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Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Downward Spiral

No, not the 1994 album by Nine Inch Nails.  The current state of the Penguins.  This has been a brutal last couple weeks in the season for the Pens.  Injuries have turned the starting lineup into a glorified AHL team.  Crosby is still out, but skating in an undisclosed location away from the press.  You can check out a funny article/blog post here for more information on that one.  Malkin is pretty much done for the season.  Mark Letestu and now Dustin Jeffrey are now on IR as well.  And now, because of players like Matt Cooke and Eric Godard, the Penguins have a giant target on their back and have become public enemy #1. 

I will admit though that it is not totally one-sided when it comes to all of it.  The Penguins, for the first time in my feable memory, are leading the league in fights, penalty minutes, fighting majors, game misconducts, and is one of only four teams with a match penalty this year. If I didn't know any better, I would think I was talking about the Flyers or Bruins.  Matt Cooke is currently serving a 4 game suspension and Eric Godard was just issued a 10 game for leaving the bench Friday against the Islanders. 

I think Matt Cooke has been addressed here before and I know the discussion will continue, but I just wanted to reiterate my feelings.  I'm not a huge Matt Cooke fan.  I never have been.  But, I do like him.  He is not a horrible hockey player, despite the majority of North America's and Jeremy Roenick's feelings.  In fact, there have been countless coaches and GM's that have said they would gladly take him on their teams.  He's tenacious, gritty, and contributes offensively, three things coaches want.  He just has a penchant for occasionally hitting a guy that doesn't know he's going to be hit.  Is that so wrong?  (it is wrong, I was just being facetious) Enough about that.  Onward with my rant.

It didn't get any better today when the Pens took their prestigious statistical leads into MSG and took another beating at the hands of the Rangers.  New York hasn't had a +3 goal game since January 19th. They absolutely destroyed Marc-Andre Fleury today.  This whole New York trip has been a disaster.  Yesterday, before a "practice" session in Central Park, their bus was even in an accident and the players had to take taxis.  And Friday, well we all know what happened there.  

In all, that game featured 346 penalty minutes, 20 misconduct penalties, 15 fighting majors, and 10 ejections. The normally mild-mannered and soft-spoken owner of the Pens actually lashed out at the league for what he felt was only minimal punishments. Mario said in a press release...

“Hockey is a tough, physical game, and it always should be. But what happened Friday night on Long Island wasn’t hockey. It was a travesty.  It was painful to watch the game I love turn into a sideshow like that.”

“The NHL had a chance to send a clear and strong message that those kinds of actions are unacceptable and embarrassing to the sport. It failed,” he said. “We, as a league, must do a better job of protecting the integrity of the game and the safety of our players. We must make it clear that those kinds of actions will not be tolerated and will be met with meaningful disciplinary action.  If the events relating to Friday night reflect the state of the league, I need to rethink whether I want to be a part of it.”
Strong language from a normally quiet owner.  What's more interesting to me is all the criticism he is taking by various sources for his comments.  At best he is being lauded for his outspokenness.  At worst, he is being labeled a hypocrite for his poignant comments with no apparent responsibility taken for his own team.  Whatever side you are on when it comes to the rash of fighting, head-shots, and "intent-to-injure" hits, there is no denying the league is finally beginning to head down the right path.  If more former greats like Mario, or Gretzky, Howe, and Hull begin to speak up, I think this discipline process will move even faster to "fixing" what is perceived as broken.

I just hope the Pens get the message that their new found physical play has gone off the deep end and it's not too late to right this sinking ship.


  1. yeah, that was my first reaction when I heard what Lemieux had said. Where were you after teh last Penguin/Islander game? Didn't seem to bother him much then.
    But whatever.... maybe he'll be the Jerry jones of the NHL now....

  2. It's fun to watch the big brawls, but the after math is brutal for teams. Hopefully your Pens can overcome the two big injuries in Crosby and Malkin.
    As for your comment on my Goalie Project post, I shot you out an email. Lemme know if you got it or not because I'm not 100% sure I got your email address right. Thanks!

  3. Great post. Mario is stuck between the fine line of "whining" and getting his message across. I find it interesting that no one is disagreeing with what he is saying.

    The Isles/Pens game is a culmination of something that's been brewing for the last few years now - a lack of serious repurcussions for dangerous hits on the ice.

    Until the NHL fixes that the problem is going to continue.

    So what's your take on the Pens and the deadline? Do they fold their cards on the season or try and find a replacement for Malkin and hope Sid is back soon?

  4. Justin - - asked and answered...


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