As you can imagine, last Friday night's Penguins-Islanders brawl and the ensuing reaction dominated this week's rant blog. Let's take a look:
gcetti: Since it was Friday, I kept my kid up late so he could watch the Islanders/Pens game with me. Tell me, NHL -- how do I explain to him what he just saw? And how do I get him excited about hockey after watching that?
My take: I wouldn't let my 2-year-old watch that particular game, that's for sure. Big hits, a game-changing fight, that's part of the game. Last Friday night's goonery? It was sickening.
BluelineBouncer: Mario Lemieux is the one that has failed. How can he come out with such a strong statement about a lack of punishment against the Islanders but at the same time have nothing to say about having Matt Cooke on the team? I guess if no one ever started a fight with a Penguin or concussed a Penguin, but Cooke continued to do so, Super Mario would have no problem, right? What a joke! I'm tired of anyone coming out and complaining about fighting/concussions without holding their own players to the same standard.
My take: If you read Scott Burnside's column on Mario from Monday, you would have seen the same complaint. Still, even though it's a little rich for Lemieux to complain only when his team is victimized, his voice on this matter still resonates, in my opinion. I am still surprised Matt Martin didn't receive more than four games, for example. That was a Todd Bertuzzi-like sucker-punch, without the same result. I would have given Martin 10-plus games.
burgh4life87: I have seen and heard everything about Friday's embarrassment to the NHL, but I have never seen a player throw an elbow into someone's face, then drop the gloves and attack him, then to add another insult stand there and scream at him while he lay on the ice with a concussion. I know everyone on here uses [Matt Cooke] as their argument against Penguins fans, but that was something I have never seen and would never want to see again. How does that even happen? It wasn't a case of revenge, or fighting back. It was one of the single dirtiest things I have seen in hockey.
My take: I would have given Trevor Gillies 20 games.
StarZoneX: I am sure lots of folks are going off today on Penguins-Islanders issues. What bothers me from the commentary is the clichéd ranting, with a lack of thought directed towards solutions. Lemieux is a great illustration. He obviously is not happy with the punishment, but he makes no mention of solutions or desired outcomes. Which is why I thought Burnside's article this morning hit the nail right on the head. Looking through the comments, it is unfortunate many of the folks commenting do not agree.
There are a variety of fights in the NHL -- spontaneous fights from questionable hits/acts during a game to message sending (Malkin-Zetterberg in 2009, which I felt was the closer analogy to Pens-Islanders than Cooke) to acts of blatant retribution. How the NHL can effectively and non-arbitrarily distinguish between these should be the real discussion. The line is that fuzzy, which means if you want games like Friday out of the picture you need to look at fighting in general. And not just ranting about inconsistencies by the NHL and what not.
My take: You know what? It may be time to ask the toughest question of all when it comes to this sport: Do we still need fighting in hockey? I spent the first half of my career loving the fisticuffs. Now, in recent years, I see myself distancing myself from it. Is it because I became a father two years ago? Am I just getting soft in my older age? I don't know, but I just don't see the value of fighting in hockey anymore.
genemullett: I know ESPN writers love raggin' on Columbus. Keep it up. No one is getting the memo.
My take: I believe a certain Mr. LeBrun raised the Blue Jackets up in this week's Power Rankings!
omgduckett: I'm sick of the Hurricanes' defense. As much as I love Cam Ward, and he's been incredible this season, he still doesn't need to be taking 40-plus shots a game and 1,622 shots this season. Rutherford needs to make some moves soon, as the Hurricanes are in 8th place and in playoff contention. Never drafting defensemen seems to be biting Carolina in the butt now. I'd be content with them trading Samsonov, Pitkanen (too offensive), Ryan Carter (he hasn't really fit in at Carolina). Some guys like that, to get a big D-man in, as Gleason is our only big defensive defenseman.
My take: Carolina does give up a lot of rubber, but I don't see a knight in shining armor arriving by the Feb. 28 trade deadline. There's a budget to follow in Carolina, and there won't be any expanding of it this season.
BradytoMossconnection: It seems like whenever the Bruins are about to take their season to the next level, they torture fans with outings like the past two with Detroit. I know Detroit is a great club, but c'mon, that was a poor effort. What gives? And what do you see for the B's at thde deadline? Center? Puck-moving D? Is Yandle even a possibility?
