by Alec Brownscombe
Entering week one of regular season action, these four quotes sum up accurately the current state of the NHL.
“I think it was typical of most French guys in our league with a visor on, running around and playing tough and not back anything up.”
There are some things you just don’t say. As a generalization, there may be some truth in this statement. It’s no secret that Quebec minor hockey is big on stick work – and low on fighting accountability. But with that being said, this is certainly something you have to keep to yourself. I think this is more a case which Roenick got his clock cleaned in another controversial hit, and Avery has jumped at the chance to use show some prejudice. Guys that don’t want to be found accountable for their actions feel that they can take more liberty because less and less enforcers are around to make them pay for it. Teams no longer have time in the game to stick out their enforcers- between power plays, and penalty kills, coaches struggle to ice the teams best set lines, let alone 4th line dirt disturbers.
“I think I had more to offer than these rookies- I’ve made it to the Stanley Cup finals and I add the experience that these guys certainly don’t have.”
Let’s face it- the Leafs management has used the new CBA as a reason to give their youngsters a shot. I understand management’s decision to give Stajan, Steen, and Colaiacovo (as well as Kronwall perhaps) a chance. If you could take contracts out of the situation, Thomas would be competing with players such as Chad Kilger, or even Tie Domi. In Kilger’s case, he hasn’t proven a thing or shown to be of any significance to this Leaf puzzle. What has he shown that Thomas hasn’t? In Domi’s case, he’ll never be cut and he’s suddenly decided that because he’s a veteran now, he can play without that edge to his game. Guess what Domi? The Leafs don’t need your play-making ability- they don’t need you to be a point contributor. If that’s what Domi thinks he now is, we all know who can fit that bill better- Stumpy Thomas. Four other teams were interested in Domi a month ago… get on the phone Fergie and see if their still interested.
In any case, we’re seeing a lot more of this with the new CBA. Had this occurred before the lockout, we probably would’ve seen the Leafs pay Thomas a decent amount money to keep him content, and then they would’ve sent a youngster back down to make space. However, in this new landscape, it’s not so easy as to just bring up and then send back down these players as veterans wear and tear throughout the season. There are may be other teams out there that would jump at the chance to claim a Wellwood, or a Steen from waivers- the last thing Toronto needs is to lose their best up-and-coming talent.
“It’s frustrating because it is no longer a man’s game out there. If I can get a 220-pound guy to fall down just by putting my stick on him, it shouldn’t happen.”
This is what’s wrong with the new rules. Referees are interpreting the new era in the NHL that allows no player to put a stick on another. Another component of the new rules is severe diving penalties. However, so far the minor infraction penalty to dive ratio is somewhere north of 20 to 1. Soccer also has a diving penalty – so of course no player in that sport acts theatrical anymore….right?
“We want to return the association to its members.”
Nothing spells losing frustration better than this quip. The owners hit the ball out of the park with the CBA, and the players are pissed that the escrow is going to claw back their already reduced salaries. Meanwhile, Linden gave Saskin a fat raise without following due process. When the ship is sinking, the rioting crew is not a pretty sight.
Yes, Linden should have handled this better. Saskin’s appointment should have been interim at best – with a proper search process for Goodenow’s replacement undertaken. But put yourself in Linden’s position – he had a new CBA that nobody really understood, and the only player architect was Saskin. What if he said he was leaving too last July?
There’d be no hockey now in that case. Try walking in Trevor’s shoes before you start going nuts.
Yes hockey fans, this is your NHL (just do what the marketing tells you). I hope it’s yours- because it certainly isn’t mine. Mine wouldn’t be redirecting successful markets’ profits to unsuccessful ones. Mine wouldn’t feature 1230 games worth of special team play. And my NHL wouldn’t have completely reconstructed this game many North Americans have grown to love over the past 50 years. There was a reason why we all loved it. “Pond Hockey” is a blast to play – but I won’t pay to watch it.