Exploring the anger of the Detroit Red Wings fan

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RedWingsFan.jpgAs someone who covers the whole of the NHL, I do my best to remain as
objective as possible. I have no rooting interests either for or
against Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, or any other team or player. While
I have been a Dallas Stars fan my entire life and started off in this
line of work writing about them, I’ve yet to come across a time when
being a Stars fan has interfered with my take on any other team or
player.

That being said, I completely understand when fans get
protective of their team. I have championed Steve Ott for years, and
will continue to do so, even though 95% of the hockey world can’t stand
the guy. Anytime I see someone bashing Ott, I have to fight off the
desire to rush to his aid and to defend his honor; “….how dare someone
attack him like that?”

Still, I’m not irrational in my thinking
process. I know that Steve Ott has flaws, and there are times I just
want to put my head through the wall he does dumb things. So while I may
have the desire to defend him at all costs, I’m not going to blindly
defend Ott through any and all criticism, no matter what the attack may
be. Heck, they may be right about him. Sometimes.

Which is why I
don’t understand the blind defenses you see from certain fanbases. I
realize that calling out fans right now is a bit en vogue, and I really
don’t want to get into all that. But I guess I am, just by
writing this. So here goes…..

It is absolutely amazing to me the
speed and the ferocity that Red Wings will defend their team against any
and all criticism. We all know about the ‘tin foil hat’ conspiracy
theories that gain steam any goal is called into question, but it’s not
just the Red Wings consprieacy crazies that I’m referring to. It’s the
pack attack method in which they descend upon any form of criticism
directed at their team.

This afternoon, I was reading an article
on MLive.com by Detroit radio host Art Regner. Now, I’m not all too
familiar with Art’s work, but it seemed like a perfectly reasonable
article to me. He wrote that the hockey world is just waiting for a Game
7 loss tonight by the Red Wings, as it would finally signal the
beginning of the end of a historic run by the Red Wings.
Writes Art:

Make no mistake; the Wings have their collective reputations on the
line tonight in the desert. So many times hockey’s pundits have wanted
to write Detroit’s epitaph. So many times hockey’s elites have labeled
them old and done. So many times opposing general managers have
‘leaked’ that Detroit’s star players are overrated and basically not
that good.

Begrudgingly Detroit has been given praise for their enormous
accomplishments on the ice but, if they fall tonight, it will sadly
signal that the Wings’ run of dominance has sputtered and their decline
has officially begun.

Art goes on to say that the talent level of Detroit has decreased
with the salary cap, to the point that they are now facing elimination
at the hands of the Phoenix-freaking-Coyotes. Perhaps the team is
missing some of the veteran role players of the past, that’s hurt the
team as the superstars have sputtered at times in the series. The
Coyotes are a team that wins as a team; if the Wings aren’t getting
production from their star players they have issues.

Not exactly what Red Wings fans want to hear, but I doubt it’s worth a
personal attack. Yet that’s exactly what happened here, as Wings fans
descended upon him in the comments section like piranhas on a bloody
carcass in a pond.

They called his article “garbage.” Multiple times in fact. Called Art
“talentless”, “delusional” and his opinion a “joke”. Also, by saying
that it’s possible the Red Wings could be headed for trouble he
obviously “knows nothing about hockey”.

I know, I know….it’s not smart to read the comments for these
things. But it’s what you see all the time. In fact, I’ve experienced it
myself when
I wrote earlier this season
that perhaps the Red Wings were closing
in on their final window for success. By just bringing up the fact that
Detroit is getting older and isn’t exactly the dynasty it once was, I
was attacked.

George Malik, a very loyal and
beloved Red Wings blogger
, is great at what he does. But I’ve seen
countless times where he reacts with an air of appall and disdain
towards anyone that suggests something critical of his team. Suggest
that perhaps Holmstrom or Lidstrom retire? Then you have no clue what
you are talking about, young sir, and should be put out to pasture. By the way I have nothing against George, it’s just an observation.

I’m not even going to link to the Red Wings blog article that was in
response to Greg Wyshynski’s revealed Norris Trophy ballot that didn’t
have Nicklas Lidstrom in the top three. That was one vicious and angry
piece of writing. So it’s not just the commenters, although that’s where most of the anger seems to stem from; there are multiple areas across the interwebs this blind “defend at all costs” mentality comes from.

I also realize and know that not all Red Wings fans are like this. In fact, one of my best blogger friends is a Red Wings fan. So if you aren’t a crazed and angry blogger or commenter on the internet, then ignore me.

So what’s the point of all this? Am I calling out a fan base? I guess
I am. Look, everyone has the right to defend their team, but sometimes
it goes a bit overboard into “loony land”…I’m looking at you Caps
fans.

And I realize this is the internet; it’s the land of anonymous
personal attacks. That’s never going to stop. But Red Wings fans, I have
to ask why you are so defensive. Is it because you’re tired of people
suggesting your insanely successful, four-time Stanley Cup winning team
(in the past 20 years) may actually be mortal? If so, then take a
breather.

This doesn’t apply only to Red Wings fans, it all fans. It’s just
hockey. Perhaps when someone suggests your team has
flaws they might be right.

