10: Loui Eriksson‘s well known fighting overawed him.

9: He was reading the instructions on his forearm that say “stick is for shooting the round black thing”.

8: It was a ploy to get the press to talk about anything other than how bad the team is.

7: It was a career ambition of John Scott to be the subject of a Mike Milbury rant twice in less than four weeks.

6: He wasn’t looking specifically for Eriksson, but anyone other than Chara or Lucic would do.

5:  Given Eriksson’s standing as the NHL’s 629th ranked hitter, it was in retaliation for a series of dirty hits earlier in the game:

LHits4: He wanted to make sure he had time off when Pac-man and the Ghostly Adventures is released on October 29th.

3.2: #NHLWheelOfJustice is his favorite web series, its just so unpredictable.

3: The team being booed at home hurt his feelings and he just lashed out, and feels very, very bad for it.

2: Ron Rolston told him he’d be replaced by a cardboard cutout if he wasn’t on the score sheet by the end of his next shift.

1: When Steve Ott is your captain everyone knows where you’ve set the bar.

This season the Buffalo Sabres were expected by many to challenge for the very last Northeast Division title. The Boston Bruins were expected by most to fight like hell to win the division again. So far the Sabres have fired a head coach, declared open season on their roster, and wallowed around the bottom of the division and conference. The Bruins have missed out on acquiring future hall of fame inductee Jarome Iginla, traded away a world class goaltender the front office alienated, and had the decided displeasure of a rear view on the Montreal Canadien’s for much of the season.

Disclaimer;

You can seriously injury yourself, destroy property, or even die even if your participation in this drinking game is nothing more than water. If you should happen to do something incredibly idiotic and entertaining during this drinking game that makes it to Youtube, TextsFromLastNight or other fun sites; do send a link. It won’t make your life better, but I’ll get a laugh too. No one is responsible for the stupid you commit but you. Enjoy!

 

Take 1 Drink Whenever:

  • Lindy Ruff is mentioned
  • Jordan Leopold or other former members of the Sabres are mentioned.
  • The word “lethargic” is applied to either team.
  • The size of Zdeno Chara, Tyler Myers, Nathan Gerbe, or Tyler Ennis is mentioned.

Take 2 Drinks Whenever:

  • Sidney Crosby is mentioned.
  • Jarome Iginla is mentioned.
  • An announcer uses “shakeup” in discussing either teams problems.
  • The Lucic/Miller collision is mentioned.
  • Someone says they don’t like an officials call.

Take 3 Drinks Whenever:

  • Someone mentions players needing to wear visors or full cages.
  • Ryan Clowe is mentioned on tv, twitter or radio in connection with the Bruins.
  • Someone says “fire sale”, “wholesale changes”, or “rebuild” about the Sabres.
  • John Scott skates more than 2:25 seconds in a period.

Take 4 Drinks Whenever:

  • Game of Thrones is mentioned or alluded to.
  • Someone makes a trade deadline prediction.
  • Peter Chiarelli or Darcy Regier are mentioned or shown on tv.
  • There is a mention of any teams scouts.

Switch Drinks:

  • Between periods.
  • Whenever Mike Milbury makes the least sense in an intermission.
  • Whenever Doc goes more than four minutes of game play without using; knife, stab, or pitchfork.
  • If Patrick Kaleta, Andrew Ference, John Scott or Shawn Thornton score a goal.

Skip a drink;

  • You start to have faith the Sabres will make the playoffs.
  • You think the Bruins will fall out of the playoffs.
  • You think Liam McHugh is funny.
  • Greg Campbell wins a fight.

 

 

The Phoenix Coyotes, currently owned and administered by the National Hockey League signed young star blueliner Oliver Ekman-Larsson to a sweet, sweet deal worth $33 million over six years. Of note is that the heavily backweighted nature of the contract means whoever  buys the team (may it be soon) will pay him two times as much in 2018-19 as the NHL will pay him next season. As long as he continues to improve it should still be a good price.

