Around the league- Jan 21, 2010

Much of the talk this past week in the hockey world revolved around another ridiculously stupid play in junior hockey. Patrice Cormier elbowed Mikael Tam with a disgustingly cheap elbow in overtime that left Tam convulsing on the ice. It wasn’t pretty, and Cormier will learn his fate this Monday.

There is no way he shouldn’t be suspended for the remainder of the season and the playoffs, but then it becomes a professional issue.

Back in November Erie Otter forward Michael Liambas crushed Ben Fanelli of the Kitchener Rangers, and was subsequently suspended for the remainder of the year by OHL commissioner, David Branch.

Liambas was a 20-year-old overage player, and some wondered if Branch was trying to make a statement rather than a fair decision. Either way, Liambis was done in the OHL. The problem is he signed with the Bloomington Prairie Thunder in the IHL. I know the NHL isn’t directly affiliated with the IHL, but you can’t tell me that a phone call to Bloomington could have stopped this signing.

Cormier, was the 54th pick in the 2008 draft by the New Jersey Devils, and Lou Lamoriello already said he doesn’t think Cormier should be suspended for the year. So if Cormier is suspended what will stop the Devils from letting him play in the AHL?

The NHL has to support whatever decision is made on Monday. If Cormier is suspended for the remainder of the season, that has to include playing in the ECHL, AHL and the NHL.

If Cormier gets the boot for the rest of the season — and he should — and he ends up in Albany what has he learned? It’s okay to cheap shot guys, because I can get a head start on my pro career and make money instead of riding the bus and taking home $50 a week? Not a great message.

Gary Bettman, aka the Count, was in Edmonton last night and he didn’t discuss this issue direcly, but he better support QMJHL commissioner, Gilles Courteau’s decision on Monday.

Last night Bettman was his usual evasive self when discussing head shots.

“When it comes to hit to the head, there’s been an evolution. This issue for us is what can we do about what is otherwise a legal check… a shoulder going into a head? We have studied it very carefully and extensively. We want to get it right. We average 40 hits a game. That is somewhere in excess of 50,000. It’s an essential element to our game.

“We want to get those hits that make us uncomfortable out of the game. But we want to do this in a very judicious, professional way,” said Bettman.

We all see that it is hard to make sweeping changes, Gary, but if have been watching what all of us have been watching how come you haven’t implemented any changes yet?

He continued on…

“I think the consensus is that when a player is the subject of an unsuspecting hit to the head when he’s vulnerable there should be something we can do to create a standard that anybody understands and that everybody is comfortable with that doesn’t change the very fundamentals of our game. We need to take the time and create a very precise standard, something that’s easily understood and something the players know what to expect. Something that the officials know what to call and if necessary Colin Campbell knows how he’s going to discipline.

“We’re looking for precision. Not over-legislation. We will have ample time in March and hopefully we can come to some sort of consensus. It is important and it is something we take extremely seriously because it starts with the premise that we want to protect the well being of our players.”

I’m just curious why this is taking so long? Why is there ample time in March, but not in November, December or January? Is it because all your focus was on the outdoor classic Gary? Or now it is on the Olympics? The teams have been chosen, and there is a two-week break in February. Why can’t meetings take place before March?

This might be Gary’s most important decision so maybe it is good they are taking so long to decide which way to go. You can’t take hitting out of the game, or you’ll make it unwatchable, even for Canadians.

But the commissioner needs to move quicker on this subject. If the GMs and players are dragging their feet it is up to the leader to ensure a decision is made. I’m guessing in March the decision will be to re-visit it in the summer when the playoffs are over.

Ice women of the week

   

She isn’t part of any team, but Katie Cassidy is a fan of the NHL and the Los Angeles Kings. She is also dating former Oiler Jarret Stoll.

