Bruce Boudreau’s message to protesting Montreal fans: If ‘you don’t like it, don’t come to the games’

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While calls of hypocrisy are very common in almost any form of debate, they’ve become annoyingly widespread in hockey discussion lately. The most obvious example is that hockey fans penalize Mario Lemieux for employing Matt Cooke, even when he makes a mostly valid point about the need for teams to be culpable in dirty hit situations.

The hockey media loves Bruce Boudreau for his candidness (and his far-from-time-sensitive love of ice cream, among other things), but I must disagree with the spirit of his argument against Montreal Canadiens fans who are set to protest the Zdeno Chara non-suspension outside the Bell Centre during tonight’s game against the Washington Capitals.

It’s not that he’s wrong when he remarked that those Montreal-based protesters wouldn’t be up in arms if the shoe was on the other foot. That much is obvious, but would you think less of … say, a PETA protester just because they ignore problems faced by environmentalists?

(Granted, many PETA members are tangentially likely to be environmentalists, but that was just a random, non-offensive parallel. Let’s just move on.)

Anyway, before we go any further, let’s take a look at an excerpt of what Boudreau said to those protesters.

“You don’t like it, don’t come to the games,” Boudreau told the assembled media at the Capitals’ pre-game skate on Tuesday morning.

The protest began on Mar. 9 when Canadiens fans – irate at the lack of a suspension for Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara after he drove forward Max Pacioretty’s head into a stanchion – launched a Facebook campaign to gather outside the arena. The online petition had over 1,500 signatures as of Tuesday morning.

Boudreau – who has demonstrated that he has no fear on speaking his mind – also said that if situations were reversed, that the incident would have already been forgotten.

“Listen, I don’t want to get into any controversy,” he said. “But if that was Hal Gill that hit David Krejci, I don’t think there’d be a protest going on here tonight.”

Again, it’s not like Boudreau is wrong about the situation out of context, but fans have a right to protest anything they want. Hockey fans pay exorbitant prices to attend games – especially in passionate markets such as Montreal – so casually pointing out that they wouldn’t be so angry if the victim was on the other team misses the point.

That being said, I want to reiterate how refreshing it is to observe a coach who is as candid and well-spoken as bellicose Bruce Boudreau. Agree or disagree, at least the man transcends bland PR speak.

What really might be interesting, though, is to see how many protesters show up. If you’ve ever followed Facebook invitations, you know that there often is a big difference between someone saying they’ll show up to an event or party online and them actually appearing. The sparse attendance for last year’s Fire Glen Sather rally is a great hockey example of that, although this time around, it’s hyper-loyal Canadiens fans we’re talking about.

Canadiens fans already built a love-hate relationship with Boudreau and the Capitals during last year’s compelling seven-game series, but this added wrinkle could be interesting. If anyone shows up to the protest, that is.

Pre-game reading: Bettman insists NHL isn’t ‘anti-Olympics’

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— Up top, members of the Detroit Red Wings and their fans recall some of their fondest memories from Joe Louis Arena, which will host its last NHL game on Apr. 9.

— Here’s NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, speaking Friday in Chicago: “The league isn’t anti-Olympics. The problem is, the clubs are anti-disruption to the season. To disappear for almost three weeks in February when there is no football and baseball and it’s only basketball and … there’s no programming for the NHL Network, for NHL.com (and) all of our social media platforms. … If somebody proposes something dramatic and radically different that gets the attention of the clubs where they say, ‘You know what? We don’t like going but on balance it’s worth it because of this,’ we’ll have to look at it again. But overwhelmingly the sentiment of the clubs is it’s too disruptive.” (Chicago Tribune)

— The players have said they won’t negotiate with the league for the right to participate in the Olympics. But they’ve made no secret about their desire to go, as evidenced by ESPN’s lengthy list of player quotes on the topic. Said Steven Stamkos: “In talking to a lot of players, I’ve yet to hear someone say they didn’t want to get a chance to represent their country at the Olympics.” (ESPN)

— Whether the NHL continues its Olympic participation or not, it’s clear the league is eyeing China as part of its growth strategy. In September, the Canucks and Kings are expected to play a couple of exhibition games in Beijing and Shanghai. And according to deputy commissioner Bill Daly, there may even come a time when an NHL franchise is owned by Chinese business interests. (The Globe and Mail)

