Posted on: December 31, 2011 2:02 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 2:03 pm
By: Adam Gretz
One of the most common complaints about NHL discipline, whether it was under Colin Campbell in previous years or the current leadership of Brendan Shanahan, is the sometimes overwhelming lack of consistency from one incident to another. If you're going to call it one way for one play, make it the same way across the board.
It rarely, if ever, seems to work out that way.
The NHL's disciplinary committee was busy on Saturday announcing a couple of fines, and along with the surprising non-suspensions of Tomas Kopecky and Mike Rupp following Friday's Rangers-Panthers game, the NHL also announced that Phoenix Coyotes forward Raffi Torres has also avoided the Shanaban for his blindside elbow to the head of Colorado's Jan Hejda earlier in the week (Here's the play, in case you missed it the first time around).
Instead of missing any games, Torres was simply given the maximum fine of $2,500.
Message: not sent.
Hejda is expected to be in the lineup for the Avalanche on Saturday when they visit the Anaheim Ducks.
There was also no penalty called on the play, and it recieved little attention in the aftermath. It almost seems that unless a player is seriously injured (or injured at all) and it's a play that's shown on highlight reels across the league the NHL has no interest in handing out a stiff punishment.
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Posted on: December 31, 2011 1:36 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 2:10 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The NHL determined on Saturday morning that the incident at the end of Friday's Rangers-Panthers game was worth nothing more than a couple of $2,500 fines.
In the closing seconds Panthers forward Tomas Kopecky and Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto werei involved in a skirmish in front of the New York net. After Del Zotto gave Kopecky a shot up high with his stick, Kopecky responded by dropping Del Zotto with what was basically a sucker punch to the face.
Kopecky was then pulled out of the ensuing scrum by Mike Rupp, who then started to throw some punches of his own at the Panthers forward.
Kopecky received a match penalty for his punch on Del Zotto (Rupp was also given a game misconduct and a five-minute major for fighting), and it seemed like a pretty good bet that Kopecky would sit out at least a couple of games for his actions. Not the case. The league announced on Saturday that Kopecky and Del Zotto have each been fined $2,500, the maximum fine allowed, and both will be eligible to play in their team's next game.
The Panthers host the Montreal Canadiens on Saturday, while the Rangers will play the Flyers on Monday during the Winter Classic.
Of course, all parties involved will also be eligible to play when these two teams face off again next Thursday in New York, a meeting that could get ugly with some sort of vigilante justice if the post-game comments from Friday are any indication.
Following Friday's game Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said that Del Zotto deserved to get smashed in the face for his stick work on Kopecky, while Panthers forward Krys Barch said "You can’t allow that stuff to happen. That’s just not allowed to go on in terms of a teammate getting jumped like that. We’ll take care of that next week."
Mark your calendars.
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Kopecky sucker punches Del Zotto
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Posted on: December 30, 2011 11:07 pm
Edited on: December 31, 2011 1:41 am
With just 10 seconds left and the outcome well in hand, the Panthers' Tomas Kopecky was trying to gain a footing in the crease alongside Rangers defenseman Michael Del Zotto. Del Zotto gave Kopecky a cross check and his stick hit Kopecky in the back of the head, so Kopecky responded with a blow to Del Zotto's head, unleashing a massive scrum.
The hit looked really bad and naturally it prompted a response from the Rangers, particularly Mike Rupp. He began circling around the fracas like a shark in the water, waiting for his chance at Kopecky. Despite the lineman trying to take Kopecky away from the pile, Rupp came in anyway and basically ripped Kopecky from the linesman's grasp and unloaded five haymakers to Kopecky's noggin. Both Rupp and Kopecky were assessed game misconducts (not a lot of punishment with 10 seconds left).
After the game, Rangers coach John Tortorella said called Kopecky's hit ''a cheap shot. With no honor.''
But Panthers coach Kevin Dineen stuck up for Kopecky.
"That's hockey. Some guy cross-checks you in the back and then follows through. He deserves a good smash in the face," Dineen said of Del Zotto. "He got what he deserved. Then guys who play five minutes a night, it's typical that they would go and try and grab our skill players. We'll see what the response is."
