Sunday, October 26, 2008
People were stunned last week when Montreal GM Bob Gainey suggested that the NHL impose penalties on players who leave their feet to slide on the ice and block shots.
Personally, I think it's a brilliant idea and just the kind of progressive thinking that the NHL needs right now.
It would be similar to the illegal defense in basketball and would increase the amount of shots that make it to the net, especially on the power-play when this type of block is used most. It would be another option to increase offense and fend off further calls for the nets to be made bigger, something that nobody really wants.
Plus, it could actually save lives. Anyone remember Montreal Canadien (and ex-Senator) Trent McCleary taking a puck in the throat and needing an emergency tracheotomy? That was from sprawling on the ice to block a shot. The practice is needlessly dangerous and is only one of a thousand tricks that coaches have at their disposal to further take offense out of the game.
Players would still be able block shots standing up and the excitement of seeing someone risk their body in such a committed manner will be more than made up for in action around the net from more frequent rebounds. And don't worry, Anton Volchenkov will still have a job.
While we're at it, the league should make a few more offensive-friendly changes for next season:
1. Don't let the penalty killing team ice the puck. Why are they allowed to make an otherwise illegal play just because they have a man in the box?
2. Quit consulting goalies on equipment sizing. Just make them smaller and let them bitch and moan all they want afterwards. They have had way too much influence in the game since the mid-90's and are obstructing all attempts to bring sanity back to the issue. Goalie Roberto Luongo, who wears some of the bulkiest equipment in the NHL, actually threatened to retire if they made the nets bigger, perhaps missing the irony in his two-faced stance on the issue. It has to be smaller equipment or larger nets, one or the other. That's the type of voice the league needs to ignore.
The Senators blogosphere now has a new member in Blood Red Army. Looks really good so far, so check them out.
On Hockey Night In Canada's Hot Stove roundtable last night, Al Strachan revealed that Tampa Bay co-owner Len Barrie broke all traditional barriers and was actually in the dressing room mapping out power-play strategies on the chalkboard instead of beleaguered head coach Barry Melrose during one of their games in the Czech Republic against the Rangers.
Co-panelist Mike Milbury at first called Strachan's source, reportedly a player on the Lightning, a "gutless puke" for "talking out of school" but also called Barrie's egregious and unheard of tactic "sickening".
Strachan also went on to say that the over/under on Melrose losing his job was around mid-November. It looks like all the predictions about the Lightning becoming a side-show were prescient and not just sour grapes from the hockey establishment who weren't comfortable with a "bunch of cowboys" doing things differently.
Apparently, Barrie was instrumental in the trade of Dan Boyle to the San Jose Sharks because the two played together when Boyle was just a rookie with the Florida Panther and Barrie didn't like his attitude. The only problem is that was almost ten years ago and it's probably fair to say that the elite defenseman has matured a little since then. Barrie seems to be in a time-zone far away from the rest of the NHL anyways. Melrose might have been the most unlikely candidate to get a job coaching in the NHL again outside of Ivan Hlinka.
More questions were asked when the Lightning picked up Matt Pettinger off waivers from the Vancouver Canucks. Pettinger is actually a business partner of Len Barrie in the Bear Mountain Resort near Victoria.
Lost in the carnival atmosphere is the Calder touted Steve Stamkos. What the hell must this guy be thinking?
He has 0 points in 7 games averaging just over 11 minutes in ice time. If you have money running on the Calder, you might want to switch it over to Jakub Voracek of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Stating the Obvious #1: The Senators need a puck moving defenseman soon or they are going to fade into oblivion.
Stating the Obvious #2: Players like Mike Fisher and Antoine Vermette are likely bargaining chips now that they've finally shown that they cannot provide secondary scoring like their contracts say they should.
Vermette especially seems stale. Not even getting a shot off on that breakaway against Vesa Toskala was brutal to watch. I'm not sure I've ever seen a player with such speed and skill have such stone-hands in my life. If hitting goal-posts and having pucks bounce over your stick in the slot were bankable, Vermie would be living high on the hog.
Slow. That might be one word to describe the 2008-2009 Senators. Sure they have Vermette and Dean McAmmond but no one else would be a candidate for a skating competition at the All-Star Game. Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley seem to succeed despite their skating and the defence is probably the slowest it's been since the mid-1990's.
A player who could help in that department might be Maxim Afinogenov who is apparently on the trading block, but there's no way in hell Darcy Regier would make that deal with a division opponent.
Geez, Martin Havlat would look awfully good in a Senators uniform again wouldn't he? If anything, the Senators seem like they need an infusion of good 'ol European skill players, something they never used to have a shortage of (when they were winning).
But no, you gotta have "character" to play on this team.... I won't go off on that rant again.
The Senators go into Buffalo on Monday night and if you're the squeamish type, I'd avoid watching that one. The Sabres are fast, skilled and confident with great goaltending. The Senators will have to massively overachieve to avoid getting run out of the rink.