Monthly Archives: March 2010

Today’s Self-Serving Linkage

Since I’ve been going ape-nuts since returning from Minnesota and the Final Five some new and exciting things have been going on.  I was tempted to go really low-brow on how to hype this but instead I’ll just call this “Linkage With Dinklage.”

Dinklage is the man.

I’ve been offered and accepted a part-time writing gig over at Pro Hockey Talk.  Not familiar with it?  You will be, it’s NBC Sports venture into the hockey blog world.  A couple nights a week I’ll be holding down the news desk there and cranking out quick hit stories and snark for the NHL’s USA broadcast partner.

I won’t give you all a heads up on what nights I’ll be there because that would be really annoying, I’ll just rely on all of you to keep checking in to see when I’m there.  It also helps that there’s a couple of other kick-ass writers there already as Brandon, formerly of Defending Big D and From The Rink runs the joint and James from Cycle Like the Sedins is doing his thing too.

Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, yes that was me being interviewed over at Goal Line Report under Kuklas Korner’s empire of blogs.  I’d like to thank Patrick Hoffman for reaching out to ask me about hockey and about my little slice of the Internet here.

NCAA Hockey Tournament: Expect Chaos

Fans get confused when the term “March Madness” gets thrown around. I’m sure most of you attribute it to the NCAA basketball tournament and that’s fine and all but the last few years it’s applied more to the NCAA hockey tournament than anything else.

Back in 2003 when the NCAA expanded the hockey tournament to 16 teams and allowing a traditional bracket presentation to four regional sites (as opposed to the old 12 team format with the top seed in each region getting a bye), it seemed that the this format was made to allow the top seeds a game to warm up against a weak sister opponent.  In 2003, 2004 and 2005 no top seed lost their first round game against one of the bottom 12 teams in the field.

When 2006 rolled around it appeared as though things would continue along that same path… That is until Holy Cross shocked the college hockey world by beating the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the first round of the West Regional in Grand Forks, North Dakota 4-3. Holy Cross’ win set off shockwaves as the Gophers are (or rather were) traditionally a tough out of the tournament and here they were getting bounced out of the tourney on hostile ice (no, that’s not a Sioux joke) and ensuring that North Dakota would always hold a soft spot in the hearts of Sioux fans everywhere.  Was it a fluke win for a team that just played the perfect game? A lot of folks believed that was the case but…

In 2007, two top seeds bit it in the first round as Clarkson was upended by Massachusetts 1-0 in the East Regional and Miami University took out New Hampshire 2-1 in Manchester, NH of all places.  Top seeded Notre Dame needed two overtimes to finally oust Alabama-Huntsville in their 1 vs. 4 game.  Perhaps parity was coming to college hockey after seeing a lot of the familiar names consistently floating to the top year after year.

2008 seemed to turn a hose on those thoughts as one top seed found their way out of the tournament, New Hampshire getting blown out by Notre Dame 7-3 in the West Regional meanwhile top seeds Michigan and North Dakota stormed their way to the Frozen Four while 2 seed Boston College knocked off 1 seed Miami in the regional final en route to winning the National Championship. Order restored, right?  Not quite.

2009′s NCAA hockey tournament went down in the books as the one where top seeds went to die.  Notre Dame, Michigan and Denver were all upset in the opening round of the tournament.  The Fighting Irish were taken out by the buzzsaw that was Bemidji State, Denver was ousted by co-buzzsaw Miami University and Michigan was shutout by Air Force.  Miami and Bemidji State both advanced to the Frozen Four and Miami moved on to the Finals where they gave the final top seed of the tournament, Boston University, all they could handle in the National Championship game before surrendering a two-goal lead in the final minutes of the game and then losing in overtime to give the Terriers the championship.

Two four seeds, a three seed and a one seed in the Frozen Four.  It still boggles the mind to think and know that this happened and turned out one of the best tournaments of all time and easily the most exciting one of the 16 team format.  So that leaves the question, can some kind of alchemy be thrown together to make things happen in 2010 the way they did in 2009?  It very well could happen. Taking a look at the top seeds around the tournament, there’s a handful of them who come in with glaring issues.

The top team in the East Region, Denver University, limps into the NCAAs after losing both of their games at the WCHA Final Five.  Denver has a boatload of talent, including two Hobey Baker Award nominees in senior forward Rhett Rakhshani (Islanders draftee) and junior goaltender Marc Cheverie (Panthers draftee).  Denver’s seeming disinterest in playing North Dakota and Wisconsin in the Final Five was a bit alarming, although they did have a top seed in the tournament locked up.  Were they too busy looking ahead to the tournament or is there actual reason to worry if you’re a Pioneers fan?  Tough to say, but if they don’t come out on fire in their opening round game against R.I.T. they could be in for a world of frustration.

