AROUND THE LEAGUE: WEEK ONE

Jason Gregor
October 14 2010 11:35AM

The first week in the NHL had everything the league could ask for; great goals, big saves, exciting hockey, big fights, but they also saw a few things they wish had never happened.

James Wisniewski was suspended for the third time in twelve months, and I can guarantee you he will go down as the only guy in NHL history to get suspended for his “Sean I hear you’re a sword swallower,” obscene gesture.

I can’t see anyone trying to mimic his stupidity in the future.

While some of you probably laughed at his gesture, there is no place for it in the game; and society for that matter. I’m fine with his two game suspension, but once again the NHL looked ridiculous, when they gave him the same two-game suspension as Nicklas Hjalmarsson for his cheap hit on Jason Pominville.

You can’t compare the two actions, because they are completely different. However, the NHL handed out the suspensions within hours of one another Tuesday afternoon, and the optics weren’t good.

Wisniewski’s actions were immature, inappropriate and made him look like a fool, but he didn’t hurt anyone other than himself. Hjalmarsson made a dangerous, stupid play and he had ample time to recognize that Pominville was in a vulnerable position.

In the summer the NHL came up with a new rule to try and curb headshots, but it seems they are only concerned about direct shots to the head, not blows in the back or shoulder that result in a player slamming his head into the boards or glass. Watch the Hjalmarsson again and you’ll see Pominville’s head bounces directly off the glass as a result of the hit.

How is this not considered a head shot? Here’s how the new rule was written:

48.1 Illegal Check to the Head – A lateral or blind side hit to an opponent where the head is targeted and/or the principle point of contact is not permitted.

While Pominville’s head wasn’t the initial point of contact, his head took the brunt of the blow and subsequently concussed him. If it is a clean hit to the shoulder and a player’s head hits the glass, to me, that is part of the game, but this hit was illegal and dirty.

It seems it is only a head shot in the eyes of the NHL if the initial contact is to the head.

Don’t get me wrong, I like the head shot rule, but I can’t understand how a version of this hit wasn’t taken into account when writing up a new rule. We see more hits from behind or blind hits from the side, than we do direct shots to the head.

I’m okay with Wisniewski’s two games, but the NHL should have used the timing of the suspensions to their advantage.

Slapping Hjalmarsson with a five gamer would have set a new precedent for an illegal “hit-to-the-body-that-impacts-the-head,” and the NHL would have finally looked like they were serious in trying to get cheap shots out of the game. I love hard hits, and I understand players will get hurt sometimes, but the NHL has created a culture of “I was trying to make a play, so it’s not my fault,” and it needs to stop.

No suspension will automatically stop cheap plays. The speed of the game will always incite a wrong decision now and then, but clearly the players aren’t getting the message. Pominville didn’t even have the puck, and he was in that vulnerable position for a few seconds before Hjalmarsson delivered the blow. You can’t tell me it was a wrong split-second decision by the Hawk defender.

Five games would have sent an early message to the rest of the league that cheap shots will cost a player a significant amount of games and money. It also would have shown that league officials consider cheap hits worse than some cheap, childish and immature obscene gesture.

The most egregious part of the suspension is that Hjalmarsson’s first game back after sitting out two games will be against the very same Buffalo Sabres. A three-game suspension would have avoided any possible retribution being handed out by the Sabres, but I guess the NHL doesn’t have a schedule in their office.

Not a great start for the NHL in handing out suspensions, or realizing that shots from the side or behind that don’t initially target the head or just as dangerous as direct blows to the head.

ICE WOMAN OF THE WEEK

~I’m surprised this feature got so much play last year,~ but due to the constant demands we will continue to showcase the best Ice Women the NHL has to offer.

Say hello to Candace who is in her fourth year with the BLUE CREW of the Atlanta Thrashers.

This lovely short-hair is in honour of my former Ice-Women selector, Laurie, a sexy short-hair herself, whose job has limited her time and won't allow her to be our main selector. Kudos to Laurie for your keen eye, and know that the Nations will miss your selections.

RANDOM THOUGHTS

  • It’s pretty cool that the Nation has expanded to the centre of the universe and launched theleafsnation.com Wanye almost sheet himself when Internet giant, Greg Wyshynski - aka Puck Daddy - tweeted about the 4th child of the Nation clan. Welcome to the Nation Leaf fans, and Wanye wants you to know he is taking all the credit for your surprising 3-0 start. Just don’t remind him that his beloved Oilers haven’t made the playoffs since he launched Oilersnation.
  • Alex Ovechkin has four goals in four games, and two of them have been game winners. He had seven last year. Clarke MacArthur, who the Thrashers walked away from after arbitration, also has four goals and two game winners for the Leafs. In his previous 208 games MacArthur had four GWG.
  • There have been some great tilts early this year, and some clear KOs, but the Colton Orr/Deryk Engelland fight made me laugh. Not because Orr lost, but because of the AGH cam. I love how a hospital sponsors the zoom in shot.

