Tag:Montreal Canadiens
Posted on: January 1, 2012 5:55 pm
Edited on: January 1, 2012 7:23 pm
 

Canadiens sign Josh Gorges for 6 years

By: Adam Gretz

The Montreal Canadiens blue line has been crushed by injuries all season. One player that's avoided the injury bug has been shutdown defenseman Josh Gorges, and his play was rewarded on Sunday afternoon with a brand new six-year contract that's worth a reported $23.4 million dollars. The deal also reportedly includes a complete no-trade clause in the first year of the deal, and a limited one over the following five years.

In 39 games this season he's scored one goal to go with nine assists, but offense isn't necessarily what his game is about. Gorges generally plays against the oppositions best players and logs the toughest assignments on the Montreal blue line. That role has expanded quite a bit this season given the absence of players like Andrei Markov, as well as the departure of Roman Hamrlik over the summer in free agency.

His play this season defensively has been one of the few bright spot for a Montreal team that's already replaced its head coach (as well as assistant coach Perry Pearn) and currently sits in 13th place in the Eastern Conference, already eight points out of the eighth and final playoff spot.

At the age of 27 Gorges is still probably in the prime of his career for at least a few more years, and the $3.8 million average annual salary represents a $1.3 million increase from the $2.5 million he makes this season. 

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: December 31, 2011 9:55 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 10:56 pm
 

Panthers' Barch ejected for alleged racial slur

By Brian Stubits

It's been an eventful end to the year in Florida. On Friday there was the scrum in the closing seconds of the game that saw Tomas Kopecky punch the Rangers' Michael Del Zotto after being hit in the head with Del Zotto's stick. After the game Florida's Krys Barch talked about there would be scores to settle when the teams meet again next week.

After Saturday night's game against the Montreal Canadiens, Barch might not be there to take part in the settling.

The enforcer the Panthers acquired earlier this season in a trade from the Dallas Stars was given a game misconduct at the end of the first period when the teams had a fracas in front of the net. At first it wasn't immediately clear as to why.

Then George Richards of the Miami Herald reported that the word from the linesman Darren Gibbs was that the reason for the ejection was the fact that Barch hurled a racial slur in the direction of Canadiens defenseman P.K. Subban, who is black.

Renaud P. Lavoie of RDS in Quebec confirmed after the game that Barch was ejected for using a racial slur. He reported that Subban didn't hear the insult but the linesman did.

Panthers general manager Dale Tallon had no comment at the end of the second period but team general partner Cliff Viner shared his disappointment over the incident with the Herald.

“This is not what the character of this organization is about. Period. I'm devastated by that kind of behavior. That is not what we're about as an organization, a team, coaching staff, hockey operations.

"Dale, I'm sure, will be very critical of this. I hope they talk to the team and let them know this is unacceptable. You play hard, you fight hard. But that's not part of any competition."

After the game, Panthers coach Kevin Dineen addressed the Barch incident (also from the Herald).

Said coach Kevin Dinnen: “We have a broken up player back there. He feels extremely bad that there was an insinuation that something inappropriate was said. Now it's a league matter. Obviously the Florida Panthers and Krys Barch are really shoken up about this."

Subban told the Montreal media that he didn't hear a slur and that no one else on his team did either. Erik Cole added that he heard something but wasn't sure what. To paraphrase, he said it could have been something related to Subban's parents.

As Dineen said, now it becomes a league matter. That means it will fall to the league offices, but not Brendan Shanahan's desk. Instead, player conduct issues fall under the jurisdiction of Colin Campbell, the former discipline czar.

Barch's agent, Scott Norton, said he spoke to his client after the game and defended Barch.

"Spoke to client Krys Barch and I 100% stand behind him that there was no racial motivation at all involved! Truth will come out. I have known Krys Barch since he was 15 yrs old, and he is a quality, character human being. He did not, nor would ever, make a racial slur."

Unfortunately, this is something that is still seen around hockey. Even infrequent cases are still too often. Remember in a preseason game between the Detroit Red Wings and Philadelphia Flyers in London, Ontario, Philly's Wayne Simmonds, also black, was moving in on net in the shootout when a fan threw a banana peel on the ice.

