October 29, 2010

John Grahame Returns to the NHL... Kind of

During Thursday night's 6-5 Colorado Avalanche win over the Calgary Flames, a few things probably stood out above the rest:

1) Peter "Roll of the Die" Budaj was starting for the Avalanche instead of the injured Craig Anderson and he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he can still win at the NHL level... only in the rare occurence that Colorado scores more goals than he lets in.

2) Henrik Karlsson was making his second start in a week for Calgary, clearly serving as indication that the Flames intend-ED to reduce Miikka Kiprusoff's workload this year from the over 74 he's averaged in the last five seasons.

3) The Avalanche's Chris Stewart notched a hat-trick as he continues to prove the naysayers (yours included) wrong, becoming at least temporarily the second-leading scorer in the NHL. I think it's gotten to the point where it's no longer fair to refer to him as "The Brother of Anthony Stewart".

4) Flames head coach Brent Sutter called out the entire team in the media following the loss, making a point of specifically excluding Olli Jokinen from his tirade, which is kind of like a parent using the troublemaker of his three kids as an example to get the other two to quit throwing tantrums in a grocery store: "Quiet down guys! You're being worse than Jimmy! Is that what you want? Is it?"

Beyond all that, the game marked the return of goaltender John Grahame, who last saw game action in the NHL with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2007-2008. Of course, he didn't play yesterday and had also been recalled by Colorado from the AHL last April after signing a mid-season contract with his hometown team in March, but it was still nice to see a familiar face, even his, even if the chances of living through another John Tortorella candid moment in regard to Grahame's lack of top-level goaltending skills are slim to none. It did make number three on TSN's top 10 Tortorella moments if you're interested.

"I wonder if I should send Torts a Christmas card this year."
If you're wondering, Grahame spent 2008-2009 playing for Avangard Omsk in the KHL and most recently was playing for the Lake Erie Monsters in the AHL. While he will never get another chance to start in the NHL, it is nice that something good is coming out of this tragedy, in that it is just as unlikely that Budaj will play all of the Avalanche's game between now and the point that Anderson is healthy again. As such, look for Grahame to make his first NHL start in three years sometime soon. Because at least with Grahame you know what you're going to get, apparently one goal allowed for every four shots on goal... which still would have been good enough for the Avalanche to win last night, by the way.

Tootoo Continues to Overcompensate for Being Named After a Dress

Of course, that would be "tutu", which is admittedly spelled differently, but how many bullies did you know growing up that took the time to differentiate between two homophones when making fun of your name? Clearly, Nashville Predator Tootoo has a lot of emotional scars from his early childhood that are still taking their toll. Here, Tootoo continued to earn his reputation as a lobotomized mental patient that tries to run over anything that moves on Thursday night. It's pretty admirable stuff really, that's he's able to soldier on and act as if he isn't just an oversized dwarf at 5'9" among a peer group of fully grown adults. Kind of brings a tear to your eye. It is the stuff Hollywood movies are made of, after all.

Against the Saint Louis Blues, Tootoo had three notable hits, but it was this charge on defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo above that may end up getting the NHL's attention (if the league brass can take time out of its busy schedule to stop throwing darts at a wall to determine the length of suspensions to be handed out). The one thing that should go Tootoo's way if he does end up getting a hearing with the league is the argument that by leaving his feet he's still only tall enough to lock eyes with any one Montreal Canadien.

Some Good Ol' Backstrom on Backstrom Action (not X-Rated)

Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom doesn't necessarily rob his brother from another mother in Washington Capital Nicklas Backstrom (note the extra "C" in his name) on this play from Thursday night, but he does make it look flashy enough. Something for him to write home about, I suppose. If only they even were born in the same country. Goalie Backstrom is Finnish and better Backstrom is Swedish.


Edmonton Oiler Taylor Hall netted his first NHL goal on Thursday and it couldn't have come against a more... I want to say "suitable" opponent in the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Jackets' quick 6-3 start (including their shootout win against the OIlers last night) aside, it's really only a matter of time before they show their true colours as an AHL-calibre team.