  • The more I hear Ray Ferraro, the more I’m convinced he is the best analyst in the game. I wish TSN would use him more.
  • It is only two games, but is there a bigger surprise in the NHL than unknown, Sergei Bobrovsky? The Flyers’ rookie netminder is 2-0 with a 2.00 GAA and .931 SV%. He has the best blueline in the NHL in front of him, so he might be able to keep it up. I wonder if he was chosen in any fantasy drafts? If you took him before the season started, take a bow.
  • If the Leafs become a legitimate playoff contender, I wonder how many other GMs will be trying to sign NCAA free agents for cheap next summer?
  • Eric Francis reported that Jay Feaster was brought in because Darryl and Brent Sutter don’t communicate well enough to each other. You think? I’m sure Brent was doing cartwheels when Darryl told him that Olli Jokinen was going to be his first line centre in the summer, after trading him away in March. Something tells me that Feaster will be the GM before the season ends, with D. Sutter getting a promotion/demotion to President of hockey operations.
  • If the Sedins stay healthy, look for Daniel to get 50 goals. They make plays that no other tandem in the league makes with the same regularity. Backstrom and Ovechkin are close, but they don’t complete as many stunning passes.
  • I loved the LA Kings retro jerseys. Their old logo is great, and I like the jerseys with no name bars on the back. I don’t buy a lot of jerseys, in fact I only own three, the green Hartford Whalers, a teal Miami Dolphins and a Birmingham Bulls warm up jersey, but I’m leaning towards the Kings’ retro look.
  • Panther GM, Dale Tallon, was livid after his Panthers’ lost 3-2 to the Oilers. “How do they allow Horcoff’s goal? I’ve seen worse kicks in a Vegas Chorus line,” he said when I ran into him going down the stairs to the dressing rooms after the game. I thought Tallon had a valid complaint. The Oilers got a break on Horcoff’s eventual game winner.
  • Patrick Kaleta is quickly becoming the newest punk in the NHL. He left his feet to hit a Devil, then used his head as a battering ram into the chest of Travis Zajak, and then gave him a love-tap headbutt. He is a joke, and hopefully someone teaches him a lesson sooner than later.
  • If you are keeping track Carolina, Dallas, Colorado, Tampa and LA have wins that won’t be as valuable as real wins in case of a tiebreaker.
  • Only six teams have yet to lose a game this year. (I count OT and SO as real losses). Who do you think will still be undefeated by this time next week, out of the Leafs, Oilers, Predators, Stars, Blues and Lightning? Strangely enough, five of these teams missed the playoffs last year. I think it is great when a team can start 8-0 so hopefully a few of them are still perfect by next week.
  • The NFL didn’t have a single 4-0 team this year for the first time since 1970. My Miami Dolphins didn’t even have time to chill the champagne before popping the cork when the last undefeated team fell.

PARTING SHOT…

I want to thank all of those for sending me your thoughts/tweets at @JasonGregor. I can’t respond to all of them, but I do reply to most. Your questions and comments are great, so keep them coming.

My sobering tweet of the week comes courtesy of @nmizera:

“@JasonGregor It is ridiculous that the Panthers are selling tickets cheaper than the Oil Kings.”

That isn’t a knock on the Oil Kings, but how ridiculous it is in Florida that they are selling seats for a measly $9.

Tell me again Mr. Bettman how the NHL is working in South Florida?

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One of Canada's most versatile sports personalities. Jason hosts The Jason Gregor Show, weekdays from 2 to 6 p.m., on TSN 1260, and he writes a column every Monday in the Edmonton Journal. You can follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JasonGregor
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#51 DougWeightProblem
October 14 2010, 02:53PM
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Not sure if its been mentioned, but I believe Gregor touched on it in the article. Wisniewski has had three suspensions in the past twelve months, so perhaps his suspension was more severe than normal, given his recent history. Hjalmarsson, on the other hand, is a first-time offender and perhaps this is more of a warning than any real discipline. I'm not saying I agree with it, and had it been me instead of Colin Campbell it would have been 1 for Wisniewski and 5 for Hjalmarsson, but maybe that's the NHL's reasoning.

