FGD: The Red Wings are Coming!

Kent Wilson
November 01 2013 09:49AM

 

 

The former juggernaut Detroit Red Wings aren't quite as run down as their unfortunate home town, but cracks are finally starting to show in the armor. Right now, Detroit is 14th in the league in terms of score-close possession, a metric they routinely dominated for years. Datysuk and Zetterberg are growing long in the tooth, but for now remain top drawer two-way players. 

The divide between them and the rest of the club continues to grow, however. Absent Lidstrom, the team doesn't have a third elite leg to support the rest of the average stool (yeesh...talk about your clumsy metaphors). Only three other forwards are in the black in terms of possession so far - Bertuzzi, Alfredsson and Abdlekader. And Bertuzzi mostly plays with Datsyuk and Zetterberg (meaning he's not driving that number). Alfredsson is 40-years old and Abdelkader hangs out at the end of the rotation. Johan Franzen is close (49%), but there's a big drop off after him.

The biggest disappointment for the Wings must be Stephen Weiss. He has the worst possession rate on the team (43%) even with a sky-high zone start ratio (57%). Weiss was a pretty good player in Florida for a long time, but his numbers started slipping over the his two seasons as a Panther. He was supposed to anchor the Wings second scoring line, but he's sinking the boat instead.

All of which is an overly long way to say - the Red Wings are still good, but they don't appear to be ridiculously good anymore. They have two elite forwards, some decent support pieces and a whole bunch of meh. If the Flames can cage Datsyuk and Zetterberg (easier said than done, I know), then they have chance to outplay the Wings so-so depth.

The Lineup

Hartley announced yesterday Backlund would slide back into the line-up and Joey MacDondald would get a turn after Ramo's *ahem* "performance" against the Leafs. Her's how things will probably shape up:

  • Glencross - Stajan - Jones
  • Galiardi - Colborne - Cammalleri
  • Baertschi - Monahan - Hudler
  • Bouma - Backlund - McGrattan

  • Russell - Wideman
  • Brodie - Butler
  • O'Brien - Smith

  • MacDonald

A lot of plaudits have been handed to Joe Colborne over his recent play and particularly his 23 minute game vs Toronto the other night, but I still find the decision making governing his usage rather bizarre - at least relative to other players on the club. Colborne has certainly looked better over the last few games compared to his first few (where he was completely lost) and in general I am not opposed to coach playing the heck out of a few young guys this year for informational and developmental purposes.

Here's the thing - Colborne hasn't been that good so far. Certainly not "usurp Backlund" good. The former Leaf has been fed some of the softest minutes of any forward on the team (65.5% zone start) and yet on Wednesday night he boasted the worst even strength scoring chance ratio on the Flames (3 for, 9 against). He's nowhere near a 20 minute per night center yet and I don't see what he's done to privilege him above players like Backlund or Baertschi (who have seen their minutes limited or slashed at both ES and on the PP).

Maybe it's a motivational thing. Maybe Hartley is using different reinforcement techniques with different players. But on the face of it, the disparate treatment of certain guys on the team seems...incongruous.

The Opposition

It's the Datsyuk line and then everyone else. Via Daily Faceoff:

  • Zetterberg - Datsyuk - Bertuzzi
  • Cleary - Franzen - Alfredsson
  • Tatar - Weiss - Abdelkader
  • Miller - Andersson - Eaves

  • Kronwall - DeKeyser
  • Quincey - Smith
  • Kindl - Lashoff

  • Howard

Detroit's blueline is somewhat underwhelming as well. Kronwall is a legitimate top pairing guy at this point and most teams could probably get away with Smith and Ericsson (currently injured) in their top-4, but the rest of the defense brigade is trouble.

DeKeyser was a highly sought after College free agent, but he's only 24 games into his NHL career. Quincey is kind of the Wing's version of Chris Butler - he has some tools, but always seems to end up a scapegoat at the end of too many games. Kindl is still trying to find his way at the NHL level and Lashoff (Brian, not Matt) is a 23 year old rookie and former free agent signing who has been plying his trade in Grand Rapids for the last few years. HIs resume reminds of Adam Pardy's when he made the Flames a few years ago. 