Nor is it the first time that Subban has had to deal with some racial insensitivity, if it did happen here. Last season some fans thought it would be a good idea to wear blackface to a game while wearing "Subbanator" shirts.

You don't need me to tell you there is no place for discrimination in the game. When you start to think that it is no longer a problem in the sport, something like this happens. I'm not here to call Barch a racist, I don't know him personally. But if he did use a racial slur he is going to be viewed as such by many.

More NHL Discipline News Here

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: December 26, 2011 11:55 am
Edited on: December 26, 2011 4:32 pm
 

Ron Wilson's contract and Toronto's fast start

By: Adam Gretz

Over the past month-and-a-half it's been the season for firing coaches in the NHL.

While we've already seen changes in Washington, Anaheim, Los Angeles, Carolina and Montreal, not to mention St. Louis earlier in the year, Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson went to his own personal Twitter account as the NHL went to its holiday break and asked for a certain piece of paper (a contract extension) in his stocking for Christmas.

And that's exactly what he received over the holiday weekend.

It's kind of a bold move for the Maple Leafs organization given that Wilson has been behind the bench for three full seasons and failed to make the playoffs in all of them, while compiling a 101-107-38 record entering this season. Through 35 games in 2011 Toronto owns an 18-13-4 mark and occupies the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference entering Monday's slate of games, three points ahead of the Winnipeg Jets, the team that occupies the No. 9 spot (and first non-playoff spot).

The reaction from Toronto seems to be that the Maple Leafs haven't shown enough under Wilson's watch to justify any sort of a contract extension, and that general manager Brian Burke has put his own neck on the line by once again committing to Wilson.

Even if all of that is true (and it very well might be) something had to be done (and probably soon) as Wilson was in the final year of his current contract. Having a lame duck coach isn't really an ideal situation for anybody, and the Leafs certainly weren't going to dismiss Wilson at this point given Toronto's start.

And speaking of that start, it's been Toronto's best one in years, and has been driven almost entirely by the team's power play unit, currently clicking at a 21 percent rate, third best in the league, and the scoring of forwards Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul, both of whom are in the top-10 in the NHL's scoring race. And that's about it. Scoring depth isn't great once you get beyond Kessel and Lupul, and the goaltending, whether it's been James Reimer, Jonas Gustavsson or Ben Scrivens, has struggled.

Unless you believe the Maple Leafs power play is going to continue to be one of the best in the NHL all season, after being one of the worst over the past two years with largely the same cast of characters, and that Kessel and Lupul are going to remain near the top of the points leader board, this has the chance of being a fourth-straight non-playoff season under Wilson if those two areas see any sort of a regression the rest of the way. And I'm not convinced either of those two positive developments will continue all season. They have the look of early season hot streaks and fast starts that aren't going to be sustainable over the long haul of the season.

The Maple Leafs power play, which generates one of the lowest shot rates in the NHL per 60 minutes of power play time, currently owns a shooting percentage in the 18-percent range, by far the best mark in the NHL and significantly higher than what it's managed to shoot at in recent seasons (over the past three years Toronto, as a team, has owned 5-on-4 shooting percentages of 13 percent, 9 percent and 12 percent). The only team to finish a season with a higher power play shooting percentage was the 2008-09 Flyers. The number of shots a team generates on the power play is usually the best indicator of future success, which could be bad news for the Leafs over the remainder of the season.

The playoffs are far from a lock at this point, and even though Wilson has his contract extension right now that's still not a guarantee that he'll be behind the bench next season if his team fails to qualify for the postseason for a fourth straight year with him behind the bench.

More on the NHL's Coaching Carousel

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Posted on: December 22, 2011 2:20 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 3:32 pm
 

Protest planned against 'Anglicization' of Habs

By Brian Stubits

OK, this whole language fiasco is getting out of hand. Who knew the province would be so angry after Jacques Martin was fired as Montreal Canadiens head coach?

A lot of stink has been raised about the fact that interim coach -- as in, not the full-time coach -- Randy Cunneyworth doesn't speak French. Because of that fact and that fact alone, the decision to elevate Cunneyworth to the top spot has drawn a lot of fire.

