For the second week in a row, the Week in Review has been pushed to Tuesday due to some Monday craziness. This is a travesty, and it’s painful to watch the post I love turned into a sideshow, but not as painful as Ron MacLean’s shopping sprees at The Bay.
There are certain words and insults that are tossed around far too loosely. This week’s word of choice was “hypocrite.”
Mario Lemieux was slapped with that label mere minutes after his public statement on the discipline handed out after the nightmare at Nassau. A fight-filled affair between the Penguins and Islanders that mercifully ended with 14 fighting majors, 21 misconducts, and 346 penalty minutes Friday night left a black mark on some of the players, and the game.
While some were content to cast Lemieux aside as the hypocrite because he enables Matt Cooke, an equal army came out in his defence, supporting the Pens owner with the “I’m with Mario” hash tag on Twitter. The Islanders/Penguins fight crossed the line of sanity, but it’s a line that as fans we’ve push the game towards gradually by rising to our seats the moment the mitts fall.
Only two nights earlier we were all yelling and fist-pumping as the Bruins and Habs engaged in a similar 1970′s style beatdown. The outrage wasn’t nearly as loud when Tom Pyatt and Jaroslav Spacek acted as human speed bags.
So, aren’t we all a little hypocritical?
Headlines and Storylines
The hypocrisy of the beatdown
I’ll put my hand up and admit my guilt.
During the Habs/Bruins brawlfest I was the first one jumping towards the TV, especially when Tim Thomas and Carey Price had their failed attempt at a fight. It’s exciting and entertaining, but so is the WWE to some, and pro wrestling won’t reach the lows the NHL plunged to this week because it’s staged and harnessed. Barbaric acts know no boundaries on the ice when raw emotion takes over.
Emotion and its role in fuelling fights is fine when two players reach their tipping point after anger boils over from fierce competition. But staged goonery is a caveman act at best, and savage neanderthalism at worst.
The concept of a self-policing game based on revenge and redemption after perceived wrongs is tolerable up until we reach this point of rampant neaderthalism, a point the Islanders sailed past when Matt Martin sucker-punched Max Talbot, and Trevor Gillies elbowed and jumped Eric Tangradi.
Between the slugfests in Boston and New York, there were a combined 538 penalty minutes, and we only stopped enjoying it when players looked to be seriously hurt. So who’s more of an enabler, Lemieux for employing Matt Cooke, or the Romans cheering as the lions roar and clash in the stadium below?
King of the neanderthals
The lord and commander of all the skating neanderthals is Matt Cooke, whose astounding stupidity again resulted in another dangerous hit, and another opportunity for a serious injury.
Coupled with Anton Volchenkov’s little excuse-me elbow, it was a rough week for those who take pride in associating manliness with hockey, and those who crusade against Pinkos and pansification. There was no middle ground; the testosterone was either carried to an unhealthy extreme as it was on Long Island, or cowardly hits and elbows prevailed.
The Globe and Mail’s Roy MacGregor–who brought us the captivating Screech Owls series–wrote that combined with the still sidelined Sidney Crosby, and the end of Marc Savard’s season, the hits by Volchenkov and Cooke show yet again why head shots are becoming the “global warming of hockey.”
It could be, before all this is over, that Sidney Crosby’s greatest contribution to the game will not be the Olympic gold-medal winning goal of a year ago, but his sad situation forcing the NHL – the braying naysayers included – to wake up to what hits to the head have done and are doing to hockey.
Let’s make a deal
Fans are highly emotional creatures by nature, a characteristic that too often turns the mind into a murky, jumbled mess incapable of logical thought. This unfortunate cloud affects us all, but some far more than others. It’s what makes your Leaf fan friends grumble and complain that a first round pick isn’t enough of a return for Kris Versteeg, and it makes radio stations in Ottawa ban that angelic country yodel of Carrie Underwood after the Mike Fisher trade.
That last part actually happened, although the ban was later lifted and disguised as a “tongue and cheek” way of saying goodbye to Fisher. What cute little city.
But maybe the emotion surrounding Fisher wasn’t just the product of an inferiority complex. Fisher is at best a slightly above average forward who has flirted with 50 points in four of the past five seasons, and using him to fetch a first round pick from Nashville was a brilliant and rare steal by Ottawa GM Bryan Murray. The city seems to understand and accept this, but yet a strong emotional connection still lingered.
Fisher was, it seems, an incredibly strong figure in the community, something you’d have to experience to truly understand. Steve Lloyd from the Team 1200 understands.
When I was hospitalized for a few weeks a number of years ago I received a card and Fisher sought me out to see how I was doing. When our friend Buzz passed away, there was Mike sending in emails to our shows supporting everyone at Team 1200.
The other major trade in the NHL’s 18th week ignited the ongoing fire sale in Toronto. Brian Burke kept the Anaheim pipeline alive and well, sending defeceman Francois Beauchemin to the Ducks, with forward Joffrey Lupol coming back the other way along with defensive prospect Jake Gardiner, and a conditional draft pick in 2013.
Acquired to bolster the Leafs’ 27th ranked offence, Lupol has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. In six NHL seasons he’s missed 82 games.
- Michael Grabner is quickly taking ownership over this year’s Calder Trophy, which violates the NHL’s rule against anything good happening to the Islanders. The winger now has 15 goals and 21 points in his last 15 games, a stretch that includes a hat trick in New York’s Sunday night win over Buffalo, and an incredible eight goals last week.
- When PK Subban doesn’t fight and shows a little too much character (gasp!) everyone is pissed off. When he does fight, Lupol is pissed off. It seems nothing the young defenceman does is quite good enough, and maybe that’s the way it’s meant to be.
- In a week filled with penalty minutes, at least the Hurricanes and Lightning went for some variety in their game Saturday night. All the other heavy-hitting games piled up the PIMs with fisticuffs, but these two teams believed that slow and steady still wins the race. In the first period alone there were 18 PIMs, all of which were accumulated through minors.
Minnesota Wild: It’s still mildly mind-boggling that in mid-February, three points separate fourth from 10th in the Western Conference. With a backlog like that, winning nine of their last 11 games has allowed the Wild to sneak into the playoff race.
But the fickle playoff mistress can wave her evil wand just as quickly in the opposite direction with so many teams jammed into such a tight space.
Colorado Avalanche: A young team that was once thriving and exciting earlier this season has plunged to the bottom of the west. Craig Anderson and Peter Budaj are 37th and 38th respectively in save percentage (hey, at least they’re consistent!), and the Avalanche have lost eight straight games.
This wasn’t the right time for Peter Forsberg’s two game farce of a comeback either.