Thursday Mail Bag
Before we get to this week’s mail bag. . .
Martin Brodeur has his eye on the next record he wants to smash into a million pieces.
And it might not be the one you think.
|STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR|
|Martin Brodeur has his eye on the 1,000 games played club.|
Most would suppose that Brodeur, destined to own every record that matters in the NHL goaltending universe after breaking Patrick Roy’s record for most wins on Tuesday night, is anxiously eying Terry Sawchuk’s all-time career mark for shutouts by a goaltender in the regular season of 103.
“That’s going to happen,” said Brodeur, who has 100 shutouts, on Wednesday. “It could happen four games from now, or it could happen 100 games from now. I hope to get it soon, but it’s just going to happen one day and we’ll think, wow, we did it.”
But he might hit another milestone first, and it’s one he cherishes even more. He needs 13 more game appearances to join Roy as only the second goaltender to ever appear in 1,000 NHL games, and 43 to snap Roy ’s all-time mark of 1,029 games.
“I talked to Patrick about it on Saturday,” said Brodeur. “You think of all the goalies who have played in the NHL, and only one has played 1,000 games. Even Sawchuk didn’t play 1,000 games. That would be a special one.”
Brodeur enjoyed a rare day off in Raleigh yesterday after securing his 552nd career victory Tuesday against Chicago. Afterwards, he cut down the twine on the net in which he played the final period, an idea he said was not his.
“I didn’t plan anything. I didn’t want to jinx it,” he said. “(Kevin) Weekes skated out to me after the final whistle and handed me a Devils hat, and the scissors were in it. I guess Patrick did it when he broke the record. I started to do it, but it was taking me a lot of time so the boys helped me. I did all three posts, and they did the rest. It made it a fun night for everybody.”
Brodeur wore three different jerseys and used a different goalie stick for each period, and some of that memorabilia will make its way to the Hockey Hall of Fame.
And the net?
“I don’t even know where that is,” said Brodeur. “The trainers have all that stuff.”
Brodeur is now 14-3-2 on the season with four shutouts, a sparkling .923 save percentage and a goals-against average of 2.06. Since returning from a biceps injury Feb. 26, he is 8-1 and has allowed only 17 goals, and said there are few lingering effects of the injury he suffered Nov. 1st in a game against Atlanta.
“I get little tweaks here and there, but it goes away,” he said. “I don’t lose any flexibility or strength. Sometimes it just aches.
“The toughest thing when I came back was playing the puck. It wasn’t that it hurt, it just seemed my decision-making was slow. Well, in the last couple of games I’ve felt really confident making plays again. Maybe because the games were more intense I felt ready. But that was the one area that took the longest to get back, and now it’s back.”
Brodeur has three more years left on his contract and knows he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning.
“When my contract’s up I’ll be 40 in the playoffs that year, and I think by then I’ll have a pretty good idea what I want to do,” he said. “Even with this year’s injury, I’m not really worried about my body breaking down at all. It’ll be more about when I don’t enjoy going to the rink anymore. I’ve got the Olympics next year and I want my kids to be part of it, and I don’t really know about how long I’ll keep going.
“Patrick said he just reached the point where he couldn’t get up for it anymore. All my life I’ve be able to do something I love and right now I’m just going to try and keep doing it.”
Now, with lots of questions on fighting waiting, on to the mail bag:
Q: Regarding fighting in the NHL. From my perspective and limited time as an NHL referee; Commissioner of the IHL (9 years); OHL (6 weeks); EHL (2 years); CCHA (13 years); and owner of the IHL Toledo "Goaldiggers" (3 years); I think I have a pretty good slant on "Fighting" in professional hockey.
I will predict that the NHL, through the introduction of European hockey players and NCAA Division 1 College Hockey players will, eventually, adopt the NCAA playing rules. The NHL has already adopted the elimination of the Red Line (for purposes of the off-side pass) and many other NCAA rules since "Red" Berenson and Bill "Red" Hay became the first NCAA College hockey players to play in the NHL.
The NHL will culturally grow up, some day and, albeit reluctantly, come to their senses and decide that the NHLPA, though the evolution of European and NCAA Division 1 Hockey, will even persuade players coming from the CMJHL'S that "fighting," in hockey, is as foreign in the 21st century, as two-wheeled 90 gallon drums used to flood the ice surface was, in the early 50's at Maple Leaf Gardens. I can wait!
