Rant answers: Kostopoulos' suspension, Bruins' inconsistency, Southeast success

Another week, another chance to vent! Well done, my friends:

jimstin88: Why are the Panthers so inconsistent? They finally get over .500 and then they lose three pathetic games in regulation (of course, they didn't really lose Wednesday against Pavelec and the refs). I'm worried what is going to happen over the next month or so. DeBoer and Hulton need to go, in my opinion, but hopefully none of the players get sent out. What do you think, Pierre?

My take: Well, you bang on about your team being inconsistent, no question about that. Tough as a fan to deal with that. But firing Peter DeBoer? Man, give your head a shake. He's one of the best young coaches in the game. He's not the issue. Let’s sit back and remember the big picture here: your team hired GM Dale Tallon to come in and do his Chicago thing. Which means dress this down eventually and rebuild it. Don't worry about this season, this is about being better in three or four years. I know that's rich for a Panthers fan given how long it’s been without much success, but that’s why Tallon was hired.

completelunacy24: Pierre, can I vent about Rule 48 and how it's being applied? Right now, Colin Campbell never gets it right ... he was close with Kostopoulos, but his explanation made me cringe a bit. First off, six games really isn't enough to deter a repeat offender like Kostopoulos from doing what he does again in the future ... double that amount and maybe he'll think twice before charging from the blue line on a D-man near the puck.

OK, back to Colin Campbell. First thing: He said in a statement that the hit was not a blindside hit, though the principle point of contact was clearly the head. The rule states that it can be "lateral OR blindside," and in my view it was at least a lateral hit, so I'm not sure why he specifically mentioned that it wasn't blindside. Also, what does "blindside" truly mean? The bottom line is Stuart was looking at the puck and wasn't able to defend himself at all ... and it wasn't an "admiring my pass" type of thing where you blame Stuart, he was swatting at a puck less than 5 feet from his own net! But back to "blindside" ... I suggest they revisit the language of the rule, because while Kostopoulos wasn't blindside to Stuart's body, in relation to where his head was turned he most certainly was. Stuart looked to Kostopoulos at the last second, didn't have time to react, and BAM! Broken jaw. Sounds like a degree of "blindside" to me!

My take: The hit was straight on and wasn't blindside, I agree with Campbell on that. But nevertheless, it was an ugly hit to the head and the league is cracking down on that. The real question we now have to ask in the industry, whether you're media, fans, team personnel or league staff, is whether it's time to push Rule 48 all the way to where some people believe it should be -- any hit to the head, regardless of whether it was incidental or not, should be penalized. The best player on the planet is out with a concussion. Whether David Steckel meant to do it or not, and it’s impossible to prove either one, the end result is Crosby with a concussion.

ForzaJuve5150: PLEEEEASSSEE get rid of that silly trapezoid! The goalie should not only be able to come out and play the puck anywhere, but be able to receive and deliver body checks if he is out of the crease (he's got more pads than anyone, for crying out loud ... remember how fun Hextall was to watch play D? They’re hockey players for Pete's sake!). The crease should also be made larger (perhaps similar to the crease in the NLL) and the goalie should only be allowed to freeze the puck while inside the crease, otherwise it should be a delay of game penalty.

My take: GM Doug Wilson of the San Jose Sharks actually proposed this discussion at a GMs meeting in November 2009. But he found no support among his colleagues and the subject hasn't been brought up since.

etbumps18: The Boston Bruins ... why does it always seem like they are a man down in 5-on-5 play during big games? For instance, in the third period against Montreal on Saturday, they had a two-goal lead and halfway through the third period it started to look like Montreal was on the power play for the rest of the period; the majority of the Bruins just stopped skating and at times were just standing there waving their sticks at the Canadiens players as if it was disrupting them. Why does this always happen?

My take: Cue sound of baby crying. Now me handing you a tissue. Now me telling you to stop whining.

DNAscher: This is a rant in which people should be raving. As an avid Caps fan, I am very happy with the way the team is playing. Who cares that they are not blowing teams out? Who cares that the stars are not scoring? Who cares that the role players have taken over? Who cares that they are doing what they have not been able to do in the past few years: shut teams down and win games 2-1 and so forth. Wait. I take those last two back. I CARE. This team has transformed into a team that is capable of a long postseason run. I'm not worried that Ovi has not been scoring. This Caps team has gone from all offense to a team that can grind a game out and wear down the opposition, and I am drinking it all in. The stars will shine when their time comes (they are too good not to), yet the rest of the team will continue shutting people down and winning games. The only way to go is up for this team and that eight-game losing streak was the best thing that has happened to the Caps in a long time.

Thank you and Let's Go Caps!

My take: Technically, this is not a rant. You are raving, not ranting. But it’s well-said and yes, Mr. Boudreau has indeed transformed this team into a club that understands both ends of the ice. Very promising for April.

ab_67: I'm so dumbfounded by the play of the Sharks this year. Most fans vent about the team's inept D corps, but the forwards aren't getting the job done either. Been shut out seven times already. Unreal. Is it time to panic yet in San Jose or do you see this as a situation similar to Pittsburgh two years ago [when the Pens] toiled in mediocrity into February, then turned it on late in the season on their way to the Cup? Very frustrating seeing these results from what is supposed to be a top end team.

