Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Rant answers: Matt Cooke's suspension, rookie rules and player safety
By Pierre LeBrun
You guys are getting good at this. Let's face it, you love to rant. Let's take a look at this week's gems:
Nikolai_Avenger: Can't understand all the fuss about mandatory visors. God forbid should a player take responsibility for his own welfare and have to suck it up if the worst happens. As a Canucks fan, I am gutted about what Manny Malhotra's injury means, but it was his choice not to wear a visor and this is what happened. If a team is concerned, they should force their players to wear a visor or else not employ such a player, but that's the team or player's choice, not the league's. What's with the nanny state ... wrap the players up in cotton wool in case they fall over? This is what is wrong with the world today! Raaaaagh! Cheers, Nik.
My take: If the league adopted that attitude decades ago and decided not to make helmets mandatory, we'd have players still skating around without a bucket on their heads and cracking their heads open. Come on, enough is enough. We'll look back in 20 years and find it shocking that visors weren’t mandatory by 2011.
SgtDoetsch: Pierre, as a loyal season ticket-holding Coyotes fan, I wish that this team would get more coverage for how good they're playing this year, instead of all the speculating about where the team will be next year. I guess that's a lot to ask, seeing as we struggle for attention in our own city. I mean, we're only the second team in the past 15 years to sweep Western Canada. And this season, we're the first to beat Vancouver twice in its own building. Pretty impressive for a bunch of no-name players. These guys really define the word team. Dave Tippett is the best thing to ever happen to this franchise (excluding Shane Doan). Also, we don't even have a 20-goal scorer or player with 60 points and have a shot at the division title! I really feel like this is the year the Coyotes could make a run a ways into the postseason. This group seems to thrive on being counted out.
My take: Ah, my friend, your wish is my command. You'll notice a Coyotes story from me today focusing on how they've been able to play through the ownership circus. What's interesting, too, is that the team has scored more goals this season, sitting 11th in the league as of Tuesday morning, way up from 24th last season. On the flip side, after placing third overall in goals against per game last season, they’ve dipped to 16th this season.
"When we play our best is when we play well defensively," captain Shane Doan told me Monday. "That's still the staple of our team. If you keep it low-scoring, that's the ones we think we can win. When we try and run-n-gun, I think we get into a bit of trouble. But it's been different than last year when goals were really, really at a premium for us."
Dallas_Stars11: So why is it that Matt Cooke gets a 14-plus-game suspension but Dany Heatley only got two games (for the elbow on Steve Ott)? Is it really that big of a difference for being a repeat offender? The hits are just ugly and we all hate them, but when an elbow is delivered with intent to the head they both should be severe punishments. I may be showing a little bias being a Stars fan, but to me both shots were deliberate to the head.
My take: First of all, I would have given Heatley three or four games, but yes, otherwise it is a huge difference that Heatley had a clean career rap sheet before his elbow whereas Cooke has now been suspended five times in his career and that doesn't even include his knee-to-knee hit on Alex Ovechkin earlier this season and last year's controversial hit on Marc Savard -- both of which he escaped league discipline. Heatley and Cooke? Apples and oranges, my friend.
michaelthierry1983: Pierre, I'm a bit mystified/angry by the rookie rules. Why I bring this up is because the other day I was debating some Sharks fans on who has been more dominant in their rookie year: Alex Pietrangelo or Logan Couture. Alex Pietrangelo has easily been the most dominant defensive rookie this year, even when you put Subban in the conversation. Alex has 10 G, 29 A, 39 points and a plus/minus of plus-15. You are talking about historically great rookie numbers if you consider the plus/minus that he has. However, Pietrangelo isn't really considered a rookie because of some goofy rule in the NHL. What makes me boil about this issue is that Couture played in 25 games last season along with several playoff games. Couture played in eight more total regular-season games than Pietrangelo has prior to this season but Pietrangelo can't qualify for the Calder. I know Pietrangelo doesn't need an award to validate how good of a defenseman he has been. Alex already has been given the A and looks to be a future captain, even maybe by next year. Still, it would be nice for him to get some recognition for his play this year.
