Tuesday, 2 October 2007

The Debate Continues

I'm starting to get a little angry at the "experts" who seem to think that headshots in the NHL won't stop now that Steve Downie has been forced to sit for twenty NHL games. I appreciate all the comments on the last two entries from everyone, and I am glad that it has brought about an intelligent discussion in regards to this problem in the NHL. However, I still think the NHL should look at this far more seriously than just handing out twenty games to a player who will now be playing for the AHL's Philadelphia Phantoms. If the NHL and AHL are really in a partnership for the development of players, these twenty games should be enforced by both the NHL and AHL as a way to help Downie's development.

Let me explain that last statement. If the Flyers want Downie to be an effective player in the NHL, he cannot be sitting on the sidelines with a suspension. His development over those twenty games will greatly fuel his desire to play. The AHL would be wise in keeping his on the sideline for that time in order for Downie to learn that a player needs to be on the ice to be effective. Right now, he's useless to the Flyers, and that's why he was demoted. He's also useless to the Phantoms, but that's ok. He's going to hone his craft in the AHL until the Flyers deem him ready.

The management and coaches of both the Flyers and Phantoms should be working with Downie to break him out of this "bad boy" image he has had since his days in the OHL. The hit on McAmmond can be considered an aberration if Downie comes back and works hard at not being a goon with his hits. The NHLPA should also be a part of this as they need to protect their own from their own. Steve Downie can be a contributor to the Flyers, but he has to be on the ice AND using his head at the same time.

After listening to Damian Cox on TSN last night as he played the role of Devil's Advocate on the show That's Hockey, Mr. Cox said that Downie's suspension will do little to deter other players from committing headshots. He went through all the same rhetoric as everyone else, saying Downie was an easy target and he broke all the rules when going for this hit, making the decision for the NHL to suspend Downie an easy one.

My problem with this is that there shouldn't be "rules" when it comes to hitting a guy in the head. Bob McKenzie, on his blog on TSN.ca, even went as far as to outline what criteria Downie violated:

"Targeting or stalking a player? Check.

Launching himself? Check.

Unsuspecting victim? Check.

Late hit? Check.

Causing injury and/or intent to injure? Check."

If these are going to be the criteria for which suspensions are handed out, expect a lot of players to get suspended. If the hit is a headshot, though, twenty games should be the minimum with no questions asked. Precedent has been set. The NHL needs to follow up on it with the same justice that it handed down to Downie.

If they don't, this entire suspension was a lesson in NHL futility.

NHL Openers: Tomorrow is a big TV night for me. The Canadiens play the Hurricanes on RDS, the French TSN, at 7pm ET. The Senators play the Maple Leafs in the "Battle of Ontario" at 7pm ET on TSN. I don't get Versus, but they have a double-header going on with the Ducks and Red Wings at 7pm ET followed by the Stars and Avalanche at 9:30pm ET. I'll probably be tuning into the streaming audio feed found on NHL.com for the late game.

Hockey starts on Wednesday for real! I can't wait!

Important Dates: There are a few NHL dates you should be aware of this season, mostly because they have significance to the game.

November 10 - Hockey Hall of Fame Game (NYR vs. TML).
January 1 - NHL Outdoor Game from Buffalo, NY (PIT vs. BUF).
January 27 - NHL All-Star Game from Atlanta.
February 9 - Hockey Day In Canada on CBC.
February 26 - NHL Trade Deadline Day.
April 9 - NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs begin.
June 9 - last possible day of the Stanley Cup Finals.

As a sidenote, the Toronto Maple Leafs will be mathematically-eliminated from the playoffs some time in November. They haven't picked a precise day yet, but rumours are abound that Mats Sundin is shooting for Remembrance Day in Canada.

I'm kidding, Leafs fans! It's just a joke!

Unimportant Stuff: Compared to hockey, this isn't that important, but I might not be around much this week. As usual, hockey season coincides with my birthday and the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend, so things are busy in this writer's life this week. However, I will be posting as much as I can, even if it's through a drunken haze due to birthday drinks.

Man, I love the start of hockey. It's the best time of the year.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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