Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Canadiens extend Marc Bergevin's contract to 2022.

NHL general managers are notorious, to the point of satire, for speaking of 'five-year plans' with respect to their teams, how they need that time to amass all the necessary pieces through the draft and subsequent development of prospects, before they can ice a team that's a legitimate contender.  In Québec, there is much mirth about the never-ending 'plan quinquennal' for the Canadiens since the mid-nineties, a rolling five-year period that has declared start dates but whose end date is ever further in the future.

Well, Marc Bergevin now has plenty of time to accomplish this five-year plan, having seen his contract extended by the Canadiens until 2022, which will be ten years after his hire.

We joke, but as fans of the Canadiens we can't be anything but pleased with the performance of the GM since he's been in charge.  Many of the glaring issues which I identified in an early post have been addressed effectively.  The Canadiens now have a team of bright hockey men in charge, with a strong leader for a team of equals, instead of the autocratic régime of Bob Gainey and Pierre Gauthier, stretched thin and making impulsive, ill-fated decisions.

The approach has been everything I could have dreamed.  The biggest priority has been instilling a winning culture in the team, from the top down.

Instead of knee-jerk decisions and panic trades, the focus has been on amassing prospects and spending a lot of resources on player development.  A whole new arm has been created under Martin Lapointe, relieving the pressure on Trevor Timmins, who had to wear this hat previously and keep tabs on prospects under Pierre Gauthier.  Now, he can focus on amateur scouting, and Martin Lapointe takes care of the players already in the fold.

To amass these prospects and players, Marc Bergevin, with the blessing of owner Geoff Molson, has beefed up the scouting departments, both amateur and pro.  Finds like Dale Weise and Jeff Petry can be traced to this new emphasis on pro scouting.

The organization is spending its vast revenue on the players, making sure they have everything they need, instead of funneling profits in the pockets of a rapacious owner.  The players notice, constantly referring to how good they have it, how everything is first-class.

And this bleeds through to the players' families.  We now see that they want to be in Montréal, they're not aching to leave at the first opportunity.  Jeff Petry's new contract came about in large part due to the support of his wife, who loved the new digs and wanted to stay here if possible.  We heard how Erik Cole's and Hal Gill's families were disappointed at having to leave.

These are just a few reasons to applaud the extension afforded to Marc Bergevin.  There is a sense that every resource, every effort is being expended to build a winning team, and a strong organization.  A plan appears to be in place, a systematic approach, rather than just a team treading water and waiting for happy accidents to occur.

A word about ownership, with President Geoff Molson providing a supportive, stable organization for the team to thrive.  He said at the outset that no expense would be spared to build a winner, and he's been true to his word.  Beyond the player salaries, which are governed by a cap and floor system anyway, ownership has invested heavily in the team, in terms of facilities and personnel.

But Geoff Molson has done more.  In every appearance, every public utterance, he has shown that the team is the first concern, not him.  He's not a grandstanding, meddling owner à la Jeremy Jacobs or Jim Irsay.  He's humble and deferential, and always speaks of the team, and the fans and the community's attachment to the team.

Seeing Johnny Manziel's latest escapade, I couldn't help be reminded how it was the Browns' owner Jimmy Haslam who made the decision to draft him, and how Jerry Jones admitted he needed to be restrained to prevent him from making a "big bold move" and picking Manziel earlier in the first round.

This kind of interference is unknown in Montréal, certainly when it comes to Geoff Molson, and his steady, understated leadership, as well as decisions such as recruiting and retaining Marc Bergevin, bode well for the future.

