Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

12/06/2009

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.

06/01/2009

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
Ribeiro.

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.

05/04/2009

Hockey Wilderness: Cheap Plug

Filed under: Hockey Wilderness,shameless plug,Wheel of Justice — Joe Yerdon @ 5:25 PM

I’ve been laying low here soaking in the first few games of the playoffs and getting a kick out of Colin Campbell’s Wheel of Justice acting funny again.

In the meantime, I’ve got a new piece over at Hockey Wilderness with my friends with the Wild talking about their search for a new general manager and how the Toronto media is looking to hook their friends up again.

Oh joy, more teams to be bad like the Leafs – wonder of wonders!

Go check it out because it’s awesome and they’re bored not having anyone to root for in the playoffs.

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