For R.I.T. it’s their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament and head coach Wayne Wilson’s Tigers will be ready to roll on Friday afternoon.  Forwards Cameron Burt and Andrew Favot carry the scoring load while Jared DeMichiel and his 2.00 goals against average will do his best to keep the Pioneers off the board.  Senior defenseman Dan Ringwald brings stability and scoring touch to the blue line while freshman Chris Tanev has been a revelation for the Tigers working the rearguard. R.I.T. comes into the tournament on fire after steamrolling their opponents in the Atlantic Hockey tournament and already got their wake up call in the opening round when a terrible UConn team took them to overtime in Game 1 of the quarterfinals.

Yes, I realize that Atlantic Hockey is a brutal conference as far as competition goes and yes, I also realize that R.I.T. played zero teams this year who were under consideration for the NCAA Tournament and these things work against the Tigers, but the same thing could essentially have been said about that 2006 Holy Cross team too.  Denver comes into the NCAA Tournament as the #2 overall seed while R.I.T. is 15th out of the 16 teams. The Pioneers have been sleepwalking their way through March going 3-3-0 at the time of year when you should be kicking the snot out of everyone in sight.  Facing a jacked up R.I.T. squad may not be the medicine Denver is looking for to make their run at a title.

In the Midwest Region, Miami University sits as the top seed and they above everyone else in this tourney should understand what it means to come in as a hungry fourth seed as they’ve pulled two upsets of their own from that position but were they ever as motivated as their opponents this year, Alabama-Huntsville, were as a four seed?  I’d have to say no.  For the UAH Chargers, this is their last go-round until they land in another conference.  As was mentioned here before the season, the CCHA turned their backs on UAH and the growth of college hockey when they denied UAH’s bid to join the conference next season.

Fast forward to the College Hockey Association tournament this year, Alabama-Huntsville steals their way to the CHA tournament championship to enter the NCAAs as the only team with a losing record and, of course, get to face off against the top team from the CCHA.  Meanwhile, the team that was upset in the CHA tournament, Bemidji State, faces the University of Michigan in the other game in the Midwest Region.

You could refer to this region as the “Roll-over Region” as some conspiracy theorists have said that Miami rolled over for Michigan in the CCHA Tournament while Bemidji rolled over for Niagara in the CHA Tournament so their four-team conference could get two teams in the NCAAs since Bemidji State already had a spot in the NCAAs as it was.  I hope you folks had your tin foil hats on real tight there to handle that kind of black helicopter magic.  That’s besides the point here.  Instead you’ve got two CCHA v. CHA games in the Midwest and wouldn’t fans of karma love seeing a UAH v. Bemidji showdown to see who moves on to the Frozen Four in Detroit.

The downside here is that UAH is going to need all the heart and guts and puck-luck they’ve ever mustered to get by the Miami Redhawks.  Miami enters the tournament as the #1 team in the whole thing and they’ve got a lot of guys back from last year’s NCAA Finals team who have that stinging loss sticking out in their minds.  Hobey Baker Award nominee, goaltender Cody Reichard comes into the tournament with beastly numbers. Sporting a .924 save percentage and a goals against average of 1.79 are stunning numbers at the college level, especially in the CCHA.  Scoring-wise, the Redhawks have a quintet of scorers lead by senior Jarod Palmer (18-27-45) and four juniors Tommy Wingels, Andy Miele, Carter Camper and Pat Cannone.  Miami can fill the net easily and stop the pucks with ease… Unless they’re up against Michigan apparently.

What makes Miami ripe for an upset?  Since January, the Redhawks have had a handful of head-scratching losses starting with being swept in a weekend series by Robert Morris. While that could be chalked up to being a bad weekend, Miami has been prone to “hiccups” like losing to Nebraska-Omaha, losing and tying Ohio State, and then losing to Michigan in the CCHA semifinals.  Ideally if you’re a team looking to win a National Championship you want to have your “hiccup” games earlier in the season and Miami seems to be having them more regularly later in the year.

West Region top seed Wisconsin comes into the tournament after playing hard and coming away with a 1-1 record in the WCHA Final Five, losing in the semifinals to St. Cloud State while kicking Denver in the teeth in the consolation game.  Wisconsin has a boatload of talent including two Hobey Baker Award nominees in forward Blake Geoffrion (Nashville) and defenseman Brendan Smith (Detroit).  Not to mention WJC superstar Derek Stepan (NYR), freshman forward Craig Smith (Nashville) and undrafted senior forward leaders Ben Street and  Michael Davies and you’ve got yourself a pretty dangerous team.

Wisconsin finds themselves matched up against the University of Vermont, losers to Boston University in the National Semifinals last year.  Vermont has played beastly in non-conference games this year and luckily for them Wisconsin is not a Hockey East team.  What makes this game intriguing is that these teams both play the game with a special focus dedicated to team defense, which means that flukey things occurring could turn this game on its head as far as Wisconsin is concerned.  The Badgers have the superior talent in this game without a question and Vermont lacks the game-breaking talent that they had last year with Viktor Stalberg but if Vermont can put the clamps down and make Wisconsin try to earn everything in the game, Vermont could steal one. Wisconsin has to be wary though as Vermont has been wildly inconsistent this year and if the good Vermont team shows up, the Badgers are in for a real tough game.

