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Tuesday, January 24, 2012
Rant answers: Shanahan, Wings and more

By Pierre LeBrun

As the All-Star break approaches, we’ve got more rants from our loyal ESPN.com puckheads. Let’s dive in:

mrcheesenacho7: Ovi finally got what should have happened a long time ago. He never gets the attention that other repeat offenders receive, but hopefully Shanahan continues to pay attention to him!

DanE0208: I understand that a growing concern in the NHL and sports for that matter is player safety on contact. Now, what I don't understand, and please please would like light shed on, is how this Ovechkin hit merits a three-game suspension. I will admit, I am a long-time Capitals fan, but the profile of Alex Ovechkin and what he means to me does not have anything to do with my issue. ... At the time of the game, this hit from Ovi, maybe could have merited a penalty for leaving his feet (0.3 inches) and hitting a player high. However, the penalty was missed. Now I am banking on you having watched this game intently, but did you catch the boarding hit that Matt Hendricks took later in the game. He was sent head first into the boards, no penalty, no suspension, nothing. Now please tell me I am not taking crazy pills when day in and day out I see crosschecks to the back sending players into the boards, without suspensions, and yet Ovi suffers a three-game suspension for a hit that was a tad over the top.

Also, how do you feel on players who doll out concussion hits (with an on purpose elbow) having to sit out for almost all of the time that the injured player is unable to play.


My take: There was certainly a divide from the readers on Ovechkin’s suspension. My sense is that if this was a player with a clean record, it would have warranted only one game. But Ovechkin’s rap sheet -- two previous suspensions and two previous fines -- came into account and made it a three-gamer. Shanahan warned everyone before the season: Repeat offenders would be hit harder. As for the hit, it’s certainly not one of the worst I’ve ever seen. But Ovechkin does leave his feet and make contact with the head. Two no-nos.

jaguar0413: Pierre, enough is enough. Brendan Shanahan needs to go. I thought that his goal was to provide clarity and consistency to the disciplinary process. He has done nothing but make it even more confusing and inconsistent. After the game on Sunday, he suspends Ovechkin three games but doesn't discipline Michalek for his hit on Hendricks? Ovi deserved to be suspended (not a good hit), but Michalek's hit was one of the most dangerous in the game. He could have very easily broken Hendricks' neck or given him a severe concussion, a la Patrice Bergeron. What kind of a message does it send when Shanny doesn't discipline players for these types of hits? I'm confused. Please explain the logic.

My take: I tried to warn people in September about this when everyone was giddy over Brendan Shanahan replacing Colin Campbell. It doesn’t matter who is in that job, it is thankless and it’s impossible to please everyone no matter what your decisions are. Educated, veteran hockey people can look at the same hit and have a completely different view of it. Add to the mix the competitive juices of having your player suspended from your team, and you’ve got GMs who are never going to be happy regardless of the decision from the league’s disciplinarian. I have not agreed with all of Shanahan’s decisions, but you can’t argue he isn’t providing more transparency. His videos explain his decisions in detail. This will be a controversial job for eternity. It doesn’t matter who is doing it.

poisson96: Pierre, my rant is about Tim Thomas. Many will say he is allowed to have his political views and free to not visit the White House. However, one of the roles of the President of the United States is Chief of State, which is an apolitical role. In this role, the President is meant to stand for and symbolize the highest values and ideals of the country. It should be an honor for any American citizen to shake hands with any American president, when welcomed to the White House to honor his achievements. Unfortunately, the honor was felt by Thomas' (mostly non-American) teammates but not by him. He should have thought less about his political views in this moment, and more about the team, the city and the country he represents on a regular basis.

clitguy123: I commend Tim for his honorable decision to protest our American Government. As an American citizen, more of us should start standing up for ourselves and our rights like Tim did.

My take: Burnside and I dealt with this in the Daily Debate. I applaud Thomas for having the courage to stand up for what he believes in, but I think in the end he chose the wrong way to go about it. In the end, his absence from the White House took away from an important TEAM moment. He should have gone to the White House, and then afterwards made his feelings felt. Just my opinion.

bjams: What's irking me is how you and Burnside can continually ignore the rise of the Red Winged Wheel to the top of the NHL standings. They have the most points, and have been one of the stingiest defenses in the NHL and have a goaltender who has been standing on his head and still ... STILL you give them no love. Seriously? Two or three teams ahead of them in this week's power rankings?? Then they pick up the rough play to make the Blues go away rather quietly in a 3-1 win and continue to hold on to the top and have one of the longest home win streaks in the history of the NHL...SERIOUSLY??? Give them some LOVE already!!!

My take: We’ve been on the Wings forever for being the model franchise in this league. There are few GMs I talk to more than Ken Holland -- whom I consider the best in the business. I can go on and on ... take your fan glasses off for a second and smell the roses!