My take: Things are not right in San Jose. Hence Ryane Clowe's rant last week. Down years so far for Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, even Dan Boyle hasn’t played up to par on most nights. A real head-scratcher. You really felt like the light bulb went on last spring after a final four berth. I rarely agree with fans that jump to the conclusion that their team needs a trade. But in this case, that’s just what I think they need.

RestlessFox: Once again, (and this has become an annual thing since the late 1990s) I am worried about the Boston Bruins. I just cannot give my heart to this team with the way they play -- either from behind for most of the game or trying to hold onto a lead when they should be trying to extend it and put a team away.

While this Bruins team looks more physical than Bruins teams of the recent past, I worry that their strategy is too old-school to keep up with the NHL's elite teams. While I feel the Kessel trade was a huge success that will continue to pay dividends (Horton and Seguin have looked promising if inconsistent), I worry that the star potential of guys like Seguin and Lucic will arrive too late for this group of players to make a serious Cup run. While Recchi, Chara and Thomas have looked good so far, there's no telling what they'll be doing when some of the Bruins' youngsters are in their prime a few years from now.

My take: When they pulled off their choke job against Montreal on Saturday, I began to wonder just how much last spring's meltdown against Philadelphia still affected the psyche of this team. Then I sat back and watched their own miracle comeback Monday night in Pittsburgh and, well, forgot all about that. That’s the kind of victory, Monday night, that turns around a season.

USMCWackjob: Pierre, I don't see how anyone can consider the Bruins or Canadiens playoff teams this year. I mean, if you look at their division, they get 18 games against the Leafs, Senators and Sabres! That's like 36 free points! If you put them in a competitive division, like the Southeast, they would totally be looking for next season's lottery choices.

The above is obviously absurd, but I can't count the number of times I read the same speech reversed with the Capitals as the subject and the Southeast Division as 48 gimme points (and it pains me so to defend the Caps ... Go Canes!) with not even a mild complaint from the hockey public.

The talk over the Caps' and Lightning's runs so far and the Southeast possibly fielding three (four?) playoff teams this year is now drowning beneath the "Southern Hockey is a failure!" screams. When is the Southeast going to get some respect?

My take: Excellent point and I agree. The Northeast is a joke this season.

elenchus23: Being a big Wings fan, it really annoys me when other Wings fans constantly complain that the Wings get no love. The Wings very regularly get articles, if those fans care to look at the ESPN website regularly. I really enjoyed reading the Lidstrom article and watching Ozzy interview Lidstrom because LeBrun was "too lazy" to do so. I had a good laugh at that one. Anyway, I would love to read an article about the Wings more often, but that doesn't mean I want you to write about them constantly. I do not want to hear about Crosby, Ovechkin, Stamkos and the rest of the superstars all of the time, but they are going to get more media attention because they are the future of hockey. Not to mention, you don't hear about the Wings in the media much because they aren't flashy and talkative and don't draw attention. They come to work, earn their paychecks and go home. I hate being lumped in with all of the whiners. If people really want an article about the Wings, I'm sure there are plenty out there.

My take: We do our best to cover all 30 teams, my friend! But I've written more about the Wings than most other teams. Detroit is a second home for me.

prashanthiyer: Absolutely furious with the Kostopoulos ruling, and this is part of a larger problem with the NHL. In the last few years, we have seen more and more of these ridiculous hits that sideline players for incredible lengths of time, and yet the suspensions never exceed five or six games for the offending players, and in some cases there aren’t suspensions at all. Look at Matt Cooke last year after his hit on Marc Savard. He wasn't even suspended, and it took Savard almost a full year before he could play symptom free again. Brad Stuart is going to be out for six to eight weeks, having to drink his food for the first month after a reckless and unnecessary hit by Kostopoulos and Kostopoulos sits only six games. I appreciate a good hard, solid hit (Ballard on Drew Miller the other night), but when the hit is clearly to the head from the blindside, and the player doesn't have the puck, a suspension of six games is [not enough]. If the NHL is really serious about cracking down on these kinds of hits, force the offending player to sit as long as the injured player. If Kostopolous sat for six to eight weeks while Stuart recovered, the Flames would suffer the same way as the Wings. If Cooke had to sit for the entire year while Savard sat, the Pens' checking lines would have had problems. If Mike Richards had to sit as long as David Booth, the Flyers don't make the Cup finals last year. This is ultimately a drastic measure, but the only way to ensure that these hits get out of the game in a hurry.

My take: I spoke with 10 NHL GMs on Saturday as I prepped for Hot Stove on "Hockey Night In Canada." At the end of every call, I asked them about the Kostopoulous hit and what they'd do if they were Campbell. Their answers varied from five games to 10 games. He ended up going six, which is a few games lower than where I would have gone (8-10) but still in the wheelhouse of where smart hockey men had predicted Saturday.

shuvel55: Pierre, which conference is better? I know that this topic has been debated throughout the season, and many people have chosen the Western Conference as the stronger of the two. But I really do believe that the East is better when it comes to the top eight teams. There is no consistency in the Western Conference. Everyone is separated by eight points because they keep beating each other. The West is definitely more competitive in regards to the top eight, but I would have to side with the East having the better and more consistent teams. Flyers, Penguins, Bruins, Canadiens, Washington (although the Caps have had their issues regarding playoff success), and now teams on the up and up in Atlanta and Tampa Bay. Can the latter two actually sustain any postseason success? It is looking like we may have two powerhouse teams in the East square off in the four vs. five seeds. Will that happen in the West?

My take: No debate -- West is best.