Friday Face-Offs, 2/18/2011

So, Mike Fisher has two games under his belt.  Nashville has played three of the four games in this current home stand.  The trade deadline is now 11 days away.

Examining Further Nashville Trade Rumors

Last night was the second game of the scheduled three games in which Montreal plans to scout the Nashville Predators.  The rumors have seemed to surround J.P. Dumont and/or Steve Sullivan for Nashville with Sergei Kostitsyn’s brother Andrei being the player rumored to be coming back.

While injuries to Marcel Goc and Steve Sullivan last night might have put a damper on those trade attempts, did they make sense in the first place?

J.P. Dumont’s ice time has certainly decreased to the point that a change of scenery might do him some good.  While Dirk has pointed out that he still plays a significant role on the power play, the fact that Nashville’s power play just isn’t that good seems to indicate that a change there might not be a bad idea too.

Steve Sullivan certainly gets the ice time when he’s healthy.  He also is still contributing points, even if he appears to be snake-bitten in regards to his ability to finish off a breakaway.  While Sullivan brings more positives to the ice lately than Dumont, he also is becoming less of a fit for how Nashville is heading.  When you look at Nashville’s forwards, every one of them plays a gritty two-way game with speed that allows for a puck possession strategy with the occasional rush- except for Steve Sullivan and Cal O’Reilly (who’s injured).  Sullivan’s propensity to be easily knocked off the puck and to turn the puck over has made him a less than ideal fit for Nashville’s current style.

So, from a personnel standpoint, both Dumont and Sullivan might make sense moving either.  However, there are complicating factors.  Both have no trade/movement clauses in their contracts.  Both appear to love the area (as do their families) and intend to make Nashville their home after retiring (which might be after their current contracts).  On top of that, Dumont still has another year at $4 million.

Given all that, it would appear unlikely either are traded.  Maybe Sullivan might consider a trade to another contending team where he might fit even better since it would only be for a few months.  I doubt either will be moved though.

Around the NHL

Penguins vs. Islanders Aftermath- Should Fighting Exist in Hockey?

(Edit: Mark presents his excellent take on the issue as well.)

A lot of discussion has taken place in the hockey world among the media and the fans (here, here, and here) regarding fighting in the aftermath of the Penguins and Islanders “tilt” that resulted in multiple suspensions and one team being fined $100,000.  Much of that discussion has attempted to focus on the question of whether fighting should exist in the game at all.  Those that favor a ban on fighting have also brought a new weapon to the table- the “concussion prevention/headshot” angle.

There have even been rumblings from the League at times to come up with ways of eliminating “staged” fights and the ever-increasing number of fights after legitimately clean hits.  While rarely called, the League does have the instigator penalty.  Fights occurring in the last five minutes of a game also generate an “automatic review” by the League office and could result in a suspension for the instigator and a hefty fine for the coach.  Clearly, the League sees fighting as part of the sport but do have measures in place in an attempt to control their frequency and circumstances.  And, while fighting is definitely a part of hockey, when the games mean something (like the playoffs or international tournaments) fighting goes way down.

Many people think (if the linked threads above are any indication) that fighting makes hockey unique among the major team sports.  In some ways it does, but now in how most think.  Hockey is not unique in that fighting occurs.  All of the major sports have fighting incidents.  This past year saw a fight during the Tennessee Titans and Houston Texans NFL game between the Titans’ Cortland Finnegan (think Jordin Tootoo) and the Texans’ Andre Johnson.  The NFL sees a lot of pushing and shoving.  MLB and NBA fights are not unheard of, nor are the occasional driver fights in NASCAR.  Where hockey is unique is that the vast majority of fights have no bearing on the outcome of the game and fall within that area in which the League has shown a desire (at times, albeit half-heartedly) to eliminate.

If the League were to show a better desire to rid the game of these incidents, what could be done to assist in that.

First and foremost, Stu Hackel summed it up very well in that much stiffer punishments should be handed down by the League.

Secondly, I’d modify the rulebook to be more stringent against fights without fully removing them from the game.