I know it doesn’t happen often, but sometimes….they might be right.

Ilya Kovalchuk quickly getting up to speed with Kings

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We’ll see how the skills we witnessed over 11 NHL seasons are following five years home in the KHL, but Ilya Kovalchuk is off to a good start after his first two preseason games with the Los Angeles Kings.

After picking up an assist in their first game, the 35-year-old Kovalchuk, who signed a three-year contract over the summer, scored a highlight-reel tally in a split-squad loss to the Vegas Golden Knights on Thursday night.

“That’s the type of player he is,” said Kings assistant Dave Lowry via LA Kings Insider. “He’s a very dynamic guy, he has the ability to break open games, he’s a very highly skilled guy.”

Is the NHL faster than what Kovalchuk remembers? “I’ll tell you after the [season opener],” he said. Playing on a line with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown, the Kings captain said they’re still working on developing chemistry as he gets used to going from Milan Lucic‘s “north-south” game to the Russian winger’s “east-west” style.

[Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule]

Kovalchuk’s goal scoring abilities didn’t dry up during his time in the KHL, so he’ll be relied upon to play a big role in increasing the team’s offensive output in 2018-19. That will come. After two preseason games, he wasn’t ready to declare himself up to speed with the NHL’s pace just yet.

“Actually today, I felt much better than the first game, so a few more games will be more than enough,” he said.

MORE: Under Pressure: Ilya Kovalchuk

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

PHT Morning Skate: Pavelec retires; NHLers love coconut water

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Welcome to the PHT Morning Skate, a collection of links from around the hockey world. Have a link you want to submit? Email us at phtblog@nbcsports.com.

• After 11 NHL seasons with the Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets and New York Rangers, goaltender Ondrej Pavelec is retiring at the age of 31. [Winnipeg Free Press]

• How Max Domi‘s suspension could open the door for Nick Suzuki to find a full-time spot with the Montreal Canadiens. [Sportsnet]

Erik Karlsson isn’t giving out any details on why he thinks he was finally traded from the Ottawa Senators. [Toronto Sun]

• Ted Lindsay, Glen Hall, Bobby Hull, and Alex Delvecchio talk about their names being removed from the Stanley Cup after the top band was taken off following the Washington Capitals victory. [NHL.com]

• Hockey players and coconut water: it’s a love affair. [ESPN]

• Everything about the Chicago Blackhawks’ 2018-19 season rests on Corey Crawford‘s health. [The Hockey News]

• The Philadelphia Flyers’ goaltending situation didn’t get any clearer with the news that Alex Lyon will miss four weeks with a lower-body injury. [Inquirer]

• How do we rank this San Jose Sharks blue line now that it features Erik Karlsson? [Five Thirty Eight]

• A look at the impact John Klingberg and Miro Heiskanen will have on the Dallas Stars’ lineup. [Dallas Morning News]

Daniel Carr‘s mission during camp: prove he’s an NHL regular with the Vegas Golden Knights. [Sin Bin Vegas]

Brooks Orpik is back with the Washington Capitals and playing a vital role despite less ice time. [NBC Washington]

• Finally, here’s part one of the series following Brent Burns‘ off-season adventures:

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

NHL not tough enough with preseason suspensions

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When it comes to the court of public opinion the NHL’s Department of Player Safety is always going to be a no-win position.

Their job is a brutally difficult, thankless one that by its very nature is going to anger almost everyone watching the NHL. No player receiving a suspension is going to be happy about it, while their team and fans will usually think the punishment is too harsh. Meanwhile, the other side is always going to come away thinking the punishment wasn’t severe enough. Then there is always the neutral third parties in the middle that have no rooting interest with either team and will always be split with their opinions.

In short: It’s a job that a lot of people like me (and you!) enjoy yelling about. Sometimes we think they get it right; sometimes we think they get it wrong.

When it comes to Max Domi‘s suspension for the remainder of the preseason for “roughing” (the official wording from the league) Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, the near universal consensus seems to be a gigantic shoulder-shrug and the understanding that this isn’t really a punishment.

[Related: NHL suspends Max Domi for remainder of preseason]

Sure, it goes in the books as a “five-game” suspension, because the Canadiens still have five games remaining in the preseason. And it will impact Domi in the future if he does something else to get suspended because it will be added to his history of disciplinary action that already includes a one-game suspension from the 2016-17 season for instigating a fight in the final five minutes of a game. This roughing incident, it is worth mentioning, also occurred while Domi was attempting to instigate a fight. Too soon to call that sort of action with him a trend, but it’s close.

The problem is that he isn’t losing anything of consequence as a result of the “punishment.”

He will not miss a single regular season game.

He will not forfeit a penny of his $3.15 million salary this season.

He basically gets to take the rest of the Canadiens’ preseason games off (and he would almost certainly sit at least one or maybe even two of them anyway, just because that is how the preseason works) and be rested for the start of the regular season on Oct. 3 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The only possible defense (and that word should be used loosely) of the DoPS here is that because the Canadiens have five preseason games remaining, and because suspensions longer than five games require an in-person hearing as mandated by the CBA, the league would have had to handle this incident with an in-person hearing to take away regular season games. In the eyes of the CBA, a suspension for five preseason games counts the same as five games in the regular season.

