Happy to hear from Dick Janes in the mailbag once again. He is one of Ice Age's original contributors and we're always happy to hear from him.
Getting down to nitty-gritty time, and I must confess that I grossly underestimated what those Habitants could rise up and do once they put their minds to it. While I still don't believe they are ready for the Finals, I could be proven wrong once again. Of course that won't make me angry either.
Major applause is due for Bob Gainey and Guy Carbonneau. They have done an outstanding job in developing and motivating the entire team. And that young man Carey Price ... how can a guy that young be that cool? Amazing!
What has made me angry, though, is the apparent return of dirty hockey to the game. And this year it's Anaheim who is leading the pack with their less-than-sportsmanlike conduct on the ice. What's with Pronger? He's a very talented player, one of the very best, but lately he seems to be putting more emphasis into cheap shots than into good play. And the rest of the team, with the clear exception of Selanne, are following his lead, Not good at all, and I would suggest that it's time for the League to let that team's management know that the dirty play will not be tolerated - period, exclamation point!
There are other teams who can't seem to stop the fouling as well. Philadelphia can't seem to shake its desire to remain the “Broad Street Bullies” and I was very disappointed in Georges Laraque and his cheap shot elbow into the head of the young man from the Sabres (Sorry I didn't get his name, but I sure didn't enjoy seeing him lying motionless on the ice for a full five minutes, either.). Georges should know better, but that is no excuse.
| Phil Coffey is NHL.com's editorial director. He has covered the NHL since 1981.
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I still believe that when a player gets injured by a cheap shot, and cannot immediately return to play, the offending player should be suspended without pay until such time as the injured player is able to return to playing status. Perhaps that might get the attention of some of these animals. I am well aware that hockey is rough game, and it's bad enough that guys get hurt in inadvertent collisions or actual legal checks, but hitting players from behind and/or viciously cross checking them in the head or lower back as Beauchemin of Anaheim did to Alfredsson should not be tolerated. I obviously don't know whether Alfredsson is OK and being held out to be sure he's OK for the playoffs, but the League should investigate that incident and the Anaheim player shouldn't be suiting up if Alfredsson is still out because of that vicious cross check to his lower back.
* Hockey is the only major sport where a team gets a point for a tie in the regular season at the end of regulation time in a game. That's hogwash. It should be two points for the win and NO points for the loss even if the game is finally decided in a shootout. What's happening now is that in a game with a tie score going into the final 10 minutes of the third period, both teams play for the tie, so they get guaranteed a point. Someone once said, "A tie is like kissing your sister." I agree, and I think that kind of play greatly demeans the sport. I suspect that if teams knew it was two or nothing, that they would try a lot harder for it to be two.
* Then there is dumbest thing about the standings. Carolina, one of the teams in a division made up of lousy teams, gets third place in the playoff lineup even though they only have 75 points, gained by playing more games with those poorer teams. Here again, the playoffs should be based on ACTUAL POINTS EARNED, and not which division they managed to get assigned to and got to lead even though all the teams in it were stinking up the place.
The NHL Web site is so much better than in the past that it's a real joy to read through it. I applaud you and your fellow contributors for a job well done. Keep up the great work, and thanks for giving the fans an outlet through which to vent.
– Dick Janes, Las Vegas
Hello, Dick. As I mentioned up top, always a pleasure. We've got quite the laundry list to go over, so let's start with the Canadiens.
* No question Montreal is a surprise team this season. The Habs seemed to be an afterthought at the start of the season, for sure. Having a big rebound season from Alex Kovalev has been a big factor, and just getting everyone to buy into the system pays off in a big way. Savvy fans had to suspect better times were coming based on the number of promising players in Montreal's system, most notably Carey Price, who certainly is mature way beyond his years. And remember, the Canadiens have a knack for thrusting a kid goalie into the spotlight and reaping some pretty huge rewards.
* As for dirty play, I'm right with you, and the suggestion that an offending player sit out as long as the “cheap-shotted” player remains sidelined is an interesting concept. But to use both the Pronger and Chris Simon suspensions as examples this season, both of these players will be out of the lineup for far longer than the victim of their play, so like anything else, there is no perfect solution.
* As for the point for getting a game to overtime, I'm open to suggestions. In the past, tie games didn't bother me, so giving out the single point after 60 minutes seemed to continue that tradition. But I think you make a valid point now that there is a temptation to make sure a team secures the lone point and then sees what happens. Perhaps going to a winner-take-all format is worth some consideration.
* As for the division champ earning one of the top three seeds, this always is a point of debate when one division winner trails the other two in the conference. I heard one suggestion that winning the division would guarantee a team a berth in the playoffs, but not the third seed. Might be something to consider, but I'm not rushing off to write this change. The system is what the system is and winning the Cup is harder than taking the championship in any other sport. So a sixth seed with a better record than a third seed has to deal with it. Just as that third seed has to produce on the ice to advance. It's like batting leadoff in baseball – once the game starts, it no longer matters.
* And thanks very much for the kind words regarding NHL.com. Our staff puts in very long hours over the course of the regular season and playoffs to get the word out on NHL hockey. It's always nice to hear the efforts are appreciated.
Tim Szczypinski here. I have been trying to find games to watch this season on TV. I am a season-ticket holder for the Penguins. However, and of more importance, I am a fan of the game. There is nothing like a game of hockey to watch. Hence the problem. I have seen your name and articles frequently, the reason I am throwing this at you. Why is Versus airing EXTREME CAGE MATCH FIGHTING when the Devils and the Canes are on this evening? I do not see the emphasis being put on spreading the good word of our beloved sport.
I have tried to contact Gary Bettman to ask the same question, but cannot seem to find the right avenue. I know the NHL is attempting to make the NHL Network that is a pay service, but this service is targeted at the 20-somethings that does not have the financial means to dump $39.95 on this "luxury."
Any thoughts? What real service is Versus providing to the average NHL fans? From a business perspective, how are they really helping the NHL?
If you have any insight, it would be appreciated, or any idea of whom I can pose same questions to ... well, good as well. Hope you have the time to respond. I would appreciate it.
– Tim Szczypinski
Hi Tim. While Versus is the cable home of the NHL, it doesn't mean the network shows nothing but hockey. That's why the NHL has the NHL Network for 24-hour programming.
Versus broadcasts more than 50 regular-season games as well as Stanley Cup Playoff games, as well as a lot of other hockey content.
I can't speak to the cost of the NHL Network on your cable system, Tim. But I added NHL Network to mine earlier this season and I think it added a buck a month or something to the bill.
Now, the NHL Center Ice package costs a bit more, but provides coverage of the vast majority of NHL games. Your cable company has the exact facts and figures on costs and the like. I have found it to be a great deal, although it does not make me the most popular guy in charge of the remote in my house, for sure!
Material from personal interviews, wire services, newspaper, and league and team sources was used in this report.