Colin Campbell

Colin Campbell exposed: Says Marc Savard is “biggest faker going”; berates officials for picking on his son

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If you’ve ever thought that NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell might’ve had it out for your team regarding punishment or handled the Marc Savard-Matt Cooke scenario in a highly-questionable manner considering Cooke wasn’t suspended for his hit on Savard, consider today to be your day of vindication.

Tyler Dellow of mc79hockey.com has uncovered e-mails between Campbell and former head of NHL officiating Stephen Walkom that outline how Campbell gets in Walkom’s ear in situations when infractions against his son Gregory (then of the Florida Panthers, now of the Boston Bruins) he found to be wrong.

We also find out that Colin Campbell doesn’t think very highly of Bruins forward Marc Savard, a dislike that might have roots going back to the days when Campbell coached the New York Rangers and Savard was a young forward he coached. There’s almost too much information here to quote and share with you, but we’ll give you the juiciest bits to chew on. We really can’t recommend highly enough going to Dellow’s site and reading the entire piece.

At the heart of the matter here is Colin Campbell and Stephen Walkom discussing the officiating work of (now former) referee Dean Warren. Campbell was incensed with Warren’s work and sought to get Warren fired for his inconsistent officiating and was in the ear of Walkom to let him know his thoughts on how he’s doing. Warren was fired and challenged the NHL in court over his firing saying his work with the NHLOA lead to his dismissal. If you’re wondering how these e-mails were available to be found, it’s because they’re part of the record pertaining to this case. Mike Murphy who is mentioned here is the NHL’s vice president of hockey operations.

This e-mail from Campbell to Walkom in particular is ripe for discussion. Names were already removed from it and the only edit we’re doing is to edit some of the colorful language used. We don’t want this post to get nixed by your sensitive work filters for naughty language. Again, we stress to you to go read the full post to get the full story on how things go down.

A couple weeks later Mike Murphy or Mr. Walkom (it was not clear which) wrote to Mr. Campbell (and Mr. Walkom) that Mr. Warren had “missed high stick on [player] with 130 left in the game…..hard for a Ref to see….[general manager] will be whining’. Mr. Campbell replied:

To Stephen Walkom/Tor/NHL@NHL
Subject Re: Delayed Penalties/High Sticks 02/#/2007 4:24 pm

A bend in the road is a dead end if you round the corner and Dean Warren is standing there. Your answer re: his high stick calls and the score of the game were horse sh**. The 3rd call on [player] was while they were down 5 on 4 and on a def zone face off vs that little fake artist [player] I had him in [city] biggest faker going. And Warren fell for it when he grabbed his face on a face off. Your supposed to see the act, not call the embellishing act. Dean Warren has to go with [referee] There must be a way to get rid of this guy. Is there a way we can tract (sic) and total minors called by referees this year. We could then get the minors they call per game. … or with 2 [referees on the ice] it is impossible? Warren and [referee] out of [club’s] games. Give them to [referees].

Stephen Walkom to: Colin Campbell 02/#/2007 04:39 PM

that’s funny yet not funny….I think we have that data but it may work in his favour….that’s why I’m against data and more about IT….he doesn’t have it, never had it, and is average at best, probably never get it,

OK I’m going to stop it….

From: Stephen Walkom
Sent: 02/#/2007 08:09 AM
To: Mike Murphy
Cc: Colin Campbell
Subject: Re: ….. / …….

Terry ran into …….after the game who was upset, linesmen…………..viewed the play but no injury could be found therefore no call [player] was saying to Terry that he was injured but the guys didn’t see anything but spit and gatorade residue….therefore no double minor….

Re [player]
Colin Campbell to Stephen Walkom, Mike Murphy
02/#/2007 09:21 AM

I know Murph and Kinger like [player] as a player but my view of him is this exactly…he puts his whining ahead of the game. I don’t think this is a regular occurrence (…..getting screwed) and …..exploded ………over the disallowed goal. He may be uncontrollable by ………….and……………..as I think his frustration level has hit a high point. He hates officials as well. He is still pissed off at [referee] for a call he missed in the playoffs years ago as I remember him bugging Murph about it. Let’s give him Warren and [referee] than (sic) he will really have something to whine about.

If you’re curious about who in the world Campbell is so hot under the collar discussing, Bruins fans might want to take a keen eye to who Dellow was able to do the detective work to find out which game this was in reference to and who the interested parties were that managed to draw Campbell’s ire. Those of you who have suspected that nepotism and old grudges might rule Campbell’s world, you’re about to get a huge dose of vindication.

OK – this one I think we can nail down. We know that Campbell is upset about a situation involving a team that was already down to 5 v 4, on a defensive zone faceoff against a “little fake artist” who Campbell had (presumably in New York when he coached the Rangers. We also know that it was that player’s third penalty of the night. We can assume, from the chair’s description of this as being a few weeks after some earlier February emails, that it was in late February.

