In this week's online mailbag, Adam Proteau answers questions on NHL playoff suspensions, accusations of referee bias, the Rangers buying out Rick Nash, and more.
Mailbag time again. Thanks for your submissions.
I know whistles are swallowed in the playoffs, but what does it take to get suspended? Matt Read put a clear shoulder into Daniel Carcillo's head. Nothing happened. Milan Lucic spears Danny Dekeyser in the you-know-what. Nothing happens. Ryan Garbut spears Corey Perry in the stomach. Nothing happens. The league complains about player safety, yet is doing nothing to protect them. Matt Cooke and Brent Seabrook were suspended. Why not these guys?
Scott Brofman, Los Angeles, Calif.
We’ve known for years now that the NHL sees every incident as being inherently different from all the others, which is the league’s justification for not installing a uniform set of punishments based on unacceptable actions. So it should come as no surprise that, for instance, the rash of vicious spearing we’ve seen in the first round of this year’s playoffs would lead to different punishments – Lucic gets a $5,000 fine for spearing Danny DeKeyser; Garbut received a $1,474.56 fine for doing the same thing to Perry; and Perry received no fine at all for spearing Jamie Benn – and mass confusion.
This disparity is a manifestation of the league’s overall attitude toward players: it’s a Wild West mentality that encourages a culture of retribution, because NHLers understand the league isn’t going to exact justice for anything but the most egregious acts – and even then, the suspensions usually aren’t tough enough (see Cooke, Matt vs. Barrie, Tyson).
The time to address this issue was during the last round of collective bargaining negotiations, but predictably, money was the primary focus. So unless the league and NHL Players’ Association decides to convene a summit of sorts to clean up this stuff, it’s going to continue.
Why do the refs hate the Sharks?
Floyd R. Butler, Aptos, Calif.
The NHL’s referees do not hate the Sharks. They also do not hate the following teams:
1. The Ducks
2. The Bruins
3. The Sabres
4. The Flames
5. The Hurricanes
6. The Blackhawks
7. The Avalanche
8. The Blue Jackets
9. The Stars
10. The Red Wings
11. The Oilers
12. The Panthers
13. The Kings
14. The Wild
15. The Canadiens
16. The Predators
17. The Devils
18. The Islanders
19. The Rangers
20. The Senators
21. The Flyers
22. The Coyotes
23. The Penguins
24. The Blues
25. The Lightning
26. The Maple Leafs
27. The Canucks
28. The Capitals
29. The Jets
The league’s officials are in the business of making arbitrary decisions. Some of those decisions are wrong, but imagining they make errors intentionally due to an active bias is ridiculous. If you have any actual evidence, I’m sure the NHL and the rest of us would love to see it. But take it from someone who hears fans complaining all the time: every team’s supporters think the refs have it out for them. It would make a compelling story if it were true, but it’s not.
There’s been plenty of talk the past two seasons that the Rangers may use their last amnesty buyout on Brad Richards, but what about Rick Nash? Both are signed for the next several seasons, Nash’s cap hit is more, and he’s pretty much been invisible when the game is on the line, so why has he escaped being the scapegoat?
Brandon Sparks, Fredericton, N.B.
Nash has started to feel more heat in this post-season and rightfully so: when you didn’t score in the first round of the playoffs and you’re paid as well as Nash is, you’re going to hear about it.
Here’s the biggest difference between Nash and Richards: their age. The former is 29 years old and the latter is 34. In addition, Nash has four years remaining on his contract, while Richards has six. I’d say those factors are at least as important as anything Nash is doing (or more accurately, isn’t doing) on the ice right now. And Nash did have 26 regular-season goals, so it isn't as if he's a stiff.
Curious to know your thoughts on the Capitals’ coach/GM search. David McNab seems like a good fit to me at GM. He has Caps ties.
Mark Hoppmann, The Plains, Va.
I haven’t heard McNab’s name mentioned as a frontrunner for the GM job, but he is well-regarded around the game. There’s no sense of which direction Caps owner Ted Leonis wants to go in his choice of a new hockey overseer – an experienced GM, or an assistant GM looking for his first promotion to that role – and it’s impossible to say with certainty which type of executive would be more successful.
For me, the key to any new hire in Washington would be their willingness to seek aggressive changes to the roster. Under George McPhee, the organization lost all sense of identity and his replacement must quickly decide what he wants to do with some of the veterans on the roster. The Capitals have valuable pieces to use in transactions, but hiring a GM who wants to hang onto them all and build on what’s already there would be a mistake. This group just isn’t good enough to continue on as-is.
Ask Adam appears Fridays on THN.com. Ask your question on our submission page. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Adam on Twitter at @ProteauType.