As for the East Region top seed Boston College… They look good and strong.  The 7-6 overtime win against Maine in the Hockey East title game aside, Boston College has been a ferocious team comparable to past title-winning BC teams.  Their losses this year have been close ones and many of their wins have been thoroughly dominating.  If there’s a reason to worry if you’re a Boston College fan it would be that the bad John Muse shows up in goal against the offensively-maligned Nanooks of Alaska.  Dion Nelson and Andy Taranto are the only scorers of note for the Nanooks and provided that the BC defense doesn’t allow them any room, Boston College shouldn’t have any problems with Alaska.

Then again, there’s a good reason why they play the games and Alaska goaltender Scott Greenham is capable of shutting down big scoring teams.   Can he do it against a team that’s been punishing everyone for the last month and a half and has a stud from the WJC gold medal team in Chris Kreider (NYR)?  I’ll hedge my bets enough and say, “no” this time.  Boston College looks like a frightening team and have a potential second round match-up against a team they haunt in the NCAA Tournament with North Dakota.

Whether or not any of these four seeds can do the seeming impossible and take out their top seeded overlords remains to be seen, but as has been shown in recent years the chances are improving each year to see someone with high hopes to be crushed under the weight of expectations and perhaps looking too far ahead for their own good.

Next Stop: The WCHA Final Five

After years of talking about wanting to go to the WCHA Final Five, I’ve finally got the opportunity to go.  For such a trip, I had to book it in advance knowing full well that more personal entanglements might have to be sacrificed in order to go. For one, there was the chance that RPI could advance to the ECAC Semifinals.  That didn’t happen.

Secondly, there was the distinct possibility that Oswego State would end up in the Division III Frozen Four in Lake Placid and get to play on the 1980 Rink.  That will happen as Oswego throttled Bowdoin 9-2 in the quarterfinals and the Lakers move on to face the St. Norbert’s Green Knights in the National Semifinals.  I have to admit, the more I read notices and messages from the Alumni office about alumni meet-and-greets in Lake Placid it’s twisting my alumnus innards to pieces to not be there to watch them, potentially, win a National Championship in person.  The fun twist is when Oswego State won the National Championship in 2007, they did so in Superior, Wisconsin located near Duluth, Minnesota while I was parked nervously in front of my television watching everything unfold on CSTV as the Lakers lost a third period lead against Middlebury to send the game to overtime where Garren Reisweber scored the game winning goal by wheeling around the Middlebury defense and deking the goaltender out badly.

Enough talk about that, you can still watch the title game highlight reel here.

Anyhow, this time around Oswego is in the Frozen Four in New York and I’ll be the one away in Minnesota.  Being that far from the team worked out pretty well last time, so perhaps my lack of presence within an immediate drive of the games helps. After all, Oswego lost in the National Championship game in 2003 against Norwich while I was in attendance at Kreitzberg Arena in Northfield, Vermont.  That’s one somber ride home.

Aside from all of that, still, there were even more activities going on including a great Montreal Tweet-Up event over the weekend that’s being hosted by the folks at All-Habs.  So with all of these other things going on, I bit the bullet and bought my plane tickets for Minneapolis, Minnesota because it was high time I made the pilgrimage to what’s described as college hockey’s greatest conference tournament.

Usually when folks throw out plaudits like that, I take them with a grain of salt because they’re generally coming from folks who are fans of teams in the conference and they’re a bit biased.  WCHA folks in particular are very proud of their conference and how they perform and hell, why not? Just take a look at the Pairwise rankings right now and you’ll see that four of the top six teams are from the WCHA.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Pairwise, it’s the ranking system used to slot out the teams for the NCAA Tournament.  It’s not like the bogus rankings the BCS does in college football, there’s actual science to these and while some folks do have issues with Pairwise, the math and methodology is sound behind it and there’s no poll objectivity mixed into it to skew the numbers.

This trip to Minnesota, however, does offer me some grand opportunities aside from seeing potentially five awesome college hockey games (and one NHL game on Sunday, but that’s neither here nor there now).  I’ve come up with a list of things I’m going to try and find, capture on a video camera and share with the rest of you later this week.

1.  The Jucy Lucy

If you’re not familiar with what the Jucy Lucy is, then you need to go introduce yourself to The Travel Channel and the show Man vs. Food.  In his adventure to Minneapolis, host Adam Richman (Twitter) checked out a handful of places including the Minneapolis war of madness between Matt’s Bar and the 5-8 Club who have a contentious war over who the originator of the Jucy Lucy was.

