Illegal is illegal, regardless of injury

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booth.jpgWith the hockey world still awaiting news of Ovechkin’s suspension,
it seems that everyone is weighing in with their opinion on the legality
of hits and whether a suspension is worthy and why is Ovechkin getting
punished while Matt Cooke got off without one.

Well, here’s my
take on this whole mess.

The NHL takes injuries into account
when handing out punishment.

Here’s my biggest issue with the
entire system. If a play commits an egregious and illegal act on the
ice, he should be punished the exact same way each time. Every player
should be suspended in the same manner for the same hits, regardless of
whether they are a superstar or not and no matter what team they might
play for.

Of course, repeat offenders would be punished
accordingly and on a tiered system. They currently — supposedly — act
more harshly towards repeat offenders but it’s not the same way each
time.

That’s not the way the NHL works, however. It doesn’t matter
if one hit is just as dangerous and illegal as the next, if there
wasn’t an injury involved it’s not punished as harshly.

Witness
the Steve Downie slew foot of Sidney Crosby. There was about a half-inch
worth of movement to either side during that hit and we’d be having a
completely different conversation today. If Crosby’s knee had buckled
and his season was potentially over, Downie would be standing right
behind Ovechkin in line to talk to Colin Campbell. But Crosby was fine,
and it appears Downie will escape further punishment. Does that fact
that an injury did not occur make the play any less illegal?

The
NHL was supposedly content with letting the game misconduct stand as
Ovechkin’s only punishment, until we learned today that Brian Campbell
is potentially out for the season with a broken collarbone. Now Ovechkin
could be facing a multiple-game suspension. Does Campbell’s injury
suddenly make the play worse?

What about Matt Cooke?

Some
of you say the NHL didn’t suspend Cooke, with Marc Savard likely out
for the season with a concussion. Well, the issue here is that the
league currently does not have a rule in place to deem what Cooke did
was illegal. As stupid as that is, it’s the reality of the situation
and  as reprehensible as the hit was the NHL’s hands were tied. Can’t
punish him for a hit that technically wasn’t illegal; the NHLPA would be
all over that one.

Of course, the NHL is trying to correct their
mistake with a proposed rule change but that doesn’t alter the
punishment that Cooke should have received. Now we have talk of player
retribution and the fact that Matt Cooke and other Penguins players
might have a bounty of their heads.

Boy, that sure is a better
alternative.

The punishment should be the same, regardless of
injury.

This is where a standardized punishment system would
work. Everyone knows what the punishment is for such and such hit, and
every subsequent violation results in a lengthier suspension. There is
far too much subjectivity involved to make any punishments feel correct.
The fact that teams are actively lobbying in one way or the other —
and getting their way — is the perfect evidence that the system is
broken.

And for the record, I believe that Ovechkin should be
suspended for his actions. It was a reckless play, not malicious, but
reckless. It was dangerous. I’d say the same thing now if Brian Campbell
had walked away fine from the play. But if Ovechkin is suspended then
Steve Downie should be as well, and the fact that won’t happen is the
exact reason things need to change.

Flames get Johnny Gaudreau back way ahead of schedule

CALGARY, AB - APRIL 5: Johnny Gaudreau #13 of the Calgary Flames in action against the Los Angeles Kings during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on April 5, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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Some good news if you’re a fan of the Calgary Flames.

Johnny Gaudreau, who missed 10 games with a finger injury, will be back in their lineup for Sunday’s game against the Anaheim Ducks.

The Flames forward was injured in a game against Minnesota on Nov. 15 (he was slashed by Eric Staal), and after he underwent surgery, the team announced that he’d be out six weeks.

In the end, he missed less than three weeks of action.

“I’m ready to play,” Gaudreau said, per NHL.com. “I think the finger’s healed up pretty well there. I’m just excited to get things going here.

“I think they did a great job with my finger and we did a great job rehabbing it. They keep tell me it’s going to be harder to break the nine other fingers than to re-hurt this one. It feels good. It feels good when I shoot. I’m excited to finally get out of there.”

He’ll be playing with some added protection, as Calgary’s equipment manager made this glove for him:

Before Gaudreau got hurt, the Flames had a 6-10-1 record. But thanks to improved team play and some strong performances from goalie Chad Johnson, they managed to go 6-3-1 in, while Gaudreau was out.

The 23-year-old has five goals and six assists in 17 games, but he had scored three goals in three games before getting hurt.