So much is being made about it that now a protest is being planned by a Quebec sovereignty group to rally against the Canadiens' coaching decision. From the Montreal Gazette:

Mario Beaulieu, president of the French Quebec Movement, and Denis Trudel, of the French Movement Montreal, issued a news release Thursday saying a rally would be held Jan. 7 outside the Bell Centre to protest “the Anglicization of the Montreal hockey club.”

The protest is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. ET, two hours before a game between the Canadiens and the Tampa Bay Lightning.

“We will be providing Quebec flags to Canadiens fans who, in waving them during the game, can also express their opinion,” Beaulieu and Trudel said in the news release.

The team's managers don't respect French as the language of Quebec, the release alleges.

The complaints go on to say that they don't play enough French music at games, kvetch about announcements being read in two languages at games (yes, that's really ignoring French) all the way to the fact that there are only a few players on the team who speak French (so I get the sense these Quebecers would rather have a team full of French players who suck than a good team with Anglophones that is good). The final straw to break the camel's back is the coach.

More on Canadiens
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Storm will die down as Cunneyworth makes Montreal adjustments Read

I understand full well the desire of the people of Monteal (and Quebec) to want a coach that can speak French. To me, it is a very valid request. But what I just don't get is the backlash against this move. People, the coach was fired midseason because your Les Habitants weren't living up to expectations. They didn't have a chance to find the coach they wanted on a full-time basis, so they made an assistant the interim coach. Let it slide.

This does not mean that the Canadiens don't understand what it means to play as Quebec's team. Of course they do, the Canadiens are tied in very tightly with Quebec as a province, as silly as that might sound. The concept of having a Francophone lead their team isn't lost on them. One of the team owners, Geoff Molson, said as much.

Wait until a full-time hire is made before beginning this protesting. If the Habs were then to go out and hire a coach who doesn't speak French, rail away, say the team doesn't respect its French fan base. I'd be fine with that as a reasonable complaint. But it's just not right in this case.

Of course I feel awful for Cunneyworth. This is a guy who is trying to make his way up the NHL coaching ranks and is getting his shot to lead an NHL team. But he is at the center of a firestorm that is really nothing of his own making, unless you feel like faulting Cunneyworth for never learning to speak French. At least the guy should be given a chance to learn French. Instead, from the moment he was "hired" the complaints have been rolling in.

For his part, Cunneyworth says he's not paying attention to the circus environment that it's becoming, telling the Winnipeg Free Press that his focus is only on the team.

"I’m not even concerned with that," said Cunneyworth Thursday at MTS Centre. "Those are stories I haven’t even read or looked at or thought about. I have enough on my plate with the group we have. We’re just trying to win some hockey games."

Asked if the negative publicity undermined his authority with the team, Cunneyworth added:

"I’m not reading those articles or listening to that kind of media. It may be going on, but I only know of it because I get the odd positive comment from a stranger or somebody who is close to me. But I’m not reading those articles, I’m not thinking about those things at this time. I’m really focused on the group we have."

If he is able to drown all this talk out, then maybe he does have what it takes to be an NHL coach. Either that or it's because he doesn't understand the complaints (bazinga!).

Who'd a thunk that being the first Canadiens coach to start 0-3 in his career since the 1920s wouldn't even be his most egregious act as boss of the storied Habs?

Something -- OK, a lot of things -- are being lost in translation here.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: December 21, 2011 11:45 pm
Edited on: December 22, 2011 12:00 am
 

24/7: Flyers-Rangers Episode 2

By: Adam Gretz

Episode two of HBO's 24/7 showed us two very different sides of Rangers head coach John Tortorella. On one hand, we saw the type of intense, expletive-filled rants and speeches in the locker room that we expected to see in an effort to get his team moving. That's what happened during the first intermission of a recent game against the St. Louis Blues that the Rangers eventually lost.

But we also saw his softer side, as his relationship with a 10-year-old Rangers fan with cerebal palsy by the name of Liam Trainer was highlighted. The two met through the Rangers' Garden of Dreams Foundation, and Tortorella's face lit up when speaking about him and how he's kept in contact with him. The Rangers even gave him an early Christmas present by setting he and his family up with tickets for the Jan. 2 Winter Classic in Philadelphia.