What’s the Jucy Lucy?  Picture a cheeseburger with the cheese melted inside the beef.  Hungry? Mortified? Feeling ravenous for all things melted and wonderfully beefy?  Yeah, I know you are.  Ever since I’ve heard about the Jucy Lucy I’ve been fiending for one and one of the first things I’ll be doing in Minneapolis is heading to Matt’s Bar (which has been recommended to me over the 5-8 Club by most locals) and sampling the molten cheese beauty.  Believe me, by no means am I a foodie of any degree, but Man v. Food has stoked my curiosity to check out places like these and hell, how do you go wrong with a cheeseburger with the cheese on the inside?  You don’t… Unless you try to eat it too soon after it arrives at your table, then you might burn  your mouth out like crazy to which you’ll need to stop by place number two…

2. Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit

Yes, that’s German and yes it’s a beer hall.  I am a big fan of the German biergarten we’ve got in Albany (Wolff’s Biergarten) and while we’re not exactly going for food at Gasthof zur Gemütlichkeit, it was the featured place on Man v. Food so it’s got that street cred going for it.

I’ll not be having the Meterwurst and going for the challenge but I will be partaking of their $10 liters of beer and will do so even more if I lose a layer of skin from molten cheese at Matt’s.  I’ve got a touch of German blood roaring through my veins and one of the things that blood cries out for is fantastic beer.  Consider me sold, especially with the kind of setting they’ve apparently got at Gasthof’s.

3.  Siouxbacca

Yeah, that’s exactly what it looks like.  Siouxbacca is very real, he was even mentioned by Inside College Hockey last year and I’ve seen a photo of him.  It’s truly one of the most wonderous sights I’ve ever seen on the Internet and is somehow a thousand times cooler than this.

What is Siouxbacca? He’s simply an incredible North Dakota Fighting Sioux fan who dresses up as Chewbacca and throws an old school Fighting Sioux jersey on over top of it.  If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear it was actually Peter Mayhew all cracked out and wearing a stolen Chewie costume but I don’t think he’d even be that dedicated. Maybe.  I realize that if you’re not familiar with college hockey and how some fans might be this might seem crazy to you, but believe it.  I’m going all Steve Irwin on this one and will be praying that Siouxbacca comes out to play this year but don’t worry, I won’t be challenging him to any games of hologram space chess, I should remain safe.

4.  Honest-To-God Real Tailgating

It exists in college football and is legendary for the cookouts and alcohol consumption in mass quantities but a lot of folks don’t know it also happens in college hockey and boy does it ever at the Final Five.  Thanks to some well connected friends I’ll get a good up close look at how the folks from Gopher Puck Live do things at the Final Five.  I’m planning on being hazed a little bit for being the guy with the Eastern Bias but even without the Gophers being at the Final Five, the folks at GPL still get out there and still have fun and can throw down with the best of them.

I’ve heard rumors of games called “beer darts” being played and any number of other sorts of beer-related games but most of all it’s a chance for everyone to come out and treat it like the end of the year convention. I’m sure there’s some major shenanigans that go on out there, it wouldn’t be a college-like event without them, but things like this just don’t exist here in the east.

At the ECAC Tournament, team fans generally don’t mingle too much and the locations of the tournament don’t lend themselves very well to do any actual in the parking lot tailgating. Piling into a bar and downing overpriced slop beer is easy to do.  Downing cheap beer in a parking lot while someone cooks a hundred pounds of meat on a grill is so much more satisfying.

5. Really Great Hockey

I know, it seems like such a sappy thing to say but it’s true.  Look at what you’ve got set up in the other conference tournaments this weekend and you tell me which one you’d like to be in attendance for:

  • Atlantic Hockey: RIT vs. Canisius; Sacred Heart vs. Air Force
  • CCHA: Northern Michigan vs. Ferris State; Miami vs. Michigan
  • ECAC: Brown vs. Cornell; Union vs. St. Lawrence
  • Hockey East: Boston College vs. Vermont; Boston University vs. Maine
  • WCHA: North Dakota vs. Minnesota-Duluth; UND/UMD winner vs. Denver; St. Cloud State vs. Wisconsin

Sure, maybe some of you might want to check out the Hockey East tournament but with the WCHA sending the top five teams in the conference to their Final Five it sets up to be a huge war for bragging rights and to see who can take home the largest trophy I’ve ever seen in my life – the MacNaughton Cup.  (Editor Note: Thanks to Mike in the comments for pointing out my ignorance here: Denver already won the MacNaughton Cup by being the regular season champion.  Now they’re playing for the Broadmoor Trophy which is… Not as fun looking.  Thanks Mike.)

You can probably see that trophy from space.

Winning the WCHA is a big deal for sure. You’re essentially the best team of the tournament in the best conference in college hockey.  Sure that may not translate into National Championships for WCHA teams, but winning the MacNaughton Cup is a tremendous point of pride for teams in the WCHA.  A lot of the teams in the WCHA have National Championships and those arguments amongst fans can be both silly and petulant but getting to wrap up the tournament with this trophy means a lot.

With this year’s field of teams being one of the best in years, it turns out I really lucked out to get my first taste of what many have been telling is the best experience you’ll have all year outside of the Frozen Four.  Besides, if things do live up to the hype, the Frozen Four is in St. Paul next year and booking my trip to go a year from now might happen instantly.

Just so long as I don’t get mauled by Siouxbacca.

Gary Bettman: Mission Accomplished

Since I’m not about to give the NHL the link to this one, Steve Lepore at Puck The Media brings DirecTV subscribers the good news.

