A few things popped up this week that caught my attention, two of them in games I was between the benches for.
I'll start with a hit by Colorado's Ryan Wilson on Ethan Moreau on Wednesday. Wilson crushed Moreau in the open ice with what I felt was a marginal hit, his elbow a little too high. I spoke with the league, and they told me that in a frame by frame slow down, Wilson's shoulder made contact. I won't argue what their replays tell them, but I do feel the hit was too high.
When John Tortorella was at TSN, he often talked about "teaching moments". This hit could be one of those "moments". Hits such as these, which are not penalized, but are, in my opinion, delivered too high, should be grouped together on a short video, and shown to players with the notation that they will not be allowed in the future.
Don't just show the hits, show the player how the hit can be administered just as hard, but in a safer style. Watch the Wilson hit. Do not launch forward off your feet. Have your hands lower, turn your shoulder in, and deliver the hit with your shoulder. If that was the case, the hit would still be crushing, but there wouldn't be contact with Moreau's head. No new rule, just refined technique. This can be accomplished rather quickly if all involved are serious about it. The players, to a man, will say they want something done about high hits. Here is a rather simple way to take a smart step.
Next is the "retribution" fight on a clean hit. On Thursday in the Chicago-Calgary game, early in the second period of a 1-1 game, Niklas Hjalmarsson stepped up on Rene Bourque with a hard, clean, unpenalized check. Nigel Dawes, who is not a rough player, felt the need to jump Hjalmarsson - as part of this newish code - and took a minor penalty. Power play goal Chicago, 2-1.
Later in the same period, Dion Phaneuf did the same thing with Brent Seabrook, took an extra minor, and watched as Chicago scored another power play goal. It is ironic Phaneuf did this, as he doesn't oblige when the tables are turned, and he is challenged after a big, open ice hit, nor should he.
What is the point of jumping a player who delivers a clean check? Clean checks are part of the game. The only thing the Flames accomplished was to give a lethal power play extra chances. I believe any player who forces a fight after a clean, unpenalized hit, should be given an automatic instigator, plus the misconduct that goes with it. Don't let the player off the hook with a roughing penalty, or have equal penalties. At least give a penalty that has a consequence - the instigator plus misconduct does that. What could be a more clear definition of an instigator than skating 5, 10, 15 feet to start a fight?
Lastly, is Georges Laraque's knee on knee hit on Niklas Kronwall Saturday. Laraque has a very clean discipline record with the league, only three fines/suspensions in 13 years. While this will get taken into the equation at his hearing with the league on Monday, this hit is reprehensible.
I know the game moves so fast,and there is no way Laraque had time to think "I am going to stick out my leg and hurt Kronwall". However, that is exactly what happened. Again, look at the play. Laraque's leg was off the ice, that meant he could,and did, stick his leg into Kronwall's path.
This will be suspendible, but for how long? Kronwall will be out anywhere from four to eight weeks with a sprained MCL. With my history of knee problems, I'm guessing it is closer to eight weeks than four weeks.
To me, it appears that the message a suspension is supposed to send often gets lost on the players. Anything less than five games for this play is, in my opinion, too light and no deterrent at all. Most NHL viewers usually agree on what is suspendible, but I want the suspensions to be more firm.
I do understand how difficult it would be to get GMs, coaches and players to agree on anything, let alone longer suspensions. Injured players or suspended players, what do you want? I want less of both. If it can be agreed upon, send a memo, state that as of January 1st, there will be a new standard. An example would be that a current two-game suspension will be four games. Make the suspension grab the players attention. I do not believe the suspended player should sit until the injured player returns - there are too many scenarios for holding a player out until a big game passes, for one, but the suspensions need to be more firm.
1) Many people wrote off Joe Thornton as an Olympic team candidate. It's getting pretty hard to ignore his stats and consistency with which he has played. I believe the Canadian team has 3 Shark forwards - Heatley, Marleau, Thornton.
2) Lots of players do work with charities, but we often don't hear about them. Matt Fraser is a 19-year-old forward with the Kootenay Ice of the WHL. With his family and Billet family having dealt with health issues, Matt started a charity to help raise money for the local hospital. In about a month, Matt and his group have raised over $7,900. Congrats Matt, and good luck.
3) Most times a waiver pick-up is a depth move - a new start for a player - but not often anything significant. Kris Draper might be the best exception to that thought, but what about Rich Peverley. He is versatile, smart, and has a quick release. Picked up last year from Nashville by Atlanta, he had 35 points in 39 games. This year he has 24 points in just 20 games. Peverley has been given this opportunity at age 27 and been very productive with it. He is part of the number one-rated Atlanta offense, one that has the Thrashers in the playoff hunt a quarter of the way into the season.
Got a question or comment for Ray? Send him an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!