Canadiens, Bruins announce rosters for the Winter Classic Alumni Game

The Canadiens and Bruins have revealed their rosters for the Alumni Game that will be held before the Winter Classic.
Bruins Alumni Roster     Canadiens Alumni Roster
PJ Axelsson     Donald Audette
Bob Beers     Christian Bordeleau
Ray Bourque     Francis Bouillon
Rob DiMaio     Benoit Brunet
Tom Fergus     Patrice Brisebois
Hal Gill     Guy Carbonneau
Steve Heinze     Lucien Deblois
Al Iafrate     Gilbert Delorme
Brian Leetch     Eric Desjardins
Reggie Lemelin     Normand Dupont
Ken Linseman     Gaston Gingras
Rick Middleton     Rick Green
Jay Miller     Mike Keane
Cam Neely     Alex Kovalev
Terry O'Reilly     Sergio Momesso
Andrew Raycroft     Mats Naslund
Mark Recchi     Chris Nilan
Sergei Samsonov     Lyle Odelein
Marco Sturm     Oleg Petrov  
Bob Sweeney     Stephane Quintal
Don Sweeney     Stephane Richer
Tim Sweeney     Larry Robinson
Glen Wesley     Richard Sevigny
      Steve Shutt
      Jose Theodore
Bruins Coaching Staff     Canadiens Coaching Staff
Lyndon Byers     Simon Arsenault
Don Cherry     Yvan Cournoyer 
Stan Jonathan     Jacques Demers
Don Marcotte     Stéphane Gauthier
Tom McVie     Réjean Houle
Mike Milbury     Guy Lafleur
Derek Sanderson      
Bruins Honorary Coaches
John Bucyk
Eddie Sandford

Some comments:

1)  I feared the Bruins would cheat, obviously, and stack their roster with recently-retired players, younger players who gave them a greater chance to win.  On first perusal, there's no real smoking gun, there are some names from the seventies and eighties, so I'll lower my pre-emptively raised hackles.

Although I see a note at the bottom of the press release stating that:
These rosters are current as of Nov. 24 – additions or changes may be made leading up to the game.
So you know I'll be checking behind the curtains and under the bed and be hyper-suspicious of any wheeled wooden horses right up until puck drop.

2)  Steve Shutt and Larry Robinson!  I know Larry in his current role with the Sharks probably spends a lot of time on skates, but I don't know how nimble Shutty is going to be.  He'll probably have to up his game in the dressing room, contribute in that manner.  Not merely be 'good in the room', but great.  Should be manageable for the quipster.

3)  Francis Bouillon will be our cheater, he could probably still play in Europe right now.

4)  Richard Sévigny and José Théodore in nets, no André 'Red Light' Racicot, so we should be fine in goal.  I would have brought in Jocelyn Thibault, he's the emergency practice goalie for the Canadiens now, should still be sharp.

5)  Isn't Stéphane Quintal more of a Bruin than a Canadien?  At least, that was my sense until I looked it up, and found that he spent barely four seasons in Boston, around 150 games played with some time in the AHL, and seven full seasons with the Canadiens over two stints.

6)  Chris Nilan to handle the nastiness.  I fully expect there'll be a real fight, not the good-natured pantomime we often see.  Jay Miller, the Bruins' worthless goon they somehow found reason to include in the proceedings, will be going down hard.

7)  Wait, that leaves Sergio Momesso to handle Terry O'Reilly and Rob DiMaio.  And Stan Jonathan and Linden Byers on the bench.  We're outmanned!  Damn dirty Bruins.

8)  And Ken 'The Rat' Linseman, the original rat against which all are measured.  What, couldn't they spring Nevin Markwart out of jail for this too?

9)  I'm on the record that I hate the name 'Sweeney', it gives me the creeps somehow, maybe it's too close to 'swine' and/or 'sheeny', something like that, that it just rubs me the wrong way.

I now realize there's more to it, there have been three Bruins named Sweeney for me to hate over the years.

10)  Fossil Zdeno Chara should by all rights slide right into that game, and then disappear forever.

I honestly don't know which game I want to win more, the Winter Classic itself or the Alumni Game.

Oh, who'm I kidding.  I desperately want to win both

Monday, 23 November 2015

Game 22: Canadiens 4, Islanders 2

The Canadiens win the return match of the home-and-home against the Islanders 4-2, and sweep the season series.

