Everything that can be said about Friday, the two suspendable offenses by two Islanders players, and the abject hypocricy of the Penguins and the suddenly interested Mario Lemieux has already been said. Those who pretend cheap shots and fights are different "in the context of a hockey game" (whatever that means) than outside the "context of a hockey game" betray just how clueless they are about why things get to this point, why NHL teams sometimes resort to sending a more forceful, over the top message:
The league fails to officiate or discipline cheapshots during game play (including cheapshots by Pens during Friday's game). Consequently, if you fail to protect NHL players in the "context of a hockey game" according to the rules of the game, eventually they're going to boil over on you.
And if you're the type who revels in NHL violence when it boils over for your team's side, then you're complicit in the results. When it's certain "tough" teams initiating the violence, you can get a laugh and say it's old-time hockey. When it's other teams like the Islanders, you can pile on with indignant self-righteous rage to give your conscience an outlet for the guilt you feel for lapping up hockey's violence like porn "within the context of a hockey game."
Enough of that (Well, a little more coverage plus venting at the end of this post). We've got another game to watch. Hopefully it meets Mario Lemieux and Colin Campbell's quite discriminating sense of what is proper for this sport and the chaos they've long enabled.
Michael Grabner had a hat trick this weekend -- with eight goals on the week -- to become the week's star, and the Islanders' crazy scoring binge has left Kyle Okposo (8 points in 12 games) at +6, Frans Nielsen at +8 and Grabner at +10 on the year. That's a fun snapshot of what the last few games have been like (minus the violence).
Grabner's goal streak is pretty ridiculous and is what is getting him leaguewide attention, but it's his complete play and connection with Nielsen (and now Okposo) that has most impressed.
"You have to be a complete player to play in the National Hockey League. You have to be able to play in all three zones, with and without the puck. What kind of decision you have and your discipline when you have the puck. He's doing those things and when you do those things they lead to opportunities on the other end."
As for tonight, the Isles face a reeling Senators squad that only ended an 11-game winless streak by beating "the lowly" Oilers. That was their second win since just after Christmas -- the other, of course, coming against the Islanders. The club is in firesale mode, a recognition that what's ailing the club cannot be fixed by a big trade or off-season signing. It will be interesting to watch how they proceed, having watched the Isles experience the same a few summers ago.
Offense, offense! The Islanders have 19 goals in their last three games. Naturally, I've been on vacation for the best of it.
- Goalie Shuffle: Nathan Lawson has come off IR and Mikko Koskinen has been sent to Bridgeport. Begun, the Al Montoya-Lawson era has.
- FIGs: I've been on vacation and mostly unavailable since Friday night -- the stream of messages I received about the games have been jaw-dropping -- so I'm not caught up with how our ever-evolving FIG process is going. Maybe JP or one of the regular will drop in with a nudge. So good luck with your pick.
More on the NHL Circus and the Penguin Victim Complex
I know I said everything's already been said about the matter, but here are some good insights at LHH and elsewhere on last Friday's game and the fallout since (plus a little Grabner love):
- Mikb takes a question from a Pens fan and expertly answers with the entire context surrounding Friday's game.
- Keith linked to Howie Rose's WFAN interview (and paraphrased some of the salient points) while noting the underlying issue here that goes beyond the Islanders or Penguins: The NHL has enabled this, both through lack of discipline of on-ice actions, and random tacit approval of some fighting violence but not others.
- Doug (IslesOfficial) -- a hockey ref himself who is typically the last to rip officiating -- notes how poor NHL officiating and the failures of Colin Campbell's office has played a role, while examining the irony of so many pundits who only now choose to call out NHL violence.
- Hye Dray at Hockey Independent asks 10 questions about Friday's brawlin'.
- An advanced stat perspective on Michael Grabner's Calder candidacy, from garik16's FanPost.
- Dee chatted with Garth Snow and got some bits you'll enjoy. (Buy your #40 jersey if you want.)
Last Vent: Oh, Mario
The following is just my own vent, my perspective as a frustrated and usually diplomatic hockey fan. Skip it all if you're tired of this topic.
I was a Mario Lemieux fan during his playing days -- a sentiment not held by a lot of Islanders fans -- and a happy NHL fan when he "saved" the Penguins (I defended him to friends who charged all he was doing was "saving" the money the downtrodden, bankrupt franchise owed him.) But his coming out, now, against the seedy side of NHL hockey that he and his fellow owners and all who employ Gary Bettman and Colin Campbell have long ignored, is shamelessly self-serving and poorly timed.
You mean to tell me last Friday was the worst Mario Lemieux has ever seen as an owner, so much that he'd consider walking away from the game? Right. Did I miss him coming out against those meaningless Bruins-Stars three-fights in four-seconds just a week before? Did I miss him shake his head at pundits who get off on the NHL's orgy of violence on one hand while on the other hand implying the Isles have taken the NHL's violence circus too far?
On my small platform here, I've been a long-running critic both of NHL violence and the NHL's complacent and impotent effort to curb it. I've debated with fans that the Isles don't need to give anyone an "old-time hockey" thumping to protect themselves ... only to watch cheapshots continue. Islanders win or loss, victim or aggressor, I've been the same: I don't like the NHL's two-faced violence culture, but I resign myself to some level of necessity since the NHL (and fans...and pundits) clearly profits from it while not bothering to offer strict discipline. The players don't police themselves very well -- it's totally asynchronous, because no one knows the "code" rules, nor agrees on the time nor the place -- but they also don't have much of a choice when John Tavares is taking illegal (but uncalled) beating after beating, and someone's trying to crosscheck Matt Moulson's head off.
So now Lemieux decides this weekend to come out against it all and act shock, shocked as if, as Howie Rose said, he's only just begun watching hockey. (Never mind the pathetic joke of an announcing crew he employs.) And this after the only two aggressors Lemieux can complain about (the ones not employed by him, anyway) received nine- and four-game suspensions, constituting the longest on-ice violence suspensions the league has issued this season. What more, exactly, did Mario want?
Lemieux's employee Matt Cooke has been a career-threatening machine, and even Sidney Crosby has speared Jason Blake and sucker-punched a guy in the head and the jewels, yet Lemieux has never raised a fuss about those actions. But now that the Penguins were the victims -- and the culprits soundly suspended -- suddenly now he's offended by what the NHL has become? I've no patience for such fair-weather criticism. Lemieux is in a position of power and could have participated in initiating change rather than sit idly by until his team was on the receiving end of a beating that, still in the grand scheme, was mostly a humiliating hockey blowout.
In its constantly self-contradictory acquiescence to violence, the NHL has quite the sickness on its hands. It'd be great if those with influence who pretend to care actually said something at times other than when it serves their own interests.
I've seen the Islanders abused for years (including by the Penguins) with no one expressing outrage on their behalf nor rushing to their defense. For me, fandom here is an Island. Outsiders can take their cheap shots, can express ignorant and disproportionate outrage at them (and this site. This site? Really?) on Twitter and via their own dick-joke-dependent Pens blog sites, but it's neither here nor there to me. The Islanders are our team, and we're here to watch them play hockey, with all the highs and lows that entails.