DIRECTV and Comcast have reached an agreement to return VERSUS to the DIRECTV programming lineup today. The terms of the deal were not disclosed.

VERSUS will return to the same DIRECTV programming packages it was in at the end of August 2009.

Congratulations to DirecTV and Versus/Comcast for ending their dick measuring contest, but I think we all know who is going to take credit for this one…

Like you didn’t know that I was going there with this one. I’ve said enough about this childish rich guy’s dispute here already, but again the fans are put in the peasants place where they have to feel thankful to their rich overlords for giving them back what they should’ve been getting all along.

Standard operating procedure for the higher-ups at the NHL though whose attitude towards the fans seems to sound something like, “Let them eat cake.” Convenient that this whole thing comes to an end just before the playoffs, eh? I guess the regular season really is meaningless.

The Most Homeriffic Post You’ll Ever Read

I’m throwing all caution out the window here. I used to be a pretty superstitious son of a bitch, but not anymore.  My alma mater, Oswego State University, is in the NCAA Tournament for Division III hockey and they play in the Quarterfinals tonight against Bowdoin College.

Now, I used to attend Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in North Adams, MA and Bowdoin was a regular opponent for the MCLA Mohawks back when they had a hockey program. I haven’t seen Bowdoin in a game in 12 years now and I can say sufficiently that my life has been better because of it. After all, what’s worse than playing an uptight NESCAC school? An uptight NESCAC school from the middle of nowhere Maine.

You know Maine, the state that time forgot and Bowdoin College is located in Brunswick, Maine – a town propped up thanks to the Brunswick Naval Complex. Pssh, way to succeed on your own you snooty bastards.

Maine is so far north of everything else that they have their own Canadian major-junior team, the Lewiston MAINEiacs.  See what they did there?! Such wit!  Now explain to me how a place that’s supposedly in America gets a team that plays in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League? Quebec is the province that even Canada doesn’t want so I suppose it’s fair that they have a team located in the state the United States doesn’t want. It’s a crappy trade, but a trade nonetheless… I suppose.

Bowdoin’s chief rival in the NESCAC is Colby College which is somehow even further away in Maine and located further into the darkened arctic wilderness of this renegade member of the Union.  I guess it’s easy to say that a school that’s equally rich and snobby in your state is your rival, who else are they competing with anyways? Every other NESCAC school is located in Vermont, Boston, Connecticut or… New York? I thought these were supposed to be the smart schools and yet here’s a New York college playing in the New England Small College Athletic Conference. Stupid rich people think they can draw the geographical lines of distinction.

As for Bowdoin’s sports teams, their team nicknames are the Polar Bears. Now this is one instance I’ll give them credit. They live in the God-forsaken state of Maine and I’m sure they’ve tricked enough people into thinking that, yes, indeed they’ve got polar bears there.

Not found in Maine: POLAR BEARS

What makes Bowdoin’s teams being named the polar bears even more fun though is it allows for things like this.

See… It’s crass, tasteless and hilarious – just like this PSA!

You’re right ER’s Noah Wylie, a tragedy will be unfolding and that will be the merciless slaughter of skating polar bears on the ice in Oswego.  It’s going to be as if Oswego State will be a pack of poachers who were tipped off about a glorious and rare pack of polar bears whose asses were packed with diamonds and it’s time to cash in.

Oh sure, polar bears are the largest carnivores on land and some websites like to show off about that and make them the feature of an online video game, but those aren’t real at all.  In fact, man is so awesome that he’s doing everything possible to make sure those pesky polar bears don’t get too pushy about owning the arctic wilderness.

After all, what happens if you let polar bears take over the planet?  This is what happens:

That’s right, they get really indignant, learn how to fly fighter jets, start rocking out to Kenny Loggins and destroy the entire fucking universe. Does anyone want that on their conscience? I don’t think so, and it’s up to the human race to make sure this doesn’t happen.

That PSA does tell us one thing though and that is that man and water completely kick a polar bear’s ass.  How convenient and perfect is it then that Oswego State’s moniker is the “Lakers,” people who reside and work on a body of water.  As Noah Wylie so delicately told us, humans are ruining everything for polar bears and let’s just say the trend is going to continue this weekend Bowdoin. Sure, you think your polar bears are all cute and cuddly and need help but fuck that noise. It’s time to be put back in your place and there’s not going to be any weebly, wobbly platforms of ice to bail you out.

Go Lakers.

Consistency Meets Ignorance

Colin Campbell spun the Wheel Of Justice this afternoon and it landed on “0 Games” for Penguins forward Matt Cooke for his dirty, blindside “shoulder” to the head of Bruins forward Marc Savard.

You’ve seen the video, if you want to watch it again you can do that in my previous post.  I’m not in the NBC business of milking video to hammer home a point.

Via Twitter, TSN’s Bob McKenzie passed along Colin Campbell’s comments on why there would be no suspension for Matt Cooke. There’s a big comment here that just infuriates me as a fan of the game and as a lover of all things common sense.