--I'll say it again, I didn't quite understand how good the production values were on "La Soirée du Hockey" and "Hockey Night in Canada", even though I often spouted that they were.  I didn't realize how flawless, how slick those programs were until the clowns from Rogers got their fervid hands on the wheel.

--Did anyone else catch sight of those two dudes sitting at the studio desk, playing with microphones, checking their phones, modeling their beards?  Because unless I was hallucinating, this was beamed out to the entire nation, for half a minute or so.  No sound or nothing, just dead air, and the wrong camera feed sent to air by the director.

Once I realized that this wasn't just a blip, something that'd get corrected in a second or so, I hoped and prayed that one of the hipsters would start picking his nose or something.

--Is no one minding the store at Sportsnet?  Are they trying to 'do more with less', running with a skeleton crew of mostly unpaid interns, the savings to be had by offloading call centres to Asia not enough to keep the corpse of Ted Rogers in ivory backscratchers?  Don't they have a person watching what actually comes out of the final pipe?  Were they being hacked by Anonymous?

--Is Gary Bettman as "extraordinarily comfortable" with his decision to entrust his product, our national game, to those bozos for a dozen years, as he claimed to be with the decision to not levy a suspension on Zdeno Chara for his gameofthronesing of Max Pacioretty?

--Gary Galley, the brainless spokespout for NHL culture, lionizes Matt Martin for running over David Desharnais, but fails to mention that he led with his elbow so far out he looked like a frigging unicorn out there.  The refs 'didn't see it', therefore it didn't happen I guess.  The video tape lies.

Earlier, he tut-tutted that David Desharnais had almost turned over the puck while wheeling around behind his net.  What didn't catch his eye, since he's the proverbial insensate frog in the pot of water that's slowly being brought to a boil, was how an Islander forward had taken three hookslashes at his sideshandspants.  That wasn't a penalty, a reason to object, that's par for the course in Nick Kypreos' NHL.  That's defensive hockey.

It's not wrong in his or most boiling frogs' mind that the player three strides behind the puck carrier, the player who is beaten, is allowed to fish and hook and hack at the guy who's trying to do something with the puck.

--Yet let's consternate about how scoring is down.  After we're done elbowing Sidney Crosby in the face, let's try to address that issue.  Let's strike a committee with Brian Burke and Colin Campbell to work on this.

--Two fractured fingers for Brendan Gallagher, who'll have surgery tomorrow, and whose absence will best be calculated in weeks rather than days.  Alex Semin, Bud Holloway, Sven Andrighetto, answer the phone.

--I don't want Greg Pateryn to come out of the lineup.  He provides some pushback, a bit of physical menace, but not at a cost like Douglas Murray exacted.  Greg can move, he's reasonably handy with the puck, and getting shots on net.  We can't ask for much more from him.

--I've held off for a while on commenting on Tomas Fleischmann, afraid his bubble might burst maybe, but now I'm sold.  What an acquisition.  A really smart player, good puck skills, and his line is just humming along.

--I've slowly begun regretting that René Bourque never got a chance to play right wing with David Desharnais.  If anyone could have gotten him going, David was the guy.

--Cool celebration by Alex after his powerplay goal, spontaneous and authentic, and I really liked how it drew in the people in the vicinity, how they reacted to Chucky and cheered with him.

--Some will gripe that Max is getting all his goals on empty nets, and he seems a little bit sheepish about it judging from his post-game comments, but I want him to keep it up.  Last year we were never quite able to put these games away, we'd scramble to the last second and eat some board dasher along the way.  I like how this year Tomas Plekanec and Max are out there in the dying seconds foiling opponents and dishing out le coup de grâce.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Nobody gets hurt in hockey fights? Ask Luca Sbisa.

Canadiens fans are not the only ones that generally think that fighting and 'toughness' in hockey is overhyped, even glorified by the talking heads, and plays against the long-term health of hockey and the NHL.

Case in point was last night's game between the Canucks and Jets, a big team that uses a thumping style and some level of intimidation to try to win games.  During the first period, Luca Sbisa caught Jet rookie Nikolaj Ehlers with a mostly clean, jarring hit in the Jet zone.