Bill Beagan, Hilton Head Island, S.C.
A: Bill, thanks for your perspective, and I think you’re right. The pro-fighting crowd, however, will fight this evolution tooth-and-nail for their own reasons, and when fighting disappears will of course blame its disappearance for the ruination of the sport. Personally, I think it will be just like the red line – when fighting’s gone, everyone will wonder what the fuss was all about. Sort of like the way we now look back on the days of bench-clearing brawls.
Used to enjoy your opinions long ago when you were on with Bob McCown. My question to you is:
Who in the media will take a stand against 'Fighting in the NHL' the way Bruce Dowbiggin did against Alan Eagleson and the NHLPA ?
Who is prepared to throw the NHL into disarray, possibly jeopardizing his position, for calling fighting what it is - A Criminal Act!
Surely there is someone.
Wilfrid Blais, Nanaimo, B.C. - ex-sports fan who has been alive for 17 of Montreal's 24 Cup Victories
A: I’m not exactly sure what you’re looking for. I think there are many in the media who have taken a strong stand against fighting, but I’m not sure I can agree that there is criminal activity here going undetected. There have been occasions on which I’ve welcomed the intrusion of the judicial system into acts of hockey violence – the Bertuzzi assault, the McSorley-Brashear incident – but for the most part hockey fights seem to involve two players agreeing to drop the gloves rather than one player attacking another. I don’t think the game needs such nonsense, but I don’t see it as criminal. Moreover, there’s no secret or conspiratorial behaviour here – everyone can see what’s going on.
Q: I don't understand the big focus on getting rid or at least cracking down of 'staged' fighting exclusively. It seems to me that staged fights between two bigs (who usually seem to have a bizarre respect for one another, and know the 'code' of fighting) that is meant to spark their team is less dangerous than a fight that springs up out of the heat of the moment when two players are just pissed at each other. To me that seems more dangerous as the intent is to actually hurt the other player more so than it is with staged fighting. I could be way off on this but that's my two cents.
Matt H., Toronto
A: Not sure about that, Matt. I think whenever Derek Boogaard drops ‘em, his objective is to knock the other guy out. As well, I’ve seen some enforcers absorb some terrible injuries in these so-called staged fights. I’m not really one for saying one type of fight is more useful or less dangerous. I saw Nick Kypreos basically get his career ended at Madison Square Garden when he was knocked out by Ryan Vandenbussche, and they were both heavyweight types. To me, they all deserve game misconducts and add nothing to an otherwise great sport.
You wrote about Brian Burke's failure to convince fellow GMs to explore the possibility of team being permitted to absorb salary as part of trades. Do you think the GMs would have any taste for adopting a "Larry Bird" type rule, where teams can go above the cap to sign their own free agents?
I ask because it seems like teams who stockpile picks and build from the ground up have a very small window to contend now, before all their young assets hit free agency, and the team can't fit them all in under the cap. Teams like Tampa and Ottawa (and I believe Anaheim, Pittsburgh and the Rangers could join them soon) have shown us what happens when too much cap space is tied up in too few players. It seems a team on the rise like Washington or Chicago has maybe two or three years to win a Cup before they have to move people for cap issues. And that defeats the whole purpose of the cap, in my opinion. If you draft well and manage your cap, you should be rewarded rather than punished.
Clark Aitken, Scarborough
A: I think you make a terrific point. Right now, the Bettman administration isn’t interested in any change that loosens the hard cap or allows wealthier teams to do things poorer teams can’t. I agree, however, that the nature of the current system seems to provide a very small window for teams to succeed, or at least forces them to make very hard choices very early. For example, it seems inescapable that the Penguins will have to eventually move one of Evgeny Malkin, Sidney Crosby and Jordan Staal. In fact, they’ve already moved Ryan Whitney, once a core player. It’s all about cap management, but I think part of the answer lies in not elevating players to the NHL at 18 or 19, which extends their wait until unrestricted free agency.
Detroit does that very well, and the Wings have the luxury of not having to use players until they are definitely ready for the NHL. One of the biggest problems with the Leafs keeping Luke Schenn this season is that it started the clock ticking on free agency. Right now, he’ll be unrestricted at age 25. All of these issues, however, will be dealt with in the next round of collective bargaining, which will be a tricky set of negotiations indeed.
