Five things: That was easy

Ryan Lambert
April 18 2012 08:52AM

 

1. Boooo Brendan Shanahan you bum

It really isn't easy heading up the NHL's department of player safety. Ask Colin Campbell.

That having been said, Brendan Shanahan has done a spectacularly poor job this postseason, and everyone has delighted in pointing it out for every missed call and Shea Weber fine. Frankly, it's a little easy to go, "Well he's not suspending stars, only rookies!" and that much is true.

But guess what, dinguses, this is the National Hockey League. Star players get the benefit of the doubt. Always have, always will. Shanahan's no different. You don't get to be mad at him about that.

His mistake was rampaging out of the gates at a billion miles an hour handing down huge suspensions to bigger-name players as a means of setting an example. There have been more than a few reports since then of both the Players' Association and Board of Governors not being in any way happy about that, and you can be sure that the BOG in particular leaned on him heavily to cut that out right quick.

Think of it as Shanahan skating with a 50-pound weight behind him. He can't go around levying three-game bans for Shea Weber because holy hell can you imagine the hellstorm that gets kicked up if he does that? But if he can do it for guys no one cares about, like Carl Hagelin and Andrew Shaw, maybe someone somewhere will smarten up and not drill their opponent in the head with an elbow. I have to imagine that's the kind of thinking to which Shanahan has found himself forced to resort to.

Of course, that doesn't explain how Matt Carkner only gets a game for suckering Brian Boyle, but that's just Old Time Hockey and all that, I'm sure.

The point, I guess, is that I'm not sure where anyone gets off acting like Shanahan was ever going to be able to change a fundamentally corrupt system. None of this is his fault.

2. Brent's sour grapes

Was positively delighted to see that video of Brent Sutter acting like he had a particularly large say in a potential return behind the Calgary bench. He would have turned down the extension had they offered it? Okay sure, Brent.

If Jay Feaster really did want to bring in "his own" guy to run the bench, well then guess what, bud: the call wasn't yours to make. Now I will say that all this is pretty much good for both parties. Calgary gets a coach the team hasn't completely tuned out (by all accounts), Sutter gets the chance to try his hand in international competition and, just maybe, for a youthful fun-and-gun Oilers team. Hey, Sutter already has a lot of experience not making the playoffs in Alberta.

That's a win-win situation as far as I can tell.

3. Who's at the front of the line?

And now, with Sutter's old job sitting vacant, we're seeing a lot of talk about just who will take over from him.

QMI had a pretty definitive list the other day, including Troy Ward of the Abbotsford Heat, Bob Boughner of the Windsor Spitfires, Bob Hartley of ZSC Lions, Craig MacTavish(!) of the Chicago Wolves and Mike Sullivan of the New York Rangers.

I wouldn't be opposed to any of them, per se, but it's tough to say definitively given how close to the vest the organization is playing its plans for next year. Each have their positive qualities and, to an extent, their drawbacks, which should give anyone backing a particular horse a certain amount of pause.

And then on Marek vs. Wyshynski yesterday, Jeff Marek floated the idea that Todd McLellan might take over behind the bench if (when?) he gets canned in San Jose. That would be interesting as well, but for wholly different reasons. He's a very good coach who has a wealth of experience working with an older roster of veterans who should know what to do without being told, but I wonder whether that kind of coaching will work with the kids if the team decides to go young.

Lots of viable candidates, but I'm going to reserve judgment until we have a more definitive picture of what Feaster wants from this team going forward.

4. No one in Caps/Bruins debate has a leg to stand on

The Boston media kicked up a big old fuss over Dale Hunter's comments following Game 3 in that series. How hypocritical, a guy talking about the right and wrong way to play the game when he LITERALLY tried to murder every player on the opposing team on a nightly basis during his 17-year career what a jerk!

Of course, this ignores that the Bruins are perhaps the dirtiest team in the league and, not unlike a bad guy in an Encyclopedia Brown story, proud of it. So because Nicklas Backstrom very obviously crosschecked Rich Peverley in the face at the end of Game 3, neither team gets to say the other is dirty or not dirty, because in this case, they both are. That's fine.

I don't know why everyone gets so hung up on which team is dirty and which isn't and what it all means. Every team in the league has at least one or two players who "play on the edge" and are therefore going to occasionally get called out for being on the wrong side of the law. Some teams have more, none have less. And so when it gets into an issue of who's classy and who isn't, that's a debate that should just go away forever.