You can guarantee that this already has the full attention of Brendan Shanahan and the league office. This is one of the dirtiest plays you can pull in hockey, a sucker punch to an opponent. I have a feeling that not even Rupp's vigilante justice that is his right hand will be enough punishment for Kopecky in this case.
There is a little precedent for this under Shanahan, too. Remember back to the preseason when James Wisniewski of the Columbus Blue Jackets threw his own sucker shot on Cal Clutterbuck of the Minnesota Wild. That earned the Wiz a suspension for the rest of the preseason and the first eight regular-season games.
Now Kopecky doesn't have the priors that Wisniewski had on his record, but I'd be surprised if Kopecky didn't earn himself an in-person hearing for this punch. That would mean that a five-games or great suspension would be in play. Rupp could have earned himself a phone call from the league as well.
Mark it down on your calendar now, these teams will meet again, and very soon. Next week, Thursday to be exact, the Panthers head up to MSG for the last meeting of the season between the two and Florida's Krys Barch will be ready for it.
“I’m sure we’ll have a meeting next week in New York,” Barch told the Sun-Sentinel. "You can’t allow that stuff to happen. … That’s just not allowed to go on in terms of a teammate getting jumped like that. We’ll take care of that next week."
Posted on: December 30, 2011 9:54 am
On Wednesday night, Torres was caught laying a hit high on Andrew Ference of the Boston Bruins (watch it here). It drew the ire of Bruins defenseman Adam McQuaid who then laid a pretty good beating on Torres. But Shanahan didn't.
Then came Thursday night's game against the Colorado Avalanche and another questionable hit from Torres. That's when he skates by the crease and chicken-winged the Avs' Jan Hejda with an elbow to the head after Hejda passed the puck up ice. There was no penalty on the play for Torres.
At least from the angle we are given, it seems as clear as crystal that the principle point of contact on this hit was the head of Hejda. Moreover, it was very unnecessary and behind the play. It would have been a very avoidable hit if Torres had decided as much.
I'll be very surprised and honestly a little disappointed if Torres goes unpunished for this hit. It might not have been bad, but it could have been. You should punish the intent not the result. The illustrative point of suspending Torres for this is almost necessary because to me it sure looks like a textbook example of the play they want gone. You just can't throw an elbow to a guy's head any more.
Posted on: December 27, 2011 1:54 pm
Edited on: December 27, 2011 2:01 pm
It really is becoming unbelievable the amount of concussions we're seeing the NHL these days. What's more, it seems they keep striking the best players in the league.
Now you can put arguably the NHL's top defenseman, Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators, on that list. The Predators made the announcement on Tuesday that Weber, who missed Nashville's game on Monday night vs. the Red Wings, is out with a concussion and there is no timetable for his return.
The folks at Kukla's Korner found the play where it appears Weber would have suffered the concussion, either on the hit itself or on the ensuing hit with the ice. Take a look.
Weber takes a brutal shot on the play and to me it sure looks like it's an elbow from Mark Fistric right to Weber's head. The announcers describe it as Fistric "falling into Weber" but I don't see that, particularly on the last replay. The hit somehow went under the radar -- surprising since it's a star like Weber -- and Fistric wasn't handed any supplemental discipline from the league.
A request was sent to the NHL from CBSSports.com seeking an explanation as to why Fistric's hit didn't warrant a hearing. So far, there has been no response from the league.
Remember, Fistric was already suspended three games earlier this season for charging.
But back to the issue at hand. The Predators -- and hockey fans -- are going to be out the team's best player for who knows how long. It could be a short time, it could be long. Coach Barry Trotz makes it sound like it won't be long.
"He's recovering pretty well, I would say," Trotz said. "There's a chance [Weber could play] Friday."
The good news at least is that as far as we know, Weber hasn't had any concussions in the past.
There is never a good time for injuries like this, and this one comes at about as bad a time as it can for the Preds. They have ben struggling to stop teams of late, an odd occurrence under Trotz. In the last four games, opponents have scored 19 goals on them for an average of 4.75 per game.
Not to mention he has a big source of offense for a team that doesn't have a whole lot of it. So far this season, Weber leads the team in points with 29 and his eight goals are just two behind David Legwand for the team lead. That's an awful lot of slack to pick up.