Q: Damien, what are the rules governing NHL players being sent to the AHL for the Calder Cup playoffs? Do you envision any Leafs being sent down? I can think of five Leafs (Kulemin, Grabovski, Schenn, Orosevic and Frogren) that could really help. Great column, hope to hear the answer.
Kevin Kohl, Fort McMurray, AB
A: Right now, the players on the Leafs roster that would be eligible for the AHL playoffs would include Nikolai Kulemin, Ben Ondrus, Phil Oreskovic, Jonas Frogren, Anton Stralman and Andre Deveaux, who was recalled yesterday. My understanding is that all six will be made available to the Marlies, although last spring Stralman was allowed to play for Sweden at the world championships instead.
The Marlies sit fourth in the North Division of the Western Conference and with the addition of these players could be a playoff threat. Jeremy Williams, Tim Stapleton and Jiri Tlusty, all of whom spent time with the Leafs this season, will be with the Marlies for the post-season.
Now what about Jeff Hamilton, who was in the minors all season before joining the Leafs? He’s not eligible to play for the Marlies in the playoffs because for a player on the Leaf roster to be loaned to the AHL for the playoffs, that player has to be recalled after the trade deadline and then he’s eligible to be loaned back after the deadline, according to CBA regulations. Hamilton was signed to an NHL contract after the deadline and can’t be sent down.
So what about Luke Schenn? He’s not eligible for the AHL playoffs either because he still has junior status. To be eligible for the Marlies, he would have had to go back to Kelowna before the trade deadline, play for that junior club until it was eliminated and then could join the Marlies for the remainder of their post-season.
Q: For the "pro-fighting in hockey" lobby, fighting is an important element of self-policing in hockey and serves to protect skill players. For the "anti-fighting" lobby, stiffer penalties and more stringent refereeing, would take care of gooning behaviour. If and when fighting is banished from hockey, what will prevent players resorting to the kind of simulation and embellishment that is rife in soccer?
Mark Hillard, Milton
A: Great question. Hopefully peer pressure, for starters, but I’m a realist and understand it will probably take sanctions to stop players from pretending in order to draw penalties which, by the way, happens now even with fighting in the game. In a game last week between the Rangers and Flyers, New York forward Brandon Dubinsky was caught rather obviously faking an injury to his face when he was hit with a hard shoulder-to-shoulder check by Mike Richards. Richards got an elbowing penalty. Upon review, if I were Colin Campbell, that would earn Dubinsky a five-game suspension for holding the game up to disrepute. Whether it’s hockey, football, basketball or soccer, there are those in every sport who will try to fake injuries to draw penalties. Hockey, with instant replay, has the ability to come down hard on those who try.
Q: Hi Damien,
Luke Schenn question. I know he's a solid prospect, but do you think they drafted him because he could help now? So MLSE could say "hey look how well the rebuild is going folks, keep buying the merchandise”? Sacrificing picks and passing over higher ceiling guys like Hodgson/Boedker etc doesn't make hockey sense to me. Am I being too cynical?
David Robinson, Toronto
A: I do think they drafted him because they believed he could play in the NHL right away. That’s what Cliff Fletcher was thinking. He wasn’t thinking long-term or he wouldn’t have trade a first, second and third rounder to get the No. 5 pick with which to acquire Schenn. I’ve been saying this for months. But this ship has sailed, a new administration is in place and it’s time to move on.
Q: Why does Burke get all excited with each victory the Leafs get? This summer he will be trying to trade up in the draft and it would have cost him less off his time if he only need to jump a couple places rather than seven. The same thing happened last year, Cliff traded a first, second and third to move up two spots to draft Schenn. If the Leafs had not won when it did not matter, they would have had those extra two draft picks. Deja vu all over again.
Brian M., Barrie
A: He gets excited because he hates to lose. Leaf fans shouldn’t want anything less from their GM, ever.
Every Thursday, Damien Cox answers your questions in The Spin, only at thestar.com. Click here to submit a question. **Note: please follow the link above to send a question to Damien. Questions posted in the comments section may not make it to the mailbag. Thanks.**