Drawrof P: My rant is how the NHL and their more recent rules governing the scoring of hockey games is skewering historic records. As noted in one of your other articles:

"Detroit's home win streak is tied for the fourth-longest in NHL history and is four shy of matching the record held by the 1929-30 Boston Bruins and 1975-76 Philadelphia Flyers."

Detroit has a home undefeated streak. During their current streak, they had to get the win via OT (one game) and SO (two games). Technically, the Wings had a 12 game home winning streak. Which is impressive. But if you were to look at the last 16 home games, the same as the 1929-30 Bruins and 1975-75 Flyers, the Wings would be 13 wins and three ties.

My same rant goes for goalie records. Bernie Parent should have the record for most wins in a season, 47 wins with no help from OT or SO victories. Brodeur's 48 wins came in a year that the Devils had 13 OT/SO wins.


My take: Totally agree with you. Once the NHL adopted the shootout, it forced a result every single night instead of having the possibility of tie games. So on that basis alone, streaks of all kinds, in my opinion, have an asterisk on them since the 2005-06 season. Not to mention points in the standings. The shootout has added more points in the standings, so teams have routinely broken franchise records for points over the past seven years. Just ignore those records, they don’t make any sense.

octoman67: This week, the Lightning have looked more like a playoff team than all season, they still have a huge hole on D and in goal, but I still think the biggest problem for the team is their power play. Last year, this wasn't as much of a problem after they added Marc-Andre Bergeron and you would think that another year with the same team would result in a better conversion rate. They also give up an alarming amount of shorthanded goals, is it too late to say that Sean Bergenheim would solve these problems?

My take: The power play has certainly hurt them this year. They were eighth last year -- it was a legitimate weapon -- but the PP is ranked a lowly 28th this season. That will change one-goal wins to one-goal losses in a hurry. But I still think the team’s overall defensive collapse is a larger contributing factor. The team is dead last in goals against, at 3.40 a game, compared to 22nd last season at 2.85. That’s a 0.55 goal-per-game difference. Whereas offensively, they remain pretty close to last season, when they were seventh in the league in goals per game (2.94) compared to 10th right now at 2.77. In other words, despite the PP woes, overall the Bolts are still scoring at a decent clip thanks to Mr. Stamkos. But defensively, because of substandard goaltending and a struggling blue-line corps, the Bolts have tumbled. That’s why GM Steve Yzerman’s chief priorities in the offseason will be to find a No. 1 goalie and a top-four defenseman.

Alex48723: This season has been painfully boring and frustrating for Sharks fans. The team looks lost out there and they aren't particularly good at anything. They don't hit hard, the team has no speed, and goaltending has been less than remarkable. How many years in a row are their zone entries going to be horrible? How many times will Demers be scratched so that pylon Colin White can play? D is very solid this year but at the expense of offense, the opposite of last season. It seems like the team can only be good at one thing at a time and we're never going to win a Cup that way. After the Canucks bumped us out of the playoffs, McLellan said he thought he played Niemi too much down the stretch and it tired him out. So this year to answer that Niemi is on pace for a career high in starts. DW said he waited too long to make trades last year and here we are a month out from the deadline and nothing has been done. There are contradictory messages everywhere in the organization. Couture and Vlasic (by far the most underrated D-man in the NHL) are the lone bright spots so far this year. After years of disappointment, I can't help but see the writing on the wall yet again.

My take: Well, in September I picked the Sharks again to win the Cup. Hey, it’s my trademark, right? But in all seriousness, they don’t look like a Cup contender right now. Obviously, they’re missing Martin Havlat and Ryane Clowe, which is tough. But even before Havlat got hurt, he didn’t look like he was fitting in. His return and how he plays when he returns are big factors in how the Sharks go this spring. I also know, from talking to sources around the league, that the Sharks have made some calls to other teams regarding a top-six forward. So if Doug Wilson is able to pull off a deal in that regard before Feb. 27, it will certainly have an impact. But like you, at this point I see the Sharks maybe winning a round or two but not going all the way.

mikbo72: I can't believe the Sabres haven't done anything to change the team. Highest payroll in the league and last place in the conference. I hope they become sellers and look to next season and beyond. A top draft pick and some young prospects thru trades would win back my interest.

My take: Sabres fans invade the Rant Blog every week and with good reason. What a brutal season. On the trade front, I know GM Darcy Regier has been in dialogue with many teams. The names of Derek Roy and Brad Boyes pop up the most. My guess is that he will pull the trigger between now and Feb. 27. But I doubt it will do much to ease the pain for long-suffered Sabres fans. You deserve better than this.

chwpgh64: Ok, this is a PENGUINS fan saying this, so you know it must be very true for me to force myself to admit this. Scott Hartnell should have gotten Eberle's spot at the ASG. plain and simple. the guy's got one less goal than Evgeni Malkin, for crying out loud!

My take: Well, in the end, all is right in the world as Hartnell replaced Jonathan Toews in the All-Star Game.