Colie Campbell explaining his decision now. Said it was a matter of consistency. No suspension for Richards. No suspension for Cooke.

The man who makes his rulings about as wide-ranging and inconsistent as possible is preaching consistency as the reason why there’s no suspension.  It’s things like this that make me feel as if Lewis Black is actually the lead writer for the NHL. This kind of explanation comes from the guy who handed out what was ultimately a six-game suspension for Sean Avery for making crass comments about his former girlfriends,  meanwhile allowing players that seek and destroy players with dirty hits to the brain to get a pass comes away as something Black would ramble about after his “if it weren’t for my horse” story.

If for nothing else, Matt Cooke has helped Mike Richards of the Flyers out a lot because his hit on David Booth of the Panthers now looks a lot nicer in retrospect.  At the time, I railed against Campbell to do something to set the tone that shots to an unsuspecting player shouldn’t go unpunished:

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.

The league didn’t intend to be serious and instead fell back upon the five-minute major penalty and game misconduct that Richards was assessed to be penalty enough for the Flyers captain.  This is where I’ll draw on this penalty for comparisons sake with Matt Cooke.  Cooke didn’t receive a penalty for his hit and a lot of fans, because of that, have claimed that Cooke’s hit was “perfectly legal” and that’s why the league couldn’t do anything about it.

Pardon me folks, but if that kind of hit is legal, then how come Richards got booked for doing essentially the same thing but more in line of an actual hockey play? See how interpreting the rules is a fun game for everyone? By that standing, Richards got nailed on one of the new rules the NHL instituted and that hit was instead used to hold up to the rest of the league that, yes they’ll call major penalties for interference if the hit is bad enough.

Well… Where’s the consistency then with Cooke’s play?  Cooke blatantly went after Marc Savard, had every intention of clipping him in the head (whether with his shoulder or his elbow, I don’t think it mattered which) and did so knowing full-well that Savard had no idea the hit was coming. At the least, David Booth knew Richards was going to hit him he just had a microsecond to prepare himself for it.

Does this make Cooke’s hit legal though?  Look into your own hockey-loving soul and tell me what you come away with. Put yourself in the shoes of the objective observer, or the fan of the guy who got knocked into next week. What does your gut tell you when you look at that play? If it tells you that it’s OK and that Marc Savard should’ve known better… I don’t know what to say to you, I would just strongly advocate on behalf of the rest of the world to please stop watching hockey and most certainly stop talking about the game to other people.

If you thought the bad choices ended there, don’t worry the real slap in the face to fans of common sense comes through later on.

[Campbell] Said if this hit happens next season it is a suspension. And if it’s a repeat offender like Cooke, the suspension will be stiffer again.

Now I may not be a rocket scientist here and I may subscribe to the “chaos theory” and have a dark humor, but all I’m gathering from this is that the rest of the season and playoffs are open game for interpretive checks to the head as long as you’re in the neighborhood of the play.

Do I think this will happen? Signs point to “no” but what’s going to stop some other player with a checkered past and questionable nature from taking a run at a guy that’s been killing his team on the scoreboard now? He won’t get punished for his transgression and Jebus help us all if it happens in the playoffs where players traditionally get a slap on the wrist for dirty hits.

The real idiocy of this though, and amazingly enough, it spins back to Sean Avery again somehow. The NHL can’t get a ruling made on shots to the head until next season yet when Avery was dancing and putting on a show in front of Martin Brodeur in the playoffs, a ruling was made before that series between New Jersey and New York was even over that if a player was to conduct themselves the same way they’d earn a minor penalty for it.

Explain to me how the NHL Rulebook couldn’t get something penciled in under “roughing” immediately for clocking an unsuspecting player in the head. This type of thing, where we’ve already seen at least two high-profile ugly incidents just this year, has to wait until next season. What the fuck kind of boneheads do we have in charge around here that something that protects the players, the league’s top investment and main commodity, has to sit on the back burner while bureaucracy takes over to allow it to clear all channels.

From Colin Campbell, to Gary Bettman, to all 30 owners to the figment heads of the NHLPA to the general managers I ask this:

What’s the fucking hold up?

The NHL wants to preach consistency and that’s fine, that’s their right to do so.  In my defense, I’ll throwback ignorance in their face. They’ve ignored these hits in the past, they’ve left them unpunished or not punished strongly enough and in some cases they’ve gone so far as to hide behind a rulebook that’s been left wide open to interpretation as it is to claim that a hit is legal. It’s not consistency the league is rolling with here, it’s cowardice and now they’re turning this whole thing into a PR stunt to make it look like they’re doing their job.

This stuff is already in the rulebook if you want it to be there. Remember the big “re-do” of the rules the league did after the lockout ended in 2005? None of those rules were new at all, they were always there and were never enforced. Instead, the league slapped a coat of paint on things and told folks, “Hey look! We’re going to call these things now! SEE! WE CAN DO IT RIGHT!”

