Posted on: October 12, 2010 5:55 pm
Obviously the league considers what the Islanders defenseman did to be a lot less family-friendly than a throat slashing gesture, and so James Wisniewski got an extra game in his suspension.
Chicago’s Nick Boynton was forced to sit for one game for his slicing motion a couple of weeks ago, but the already injured-plagued Islanders will lose Wisniewski for two because of his explicit sexual gesture on the ice.
See it came in an afternoon game designed to attract kids. With commissioner Gary Bettman in the house. Of course Wisniewski would have been punished even without those factors, and two games does seem about right for being a jackass in public.
The league can’t have impressionable fans subjected to that kind of behavior, not on the ice anyway. But maybe it will be okay on television, say like at the end of the year when HBO cameras will go inside the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals.
Wonder what folks will see and hear then.
Posted on: October 12, 2010 5:25 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2010 6:07 pm
Well the numbers are getting a little better for the New Jersey Devils.
The Devils have signed free agent forward Adam Mair, formerly of the Sabres, so they’ll be only two players short of a full deck when they face Buffalo on Wednesday. That’s one less than they were Monday night against Pittsburgh, which theoretically should improve their odds.
Or maybe not. New Jersey did lose to the Penguins, though not necessarily because it ran out of gas being shorthanded. The Devils couldn’t dress enough players because of salary cap restrictions, but with only 15 skaters, actually outshot and outscored Pittsburgh in the third period. It was the earlier parts of the game that did them in.
Then again the Devils haven’t played very well on the whole in any of their first three games under rookie coach John MacLean. They’ve lost them all, allowing 14 goals in the process and Ilya Kovalchuk’s most notable achievement so far has been a fight, not any goal. It’s the kind of start that often come back to bite teams in tight playoff races, especially if the malaise lingers, and in New Jersey’s case that seems quite possible.
No doubt the Devils have a pretty messy and self-inflicted situation on their hands because of the way they’ve managed the cap. The free agent contract given to Kovalchuk this summer was obviously the breaking point, but New Jersey has several other big-ticket players on the payroll, players GM Lou Lamoriello can’t or won’t move. And right now, the team is paying the price, looking as confused on the ice as the situation off it seems to be.
Lamoriello has been a master at working the CBA's edges to maximum advantage since the lockout, but he’s up against it because of Kovalchuk’s controversial nine-figure contract and will be under increasing pressure to resolve the situation soon. The league has already fended off many howls of indignation, insisting New Jersey didn’t violate the CBA by dressing only 17 players.
Apparently the Devils were technically in compliance because of emergency situation provisions. But the Devils can’t keep showing up to games with fewer players than the other team has. It looks a little bush, especially when you’re in front of the paying customers at home. And it’s going to catch up with New Jersey, not to mention keep the calls for admonishment from the league coming.
So naturally, New Jersey has already announced it will be short players for at least one more game.
For their part, the players know changes are coming probably sooner rather than later. Many have talked about it openly since training camp began because Kovalchuk’s deal meant New Jersey had to dump salary. It was always more a matter of when than if.
Lamoriello has been buying time since the opening night deadline by putting players on injured lists and waivers, he just hasn’t had the cap space to replace them. Meanwhile his team is losing games and ground.
Those numbers aren’t getting any better and that's the biggest price New Jersey has to pay.
Posted on: October 12, 2010 12:15 pm
Edited on: October 12, 2010 12:18 pm
A few thoughts for a Tuesday as we wonder if the Anaheim Ducks will manage to keep an opponent to fewer than 45 shots per game this season. With the problems Anaheim has along the blue line, you should wonder too.
In the meantime there are other things to consider, like how many games Chicago’s Niklas Hjalmarsson and James Wisniewski of the Islanders will get for what they did on Columbus Day. The holiday was pretty busy for the NHL with six games on tap, but those two stood out and because of it, seemed destined for suspensions. The question is for how long.
Hjalmarsson’s hit from behind on Buffalo’s Jason Pominville was probably the more egregious of the two because his victim suffered a concussion, although the consensus from both teams dressing rooms in the aftermath was that it was more the result of carelessness by the young Blackhawks defenseman than malicious intent. But Wisniewski miming of a sexual act to the Rangers choirboy Sean Avery was on YouTube before the game was over and had lots more viral appeal, and things that embarrass the league tend to rate just as highly on its required disciplinary meter.
Of course there is no defined penalty for being stupid, which is how you would describe Wisniewski’s action on a day when commissioner Gary Bettman was in attendance on Long Island. Bettman was there to help the Islanders owner lobby for improved facilities, the kind of information usually passed along to players before games when they are reminded to put on a ‘good show’ for the matinee crowd.
Then again, you have to figure that Wisniewski is someone who tends to block things out. He had no problem blocking out that he was going to be Brent Seabrook’s best man when he crushed his former teammate into the glass last season. Wisniewski started at Chicago’s blue line and plastered Seabrook into the glass well after he got rid of the puck, causing the Blackhawks player to crumple in a heap and suffer a concussion.
