Bob Hartley

When can a coach be held ‘responsible’ for the actions of his players?

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When Flames head coach Bob Hartley was fined $25,000 by the NHL in the wake of Saturday’s line brawl in Vancouver, the league ruled that the fine was “issued in accordance with By-Law 17.3 (a) for conduct prejudicial to or against the welfare of the League.”

Said Colin Campbell, the NHL’s Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations: “We are holding Mr. Hartley responsible for the actions of Flames right wing Kevin Westgarth, who took the game’s opening faceoff and attempted to instigate a premeditated fight with an unwilling opponent — the Canucks’ Kevin Bieksa.”

Now, you’ll note that the league never outright accused Hartley of telling Westgarth to start the fight, though at least one report suggested that was the case.  This is important, because after the game Hartley pleaded total innocence, saying he had “zero intentions” when he started Westgarth, along with another noted tough guy, Brian McGrattan.

But the NHL still held Hartley responsible for what Westgarth did. And even though Calgary’s general manager, Brian Burke, was “perplexed” by that decision, here’s the thing — what were the Flames going to do about it?

Unlike suspended players who have a defined appeals process, as laid out in the CBA that their union negotiated with the league, an appeal for a suspended coach would have to go straight to the full Board of Governors, according to NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly.

The maximum fine under By-Law 17.3 (a) is $1 million, and there are no limitations on the length or duration of the suspension.

Perhaps this helps explain why so many of Ron Rolston’s counterparts around the league were reportedly miffed when the former Sabres bench boss was fined for “player selection” after the John Scott-Phil Kessel incident in the preseason.

“So what am I supposed to do now?” one anonymous coach asked the QMI Agency. “Do I call the ref over and call timeout so I can call Colie Campbell and ask him who I can put on the ice?”

And as on-ice violence continues to be a hot-button issue, with many suggesting that fining coaches and clubs more aggressively may be an effective way to cut down on those incidents (forfeiting their own money is one thing for players; costing their coaches a big chunk of change is another much more uncomfortable one), it begs the question, which PHT asked Daly in an email: “Could this method of punishment be more widely applied in the future — i.e., when is a coach NOT responsible for the actions of his player?”

Daly replied that it was a “tough question” to answer.

“I would say that there are certain things that happen on the ice that we will automatically ascribe a certain level of responsibility to the coach, and there are other things that happen, where we don’t use that presumption,” he wrote. “[In Hartley’s case], the totality of the circumstances indicated to us that the Coach in this case had to be held accountable for what went on on the ice.”

If you’re a coach, what’s your level of comfort with that explanation? In the future, are you going to think twice about sending out your enforcer types? Remember, there’s a precedent now. You may be held responsible for their actions.

And where’s the line? Could it eventually be pushed out to include responsibility for a player, enforcer or not, with a motive for revenge who gets sent out over the boards? The argument could easily be made that the coach bears responsibility if revenge is taken.

Sharks scratch Flames’ big lead, Calgary wins anyway

Calgary Flames' Mikael Backlund (11) chases down the puck against San Jose Sharks' Tomas Hertl (48) during the second period of an NHL hockey game in San Jose, Calif., Thursday, Feb. 11, 2016. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
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If you turned off Thursday’s Calgary Flames – San Jose Sharks game early, you’ll probably be stunned to see that Calgary won 6-5 via a shootout.

For instance:

  • A Sharks fan may have bitterly called it a night when Calgary went up 4-1.
  • Conversely, a Flames devotee might have retired after San Jose took a 5-4 lead, possibly with a broken remote.

The Flames only trailed for about two minutes before scoring the last “real” goal of the game, eventually taking their third straight win thanks to a shootout triumph.

It’s been a strange ride for Calgary, with its most recent win happening after Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Lance Bouma were punished with a healthy scratch. As strange as this game was, the “charity point” can leave both teams looking through a lot of film, yet with something gained as well.

Ultimately, the message may very well be: don’t sleep on these teams.

(In less positive news, Karri Ramo is injured, and it doesn’t look good.

Jonas Hiller closing out the game on a hot streak could be pretty important if Ramo’s out for some time.)