We've discussed the forward unit, though I'd like to add I continually wonder what power Todd Bertuzzi holds over the Detroit Red Wing organization - he's 38 year old, he was a suspect two-way player even as a Flame back in 2008-09, he hasn't scored more than 45 points in six seasons and he only has four points 12 games this year...and yet he's skating with Dats and Zetterberg at ES. I don't get it.

Sum it Up

Detroit's first line is a powerhouse and can take a game over all by themselves. Calgary has no true power on power option that can be reasonably expected to take them on, but some nights you have hold the big guns in check via luck or hard work (or both). The key to the game will be to minimizing the damage from those guys and then outplaying the Wing's much softer underbelly.

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Former Nations Overlord. Current Fn contributor and curmudgeon For questions, complaints, criticisms, etc contact Kent @ kent.wilson@gmail. Follow him on Twitter here.
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#2 SmellOfVictory
November 01 2013, 12:51PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

To be fair to the coaching staff, Backlund certainly isn't a perfect player. In the offensive zone he can definitely be "too passive" at times - throwing the puck on net from bad angles or just inside the blueline and cheating for defense, but those are problems he can work through safely on the ice given how complete his game is otherwise.

I wonder how he'd do as a defenceman. He's already got the defensive aspect of playing forward down, he has one of the hardest slapshots on the team, and he's good at distributing the puck. Might be a little late in his career to say "try a new position", but the Flames could use someone other than Chris Butler in their top 4.

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#3 mattyc
November 01 2013, 11:29AM
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Love the Brian Burke op.ed on fighting, particularly this:

Reduced to its simplest truth, fighting is one of the mechanisms that regulates the level of violence in our game.

Leave aside that the only evidence he has to support this claim is anecdotal, the logic is also completely flawed. The simplest truth: violence regulates the level of violence.

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#4 Parallex
November 01 2013, 12:50PM
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Millions says Prob lines has Backlund playing with McGrattan. Stupid, just stupid.

In the spirit of domebeers... Furthermore, I think Bob Hartley should be Fired.

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#5 ChinookArch
November 01 2013, 09:49PM
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@Clyde

I actually expected that you would have embraced the title, since you get a lot of attension working it. You don't present any supporting arguments for you opinions. No clear reasoning, no new information, nothing new. By my observation, you simple mock anyone that utters anything that isn't generally acknowledged by mainstream media. So yeah, you are a troll. And, by the way no body cares that you are a hockey guy - whatever that means.

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#6 beloch
November 01 2013, 01:35PM
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At least it's not McGrattan and Jackman tonight. There's that at least.

Backlund probably just needs to start a fight to be fully reinstated. He's clearly not truculent enough for somebody's taste right now.

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#7 the forgotten man
November 01 2013, 01:45PM
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Again I ask...is this team rebuilding or going for the playoffs this year...Jekyll & Hyde. What is our hopeful future? Backlund, Monahan, Baertchi, Brodie etc. Play these boys, win or lose, and let the chips fall where they may. Same old Calgary Flames...as I have said before, you literally have to make an effort to be clueless & incompetent as a Franchise to make it past the 1st round of the playoffs once in 25 years.

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#8 RKD
November 01 2013, 05:46PM
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Brian Burke is coaching this team from behind the scenes, already called Sven out publicly. I don't think he is a fan of Backlund either. He wants guys like Colborne playing a lot. He probably wants truculence in the lineup as well. This is why we see Jackman and McGrattan over guys like Roman Horak.

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#9 @Gingras34
November 01 2013, 10:27AM
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Scary Gary wrote:

This Backlund thing is frustrating.

It's ridiculous. Guy works harder than any other player on the team. Plays the toughest mins among FWD's, 41% OZS. And they scratch him? I'd ask for a trade if I was him.

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#10 Parallex
November 01 2013, 12:25PM
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Yeah, I'm pretty much ambivalent to fighting... I just don't like goons. To put it another way I'm fine with watching hockey players fight I just don't want to watch fighters try to play hockey.

I say just make the instigator penalty non-optional. You can go ahead and fight if you want but it better be worth risking handing a two minute PP over to the other team and if it wasn't then whatever it was it wasn't worth fighting over in the first place.