Random thoughts

  • Flames fans have lost it. They were calling for Jarome Iginla to be traded on the airwaves this week. Iginla’s numbers have gone down the past four seasons, but he isn’t the problem. Darryl Sutter’s insistence on stocking his team and farm system with defencemen, while completely ignoring getting some offensive stars is killing that team. The Flames will struggle to make the playoffs, or have another first round exit unless he moves Robyn Regehr or Dion Phaneuf for a proven scorer.
  • I wonder if people still think Brian Burke is a great GM. Not only did he give up a first rounder in 2010 for Phil Kessel. He also gave up a second rounder this year and another first rounder in 2011. That might become the worst trade in NHL history. His arrogance in believing he knows more than everyone else will bite him hard this time.
  • The Canadiens have told George Laraque to go home for the remainder of the season, and then they will by out the final season of his contract this summer. It is rare that a team tells a guy to go home for the final 30 games of the season, but is sends a pretty clear message. Laraque doesn’t want to play the role of tough guy anymore. I can’t blame him because it is the toughest job in sports, but he isn’t a good enough player to stay in the game if he doesn’t intimidate. This should make him realize that if he wants to play again he’ll have to find the fire necessary to be an enforcer/intimidator.
  • If Ilya Kovalchuk thinks he is worth eight million per season he is dreaming. He has never led his team to a playoff victory, and his overall game isn’t close to Ovechkin or Crosby. At the MOST he should be a seven million cap hit. If Don Waddell truly believes he can’t re-sign him then he will be the most sought after commodity leading up to March 3rd.
  • Last night Taylor Hall stood out more than Tyler Seguin and some think he cemented himself as the #1 pick this summer. But when you look at their numbers in head-to-head games this season Seguin has dominated. Seguin’s Plymouth Whalers have faced Hall and his Windsor Spitfires five times this season.
    >> Windsor won 4-0 on October 17th and Hall had one assist.
    >> On Nov 12th, Windsor won 4-2 and Hall had a goal. Seguin was injured.
    >> Nov 25th, Windsor won 2-1 while Seguin had an assist and Hall was shutout.
    >> Jan 2nd, Plymouth won 4-3 with Seguin scoring a goal and adding two assists. Hall was in Regina for the WJC.
  • This Monday they faced each other for the first time since the WJC and the Whalers won 7-4. Hall had an assist while Seguin potted two goals and a helper.
  • They face each other two more times before the playoffs, Feb 25th and March 11th. Hall has a much better supporting cast than Seguin, but talking with three scouts who watched the game last night, they still don’t think it is a slam dunk that Hall is the first pick. Two of the three I spoke with like Seguin more. It should be an interesting six months leading up to the draft on June 25th.
  • In case you are wondering the Oiler record for lowest +/- is -29 held by Joffrey Lupul. Dave Manson was -28 in 92/93 when the Oilers set the franchise record for fewest points, 60. But maybe the worst all-time was Vladimir Ruzicka who was an astonishing -21 in only 26 games in 1989/1990, the last time the Oilers won the Cup. No surprise he didn’t play in the playoffs. Shawn Horcoff is currently -22 and Patrick O’Sullivan is -21.

Leader through the season

Here are the top ten in pts, goals, assists and other stats.

Goals:
34: Patrick Marleau
32: Sidney Crosby
30: Alex Ovechkin and Ilya Kovalchuk
29: Dany Heatley and Marian Gaborik
25: Steven Stamkos
23: Rick Nash and Mike Cammalleri
22: Alex Burrows and Bobby Ryan
***There is only 20 players with 20+ goals in the NHL right now and each conference has ten guys with 20 or more goals.***

Assists:
51: Joe Thornton
49: Henrik Sedin
43: Brad Richards
42: Martin St. Louis
38: Mike Green and Tomas Plekanec
37: Tomas Kaberle
36: Patrick Kane
35: Nicklas Backstrom, Paul Stastny, Ryan Getzlaf, Duncan Keith and Ovechkin
***Ovechkin is the only player in the top ten in both goals and assists. He had six assists this past week.****

Points:
70: H. Sedin
65: Ovechkin
64: Thornton
63: Crosby
61: Gaborik
57: B. Richards
56: Kovalchuk and Kane
55: Heatley and Backstrom
***Gaborik had seven points this week.***

Plus/Minus:
+27: Ovechkin
+26: Jeff Schultz.
+22: Brent Seabrook
+21: Christian Ehrhoff, Burrows and H.Sedin
+20: Zach Parise
+19: Marleau, Green and Backstrom
*** Rod Brind’Amour has recaptured the Green Jacket and lost his captaincy this week. He is -23, followed closely by Shawn Horcoff at -22 and Patrick O’Sullivan at -21.

PP Goals:
Twelve: Gaborik and Heatley
Ten: Kovalchuk and Marleau
Nine: Ryan Smyth, Steven Stamkos, Mike Richards and Evgeni Malkin.Eight: John Tavares, Niclas Bergfors, Andrew Brunette, Mason Raymond, Bill Guerin, Bobby Ryan and Crosby.

Hits:
192: Cal Clutterbuck
179: Dustin Brown
177: Ryan Callahan
174: Stephane Robidas
166: Steve Ott
153: Brooks Orpik
149: Doug Murray and Mike Fisher
147: Justin Abdelkader and Scott Neil
***Brown and Callahan each had 18 hits this week***

Shots:
217: Parise
209: Ovechkin
206: Jeff Carter
188: Rick Nash and Crosby
186: Marleau
181: Malkin
180: Phil Kessel
178: Gaborik
176: Michael Cammalleri

Final points

I referenced ethics last week in this spot and I haven’t forgot about it, but you’ll have to wait a bit longer before we can discuss it. I think I know what most of you would want, but I could be wrong. We will see.

  • GSP

    Jason..with respect to the ethical issue that you alluded to..I think it has to do with some information that you have that you would think the public should have..but the "journalism" code is keeping you from doing so.

    Will be interesting to hear what it is and what people's opinions are. I guess if that is the issue..you have to be careful as you dont want to burn your sources and not be privy to similar type of info in the future..Just my thoughts based on the limited info we have.

    I think the Oilers should try and stockpile as many picks as they can when trading away players. I remember the Kings having a stupid number of picks a couple of years ago and look at them now..a good model to follow for sure.

    • danjo1

      This ethics thing has me curious too. It's purely a guess but I have a feeling that something will be "leaked" to the media regarding a certain ex-player who resembles a gardening tool (and it's not a hoe).

  • Librarian Mike

    Tambellini: "Hey Kovi, do I have a deal for you. You can come play for a team that's even farther away from success than the one you're on now. The best part though is:……you get to do it in -30 degree weather!"

    Kovalchuk: "Where do I sign?"

    ~