— Are the Bruins on the verge of collapse? CSNNE columnist Joe Haggerty saw some concerning signs in last night’s loss to Tampa Bay — a loss that put the B’s in further danger of falling out of a playoff position. Haggerty concludes: “Their next wrong move will cause a nosedive straight out of the playoffs for the third year in a row, and that will spell changes far and wide on Causeway Street for the Boston Bruins.” (CSN New England)

— Islanders rookie Josh Ho-Sang, who wears No. 66, is ready for — and even looking forward to — a hostile crowd tonight at PPG Paints Arena. “For me, Pittsburgh is the one city as a whole where I’m totally OK with them hating me. For wearing No. 66. Mario Lemieux is a hero, a pioneer for them there, and for them to take it as disrespect is completely understandable.” (Newsday)

Enjoy the games!

PS — Lemieux said he was “fine” with Ho-Sang wearing his old number.

In prepping Vegas for draft, McPhee cites ‘outstanding’ record with Caps

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George McPhee is a veteran of the draft process, having presided over nearly 20 during his time with the Caps.

This year, he’s in a unique position — spearheading the first draft for the expansion Las Vegas Golden Knights — and he suggests his past success should set him up well for the future.

“I think we have an outstanding staff,” McPhee said, per the club website. “I think our draft record in my previous job was outstanding.”

Assessments like these are always up for debate — draft success is somewhat subjective, and there are inevitably a bunch of misses among the hits — but McPhee does have a strong history of drafting and developing players, and could point to the current Capitals as validation to his claim.

The active roster has 11 players that were original draftees (Braden Holtby, Philip Grubauer, Dmitry Orlov, John Carlson, Karl Alzner, Tom Wilson, Alex Ovechkin, Evgeny Kuznetsov, Marcus Johansson, Andre Burakovsky and Nicklas Backstrom), with goalies Holtby and Grubauer — both fourth-round picks — emerging as pretty good finds.

McPhee’s strategy? Go big or go home.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever played it safe going to the draft,” he explained. “I believe in swinging for the fences, and trying to find someone who can be a real difference maker. The difference makers are those core guys on your team, those 4-5 players that become elite players are the ones that can really take you a long way.

“They are hard to find. Those are the ones I’d like to swing for.”

At this year’s draft in Chicago, Vegas should have a shot at landing an impact guy. The club will have the same odds of winning the lottery as the team that finishes with the third fewest points this season and, though it’s considered a weak draft overall, there is some serious talent at the top end.

WHL Brandon’s Nolan Patrick, QMJHKL Halifax’s Nico Hischier and OHL Windsor’s Gabriel Vilardi are all considered high-end prospects and — importantly — all three play center. For a team that’s building from scratch, filling that position is of vital importance.

McPhee acknowledged this is a weaker draft, but contended those are the ones “where the best teams excel.” He theorizes that with fewer quality players available, the strongest teams emerge with the good ones.

He also shared how the Golden Knights plan to land ’em.

“We’re really aggressive,” he said. “We try not to play it safe very often.”

B’s ink prospects Fitzgerald, Johansson to entry-level deals

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Boston has brought a pair of talented youngsters into the fold.

Forward Ryan Fitzgerald, who just wrapped his senior season at Boston College, and defenseman Emil Johansson — who spent this year playing in the Swedish Hockey League — have signed their entry-level deals and will begin playing with the club’s AHL affiliate in Providence.

Fitzgerald — who’s father, Tom, is the assistant GM in New Jersey — scored 31 points in 34 games for BC this year, serving as an alternate captain. He was originally taken by Boston in the fourth round (120th overall) of the ’13 draft.

Johansson, 20, was a seventh-round pick in ’14 that’s panned out pretty well. He scored a career-high seven goals and 17 points in 49 games for Djugardens this year, appearing in three playoff contests.

 

 

Ducks send Stoner to AHL on conditioning loan

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Clayton Stoner is going to play some hockey again.

The Anaheim Ducks announced today that the 32-year-old defenseman has been assigned to AHL San Diego on a long-term injury conditioning loan.

Stoner has not played since Nov. 15. He had abdominal surgery in December, at which point the Ducks said he’d miss an additional 4-6 weeks. But a setback in his recovery extended the time frame.

“The setback was kind of just me trying to get back maybe a little bit quicker than I should,” Stoner told the O.C. Register recently. “And I wasn’t ready. Things have been good here for a little while so hopefully I’m just trying to string some days together and earn a spot back and kind of prove that I can be healthy and stay healthy.”