The only logical response to that defense should be: So what? Then schedule an in-person hearing if that is what it takes and requires to sit a player that did something blatantly illegal (and dangerous) for games that matter. Players tend to waive their right to an in-person hearing, anyway.

When it comes to dealing with suspensions in the postseason the NHL seems to take into account the importance of those games and how impactful even one postseason game can be in a best-of-seven series. If we’re dealing in absolutes here the same logic is applied, because had Domi done that same thing in a regular season game he probably doesn’t sit five games for it.

In the history of the DoPS “punching an unsuspecting opponent” typically results in a fine or a one-game suspension, unless it is an exceedingly dirty punch or involves a player with an extensive track record of goon-ism. The only two that went longer were a four-game ban for John Scott for punching Tim Jackman, and a six-game ban for Zac Rinaldo a year ago for punching Colorado’s Samuel Girard. Both Scott and Rinaldo had more extensive and troubling track records for discipline than Domi currently does.

If you want to argue semantics and say that Domi was suspended for “roughing” the point remains the same, because only one roughing suspension over the past seven years went longer than one game, and none went longer than two.

So looking at strictly by the number of “games” he has to miss he did, technically speaking, get hit harder with a more severe punishment than previous players.

But at some point common sense has to prevail here and someone has to say, you know what … maybe this translation isn’t right and we have to do something more. Because, again,  and this can not be stated enough, he is not missing a meaningful game of consequence or losing a penny of salary for blatantly punching an unwilling combatant (one with a history of concussions) in the face, leaving him a bloody mess.

The point of handing out a suspension shouldn’t just be for the league or an opposing team to get its pound of flesh when a player does something wrong and champion the fact they had to miss “X” number of games.

It should be to help deter future incidents and aim for meaningful change for the betterment of player safety around the league. That is literally why it is called “the Department of Player Safety.” It is supposed to have the safety of the players in mind. And that was the original goal of the DoPS — to try and put a stop to blatant, targeted hits to the head that were ruining seasons and careers (and, ultimately, lives).

[Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule]

No one with an ounce of common sense is looking at this and thinking that this suspension does anything close that. And the NHL has to know that, too. How so? Because when a player does something in a previous season or postseason that warrants a suspension that will carry over to the following season (as was the case with Raffi Torres in 2011-12, and then Brayden Schenn in 2015-16), that carryover suspension starts with the regular season games — not the preseason games.

This, of course, is not the first time the league has handed out what is, ultimately, a meaningless suspension that only covers meaningless games.

Last year there were two such suspensions, with Washington’s Tom Wilson earning a two preseason game suspension for boarding St. Louis’ Robert Thomas, which was followed by New York’s Andrew Desjardins getting a two preseason game ban for an illegal check to the head of Miles Wood the very next night.

(It should be pointed out that upon Wilson’s return to the lineup in the preseason he earned himself a four-game regular suspension for boarding).

During the 2016-17 Andrew Shaw (who like Domi was playing in his first game with the Canadiens following an offseason trade to add more grit, sandpaper, and energy) was sat down for three preseason games for boarding.

There were four other similar suspensions in 2013-14.

Since the formation of the DoPS at the start of the 2011-12 season, there have been 21 suspensions handed out for preseason incidents. Only 12 of those suspensions carried over to regular season games. Of those 12, eight of them occurred during the initial DoPS season when the league was far more aggressive in suspending players (there were nine preseason suspensions handed out that season alone).

That means that over the previous six years only four of the 11 incidents that rose to the level of supplemental discipline resulted in a player missing a game that mattered.

That can not, and should not, be acceptable.

So, yeah. Five games for Max Domi. Given the circumstances, it is not even close to being enough.

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

NHL suspends Max Domi for remainder of preseason

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Max Domi made quite a first impression with the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday night, earning himself a match penalty and an ejection for punching Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad in the face.

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety immediately scheduled a disciplinary hearing for him on Thursday, indicating there would almost certainly be some supplementary discipline to follow. And there was. It’s also probably going to seem underwhelming.

The NHL announced on Thursday that Domi has been suspended for the remainder of the preseason (the Canadiens have five preseason games left). He will not miss any regular season games as a result of the suspension, and because the punishment involves only exhibition games, he will also not lose any salary.

[Related: Max Domi ejected for punching, bloodying Aaron Ekblad]

Here is the NHL’s video explanation of the play, which makes repeated reference to the fact that Ekblad was an unwilling combatant, showed no interest in fighting, and was forcefully hit in the face with a bare-knuckle punch from Domi.

This, obviously, is not any kind of a meaningful punishment. The strongest thing that can be said about this is that Domi, being a new acquisition for the Canadiens and for the time being is their top center, will miss out on developing chemistry or getting meaningful practice minutes with his new team. But Domi wasn’t likely to play in all of the Canadiens’ remaining exhibition games anyway (few, if any, players actually play in all of them).

As it stands now, he will be back in the lineup on opening night Oct. 3 when the Canadiens visit Toronto to play the Maple Leafs

MORE: Your 2018-19 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.