Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Pre-season PIMs....there's a lot of them.

Anybody paying attention to the NHL pre-season? If so, you would notice a few things.

First, the players are showing off their new threads and look 10 pounds lighter doing it, even if they are carrying an extra 10 pounds of sweat in their gloves and skates.

Second, things have been rough. Really rough. All kinds of fights and brawls. Just take a look at what happened the other night between the Isles and Rangers:

And what accompanies fights and brawls and general horseplay? Injuries. Just ask Andrew Archer how his face is doing after running into Georges Laraque's fists.

Then again, injuries are not just the result of the big bad wolf on the other team. Sometimes they come at the hands of your own teammates - hello, Petr Sykora's nose, meet Brooks Orpik.

And sometimes it's just gravity, except instead of an apple falling on your head, it's a skate falling on your wrist and slicing three tendons. Yes, I'm talking to you Dan Boyle.

Sure, we all know that hockey is a physical sport and people get hurt sometimes. Yadda yadda, this is yesterday's news. But something that should be front and centre is the 'dirty player'. The guys who go out there and lose their marbles. The ones who will intentionally try to hurt another player, and then turn around and call it a 'hockey play'.

You could point out any number of players who would fit this description, but I'm thinking of one incident in particular. Something that happened last night in the second period of a Sens/Flyers pre-season game. Something that was absolutely sickening.

Steve Downie is a player that can be good. He did well on 2 Team Canada squads that went to the World Juniors, but there is something about this guy that is unsettling. He can snap in an instant, and Dean McAmmond was on the receiving end of a devastating blow last night. Sure, you could say that McAmmond had his head down, and I haven't been as critical of other guys who have hit players who had their heads down, but somehow Downie is different. I think that Downie can potentially snap and do something really heinous on the ice. There's just something that doesn't quite sit right.

You have to wonder about a guy who cross checks a rookie (and teammate) in the mouth, knocking out 3 of his teeth, because the rookie wouldn't participate in a hazing stunt.

Sure, Downie said that he was sorry for hurting McAmmond last night, but he also said that he was just trying to make the roster and that he always finishes his checks. Sorry, but it sounds like Downie's trying to justify what he did.

In the meantime, Downie is suspended until further notice (thanks to a match penalty issued after the hit). I expect that the NHL will take action against Downie and that he will be handed a lofty suspension, but how meaningful would that be? The Flyers would have likely assigned Downie to the AHL for part, most, or even all of the season. To me, missing AHL games due to suspension is not nearly as bad as missing NHL games.

There is no doubt that Downie should be suspended (even if it doesn't mean much), but I don't think that it should end there. Downie is a disaster waiting to happen, and what happens if he goes after the League's young stars - the money-makers of the NHL. The League is trying to sell its product to the American public, and the Crosby's and Ovechkins are the ones to do it. Bettman wouldn't be too happy if his money-makers were out with season-ending head injuries. The NHL should be proactive and order Downie to undergo some sort of psychological counseling. He was ordered to do so in the OHL, but I think he should go back and think about what he did.

Something else that is worrisome is the potential for retribution. The next time the Senators play the Flyers will be intense, to say the least. Brian McGratton, the Sens' heavyweight, had a few words to say following the game:

"He'll get what's coming to him," said McGrattan. "He'll do it to the wrong guy and somebody will put him out of hockey. You do that at his level a couple of times, guys in junior won't do it, but guys at this level will.

"He'll get what's coming to him next time we play him, that's for sure."

If I was in Bettman's shoes (though who really wants to be in those shoes?), I'd be a tad concerned. I wouldn't want another Bertuzzi/Moore incident.

As for Dean McAmmond, poor guy. Pronger's elbow did a number to his noodle in June, and now it's another concussion courtesy of Downie. He did catch a break, however, by keeping all of his bones fracture-free (poor Umberger and Upshall can't say the same) and by not getting his face danced on when the guys staged their brawl on top of his unconscious body. Always a silver lining...


3 days until the NHL season officially begins with the Rubber Duckies taking on the Queens in London-town.

9 days until the Pens' season opener against the 2006 Stanley Cup Champions. Staal vs. Staal - I predict a Staal will win this game. And Gary Roberts will set the tone of the season in the only way he knows how - by kicking ass.

Little known Gary Roberts Fact:
Gary Roberts destroyed the periodic table, because Gary Roberts only recognizes the element of surprise.

New Tide ad, courtesy of my lil bro...

Bet my 'Habs-loving' friends will get a kick outta this. The Leafers will be pissed, though.

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