So, Hall now has three points in eight games. I think hockey fans, myself included, have just become very spoiled over the past five seasons with the influx of elite rookie talent year after year. There was Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin, John Tavares, etc. Hall will likely be great, but not the next Great One, unfortunately. Hopefully the City of Champions will be able to cope better than all the fantasy-hockey poolies out there who made the mistake of drafting Hall first overall. Memo to the overzealous among us: It isn't as if Hall HAD to get drafted in any of your leagues. You wouldn't have wasted a pick on say Steve Montador, Chris Clark, Dominic Moore, or even Derek Stepan, would you? All of whom have more points than Hall.

October 28, 2010

Building a Rep and Learning How to Get into Clubs as an Underage Goalie

"I'm so fly! Maybe a girl will actually let me buy her a drink tonight!"

It was nice to see Washington Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth get his first-ever shutout on Wednesday night, not that it meant he had secured the number-one goaltending spot for the Caps all of a sudden, but because he just looks like he could use the acclaim being thrown his way, to, I don’t know, pop his cherry and grow up and out of that dazed-and-confused seventh-grader look of his.

For the record, Neuvirth is 22 (despite looking 10 years younger; even the beard he wears every so often looks like it could be the unwanted result of him getting drunk and falling asleep at a kegger way too early). His teammate and rival for that starting role is Semyon Varlamov, who’s also 22. Despite their age, they most definitely bring a sense of stability to the position in Washington not seen since the days of Jose Theodore... scratch that, Cristobal Huet... sorry, Olaf Kolzig... my bad... Jim Carey???
Let’s just say that they bring a level of competence never before seen in the Washington net. That’s even taking into account Huet playing pretty well for the team in the quarter-season he was with the Caps and Kolzig being a decent goalie back in the day, even winning the 2000 Vezina Trophy. However, it should never be forgotten that Carey also won the award in 1996, serving as proof that one Vezina does not make a career. All the Net Detective did after 1996 was travel between counties as part of a convention tour, signing autographs as “The Other Jim Carrey”, trying to make a living all the while getting up each morning in an alcohol-soaked bed laced with his own filth and beside a different confused groupie who thought she made it with the comedian... or so I’ve been told.

Interesting factoid: Kolzig and Carey doublehandedly ruined then-Buffalo Sabre Dominik Hasek’s bid for an unprecedented eight-straight Vezinas between 1993 and 2001. This of course serves as undeniable proof that there was a conspiracy at work at the highest levels. Need some more? Theodore won the award the very next season in 2002. What this conspiracy meant to accomplish is anyone’s guess, but there it is.

In any case, what is most surprising about Neuvirth’s sudden rise is that everyone had Varlamov pegged as the go-to guy after the Caps (wisely) decided not to re-sign Theodore. Varlamov was the one tasked with cleaning up Theodore’s messes the last two post-season’s, almost leading the Caps to the Eastern Conference Final two years ago before Washington fell to the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games. This past post-season, he came in in relief of Theodore in game two of the Eastern Conference quarter-final against the Montreal Canadiens after Theodore had let in two goals on two shots. Varlamov then rallied the Caps to three-straight victories before everything came tumbling down for Washington.

Despite Varlamov’s success, including a 19-5 career record in the regular season, the injury bug has opened the door for Neuvirth, who seems to have the inside track toward earning that coveted starter’s position... and of course the title of the hardest-to-pronounce name between the two. Is it New-virth? Noi-virth? It’s long since been established that it’s supposed to be Var-LA-Mov and not Var-LAH-Mov, but I think it would make sense for the Caps to start putting on the phonetic pronunciations of players’ names on the backs of their jerseys. It could do fans some good to actually get to know and grow attached to the players they’re watching, especially seeing as both Neuvirth and Varlamov seem destined to stay a while.

For his part, Neuvirth, who has a 6-2 record so far this season, to go along with a .929 save percentage and a 2.18 goals-against average, may not end this season as the Caps’ undisputed number one, but he is definitely earning a name for himself, at least one worthy of his fake ID.

"One of these things is not like the others."