My take: It's interesting because I, too, figured the B's would really take off on a nice streak after that emotional win over Montreal and be buoyed by that team-bonding night. Of course, a home-and-home against the Red Wings can be a buzz-kill. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli is on the lookout for a top-six center and a top-four blueliner, if possible, before Feb. 28.
canesfan9467: I'm tired of people saying Stamkos doesn't deserve the Hart Trophy because of the fantastic year Martin St. Louis is having. And yeah, St. Louis is having an amazing year. But look at it this way, without Marty, Stammer would be out a quite bit of goals. But without Stammer, Tampa would not be the contender they are. The both of them make Tampa so much better. Downie has finally become a legitimate scoring threat and the Gagne-Lecavalier-Purcell line has been red hot as of late. Is it about time we just say this is Stamkos' year to win the Hart and put St. Louis in the top five?
My take: You make a good point. It'll be interesting to see who we (Professional Hockey Writers' Association) end up handing the Hart to after Sidney Crosby's concussion injury opened up the race. I ranked Ryan Kesler first last week in our Trophy Tracker. He's a dark horse, but I wanted to draw people's attention to the kind of season he is having. Stamkos and Tim Thomas are the front-runners at this point. I still think Nicklas Lidstrom should get more of a look, as well.
peaceprz898: That Rangers rant last week completely bothered me. How can our fans be angry at a 6-game losing streak (well, it was 4 at the time), when the Blueshirts have done nothing but exceed expectations all season long? These guys are super young and are learning! For years, the Rangers bought overpriced free agents in their decline, and were ultimately unwatchable. Now they have a young, enthusiastic, hard-working team that is as fun to watch as any Ranger team I have seen. There will be some bumps in the road, and this was really the first one! ... Torts should be a Jack Adams candidate for the work he's done with this squad. ... Be patient Rangers fans, we're heading in the right direction!
My take: I believe that's just what I said last week in response to the Rangers rants. Be well.
dop3man: The devils are hands down the hottest team in the NHL, taking down the penguins, flyers, sharks, etc during their streak, but yet nobody, whether at ESPN or even in "fanland," seems to either care or notice. My questions are as follows: Why does nobody see to care? What do you think is the reason for the hot streak? Will they make it to the playoffs?
My take: Dude, read the site once in a while. Check out this piece we did on the red-hot Devils last Thursday night!
Go_Leafs1984: LeBrun! I can't take it anymore! Every time I watch a Canucks game that's being played in Canada the crowd cheers for every save that Luongo makes. Please explain the "Looouuu" chants to me. Surely they can't be a result of the Olympics? The tournament that I remember featured an American goaltender by the name of Ryan Miller who had an entire nation (that isn't Canada or Russia) absolutely in love with hockey. In that same tournament I remember Luongo being merely good enough. ... If all of Canada is cheering for the sub-par performance of Luongo, then perhaps the U.S. should build a monument to Miller.
My take: They were chanting Bobby Lu's name way before the 2010 Olympics, my friend. Just a display of affection for the French-Canadian-Italian stallion.
under the fish: I have a big problem with the delay of game penalties that result from knocking a puck out of play. Before the rule changes, I don't ever recall seeing pucks flying out of play every time a team wanted to get out of a jam, so why was it necessary to implement this penalty? It seems excessive to give a power play to the opposing team just because a player accidentally put a little too much mustard on the puck. ... Additionally, it seems like it most often happens when a team is on the penalty kill and is trying to clear the puck, making that additional penalty and resulting 5-on-3 that much more deadly. All because someone took an imperfect whack at the puck.
My take: The idea with the penalty was that it would further pressure a team on the ropes in its defensive zone and lead to more scoring chances for the opposing forechecking team. The theory being that if you can't clear the puck out over the glass, you take a bigger chance by keeping it in play and allowing it to be intercepted. Keep in mind the rule changes that came into effect after the 2005 lockout were all aimed at opening up the game.
dflude: Something needs to be done about overtime rules! I'm not talking about shootouts -- I know there are a lot of purists who hate them, and I understand their point of view, but this is about OT games artificially inflating point totals. As a fan of the Ducks (one of the many teams involved in the giant mess that is the Western Conference playoff picture), I dread seeing those 3-point games pop up on the scoreboard. It's ridiculous that some games are worth more than others. I'd be OK with going back to an all-or-nothing format, with OT wins counting for two points and OT losses earning nothing. But I'd much rather see the league, if they want to maintain a no-ties policy, go to a 3-2-1-0 format, where a regulation win earns three points rather than two. Wouldn't that make a lot more sense?
My take: You are preaching to the converted, my friend. I've long supported this solution: three points for a regulation win, two points for OT/shootout win, one point for OT/SO loss. The best teams would rise to the top of the standings with the better teams who win most of their games in regulation also getting rewarded.