As the season winds down, certain controversies always arise around the NHL. Debates over blown calls, soft goals, bad trades always contribute to the 'what if?' appeal of our game.
Punditry reigns supreme, to say the least.
As it has been such an extended period of time since my last article, and I never run out of opinions, I have decided to introduce the first in a new series of articles, entitled "5 For Chirping ", where I will offer a candid, unabashed view of the hot topics around the rink, straying from my previous objective view and subject matter to lay it out the way I see it.
Quite simply, my writing will have a full set of teeth, even if those I write about don't.
So without further ado, allow me to welcome you into my brain!
Wipe your feet please.
Chris Simon Cries Star Treatment
Perrenial malcontent Chris Simon claims that Colin Campbell is playing favourites.
We have all seen the now infamous Chris Pronger stomp on Ryan Kesler by now, and listened to blowhard analysts decrying the dirtiness of the play ad nauseum.
Now Chris Simon is crying "star treatment" over Pronger's 8 game suspension, which obviously is far short of the 30 game decision he recently enjoyed.
Is he right? I genuinely hope so.
I will go on record as saying that I like neither of these players to quell any inklings of favouritism, but I think both play their respective roles to a 'T'.
Chris Simon is a goon. There is no need for sugar-coated adjectives like 'fiery' or 'gritty' or 'scrappy', he is a goon who serves no purpose in the league beyond fighting. In his situation, he went out of his way to get over to the scrum where Jarkko Ruutu was, waiting for his moment and intentionally stomping on his leg. This was not even a year after serving 25 games for his wild swing at Ryan Hollweg, though I will concede, the former of the two was not pre-meditated. In my opinion, this play was reminiscent of Claude Lemieux's suckerpunch from the bench on Brett Lindros back in 1995. A dirty guy saw an opportunity and took it. The game took 20 years to purge the likes of Claude, Ulf and Matthew Barnaby, we don't need nu-goons.
Chris Pronger is also a goon. Yes, he's a goon with a Cup ring and an Olympic Gold medal, but he is still a goon. He is also a skilled player, with a tremendous upside including keen hockey sense,strong leadership skills and a ferocious work ethic.He also has a history of suspensions, however none as blatant as Simon's.
Did he receive star treatment? No. Kesler was trying to put him in a leg lock to tie him up during the play, the video does clearly show a 'stomping motion', but it also shows him trying to free his leg, he did not willingly skate to Kesler, nor line up his shot.
Should he receive star treatment? Yes, because that way it will teach talentless hacks like Chris Simon that the league doesn't look kindly on one-dimensional players and they'll think twice the next time they're in a situation where an opportunity presents itself.
In my opinion, Chris Simon is an unnecessary antique in the new NHL, as are others of his ilk, including Donald Brashear, Brian McGrattan, Georges Laraque and Jody Shelley.
Chris Pronger on the other hand, represents the growing contingent of star-caibre players who can fight AND play the game, notably headlined by Jarome Iginla, Vincent Lecavalier, Zdeno Chara and Sean Avery.
Believe it or not Chris Simon and company, that stick in your hand can do something besides crosscheck, slash, spear, hack and hook, and those skates can do something more than imitate a cigar chopper. Learn to use them properly or don't use them at all.
Should Alexander Ovechkin be considered for the Hart Trophy if The Caps Don't Make The Playoffs?
This is probably the most ridiculous debate at present.
YES. He most definitely should be considered, in fact, I will go so far as to say if the vote was taken right now, he would win with no contest.
I will go on record right now as saying that I believe Ovechkin has 'silently' become the guilty pleasure of hockey fans, becoming the obvious Ying to Sidney Crosby's Yang. With his gap-toothed grin, rock-star ensembles and mirrored visors, Ovechkin energizes his team, the city of Washington, the fans, and even his opponents with his infectious enthusiasm and love of the game. One can't help but smile and shake their head seeing his mile wide grin under the mirrored visor. The admirable thing is that the smile is more pronounced when his teammates score, unlike a certain stoic Russian sniper who also has broken the 50 goal mark this year (I of course refer to an Atlanta player whose last name rhymes loosely with what I think of him).
Crosby won the Hart last year getting the Penguins through ONE five game playoff series, and though I will never dispute that he had a great season, I feel his win was largely for publicity and could have gone to much more deserving players. He also had the luxury of a supporting cast of including Malkin, Staal, Roberts, Recchi, Gonchar and Fleury, as well as the commitment from Penguins brass to keep him around long term and to build a team around him.
Ovechkin on the other hand came to an abyssmal Washington team with zero starpower, came into this season with trade rumours surrounding him, negotiated the biggest contract in league history without an agent with little more in the way of teammates beyond a slumping Alex Semin and a burgeoning Nick Backstrom. Washington management, probably still gunshy from the Jagr (or)deal, was seemingly hesitant to bank on 'the best player in the league' again, but in the end, signed on the line, and more impressive still, made a pair of relatively significant trades at the deadline to bring in Cristobal Huet to lighten the strain on the most under-rated goalie in the league, Olaf Kolzig, as well as bringing in Sergei Fedorov to act as mentor to their crop of young snipers. And, as of Friday night, Alexander the Gr8 became the first 60-goal scorer in 12 years.
Crosby got the Penguins into the playoffs, but with plenty of help, if Ovechkin can make the playoffs a possibility for a franchise I once affectionately referred to as "where hope goes to die", give the man his propers and stop doting on the squeaky clean cover boy.
Mandatory Visors/Neckguards For NHL Players
Close, but they're WAY off.
Firstly, these pop up after every eye or neck laceration. It's a knee-jerk reaction, plain and simple. After Bryan Berard's eye injury, it was en vogue to suggest that visors should be mandatory, and many sub-par sports pundits tried to come across as authorities on the subject, feeding into the paranoia.
After Richard Zednik's near fatal incident, it introduced a debate over neck protectors that I feel may hold some merit.
I do not agree with the forcing of players to do anything. They are grown men who have dedicated their lives to the game, if they want to go out without visors or neckguards, it's at their discretion.
As history has proven, equipment at first panned as cumbersome can catch on with some amount of innovation. When the goalie mask was introduced, it was thought to be impractical, however as the design was refined and its benefits becoming more apparent it caught on, snowballing to the current form which is not only safe, but *gasp* 'cool'. When visors were first introduced, they were thick easily scratched and distorted optics, not to mention the fog factor. Now, as the technology has made them optically correct, fog and scratch resistant, and offered in various interesting tints and finishes that allow the wearer to be unique, they have caught on.
Perhaps, with the call for their implementation, hockey equipment manufacturers will overhaul the old design that has annoyed hockey players for the last 30 years, taking away from their neck brace aesthetic and feel.
But until that day, let 'em play. Blood is an integral part of hockey, and you can't get upset when you see a little bit more than usual.
On the Bleacher Report, I'm Andrew Castaneda. Catch more of my writings at www.snipeshowhockey.com, as well as great hockey talk with fans who love every aspect of the great game.
With files from CBC.ca, WikiPedia, Sports Illustrated, TSN.ca and NHL.com