Don’t look now, but the Minnesota Wild are just two points out of the Northwest division lead. Sure, for the past ten decades that’s been a lot like finishing second in the Special Olympics, but this year staying close means even if the don’t overtake the flat in their last ten Vancouver Canucks, the 6-4-0 in their last ten Wild on the other hand are trending in the right direction and have allowed 8 less goals in the 26 games each has played. The Xcel Energy center will be quite juiced up in May if the return of native son Zach Parise helps spark the team to a playoff berth.

Vladimir Sobotka will play in his 300th career game tonight. #stlblues
@StLouisBlues
St. Louis Blues

 Sobotka was traded to the St Louis Blues from the Boston Bruins for David Warsovfky after the 2009-10 season and has appeared in 165 regular season games for the Blues. Warsovsky has yet to even get a cup of coffee in the NHL, Vladimir Sobotka has played an additional 9 playoff games. Currently Sobotka is fourth on the Blues in goal scoring.

The Tampa Bay Lightning waived, and their division rivals the Carolina Hurricanes, who happen to read lead the division, claimed Adam Hall. The Michigan native has played for the Nashville Predators, the New York Rangers, the Pittsburgh Penguins since coming into the NHL in 2001. Canes fans should expect Hall to slide into the penalty kill. It is interesting that the Lightning who are 13th in the NHL on the penalty kill should waive him, unless one looks down form their position rather than up. The Hurricanes on the other hand are 22nd in the league as of today and will likely give the UFA to be a workload similar to the 2:11 of shorthanded time on ice he had with the Lightning.

Monday evening, Kimmo Timonen of the Philadelphia Flyers will play his 1000th NHL game. The bastion of the blueline has been in a Flyers uniform since the 2007-08 season and will be celebrating his birthday as well. The Finnish native was drafted in the 10th round of the 1993 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings whom he never played a game for.

Mike Milbury thinks Mike Ribeiro of the Washington Capitals will be available at the deadline. Long his favorite team, Milbury had little more than “buyer beware” to say of the former Dallas Star and Montreal Canadien.

After the last Penguins vs Flyers game Mike Milbury made his usual, off the cuff remarks about the behavior of people involved. Dan Bylsma as a player made a great pressbox decoration, and most nights the only way he’d get on the score sheet was if he sat on it. He didn’t rarely played even ten minutes a night, and in 429 games he had a staggering 19 goals. By comparison, Georges Laraque out scored Bylsma on a goals per game basis by almost 2 to 1, and had long stays with teams where he saw at least some game action on a regular basis. As a coach, Bylsma has proven nothing. He took over a team of prima-donnas who spent most of their season throwing a coach under the bus with 25 games left, then in the playoffs he plays a goalie who allows the most goals, and finishes with a shabby sv%. He’s not taken a professional team end to end and won.

What exactly can Lemieux complain about? He’s played with and employed two of the dirtiest players in NHL history. Matt Cooke appears to have cleaned up his act, we’ll see. But hows many knee-on-knee hits, head shots and slewfoots did he commit before that? That’s his legacy. He can score 100 goals each of the next five seasons and ending careers and putting guys on injured reserve will be what he’s know for. This is a guy who was allowed to wear the “A” for this team well before he cleaned up. Ulf Sammuelsson is another of those players who seemed to exist to make sure the referees whistles worked and that the penalty bench never got too cold. As a player, he made a hell of an advertisement for people to let their sons do mixed martial arts or rugby which was safer than playing against this guy.

While no one in the world denies Sidney Crosby is immensely talented. Depending on your taste in playing styles he may even be the most talented player in the NHL.  But there are three other things he is too. 1st  is a diver. He’s taken quite a few. He’s not achieved Montreal Canadiens level, but he can more than hold his own.

2nd He’s dirty:

That’s a clear two on one, where he’s the third man in, throwing punches at the back of the head of someone who’s already engaged with another player.

