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The Penalty Box: Too many chefs in Jersey kitchen?

by Shawn P. Roarke

This week, the Penalty Box tackles the thorny leadership situation in New Jersey, the difference – if there is one – between goons and enforcers, plays a little where are they now and looks at a radical system to track standings points. As usual, these points are passionately and rationally argued by the Penalty Box inhabitants. You, too, can join the discussion by dropping a note, on any topic, to Make sure to include your name and address and you, too, can spend a few minutes in CTN’s world-famous sin bin. Now, on to the letters!


First off, just wanted to tell you I live for CTN. But anyway, here's my question. With the returns of Jamie Langenbrunner and Colin White, everybody expected the Devils to name a captain. With how the Devils seemed to turn everything around and how the talk of the atmosphere in the locker room is great, do you think it would be smart to appoint a captain? It seems to me it's not only Jamie Langenbrunner leading the way, although he is probably the most prominent leader just from the way everything has turned around with his return, but also Colin White, Jay Pandolfo, Patrik Elias, and, of course, John Madden (I'm not particularly happy with the "A" choices). If they name a definite captain, will that ruin the locker room atmosphere a little bit? With no captain, everybody really has to step up and everybody has to contribute a bit, and there might even be that “friendly competition” -- for lack of a better word -- to maybe try and become captain. With the naming of a captain, do you think that might actual diminish the leadership in the room a little bit, since it has been so great lately, especially as it gets deeper and deeper into the season? If coach Brent Sutter were to name a captain, who do you think it would be? In my opinion, definitely Jamie Langenbrunner.
Jill Tullo

No, thank you, Jill. Your kind words made CTN’s day, although the pressure to deliver quality material has further intensified because of your lavish raise. CTN will do its best, though, to deliver.
As for the Devils and their leadership issues, it is an intriguing situation, to say the least. At least it was until Langenbrunner was named captain on Wednesday morning. CTN is still getting over the fact that Elias was stripped of the captaincy – a move that is not all that common in hockey. To hear the players tell it, though, the “A” and “C” are not all that important and some of the best leaders don’t have any part of the alphabet gracing the front of their sweaters. CTN doesn’t quite buy that, but also thinks that, at times, the attention paid to the leadership on any given team can be excessive. The Devils have great leadership. That is a natural byproduct of the team’s draft strategy, as well as the success the club has enjoyed for the last dozen years or so. Most of the team’s veteran players have competed for the Stanley Cup and have learned leadership from one of the game’s great captains – Scott Stevens. So, there is no shortage of captain material in the Devils’ room. CTN believes one key player was not mentioned often enough in the capataincy discussion. That would be Sergei Brylin. If you want a player that will lead by example and set a good example for the youngsters on the club, CTN believes Brylin is that player. But, CTN is not sure that the reserved Brylin would be willing to handle the duties that are part and parcel of the captaincy. CTN does not think that the naming of a permanent captain – in Langenbrunner – will hurt this club. But if CTN were the coach of the Devils, he might have adopted the Jacques Lemaire captaincy model, which would see the “C” and the “A’s awarded to deserving candidates on a month-by-month basis.


I recently had a little argument about the difference between goons and enforcers and their respective places in the NHL. I contend that a goon is only good at fighting, takes cheap shots and has no place whatsoever in the NHL, whereas an enforcer plays cleanly, has a respectable amount of talent and is willing to drop the gloves. My opponent thinks goons, enforcers, and agitators (Sean Avery) are all the same type of player and all have no place in hockey. What are your thoughts on the matter?
-- Derek

