Mike Babcock

Columnist: Babcock approaches ‘patriotic minefield’ as Canada’s coach

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As one of the most respected coaches in the league – not to mention the bench boss of the 2010 gold medal team – Mike Babcock seemed like a pretty obvious choice for Team Canada. They made it official on Monday.

While the Toronto Star’s Cathal Kelly believes that it was the right choice for the team, it might not be the same for Babcock, who Kelly believes is entering something like a no-win situation.

Kelly describes the gig as a “patriotic minefield,” especially after a successful first run.

Canada rides a metronomic wave of Olympic hockey emotion. With a gold in hand, we’ve crested the peak of the manic phase, and are headed down toward depression. The microscopic attention span of the public can only properly focus on the win that follows the disappointment of a loss. That’s the first high. Everything else is chasing a feeling that diminishes.

Even in a profession where job security seems perpetually flimsy, Kelly asserts that being behind Canada’s bench is the greatest pressure a coach can face.

We talk a lot about the pressure of coaching. At the professional level, that’s cultural and self-imposed. Every guy who earns the spot in the middle of the bench gets a bunch of mulligans along with it.

This is real pressure, because it has so little to do with professional competence. It’s standing at the head of an army you’ve only just met, and hoping they don’t need to be told what to do. If they lose, it’s on you. No do-overs.

Of course, there’s the counterargument: you get to guide what’s essentially an All-Star team, only with the motivation of representing your hockey-mad country as an added advantage.

(H/T to the Detroit Free Press.)

Sens demote former first-rounder Puempel

Matt Puempel
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Looks like Matt Puempel won’t be making the leap after all.

Puempel, the subject of Ottawa’s “looking to make the leap” profile during our Team of the Day series, has been sent down to AHL Binghamton one day prior to the Sens’ opener against Buffalo.

Puempel, taken by Ottawa in the first round (24th overall) at the ’11 draft, made his big-league debut last season and looked as though he’d stick around — only to suffer a high ankle sprain after 13 games, and miss the rest of the season.

The 22-year-old came into this year’s camp looking to secure a full-time position at the big league level, but was beaten out by Shane Prince for the final forward spot on the roster.

To be fair, contract status probably played a role. Prince would’ve had to clear waivers to get down to Bingo, whereas Puempel didn’t.

A former 30-goal scorer in the American League, Puempel is expected to get another look with Ottawa this season.

Report: Torres won’t appeal 41-game suspension


Sounds like Raffi Torres is accepting his punishment.

Per Sportsnet, Torres won’t appeal his 41-game suspension for an illegal hit to the head of Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg.

The report comes just days after the NHL’s Department of Player Safety levied one of the longest disciplinary rulings in league history, citing both the severity of the Silfverberg hit and Torres’ lengthy history of suspensions, fines and warnings.

There was some thought, however, that Torres would try to challenge the ruling.


He does have a history of success in that department. In 2012,Torres successfully appealed his suspension for a headshot on Chicago’s Marian Hossa, and had his punishment reduced from 25 games to 21.

Torres also isn’t considered a “repeat offender” under the current collective bargaining agreement, as his last suspension came in 2013.

Of course, part of that clean record is due to the fact he hasn’t played much. Torres has largely been sidelined by injury for the last two seasons, missing all of last year with knee problems.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman delved further into the repeat offender thing in his latest 30 Thoughts column:

If you read the relevant sections of the CBA, the league takes the position that the repeat offender status is only applicable to fines. Repeaters are fined on a per-game basis, non-repeaters on a per-day basis. (The former is more expensive, because there are fewer games than days in an NHL season.) However, if you go to Section 18.2, among the factors taken into account are, “the status of the offender and, specifically, whether the Player has a history of being subject to Supplementary Discipline for On-Ice Conduct.”

So, in the NHL’s view, a player’s history is relevant, even if longer than 18 months ago.

Should the report prove accurate and Torres doesn’t appeal, he will be eligible to return to action on Jan. 14, when the Sharks take on the Oilers.