The NHL or WWE? You Be the Judge

As has been reported to death by now, Chicago Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa has come down with a nasty case of the "upper bodies", succumbing to the plague that has claimed so many before him in the NHL. However, the exact nature of the hit which landed him in the dressing room during Wednesday night's third period against the Los Angeles Kings has been woefully undershown. The reason? It's either that there is no footage that captures it at a good-enough angle, or, what I've been telling myself, the footage that is available makes King Jarret Stoll look like Jerry "The King" Lawler delivering an armbar takedown on Maid Marian, himself (couldn't think of a better wrestling gimmick for a dude named Marian).

"See? See? This is exactly what Stoll did to Hossa!"

As per head coach Joel Quenneville's comments, Hossa will be out several weeks, which can only be considered a huge blow to the Blackhawks with Hossa actually living up to his potential as a point-per-game player (11 points in 11 games) in this season's early going. Now, if only he got healthy and started living up to the expectations of his insane 12-year contract. By the time it's over, he may very well be going through menopause.

Kane and Little Disprove Kovalchuk Myth

It used to be that Ilya Kovalchuk was the only one capable of scoring highlight-reel goals in Atlanta, but it's become abundantly clear that this latest breed of chicken (or "Brown Thrasher" if you want to get all technical) is a different animal altogether. Case in point would be Bryan Little and Evander Kane scoring spectacular goals on Wednesday night against the New York Rangers en route to a 6-4 victory. The greatest part of all this? The Thrashers have a .500 record at 4-4-1 while Kovalchuk's new team, the New Jersey Devils, have a 2-7-1 record.

Roloson Loses "It" and Game

It might have had something to do with the fact that he felt the slightest bit physically violated, it might have been the fact that he had let in a hideous goal mere seconds beforehand (see below) and he was feeling particularly touchy, or it just might have been that he is a complete psycho, but New York Islanders goalie Dwayne Roloson absolutely lost it on Wednesday night, taking his frustration out on Montreal Canadiens Benoit Pouliot following a breakaway opportunity that led to a penalty shot.

The Islanders lost the game 5-3, but they do have the chance to redeem themselves on Friday, when the Habs play visitor in New York in the second part of the home-and-home. It's relatively clear that Rick DiPietro should get the start, though, lest the the Islanders want to risk letting an unhinged Roloson loose unnecessarily.

Goalies obviously do not like getting run, but Pouliot's supposed attempt to injure Roloson was just a clear-cut attempt to score after being taken down on his breakaway. There's no need to take it personally, really. No one's out to get you, Dwayne, no matter what the voices in your head say. I really do think Pouliot has better things to do, like actually secure himself of a permanent NHL job at this stage of his lacklustre career and actually score regularly, than run a 50-year-old goalie into retirement. But maybe that's just me.

October 27, 2010

Robidas Draws Ire of NHL, One-Game Suspension

Forget these supposedly illegal blind-side hits. Apparently, all you need to do to get the attention of the NHL these days is earn two game misconducts within 41 games of one another, and *poof* suspension! That's the formula Dallas Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas was following when he earned a one-game ban on Wednesday thanks to a boarding call on Anaheim Duck Matt Beleskey on Tuesday night. The hit can be seen at this link in the highlight package for the game.

The first misconduct was earned last season on March 16 in a game against the San Jose Sharks in which Robidas hit Ryane Clowe from behind. The two plays were very different hits, but yielded the same boarding penalty, which is called when a player checks "an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently in the boards", as per the official NHL rulebook.

For those keeping score at home, Los Angeles Kings forward Dustin Brown did not receive a suspension for his textbook illegal-check-to-the-head hit on the Minnesota Wild's Antti Miettinen on Monday, because it apparently lacks the half-impaired vision necessary to see for itself that Brown hit Miettinen in the head, (not that the head was targeted, but that it was just the point of contact, which is stated in the rule) but it was able to suspend Robidas for a more borderline call on a technicality.

To be clear, no one should have a problem with Robidas getting suspended. He broke the rules and as such he should have to sit. Fine. But so did Brown and yet the league can't seem to find a standard of consistency in enforcing its own rules that bests that of the batches of cookies baked by a seventh-grade home-economics student. And the league wonders why it keeps getting burned. I would say this past week has played out a lot like amateur hour at the local comedy club, but the fact of the matter is that this has been going on for much longer... and it's much funnier.