The league felt Sean Avery was making a mockery of the game with what he did to Martin Brodeur so they instituted an addendum to a rule that already existed (unsportsmanlike conduct)  immediately and then proudly showed it off to everyone during that series that it would never happen again.  Same rules, new paint.

So now next year there will be a rule about targeting a player’s head. The rules are already there, be it interference, charging, elbowing or roughing but this new coat of paint and supposed stiffer punishments for offenders and repeat offenders are going to be what they’ll all pat each other on the back over for doing their jobs when all along they’ve been asleep at the wheel while officials both on and off the ice have been too feeble or beholden to old standards and lunkhead thinking to do jack shit about it.

It’s embarrassing all around and it says a lot about the state of the game when the fans have spoken out in a more coherent way than the league’s been able to.  Fans might be crazy, they might go out of their mind, they might say things a bit more colorfully and less PR-friendly… But a lot of times they get it, and seeing guys getting carted off the ice because another player took it upon himself to potentially ruin another man’s career gets everyone’s dander up.

We get it that hockey is a powerful and strong game, but we also know it when there’s a loose cannon running around out there with ill intent for everyone else on the ice.  We get it when that player has to face up to the consequences of his actions. What we don’t get is when those who are supposed to be smarter about these things and know better than us “common folk” can’t seem to put it together.

Photo courtesy of Matt Freed – Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Your Move, Colin

Let’s just cut to the chase here.

Dirty. Disgusting. Blind-sided. Unnecessary.

These are all the right words to use to describe that hit on Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard at the hands of long-time notorious douchebag Matt Cooke. No, he’s not a douchebag because he plays for the Penguins, he’s a douchebag because he’s been that way his entire career. He’s reckless, he very rarely faces the music on the ice for his actions and he’s got a sufficient record in which to put him away for a long time.

That is, of course,  if NHL Disciplinarian Colin Campbell feels that this time is the moment to send a message to the rest of the league that unnecessary shots to an unsuspecting player’s head are bad news for everyone.

The stars are aligned here for Matt Cooke to get a major-league spanking at the hands of the NHL for this hit.  Of course… The one hang up here is that Flyers forward Mike Richards essentially did the same thing to Florida Panthers forward David Booth and received no punishment from the league for it.

Consistency is  a beautiful thing, isn’t it?

So what does Colin Campbell do here?  Does he spank Cooke for being a repeat offender? Possibly.  Does he make an example of Cooke for both being a repeat offender and for not having learned a lesson from previous toothless offenses? I doubt that.  Just recently the league handed out punishment to previous offender Wild enforcer Derek Boogaard for a knee-on-knee hit to Edmonton Oilers forward Ryan Jones in the form of a two game suspension.  Considering he’s got an official record with the NHL two games seems about right considering.

That said, what will the NHL do with Cooke especially with league members meeting in Florida this week discussing the problem with head shots?

Seemingly so, this would seem like the right time to make Matt Cooke into the league’s whipping boy and pariah for how not to conduct one’s self on the ice when it comes to head shots.  Then again, the league’s wild inconsistency when it comes to head shots is maddening on it’s own. The lack of action against Mike Richards with his hit on David Booth was baffling.

Not to get morbid about things here, but it was reported that Savard was knocked unconscious by Cooke’s hit and he was carted off the ice on a stretcher.  For all that the NHL wants to do to keep up appearances, they come off seemingly lax when it comes to keeping their players’ sensibilities in order and there’s nothing worse for bad publicity than a player having to be taken off the ice on a stretcher.  That goes for any sport, mind you, but when it happens in hockey it gives you an immediate feeling of dread, generally because hockey fans and players and coaches are more accustomed to seeing guys fight their way to the bench to be taken care of in the bowels of the arena away from the public eye.

Hockey players are tough customers and to see them fallen in such a manner that it leaves them powerless to get off the ice… It’s stunning to all the senses from the fairweather fan all the way up to the most hardened veteran player and executive.  Joe Public is going to have that same sick feeling of dread as would, say, Steve Yzerman or Brian Burke.  That same fan is also going to have that feeling of outrage over no immediate justice being handed out.  Keep in mind that Cooke wasn’t penalized for the hit and that Savard will be out for a good amount of time with a concussion.

Concussions are not taken lightly any more, thankfully, and players are given whatever amount of time they need to to recoup from such a violent injury.   Look at Andreas Lilja of the Detroit Red Wings who missed a full year of hockey to recover from a concussion suffered in a fight with Nashville’s Shea Weber.  Rubbing some dirt on it doesn’t apply to brain injuries.

I know I sound like a horrible, broken record when it comes to these things but, again, this is a time when the NHL can step up and send a message that these kinds of plays will not be tolerated. The league doesn’t want the players to police themselves to the fullest and deal with line brawls to solve seeming on-ice injustice so they have to step up and show that this sort of ridiculous recklessness and total lack of respect for the fellow man on the ice will not be tolerated.

Moments like these and others like them are when the NHL should be stepping in and saying, “If you’re not going to respect each other on the ice, we’re not about to show you the same courtesy.  Please enjoy forfeiting your salary for the next ______ game(s).”