Some might argue that it was worth a penalty at all, that it was a clean hit that separated a player from the puck.

In any case, Mr. Sbisa served a minor penalty for a check to the head, and the Jets made the Canucks pay, scoring a powerplay goal to go up 1-0.

Justice served, right?  A Canuck went over the line in the eyes of the refs, was sent to the box, and they subsequently gave up the initial goal.  Don't do it again.  Message delivered.

Except, this is the NHL, and there's a 'Code'.  And the Jets carry a player like Anthony Peluso, a 6'2", 235 lbs enforcer who has 3 goals in his NHL career, and 39 over his four-year OHL career.  He has to justify his job, his roster spot somehow.

So despite Luca Sbisa having served his penalty, after leaving the box and playing a shift, he found himself in the corner with Mr. Peluso, getting crosschecked and mugged, and had to drop the gloves to defend himself.

A wag on social media was driven to remark this last night:
"Jeeze. What the heck was Sbisa thinking taking on Peluso? Guy can take a beating though."
My thoughts exactly.  Luca Sbisa is a Top 4 defenceman in the current Canucks lineup, and shouldn't be fighting fringe fourth-line goons.  Especially when they outweigh him by thirty pounds.

And that's the point.  Luca Sbisa is a little bit like Alexei Emelin, a guy who plays rough and dishes out hits, but doesn't fight.  And he shouldn't have to, especially on legal hits, or hits that he's been penalized for.  But, as Don Cherry will reverently intone, he had to 'answer the bell'.

And predictably for Luca, it didn't go well for him, he took several solid punches to the head and face, to the point that the play-by-play guys, both TV and radio, commented during the scrap that the linesmen should jump in and break this up, that Mr. Sbisa was in trouble.

He played a couple more shifts, but had to leave the game later.  Today, it's announced that he suffered a "fight-related" injury and is out indefinitely.

Alex Semin, in one game, works himself out of the lineup.

The coach is the boss, he's the one who pays with his job when he loses too many games, so I understand that he'll put the best team he can on the ice in order to do that, win the next game, rather than look at the long-term view, or even the medium term.  But I'm surprised that Alex Semin wasn't given a longer trial period, after sitting out seven games.

From the get-go, I expected Alex to be a somewhat oblong peg that we'd have to hammer into a round hole, it wouldn't be an easy fit, probably.  He's being brought in precisely because he has a different skill set, he brings something to the team that it doesn't have.  Kind of like when George Parros and Douglas Murray were brought in, you know what you're getting, you'll live with the shortcomings to benefit from their contribution in other areas.

Sure, he's not a forechecking menace or a burner like Pavel Bure, but his creativity, his ability to hold on to the puck and be unpredictable, to go through C to get to B, was a wildcard on our roster, a changeup in a fastball pitcher's arsenal.  We lacked a certain amount of finish, of skill in the Top 6 when looking at our lineup on June 30.  He was brought in to try to address that, a 'beau risque'.

I don't think that a one-game trial after sitting out seven games was a fair chance for him to continue his adaptation to his new team, the new system, his linemates.  He can be forgiven for being antsy, nervous in his return to the ice.  He didn't really have a a chance to get into a groove.

He certainly didn't help his case with a bad penalty in the third period against the Canucks.  That doesn't inspire confidence in his decision-making.  The RDS staff raised an eyebrow when they reported that he had skipped the optional morning skate on Monday.  You'd think he would have tried to put his best foot forward, got some advice from Andrei about this and realized that he should make an appearance.

The thing about social media is you read something over and over again, and it starts to sound true, it's certainly truthy.  I don't know if he is indeed so slow because he's 'finished', because he doesn't have the leg strength anymore, but based on some of the lowlights Monday, you can see how that might be what we're driven to conclude.

But again, as a fan, I was advocating a ten to twenty game trial, to allow him to get or remain in game shape, to get in rhythm, to figure things out.