As it so happens, there is a game featuring players that meet this description. On February 24, 2007, Dean Warren reffed a game between the Bruins and the Panthers. At 13:29 of the second, Alexei Semenov was called for high sticking. Marc Savard, who played for Colin Campbell when he coached the Rangers, came out over the boards. He glided towards the dot where he faced off with Panthers penalty killer…Gregory Campbell. The puck was dropped and Campbell was called for high sticking. His third penalty of the game.

This is the only game from February, 2007 that meets the description.

So to dumb things down here this is what we’ve got:

  • Colin Campbell thinks that Marc Savard is a “little fake artist” and  “the biggest faker going”
  • Colin Campbell gets really upset when his son is made a fool of by a referee
  • Colin Campbell holds a huge grudge

Dellow’s piece goes on to analyze a few more e-mails from Campbell to Walkom and finds yet another instance when Greg Campbell was wronged by an official and Colin Campbell blew his stack about it to Walkom. I don’t think we need to make it any clearer what an extremely large conflict of interest this is for not just the players on the ice, but also the integrity of the officials working a game where Greg Campbell is playing.

Oddly enough, this off-season we saw Greg Campbell end up in Boston, the same city where Marc Savard plays. Did the Bruins feel they got the short end of the stick when Matt Cooke wasn’t suspended after taking Savard’s head off and thought that if they brought Greg Campbell on board they’d get a fairer shake from the league? It’s not likely the main motivation, but having dad peeking over his son’s new team’s shoulder every game can’t hurt. At the very least, when Savard returns to the lineup that first day in the locker room might be a lot more interesting now.

Amusingly so, Colin Campbell comes off out of all this looking like a hockey parent out of control doing the sorts of things with his position of power that parents that run their kid’s pee-wee league do to make sure that their child always ends up on the all-star teams. After all, he ends up e-mailing the head of officiating to yell about his kid not getting a fair shake, one of the officials indicated in this whole situation has already lost his job (Dean Warren), and the discussion about Campbell having an extreme conflict of interest in having his job and a relative playing in the league can now no longer be pooh-poohed as not being possible since this is a professional league.

Instead, you’ve got a league official ruling the roost with a chip on his shoulder, playing favorites towards his own son, and a grudge towards at least one player he used to coach. There is absolutely zero way for this to look good on the NHL to have a person in a position of power, a man who makes the decisions on who gets suspended or not and for how long, to work with a clear mind and without bias when he’s clearly got some problems with some players and officials. How the NHL decides to answer to this will be fascinating. Regardless of what kind of PR-friendly way they answer to this, the NHL looks horrible because of it.

It’s hard to believe that Colin Campbell will keep his job much longer after this. All the chatter and innuendo that was made with a wink and a nod about how Campbell plays favorites is no longer funny when it’s found to actually be true. It’s not as if Campbell has been without controversy already concerning his decisions on virtually everything, the spotlight has been on him for a long time as it is and now those that have been highly critical of him have the smoking gun they’ve been dying to see.

In a fun twist, it turns out the one guy who could keep us from talking about Sean Avery all day on Monday over his fight is the same guy that decided to sit Avery down for six games for saying nasty things about an old girlfriend. Colin Campbell might very well get a permanent vacation for colorful language of his own.

(Update: The NHL has responded to the situation and their take on things won’t help quiet down the public outcry)

Creating a realistic expectation for Sidney Crosby’s point total in 2016

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 07: Sidney Crosby #87 of the Pittsburgh Penguins looks on during warmups before playing the against the Washington Capitals in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Second Round during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Verizon Center on May 7, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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This is part of Pittsburgh Penguins day at PHT…

The 2015-16 season had to be the most bizarre season of Sidney Crosby‘s NHL career to this point.

It started with one of the worst 30-game stretches of his NHL career (a stretch where he had just 19 total points), prompting a league-wide discussion where everybody tried to figure out what exactly was wrong with him and why he suddenly lost the ability to score like one of the league’s top players.

It ended with him hoisting the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP after helping lead the Penguins to a Stanley Cup win, erasing five years worth of talk about how he and his team were underachievers in the playoffs.

It wasn’t the ending anybody expected at the start of the season, and especially at the start of December when the season seemed like it was starting to slip away from them.

Much of the blame for his — and the team’s — early struggles was put on the defensive system put in place by coach Mike Johnston. That point was only driven home more in the second half of the season and the playoffs when Crosby — and the Penguins offense as a team — did a complete 180 and took off, skyrocketing to the top of the league.

Crosby himself went from being on a 56-point pace through the first 30 games of the season, to finishing as the third-leading scorer in the league.

