The vicious hit by Buffalo's John Scott, right, on Boston's Loui Eriksson is one of the incidents that has NHL GMs thinking it may be time to hold teams accountable for the actions of their players. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News/Associated Press)
It would not be a surprise if, at the next meeting of the NHL's general managers, the GMs take a serious
look at allowing the league to fine organizations, coaches and
themselves for the actions of their players.
There are three sets of general managers' meetings in an NHL season. The first happens around Hall of Fame weekend, the last one during the Stanley Cup final. The middle one is right around the trade deadline.
That's the biggie, the only one officially extending more than a day. And it would not be a surprise if, at that meeting, the GMs take a serious look at allowing the league to fine organizations, coaches and themselves for the actions of their players.
In a (highly unofficial) poll of eight GMs last weekend, all said they would be in favour of such a proposal, though a couple pointed out they wanted to hear the NHL's plan first.
But, as one said, "The time has come."
Two specific incidents over the past two weeks brought added momentum. The first was John Scott's hit that concussed Loui Eriksson. The second was John Tortorella's comment that he'd continue to teach the play that led to Alex Edler's suspension.
"The one he was suspended on we're teaching that," the Canucks coach told Vancouver reporters. "The league just happens to believe it's suspendable."
Suffice it to say that didn't go over well.
The proposal is in its early stages, but the idea goes something like this: After three suspensions, the coach, GM and organization would also get slapped with a cash penalty. The amount would escalate with each further violation.
There are some things that would have to be addressed. If a player is fined, but not banished from games, does that count? If a player with suspensions is traded, does he carry that to a new team? If a coach is fired, does his replacement start fresh, or inherit the previous total?
Or, should the process be handled differently?
Sabres GM Darcy Regier, who supports the idea, suggested only the organizations be punished.
"If we get fined, my owner is going to be talking to me and I'm going to be talking to my coach," he said. "We can handle it internally."
Maybe things change in four months. But right now the league wants it and appears to have support. We'll see where this goes.
1. Was very happy to hear Randy Cunneyworth is back in the NHL. The Sabres just hired him as a pro scout. He deserves a fresh start and a better ending.
2. Islanders GM Garth Snow is getting grief for taking Thomas Vanek instead of Ryan Miller, but the way Miller is going, do you think Regier is trading him for Matt Moulson's expiring contract, a first-round and second-round draft pick? Me neither. Regier said Monday he has "no offers" for Miller, and really hasn't had any since the summer. When the goalie does get traded, the bet is it's for a price Snow wasn't willing to pay for a rental.
3. Cody Hodgson had some good insight into playing with Vanek. "When we got over the blue-line, he wanted me to give him the puck," the centre said. "He wants to create." Curious to see how he fits with John Tavares, another guy who likes to have it and, sources say, is pretty good with it.
4. Will Snow make Vanek a big offer to stay? The Islanders have several players who agreed to take less in a tough financial situation, because they enjoyed it on Long Island. So did the Sabres, who admitted their room was badly damaged by the huge contracts for Christian Ehrhoff and Ville Leino. Teams must be very cognizant of this.
5. By the way, a few teams are watching one of Snow's guys very closely: defenceman Andrew MacDonald. He's unrestricted after the season, and a greatly improved player.
6. So who didn't get Vanek? Blues GM Doug Armstrong doesn't play the speculation game, but it is believed St. Louis is in "we are going for it -- now" mode. They are a legit Stanley Cup contender and Vanek's skill set could have provided an extra dimension. By the way, when Buffalo does decide to trade Miller, there is no shortage of execs around the NHL who believe St. Louis will be part of that discussion.
7. This could be a pure fluke, but the Jets had three scouts at Vanek's last game in Buffalo -- Mark Dobson (who is their director of pro scouting), Peter Ratchuk and Pierre Groulx. Groulx, Montreal's former goaltending coach, is working for them on a consulting basis while spending two weeks a month with Munich Red Bull of the German League.