Turnabout is Fair Play, but...

If you caught the game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Florida Panthers on Tuesday night, you apparently bore witness to one of the worst non-calls in all of sports: history goalie interference on Cory Stillman as he deliberately steamrolled over goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere as teammate Dennis Wideman tied the game 1-1:

Just what was the referee doing at the time of this atrocity? Evidently he was on his knees, doing something rather unseemly to the game. I mean, clearly Stillman was looking for blood. I'm rather surprised he wasn't ejected after clearly viciously attacking Giguere with his skate like that. What is this world in which we're living coming to??? I ask you, what???

In all seriousness, the above play was used in part as an example as to why the Leafs' Colton Orr's third-period, game-winning goal was allowed. If you missed that one, here it is for your viewing pleasure:

In fact, Giguere had this to say following the game: "I thought they should have called mine. I'm sure they probably think that they should have called theirs. We're even."

The sheer difference in magnitudes of blatancy aside (along with Giguere's clear-cut brain damage after letting his nonsensical Conn Smythe Trophy-victory in 2003 go to his head) , the Wideman goal should have counted, while the Orr one shouldn't have, based on actual NHL rules, specifically rule 69:

Rule 69.1: "Goals should be disallowed only if: (1) an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper's ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal; or (2) an attacking players initiates intentional or deliberate contact with a goalkeeper, inside or outside of his goal crease. Incidental contact with a goalkeeper will be permitted, and resulting goals allowed, when such contact is initiated outside of the goal crease, provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact. The rule will be enforced exclusively in accordance with the on-ice judgment of the Referee(s), and not by means of video replay or review."

That last bit is important, meaning referee Stephen Walkom couldn't have gone to video review to reveal his own idiocy even if he wanted to, but we'll get to that later on. Right now, it's more important to focus on the fact that Stillman was outside the crease when his skate touched Giguere's. It's also important to realize that Giguere was the one that bumped into Stillman and not the other way around. Finally, it's important to realize that if Stillman purposely put himself in a position to get nudged by Giguere with the sole intention of throwing him off his game, he's clearly earned his Screen Actors Guild membership for the next few years at least... that and Giguere has the mental toughness (and perhaps capacity) of an exhausted hamster just finishing up his daily workout in his wheel.

As for Orr, let's agree to disagree when you say: "I was trying to not make contact. I was just trying to get out to the front."

Far be it for me to try to get into the head of a professional hockey player, especially one I've never met personally, but if Orr was not trying to make contact with Clemmensen he at the very least must have been slightly confused and mistaken goalie Scott Clemmensen for one of those new hybrid goaltenders you can walk through. An easy-enough mistake to make, that. You're excused.

Really, at the end of the day, even without Orr's goal, the Leafs would have won 2-1 (although I really hate to play the would've, could've game). Phil Kessel did score late in the game to put it out of reach, and the Leafs won relatively fair and square. Orr was guilty of goaltender intereference, but more importantly he was guilty of trying to give his team a chance to win.

The onus falls on the referee to make the right call and he didn't. All ref Stephen Walkom told Clemmensen was that he thought he was out of the crease when he got hit, meaning he either misinterpreted the rule completely, needs glasses because he can't see two feet in front of him, or is just incompetent. As a referee who should know the rulebook inside and out, he failed at his job. But them's the breaks. The breaks went the Leafs' way last night. Just like the Leafs didn't get the breaks when they lost their first game of the season against the New York Islanders (although I equally maintain they lost that game fair and square), you get up, dust yourself off, and move on. That's all that can be done... except for groaning about how much the league is in love with the Leafs. That's always fun, too.

I Didn't Realize Cinderella Broke Her Heel, Sprained Her Knee, AND Lost Her Shoe when the Clock Struck 12

Maybe that headline is just a wee bit cynical, but when Colorado Avalanche goalie Craig Anderson stands on his head for the better part of one season for his team, leading them to two first-round victories when by most accounts they had no business even making the playoffs, one has to think that the other shoe is going to drop eventually. And it did on Tuesday night when Anderson injured his knee (official injury unspecified at the moment) during warm-up, before a game he wasn't even set to start.