My take: I feel your pain, Michael, but the rules are the rules. From the NHL Guide and Record Book: "To be eligible for the [Calder] award, a player cannot have played more than 25 games in any single preceding season nor in six or more games in each of any two preceding seasons in any major professional league ... " Obviously Pietrangelo played eight NHL games in 2008-09 and another nine NHL games last season. Hence, no longer a rookie. It’s frustrating given that he's only 21 years old, and it would have been nice for the Blues to have him in the mix for such a prestigious award. But the league has to draw the line somewhere on Calder eligibility.
lance_1978: How can the Stars be in the Pacific Division when Dallas is closer to the Atlantic Ocean than the Pacific? It is ridiculous to have three of our four divisional opponents two time zones away. For a league that wants to put more emphasis on divisional games to build rivalries, they shouldn't have most of the games start at 9:30 p.m. I understand that every team will play across the country during a season, but how can they expect the Stars to realistically draw good audiences in the Dallas market when the games end at midnight? The NHL would never put one of the Northeast or Atlantic Division teams in a division with Calgary, Edmonton and Colorado. Phoenix being one time zone away is no problem, but the majority of the division two zones away is not good business sense. What would it take for the league to change this?
My take: How do you think Detroit and Columbus feel? They're Eastern Time Zone teams playing in the Western Conference! Their fans have to stay up late to watch almost all of their road games. Before the Stars ever get to move anywhere within the league, believe me when I say the Red Wings have for years asked the league to consider them for a move to the Eastern Conference.
dstars4400: So Trevor Gillies was made out to be a stone cold thug in the world of hockey. While this is probably true, there is a bigger thug out and about and his name is Matt Cooke. Seriously, every game he plays (which isn't a ton, because he is constantly serving suspensions) he takes a run at somebody. While he does have more "hockey skill" than Gillies, this guy still portrays a thug in every way. He should be sat down for the rest of the season and if he isn't, the NHL really doesn't care about head injuries as much as they claim to.
My take: This was posted less than two hours before the league announced its stiff suspension for Cooke. I take it you're happy now, Mr. Stars!
Colezy8990: Hey Pierre, I'm sure I speak for every Minnesota Wild fan when I say "What the hell happened????" Two months ago, things were looking pretty good. I thought for sure that the light at the end of the tunnel would lead to playoff heaven. Now, the light I'm seeing is that it’s almost the end of season, and we don't have to bleed anymore.
Lie to me and say that we still have a chance ...
My take: I can't lie to you, it's ovah, buddy. The 11-game absence of top player Mikko Koivu certainly didn't help. But either way, this is a team that just hasn’t scored enough consistently to be a playoff team. Only Florida, Ottawa, Edmonton and New Jersey have scored fewer goals per game. Not going to cut it.
acMIDD28: Pierre, with the recent head shots and injuries, has there been any thought of going back to the old Plexiglass like they have in Chicago and New York? The modern glass doesn't give in the least and it's like running into a brick wall. Very dangerous.
My take: Indeed my friend. The NHL has spoken to the six remaining clubs (Montreal, Calgary, Colorado, Phoenix, Nashville and Minnesota) who have seamless glass throughout their rinks and all six have agreed to replace the seamless glass and go plexi on the ends for next season. Plexiglass better absorbs hits and is deemed safer for the players. This should have been done a long time ago.
Fbullock: Pierre, at the end of last year I posted a rant that stated "Help Wanted" aimed at coach Bruce Boudreau. I questioned his style of coaching and his juggling of the lines. I questioned his handling of the superstars on the Capitals’ roster. So I am here to say: "Bruce, I am sorry." I jokingly said those things about you but I was trying to have a tone of seriousness as well. You have navigated the team from the brink of a five seed to now contesting the Flyers for the top spot in the East. During the losing streak, I was all set and ready to place you on the shelf with other Cap coaches that have fallen by the wayside. For a second, I was calling you the second coming of Bruce Cassidy, and now if you have a successful postseason, dare we speak your name in the same line as Bryan Murray. Now don't go and get an even larger bloated ego, Bruce, because even though you may have a deep run this postseason, you have to remember that is was GMGM that really pulled you out of the fire. The Arnott and Wideman trades were brilliant and it looks like Sturm is starting to find his marks. In closing, I hope the rumors aren't true that Jacques Lemaire isn't suing for copyright infringement. The trap style play may have died in NJ, but it is so alive and well in the nation’s capital.
My take: Bruce accepts your apology! Boudreau has done a marvelous job this season. He's transformed his team from a fire-wagon team to a responsible, two-way club. While less entertaining to watch, it’s a style of play that traditionally gets better results in the playoffs. We'll see.