Yet the coaches are the ones who know the player best, are closest to this.  They get a feel for whether he's pointed in the right direction.  They can tell if he can work out of this funk, whether he's starting to 'get it'.  They're the ones who talk to the players, and can feel if allowing him to run a long leash might alienate the others, who are doing everything that's asked and working hard and making good decisions and being defensively responsible and attending all the optional skates.

So it's easy for me to advocate that he be given good linemates and powerplay time to get in gear.  It's harder for the coach to tell that to Dale Weise and Thomas Fleischmann.

If the coaches decide they have seen enough, that the lottery ticket isn't a winner, I expect the brain trust will be decisive.  I don't think we'll see Alex going to St. John's, it'll be a clean break, they'll eat the contract, glad that it's a shorty.  They won't prolong the headache by dumping him on Sylvain Lefebvre, by stealing icetime away from the kids who do have a chance to help this team down the line.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Alex Semin draws back into the Canadiens lineup against the Avalanche after sitting out seven games

Long-awaited news today broke that Alex Semin will draw back into the lineup against the Avalanche tonight after sitting out seven games as a healthy scratch.  His diminished production, along with a couple of gaffes against the Maple Leafs, had knocked him out of the lineup, and the fact that the team had success without him kept him out.

I'm really encouraged with the statements made by Alex today. He carries a reputation of being moody and diffident, but he outwardly here at least seems to be saying all the right things, to be in the right frame of mind. This is certainly preferable to the reports we got a week ago from TSN 690's Chris Nilan and The Gazette's Pat Hickey about him being uninvolved and unenergetic at practice.

When we were giving the porcine a makeover this summer, we batted around the concept that being in a demanding hockey market, with strong team leadership, and especially with a support network of fellow Russians, that he might respond well, might have more success than he did in Carolina near the end.

We may be sensing this effect if we judge purely on his answers to reporters. Instead of being insulted and disruptive, he’s being accountable and optimistic. He’s showing resolve, saying he’s working hard and improving. He’s apparently taking this healthy-scratch period as a challenge and an opportunity, rather than a deal-breaker.

Alex brings something to our team that we need, which is puck skill and vision and talent. He may not always play with the same outward determination of a Brendan Gallagher, but you build a team with various parts, not identical ones. His ability to extend the play, to do the unexpected, is valuable.

We’ll take his defensive lapses in stride, as long as he contributes strongly on the offensive side of the ledger, and that he is ‘responsible’ defensively. He doesn’t need to be Bob Gainey, just to be in the right place at the right time, give basic effort in his zone. And make good decisions, not take needless chances as he did against the Leafs, when two of his outright giveaways led to two goals against.

Michel Therrien often says that “it’s a process”, in reference to a lot of things. Let’s see how this is proceeding, how Alex responds now and as the season unfolds.

Bigger nets aren't heresy.

To me, the idea of adjusting the size of the nets is met with way more outrage than it should.  We're acting like the 4' X 6' is the holiest of holy parameters of hockey, whereas in fact that's not the case at all.

It used to be that hockey nets were just two stakes driven or frozen into the ice, with no crossbar or netting or anything, it looked like goalposts in football.  There was a goal judge right on the ice, behind the net, to determine when pucks had gone through.  Eventually the crossbar was added, and someone had the bright idea to put in the mesh.

Also, at the time, goalies weren't allowed to drop on the ice to make saves, they had to remain standing.  So lots of moving parts, lots of variables in this equation, and big changes during the development of the game.

Just because the dimensions we use now are nice round numbers doesn't mean that they're immutable.  Basketball is caught in this trap, and I think suffers from it.  The height of the rim in the past, when small players lobbed underhand at it, wasn't a factor, but now with seven-footers and players who can dunk, it does come into play.

Volleyball has a variable height of its net depending on the level of competition and gender.  College kids play with a net set lower than Olympians do, and that makes sense.  And it's not at arbitrarily 'even' round numbers, but rather numbers that allow the bump-set-spike game to unfold at each level, but not be so achievable that it becomes a farce when too easy.