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#11 clyde
November 01 2013, 03:37PM
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Bean-counting cowboy wrote:

I'm a bit torn on the fighting in hockey debate. I certainly don't like the goonery and staged fights (go watch MMA if you're into that type of thing), however I do find myself getting amped up when there is a "natural fight".

One thing I wonder is if there would be more interest in playing the sport if fighting was removed. I know quite a number of parents who don't want their kids to play because of the fighting aspect. There was a news story I saw recently indicating that fewer Canadian families are having their kids play hockey. Beyond the financial and time burdens, I wonder how much of that relates to fighting?

I teach my young kids about how fighting is bad, and so on. Then I take them to a hockey game and wonder if I should cheer and yell as the fight is going on or keep quiet and explain why everyone else is screaming and yelling.

There are a lot of very physical sports that don't allow fighting, why should hockey be different? Anyone watch Auzzy rules Football? One of the best, physical sports to watch IMO. Rugby, Football, etc. Why is hockey the only major sport to allow fighting? I think the game could be played without it.

I played in Europe when there was very little fighting. It was usually us Canadian guys going after a very dirty player. lol. The stickwork, spitting, cheap shots, kicking, etc were horrendous. The crowds were very passive as the game was very structured and featured a great deal of trapping and obstruction. They would get very excited when there was a bit of emotion through a hard hit, scrums and the odd tussle much more so than even a goal. I have noticed some leagues, especially the KHL have started employing tough guys and I'm sure it is in no small part in order to get the fans a little more excited. However, an interesting thing happened in Sweden a few years ago. They changed what they were doing by realizing they needed to develop players with a grittier playing style. Not necessarily fighters but guys who would go to the tough areas and compete much harder in the physical areas. The first generation of this type of player included guys like Kronwall, the Sedins and Douglas Murray. It took them 6-7 years but their victory in the 2006 justified that what they were doing was right. Coaching against a Swedish team is much different than when I played against them as they are no longer willing to be intimidated. You ask a question asked by many. Why should hockey be different than other sports? I would say that why wouldn't it want to be unique? I don't want soccer or basketball on ice. I teach my younger players that they are not to fight and would like to see that as a rule until pro. There is nothing worse than seeing or having been that 16 year old getting challenged and fighting a 19-20 year old. That is when fighting is very dangerous in my opinion. Plus,if you are a third line talent you feel that if you back down, you may not be playing much longer. At the NHL level, I understand why most coaches employ the guys they do. It needs to be understood that the vast majority of these guys are not as talentless or dumb as many on this site feel they are. They understand their role/job. They sometimes sit for many minutes and are thrown out cold against 1st liners who have been playing. Sometimes they do not fare well statistically but their goal is to bang some bodies, hopefully get the puck deep and change some momentum. They are often some of the smartest players and best team guys. Detroit tries to get by without a tough guy but they are not anti fighting. If they could find another Probert, they would be all over that.

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#12 Primo
November 01 2013, 03:49PM
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Monaertchi wrote:

Hartley on the Backlund scratch:

http://prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com/2013/11/01/hartley-wasnt-very-pleased-about-making-backlund-healthy-scratch/?ocid=Yahoo&partner=ya5nbcs

Says he wants to help Mickis be better offensively. Great news! How does putting him on a line with the bears help that? Take away that one element (4th line with Grats) and it all makes perfect sense. But instead it seems totally senseless.

Hartley is being politically correct to secure his own job. Colbourne was brought in by Burke so Hartley will do everything possible to make him successful. It's obvious Burke wants nothing to do with Sven and Backs long term. They are simply not his type of players. Hence Barkley is not giving them the ice time.

And you thought politics was only prevalent in the office....

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#14 ChinookArch
November 01 2013, 10:07PM
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@Clyde

Okay, I didn't intend on starting anything with you or anyone else here, but you may want to look over your comments tonight. Maybe you were just having fun, but it came off (to me anyway) like you were mocking. I apologise for the fireworks.

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#16 Kenta
November 01 2013, 10:13AM
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We don't have the luxury of great depth or experience at any position. Treating Backlund like a doormat and playing him on the fourth line is a joke. Monahan has cooled off over the past few games - is he in the press box next or does the tough love approach only apply to European youngsters like Sven and Backlund?

