Saturday, January 30, 2010

Green suspended three games

photo by AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez

The suspension bug strikes the Caps again.  This time, the player in trouble is Mike Green for his elbow on Michael Frolik in the 2nd period of last night's game. Green, who has never been suspended previously, had a hearing this morning and received a three game suspension for the hit. Many Caps fans are up in arms about the decision; my Twitter feed alone has told me that much. Here's a video of the hit:

Was it a nasty hit? Of course.

Was it suspendable? Absolutely.

Especially after the elbow Patrice Cormier of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies delivered to the head Mikael Tam of the Quebec Remparts, it's absolutely appropriate that the NHL should be taking a hard line on elbows to the heads of players. Sure, Frolik was not seriously injured and was able to return to the game, but he was one of the lucky ones. These sorts of hits are extremely dangerous, as we've seen, and there's no room for that kind of play on a professional stage.  

Green's teammate and friend Brooks Laich said as much about the hit (per the Washington Examiner):
"...At some point you have to take control of the game and protect the players. You see what happened in junior hockey. At some point you have to make a statement where there's not a gray area. You can't hit to the head. It's black or white. You hit to the head you're going to get suspended. We don't want to lose Greenie, but at the same time I think it's important that our league enforces punishment for hits to the head."
However, the NHL has been incredibly inconsistent with their discipline, and that is the issue with this particular incident.

On October 24, David Booth was seriously injured from a head shot courtesy of Philadelphia Flyer Mike Richards. Booth was unconscious on the ice for several minutes and had to leave the game via stretcher. Mike Richards received a penalty, game misconduct and had a disciplinary hearing, but no disciplinary action was taken. It's been reported that David Booth will finally return to the ice this Sunday, three full months after the hit.

The fact that Mike Green has been suspended while Mike Richards and countless players like him have remained on the ice is more than slightly maddening. We of course argue that it's clear that Colin Campbell is not a big fan of the Capitals, but in reality, the issue is that the NHL needs to establish a standard for hits like this. It doesn't seem right that the disciplinary process is still so reliant on subjectivity. Every hit is different, but a line must be drawn between what is suspendable and what is not. With such a blurry line as there is right now, the NHL has to make it crystal clear what a dirty hit looks like.  

Maybe it'll mean one less player leaving the ice on a stretcher.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Tomas Fleischmann at ESPN Zone

photo by Ned Dishman/Getty Images

Last night, in one of those breaks between several back-to-back games, I headed down to the ESPN Zone in downtown DC with 2 friends to see Tomas Fleischmann speak and have an autograph session. Fleischmann is one of those players that rarely has primetime interviews and that you don't often see at these meet-and-greets. In his first full season with the Capitals, he had arguably been a secondary player - scoring every now and then, but for the most part not very noticeable on the ice.

Since then, he has surged to the forefront of the Washington Capitals team to become one of their most valuable players. Making the recent switch from wing to center, he now is part of the second line with powerhouses Brooks Laich and Alexander Semin - and he is making a name for himself even among talents like Semin, Laich, Alexander Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom, and Mike Green. He has 17 goals so far on the season, whereas he had 19 in the whole of the 2008-09 season. He leads the team in shooting percentage with 21.5% - the next Capital who's even close is Eric Fehr with 16.9%. Clearly Fleischmann has settled into a groove on the team, and his skills are continuing to improve.

During the Q&A last night led by host Steve Kolbe, Fleischmann also proved that he was very humble, honest, and surprisingly witty. He noted that Bruce Boudreau "talks a lot" (no big surprise there for someone whose nickname is "Gabby") and that he's enjoying playing with his linemates. He's looking forward to playing in the Olympics as part of the Czech national team, but will be focusing on that only once the Olympic break begins. Once he gets to Vancouver, the Czech team will have only 2 days to practice together and try to establish some chemistry before playing on the international stage. However, he'll be in good company with talented players like Martin Havlat, Patrik Elias, and goaltender Tomas Vokoun.

He also said he definitely hears the fans in the Verizon Center during games, and is "very proud" to have such great fans.

It's obvious that Fleischmann not only has growing confidence, but also a sense of humor. When a young boy asked him, "How many goals do you want to get this year?" Fleischmann responded, "How many do you want me to get?" Kolbe told the kid to pick a large number, and he came up with 45.

Fleischmann then responded, "Well I'd better start tomorrow!"