The announcement comes on the same day that two other teams saw players go down with concussions. Simon Gagne of the Kings and John-Michael Liles of the Maple Leafs will be sidelined for the same reason.
There is no doubt in my mind this concussion issue -- not an "epidemic" according to the league -- will be discussed heavily this offseason and in CBA talks.
Posted on: December 27, 2011 1:05 pm
In case you need a refresher, here's the story and video of the incident last week where Laviolette and Ott were seen exchanging a few words before Laviolette pushed Ott aside and headed through the tunnel.
Well, the verdict appears to be in and there won't be any punishment coming for either. Pierre LeBrun of ESPN.com reported on Tuesday that a different path was chosen by the NHL offices: Kiss and make up (not literally, of course).
The league investigated the incident and spoke to both parties involved but in the end asked that Ott and Laviolette speak to each other over the phone to hash it out, a source told ESPN.com. The league was satisfied Ott and Laviolette settled things and decided no fines were warranted.
Wonder how awkward that phone conversation was. I imagine Laviolette doing his best Bill Lumbergh impression: "Um, yeah, about that Steve. I'd like to apologize, OK?"
I got to say, I am a bit surprised that Laviolette at least won't be fined for the incident. I thought the league might use this as an example to show coaches that they are held to a higher standard.
But what I thought would happen vs. what I thought should happen are different and I have no problems with the guys essentially getting a warning. Chalk it up to heat of the moment ... and sharing a tunnel to the locker rooms. Just don't let something similar happen again and it's a no harm, no foul situation.
Photo: Getty Images
Posted on: December 26, 2011 9:27 pm
Edited on: December 26, 2011 9:32 pm
It didn't take long for somebody to see if Brendan Shanahan is still feeling jolly from his Christmas break.
At the 5:20 of the first period in Minnesota, Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cody McLeod was given a five-minute major for checking from behind on the Wild's Jared Spurgeon. After a little deliberation while Spurgeon remained on the ice, McLeod was then assessed a game misconduct, ensuring a review from the league.
So everybody knows the drill by now: Is this worthy of a suspension by Shanahan and his staff?
Admittedly, the play did look bad in live action. The fact that Spurgeon was down on the ice for some time then left the ice with help isn't good news for McLeod hoping to avoid suspension and stay with the Avs, who are suddenly hot once again.
But this is a tough call. You can see McLeod following behind with his hand on Spurgeon's back and it seems like a relatively innocent forecheck on the play. The problem comes when Spurgeon puts on the brakes and McLeod doesn't. I don't see much of a push on the play from McLeod.
It doesn't speak a lot for the consistency of the discipline offices, but if I were to guess I'd say no suspension should result, but no decision will surprise me (outside of a long suspension, that is). Remember, McLeod essentially served a one-game suspension in this one, being ineligible for 54 of the 60 minutes. The only difference is he'll still get a pay check for the game.
Posted on: December 25, 2011 1:36 pm
Edited on: December 25, 2011 1:37 pm
By: Adam Gretz
The new year is right around the corner, and now that 2011 is almost in our rear view mirror, it's time to look ahead to what might be for the NHL in 2012.
1) What, if anything, will (or can) the NHL do about its concussion problem?
The NHL has a problem, and it's been highlighted throughout this season as some of the league's best and brightest players have been sidelined with head injuries at various times. And in many cases, an extended period of time.
Sidney Crosby, Claude Giroux, Chris Pronger, Milan Michalek, Mike Richards, David Perron, Marc Staal … the list goes on and on, and it doesn't seem to be coming to an end anytime soon. You can't go a week in the NHL, sometimes even a day, without hearing that another player has been diagnosed with a concussion or has been experiencing concussion-like symptoms.
With the NHL's collective bargaining agreement expiring after this season it's worth asking what the league and the NHLPA can do to help combat this problem. A complete banishment on all head shots will always be talked about it, but it seems unlikely to happen as long as the NHL's old guard remains in charge.
Perhaps my favorite suggestion, and one that would probably please most everybody, including the goaltenders, is to eliminate the ridiculous and nonsensical trapezoid rule and allow goaltenders to play more pucks in the corners. That would potentially reduce the number of times defensemen have to be subjected to violent hits from oncoming forecheckers in the corners. Reintroducing the red line to slow the pace through the neutral zone has been brought up, as well as possible the addition of no-touch icing.
