Saturday, February 12, 2011

NHL Suspends Godard, Gillies, Martin and Fines Islanders 100K in Wake of Friday's Action

The fallout from the brawl on Long Island between the Pittsburgh Penguins and New York Islanders on Friday night has finally come down and some of the punishments were of the longer variety. 
The league handed out suspensions to three players who were involved in different on-ice altercations during the game.  Pittsburgh’s Eric Godard was suspended 10 games, while Islanders forwards Trevor Gillies and Matt Martin were suspended for nine and four games respectively.

Update: Lemeiux Responds Harshly Against League; Is He Right, a Hypocrite or Both?
We all knew that Eric Godard of the Pittsburgh Penguins was going to get 10 games because that was the automatic suspension for leaving the bench.  I still firmly believe that Godard did the right thing, regardless of the penalty, in defending his goaltender from getting into a fight with a guy who is an enforcer.  He knew what the penalty would be before he left the bench and he still made the decision to do so, whether right or wrong that it is automatically that amount regardless of circumstance is a different debate.
Islanders forward Matt Martin 4 games for his attempted sucker-punch of Penguins forward Max Talbot.  From Martin’s perspective I am sure it was seen as some sort of retribution for the hit Talbot put on Blake Comeau in the last meeting these two teams had, but a sucker-punch is never the way to go about doing it.  Martin received a major fighting penalty, ten minute misconduct and a game misconduct for his altercation with Talbot.
Winner of the ugliest moment of the game award has to go to Trevor Gillies of the New York Islanders for his flying elbow to the head of Penguins forward Eric Tangradi and subsequent punching of Tangradi in the back of the head while he was on the ice.  Tangradi would remain on the ice for some time and was treated by the Islanders medical staff and is said to have received a concussion as a result of the actions that Gillies took. 
While nine games might seem like a lot, I believe that Gillies got off easy for his blatant intent to injure Tangradi.  His actions in the elbow itself, the punching of the player in the back of the head while face down on the ice and then standing in the ramp way off the ice taunting the kid as he attempted to get back to his feet and then congratulating his teammate for fighting a goalie added up to one of the most disgusting displays I have seen in a long time.  Nine games sitting out will not change Trevor Gillies or how he plays the game, and neither will a longer suspension.  One day he will get his; players who play with that disrespect and malice for their fellow competitors always do.
Along with the suspension the NHL also fined the Islander 100K dollars.  The Penguins were not fined and coach Dan Bylsma will not be suspended for tomorrow’s game against the New York Rangers.

Del Zotto Scratched, Eminger In; Tortorella Blows Up Forward Lines

When a team loses six straight, no matter how much they talk about how well they have played and the luck has not come, the coach is going to make some changes in hopes of changing the results.  The headline of those changes will be that everyone’s favorite scapegoat for last night’s loss, Michael Del Zotto, is being scratched from the lineup and Steve Eminger will be back in.  There is no doubt that Del Zotto blew it on the turnover/penalty that led to the power play, but that is not what cost the Rangers the game.  If the team does what it has done so often in killing off the chance, instead of allowing Evander Kane multiple uncontested chances, then the scapegoating of Del Zotto would be less today.  In fact, if we want to discuss which defensive player had the worse night, then Matt Gilroy would get the nod for me last night.
According to Andrew Gross, Michael Del Zotto will remain with the team even though he is going to be scratched for tomorrow’s game.  I worry about the way this scenario is being handled by the coaching staff and the development of this particular young player.  If you have a player with a confidence problem and you continued to send him out there when he was not ready, benching him after last night’s play only reinforces the negative thoughts and the belief that he might have been a main cause for the loss.  Even worse than that, benching him as opposed to sending him down to play is not helping his development.  The best place for Del Zotto is to get consistent time in the AHL and work through all of these things without fear of the mistakes costing him a spot in the lineup.  It is a knee-jerk reaction like this to bench him over that play that causes him to play absolutely terrified hockey when he is out there.
I am happy to see Eminger back in the lineup because I did not truly buy the reasons for him being benched and hopefully he plays well enough to maintain his spot.  What brining Eminger back in the lineup does other than adding some more physical play is it allows Matt Gilroy more freedom to roam on the ice.  Gilroy has played very tentative hockey while paired with Del Zotto and hopefully now he will get back to doing what was making him so successful a few weeks ago.
Beyond Del Zotto, after staying with the same lines for the last three games, today coach John Tortorella blew all of the lines apart and came up with some interesting combinations when he put humpty dumpty back together again.
Also per Andrew Gross, the new lines at practice were:

