job market still being brutal for a lot of folks around the country and money always being tight for everyone else, seeing something charitable come up always moves me to want to do something to help out.  Being a guy with a website that has a nice loyal band of fans it’s times like these that I feel motivated to try and do something to help a good cause and, to the surprise of many of you out there, one Red Wings blog is really stepping up to the plate to do something really nice this year.

Bill Houlihan, The Chief at Abel To Yzerman, was struck with good tidings of the season to step up and do just that.  It started off with a great rallying point to put something together for “one of their 19 members” – the man behind Red Wings Brazil, Guilherme – To donate some money and see if they could get enough funds together to get Guilherme to see a game live and in person at Joe Louis Arena.  Seeing bloggers and commenters alike teaming up to do something that incredibly cool for a fan in a very different market, it’s pretty damn amazing in its own right.  There was one “problem”  though as after about 30 hours, the goal of $1000 set by The Chief was met.

So then what to do if folks are more than willing and able to donate money?  Easy.  Keep the money rolling in and donate it to the Red Wings Wish Club, a team charity organization that helps out with the Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

In my days working in radio, our main holiday charity drive built up funds for the childrens hospital in my home area and getting to see the kind of work that is done and the facilities they have there and knowing how much the money is both used to do great things and needed so desperately to keep doing great things I can’t even begin to stress enough to you folks what even the smallest donation can do if you even give just a little bit.

I’ve visited the Children’s Hospital at Albany Medical Center more than a few times and while it’s heartbreaking to see babies and toddlers going through any number of problems big and small alike, it’s reassuring to know that they’re getting the best of care possible from some of the finest medical minds you’ll find in this country.  These specialized hospitals aren’t found in as great a number as you’d find a typical hospital and giving kids the kind of care they need when they’re so fragile and so young is of the utmost importance.

I know it’s just a few days before Christmas and asking anyone to give up a few bucks is a tall order no matter what your situation is, but in the spirit of the holidays if you’ve got the time stop by A2Y and give a click to the PayPal button they’ve got set up there and see if you can do a little something special for a special hockey-related kind of charity action.  It doesn’t matter if you’re a Penguins fan, a Blackhawks fan, a Rangers fan or an Avalanche fan… Doing something nice to help out the kids is something that a fan of any team can do.

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?

Well…

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.

Boston U. vs. RPI: Emo Hockey Showdown

I don’t often do game previews for the college hockey weekends, but in this case I’ve got special motivation.  The last time I watched Boston University play live and in person, they were busy doing this:

Not bad right?

This season’s Boston University Terriers are having a bit of a championship hangover.  Gone to the NHL are Colin Wilson (Nashville) and Matt Gilroy (recently demoted by the Rangers to Hartford) and with that a lot of the glue that helped last year’s team run roughshod over the rest of the NCAA en route to the National Championship.  Last year’s Terriers finished the year 35-6-4.  This year’s team sits at a miserable 4-8-3 and just 2-7-2 in Hockey East competition.

Suffice to say, Terriers supporters aren’t feeling so hot about their team and it’s easy to see why when you take a look at the statistics.  No one is scoring (Zac Cohen and Chris Connolly are leading the team with five goals) and only three players are in double figures in points (Kevin Shattenkirk with 2-10-12, Connolly 5-6-11 and Vinny Saponari with 3-7-10).  To make matters worse, sophomore goaltender Kieran Millan has been lackluster between the pipes putting up stunningly bad numbers through 11 games played (3.47 GAA, .865 save %).  No goals and no goaltending in a ruthlessly difficult conference will make things like that happen.  BU rolls into Friday night’s game winless in their last three (0-1-2) and winning only once in their last six games (1-2-3).   They’re not exactly a team on fire but thankfully for them, RPI is rolling into town feeling just as emo and downtrodden.

RPI just on Wednesday night was busy playing the role of the Miami Redhawks as Union College played the part of Boston University in a eerily similar reenactment of the National Championship game as RPI gave up two goals in the final minute of play to lose to Union College 5-4 in regulation.  RPI has dropped four in a row and six of their last seven.  After jumping out to a hot start, a myriad of issues have deflated the Engineers be it injuries, bad penalties, sloppy defensive play or just running into a damn good team.  These things happen but when the opponents are named “Niagara” instead of “Boston College” the perspective is tough to gain.

That’s not to say that RPI is lacking bright spots.  Junior forward Chase Polacek is the leading scorer in the ECAC (12-13-25) and RPIs offense is bolstered by freshmen phenoms Brandon Pirri (7-10-17) and Jerry D’Amigo (5-9-14).  The offense is sort of getting its bearings with junior Tyler Helfrich getting back into the swing of things after missing seven games with an ankle injury but will be without senior forward Paul Kerins for the game against BU thanks to picking up a reckless and needless game disqualification against Union.  Kerins who wasn’t counted on to be much of a scorer this year is fourth on the team in points (5-8-13).

The issues with RPI of late come down to defense and its effect on goaltender Allen York.  RPI defensemen Bryan Brutlag and Erik Burgdoerfer have come under the discerning eye of the fans for their sometime recemoroomskless play both in their own end of the ice and in the offensive zone.  Brutlag is notorious for jumping into the offensive flow of the game, sometimes pinching at inopportune moments and leaving his defense partner out on an island.  Burgdoerfer has had bouts with turnovers this year and some of those mistakes have found their way into the net.

Ill-timed penalties (then again, what penalties are taken at a good time in the first place?) have also hurt the Engineers as the team’s penalty kill percentage sits at a meager .765 (75/98).  While RPIs power play last year was a crucial thorn in its side, the penalty kill has become even more of a roadblock for the team, especially when down two men where opponents have scored on RPI seemingly at will.

What you can chalk up both RPIs and BUs problems up to is youth.  These two teams are pretty damn young and while RPIs overall talent isn’t quite up to snuff with BUs, the gap isn’t as far off as it was last year when these two teams faced off in the Denver Cup, a game which BU won 6-2.  RPI has added offense while BU has lost theirs.  Kieran Millan is seemingly suffering through a sophomore slump while Allen York is getting his first season as the starter for RPI.  BUs offense is going through the motions while RPIs is having a breakout year.

What does this mean for this non-conference game?  Two teams trying to figure things out and snap out of a funk.  While BUs problems can be chalked up to not exerting top effort consistently from game to game, RPI is looking to put in a complete 60 minute game and not end up unrewarded, like what happened in their 2-1 loss to Cornell last week.

You would have to expect that BU is going to snap out of it at some point and start winning games regularly and not be so inconsistent but RPI is going to have to maximize their opportunities to delay BU the chance to do that starting tonight.  Of course if BU’s band starts playing songs by The Cure and folks come dressed up in their best ugly sweaters and dye their hair black… Maybe it’ll just be one of those nights where the game ends in a tie and everyone goes home happy to have not lost.

Boston University vs. RPI: 7:00 pm start from Agganis ArenaBoston, MA – Listen live at www.WRPI.org

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.