Can't imagine how anyone supporting — oh, I'm sorry, "covering" — a team with Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic on it gets to call anyone a hypocrite for pointing out when things are dirty.

5. The first round is the best thing about hockey season

Watch any of these games and tell me different. You're glued to your TV for three or four super-meaningful games a day, every day for two weeks. It's perfect. What else could you want?

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Yer ol' buddy Lambert is handsome and great and everyone loves him. Also you can visit his regular blog at The Two-Line Pass or follow him on Twitter. Lucky you!
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#1 Kent Wilson
April 18 2012, 09:10AM
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The things you say about Shanahan were also true about Campbell (plus that whole issue of being completely biased and everything).

At this point, it seems any one person put in charge of discipline in the NHL is going to be overwhelmed by the demands of the position and will likely fall into the similar traps of weighting what should be irrelevant factors when it comes to discipline (for example, is the player a star).

Ideally, a simple suspension formula or algorithm would probably do a better job. Input a few key factors for each case (repeat offender? Intent to injure? Target the head? Use stick/skate as a weapon?) Grade them on a simple binary/ or 1-5 scale and then have it spit out a sentence.

People would bitch still, ubt there would be no one figurehead to blame it on. You'd see more consistency and less subjectivity with the straight numbers as well.

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#2 Colin
April 18 2012, 09:18AM
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Well at least it looks like some Journalists don't have a moronic opinion of Shanahan (Unlike some incredible morons, such as http://thestar.blogs.com/thespin/2012/04/the-tweet-came-in-just-before-midnight-from-a-surprising-source-future-hall-of-famer-mike-modano-really-selling-the-game.html).

Shanahan can only go as far as the BoG and the NHLPA let him. Yeah it sucks that players get hurt and there seems to be an increase of cheap shots, but the BoG and NHLPA don't care as long as TV ratings keep going up. Which is why this tweet from Modano (https://twitter.com/#!/9modano/status/192457959857598464) makes no sense. Ratings in the first round are up on average 50% or more. That's how you get good TV deals, WHEN PEOPLE WATCH THE TV!!! You could have the cleanest, most skilled NHL product EVER, but if NO ONE is watching, there will be no big TV deals.

As well, calling the refs blind or stupid or whatever? There are 2, thats right, 2 refs on the Ice, so when Quenville says that all 4 missed it, the linesmen are not refs, they have different priorities. So even if the 2 refs missed it and then the linemen say they did and call the penalty after the fact, you can damn well bet the opposing team would be pissed off and will complain. Also those teams(BoG, Owners, Whatever) will be complaining if Refs ere on the side of caution(calling more penalties on borderline hits) that could cost teams on special teams. So if refs started calling double minors and majors on hits that are clean, but because we are so concerened about player safety, they ere on the side of caution and call the penalty teams are gonna be pissed.

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#3 Robert Vollman
April 18 2012, 09:19AM
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Sigh - can't they find a GOOD coach?

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#4 Monaertchi
April 18 2012, 09:28AM
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I must admit that after all these years I'm still surprised and disappointed that the PA actively pressures the league to do things that are counter to player safety.

On coaches: there is a tendency for companies of all types to promote to the level of incompetence. If someone is good at their job, promote them no matter what. Eventually they get fired because they have no skill or education to deal the new job. In other words, let's keep Ward in Abby for a while because he is apparently very good at his current job.

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#5 non descript
April 18 2012, 09:32AM
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calgary guys never pass up the slightest opportunity to take a shot at the oil. fair enough for sure. we'll see.

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#6 Robert Vollman
April 18 2012, 09:53AM
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Thankfully all other hockey fans, including Edmonton fans, are above that sort of thing.

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#7 @Gingras34
April 18 2012, 10:00AM
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Good read.

-I do find it rather odd how on garbage day, Sutter was all "I'd love to coach a rebuild" and "I don't need this job guys, I lived out my dream, playing." Now he acts as though he didn't want a job offer at all.

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#8 Colin
April 18 2012, 10:10AM
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@GingrasYQL

There's a team up north going through a rebuild right now.....I'm not saying, but I'm just saying.