And 3rd he is a whiner. He talks to the officials more often than any player I’ve seen in the past two decades of watching the NHL. His pathological insistence on his own sainthood is incredible.  But when you come right down to it, given the tactics he routinely employs on the ice, the only reason he doesn’t spend more time in the penalty box is because someone prevents it.  Even with whoever preventing more penalties, and rightly deserved suspensions he’s already the third most penalized player in his draft class. He’s nearly doubled up on Paul Stastny who is fourth, and sits behind only Steve Downie, and Jared Boll. Downie is a loose cannon, and Boll is reasonably skilled enforcer who drops the gloves a lot.

While I certainly don’t agree with even half of what Milbury says, he got it right the first time. His comments on the Penguins were spot in. If the don’t like the way people speak about them, they need to change the teams identity.

In a bold and telling move this morning four teams in the National Hockey League did two things together. The first was a conference call that parts of the transcript will be shown in excerpts below, and the second was issue non contact jersey’s to all their remaining players. In a joint conference call in which they did not answer any questions the General Managers of the Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild, Philadelphia Flyers, and Boston Bruins announced an innovation that may allow one or more of the depleted squads to ice their full NHL roster by October.

Chuck Fletcher got the ball rolling with the opening remarks in which he said:

“Coming off of last nights game in which we lost seven to one to the Colorado Avalanche we realized it was time to make a change. We’re not sure it will be permanent, but when the trainers tell you they need time off for carpal tunnel surgery from applying tape and bandages it’s something you have to look at very closely. Worse, one of our interns reported that Bodog has switched from having an over under on our wins for the rest of the season to an over under on the number of players who will be injured, the number is 9.”

Peter Chiarelli continued the call:

“With the significant injuries we have not just here in Boston but in our AHL affiliate, we knew the time for action had arrived. After sitting down with Cam, and finding someone who could find someone who knew where in Buffalo the Jabobs were, we as a leadership group decided we needed to be at the forefront of addressing this issue. In light of the acquisition of Brian Rolston at the deadline, and the pending acquisition of Marty Turco we’d also like to announce two additional innovations. The first is that no one may shoot anything other than wrist shots and backhanders during practice. The second is that we will be issuing nutritional injections to players daily before practice. In partnership with Centrum Silver we think this is a very smart way to aid our athletes in staying at their peak. “

Ken Holland contributed:

Ordinarily we keep this stuff in house, but even ESPN has noticed the injuries this year. Before I go any further I’d like to take the opportunity to quash the rumor that Jimmy Howard is being held out in the hopes of preventing any further injuries between now and the playoffs. This is not true, both myself and Jim Dellevano take great exception too this, Mr Howard is a hockey player and we have enough trouble keeping him off the ice when he’s got a game scheduled off. But to illustrate how bad the injury situation is, in practice yesterday Mr. Ilitch was taking line rushes on the second line, in battle drills he caught Brad Stuart with a good hit that knocked the wind out of our defenseman. This just illustrates the unneeded danger of full contact practices. Last night was the first time I’ve taken a phone call from Chuck and not been laughing at him before it was over. As an organization the Detroit Red Wings brought to you by Amway we think it’s time to push the league in this bold new direction.

Paul Holmgren finished off the call:

“While rumors are being thrashed, I’ve been assured by both Bryzgalov and his agent that he did not in fact loan his map of the woods to Tim Thomas, please don’t blame him. When two original six GM’s call you up to bounce an idea off you, you know it’s either something absurd like banning fighting or something important. Amazingly considering who else was on the call, it was important. I’d like to congratulate the 28 other general managers in the league for not trading one of their contracts and prospects for a single player during deadline madness. On the injury front I’ve gotta say I miss the days when injuries were the result of head shots, spearing or someone who only throws two hits a year driving someone into the board from behind. In those days we had someone to blame and send guys like Sestito after. Now with these idiot high sticks taking out our captain, and god knows how many groin strains and concussions from running into teammates its just a pile of bullshit. No one to blame, no one is taking responsibility.”

This is certainly an unexpected move on the part of these NHL clubs. One can only wonder if this was done jointly to lower the chances any one of them would get reamed by the likes of Mike Milbury and Don Cherry for further wimpification of the game.

