HERE WE GO AGAIN
Today we bring you our monthly installment concerning the Philadelphia Flyers and their proclivity for bashing other players’ heads in.
Scott Hartnell is the star of our latest episode thanks to his egregious elbow to the head of Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Alberts Monday night. Ben Eager gets an honorable mention for drilling Zdeno Chara from behind earlier in the game.
This is no longer a coincidence or a witch-hunt. The Flyers have demonstrated time and again this season that they have absolutely no regard for the safety of their opponents. Hartnell, predictably, pleaded after the game that he’s “not that kind of player,” and that he didn’t “deliberately” drill his elbow into Alberts’ head.
Gee, we’ve never heard that one before.
But there is clearly a mandate in Philadelphia to drill guys first and worry about the repercussions, or concussions, later. They figure that makes them “tough to play against,” and earlier this season GM Paul Holmgren intimated that the Flyers are a better team because they’re making their mark physically on their opponents.
Of course that’s why they’re better. It has nothing to do with acquiring one of the most talented offensive players in the league in Daniel Briere, rebuilding their defense corps and getting a goalie who can actually stop the puck on occasion.
Hartnell will undoubtedly face a hearing and a suspension for his hit on Alberts, but nothing will change in the culture of this game until players start getting 50-game suspensions for this sort of thing and begin to take responsibility for what they do with their bodies the same way as they’re supposed to do with their sticks.
Of course, it doesn’t help that Anaheim’s Brian Burke is holding conference calls to complain that the GMs didn’t sign off on and weren’t sufficiently warned that the league was actually going to start taking discipline matters more seriously.
And so it goes. Stay tuned. We’ll be talking to you about this again in the next couple of weeks…
DECK THE HALLS WITH BALSILLIE?
The train wreck that has become the proposed ownership group for the Tampa Bay Lightning has fallen on its own sword and that’s probably the best news the NHL could have expected on the matter.
Sources say this group, led by former Columbus Blue Jackets GM Doug MacLean, was under-funded and doomed from the start. There was a real fear in the league office that the Lightning would go from being a stable, profitable and debt-free franchise to a mess in a very short time under the Absolute Hockey Group.
The fact of the matter is that it’s far better for everyone involved that this group imploded now rather than later.
This, of course, leaves the door open for jilted owner Jim Balsillie to get back into the action if he hasn’t grown tired of being jerked around by the NHL. It will also give everyone an opportunity to see whether Balsillie wants to really own an NHL team, or if he just wants to buy a team and move it to Canada.
The Lighting is not the Pittsburgh Penguins or the Nashville Predators. It is stable, has virtually no debt, has captured a significant part of the market and is doing well. All it needs now is a stable, well-heeled owner and Balsillie would be the perfect fit.