  • Modify Rule 47.14 to change the standard type of penalty for fighting from a Major to a Misconduct. This would effectively remove the participants from the ice for 10 minutes as opposed to just the five minutes today.  In and of itself, it also removes any short-handed time.
  • Add Rule 47.23 – Delay of Game Minor – Both participants will be assessed a Coincidental Delay of Game Minor penalty in addition to the standard Game Misconduct.  If an Instigator penalty has been assessed as well, it will be served after the Delay of Game has been served.  In that event, the Instigating team will appoint a player to serve the Delay of Game penalty along with the actual offending player. This penalty, in addition to Rule 47.11 (Instigator) ensures that all fights will result in one or both teams being further penalized with minors.  This should result in 4-4 or 4-3 play.  The problem with the way it is today is that there’s really no punishment when there’s coincidental majors beyond two (likely) “goons” off the ice for 5 minutes.  Their shifts are so far apart anyway so as to make the 5 minutes moot.  With this minor, specials teams play now plays a role- guaranteed.
  • Highlight and Increase Enforcement of Rule 47.2 – AggressorNot much to add here.
  • Modify Rule 47.17 – Fines and Suspensions – Aggressor – The rule in its current state is pretty useless.  I’d modify the rule to hand out the following fines and suspensions automatically that would not be included in the deliberations of additional supplemental discipline:
    • First offense: $10,000 fine and 1-game suspension
    • Second Offense: $25,000 fine and 5-game suspension
    • Third Offense: $75,000 fine and 25-game suspension to player, $50,000 fine to the head coach, and $250,000 fine to team
    • Fourth Offense: $150,000 fine and 82-game (or year-long) suspension to player, $100,000 fine and 10-game suspension to the head coach, and $500,000 fine to the team
    • Highlight and Increase Enforcement of Rule 47.11 – InstigatorNot much to add here.  It’s not called nearly as often as it should be.  I’m specifically referring to the those fights that happen following a hit deemed to be “clean”.

What’s the total overall impact to fighting with those changes?  The best way to answer that is to examine several scenarios and their impacts.

The famous Vinny Lecavalier and Jarome Iginla tilt in the Stanley Cup finals would have resulted in both players being in the penalty box for 10 minutes instead of 5.  Instead of both teams continuing play at 5-5, the coincidental Delay of Game penalties would have resulted in 4-4 play.  The downside of course is losing two players of that caliber for 10 minutes, but that should be the cost of the crackdown.  The coincidental minors might have benefitted one team over the other if they are  more suited to 4-4 play.

Your standard goon-on-goon fight should definitely be minimized.  Losing the goons for 10 minutes minimizes their ice time even more than it likely already is.  Hard to argue against that.  Additionally, if you’re a goon on a team that’s not built to take advantage of the more open and skilled play that takes place in a 4-4 situation, your coach likely keeps you on a shorter leash.  Sounds like a win-win for me.

These rule changes should also help prevent a majority of those fights caused by retaliation to completely clean hits.  So you’re a Shane O’Brien (meaning tough player willing to drop the gloves, but you play a regular role on the team) and Martin Erat comes out of one of his patented curls only to be firmly planted on the ice by a great shoulder to the chest bomb.  Do you risk the 10 minute misconduct, automatic delay of game penalty (and your team isn’t very good at 4-4), and likely instigator penalty for “revenge” of a hit the officials deemed clean?  If you do, you likely will only make that mistake once.

As for the Penguins – Islanders game, the major impact would have been seeing the goons on the ice less overall (again, a very good thing).  Michael Haley, for example, would still be serving his penalty from the first period instead of scoring early in the second.  There would also have been some stiff fines to players.

The truth is that the pitiful fines and small suspensions issued by the League are just not deterrents to the type play they have expressed the desire to eliminate from the game.  It goes well beyond the melee on Long Island or even headshots.  If the League is serious in their stated desires to rid the game of reckless behavior, this is the way to do it.

It would also help if there was more consistent officiating within a game and from game to game.  The effort last night against Vancouver was just about as piss-poor as I’ve ever seen it (and that’s saying something).  If Vancouver had been able to capitalize on all the weak penalty calls (and non-calls in their favor), frustrations might have built to a point where it boiled over (it had already reached that point with the myself and the other fans).

The Week That Was

Through three games of the four game home stand, Nashville has compiled 5 of a possible 6 points in going 2-0-1.

As of this morning, Nashville stands tied for 4th in the West with San Jose with one game in hand.  However, they are only two points ahead of 9th place Calgary.

The Week Ahead for Nashville

Nashville concludes their four game home stand tomorrow night against Phoenix, then have home games every other game.  Only the Phoenix game will not be televised.  Note the early time for the Dallas game on Saturday.

  • Saturday, 2/19 – vs. Phoenix @ 7pm CST (no TV)
  • Tuesday, 2/22 – at Columbus @ 6pm CST (FSN)
  • Thursday, 2/24 – vs. Chicago @ 7pm CST (FSN)
  • Saturday, 2/26 – at Dallas @ 1pm CST (FSN)

2011 NHL Trade Deadline: Monday, February 28th

You are invited to follow me on Twitter (@SingletonPreds).  For game recaps of all Predators games, check out my HockeyIndependent colleague, Mark Willoughby (@TheViewFrom111).

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About the Author: Nashville Predators Blogger, Software Engineer (C#.NET), Novice Woodworker, Southern Cook, Husband, Father of Two. You may contact me at David.R.Singleton AT

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  1. [...] Friday Face-Offs, 2/18/2011 | Hockey IndependentDavid offers his thoughts on some of the trade speculation surrounding the Preds, as well as hot issues from around the league. [...]