Saturday, March 20, 2010

How To: Getting Rid of Rats

brent seabrook blackhawks concussion
It’s almost funny how poorly the NHL’s image has suffered since the Olympics. It didn’t even take a day after I posted about Ovechkin and Cooke for another player to violently injure an opponent. James Wisniewski (not Andy Wozniewski, he sucks even worse), a defenceman for the Anaheim Ducks, raced in from the blueline to deliver a retaliatory check on Chicago Olympian Brent Seabrook. Earlier in the play Seabrook laid out Corey Perry in what maybe should have been a penalty, maybe not. Hard to say really. It certainly wasn’t anything to lose your mind over. The refs didn’t call anything, so Wisniewski took matters into his own hands. Seabrook didn’t have the puck. In fact, the player he passed to had enough time to pass the puck. Seabrook was unsuspecting. To compound the matter, Wisniewski leapt from his feet and launched Seabrook into the boards from a few feet away. Seabrook was out before he hit the ground. It was sickening.

This hit is stupid for multiple reasons. Wisniewski claims he didn’t know Seabrook didn’t have the puck and that he was just finishing his check. Well, if that’s true then I guess it confirms Wisniewski is a player with no hockey sense because it was clear Seabrook didn’t have the puck. Although, when you tunnel in on a player and are looking to take him out you can’t really pay attention to much else. What’s even stupider about this play is that Wisniewski is a defenceman. Why was he below the red line finishing a check when the Hawks had cleared the puck from the zone? Shouldn’t he be on the blueline? Obviously, he was below the red line because he skated there full force to take out Seabrook. No other reason.

What I really hate about these hits and “the Code” is what it says about the player being hit. Corey Perry is 6’3 and 209 lbs. He hits people and he fights. He’s accumulated 105 penalty minutes this year. Just because he’s close to being a point-per-game player doesn’t mean he’s incapable of defending himself. Did Corey Perry react to the hit Seabrook threw? No. If Perry had a problem he would have dealt with it himself. Wisniewski charging in like a lunatic and launching himself at Seabrook is embarrassing to Perry. It suggests that he can’t take a hit. Certainly we’re not at the point in the NHL where you can’t legally hit superstars.

The NHL suspended Wisniewski for 8 games, which is entirely appropriate, but at the same time ridiculous because of the Matt Cooke non-suspension. It’s clear that this was a suspendable offence, but because Colin Campbell made such an egregious error with Matt Cooke there was no way Wisniewski would be sentenced lightly. Campbell was trying to save some face, but ends up looking clueless.

What I really want to talk about today is whether or not these suspensions are actually doing anything. If they aren’t, then how is the NHL supposed to curb the illegal hits plaguing the game of hockey?

The NHL has made 24 suspensions this year. This doesn’t include 3 suspensions given out during the pre-season. Of those 24 suspensions, there are 13 players who are repeat offenders, and three of which have actually been suspended more than once this season. So really, that’s 21 players being suspended, 13 of which are repeat offenders. That’s over 60%. Are suspensions working? Clearly they aren’t.

Most players suspended this year are either marginal NHLers (Maxim Lapierre), rats who’ve someone stuck around this long (Matt Cooke, Tuomo Ruutu), or players that no one would care if they didn’t play (James Wisniewski). Only 5 players are successful NHLers (Alexander Ovechkin, Mike Green, James Neal, Danny Briere, and Ed Jovonoski). That means the majority of the time that a player is suspended it has little or no consequence for their team. Did the Montreal Canadiens seriously worry that Maxim Lapierre was going to miss 4 games? No. He sucks.

If these suspensions don’t actually affect the player's team then how are they supposed to help curb dangerous plays? Teams can just call up someone from the AHL to fill the 3-10 minutes that they will be missing. And this is certainly not a quality 3-10 minutes they are missing, so replacing the offending player isn’t a big deal. Also, the league’s minimum salary ensures that every player makes a small fortune and missing a few games won’t take a large hit from your salary. The players clearly don’t care.

To really make teams pay for their players’ stupidity the league must actually make a punishment that will affect a team’s performance. If a player is suspended the team cannot be allowed to replace that player on the roster. That means they can’t make a call-up and they can’t dress a healthy scratch. They need to play with one less player for the duration of the suspension.

For example, since James Wisniewski is suspended for 8 games the Ducks should be forced to play with only 5 defenceman for all 8 games. When a team loses a defenceman to injury early in a game every other defenceman has to play more minutes and by the end of the game they all look exhausted. Can you imagine having to play like this over a period of 8 games? How will a team respond to a lengthy road trip or playing three games in four nights?

This rule would certainly have more effect when the league suspends a defenceman, since the fourth forward line doesn’t usually play nearly as much as the third defensive pairing. But it would still wear down a forward group. Plus, this would make lesser known players play elevated minutes, which would certainly lead to more opportunities for the opposition. This would ensure that teams of a suspended player are actually punished for their player’s actions.

This rule would make dressing a rat player like Matt Cooke even more dangerous. Instead of being valued for being a player who occasionally crosses the line, these players would become a huge liability for their teams. In a perfect world it would eliminate this type of player from hockey. I don’t think there’s anyone who would mind.

If players continue to play with a lack of respect and teams continue to sign these players then something must be done. The league needs to properly punish both player and team and this is the best way to do so.

1 comment:

brent seabrook said...

fuck the nhl needs to get its shit together with this

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