Hockey nets could easily be made wider by nudging the posts outward a couple of inches each or so.  The argument that goalies nowadays are prepped and coached to within an inch of their life and doing so would change their angles and confuse them to me is not a valid counter.  Because that's exactly what we want, to move the sport away from systems and coaching, to individual creativity and talent.  Carey Price and Roberto Luongo would adapt, and maybe some of the others who are more tall than good wouldn't, and that's where we want to head.

As I've stated before, I'd be leery of making the nets taller, more than a couple inches at most, in fear that doing so would incite players to shoot ever higher.  100 mph slapshots are best kept low.  Players shouldn't be rewarded for whizzing shots at the height where others' chins are.  Safety considerations should keep the crossbar at this level it is currently.

There was a picture of an oddly-shaped net that circulated during Gary Bettman's Third Lockout that piqued my interest but which I haven't been able to find since then, the posts were the same distance apart as currently at ice level, but then flared out at an angle, before being perfectly vertical again at about the three-foot level.  This configuration didn't mess with the goalie's 'angles', but would provide lots and lots of room upstairs for snipers when goalies dropped to their knees.

Another proposed net just kept the same dimensions, except that the posts and crossbar curved, they bulged outwards at their middle, again giving more room for shooters but not changing the goalies' coaching and angles.

Either of these alternatives could be tested in camp 'lab' conditions, in lower leagues, during exhibition seasons, etc.  You could see which solution worked, fostered more 'clean' goals, allowed talented players to see more net and find it with the puck, and there's every chance that no one would die.

Baseball has done this in the past too.  The pitcher's mound now rests at an odd 60'6" distance from home plate, but it wasn't always that way.  It used to be at a 'round' number in the Abner Doubleday era, but was adjusted closer or farther based on how hitters were faring hitting the ball, among other changes baseball made to its game.  Same with the height of the mound, it could be raised or lowered, and was, based on whether the hitters or pitchers had too much of an advantage.

Goalies used to be, according to lore, the short fat kids who didn't skate well, who couldn't be used elsewhere on the ice.  They were wearing the stinky moldy communal rink or league equipment made of leather and felt, or bore the additional cost of their own gear.  During the game they were told to adopt a 'standup style', and followed this since, weighed down with so much waterlogged gear, they learned quickly that getting back up after flopping down was very tiring.

Nowadays, goalie is the glamour position with swoosh gear that many kids are drawn to.  Tall athletic kids who in the past would play centre now end up in goal.  They're armoured with closed-cell foam and kevlar and other space-age materials that are better and lighter than horsehair.

These changes are counterbalanced somewhat by the better composite sticks skaters use nowadays, but not completely.  While skaters can fire off better shots at the net, the advances in goaltending have been greater.

So there's no sin in trying to move the needle back a smidge, give goalies a bit more of a challenge.

I completely agree that obstruction and other anti-hockey tactics should be refereed out of the game.  Systems should be less important than the talent of a Mario Lemieux or Connor McDavid.  Maybe enact 'illegal defences' like the NBA does.  Outlaw teams lining up four or five abreast at their own blue line.  I've read before a suggestion that forwards shouldn't be allowed to skate backwards in the neutral zone when they're defending.

So sure, first and foremost open up the game, let it flow.  Let the players play, let them decide the outcome of the game, but by this I mean the real players, versus checkers and grinders and 'energy' players.  I mean the opposite of what Don Cherry means.  Generally, in fact.

But in tandem with those approaches, there's nothing scandalous about increasing the size of the net, in a reasonable response to the way the goaltending has advanced since the 4 X 6 was enshrined in the 1920's or whenever.  A hundred years of progress in other facets of the game should be reflected in this aspect of the rules as well.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Game 16: Canadiens 4, Bruins 2

The Canadiens win a game against the dreaded Bruins last night, although it seemed like they were also playing against the refs, the War Room in Toronto, the Board of Governors, the League office, ...

Here are my disjointed thoughts and anguished cries of outrage from last night.

