Tuesday, September 27, 2011

NHL Fails To Punish Wayne Simmonds For Homophobic Slur

While the National Hockey League has put Brendan Shanahan in charge of discipline for incidents that take place on-ice, Colin Campbell is still the man in charge of judging discipline for things like Wayne Simmonds homophobic slur directed at Sean Avery Monday night.  Following the game Simmonds did not deny saying what Avery alleged, but today when meeting with the league he did deny it.  Today the league decided that there was no conclusive evidence that to support the allegations, despite video to the contrary, thus the league doled out no punishment.

Here via Andrew Gross at Ranger Rants is the statement from Campbell…
 “All Players, Coaches and Officials in the National Hockey League deserve the respect of their peers, and have the absolute right to function in a work environment that is free from racially or sexually-based innuendo or derision. This is the National Hockey League’s policy and it will remain so going forward."
“It also is important to emphasize that the National Hockey League holds, and will continue to hold, our Players to higher standards with respect to their conduct both on and off the ice. While we recognize that the emotion involved in certain on-ice confrontations may lead to the use of highly charged and sometimes offensive language and commentary, certain lines cannot be crossed. Specifically, we have for many years emphasized to our Clubs and Players that commentary directed at the race or ethnicity of other participants in the game (or even non-participants), or that is otherwise socially or morally inappropriate or potentially hurtful—including as it may relate to sexual orientation—is absolutely unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

“With that as background, we have looked into the allegations relating to the possible use of a homophobic slur by a Flyers player in the Rangers/Flyers preseason game last night in Philadelphia. Since there are conflicting accounts of what transpired on the ice, we have been unable to substantiate with the necessary degree of certainty what was said and by whom. Specifically, Flyers Player Wayne Simmonds has expressly denied using the homophobic slur he is alleged to have said. Additionally, none of the on-ice officials close to the altercation in question heard any inappropriate slurs uttered by either of the primary antagonists. In light of this, we are unable at this time to take any disciplinary action with respect to last night’s events. To the extent we become aware of additional information conclusively establishing that an inappropriate slur was invoked, we are reserving the option to revisit the matter.”

Tortorella Scolds Rangers In Practice As Team Seems To Be Lacking Focus

Deciding how much stock to put in preseason games is difficult because as everyone knows they have no meaning in the standings, and they are as much for evaluating talent as preparing for the season, but the way the New York Rangers have performed in their three outings thus far is a little concerning.  In all fairness, the Rangers have played mainly minor leaguers/prospects in two of the games, though the more veteran squad was not overwhelming in their outing at New Jersey last Friday.

The biggest concern from the games thus far has to be the number of lazy stick penalties they have been taking.  Instead of doing the work necessary to get in proper position to make sound plays they have been relying on their sticks to bail them out of trouble and getting caught committing hooking or tripping penalties.  Apparently the frustration with this kind of work from the team spread to coach John Tortorella today in practice based on reports from Dan Rosen of NHL.com.
Torts is in the process of scolding his team, telling them to start concentrating on everything they do. He's not a happy guy right now.

Tortorella's message sending continued at end of practice. He gave a long, impassioned speech about needing to be better and it starts here.
It is certainly true that the results of preseason games are not important because of the lack of points in the standings, but the way a team plays and prepares absolutely has importance when getting ready for the regular season.  The Rangers have been sloppy in all three games thus far and while the lack of their regular roster accounts for some of that it cannot be seen as a given that they will just turn it on when the games count.  The work must be put in every day whether it counts for something in the standing or not and hopefully today’s message from Tortorella got them heading in that direction.

Tim Erixon Showing He Is Not Quite Ready For NHL Level

When the New York Rangers acquired defenseman Tim Erixon this summer the talked revolved around how NHL ready he was right now.  With that talk the expectation level for his performance was to make the team out of camp.  During Traverse City earlier this month, Erixon not only lived up to, but exceeded the hype.  Erixon was clearly the Rangers best player and Mike Morreale at NHL.com thought he might have been the best player in the whole tournament.  That performance only increased the hype and expectations for the 20-year old defender coming into training camp/preseason play.

While the hype continues for Erixon outside the organization with numerous publications touting him as a potential Calder Trophy nominee, Erixon’s play on the ice during preseason likely has him on the outside looking in when the Rangers open the season Oct. 7.  The poised, confident player that dominated portions of games in Traverse City is gone, while what is left is a young player who is tentative and leaves the impression that game is just too fast at this stage.  The differential in the performances is staggering and thus far in three games Erixon has shown nothing close to what would be necessary to consider him making the team.

Offensively Erixon is rushing himself when he has the puck and his decision making on things like when to carry the puck, where to pass are not nearly crisp enough.  He has seemingly fallen into the trap of trying to make the perfect play instead of playing the simple style he was at Traverse.  Playing a smart, simple game does not mean diluted the natural talent.  In fact, playing that way has the ability to have the opposite effect because it allows the game to slow down a little bit and use the tremendous vision and skill Erixon possesses to carve up defenses.

Defensively is where Erixon is struggling most during the preseason as the speed and strength of some of the opposition is leaving him overmatched.  On numerous occasions in the three games Erixon has been caught leaning to far forward on his skates and had opposing players go around him like he was not even there.  His footwork has not been good and it has led to him taking four minor penalties in the last two games.

This is not to bash on Tim Erixon or say that the hype was not warranted because you can see he is an elite talent and has the makings of an excellent NHL defender.  However, based on his performances thus far in preseason it does not appear Erixon is ready for that step right now.  Erixon appears destined for Hartford, which is not a bad thing as Ryan McDonagh showed last season.  Time in Hartford would allow Erixon to play major minutes in all situations while working on his game with J.J. Daigneault and Wade Redden so that he can be better prepared when he is called upon.  Letting him develop at his own pace is better than throwing him in there to sink or swim and messing with his confidence if he ends up showing he isn’t ready.