"I'm glad he's part of my life," said Tortorella.

It was nice to see that Tortorella is more than a hockey coach that screams at people on the ice and, away from the rink, can be more than willing to give back to his community.

Episode two MVP: Flyers coach Peter Laviolette

I'm giving it to Laviolette for this season, and this reason only: How many times have you, as a fan, watched your team play a game in Montreal and get called for a penalty that leaves you saying, "they only got that call because it's in Montreal."

If you haven't said it, you've probably thought about it at some point. Well, you're not alone, and coaches react the same way you do. After Flyers forward Jaromir Jagr was tripped as he carried the puck into the offensive zone (with no call) the play went down to the other end of the ice and resulted in a slashing call on Flyers rookie Sean Couturier. Laviolette was livid and started screaming "Typical Montreal" at the officials. He did this multiple times, even after he left the bench.

I also like how he edits himself when talking to referees. Instead of dropping F-Bomb's with the officials during that exchange he made sure he said "frickin'", and then proceeded to let loose with his expletives once back in the locker room.

Three moments that stood out

1) Speaking of referees, one of the interesting angles provided this week was footage of the referees locker room after the first period of the Rangers-Coyotes game (the one that ended with Brad Richards' goal with 0.1 seconds remaining in regulation) as they discussed an incident involving Rangers forward Mike Rupp and Coyotes forward Raffi Torres. I realize the show is focussing on the two teams, but the referees and their involvement in the game is a pretty huge part of it, and I wouldn't mind seeing a bit more from them.

2) After the series debut last week we all wanted more Ilya Bryzgalov, and we got him this week. It appears that his teammates have started to refer to him as "universe" after his speech about how it is "so humongous big" while others joked that they would be sure to never kill a tiger after he explained how it's illegal and will result in the death penalty in certain countries. But we also had some fresh moments for the, let's say unique, Flyers netminder.

For one, he reads Tolstoy while on the plane, and he also compared his husky to a beautiful woman saying, "My husky, she's basically a hot girl, man."

When talking about how crazy it is to play goalie in the NHL and put himself in front of shots every night, Bryzgalov suggested that it's the defensemen in front of him that are crazier.



You know what? He's not wrong.

3) We learned just how young some of the Flyers rookies are. How young? Couturier, a 19-year-old rookie and first-round draft pick from this year, lives in the extra bedroom of Danny Briere's house, and that he is closer in age to Briere's three kids than he is to Briere himself, his teammate. We also learned that Zac Rinaldo is amazed that he gets to play on the same ice as Jaromir Jagr, which impresses him because he used to be able to play with Jagr on Sega Genesis as a kid growing up.

More 2012 Winter Classic News Here
24/7 Flyers-Rangers Episode 1

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Posted on: December 20, 2011 3:24 pm
Edited on: December 20, 2011 3:40 pm
 

Teams that are out of the playoff race right now

jacketsPucks and Numbers: a weekly statistical look at what's happening around the NHL. This week: A look at the teams that are probably already out of the playoff race.

By: Adam Gretz


We are not even half way through the NHL season, but we have reached the point where a slow start in the standings is going to be too much to overcome, and you can probably already cross a handful of teams off when it comes to the playoff race. And perhaps more than just the teams you would expect.

The NHL has already seen six head coaching changes during the regular season (and who knows how many more to come), and now that Jacques Martin and Terry Murray have been let go by Montreal and Los Angeles over the past week, all eyes have shifted to Columbus and Blue Jackets head coach Scott Arniel. Earlier this week general manager Scott Howson refused to blame Columbus' brutal start, which currently has the team at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, on coaching issues.

The season started with such promise for the Blue Jackets, in large part because of the big offseason additions of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski, players that filled two of Columbus' biggest areas of weakness -- A No. 1 center (Carter) and a big-time offensive defenseman (Wisniewski). Unfortunately, whatever optimism that might have been floating around the Blue Jackets fan base in the preseason was crushed almost immediately thanks to a 1-9-1 start the team hasn't been able to recover from.

The eight-game suspension to Wisniewski to start the season, as well as Carter missing extended time due to injury certainly didn't help matters, either.