Obviously, one has to hope that Anderson is alright, not necessarily for the Avalanche, who will be hard-pressed to duplicate their success from last season, but for Anderson himself. After several great seasons with the Florida Panthers as an above-average back-up who outshone starter Tomas Vokoun time and again, he finally got his chance to step into the spotlight in Colorado, and, needless to say, he made the most of it by posting a 38-25-7 record last year.

Get well, Mr. Anderson. You are the One after all, at least the only one who can lead Colorado to a winning season. The Peter Budaj experiment kind of blew up a few seasons ago and left a stink that has yet to completely dissipate two years after the fact.

Two Records Set Last Night in NHL Action

When the name "Kovalev" is uttered in the same sentence as the word "record", the mind almost automatically shifts to the word "broken", as in:

"It's like a broken record, hearing just how great and talented Alex Kovalev is... but when do I get to actually see it?"


"You mean Kovalev broke the record for most consecutive games played without actually showing up??? Good for him!"

But, alas, on Tuesday night, Kovalev was indeed a part of history for the better, at least Ottawa Senators history, as he and defenseman Erik Karlsson scored nine seconds apart against the Phoenix Coyotes to help pace their team to a 5-2 win and set a new team record for the fastest two goals. Kovalev actually had three points in the game, including a second goal. So, good on Kovalev for bringing that streak of his, likely up to 150 by now, to an end and actually performing one night in a Senators jersey. But you know what they say, don't you? Every end is a new beginning...

As for record number two, Colorado Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles broke the record, coincidentally set by Senator Filip Kuba in 2008-2009, for the most consecutive games to start the season with an assist. His assist on teammate Daniel Winnik's goal against the Vancouver Canucks (5-4 overtime loss for Colorado) gave him nine-straight games with at least one assist. He now has 11 to start the year. No goals, though.

October 26, 2010

Ovechkin Makes GQ, not the Other Way Around

"No Stanley Cup? No Problem! I'm still number one!"
You can catch a pretty slick piece on Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin in this month (November 2010)'s issue of GQ here... you know, the one with the stars of the television show Glee on the cover. Truth be told, it's somewhat fitting considering the word almost perfectly describes the gap-toothed look on the sniper's face 90% of the time. Of course, the other 10% of the time it's one of disappointment following a particularly disheartening playoff defeat. Perhaps that's what makes Ovechkin so admirable... the fact that he doesn't take himself too seriously, but he does the game. It's a contradiction that suits him well, obviously.
As far as the actual piece goes, pretty sweet all around. It did cite this one fact that even I was surprised to hear:
"So hot was Ovechkin that the Florida Panthers tried to draft him two days before his eighteenth birthday, making a rather creative case that he had lived through four leap years and was thus, if you really think about it, of age."

The Capitals clearly ended up drafting him in 2004, but it is somewhat of a welcome distraction to wonder just how different the situation would be in Florida if they had Ovechkin there instead of current Atlanta Thrasher Anthony Stewart (the Panthers' second first-round choice a year earlier, after Nathan Horton).

Writer Michael Idov, who was contributing his first piece for GQ, gets top marks for successfully portraying the Ovechkin hockey fans have either grown to love or hate with a passion... there's seldom much room in between. Still, it's clear he's not a born sports writer:

"His goal for his first NHL game was, of course, just that: to hit a goal. He hit two, four minutes apart, and checked a guy so hard he broke the glass partition," he writes, clearly unfamiliar with the correct lingo.

A year earlier, Ovechkin made the magazine's "The 50 Most Powerful People in D.C." list, so it's clear that the magazine is somewhat familiar with his work, even if Idov isn't with hockey. That glaring mistake is the only real one I could find to his credit.

In any case, below are the three YouTube videos cited in the article: "Ovechkin Smokes Chelios", "Ovechkin Takes Out Sidney Crosby", and "Alexander Ovechkin Makes Chuck Norris Cry". For legal reasons, I should probably point out that there is no Chuck Norris in the actual video, but, then again, in spite of potential legal ramifications, Idov did say that "Ovechkin is the best hockey player in the world". For my money, it's Sidney Crosby.