The Boston Bruins have long been maligned for a certain lack. But that isn’t the case, Marc Savard, hardly the most athletic or imposing member of the Black and Gold has over the years stood up for Milan Lucic, and now Zdeno Chara when the big boys were outnumbered or blindsided.

Neither Chara nor Lucic have ever needed someone to stick up for them, it was done because someone needed a message sent. Patrice Bergeron will never threaten any NHL enforcers job, but when players take one too many liberties even he will drop the gloves and go, as Josh Georges found out to his dismay and indignity.

Mark Stuart has yet to meet the man who will make him pass on a chance to send them, once going three separate times with Jamal Mayers, two of their “discussions” in that game were listed as roughing minors by the officials, but everyone else in the building, and everyone watching at home knew the score.

Hell, even Grampa Recchi proved there was still some fire in the belly by dropping the gloves and going with Chris Campoli earlier this year.

So toughness, isn’t the answer. They have more than a handful of guys willing to drop the gloves, even the monster known as Blake Wheeler has been known to go for gladiatorial glory.

Statistically, this team is about where it needs to be to succeed. They have a stellar defense, and a rather enviable goalkeeping situation. (Mostly.) Their offense is nearer the top of the league than most people would have predicted in October. The failure to thrive has to be something different. I pointed out who shapes the personality of a team a few days ago.  So let’s take a look at who drafted which of some of the better known members of the Bruins, and look at the two men.

Mike O’Connell was a mostly unremarkable NHL defenseman. He had a career goal goal high of 18 goals in 1984, smack dab in the middle of the NHL’s golden age of scoring, Wayne Gretzky scored 87 that year, teammate Ray Bourque had 31 that season. He never am-massed more than  75 penalty minutes in a season in an era when line brawls were still common and bench clearing brawls weren’t unheard of, most of his seasons were in the 40’s.  As GM he was the man who traded Joe Thornton to San Jose. Never really came off as a great public speaker or someone who particularly enjoyed the spotlight, media attention or was highly emotional.

Some of the guys drafted by O’Connell:

  • Patrice Bergeron, a cerebral playmaker who’s good in all three zones, tolerates the media but would clearly rather be in the gym or on the couch with a good book than in front of the cameras.
  • David Krejci, a cerebral playmaker who’s good in all three zones, not spectacular but has very sharp passing skills and the ability to track his own teammates in an almost uncanny way. Clearly regards cameras as a form of torture that’d be outlawed if he were ever world dictator, but he’d probably rather be bowling than ruling.
  • Mark Stuart, quiet stay at home defensemen who’s pops is a brain surgeon, and who while mostly a quiet guy who has trouble remembering to breathe when he gets interviewed.

Peter Chiarelli was a Boston University college player, who’s pro-resume is exactly four games long, all of those in the British Hockey League, on a team where he may have been the best player. Peter Chiarelli, probably has almost as much love for cameras as does David Krejci, and his interviews aren’t going to become something that earn him a post management color commentating job ala Mike Milbury and Don Cherry, they might however get him a job as a drug free sleep therapist.

A few of the players brought in by Peter Chiarelli.

  • Jordan Caron. A kid who was criticized in some circles for taking to long to get to the podium when he was drafted because he stopped to quietly embrace the six or seven hundred supporters at the draft with him. Even during his interviews after his first NHL games and goals, he was very soft spoken.
  • Tyler Seguin, a cerebral high end talent who actively seeks direction from everyone around him to the point where he has actually had a limit on the number of question he can ask placed on him. When a camera is aimed at him he looks a bit like Pinocchio before he goes from puppet to real boy.
  • Blake Wheeler, took the route of passive resistance and preferring to risk not having a pro-career to demanding the Pheonix Coyotes trade him. Has had liberties taken with him right and left and only dropped the gloves once. Of the six players singled out, is probably the best pure interview, and yet I doubt he’ll end up holding the microphone when he hangs up the skates, not surprisingly he majored in economics.

While all of these guys are skilled at their positions, and at least two have leadership qualities, none of them, nor Zdeno Chara or any of the teams other top talents can really be counted as outgoing volatile personalities.  On the ice when the provocation is three steps beyond intolerable and as plain as the nose on Lucic’s face, they will act.