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#9 Stunner
April 18 2012, 10:11AM
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If Troy Ward takes Abbotsford far in the AHL playoffs (and there is a good chance they will go far) is he the front-runner for the head coaching position??

I would like to see someone who isn't old school like the Sutters and Keenan.

I say give Ward a chance or hold out hope that Tippett becomes available if the Phoenix to Quebec rumours are true.

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#10 Freshy smalls
April 18 2012, 10:13AM
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Damien Cox thinks Lambert is an idiot!

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#11 Colin
April 18 2012, 10:18AM
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@Stunner

I would like Ward to go one more year in Abby, just cause that way the kids get some more consistency. So if the choice is Ward, go with Hartsburg for the Flames for one year and then Ward after that. All the while you can start searching and grooming a replacement for Ward, hopefully from in the Organization. That way there will be some consistency in Abbotsford and Ward can really put into place a system there that follows to his Flames Head Coaching gig.

@Freshy Smalls

Damien Cox's opinion would matter if Cox wasn't an idiot.

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#12 Kurt
April 18 2012, 10:40AM
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I don't think its so unreasonable to say Sutter walked away. You make it sound like he could only dream of coming back to coach this middling, aging and directionless team, and that the only reason is that Feaster didn't want him.

First of all, Brent has quit an NHL job before, so its not like he hasn't shown he has the will to do it.

Secondly, why would he want to come back? Unless he thinks he can't find another job. But he obviously has confidence he can, and then he looks ahead and sees no plan, no hope, an aging washed up team and a fan base that likes to pile on and blame him for everything. I wasn't a huge Sutter fan, but I actually respect him more for walking away.

Personally I believe that Sutter walked away before Feaster could say anything. Feaster probably wasn't going to renew anyways, so he says it was mutual. It looks pretty bad on Feaster and the Flames if you coach walks and says 'umm ya, I'd rather not get paid millions, this team is such a mess... no thanks'. Why else would they say it was mutual?? If Feaster had made his mind up he would have fired him and it looks stronger on him and the organization.

Saying it was mutual is what you tell your buddies after you get dumped to save face. The Flames got dumped by their coach and its embarrassing to admit.

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#13 @Gingras34
April 18 2012, 10:47AM
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Colin wrote:

@GingrasYQL

There's a team up north going through a rebuild right now.....I'm not saying, but I'm just saying.

Oh I know. Would not surprised me one bit. But the question he replied to was from a Flames standpoint, not anywhere.

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#14 Graham
April 18 2012, 10:54AM
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I don't think Sutter would have been back anyway, but it does sound like he was out of step with Ken Kings master plan (change as little as possible) and wanted more changes than management. If true, I think this gives us a fairly good road map of what to expect next year, changes around the edges, but basically one last,last, last run with the current group.

Wouldn't mind seeing Sutter land up in Edmonton, the rivalry might lead to some candid comments about his time in Calgary.

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#15 Vintage Flame
April 18 2012, 10:59AM
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Good stuff as always Lambert;

1&4. I don't think there is a team in the playoffs that can talk about their opponent being dirtier than they are. Every team has their issues and their guys that play on the edge.
- Detroit can bitch about Webber all they want, but it was only a matter of time before things balanced out again and Zetterberg showed that with an axe-handle slash to Webber's head last night.

Everyone is going back and forth and yeah Shanny may not be to blame for a broken system but he sure isn't helping things much either. Incidents like last night and that idiot Raffi Torres need special attention. There is no doubt that this guy should be done for the rest of the playoffs and extend that into next season, like 20 games; hell he should be run right out of the NHL, but we all know that won't happen.

Shanahan needs to clamp down on the officials too maybe. There is too much getting missed and too much the officials are letting slide. I know it's more exciting to just let the guys play and let them decide the game, but when you do what Torres did and not even get a penalty?? What the hell were ALL 4 officials watching??

2&3. When I first heard Sutter on the Fan 960, I was a little concerned that Sutter not wanting an extension because of a difference of opinion as to what direction the team needed to go in, because that probably meant the Flames were going to do nothing... again. I'm not convinced of that anymore. I didn't get the impression of sour grapes, but then again I wasn't really listening for them either. The statements made by both sides just scream, "Meh, Whatever" to me. They parted ways, let's move on and find someone right to coach this team, whoever they are.

I'd love to see Boughner come here, not that Ward wouldn't be a decent choice as well, but I really want him to stay in Abby for at least another year or two, to work with the kids that will be joining the team next year.