8. If Alex Steen keeps up his torrid shooting percentage, his 35.5 per cent accuracy would be the third-highest ever behind Pat LaFontaine's 37.1 in 1983-84 and Andy Brickley's 35.7 in 1991-92. (Credit to Arctic Ice Hockey for the tip.) Steen is getting attention for his goals, but he's a force everywhere on the ice. He's also a UFA-to-be. The Blues did talk to him last summer, but he chose to wait and concentrate on the season.
9. Erik Karlsson had an epic scrum Monday afternoon in Ottawa, telling reporters, "You talk about me like I was some [bleeping] god or something. It's not easy to live up to that." The scary thing: I'm not sure he's playing that badly, it's just that the Senators depend so much on him to make something out of nothing every shift. Ray Bourque once talked about how many more points he could score if he didn't have to worry about defence, but, as Charlie Huddy once joked, "You can never trust a forward to do a defenceman's job." All of that has to be going through Karlsson's mind, especially as the team struggles.
10. The same stress is evident on Jets coach Claude Noel. You can see he's dying inside with every defeat.
11. Two facts learned last week about Teemu Selanne: First, he spent a considerable amount of time planning and writing the awesome golf video that announced his 2013-14 return. His idea. Second: his is going to be first Anaheim number retired.
12. Mathieu Perreault, rejuvenated under Bruce Boudreau, had a great line about playing with Selanne. "He doesn't like to stop," Perreault said. "If you see him, he wants you to chip it ahead, keep the play going." What if this doesn't happen? "He goes offside." Because Perreault's first language is French, it was hard to tell if he was serious or joking.
13. Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen was drafted in the seventh round by Carolina in 2010, but went unsigned. He thinks the Ducks took a chance on him because they remembered that year's world hockey championship, where they scouted a 4-1 Danish victory over Finland. Neither Selanne nor Saku Koivu were on that Finnish team, but current teammate Sami Vatanen was. "I remind him of that sometimes," Andersen smiled.
14. His father didn't let him play goal until late, making his route to the NHL even more amazing. The Ducks are loaded in net. Andersen just signed a two year-extension as John Gibson draws rave reviews in the AHL. Igor Bobkov, another talented guy, is in the ECHL just so he can play. The present belongs to Viktor Fasth (when healthy) and Jonas Hiller (for now), but Anaheim knows where the future lies.
15. A scout who watched Boston last week wondered if they would try to upgrade their defence behind Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg. The answer appears to be no, for now. They want to see what Matt Bartkowski, Dougie Hamilton and Torey Krug can do in more extended auditions.
16. Maybe it shouldn't be a huge surprise the Bruins are going this route. First of all, this is a low-cap year, so low-value contracts are critical. Second, it did not go unnoticed that Chicago won the Stanley Cup with 20-year-old Brandon Saad, 21-year-old Andrew Shaw and 23-year-old Marcus Kruger in key roles. That is one reason San Jose was determined to find room for Tomas Hertl and Matt Nieto.
17. Had some interesting conversations about Joe Thornton, who has 13 points in his first 12 games as he approaches age 35. Teams always worry about re-signing offensive players at that age, but it's different with him. Why? "You're watching the hands, not the legs," as one exec said. "He never relied on speed... was never the fastest guy, but his brains and hands made up for it." He's kept up in what is now a speed game. Whenever his NHL career ends, there is a belief he may play longer in Switzerland. His wife is Swiss, and he's spent his lockout time there.
18. According to Cassie Campbell-Pascall, the Sharks did ask Thornton to make one change: They don't mind him delaying with the puck in the offensive zone, but want it to be deeper, not at the blue-line. If that means he drives the net more, all the better for San Jose.