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#52 freeze
October 14 2010, 02:54PM
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Woogie wrote:

Jason,

A friend told me this so I thought I would ask. Is it true that Kipper not only smokes cigarettes however smokes between periods?

***God I hope he doesn't because I have $5.00 on this bet***

I haven't heard that about Kipper but I have heard that about Khabby.

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#53 Jamie B.
October 14 2010, 02:55PM
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It should be a knock on the Oil Kings; ticket prices are the number one reason I don't go to their games.

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#54 Mouse
October 14 2010, 03:17PM
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Dyckster wrote:

Love these articles Jason, keep 'em coming! Even without the Icegirl(s) feature....honest.

Re: Horcoff's goal, right from the 2010-2011 NHL Rulebook - "If an attacking player has the puck deflect into the net, off his skate or body, in any manner, the goal shall be allowed."

Disallowed goal = "(ii) When the puck has been kicked using a distinct kicking motion."

Imho, even though thy Captain's foot moved forward, it's hard to argue it wasn't a deflection. To me, he was putting his foot in the path of the puck, it ultimately entered the net on the forward motion caused by Hall's pass. If the puck's forward propulsion was a direct result of Horc kicking it, then that would be deemed a disallowed goal.

In reference to Horcoff's goal: I seem to remember that you can only redirect the puck into the net, not change the entire direction of the puck.

The example from last year was the disallowed goal by a Sedin where he was flying to the front of the net and started stopping as he got really close to the goalie. The other sister passed her the puck hard from behind the net, it hit her skate and went in. There was no kicking motion, but the issue of thrust was brought up. Since the player completely changed the direction of the puck with her skate, the goal was disallowed. I can still remember the tears of every Canuck fan fondly (even though I had Mrs Daniel Sedin in my pool)

I would have thought the Horcoff goal was the same case, as the puck was not even going towards the net when it hit Horcoff's skate. Not that I am complaining though.

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#55 Archaeologuy
October 14 2010, 03:24PM
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@Mouse

Ha ha ha, I didnt even read it like that until your post.

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#56 I'm a Scientist!
October 14 2010, 03:27PM
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@Mouse

well played sir...

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#57 jake
October 14 2010, 03:39PM
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I think the NHL are scared to death to have to hand out a 5 or 6 games suspension to an Ovechkin, Pronger etc in the playoffs so they temper things during the season.

On Ferraro, agree. He demonstrates he probably has more hockey intelligence than any other analyst out there IMO, and he can really articulate his points.

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#58 jeanshorts
October 14 2010, 03:44PM
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As soon as our pool started I snatched up Big Bob. So far so good. Now if only this unknown "Crosby" kid would start putting some points up.

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#60 MrCondor
October 14 2010, 03:53PM
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Gregor doesn't own an Oilers jersey?

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#61 Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach
October 14 2010, 03:55PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Pominville didn't see the hit coming.

And it doesn't matter what the hit is covered under in my mind, what matters is how they enforce it.

Blindsided hits can be just as dangerous as direct shots to the head. That was my point.

The NHL said they were going to crack down on head shots and blindsided shots. Pominville didn't see the hit coming, so to me that is a blindsided hit. Yes it was boarding, but it was also a blindsided hit.

Those hits need to be cracked down on. It doesn't matter what area you want to put them in. Enforce the rules and hold players accountable for cheap and stupid actions is what the NHL needs to do.

I could be wrong but not seeing the hit coming doesn't really mean that the hit is suspendable, does it?

They were still going to allow hits to heads when guys are skating with their heads down.

Edit: Watched the hit again, you can see Pominville see the hit and turn his head back to looking away. Pominville just stood there. I'd also add that Hjarlmmsson coasted into him from about 20 feet away.

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#62 Pajamah
October 14 2010, 04:21PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Pominville didn't see the hit coming.

And it doesn't matter what the hit is covered under in my mind, what matters is how they enforce it.

Blindsided hits can be just as dangerous as direct shots to the head. That was my point.

The NHL said they were going to crack down on head shots and blindsided shots. Pominville didn't see the hit coming, so to me that is a blindsided hit. Yes it was boarding, but it was also a blindsided hit.

Those hits need to be cracked down on. It doesn't matter what area you want to put them in. Enforce the rules and hold players accountable for cheap and stupid actions is what the NHL needs to do.