And speaking of player safety...
2) Will we get any closer to mandatory visors?
As we've talked about before, there are still enough players that view visors as their own personal choice (which it currently is) and something that they shouldn't be forced to wear.
But that was also once true for helmets and goalie masks, and they've now become an accepted (and common sense) piece of equipment. The issue seems to be getting more and more attention than it has in recent seasons, and the first reaction that comes up anytime somebody takes a puck or a stick near the face is to automatically look to see if said player is wearing a protective visor. Like the addition of helmets, it's likely a rule that will be grandfathered in. Perhaps making matters easier is the fact that many of the young players entering the league today are already wearing visors given that they're mandatory at the sports lower levels (the Canadian Junior Leagues, the American Hockey League).
3) Will the 2012 NHL season start on time?
The NFL went through a dreadful lockout that eliminated its offseason and threatened the start of its regular season, which was then followed by the NBA missing a large chunk of its regular season due to its own completely pointless work stoppage. Major League Baseball, suddenly the model of long-term labor peace in professional sports, quietly and quickly went about its business and had everything settled before anybody even realized their agreement was up for discussion.
And now it's the NHL's turn. Panic? Fire and brimstone?
Will the league and the NHLPA be able to come to some sort of an agreement like MLB did, or will it be more along the lines of the NFL and NBA where it's a long, drawn out process with maddening twists and turns that leaves fans pulling out their hair?
The last time we were in this position we lost an entire season and came back to a completely different league.
4) Will the Coyotes remain in Phoenix?
Until the team actually moves to a new home or a long-term, viable ownership situation is in place in Phoenix this question will not be going away. And if the former is what happens, what does that do to the NHL's new conference alignment?
The league went through a franchise relocation in 2011 that resulted in a radical realignment as the Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg, leading to the NHL overhauling its divisions and playoff format.
But what happens if the Coyotes, after surviving another season in the desert, don't remain in Phoenix and relocate, as has been talked about and expected for years? Do we have to go through another realignment discussion and re-do everything that was just settled?
5) How many more turns for the NHL's coaching Carousel?
Nearly half of the league went through some sort of head coaching change during 2011, and let's face it, with way NHL teams dismiss coaches there is no doubt the coaching carousel will continue to spin out of control. It's already kind of amazing that, with all of the changes that have taken place this season, Columbus' Scott Arniel has made it as long as he has given the worst start in franchise history. Toronto's Ron Wilson is in the final year of his contract and has recently taken to Twitter asking Santa Claus for a certain piece of paper (presumably a contract) for Christmas.
6) Will Nashville be able to keep its prized defensemen?
When Nashville signed goaltender Pekka Rinne to his massive contract extension earlier this season it produced one of two possibilities going forward: A) The team will now be a "cap team" and spend more money than it's ever spent before in an effort to keep its best homegrown players, or B) the signing of Rinne means one (or both) of their two No. 1 defenseman, Shea Weber or Ryan Suter, will eventually be lost to free agency.
Weber still has one more year before he hits the unrestricted market, and will once again be up for restricted free agency after this season. Suter, on the other hand, if he hasn't signed before July 1, will be eligible to sign with the highest bidder.
7) Who will host the next Winter Classic?
Technically this game won't be played until 2013, but the decision will be made long before then and every team wants an opportunity to host what has become the NHL's signature regular season event. Gary Bettman has already all but promised Washington D.C. the game in the very near future, so that's on the table.
I'm a fan of taking the game to Michigan, perhaps the Big House in Ann Arbor, for a Red Wings game, or even to the State of Hockey and allowing the Minnesota Wild to play host to the game for its passionate fan base at perhaps either Target Field (home of the Minnesota Twins) or TCF Bank Stadium (University of Minnesota stadium).
Photo: Getty Images
Tags: Adam Gretz, Brendan Shanahan, Chris Pronger, Claude Giroux, Coaching Carousel, Columbus Blue Jackets, Concussions, David Perron, Detroit Red Wings, Marc Staal, Mike Richards, Milan Michalek, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, NHL Discipline, Phoenix Coyotes, Ryan Suter, Scott Arniel, Shanaban, Shea Weber, Sidney Crosby, Winnipeg Jets