Wisniewski sat eight games for that, although wasn’t penalized following this latest incident. Hjalmarsson was, getting ejected for the boarding major after he hit Pominville from behind. It wasn’t a particularly dirty hit to the shoulder area and there will be those who think Pominville left himself vulnerable, but the upshot is that Buffalo’s forward went face first and hard into the glass and was carried off on a stretcher. And that requires some sort of suspension, if only so the NHL can send the message that players have to think more on the ice.
Decisions should come down soon.
Oh yes and as far as Anaheim goes, Ducks defenseman Paul Mara says the team’s weak start should be put into perspective.
“Three games in, I don’t think it’s time to panic,” he told NHL Home Ice. “Once the 10-, 15-,20-game mark hits and you don’t have the wins you thought, then it’s time to hit the panic button and figure out what’s going on.”
We can wait. Can they?
Posted on: October 11, 2010 11:57 am
Mike Babcock has never won the NHL's coach of the year award, but the Red Wings didn’t become the model organization they have by misjudging talent. So giving Babcock a four-year extension today was really no surprise. Babcock may not have the individual hardware, but you can bet that anyone who does would trade it for his Stanley Cup, Presidents’ Trophies, 50-plus win seasons and an Olympic gold medal.
Posted on: October 8, 2010 3:58 pm
Edited on: October 8, 2010 4:01 pm
There were some good signs for the Carolina Hurricanes from their schedule-opening two games in Helsinki, Finland.
And not just because they came away with wins in both games against the Minnesota Wild.
Starting off that way is always a good thing certainly, especially for the Hurricanes, who are transitioning to a younger roster of players and still remember how a miserable start destroyed them a year ago. The ‘Canes probably don’t want to read too much into these overseas wins, especially against a Minnesota team that seems destined to be in the lottery hunt, but the wins count and more important, Carolina did a lot of things right.
And the ‘Canes got some really fine work from goalie Cam Ward in both games. Ward, along with captain Eric Staal, are keys to Carolina’s playoff hopes, but one player who made it clear he’ll be worth keeping an an eye on is rookie Jeff Skinner.
The Hurricanes can let him play in nine games before having to decide whether to return him to junior and thereby preserve a year of contract eligibility. But watching Skinner in his first two games, it’s hard to see him being sent back.
Skinner even scored the winner in Game 2 on a shootout goal, although that won’t go down as his first official NHL point. No, his first point was an assist earlier in the game when he beat Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom to the puck in a foot race and started a play that ended with Jarkko Ruutu’s tying goal.
The scouting reports all said Skinner was a great skater with big-time instincts around the net. Looks like he’s trying to prove it.
Posted on: September 29, 2010 3:54 pm
Memo to the Marlins: Games can be rained out down here in Florida even when they’re going to be played indoors.
Posted on: September 28, 2010 2:17 pm
A few bumps and bruises are part of NHL training camps, but less than two weeks into them, the list of seriously continues to grow around the league.
Just in the last few days, Wild backup goalie Josh Harding wrecked his knee and will be gone for the year; Calgary’s Matt Stajan separated his shoulder and is out indefinitely; Flyers goalie Michael Leighton could miss up to six weeks with a bad back and Marc Savard announced that he is still suffering from post-concussion symptoms and has no idea when he’ll be ready to play for the Bruins.
Still the guy who might be missed the most by his team is New York Islanders defenseman Mark Streit, one of the most under-recognized great free agent signings in recent memory and someone who has returned full value on a contract that raised a lot of eyebrows when it was offered in 2008.
Streit has been one of the league’s top producing defensemen while in New York, averaging more than 50 points in each of his first two seasons to become one of the team’s top scorers. But after suffering a torn labrum in his left shoulder during a weekend scrimmage, he could be out of the season, a void coach Scott Gordon says is significant.
“I don’t think you can replace him,” Gordon said on the NHL radio network. “What Mark has accomplished here on Long Island, really without having the kind of supporting cast that other guys like him have, is amazing.
“It’s a big hole in our lineup because he plays a lot of minutes on both sides of the puck. It’s one thing when you lose a defenseman, but when he’s one of your top scorers on a team that doesn’t score a lot of goals, it’s huge.”
So is the possible the return of Rick DiPietro, the franchise goalie with the lifetime contract who has spent most of the last two seasons sidelined by a series of knee surgeries. Gordon has only gotten to coach DiPietro for about a dozen games combined in his two seasons behind the bench, so he was cautious with his optimism when it came to the netminder.
But Gordon noted the DiPietro is healthier than at any time during his tenure since he became coach, and is coming of a very good off-season conditioning effort.
“This was the first time in two years he had a summer in which he trained like a pro athlete instead of someone rehabbing,” Gordon said. “He came into camp with full strength of his legs, got on ice in August now we’re at the point where he’s on the right kind of schedule.”
Gordon said he was encouraged because DIPietro had no physical problems from the scrimmages in which he took part. The goalie could even get into a couple of pre-season games by the weekend.
“Everything has been great so far,” Gordon said. “Knock wood, where he’s come from and how hard he’s worked, it would be a great thing to see him in net opening night.”
Especially since Streit won’t be there.
Posted on: September 28, 2010 12:37 pm
What a difference a day makes huh?