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.

Frustrated by disallowed winner, Sharks coach calls goalie interference rule ‘clear as mud’

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The San Jose Sharks would’ve had a 3-1 series lead, if not for the referees’s decision to disallow Joe Pavelski‘s overtime goal last night in Nashville.

Instead, the Sharks are headed back to San Jose tied, 2-2, after Mike Fisher won Game 4 for the Predators in triple OT.

Not surprisingly, what happened last night didn’t sit too well with Sharks head coach Pete DeBoer, who offered a rather sardonic opinion of the referee’s decision — a decision that was upheld upon review — to disallow Pavelski’s goal due to “incidental contact” with Nashville netminder Pekka Rinne.

“I don’t understand. I guess incidental contact is you’re cross-checked from behind while you are in the air and you have the opportunity to stop. I guess that’s what it is,” DeBoer said, per Sportsnet.

“You know what? That rule has been clear as mud to every coach in the league all year, so why should it be different tonight?”

DeBoer is not wrong that there’s been confusion. What actually constitutes goalie interference has been a hot topic since the league allowed coaches to challenge it.

For the record, here’s what would’ve been reviewed last night:

b) Scoring Plays Involving Potential “Interference on the Goalkeeper”

(ii) A play that results in a “NO GOAL” call on the ice despite the puck having entered the net, where the on-ice Officials have determined that the attacking team was guilty of “Interference on the Goalkeeper” but where the attacking team asserts: (i) there was no actual contact of any kind initiated by an attacking Player with the goalkeeper; or (ii) the attacking Player was pushed, shoved, or fouled by a defending Player causing the attacking Player to come into contact with the goalkeeper; or (iii) the attacking Player’s positioning within the goal crease did not impair the goalkeeper’s ability to defend his goal and, in fact, had no discernible impact on the play.

So, based on that, it was decided that Pavelski was not “pushed” or “shoved” into Rinne by Nashville’s Paul Gaustad. Or, at the very least, it was decided that Pavelski, after he was pushed, failed to make a “reasonable effort” to avoid contact with the goalie.

Obviously, that’s not how DeBoer saw it. He didn’t think Pavelski had a chance to avoid crashing into Rinne.

Regardless, the Sharks will need to put last night behind them and get focused on Saturday’s Game 5. It’s a best-of-three to get to the Western Conference Final now, whether they like it or not. 

Avs lose another to Europe, as Everberg signs in Sweden

Dennis Everberg, Jason Pominville
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Just four days after Joey Hishon signed with KHL club Jokerit, another Colorado player has inked overseas — on Friday, SHL club Vaxjo announced it had agreed to terms with Dennis Everberg.

Everberg, 24, appeared in 70 games over the last two seasons with the Avs. His best effort came during the ’14-15 campaign, when he scored three goals and 12 points in 55 games.

Last year, he was largely phased out of the Avalanche lineup — appearing in just 15 contests — and spent most of his time in AHL San Antonio (where, to his credit, he played well, scoring 40 points in 54 games.)

Signed as an undrafted free agent two years ago, Everberg will now return to the same league in which he first made a name for himself. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder had played for SHL club Rogle prior to coming to North America.

Both Everberg and Hishon were set to become RFAs on July 1, and neither seemed as though they had a long-term future with the club.

As such, these departures can’t come as a big shock.

Pens want Cullen to return next season

NEWARK, NJ - NOVEMBER 14: Matt Cullen #7 of the Pittsburgh Penguins skates against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on November 14, 2015 in Newark, New Jersey. The Devils shut out the Penguins 4-0.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
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Matt Cullen is oldest active player in this year’s playoffs, an achievement unto itself.

But the 39-year-old seemingly isn’t content with just being the resident greybeard. He’s playing at a pretty high level.

He’s racked up five points through nine games, averaging 15:22 TOI per night, and has become a real thorn in Washington’s side.

How thorny? To the point where, after Game 4, Caps head coach Barry Trotz acknowledged Cullen’s “having a hell of a series against us,” per Sportsnet.

Cullen will have a chance to extend his postseason on Saturday, when the Pens look to eliminate the Caps — but his GM is thinking about extending things well beyond these playoffs.

More, from Sportsnet:

[Cullen] has his own three sons running around the Penguins dressing room after games, and they’re old enough to experience and enjoy this playoff run, too.

The natural question is what happens next? [Pens GM Jim] Rutherford believes he’ll still be good at age 40 – “I do want him to return, but we’ll deal with that at the appropriate time” – although Cullen seems somewhat less certain about his future.

As good as he’s played and is playing, it’s not out of the question we’re watching his final games.

Cullen played this season on a one-year, $800,000 deal, which ranks among Rutherford’s best moves of the campaign. He appeared in all 82 games, scoring 16 goals and 32 points, and finished second to Sidney Crosby in faceoffs won.

Looking ahead, though, it’s fair to suggest this could be his swan song, as Pittsburgh is pretty loaded at center. Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Eric Fehr and Nick Bonino are all fairly entrenched — and under contract — and it looks like young Oscar Sundqvist is ready to push for a spot as well.

There’s always the possibility of going to free agency, though that seems the least likely route for Cullen.

Report: It ‘looks like’ Sens prospect White will return to Boston College

Colin White, center, poses with Ottawa Senators executives after being chosen 21st overall by the Senators, during the first round of the NHL hockey draft, Friday, June 26, 2015, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Alan Diaz)
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Since losing to Quinnipiac in the Frozen Four, the Boston College Eagles have also lost a bunch of their best players.

Those who made the decision to turn pro include Alex Tuch (Wild), Adam Gilmour (Wild), Miles Wood (Devils), Steve Santini (Devils), and Hobey Baker finalist Thatcher Demko (Canucks).

The good news for B.C. is that Colin White probably won’t be part of the exodus. According to TSN’s Darren Dreger, it “looks like” White will return for his sophomore season after scoring 43 points in 37 games as a freshman.

White, 19, was drafted 21st overall by the Ottawa Senators last summer. He said last month that turning pro had “definitely” crossed his mind, but then he also said, “Definitely, B.C. is a great place.”