Entering Tuesday's slate of games the Blue Jackets own a 9-20-4 mark, giving them a league-worst 22 points in the standings. They currently sit (again, as of Tuesday afternoon) 15 points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference, which is now occupied by the San Jose Sharks.

Howson was asked about whether or not the season at this point is already a lost cause, and he refused to acknowledge that, telling Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch, “I’m not going to acknowledge that, no. Strange things happen in sports. We’ve certainly dug a hole for ourselves. It's a requirement of being in pro sports to keep banging at the door, no matter what's going on. So, no, I'm not going to acknowledge that."

Strange things do happen in sports, but here's something that hasn't happened in the NHL in its current playoff format: a team overcoming a deficit the size of the one Columbus faces to make the playoffs. More on that in a minute.

Meanwhile, out in Edmonton, Oilers general manager Steve Tambellini is reportedly still of the belief that his team, which currently sits six points out of the eighth spot in the West, can still make a run at the postseason, a claim that has left even Oilers fans in disbelief.

Does either team still have much of a chance? Recent history suggests that no, they don't. I'm aware that it's not exactly an earth shattering revelation to announce a team that is 15 points out of a playoff spot at the end of December is in danger of missing the postseason, but the point here is to see how possible it is to overcome that deficit, and whether or not it's been done recently.

Some things to consider:

-- Going back to the 2000-01 season, a span of 10 full seasons, there have been 62 teams that have been more than five points out of a playoff spot on December 20 (Tuesday's date).

-- Only four of them (or a little over 6 percent) were able to overcome that deficit to qualify for the postseason: The 2010-11 Sabres (eight points), 2008-09 Blues (six points), 2007-08 Capitals (seven points) and 2007-08 Predators (nine points).

You wouldn't think that being just five points in December would be such a tall mountain to climb, but it is. And along with Columbus, that's also bad news for the Hurricanes and Islanders (both nine points out), and leaves Tampa Bay, a team that was just one game away from reaching the Stanley Cup Final last season, and Calgary (five points out) right on the line. The Ducks, another playoff team from a year ago and just one point ahead of Columbus, are 14 points out and should also be considered out of the playoff race at this point.

-- You might notice Nashville overcoming a nine-point deficit in 2007-08 as the largest number, and since 2000-01, it is. There have been 29 teams that have been 10 or more points out at this point in the season since then, and none of them have been able to come back and qualify for the playoffs.

Even worse, if you go all the way back to the 1993-94 season, the year the NHL scrapped the divisional playoff format (Adams, Patrick, Smythe, Norris) and went to its current Conference playoff format (1 vs. 8, etc.), there have been 41 teams 10 or more points back.

Not one of them qualified for the playoffs.

For a team like Columbus or Anaheim to overcome this it would be completely unheard of in the current playoff format.

Ninety-five points has typically been a good bet to get in the playoffs, or at the very least, still be in the playoff discussion during the final week of the season. For the teams mentioned above to reach that mark they would need to finish with the following records over the remainder of the season:

Columbus Blue Jackets -- (Need 73 points in 49 games): 34-10-5
Anaheim Ducks -- (Need 72 points in games 49 games): 33-10-6
Carolina Hurricanes -- (Need 69 points in 48 games): 32-11-5
New York Islanders -- (Need 69 points in 52 games): 30-13-9
Tampa Bay Lightning -- (Need 65 points in 50 games): 30-15-5
Edmonton Oilers -- (Need 64 points in 49 games): 29-15-6
Calgary Flames -- (Need 63 points in 49 games): 28-14-7

Yeah, that's asking a lot, even for Tampa Bay and Calgary. Obviously, no team is going to throw in the towel on a season, nor do I expect a general manager to publicly admit defeat (which explains Howson's comments), but for the fans? Well, there's always next season. And for others (mainly Columbus and Anaheim), there's always prospective No. 1 overall pick Nail Yakupov to look forward to.

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: December 19, 2011 9:14 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 9:29 pm
 

Habs owner: Bilingual coach 'important factor'

By Brian Stubits

Ah yes, the best way to get a message through is to go after the wallet. As we all know, money talks.