By winning fifth straight, Caps extend Wild’s slump to seven losses

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ST. PAUL, Minn. — Alex Ovechkin scored three times in the second period for his 14th career hat trick, and the Washington Capitals beat the Minnesota Wild 4-3 on Thursday night.

Ovechkin, who leads the league with 34 goals, has 13 in his past 13 games. Nicklas Backstrom had three assists and Jason Chimera added an empty-netter for Washington, which improved to a league-best 20-5-2 on the road.

Braden Holtby made 33 saves for the Capitals, who won their fifth consecutive game and became the first team to reach 40 victories this season.

Charlie Coyle, Ryan Suter and Mikael Granlund scored for the Wild, but Minnesota lost for the 12th time in its past 13 games (1-10-2). Devan Dubnyk made 29 saves for the Wild, who have lost seven in a row at home (0-4-3).

Ovechkin’s third goal, which deflected off both the post and the back of Dubnyk into the net, was upheld following a coach’s challenge. Wild coach Mike Yeo challenged that the puck had left the zone for offsides, but the call stood after a review showed that Backstrom stopped the puck before it crossed the blue line.

The goal gave Ovechkin his first hat trick since he scored four goals against Tampa Bay on Dec. 10, 2013.

It wasn’t the only fortunate bounce for Ovechkin on the night, and the five-time 50-goal scorer capitalized on each opportunity.

A shot from T.J. Oshie deflected off of Minnesota forward Zach Parise across the ice right to Ovechkin in the left faceoff circle and Ovechkin quickly snapped off a shot to beat Dubnyk, who couldn’t get across the crease to get into position. Three minutes later, Ovechkin scored on the power play when a point shot bounced off the end boards right to Ovechkin in front of the net.

The tally provided some relief for the Capitals’ surprisingly ineffective power play. Washington had one power play in its previous six games, an empty-netter for the only goal in its previous 20 power-play chances. The Capitals were 1 of 5 on the power play on Thursday.

Coyle scored for the fifth time in eight games in the second, but second periods have doomed the Wild during their slump. Minnesota has been outscored 13-3 in the period in five straight losses.

Suter scored his sixth goal of the season on the power play in the third as Minnesota went 1 of 5 with the man advantage.

NOTES: Washington C Evgeny Kuznetsov left in the third period after he was hit in the face by the stick of Mikael Granlund off a faceoff. … Backstrom has 20 points in his last 17 games. … Minnesota D Jared Spurgeon missed his second straight game with an unspecified deep bruise. Spurgeon has returned to practice, but was held out again. … Holtby is 27-1-3 in his last 31 games with two shutouts, a 2.10 goals-against average and .927 save percentage.

Watch the Blackhawks’ Patrick Sharp tribute video

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Over the years, the Chicago Blackhawks have been forced to let some important players leave to keep their core together, which ultimately meant parting ways with Patrick Sharp.

The talented winger now wears a Dallas Stars jersey, so Blackhawks fans must face the reality of watching Sharp ply his trade for a formidable Central Division opponent.

Even if that might feel awkward, Blackhawks fans gave Sharp (and Johnny Oduya) a warm reception in Chicago on Thursday.

CSNChicago.com provides video of that ovation, which you can see in the clip above.

The Stars currently lead the Blackhawks 4-2, thanks in large part to Patrick … Eaves.

Ovechkin’s 14th career hat trick helps him make more history

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Death, taxes and Alex Ovechkin winning the Maurice Richard Trophy.

OK, the third thing on that list isn’t technically inevitable. It just feels that way lately in the NHL.

It’s unclear if the Washington Capitals can hold on against the Minnesota Wild, but we know for certain that Ovechkin already has a hat trick, the 14th of his high-scoring career.

(He also passed Jean Beliveau for 39th all-time in goals with his 509th, as NHL.com notes.)

This propels Ovechkin to the goals lead as of this writing, as he already has 34. As impressive as Patrick Kane has been, No. 8 is heating up, and may just edge No. 88 if Ovechkin can remain healthy.

One has to feel a little sympathy for the struggling Wild. They played well but lost against the Dallas Stars earlier this week and now must deal with Ovechkin and the just-as-hot Capitals.

Update: Minnesota managed three goals, but it wasn’t enough, as Washington got the edge 4-3.