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#17 mattyc
November 01 2013, 12:26PM
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@Kent Wilson

It's interesting too I think that everyone assumes that cheap shots or dirty hits are premeditated. (Anecdotally), for every Bertuzzi hunting down a Steve Moore, there's 100s of knee-jerk reactions that result in a 'violent' play. That is to say that there's no time for the perpetrators to think about the consequences of their actions before they commit them, they're blinded by rage. While Carter Ashton may have though "man I shouldn't have blindsided Smith, because now O'Brien is going to break my nose", before the hit, all he's thinking is "gotta make a big hit".

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#19 the-wolf
November 01 2013, 01:24PM
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Backs on the 4th line again? I really don't get it. I, along with others here, am also starting to wonder if BB is influencing Colborne getting 2nd line minutes. What a waste of not only one of our best players, but our best young players.

Where is the MSM with the hard questions on this btw? Get some cameras and mikes in front of Harltey and make him explain himself.

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#21 Baalzamon
November 01 2013, 02:26PM
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SmellOfVictory wrote:

I wonder how he'd do as a defenceman. He's already got the defensive aspect of playing forward down, he has one of the hardest slapshots on the team, and he's good at distributing the puck. Might be a little late in his career to say "try a new position", but the Flames could use someone other than Chris Butler in their top 4.

You just... blew my mind.

That had never, ever occurred to me before. Mickis as a defenceman.

I do like him as a center, though (and I really think that's the position for which his skillset is best suited) but at least if he was to play defense the pressure to put up big point totals would abate. It would also reduce the pressure to draft a big-time dman for a while (theoretically).

That is... very interesting.

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#22 Parallex
November 01 2013, 03:54PM
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@Monaertchi

If that was anything but bullspit he'd put Backlund on a scoring line and not with grinders and goons

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#23 MichaelD
November 01 2013, 04:26PM
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@clyde

Very well put

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#24 schevvy
November 01 2013, 06:43PM
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Is it too early to retire the new jersey and never speak of it ever again?

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#25 Clyde
November 01 2013, 08:31PM
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@Kent Wilson

True. A tough game to predict based on things like corsi

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#27 Clyde
November 01 2013, 09:50PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Let's cut the name calling guys. Clyde likes his conventional hockey thoughts. That's fine.

Thanks kent. And, if I seem to be offending people who are stronger proponents of advanced stats, that is not my intent. I happen to use some to inform me as a former player and coach myself. But, I am trying to offer some differing opinions. I am not offended by being called a name. He is just a passionate Flames fan with an opinion.

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#29 Clyde
November 01 2013, 09:58PM
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seve927 wrote:

We're all hockey guys. That's why we read this site. That should be self-evident.

Point taken.

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#30 Clyde
November 01 2013, 10:02PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Which is why I don't boot you from the site clyde. I disagree with you, often, but I don't simply want an echo chamber here either.

Have we ever agreed? Lol

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#31 gussey
November 01 2013, 10:38PM
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Kent Wilson wrote:

Okay. So...

If you watched a car speed by you and thought "That guy's going really fast. Like, 100." And a cop beside you with a laser guided speed recorder leaned over and told you it was actually 65, would you discount his evidence?

Not necessarily. But cops radars, like stats, are not always right. That's why there is court.

If your walking downtown and get approached by two shady crackheads.. Do feel safe because you were told crime in downtown has dropped by 38 percent this year? Or would you like to have a guy like mcgratten standing next to you?

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#32 kittensandcookies
November 01 2013, 11:42PM
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gussey wrote:

Not necessarily. But cops radars, like stats, are not always right. That's why there is court.

If your walking downtown and get approached by two shady crackheads.. Do feel safe because you were told crime in downtown has dropped by 38 percent this year? Or would you like to have a guy like mcgratten standing next to you?

Forget McGratten, I'd like to have some police near me, that's who.

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#33 Scary Gary
November 01 2013, 10:02AM
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This Backlund thing is frustrating.

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#35 SmellOfVictory
November 01 2013, 10:19AM
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I wonder if Detroit regrets letting Flip go and singing Weiss in his place.