As you already know, a nationalistic group in Quebec wasn't happy with the Montreal Canadiens' decision to fire Jacques Martin and replace him with interim coach Randy Cunneyworth. Their anger has nothing to do with the Habs' poor play and everything to do with Cunneyworth's lack of ability to speak French.

Apparently they don't understand the concept of an "interim" coach, as in a fill-in, a guy keeping the seat warm. Either way, the threat was put out there of a boycott on all Molson products. Of course, Geoff Molson (pictured) is the majority owner of the Habs and his Molson company makes some pretty popular beverages.

The chatter caught his attention (well, I'm sure Molson was already aware of the issue to begin with). Molson released a statement expressing the priorities and concerns for the organization when they hire a full-time coach. Here is a snippet.

"Although our main priority remains to win hockey games and to keep improving as a team, it is obvious that the ability for the head coach to express himself in both French and English will be a very important factor in the selection of the permanent head coach.

"Like all our fans we hope for the Montreal Canadiens to be among the top teams in the NHL and we are doing everything we possibly can to win."

More on Canadiens
Ray Ratto Ray Ratto
Storm will die down as Cunneyworth makes Montreal adjustments Read

Everything except hiring a coach that doesn't speak French, of course. That's what I'm led to conclude.

It would seem to exclude Cunneyworth from getting the job full-time if he proves worthy as a coach this season. That's unless he takes some classes in French and shows an effort to speak the local language. It would really be a shame if he didn't get the job primarily for this reason, but that's a long way away.

But with statements like this, it gives the feeling that Cunneyworth is a lame duck. You have to figure that the candidate pool is very limited and you can certainly expect to hear the name Patrick Roy come up a lot, as well as one-time Quebec Nordiques coach Marc Crawford. Funny enough, Crawford didn't speak French when he was hired in Quebec, but he learned. Of course it wasn't much help when the 'Diques moved to Colorado the next season.

But man it would be so delicious to see Roy come back to the Canadiens bench. Could he really complain if a player took exception to his managing and demanded a trade?

Photo: Getty Images

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Posted on: December 19, 2011 3:09 pm
Edited on: December 19, 2011 6:54 pm
 

Milan Lucic suspended 1 game



By: Adam Gretz


Zac Rinaldo said he was fine with the hit from Boston's Milan Lucic over the weekend. The NHL, however, was not fine with it.

The league announced on Monday afternoon that the Bruins forward has been suspended one game for his hit from behind during his team's 6-0 win over the Flyers on Saturday afternoon. Lucic will miss Monday's home game against the Montreal Canadiens.

Lucic was issued a five-minute major and a game misconduct for hitting Rinaldo into the boards from behind late in the second period, which was part of an extremely physical game that Boston dominated on the scoreboard from the opening faceoff.

Even though Lucic was ejected for the hit, Rinaldo was quick to come to his defense.

“It’s hockey, you hit and go into the boards, I don’t think it was dirty at all,” said Rinaldo via Tim Panaccio of CSN Philly. “Shoulder-to-shoulder and just momentum. He’s big guy, maybe double my weight. His momentum carried him into the boards awkwardly. I don’t think it was dirty at all.”

Lucic responded again on Monday after the suspension was announced, taking his medicine.

"I don't think anyone's ever happy when they get suspended," Lucic said. "But you have to respect any decision they make. I do everything my power to keep it clean out there. I try my full-on best to follow [the NHL's] rules [on hitting].

Brendan Shanahan, the NHL's disciplinary czar, did not agree.

"In spite of the fact Lucic sees Rinaldo's numbers and proximity to the boards, Lucic delivers a dangerous check from behind," said Shanahan. "Rinaldo makes no sudden movement either just prior to or simultaneous with the hit that contributes to making this an illegal check. Therefore, the onus is on Lucic to avoid this hit completely, or at the very least minimize it to a greater degree. Instead, Lucic follows through with his check driving Rinaldo high and hard into the glass."

Shanahan also added that Lucic's history of similar infractions, warnings and fines went into the decision to suspend him, as did the fact that Rinaldo suffered no apparent injury as a result of the play.

More NHL Discipline News Here

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com