A few random thoughts for your Thursday because we haven't been posting much lately:
1. On the headshot discussion - applesauce to the GMs (random Larry Sanders Show reference there) for doing what the players were already asking for. It sounds like they will recommend a penalty for 'blindside hits to the head'. This doesn't eliminate bodychecking and it doesn't eliminate open-ice hits. It just penalizes those sideways, vulnerable hits that have led to concussions. Given this, I'd imagine something like the Neil hit on Drury in 2007 would have qualified as a bad hit because it was from the side and Drury was very vulnerable. Truth be told, I don't have a problem with the rule. I consider myself a hockey purist - hate the shootout, miss a good 0-0 tie - but this was long overdue. I don't question the toughness of today's players compared to the good ole days of Eddie Shore, etc. Those guys were tough as hell, playing without helmets, slashing and punching each other, and more. But the game has changed so much since then and players are so much bigger, faster, and stronger that an open ice hit now is far more serious than an open ice hit in the Original Six days. Every good sport (every good organization anywhere) knows that it has to continue to adapt as it grows and hockey is doing just that. A problem has become more serious to the point that the players asked for a change - now they have it. Kudos to the GMs for acting on this (they shunned the idea 12 months ago). Again - it won't change bodychecks or open ice hits, it will just basically mandate a more respectful approach to the hits. Contradictory statement? Not at all, if you've been on either end of a big hit.
2. Volchenkov - what we know from Booboo is that Grossman, his agent, rejected a five-year offer from Murray. First off, I'm scared of giving the guy another five years based on his insane injury history. Second, unless the offer was lower than what he makes now, A-Train has made a grave mistake in agent selection and retention. I don't necessarily compare this negotiation to the Kovalchuk failed negotiation because in that case, I'm pretty sure that Kovy just wanted to get the hell out of Atlanta. In our case, we all assume that Volchenkov wants to stay but wants Komisarek money. If that is our barometer, then this will be a long negotiation. Grossman will point to the $4.5M Komi deal and show that Volchenkov is better (he's right). Murray will point to it as evidence that the contract was an epic failure and nobody will pay that much. He'll add in about how much the organization has done for him and ask for the hometown discount. I have full faith that Murray gets this done and the train stays in our station for another 3 years. Worst case scenario, he signs with the Caps and we get Sutton signed and hope like hell Cowen has a shot (he won't).
3. The goalie debate - I have no issue with Clouston going back to Ells on Tuesday night. His point is valid in that Elliott is the one that rattled off the winning streak and his numbers are better. We were all a bit surprised, sure, because Snoopy makes a lot of money and could have been given a chance for a few games. But at the end of the day, it was Elliott playing well going into the Break and he's earned the time. To say that Snoopy deserved it because of how well he played against the Leafs - he still lost! I know he made decent saves, but let's hold off on the praise until the dude wins a game. In the meantime, let Ells run with it and see how far we can go. Good call, Clouston.
4. Nice to see Cullen get one last night. I have found that he skates hard and really gets right in there on the play, but his hands have been Kelly-esque. For some reason, I thought he'd be a great stickhandler, but that might be an unfair expectation. He's a third liner with speed and skill, a seasoned Foligno, basically. I've also liked Sutton's play - very simple and poised. Not sure how you earn $3.8M for that, but it wasn't our contract. Karlsson has been great - more on him soon.
5. A month ago, would you have thought that there would be four teams from the Northeast Division in playoff positions? Montreal and Boston sit 7th and 8th respectively, which is impressive considering the stumbling they were working through mid-season. The Southeast Division continues to be awful and it really makes me think that Washington will struggle again. In addition to the fact that Ovie is 0-for-2 in big games, his team really hasn't had any kind of adversity all year. For some reason, I feel that your team has to go through some suffering in order to really come together as a group and play hard for each other. To me, they still seem like a handful of hotshots from different countries that still feel entitled to success, but aren't necessarily prepared to work for it. Without a goalie and without a real great strong defensive pairing, I just don't know if these guys are ready for a the long playoff grind. The only real team that scares me in Pittsburgh, and at some point these guys need to be getting tired of playing until June every year. I think this is why I was happy that Murray went out and picked up some pieces for the stretch run - he recognizes that the East is really bad or really even or whatever. Are we a contender today? Hard to say we're 'the team to beat', but I really think that the Conference is so bad that we might as well go balls out.
Karlsson talk coming soon.