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#37 mk
November 01 2013, 11:37AM
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At times I wonder if management knows what they have with Backlund and is purposefully giving him the short end of the stick to get a better read on other players. That doesn't jive with what they're saying though.

If he would just have a 10-game stretch with good line mates and actual PP time, he'd probably produce enough offense to stick in a top 6 role.

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#38 mattyc
November 01 2013, 12:28PM
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@Parallex

I agree as well on the agnosticism. I kind of liked watching O'Brien pummel Ashton, if only because it satisfied some sort of primal justice. Ashton got 'punished' for stepping out of line, and the balance of good and evil in the universe was restored.

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#40 clyde
November 01 2013, 03:12PM
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TRAV wrote:

I can understand playing your heavyweight when the other squad has big tough guys in their lineup. I prefer real hockey fights that result from on ice events but I have argued here in the past that I can support a McGratton in the proper situations. I DON'T think he should be in the lineup tonite. This would have been a perfect game to get one of the kids in from Abby. Detroit doesn't fight and won't be intimidated by McGratton. I would far rather see a Knight on the fourth line. You can't tell Backs to play better offensively and then plug him between Bouma and Grats for seven minutes. I think that maybe coach potato had suggested rolling four decent lines. To me this would be a great game to employ that strategy.

Finally are there any free agent Dmen that we could bring in and then swap at the deadline for a draft pick. It seems maybe we are thin down on the farm with injuries etc...

This is definitely the game to do exactly what ypu propose. Vancouver took one of their heavies out the other night but the other one went hard to the net to help generate their goal. Perhaps Hartley hopes with Backlund, Mcgratten can help generate as the Detroit defense would have a hard time dealing with his size. Liles is available at all times and I am a little surprised the Flames didn't grab him to do just what you are suggesting.

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#41 Monaertchi
November 01 2013, 03:13PM
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Hartley on the Backlund scratch:

http://prohockeytalk.nbcsports.com/2013/11/01/hartley-wasnt-very-pleased-about-making-backlund-healthy-scratch/?ocid=Yahoo&partner=ya5nbcs

Says he wants to help Mickis be better offensively. Great news! How does putting him on a line with the bears help that? Take away that one element (4th line with Grats) and it all makes perfect sense. But instead it seems totally senseless.

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#42 Clyde
November 01 2013, 04:42PM
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Bean-counting cowboy wrote:

You mention soccer and basketball. I mentioned neither. I don't consider those overly physical sports (I have played both).

I did mention Auzzy Rules Footbal (my new 2nd favorite sport to watch next to hockey), Rugby and Football, none of which allow fighting.

I'm not saying I'm completely against fighting in hockey at this point, however I think if the NHL came out next week and said "no fighting allowed", I wouldn't be disappointed.

As human beings we have to learn how to handle our anger and agression through all frustrating aspects of our life. You start punching someone in the face because you're mad at them - you could go to jail. Rugby, Auzzy rules Football and Football players had to learn to control their agression and not face punch. Just sayin'

I played rugby too. Tons of punches thrown in that sport bud. And,the odd tilt too. Just saying

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#43 Loges
November 01 2013, 05:13PM
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Im really glad you wrote this post, I've been waiting for some perspective analysis on Hartley's decision making with regards to Sven/Backlund ES & PP. These guys need to play to develop, Hartley says Backlund needs to get better offensively, but gets minimal off zone starts, malhotra faceoff treatment and 7mins/gm between two facepunchers..explain how he is supposed to do that?

Good stuff as always Kent.

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#45 piscera.infada
November 01 2013, 07:38PM
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While I don't like Backlund playing on the fourth line. I kind of like the idea of giving Colborne a shot on the "third" line. It's a positive for this team, if they know what they have in him. He's an older (relatively) prospect, and playing him on more of a scoring line allows the org to assess if he's going to be valuable in that role moving on.

I think if by the end of this season they know what some of these kids do well, and what some of them don't do well, we'll be far better off during this rebuild.

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#50 Baalzamon
November 01 2013, 08:59PM
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Clyde wrote:

This game isn't all about metrics kent.

No one anywhere ever said it was clyde.

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