Brandon Dubinsky-Vinny Prospal-Marian Gaborik
Wojtek Wolski-Brian Boyle-Ryan Callahan
Sean Avery-Artem Anisimov-Derek Stepan
Mats Zuccarello-Erik Christensen-Brandon Prust
These lines really confuse me in different ways, so let’s go line by line.
  • I have no issue with the first line combination, but Prospal is clearly laboring at times to skate right now and mainly out of a refusal to move Dubinsky back to center, Vinny is asked to skate more playing the middle and I do not understand that.
  • Boyle over the last four or five games seems like he is completely out of gas from playing more minutes and against a higher level competition than he ever has in the NHL, but now he is being put with Callahan and Wolski and presumably being asked to add minutes to the tires.  Also, I am not a huge fan of separating Boyle and Prust, even if they have not produced much of late.
  • I like the idea of moving Stepan to the wing, but the left side would be a more natural spot for him and leaving him with at least one of Wolski and Zuccarello would be better for chemistry purposes.  There is no way anyone on this line wins a faceoff either.
  • To put Zuccarello with Christensen and Prust on what is presumably the fourth line seems like a waste of his skill set and means he is unlikely to get anything resembling significant minutes.
I would rather see a lineup looking something like this:

Video of John Tortorella courtesy of Jesse Spector’s Blueshirts Blog:

Which Rangers Players Would Do What Godard Did to Defend His Goaltender?

After watching the mayhem that was the Islanders-Penguins game last night I could not help but wonder which if any New York Rangers would have done what Godard did in coming off the bench to defend their goaltender if a goon challenged Martin Biron or heaven forbid Henrik Lundqvist to a fight.  Before I get to that I want to say that while Godard will get a ten game suspension and lose a lot of money for what he did, he was absolutely right in doing to defend his goaltender from a cowardly move by “tough guy.”  In fact, his teammates should all get together and make up for the lost salary he is about to incur for doing the right thing.  It is likely that Brent Johnson did not need the help in the situation, but regardless no player should ever challenge a goalie to a fight and no player on the goalie’s team should allow it to go down.

In terms of the Rangers, one would love to think that any and every player would gladly hop off the bench if that scenario played itself out.  In trying to come up with the guys we thought could do it, one had to take into account who has done similar things in sticking up for teammates thus far this season.  With that in mind in thinking about it and discussing it with other Bill Gordon aka @UndeRadar and Kevin DeLury of The New York Rangers Blog last night we could only come up with three players on the roster we were sure would do it.  Can you guess the three we came up with?

Brandon Prust: The most obvious to everyone was Prust.  All season long Prust has taken on all comers and been the man to exact some form of retribution if a player on his team was run.  There is no way I could imagine Prust sitting idly by as a situation like that unfolds.

Brandon Dubinsky: While certainly not a fighter, if you at different situations this season, when Dubinsky has been on the ice and someone has taken liberties with a member of his team, Brandon has been the first one in there looking to take a piece of the guy.  There have been times where it has come back to hurt the team when he has taken a penalty for it, but those situations lead me to believe that he would have been one of those guys that definitely would have volunteered for the assignment without thought to the consequences.

Michael Sauer:  A guy that I had overlooked, but Bill mentioned was Michael Sauer and he is absolutely right.  Sauer has shown over the year that he does not allow for anyone to take liberties on him, his teammates or his goaltenders.  If there is one Rangers defender that has stuck up for his goalies in terms of clearing the crease and mixing it up with opposition players taking shots after the whistle, it is Sauer.

Anyone we forgot?  Anyone on the list you don’t think would do it? 

The Quick Fix Is Not the Answer, Let Them Find Their Way Through It

Maybe things were going too well before the recent losing streak that it seems there is a collective rush to the edge of the cliff among the New York Ranger fan community at the moment.  The six game losing streak is awful, without question, but it was also something that one had to expect was going to come.  This team is extremely young and developing at many different positions so the fact that they are having stumbles should not shock anyone, if anything, the shock should be at how little they had struggled to this point in the year, and how far all of these players have come.
I watched the reaction to last night’s game, at least in the twitter universe, and while absolutely frustrated with the loss myself, I could not comprehend some of the comments I was seeing on my screen.  There were those that were seeking to blame particular individuals for the loss and then there were those calling for trades to change the team so they can “fix” what is going on right now.  I will deal with the former later and the latter now. 
The last thing this team should be doing right now is making a trade.  The urge to make is understandable because there is that desire to have things change from the current course they are on within the season, but depending on the trade and what assets have to be given up you risk altering the positive course the team has been traveling on throughout the year, and into the future.  The fact that the team is having a blow-up of sorts does not mean it is time to start dealing off pieces that are crucial to this franchise in the future for rentals to ensure they make the playoffs this year.  I think the playoffs would be a great experience for all of these young players, but the cost to future, depending on the deal, is unlikely to be worth it.  Let them play.  Let them find their way through this.  That in the end might be the biggest growing experience these guys have this year.