Your Eyes Do not Deceive You; That's Rick Nash... PASSING the Puck!!!

Here, Columbus Blue Jacket Derick Brassard finishes off a beautiful passing play on Monday night against the Philadelphia Flyers thanks in large part to RICK NASH??? Yes, it's true, folks. The player who would sooner shoot the puck into an empty net at practice than pass it off to a terminal cancer victim being granted his wish to spend a day with his favourite team did the unthinkable and actually got a pretty sweet primary assist on the play... and, in the end, the joke's on Nash. That cancer patient's actual favourite team is the Montreal Canadiens. They just weren't available.

Brown Gets Retribution for Hit on Doughty... Three Games too Late

Los Angeles Kings captain Dustin Brown has always been known to get his hands a little dirty working in the trenches from game to game. That isn't to say he's a dirty player, but one can hardly say that about Phoenix Coyotes captain Shane Doan, even taking into account what transpired two Sundays ago when he delivered an illegal check to the head of Anaheim Duck Dan Sexton.

It's true that Doan did also break defenseman Cam Fowler's nose in that game, but, for all intents and purposes, Doan is not a head hunter. I mean, he's a lot of things, most definitely: a 15-season veteran, an overrated player, the cousin of Montreal Canadiens goalie Carey Price (apparently overratedness runs in the family), etc., etc. But he's not a head hunter. In a lot of ways Brown has been torn from the same cloth. He's rough around the edges as a player, but can contribute in a lot of ways including on the scoresheet every now and then. Despite this fact, the hit he delivered on the Minnesota Wild's Antti Miettinen on Monday was dirty and a to-the-letter example of what is a suspendable offense these days in the NHL.

So, as much as Brown is like Doan, they differ in one way in particular... Brown has got the memory of an attention-deficit-disorder-diagnosed kindergartner whose parents forgot his Ritalin on the kitchen table before taking him to school.

It was just a matter of days ago (six, to be exact) when Carolina Hurricane Erik Cole blind-sided and injured his teammate and arguably his team's most valuable player in defenseman Drew Doughty, and he has the gall to complain when he was given a game misconduct for the same thing? Say what you want about the league, but at least they're realizing that something needs to be done, even if it is a few weeks late (it's actually a few months, but whatever).

If you watch the video of the hit, you can almost see it in referee Wes McCauley's eyes as he's announcing the penalty, a cross between:

"Here we go again..."


"I don't want to do this, but..."

Meanwhile, as he was leaving for his dressing room, all Brown was doing was mouthing off. He has a right to be upset, but really when all is said and done only at himself. He should also be grateful that Miettinen was left uninjured, not because that means he won't get a suspension (Doan got three games under much the same circumstances and there wasn't even a penalty on the play), but because now he doesn't have to have his conscience sullied by something so stupid as treating another player like a glorified punching bag on which he can let loose his frustration. There's already too much disrespect in the league that it doesn't need the good guys resorting to outdated goon tactics to be effective. Hopefully one night's rest will have helped Brown realize the truth. If not, he's at least got a sturdy fine coming his way (hopefully a suspension) that should serve the same purpose more effectively.

October 25, 2010

Kovy Learns His Lesson... If Coach Scratches You, Show Him up the Next Game

New Jersey Devil Ilya Kovalchuk scored yesterday night in a 3-2 loss to the New York Rangers, but, despite his and his team’s struggles this year, his goal wasn’t the big surprise. It was that he was playing at all.

On Saturday night, in another loss, this time a 6-1 blowout to the offensively challenged Buffalo Sabres, Kovalchuk was a healthy scratch for what one can only assume was the first time in his highly esteemed yet otherwise uneventful career.

Now Kovalchuk doesn’t do healthy scratches, as they’re very much beneath a player of his calibre, i.e. one that makes an average salary of $6.66 million per year. That fact perhaps had at least a little something to do with rookie head coach John MacLean getting the bright idea to bench him for might very well not be the only time in his eventual 15-year stint with the Devils.

