Archives For March 2013

It’s something he has done before — successfully, I might add — but Kaspars Daugavins went for it again: he pressed the toe of his blade into the puck and took off, barrelling down on Tuukka Rask. Ripping a quick spin-o-rama, Daugavins tried to bury the puck, which was still tucked tightly under the toe of his stick, but was denied. He skated back to the bench with his head down. But today his attempt has the hockey world talking.

I’d like to say I fall in line with the majority of hockey fans when saying that I’m not a proponent of the shootout, but that would be a lie. While I understand the merit of deciding a game with extra hockey, and with the notions of 3-on-3 or expanded overtime being bandied about, I have to admit there’s something that encapsulates me about the one-on-one between a shooter and goaltender. I want to see supremely skilled players do things with a puck that I could barely dream of, and I want to have those ideas inspire others to try jaw-dropping moves and carry on an era of shootout flare.

This is where Daugavins comes in. Post-game, David Krejci — whose Bruins squad Daugavins tried his awe-inspiring attempt against — said he wouldn’t be pleased if a player on his own team tried that. I’m not Nostradamus, but I’d venture a guess and say Krejci would probably be having a laugh on the bench if, say, Brad Marchand had pulled that out of his bag of tricks.

Think about the most memorable goals from the near decade of hockey that has been played since the inception of the NHL’s shootout era. If you didn’t think immediately about Marek Malik’s between-the-legs, Pavel Datsyuk’s signature deke, or Patrick Kane mesmerizing Niklas Backstrom, I’d be surprised. Those are moves that were played on highlight reels throughout the continent. They are what sells the game.

We have engaged in the fighting debate enough to come to the conclusion that, in reality, it likely is no longer really selling the game. But when a fan sees something like Daugavins attempt? You can guarantee they think about watching a bit more puck to see what these guys can do.

I don’t doubt that Ryan Lambert was on to something today he brought up the point about Daugavins and Linus Omark — whose shootout attempts became something of legend — were both European players. That, no doubt, probably has a bit to do with the scrutiny Daugavins is facing from fellow players. Surely, Good Canadian Boy Sidney Crosby would never do something outlandish in the midst of a game that wouldn’t be considered classy.

The problem here is hockey’s archaic view of right and wrong. Many in the league would decry Daugavins attempt because hockey has some obsession with the “old school,” and an inherent want to stay true to the form it has always been. As Lambert also pointed out, hockey is more inclined to accept a borderline hit and chalk it up to part of the game than they are to embrace creative play that can bring fans to their feet.

There is nothing wrong with what Daugavins did. It is — in a more literal sense than hits from behind and staged fights — part of the game. He was within his bounds to attempt it, and if he had scored, I would have applauded the next to try it.

Advertisements
Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian fought 13 times during the 2008-09 season as a member of the Winsor Spitfires. (Image courtesy WikiCommons)

Vancouver Canucks forward Zack Kassian fought 13 times during the 2008-09 season as a member of the Winsor Spitfires. (Image courtesy WikiCommons)

Nearly one full season complete, and it appears the Ontario Hockey League’s sanctions on fighting have put a serious dent in the amount of fisticuffs you’re seeing during league action.

Before the puck had dropped to ring in the 2012-13 OHL season, the league made several rule changes. The one receiving the most attention — and rightfully so after what feels like years of debate surrounding player safety, concussions, and fighting — was the OHL’s decision to put limits on player fights.

The amendments to the player legislation (which do not appear in the leagues downloadable rulebook) are as follows:

  1. If a player is assessed a fighting major for the 11th – 15th time during the regular season, such player is assessed an automatic two (2) game suspension for each additional fighting major in addition to any other penalties assessed.
  2. If a player is assessed a fighting major for the 16th time or more during the regular season, such player is assessed an automatic two (2) game suspension and the hockey club is fined $1,000.00 for each additional fighting major in addition to any other penalties assessed.
  3. If a player is deemed to be the instigator in any of the fights above the ten (10) game threshold, such player would be assessed an automatic four (4) game suspension in addition to any other penalties assessed.

Though the change to the rulebook was met with mixed reaction, the rule changes allowed for the league to protect its players and take a step towards what will likely become a league sans fighting. It’s for this reason that fight-fans were outspoken on what the implications could be for the future of hockey — one they wish to have fighting be a part of.

It seems fitting to bring this up now, if anytime, just a day after the Ottawa Senator’s Dave Dziurzynski suffered what looked to be a pretty serious concussion at the hands of Toronto Maple Leafs’ Frazer McLaren under a minute into the Ottawa-Toronto game last night. While the blogosphere continues to argue the outright removal of fighting (something I’d guess is unlikely to happen for many years) or just limiting it to stiffer punishment for staged fights, the model I easily see the NHL adopting is something similar to what the OHL has taken on: a fight limit. Continue Reading…

The Chicago Blackhawks were Stanley Cup Champions in 2010 and anything short of another Stanley Cup won’t be enough this season. (Image courtesy WikiCommons)

With a 5-3 win last night over the Minnesota Wild, the Chicago Blackhawks pushed their point-streak this season to 23 games — a record of 20-0-3. The streak, which is the longest in the history of the National Hockey League to begin a season and second longest point streak of all-time, has put the Blackhawks front-and-centre on the sports radar in the United States. But in the end, the streak means nothing if the Blackhawks don’t win the final game of the season.

Many have been discrediting the streak as a product of the loser-point era and saying the Blackhawks have been the beneficiary of a “play it safe and secure at least a single” strategy, the streak should be discredited for another reason entirely: it doesn’t mean a thing.

Though earning a record in a league that’s satiated with parity is an achievement, it would be remiss to think anyone but fans and media care much about the streak. Even with this streak being only statistically possible once every 700 years according to Richard Cleary in an interview with USA Today’s Kevin Allen, it’s still not what the players set out each season to do, and it’s not what diehard fans dream of their team doing.

However unlikely it seems, this record will fall. This record will fall, and without a Stanley Cup to commemorate what is one of the greatest seasons the Windy City’s NHL team has ever seen, it will eventually be a memory that falls by the wayside for all hockey fans.

These records, for the most part, they come and go. What was Anaheim’s record from 2006-07 is no more, but if Ducks fans were asked what they remember about that season, it would be safe to say it’s the Stanley Cup.

The Blackhawks have been impressive this season, which is an understatement, but this season is about a race to the finish, not who’s first out of the blocks.

Were the Blackhawks to slip in the playoffs and be eliminated early, the streak would not be enough to please the fans. A divisional banner, maybe the least important banner in all of hockey, is worth less than nothing.

It’s not that fan expectations of this team are too high; fan expectations are right where they should be. The Blackhawks have succeeded to a point where they’re bound to lose a few — and a few in a row, in all likelihood — but ‘Hawks fans should now be worried about when this team happens to hit the skids.

The streak is an interesting statistical oddity and something that will eventually come to an end. A Stanley Cup at the end of the season will last forever.