The difference in Crosby’s production under the two coaches last season creates creates an interesting question heading into the 2016-17 season: Will he be able return to being the 100-point player he was as recently as two years ago when he was by far the most dominant offensive player in the league, and if not what should we realistically expect?

While Crosby’s production under Johnston for his year-and-a-half tenure behind the bench was the worst of his career, it is also probably unfair to put all of the blame on the coach for that drop in production. The systematic changes and defensive expectations had to definitely play some role in it, but there was a lot more going on than just a chance in coaches and system.

Two other key major contributing factors:

  1. Nearly every top player in the NHL has seen a drop in their production in recent years because goal scoring at a league-wide level continues to trend toward all-time low territory. Since the start of the 2011-12 season only five players have topped 90 points in a single season, while only two (Crosby in 2013-14 and Patrick Kane in 2015-16) have done it over the past three years. Anything over 80 points these days is an elite scorer.
  2. The other factor is that Crosby himself is now in his late 20s, and while he could still have another decade of high level play in the NHL ahead of him, it is likely that he has already played his best hockey, at least when it comes to scoring. Scorers tend to have their best seasons between the ages of 23 and 26, and Crosby’s career has been no different. During those seasons he averaged 1.47 points per game, a pace that is good enough for 120 points over 82 games. The disappointing thing for Crosby and the Penguins during that time is that injuries (and a half season lockout) limited him to just 179 out of a possible 294 regular season games. He was able to play more than 41 games in only one of those four seasons. That means the NHL never really had a chance to fully see Sidney Crosby at his absolute best.

Keep in mind that 1.47 per-game average that Crosby had between his age 23 and 26 seasons. That is an unbelievable level of production for any era of hockey, even going back to the run-and-gun 1980s. You should not realistically expect that level of play from him anymore because the two points made above. It’s an impossible standard for anybody. Over the past 20 years only seven different players have averaged at least 1.47 points per game in a full season. Even Kane “only” averaged 1.29 this past season when he ran away with the scoring title.

If you look at Crosby’s performance last season in only the games that were coached by Sullivan, he had 66 points in 52 regular season games. That is a 1.26 point per game average (103 points over 82 games). If you include the playoffs, it was 85 points in 76 games, a 1.11 point per game average (93 points over 82 games). Both are an obvious increase from the Johnston-coached days, but they are also still a pretty significant decrease from what those totals were five or six years ago when he was scoring at an 120-point pace every year.

That is also the expectation that should probably exist going forward for Crosby.

It’s not unfair to say that Crosby is slowing down as a scorer. Because he is. It’s something that happens to every player when they reach this age. Even the greatest players ever like Gretzky and Lemieux saw significant drops in their scoring after they turned 27.

It also means there shouldn’t be a league-wide panic when he goes through a scoring slump at some point in the season.

It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with him, it just means that he’s not 24 anymore and shouldn’t be expected to score like he is.

He is still going to be the best offensive player in the world. It’s just going to be at a 90-95 point level instead of a 110-120 point level.

Under Pressure: Derrick Pouliot

PITTSBURGH, PA - DECEMBER 27: Derrick Pouliout #51 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates with the puck against the Washington Capitals at Consol Energy Center on December 27, 2014 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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This is part of Pittsburgh Penguins day at PHT…

When the Pittsburgh Penguins traded Jordan Staal to the Carolina Hurricanes following the 2011-12 season for Brandon Sutter, Brian Dumoulin and the No. 8 overall pick in the draft (which they used to select Derrick Pouliot), the latter was expected to be one of the key long-term centerpieces of the deal.

Pouliot was a top-10 pick and a puck-moving, offensive defenseman that had the potential to one day be a top-pairing player in the NHL.

Four years later and he has almost become the afterthought of the trade for Pittsburgh.

Dumoulin took a major step forward last season and blossomed into one of the Penguins’ best defensive players, while Sutter was traded before the season for Nick Bonino, who would go on to become a key part of the HBK line, along with Carl Hagelin and Phil Kessel. That line was their most productive line in the playoffs and probably the biggest reason they ended up winning the Stanley Cup.

Pouliot, meanwhile, is still trying to find his place in the organization and the NHL, and if he doesn’t take a big step forward this season he could be on the verge of running out of opportunities in Pittsburgh.

When Paul Martin and Christian Ehrhoff left the Penguins in free agency following the 2014-15 season, it was expected that Pouliot would be one of the young players that would step into the lineup and get an increased opportunity, especially with a head coach — Mike Johnston — that was familiar with him due to their time together in Portland of the Western Hockey League.

But a dismal showing in training camp and the preseason earned him a ticket back to the AHL, and even when he did get called up he never really played a significant role in the lineup.