Unfortunately, I expect gutlessness from Colin Campbell here. I expect a slap on the wrist and I expect that nothing in any way is going to change until the “brain trust” for the NHL puts it together to make an official ruling or set of regulations.

College Hockey: First Round – RPI v. Brown

It’s been four years since RPI hosted a playoff series and that last one didn’t exactly end all that well with ECAC newbie Quinnipiac sweeping the Engineers out of the playoffs in two games.  The last time Brown and RPI met in the playoffs, it was 2005 and the games were in Providence, Rhode Island. Brown swept that series in two games.

Of course, anyone who dares to bring distant history between these two teams into play to come up with a potential outcome is crazy and should not be trusted.  In fact, don’t even let that person have regular scissors, give them safety scissors and only allow them to cut construction paper very poorly with them.  I’d also suggest keeping them away from the Elmer’s glue too because they might ingest all of it.

Now if we’re going to do the right thing, we’re going to look things over by comparing what the teams did this year and for Brown, despite the 11th place finish, it’s a year of accomplishment and they’ll enter the playoffs with a sense of fearlessness.  Why not? They went into last year’s playoffs as one of the worst teams in the country and knocked off the fifth seeded Harvard Crimson.  This years team is decidedly better but they’ll get a bigger test than they did last year in dealing with RPI.

RPI goes into the playoffs this year sitting in the exact opposite position they were in last year hosting the 11th seed rather than being the 11th seed.  Last year’s team went into the playoffs playing a little bit better and capitalized on then freshman goalie Allen York’s stellar play in sweeping out Dartmouth.  This time around the expectations are much higher and winning in the first round is a necessity, but they’ll get a taste of what they doled out to Dartmouth last year as Brown is going to make life difficult for the Engineers.

Brown’s plan will be to pressure the RPI puck carriers deep in their own end and to bottle up the neutral zone to keep RPIs free-wheeling attack at bay and to eliminate chances. It’s not fun to see, but the key for RPI to loosen things up is to score first and get a couple of them.  The other key for RPI is to play smart.  Brown was effective at drawing penalties against RPI at their matchup in Providence this year, whether they were real or not is up for debate, but they drew them nonetheless and if there’s a fact of life in the ECAC its that the men in stripes are going to be wildly inconsistent.  You can’t really prepare for it but you have to know what to do just in case things get out of hand one way or the other.

I know, that sounds stupid but it’s a way of life in the ECAC… At least until it’s the semifinals and the finals when things get cleaned up a lot.  Go figure.

V.

Many folks are banking on this series to be short and sweet and starting to look forward to an RPI-Union playoff series next weekend. I’m not much of  a fan of looking past anyone, but if you’re a fan this is what ends up happening a lot of the time as it is.  RPI is going to have to earn just about everything this weekend if they’re going to come out of this weekend alive. All season long, Brown has played everyone very tough and they don’t allow other teams to do anything easily against them and that’s certainly going to be the case this weekend as well.

Brown doesn’t fear being the Cinderella team and playing with nothing really to lose can be a benefit to a team like this that will come out and play tight, system hockey to keep things close so that a lucky bounce here or there can turn the game for them.  Essentially everything I’ve said about Brown is a long-winded version of what Joe Glads at INCH had to say about them.

As for self-servingness, I’ll be providing color analysis of this weekend’s games for WRPI radio and with the bonus that the game will also be carried via video thanks to RPI TV on UStream. It’s their video and WRPI’s audio, so you can actually see if we’re making up what we’re talking about. Keep in mind, we don’t have access to this video as we’re doing the game so yeah, if we screw up that’s our bad.

Audio stream of WRPI is available by clicking here.

The UStream coverage from RPI-TV is available here.

These links will be available for all the games this weekend, so bookmark them for future use.

Deadline Day – Deal 14: Washington-Carolina

Trade:

Washington gets: defenseman Joe Corvo

Carolina gets: defenseman Brian Pothier, prospect Oskar Osala and a 2nd Round pick

Analysis:

Washington adds a guy who is a puck moving defenseman who didn’t enjoy the pressure of playing in Ottawa.

Um… Yeah, enjoy the new hockey hotbed of Washington, D.C. Joe.  Yikes.

Carolina gets a guy I’ve got a soft spot for in Pothier who is a former RPI defenseman and adds a big-bodied prospect in Osala. I know what the Capitals are thinking on this move (veteran defenseman being a good thing) but this has nothing but bad mojo written all over it for Washington and it reeks of being a panic move.

Deadline Day – Deal 13: Lee Stempniak to Phoenix

Trade:

Phoenix gets: Lee Stempniak

Toronto gets: 4th and 7th Round Draft picks

Analysis:

Phoenix adds a solid penalty killer and depth forward that makes Phoenix even more difficult to deal with in the playoffs.  Toronto adds some more draft picks to its collection. This deal is all about the Coyotes but the Maple Leafs will get the attention. The Coyotes are coming out of this deadline looking much nicer.