The exact reasons why Kovalchuk was scratched remain a mystery, but if you read between the lines and look to the patterns of selfishness strewn throughout his career you don’t need to be a Russian cosmonaut to get what the most likely one was. There has been some speculation that he missed a team meeting, but MacLean went on record as saying only that it was between him and Kovalchuk. For an alternative conspiracy theory, visit Hockeybuzz.

Whatever happened, as is always the case with any healthy scratch of a highly paid player, it was no doubt about sending a message. However, here are just a few things MacLean should have taken under consideration before he suffered from a power trip of epic proportions that clearly resulted in a concussion and several other mentally incapacitating injuries:

1) Taking your best player out of the line-up seriously hinders your chances of winning.

2) Starting your back-up goalie in Johan Hedberg halves those already slim chances.

3) When your team is in last place in the Eastern Conference, it isn’t necessarily any one player that is having that much of a negative impact on the team.

4) When your team is in last place in the Eastern Conference despite high expectations of a Stanley Cup victory, it’s most likely the coach that will get the first look as to what is going wrong.

5) Sitting your best player is one way to attract even more attention your way when it comes time for management to “shake things up”.

It’s clear that if the Kovalchuk signing doesn’t work out, management will be to blame for this whole debacle, but when the team is tied at the hip to Kovalchuk for over a decade it has the benefit of time on its side, in order to get things working just the right way. Until all other avenues are exhausted, most everyone else can be considered collateral damage waiting to happen, starting with MacLean.

Hey! Shouldn't Brodeur be in nets??? Someone's going to get fired over this, let me tell you!"
If you don’t think it’s possible for a head coach to be hired and fired so quickly, look to the Ottawa Senators for irrefutable proof. For the 2007-2008 season, the Senators hired John Paddock, who lasted just the one year before it became abundantly clear that he was the problem keeping Ottawa from making it back to the Stanley Cup Final. Then general manager Bryan Murray turned to Craig Hartsburg to start the following season behind the bench, but he only lasted 48 games before Murray realized that he wasn’t a good fit either. Finally, the Sens seem to have settled on Cory Clouston, but with the Senators currently in 14th place, just ahead of the Devils, Murray might again begin to start feeling antsy, clueless to the fact that he’s been the one common factor in all three of the coaching changes. Well, that’s not true. Captain Daniel Alfredsson, fresh off his 1000th career point on Friday night, has been around as well. But no one’s calling for him to be dealt.

Now this case study illustrates three main points: that the player is hardly ever the one that gets picked out of a line-up of the most culpable parties, that Bryan Murray still has his job despite hiring two head coaches that haven’t panned out and a third that may be on his last legs, and NHL coaches have lifespans shorter than that tub of yogurt in the back of your fridge, which you tend to keep around out of laziness because it’s not hurting anyone... until of course you take a spoonful one drunken night forgetting that it’s supposed to be white and vanilla and not coffee-flavoured.

I’m not saying a high-profile player shouldn’t be disciplined if he’s not doing things right, but if a coach does make that decision he should at least give his team the best chance at not letting it backfire. If MacLean was trying to prove a point, let’s say hypothetically that Kovalchuk is not bigger than the team, he should not have handed the goaltending reins over to Hedberg, who let in four of 15 shots in the game. I mean you can play Martin Brodeur. And it wasn’t as if Hedberg had been lights out in the other game he played this year either, allowing two goals on nine shots against the Washington Capitals two weeks earlier. Bottom line, if you were trying to tell Kovalchuk that the team doesn’t need him, all he did was see the team get humiliated without him one game, get put back into the line-up the following game, and then score the team’s only goal in that loss.

It’s clear that on paper the Devils are a better team with Kovalchuk, so until the Devils get back on track, MacLean had better learn to play this right or else the Devils will be without him in no time. I do hear the Senators might be looking for a new head coach sometime soon, so all is not lost.

Camera Gets Worst of Del Zotto Blast

I suppose Martin Brodeur has some things to be grateful for despite his team's early-season struggles, like, for instance, this Michael Del Zotto blast missing him and unleashing its wrath on an unsuspecting video camera instead. In all honesty, the shattered lens probably made it look worse than it really was, but still pretty impressive.