Related:

Gaudreau injury a reminder as to how star players are treated

Boudreau: Flames made “mountain out of a molehill” over Gaudreau slash

Garret Sparks plays for first time since being suspended by Maple Leafs

TORONTO, ON - NOVEMBER 30:  Garret Sparks #31 of the Toronto Maple Leafs gets set to face the Edmonton Oilers in an NHL game at Air Canada Centre on November 30, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Maple Leafs defeated the Oilers 3-0. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
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Garret Sparks made waves for all the wrong reasons last week, as he was suspended by the Maple Leafs for remarks he made on social media.

Sparks officially made his return on Saturday night in the Marlies’ 3-2 loss to the Hartford Wolf Pack. He stopped 27 of 30 shots.

“It’s been a lot to deal with. I understand what I did,” Sparks said, per TSN.ca. “[The incident] wasn’t me. That’s not who I want to be known as, it’s not the image I want my reputation to have.

“I should know the difference between what I can and can’t say. It’s just holding myself to a higher standard of professionalism.”

The 23-year-old actually returned to the team on Tuesday, but didn’t play until yesterday.

With Leafs goalie Frederik Andersen dealing with an illness, the Leafs recalled Antoine Bibeau, which opened the door for Sparks to make his return.

Sparks has been limited to just five AHL games this year, but he was between the pipes for 17 NHL games in 2015-16.

‘We were awful’: Duchene calls out Avs after latest shutout loss

DENVER, CO - DECEMBER 19:  Matt Duchene #9 of the Colorado Avalanche awaits a face off against the Edmonton Oilers at Pepsi Center on December 19, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Oilers 5-1.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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The Colorado Avalanche are one of those teams that’s hard to figure out.

They have plenty of offensive talent on their roster, and going from Patrick Roy to Jared Bednar was supposed to help get the most out of their star players.

But through 23 games, that hasn’t been the case.

Going into Sunday’s action, they find themselves in the basement of the Western Conference with a 9-13-1 record.

It doesn’t help that they’ve had to deal with a number of injuries. They were dealt an even bigger blow on Saturday, when they announced that Erik Johnson (leg) would be out for six-to-eight weeks.

Gabriel Landeskog and Fedor Tyutin are also dealing with lower-body injuries.

“Injuries are no excuse, but it helps to have some of those guys in the lineup,” Bednar said, per the Denver Post. “You’re missing a pair on ‘D.’ I still can’t help but feel we have more to give. .. You still have to stick with it and work through it. That’s the only way you get out of it is to work out of it.”

Colorado had an opportunity to get things on track, but they finished their latest homestand with an 0-4-1 record. Yikes!

One of the biggest problems with this team is that they can’t seem to find the back of the net with any regularity.

No team has scored less times than the Avalanche, who are tied for last with a league-worst 49 goals for. They’ve also been shut out five times already in 2016-17.

Their power play was so bad against Dallas that Bednar decided to start the man-advantage with John Mitchell and Blake Comeau at one point.

“We were awful. I totally get why he did what he did,” forward Matt Duchene said after Saturday’s 3-0 loss to Dallas. “It’s frustrating. We’re just not executing right now. I think we’re overthinking things because we haven’t been winning.

“We’re not playing good hockey right now.”

With Corey Crawford out, ‘Hawks recall goalie Lars Johansson from AHL

CHICAGO, IL - JANUARY 17: Corey Crawford #50 of the Chicago Blackhawks follows the action against the Montreal Canadiens at the United Center on January 17, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Canadiens 5-2. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Chicago Blackhawks were dealt a blow yesterday, when they announced that starting goalie Corey Crawford would miss two-to-three weeks after undergoing an appendectomy on Saturday.

With Crawford unavailable yesterday, Chicago was forced to look for an emergency backup in the Philly area. Ultimately, they settled on former temple goalie Eric Semborski.

On Sunday, they got their goaltending situation in order, as they recalled Lars Johansson from the AHL.

Johansson, 29, is in his first season in North America. He played the previous 10 years over in Sweden with Mora IK, Vasteras IK and Frolunda HC.

In the AHL, he’s posted a 6-7-1 record with a 2.63 goals-against-average and a .911 save percentage in 2016-17.

His numbers in the minors might not look good, but Johansson had the best goals-against-average (1.74) in the top league in Sweden last year.

The Blackhawks also sent forward Nick Schmaltz to the minors.

Schmaltz, who was Chicago’s first-round pick in 2014, made the team out of training camp, but has played limited minutes.

The 20-year-old has just one goal and three assists, while averaging 11:46 of ice time in 2016-17.

Playing a larger role with AHL Rockford should be good for his confidence.