His experiences in the NHL over past two years have been mixed to say the least. He had a brilliant stretch of play late in the 2014-15 season that highlighted the skills that made him a top-10 pick in the draft, and his possession numbers have always been outstanding. But his play away from the puck has always been a work in progress, and because of his style of play he can be vulnerable to the occasional mistake that can stand out like a sore thumb. Those mistakes always get noticed, and when it is a young player without much of a track record that makes them, it usually results in a very short leash and a lengthy stay in the press box.

The Penguins have almost all of their Stanley Cup defense returning with the lone exception being Ben Lovejoy after he signed with the New Jersey Devils in free agency. Lovejoy’s departure means there will once again be another opportunity for Pouliot to potentially earn a regular spot in the lineup. His main competition will be Justin Schultz, a player that has a similar skillset and has had a similar set of criticisms directed his way throughout his career (highly skilled with the puck, questionable without it). There is probably only room for one of them in the lineup at a time when everybody is healthy, so it is probably going to be a competition between these two for that sixth spot.

Pouliot turns 23 later this season, so he still has a chance to become a productive regular at the NHL level. It’s not like he is past his peak years in the NHL. But he is also at an age where he really isn’t a “prospect” anymore, either. He is starting to enter that suspect territory where his development is at a crossroads.

Entering the final year of his entry level contract before he is eligible for restricted free agency, and with other young defensemen in the organization passing him on the depth chart (Dumoulin and Olli Maatta specifically) this is going to be a big year for Pouliot to show he belongs in the NHL on a regular basis.

Looking to make the leap: Daniel Sprong

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 15:  Daniel Sprong #41 of the Pittsburgh Penguins handles the puck in front of Kyle Turris #7 of the Ottawa Senators during the game at Consol Energy Center on October 15, 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
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This is part of Pittsburgh Penguins day at PHT…

Daniel Sprong was stuck in a difficult position during the 2015-16 season.

He ended up being just one of eight players from the 2015 draft to play in the NHL, spending the first two months of the season in Pittsburgh after earning a spot on the roster thanks to an impressive training camp and preseason performance. But once there the Penguins really didn’t seem to know what to do with him. He showed flashes of the talent that earned him a spot on the roster, but it was also clear that his play away from the puck needed work and that he never completely had the trust of then-coach Mike Johnston.

If he was not a healthy scratch, he was only playing limited minutes.

But because he was only 18 years old, he was not eligible to play in the American Hockey League during the regular season due to the AHL-CHL transfer agreement.

That meant if he wasn’t going to play in Pittsburgh, a league that was probably a little too advanced for him at the time, he had to return to the QMJHL to play for his junior team, the Charlottetown Islanders, in a league that he was probably too good for. It’s an agreement that works great for the CHL, but doesn’t really give prospects the best chance to develop that season because their only options are a league where they are overmatched or a league where they are probably the best player on the ice every time they go over the boards.

Eventually, the Penguins were left with little choice and did in fact return him to the Q where he, quite predictably, dominated the competition and recorded 46 points in 33 games.

At the conclusion of Charlottetown’s season, he was able to play for the Penguins’ AHL team in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the playoffs where he scored five goals and added two assists in only 10 games.

The problem he is going to face this season two-fold. First, he is recovering from shoulder surgery that will keep him out of the lineup until January or February. That doesn’t necessarily eliminate him from contributing this season. It just delays it.

The second is that the Penguins’ forward group is already mostly locked in at the start as they are returning everybody from their Stanley Cup winning roster, which is going to make things tight for somebody new to break into the lineup.

But Sprong is still clearly the team’s best forward prospect at the moment and one of the few players in the system that seems to have top-six potential. Whether it’s through his own play forcing his way into NHL action or an injury, he should have an opportunity — once he has recovered — to be a factor at some point this season.

‘He’s earned it’ — Jets name Wheeler new captain

CALGARY, AB - MARCH 16: Blake Wheeler #26 of the Winnipeg Jets in action against the Calgary Flames during an NHL game at Scotiabank Saddledome on March 16, 2016 in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images)
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It was widely assumed that Blake Wheeler would inherit Andrew Ladd‘s captaincy in Winnipeg and, on Wednesday, the club made it official.

Wheeler, 30, will become the second player to captain the Jets since the franchise moved from Atlanta in 2011, with Dustin Byfuglien and Mark Scheifele serving as alternates.

The Wheeler decision was something of a no-brainer, as he’s one of the club’s longest tenured player (seven seasons and counting), spending the the last three as one of Ladd’s alternate captains.

In the summer of ’13, Wheeler inked a six-year, $33.6 million extension with the Jets and has since established himself as one of the clubhouse leaders. He was a prominent voice during the Evander Kane saga, mincing no words when explaining what was expected of Jets players.

“There’s a standard that everyone needs to live up to,” Wheeler said, per the Sun. “We’re professionals, we make a lot of money. And we’re expected to uphold a certain standard. That’s the code we live by.

“If you don’t like it then there’s other places to go. This is the way we do things.”