19. Three years ago, Brenden Dillon was undrafted, heading into his fourth WHL season with the Seattle Thunderbirds. He was considered too small, a 175-pound defenceman. HIs father is six-foot-two, while his mother and sister (Kirsten, a volleyball player at York University) are five-foot-nine. He knew he'd get bigger, and did, up to 230. He scored 59 points that year and had 25 teams call. But Stars superscout Les Jackson got there first and Dillon chose Dallas over Calgary and Montreal.
20. Dillon and defence partner Stephane Robidas have been, by far, the Stars' best duo so far this season. Neither is signed for next year (Dillon is restricted, Robidas totally free). When asked about the future, new GM Jim Nill said he wanted to get a feel for the organization before starting any negotiations.
21. As Valeri Nichushkin adapts to North America, another GM wondered if the Stars would do the favour of burning his entry-level contract, then let him return to get more ice time in Russia. That will not be happening. "Towards the end of the exhibition season, he hit a bit of a wall, but he's coming back," the GM said. He is living with a local family, learning English and "wants to be here," Nill added.
22. Nichushkin told Nill the biggest adjustment was "back pressure. He's used to winding up and doing things. Here everybody backchecks." The Stars compared it to what Steven Stamkos went through. "It's going to be like that some nights. You're going to be frustrated, but we've told him, 'We are here to back you.'"
23. Was researching Dillon's route and found some two-year-old notes on Mark Arcobello, who is tied for Edmonton's scoring lead. Arcobello was a college free agent, but assistant GM Rick Olczyk had to fight to get it done because the Oilers were concerned about his size. Another team said after it was filed, they saw it was a two-way AHL/ECHL deal, which, at the time, was worth less than $60,000 -- combined. That one worked out nicely.
24. Tough call for the Predators at 6-5-1. Do you hope Pekka Rinne beats his infection quickly or go get help? Carter Hutton and Magnus Hellberg have six combined games of NHL experience. The one thing that helps is Nashville has rediscovered its identity -- hard on the puck and forcing you to fight for every inch. It gives Hutton/Hellberg a better shot in the short term.
25. In the summer, the organization realized it got away from what made it successful. The Alexander Radulov gamble backfired and last year was like being the passenger in a car driven by a scared teenager (lockout, Ryan Suter's departure and Shea Weber's offer sheet). Everyone's finally moved on and the regained structure really helps Seth Jones.
26. The only drawback to getting Jones (and it's a very small one for the Predators) is they didn't grab the kind of offensive stylist they've never had. That's what they thought they were getting before he dropped to them. Viktor Stalberg wanted that chance and Nashville wanted him to run with it. It's early, but the first returns aren't good.
27. Dustin Penner was not fined for his Twitter rant following Ryan Garbutt's big hit. (Garbutt was suspended five games.) Angry there was no penalty on the play, the big forward ripped the officials for missing it, then went after some Twitter morons. It's probably an admission the non-call was wrong, but will others take it as license to follow?
28. Blatant Jon Stewart rip-off: Here is your moment of Zen if you didn't see it, Flames fans. Mark Jankowski, your 2012 first-round draft pick, scoring a ridiculous NCAA goal last week. One question was his skating, and word is it is getting better. Not yet there, but improving.
29. Barring a massive shift in direction, European games in the 2014-15 season officially will be kiboshed this week. The hope was to have them in cities that would host the planned 2015 World Cup -- likely Stockholm and/or Prague. Makes sense, but these two aren't on the same page right now.
30. Interesting side note of commissioner Gary Bettman's Patrick Kaleta ruling: the NHLPA requested, and received, all correspondence (email or otherwise) relating to the incident. Pretty soon, the NHL is going to go to smoke signals and sign language.
Elliotte FriedmanElliotte joined CBC in October 2003 and is a commentator with Hockey Night in Canada.
As part of his duties with Hockey Night in Canada, Friedman hosts Inside Hockey, a feature airing every Saturday during Scotiabank Hockey Tonight that tells the stories of the people and places that shape the game of hockey. Always committed to giving viewers the inside story, fans call follow him throughout the regular season and playoffs on Twitter.
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