--All these calls, every single one that the refs are blowing, could easily be dealt with and corrected, gotten right, by a Television Match Official like the Rugby World Cup used.

Easy peasy.

But Gary Bettman is otherwise busy sneaking an Ensludge Tar Sands & Prosperity logo on the Flames’ jersey.

--(upon the Canadiens' second goal being scored, later to be disallowed)  Plekanec! #1 Line! Chara on his ass complaining!

--(after the review and reversal of the goal)  The NHL is a farce. They don’t want the ‘toe in the crease’ fiasco anymore, since the Brett Hull goal against the Sabres in the Cup final, they allow players to be in the paint, contrary to international hockey, so Gally was allowed to be there.

Despite Mike Johnson calling it a tough call, it wasn’t at all. He didn’t touch Gustaffson until the Big Ape pushed him in there. At the very least, there was no indisputable evidence.

The fix is in. Refs hate Montréal. Toronto hates Montréal. Sportsnet hates Montréal.

--Lars goes to the net, is rewarded.  Remember that Lars.

--I’ll make the request again, to anyone out there who has access to that info, to compare how many Toronto War Room calls involving Montréal fall in our favour, and how many go against us.

By simple math, the league average should be 50%. With a large enough sample, each team should be pretty close to that figure. Win some, lose some.

I’d be interested to see if we are at 50%, or significantly lower, and we can do the work to see if there is a statistical significance in the number we come up with.

Another curlicue would be to see the results involving us against Toronto and against Boston. Just to see. Probably too few instances to get a large enough sample size, but nonetheless, let’s look at it.  For sport.

And if I’m crazy, if it turns out that we are at 50%, not 10 or 20% in our favour, the refs massively against us, then I’ll make goodly use of my employee assistance program and work on my persecution complex with a mental health care professional.

The guys in Finance have been complaining about my memos anyway, maybe I am missing some receipts after all, maybe they're not out to get me…

--(about Max Pacioretty sealing the win with an empty-net goal)  In truth, I’m actually really happy to see Tomas or Max out there with the empty nets, and actually burying their chances this year, sealing wins.

Last year and before, it was like pulling teeth trying to get an empty-net goal, they’d be missing and hitting posts and then flailing around in their end. This year, we’re giving the coup de grâce early, putting an end to it.

I love that this season, we’re burying the empty-netters, and quickly. Saves on the wear and tear, the blocked shots and the getting plastered against the glass with the refs letting everything slide.

Last year we lost a couple of games after missing empty nets. This season, we’re nailing that coffin down.

--The dive by Millar on Andrei Markov, the too-many-men penalty, all these could/would be viewed in real time by a Television Match Official, who could advise the ref when he makes a wrong call, or when he misses one.

In the case of the dive, the penalty, fine, suspension, all that could happen in real time, the call reversed immediately, on the spot. None of this “We made the call, we have to stick with our decision” BS.

Imagine if you will the NHL embraces the World Cup Rugby refereeing method. So you have one on-ice official, one Television Match Official with two or three propeller heads providing him with multiple views on a panoply of screens. The two line judges can also at any time signal they witnessed an infraction, speak to the ref at the next opportunity.
[As play is going on]
TMO: “Chris, I have a dangerous play by 72 White for you to review when you get a chance…”
[Both refs are miked, in constant radio communication with each other, the crowd and television audience can hear this conversation as it happens.]
Chris Lee: “Okay…”
[Chara trips over his disgusting feet, falls offside, causes a whistle]
TMO: “Okay Chris, at the 16:30 minute mark, you’ll see #72 White slewfoot #51 Red.”
[Three different angles are played by the TMO staff. The crowd in the arena get to watch along on the scoreboard screen. The folks at home get these views as well. The ref and the line judges watch at the same time, on a screen or tablet, whichever is more convenient.]
TMO: “That’s it Chris, those are the best angles.”
Lee: “Okay, so I see a slewfoot, that’s a two minute penalty, and a yellow card for a dangerous play, I don’t think that’s worth a red card?…”
TMO: “I agree Chris, yellow card only…”
[Addressing the crowd, the Bruins bench]
Lee: “We have a minor penalty, tripping, #72 Boston, and a ten-minute misconduct.”
***Note: In Rugby, the penalty would be a ‘free kick’, option of a kick for touch and possession at the ensuing lineout, or kick at goal for three points, or a scrum. The penalized team would be one player down, playing 14 against 15.
In today’s game, with the technology, there is no need for the secrecy, the impenetrable War Room, the headsets and the opacity of the decision, which the NHL practices now.

