29 December 2011

The forgotten mantras of the Department of Player Safety

Sorry, I'm going to be opening some wounds to State of Hockey fans, but this needs to be said about the Head of the Department of Player Safety.

Remember when this rule meant something...

From NHL Official Rules - Rule 41.1 - Boarding (emphasis mine)

The onus is on the player applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a defenseless position and if so, he must avoid or minimize the contact. However, in determining whether such contact could have been avoided, the circumstances of the check, including whether the opponent put himself in a vulnerable position immediately prior to or simultaneously with the check or whether the check was unavoidable can be considered. 
"The onus is on the hitter." had been the so-called Department of Player Safety's mantra in the dozens of suspensions so far (as indicated by the first part I underlined).  It appears they have given up on that, at least where the Minnesota Wild is concerned.  There are now three well known examples...

1) Bogosian on Bouchard (click here for Hockey Wilderness' breakdown on this incident and video)

The Department of Player Safety didn't even make a formal statement regarding the Bogosian hit on Bouchard.  An anonymous Departement of Player Safety rep told the Star Tribune's Michael Russo they felt Bouchard turned into it.  Does it get any more vague than that?  No justification for why Bogosian can use his stick there?  This lazy statement is certainly not enough to show the onus shifted from Bogosian to Bouchard regarding who was responsible for this incident (again, as in the first underlined part in the rule quoted above).

I thought this era was supposed to be about transparency.  I thought it was about following the words in the rulebook above and using video to show how this should apply, not about lazy statements from a nameless lackey.

Punishing recklessness is another mantra that the department of player safety has given up on.  The fact that Bogosian led with his stick is apparently no longer considered reckless.

Bouchard misses two weeks as a result of an ILLEGAL hit, and the only explanation is one sentence from an anonymous source, and no suspension.  Pathetic.

[two more examples follow the jump]

26 December 2011

A World Juniors confession from a Minnesota hockey fan...

I try to be a good blogger, but the truth of the matter in my time as a Minnesota Wild fan, I have largely ignored the prospects.

The NHL draft (and MLB draft as well for that matter) is different than its NBA or NFL counterparts. Usually, outside of the first 2 or 3 picks, most of the players selected are not NHL ready, and they will be sent back to their college teams or to their Junior teams. So it's easy to see why there isn't the casual interest in the NHL draft as there is in the other sports, where those players are expected to be with the big club right away (there isn't really a "farm system" for the NFL and NBA like there is in baseball and hockey).

The other reason is that frankly, from a Wild perspective, there just hasn't been a lot to be excited about among the Wild's prospects under Riseborough's leadership. First Round Bust is more than happy to document Wild prospects being rushed into the NHL like James Sheppard.

21 December 2011

Passive Play against the Flames...

The second period last night was just brutally bad.  The Wild were extremely passive against the Flames the in their own zone.

It looked like they were content to let the Flames move the puck without any attempt to force turnovers, and when they finally did get the puck, all they could do was chip it out, hoping they didn't ice it to change lines.  This made a team with a 16.8% powerplay conversion rate look outright competent 5 on 5.  The Flames had the first 9 shots of the 2nd period including what would be the game winning goal.

After that horror of a period, it did seem the Wild got the message, and there is some positivity to take from the game last night.

14 December 2011

Quick thought on the Bogosian hit on Bouchard.

Last night was a wonderful game to watch between Winnipeg and Minnesota.  It was a tough one for the Wild to lose on a delay of game penalty, but both goaltenders really wanted it, and both teams were quick and generated plenty of changes.  For 58 minutes, this was among the two or three most entertaining games to watch this season, and it is what hockey should be.  Then of course one of the ugliest injuries I have ever seen happened behind Winnipeg's net.

Hockey Wilderness already has a good piece and the videos up, and makes a good case for why Zach Bogosian should be suspended for his cross-check on Bouchard, so please click there to get the background and the videos if you haven't already seen it.

12 December 2011

Wild thing of the month - November 2011

So between the wonderful realignment news and having a post picked up by Puck Daddy it's been a busy week here at State of the State of Hockey, and so I'm quite late with naming SOTSO Hockey's "Wild Thing of the Month" for November.

First an honorable mention to the Minnesota Wild's defense.  They have improved on what was already near the top in the league on goals against average.  But it's efforts like these that make it seem that the GAA isn't just about the excellent goaltending.  Defenders are helping when they need to get to the line in a pinch.

(video after the jump)

A response to the Puck Daddy article...

Some of you may have noticed, Yahoo! Sports' Greg Wyshysnki wrote a response to my piece on supplemental discipline on Puck Daddy on Friday.

First and foremost, it is always a pleasure when the folks at Puck Daddy link to my posts.  I thought Wysh wrote a very good piece and made some very good points even though we aren't quite in agreement on a couple things.

I'll point out a couple differences...

09 December 2011

It's time the NHL fines divers...

In last night's game against Los Angeles, Minnesota's Kyle Brodziak was ejected for this hit on Anze Kopitar.

The replay shows that this was a pretty clean, shoulder to shoulder hit.  The hit did take place that magical 6 to 10 foot range from the boards in which anyone going down will fall hard, and it will probably draw a boarding call.

What is disgusting is that Kopitar stayed down, and it appears the longer he stayed down, the more the referee felt he needed to make this a major penalty.  Then, of course, Kopitar managed to skate just fine on the ensuing 5 minute major.  This is incredibly reminiscent of Coach Gordon Bombay teaching the Mighty Ducks how to cheat with the mantra "Take the fall, act hurt, get indignant."

06 December 2011

Objections to the new four conference alignment that don't make sense.

It is a wonderful day is the State of Hockey.

Last night, the NHL's Board of Governors approved a realignment (story from Yahoo! Sports' Puck Daddy blog) which would group the Minnesota Wild with many of the rivals from the old Norris Division days.  The Wild will even be grouped with that franchise that used to call Bloomington home, along with Chicago, Columbus, Detroit, Nashville, St. Louis, and Winnipeg.

(For clarity, in the rest of the article I will be prefacing conference and division names with "current" if I am referring to the current alignment that ends this season, or "new" if I am referring to the approved change starting nest season.)

I have written extensively supporting a four-division/conference alignment as it would be beneficial to most current Western Conference teams, and beneficial to Detroit, Columbus, Dallas and Minnesota in particular.  The proposal that passed is rather close to the split the southeast idea I posted about a month ago.  It's not exactly the same, they put Florida-Tampa, and Carolina-Washington in different divisions from where I had them.  Furthermore, they left both Detroit and Columbus in the "new Central," but these are points on which I do not want to quibble.  This is a great day for Minnesota hockey fans, and I suppose for everyone in the current Western Conference.

The travel in the first two rounds of the playoffs are going to be cut as well, as four teams from each new conference will advance, pure and simple.  Teams will face new conference opponents in the first two rounds, and then there will be some form of re-pairing (apparently still being discussed) for the NHL's "Final Four."

All of that said, I have been participating in a lot of comment sections through the blogosphere, and I see many frustrating objections in the comments sections in which I've participated.  So here's my attempt to quell some of the issues.

(more below the jump)