~What would Mr.McLeod say if he knew you were posting on here during work Gregor?~

The hardest thing with Hjallmersson (sp?) suspension, is malicious intent. He pinched on the play, because the forward wasn't moving his feet, saw an opportunity to throw a hit (legal if Pominville turns to go up ice) and makes a bone-headed mistake and follows through while the guy is completely unaware.

But there is a difference to that scenario, and him wanting to paste Pominville because of something said/done. We'll never know why he made the hit, whether it was a bad hockey play, or an attempt to hurt him, but that should matter when the Colon Campbell levies out a suspension.

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#63 Banger
October 14 2010, 04:23PM
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WHERE IS GDB?

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#65 Jodes
October 14 2010, 06:13PM
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Mouse wrote:

But that was after I took her in the sauna. Twice.

LOL..

Thats like the Married With Children Episode (I'm trying to remember it all) it goes something like this: Al dreams he's a secret agent and this knockout goes says "Oh Al, don't you recognize me,I'm Yummy AllNight" and Al's like "I bet you're yummy all day too!" Oh wait, now I know who you are, I didn't recognize you dry!"

I can't wait to see that Predators game on Nov 13th.. I hear their Ice Girls are smoking hot..

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#66 Steve Lansky
October 14 2010, 06:26PM
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Gregor,

Please, please, please tell me you are joking about Ray Ferraro. If you are not, I have serious concerns about, well, everything about you.

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#67 dawgbone
October 15 2010, 08:02AM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Pominville didn't see the hit coming.

And it doesn't matter what the hit is covered under in my mind, what matters is how they enforce it.

Blindsided hits can be just as dangerous as direct shots to the head. That was my point.

The NHL said they were going to crack down on head shots and blindsided shots. Pominville didn't see the hit coming, so to me that is a blindsided hit. Yes it was boarding, but it was also a blindsided hit.

Those hits need to be cracked down on. It doesn't matter what area you want to put them in. Enforce the rules and hold players accountable for cheap and stupid actions is what the NHL needs to do.

Any hit can be as dangerous as a direct shot to the head though, we can't ban them all.

The NHL is cracking down on blindside hits to the head. If a guy is skating through the middle of the ice with the puck and is looking the other way and you hammer him shoulder to chest, that is a blindside hit but should be (and is) totally legal.

Even if he falls to the ice and hits his head and gets a concussion, that is (and should remain to be) a legal hit.

The Hit on Pominville is already covered in the rules under boarding (or checking from behind). It was not a blindside hit (for the purpose of the newly implemented rule) because it didn't intentionally target the head. What it was was either boarding or checking from behind which is a completely different rule.

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#68 the-wolf
October 15 2010, 08:58AM
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When are people going to realize that this club is nothing but a mess?

2004 was not the start of something, it was an anomaly. The same as all the other teams that found chemistry and rode a hot goalie until almost the end.

Last season was not an anomaly. That was the trend. Since game 7 in 2006 the Flames have been just a little bit worse every subsequent year until they missed the playoffs last season. Bringing back the same team plus Tanguay is not the solution.

The real problem with this team is that even if all the stars and planets align just perfectly and everyone from Iginla to Jokinen to Tanguay to Bouwmeester hit career year ties or averages, then what?

They'd still run out of gas in the post-season. Even with the perfect match-up in the 1st round, it's highly unlikely they'd ever get past the 2nd round. And next season, with everyone yet another year older? Repeat? Uh-huh. Right. Sure.

And there's the rub. There's no plan, no formula to build a contender. Just scractch and claw and hope things go OK and your goalie drags you into the playoffs "where everyone is automatically a contender." This team is a one year roll of the dice at best, building towards nothing, having no future and no real chance of winning anything. And when the average bear of a fan finally realizes it, those imperssive season ticket numbers won't be so impressive any more.

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#69 the-wolf
October 15 2010, 09:10AM
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2 out of 3 games with no goals.

Alas, I remember it well. Sitting in Flames Central at the Town Hall meeting with Darryl and Ken and a wise man asking why they chose to keep Jokinen over Cammalleri?

"I really like the idea of a 6'3" centre and I think the playoffs (2009)really showed the limitations of a small man in a big man's game," sayeth Darryl-the-wise.

One post-season and 13 goals later and this stuck in the 70's GM is still allowed to run this club into the ground.

A team once built from draft picks and blessed with skill and talent. Now, a complete dearth of picks and a fan base brainwashed into thinking our identity has to be a rough-and-tumble, gritty, western, down-and-dirty yee-hah! team.

Only stat worth looking at: once past the first in 21 years. Trying to stay competitive all the time does not work. Time to rebuild.

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