Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Picking The Bones Clean
Craig Hartsburg is new in town and can't really be expected to know the history (and undeserved baggage) of Jason Spezza in Ottawa like the rest of us.
But when the coach publicly criticised his star player in an honest effort to light a fire under the team, he unwittingly set off a firestorm that was laying dormant, ready to be ignited.
Since his former coach, Jacques Martin, called him a "boy" playing a men's game, Spezza has been one of the main punching bags for irate fans and snarky radio hosts. Now that fellow targets like Wade Redden, Ray Emery and Andrej Meszaros have been shipped out of town, Spezza has the spotlight all to himself and everyone is taking turns getting their cheap shots in.
The criticisms were always never far from anyone's lips but when Hartsburg went public with his tried and true motivating tactic, he seemed to legitimize those ideas and now it's a free-for-all.
Take the radio show "Over The Edge" on the Team 1200.
You get to listen to ex-WWF wrestler Glen Kulka rage and ramble about how Hartsburg should be benching Spezza (?!!?) (despite the fact that Hartsburg singled out Spezza for praise after the Montreal game) and that Ottawa's star players don't work hard enough for his liking.
His cohort Lee Versage does nothing to raise the level of conversation and laughs out loud when Kulka hangs up on callers who disagree with him. When the Senators lose, it's always because they aren't "working hard enough". When they win, they talk about the CFL for three hours.
The resentment towards many of the players on the team has reached epic proportions, flamed by the cliched ramblings of media types like Kulka and Versage who appeal only to the lowest common denominator of fan.
Nobody knows where the PR control is on behalf of the Senators. Roy Mlakar is often on the radio but he doesn't lift a finger to defend any of his players against these types of unfounded attacks. Bryan Murray doesn't defend anyone except Martin Gerber. Yes, these are big boys and they can take the heat, but what kind of atmosphere are we creating in this city for hockey? Is it even fun anymore for people?
Someone who is respected by the fans and media, like Daniel Alfredsson or Mike Fisher, needs to step up and defend their teammates before this ugly and negative atmosphere totally engulfs the franchise like it did last season and starts turning off the casual fans from buying tickets.
And don't tell me it's the same in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal when their teams are losing. I've lived in all three of those cities and it never gets as personal and vindictive as it does in Ottawa. Those cities appreciate skilled players and tend to stay loyal, even during the hard times.
In Ottawa, it's just a continual exercise in character assasination. It must be tiresome for all these "experts" to be so angry all the time.
It's just a game after all, isn't it?
It's seems to be half and half.
Some are repulsed by Jarkko Ruutu's waving to the Montreal crowd routine and some are amused.
I'm definitely in the latter. Some people take this game way too seriously.
It was funny.
The same way it was funny when Alfredsson pretended to throw his stick into the stands in Toronto.
If Ruutu really upset you by doing that, your pants are on way too tight.
Speaking of being uptight, some people are actually complaining that this amazing goal by Mike Ribiero on Tuesday night could be illegal (because of the non-forward momentum of the puck). What? I'm not sure what he was doing with that "shush" thing towards the L.A. bench afterwards though. Ribeiro has always been a bit of a hot dog, and not in a good way. Still a beauty goal though.
The crusade continues:
I wrote about how the NHL should honor some of it's more modern greats by renaming some of it's major trophies back in May and now Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night In Canada has written a really good piece on the same subject.
I only suggested 3 changes - the Hart to the (Gordie) Howe, the Art Ross to the (Wayne) Gretzky and the Norris to the (Bobby) Orr. Friedman ended up making the same choices (no-brainers) but he goes much further and wants to rename virtually every trophy except the Masterton.
I would be a little more careful than that but it's still a good idea whose time has come.