My thoughts on this topic are too vast to be contained in one Penalty Box response, Derek. But CTN can answer your question by stating, unequivocally, that your friend is dead wrong in CTN’s humble opinion. First, CTN believes that the game of hockey has evolved to the point where the true “goon” – if he ever existed – has been made obsolete through evolution – much like the human appendix. CTN can not think of a single player in the League today that is only good at the fistic part of the sport. Roster spots and cap space are too dear to waste on a one-dimensional player. CTN thinks all of the players that are handed the roles you are talking about -- and could therefore be called enforcers -- have a fair amount of skill, play the game honorably and have a place in the sport. In fact, CTN would hesitate to call any of the players enforcers. Loyal readers of Crashing the Net, know that CTN has a special affinity for the rough-and-tumble players that help make our game the most entertaining in the world. As a result, you will never hear CTN say there is not a place in the game for rugged players that will stick up for their team and their teammates. But, neither, will you hear CTN call these players, enforcers or goons or anything else. Give them the respect they deserve. They are NHL players, just like each and every one of their peers. They have earned the right to be called NHL players by their achievements and who is CTN to belittle that by attaching pejorative descriptions to their names.


Hi Shawn,
Thanks for the support for this game on Saturday. The team is buzzing after finding they were on for the second time in the year. Anyway, hope you have a good weekend.
-- Carl Pattenden

No worries, Carl. After meeting the Madness boys during the season-opening trip to London, CTN has adopted the boys as the non-NHL team of this space. Your team, like so many recreational teams across the globe, has the enthusiasm and can-do spirit that is the primary root of this great game of ours. The fact that you do it in England, where hockey is a niche sport, at best, shows the dedication you all have the sport. Such dedication should be acknowledged. Plus, those green sweaters you boys sport are righteous, indeed. By the way, for those CTN readers that are interested, the Madness handed a tough Chelmsford Charger club a 5-0 defeat. The Madness plays away this Friday against the Streatham Night Wolves.


Hello, Mr.Roarke!
John Leclair
I’m Richard, a NHL hockey fan from Russia. I have not written to you before. I looked at your blog for first time and I like it. It’s interesting. Keep on Mr. Roarke. I have a question and I hope that you will give me an answer. I’m big fan of Penguins, Mario Lemieux and North American hockey. Where is John Leclair now? He was with Penguins in the beginning of 2006-07 season, and after that he disappeared. I can’t find out where he is now and why he is not playing for Pittsburgh. There was a two-year deal, if I remember right. What do you know about John?
Thank you very much!
Yours truly,
-- Richard, NHL hockey fan from cold and far Russia

Welcome to the Penalty Box, Richard. It’s great to have you as part of the group. Where is John Leclair? A heck of a question. Leclair has been an unrestricted free agent since being released by the Penguins last December. It appears that his career is at an end, which is quite sad. During his prime, LeClair was the quintessential, North American-style power forward, driving the net with glee and simply steamrolling anyone that stood in his way. But, that ask-no-quarter style exacted a hefty price on LeClair’s body, a price that was clearly paid during the latter portion of his career.


Hey CTN,
I have always wondered why everyone is hung up on the standings point system used by the NHL. To me, the whole thing is stupid. Here is the answer. ONE POINT TO THE WINNER AND ZERO POINTS TO THE LOSER. If it is a regulation win, OT Win or Loss ... WHO CARES? A point for a win, and zero points for a loss. And if there is a tie in the standings, just go by record and then by goals-for and goals-against. And goal nets SHOULD NOT, and I repeat, NOT BE MADE BIGGER. I personally like seeing the skill of the players.
-- Patio, Minneapolis, Minn.

Patio, people get worked up about the points system for the same reason they get worked up about every issue in the hockey universe: because it is fun to argue and debate with other passionate fans. And, CTN agrees that your point is very valid. If you are going to assure a winner in every game, it easily could be one point for a win and none for a loss, no matter its manner. That is the model that baseball follows and it is immensely popular. The only problem CTN foresees there is that, unlike baseball, where all the teams are usually within one game-played of each other, hockey teams can have differences of three, four or even five games at points in the year. All the corresponding half-games that would result in the standings would be cumbersome. The other thing is that hockey is rooted in the two-point system. It is all the sport has known for decades and, as such, the two-point win should not be easily trifled with. That is why CTN has some problems with the three-point system that some have proposed. CTN believes it must remain a two-point system for the integrity of the game’s record book. Also, CTN firmly believes, like you< that nets should not be made bigger. But, that is just the opinion of a former goalie staying loyal to his fraternity.

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