What they need, what the lack, what the front office should desire far more than a puck moving defenseman is a catalyst. That dynamic player who makes things happen, drops the gloves at the drop of hat, who burns hot on the ice, and can be counted on to have two or three feuds running with other teams, or even individual players. they guy who plays on one of the first two lines, and can be counted on to infect the entire team with his outrage, passion, or grim determination. Think of Shane Doan or Jarome Iginla and the way both of their teams ride their wakes. When either creates large waves, the team swamps whoever is on the ice with them. Either of those players is a potential solution, and while it’s unlikely either could be had has Iginla has a not trade clause and a hefty salary, and Doan as a full no movement, either one could be the mix that takes the current Bruins roster from contender to champion.

Some people will say its the job of the coach to motivate players, and in someways that’s correct, but this is the type of motivation I’ve never seen come from a coach. It’s either a skater or no one, right now in the case of the Boston Bruins, it’s no one.

The NHL has been trying since the lockout to get scoring totals closer to the so called golden age of Gretzky and his contemporaries. Some of the measures that have been enacted to little or no effect include shrinking the neutral zone, moving the initial faceoff to the defensive zone of the penalized team, and of course the oh-so-beloved shootout.  This year they’ve reduced the size of goalie equipment.  I’m not actually in favor of that one overall, not because I don’t acknowledge the contribution of padding spread to the reduction in goals, but simply because of the number of guys who can and do fire the puck at very high velocity. Chara won the last fastest shot competition, but three men broke 100 miles per hour. Given how few quality goal tenders there ever are, can we really afford the broken bones that too small equipment would cause?

One of the things that the NHL can not afford to do is to further alienate traditional hockey fans. The crack down on fighting has done this, the shootout has done it more, and the “wimpification”* of hockey as a whole has created unneeded, unhealthy space between the National Hockey League, and people who grew up watching and worshiping “The Broad Street Bullies”, and “The Big Bad Bruins” and individual men who’s ruggedness and skill were awesome to behold like the late and much missed Bob Probert, the legendary Gordie Howe, Eric Lindros and many, many others. Another hit to perhaps the most traditional of North American sports fans might be fatal to the NHL.

What any new rules and alterations for creating goals must do is, allow players, coaches and officials to only slightly alter the way things are done. They should be changes that produce goals that will be a result of natural game play. They must be very easily implemented. They must be done in a way that continues to emphasize team over individual. These new changes must not, require much higher risk to players, require complex decision making by officials as to what is and isn’t allowable on the ice, and they must not greatly disrupt the flow of game play.

A few possibilities:

  • Restore the goal crease to it’s former size, giving the goalie more room to roam in their own space, and by doing so increase the opportunity for them to be out of position.
  • Eliminate the trapezoid. I’ve never liked this and always thought it was silly, the more opportunities the slowest, clumsiest skater has to handle the puck, the more opportunities can be created for mistakes.
  • Allow the team going on a power-play the choice of taking the power-play in the traditional form or adding an extra skater and taking half the penalty time.
  • Make the penalized team have to clear the puck from beyond their own blueline to avoid an icing call.
  • Put players that draw matching penalties immediately into the penalty box without stopping the play.
  • Return to the system where even on minor penalties they run their full time and are not terminated by the team on the power-play scoring.
  • Penalize diving/unsportsman like with a five minute major even when a hooking or other call is made with it.
  • Penalize diving/unsportsman like more.
  • Eliminate phantom hooking calls, phantom tripping calls, and other no effect contact penalties to keep the flow of the game going.
  • Fine teams who give guys like Peter Schaefer and Wayne Primeau contracts while guys like Bill Guerin remain unsigned.
  • Allow players who are completely outside the crease to kick a puck in if they do not have a stick for a goal.
  • Remove players like Steve Ott and Matt Cooke from the NHL for their repeated attempts to be injure better players.

Got an idea? Comment below.

* Thanks Mike Milbury