Bob Hartley

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


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.

Rozsival to make season debut for Blackhawks

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 20: Michal Rozsival #32 of the Chicago Blackhawks passes against the San Jose Sharks at the United Center on December 20, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. The Blackhawks defeated the Sharks 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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An injury to Trevor van Riemsdyk has paved the way for Michal Rozsival to make his season debut for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Rozsival might’ve been scheduled to play anyway, as the veteran defenseman is expected to replace Michal Kempny when the ‘Hawks host the Flames tonight at United Center.

“We want to get everyone in at some point,” said head coach Joel Quenneville, per the Chicago Tribune. “We don’t want to wait too long to get him into the season here. He can be useful, gives us some experience and can play minutes against top guys.”

At 38, Rozsival is one of the oldest players in the NHL. When the ‘Hawks re-signed him for another year, it came as a surprise to many. And by the time training camp rolled around, even he wasn’t exactly sure what his role would be this season.

But not surprisingly, after last season, GM Stan Bowman would rather err on the side of too much depth on the back end.

“It’s funny, because we had these [interviews] a year ago and they were always saying, ‘Are you worried about your defense? Do you have enough depth there?'” Bowman said, per the Sun-Times. “And now you’re saying we have too much depth. I think no matter what the story is, there’s a story line to it. But I’d rather have more guys who can play. Are we going to be healthy all year long? I hope so. But I don’t know if we will. … The thing with Michal, even last year, he just played too much consecutively. He still has a lot of hockey left.”

Related: Blackhawks’ issues go beyond the penalty kill

Goalie nods: Slumping Flames go back to slumping Elliott

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 12:  Goalie Brian Elliott #1 of the Calgary Flames skates against the Edmonton Oilers on October 12, 2016 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images)
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Calgary head coach Glen Gulutzan made a noteworthy decision over the weekend, opting to sit No. 1 netminder Brian Elliott against his former team, the St. Louis Blues, in favor of backup Chad Johnson.

The move didn’t pay off. Calgary lost 6-4, with Johnson allowing five goals on 39 shots.

So now, Elliott is back in goal was the Flames take on the ‘Hawks tonight at the United Center.

Acquired to fix the goaltending issues that plagued Calgary all of last season, Elliott has gone 0-3-0 with an .839 save percentage and 4.72 GAA.

Not good, obviously — especially for a 31-year-old pending UFA that’s looking to score a contract extension.

The Flames will hope that Elliott’s former goalie partner, Jake Allen, is something of a psychic. Over the weekend, Allen predicted that Elliott “will find his game very soon,” and tonight would be a good night for that to happen — Chicago’s offense has been firing over the last four games, finding the back of the net 16 times.

That said, the ‘Hawks are facing issues of their own.

They’ll give Corey Crawford the start tonight.


— Just one other game on the ledger, as the Flyers will take on the Habs in Montreal. Philly is going with Steve Mason, who allowed three goals on 30 shots in a win over Carolina on Saturday. The Canadiens are going with Carey Price, who allowed two goals on 21 shots in a win over Boston on Saturday.

Crosby skates in full-contact practice, but still no timetable for a return

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His official status hasn’t changed, but Sidney Crosby wasn’t wearing a no-contact jersey at Penguins practice today, and that’s progress.

“Sid is day-to-day, as he has been. We’ll take tomorrow as it comes,” head coach Mike Sullivan said, per the club’s website. “It’s obviously a big step when he joins the group. To have him join the group in a full-contact practice like that is encouraging from our standpoint.”

Crosby has not played this season due to a concussion. There remains no timetable for his return, and the Pens aren’t going to rush their captain. But the way things have been progressing, don’t be surprised if he plays pretty soon. The Penguins host Florida tomorrow and the Islanders Thursday, then it’s off to Philadelphia for a game Saturday before embarking on a three-game trip to California.

“I got the OK to go out there and be in a full practice,” Crosby said. “It was just good to be back on the ice with the guys. It’s not easy watching. To be out there was nice and hopefully a good step.”

Budaj getting the job done, so far

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 22:  Peter Budaj #31 of the Los Angeles Kings makes a save on Brandon Sutter #20 of the Vancouver Canucks for a 4-3 overtime shootout win at Staples Center on October 22, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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He hasn’t been perfect, but Peter Budaj has been good enough to give the Kings a two-game winning streak. Now the 34-year-old goalie is just hoping to keep it going, while Jonathan Quick and Jeff Zatkoff recover from their groin injuries.

“I just want to take it one game at a time,” Budaj said, per LA Kings Insider. “I know it’s a cliché and you guys probably hate it when players say that, but it is true. You just want to look up one game ahead, and that’s what you want to look at. We won today, we’re very happy, but we’ve just got to regroup, come back to work.”

Again, Budaj hasn’t been perfect. His save percentage is just .889, which isn’t very good at all.

But for a guy who’d started just one NHL game since the 2013-14 season, simply playing well enough to give his team a chance to win is about all that could be asked, and on that he’s delivered. He was a perfect three-for-three in Saturday’s shootout versus Vancouver, recovering nicely after allowing a late goal to send the game to overtime.

Next up for the Kings is a home game tomorrow against Columbus. After that comes a visit from Nashville, and then it’s off on a two-game trip to St. Louis and Chicago.

“There are a lot of tough games coming up for us, so we’ve got to just be ready and work hard and try to focus on the next game and don’t look too far ahead,” said Budaj, “because then you’re going to get caught in the moment and the present’s going to kind of slip away from you, so you’ve just got to focus on the present.”