5. So agree with you on this point. I can't remember the last time that I have watched 3 or 4 games per day in the first round. I'm pleasantly surprised how good the series' have been so far.

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#16 RexLibris
April 18 2012, 12:54PM
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@ Kent Wilson

You mean something like this? http://www.downgoesbrown.com/2009/11/nhl-suspensions.html

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#17 RexLibris
April 18 2012, 12:59PM
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@ Robert Vollman

Curious, Robert, who might you suggest?

My own take on this is that, if-I mean when, the Canucks go out in the first round (celebratory pancakes, anyone?) there seems a chance that Vigneault could be fired and Vancouver might be at the top of the list for many coaching candidates.

This could mean that unless Feaster starts interviews almost immediately once candidates become available then he may end up like Columbus did, having to hire their second-rated candidate because another team came with a better offer.

For my money, McLellan and MacTavish might be the best fit for Calgary. They have experience dealing with veteran groups, have a history of developing rookies, and might have enough character to stand up to a room that hasn't been kind to coaches for the last few years.

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#18 RexLibris
April 18 2012, 01:01PM
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@Freshy Smalls

Damien Cox is superbly qualified to offer that opinion.

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#19 everton fc
April 18 2012, 01:25PM
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I agree with the gist of Kurt's comments. I get a sense in losing Brent, the organization has lost someone who professional hockey sees as valuable, someone who can assess talent, youth... Scouting... And so forth.

It does look like Feaster was dumped. Brent certainly has a gig where he'll get more support.

As for signing Ward as the next coach... We'll lose Ward either this summer, or next... If we don't do something more long-term with his situation here. Not sure what that would look like...

Did I mention we still seem screwed?

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#20 Graham
April 18 2012, 04:18PM
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@ RexLibris

'This could mean that unless Feaster starts interviews almost immediately'

lol, this is the Flames we are talking about. If past history is anything to go by, it will be months before they get around to hiring a new coach. They are hardly the most decisive bunch. Lets see, we have to complete Kings 'top down review', kick names around 'internally' for weeks, decide on a short list, start interviewing, oops we wiated to long and that guy got hired elsewhere, look at the list again...repeat process....

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#21 Vintage Flame
April 18 2012, 05:27PM
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@RexLibris

This could mean that unless Feaster starts interviews almost immediately once candidates become available then he may end up like Columbus did, having to hire their second-rated candidate because another team came with a better offer.

I love ya Rex, but it would be absolutely absurd for Feaster to begin interviewing coaches immediately, unless he was going directly for Boughner or Eakins. Since Boughner said himself he hasn't even been contacted by the Flames, I suspect Jay is thinking along the same lines. Feaster said himself that although it may be nice to have the head coach in place in time for the draft, it is my no means a necessity.

I would expect Jay will wait until some more teams are eliminated, in fact I would not be surprised if he didn't even begin the process until at least the finals have gotten under way.

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#22 RexLibris
April 18 2012, 08:14PM
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@Vintage Flame

I'll qualify that by adding that I meant immediately following the Cup finals.

There is no way they can hire a coach at this time as even the most-mentioned candidate (Ward) kind of has his hands full.

No, I wasn't meaning tomorrow, but then I should have been more explicit in my statement earlier.

A new coach by draft week at the earliest?

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#23 Colin
April 18 2012, 09:22PM
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There is no reason that you HAVE to have a coach by the draft. I know the coach is going to want to have some input on who the team is drafting, but Feaster should be putting his stamp on this team, draft/trade/sign who he wants and just let the coach, coach.

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#24 VK63
April 19 2012, 10:26AM
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Stunner wrote:

If Troy Ward takes Abbotsford far in the AHL playoffs (and there is a good chance they will go far) is he the front-runner for the head coaching position??

I would like to see someone who isn't old school like the Sutters and Keenan.

I say give Ward a chance or hold out hope that Tippett becomes available if the Phoenix to Quebec rumours are true.

On Tippett... Given that about 25 other teams would also be desirous of his services, why would he choose the Flames? Given all the Ken Kings a meddling douche' talk a "good" coach is highly unlikely. Unless all he gives a damn about is a monster paycheck and a revolving door of sub standard steeds the Flames will go in house because those guys know the drill.

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