--(about Nathan Beaulieu's crosscheck on Zac Rinaldo)  Black and white, it was a crosscheck to his head.

And I couldn’t be more proud of Nate. Absolutely perfect circumstance for that.

Why Claude Julien had that goon Rinaldo out on the ice at that time of the game, that’s the real scandal here. Nate did the sane thing.

“Here, eat Sher-Wood, scumbag.”

I’ve been driven to this by the NHL, but I really, really liked the sneer he had immediately after, and as he jawed with the rest of the Bruins bench on his way off the ice. No pretending, no dishonesty.

“Yeah, I did it, what of it? I’d do it again if I had to. Gimme your toothless penalty and whatever, what do I care.”

--I don’t have a lot of time for Mario Tremblay since his DUI trial and his comments to the police officer were released, but he nails it here:

“Si Beaulieu avait fait ça à un joueur de hockey, j’aurait dit que Nathan a levé (perdu) la tête, mais avec un gars comme Rinaldo qui vient pour le blesser, …”

Mathieu Darche: “Si il fait ça à Patrice Bergeron, ç’t’une autre affaire…”

Mario: “D’accord avec toi.”


Mario: “If Beaulieu does that to a hockey player, I’d say Nathan lost his head, lost his cool there, but with a guy like Rinaldo who’s coming in to hurt him, …”

Mathieu Darche: “If he does that to Patrice Bergeron, that’s a different story…”

Mario: “Of course.”

--The NHL is so awful, they don’t know what they want, what they’re trying to achieve. They think they want more offence, more scoring, so they fudged the rules a little bit in terms of allowing goals in off skates, in scrums, allowing the play to ‘develop’.

So they want goals, no matter how, but when Gally is in the crease, as he’s allowed to be according to their own rules, then gets pushed into the goalie by a defender, and it has no influence on whether the goal would have been saved, somehow that gets overturned.

If the NHL wants more goals, all they have to do is prevent all the obstruction, the crosschecking that is endemic. Anybody that’s in arm’s reach in the NHL is fair game for a crosscheck to the back or arm or shoulder. That’s viewed as ‘playing tight’, as defending. Give the slowpokes like Adam McQuaid the obligation to actually skate, to wrestle the puck away rather than just whale on Tomas Plekanec, and all of a sudden he flushes out of the league, for a Yannic Weber or Marc-André Bergeron, who can actually skate and play hockey.

If they want goalies to not be interfered with, they can adopt the international rule, which is that when an attacking player treads onto the goalie crease without the puck, play is whistled dead and the faceoff is outside the zone. Problem solved. No player on offence gets into the crease for fear of negating a scoring chance.

Then, call the defenceman for obstruction if they push Gally into the goalie. He’s outside the crease, allowed to be there, use your frigging whistle when he gets mugged by Dion Phaneuf.

Enough with the wishy-washy “We want more goals so we’ll allow scrummy goals but not too scrummy…”, clean up the game instead. Keep players out of the crease. But allow Alex Galchenyuk to wow us with his moves without having to endure crosschecks and slashes all game. Those are fouls. They’re cheating. They favour the untalented, the goon, over the skilled, the spectacular player. That’s how Zac Rinaldo stays in the game, why the Bruins actually traded for this felon.

Give us spectacular goals by spectacular players, not scrummy goals by scummy players.

--I can’t wait for all the links to all the Boston papers tomorrow. That’ll be some delicious schadenfreude with our waffles.