Friday, December 19, 2014

Kill the "Distinct Kicking Motion"

[AN OPEN LETTER TO THE NHL]
Gentlemen (I use this term very loosely, but you might misinterpret my tone as vicious if I greet you as Glorified Bean-Counters in Suits):

As a game-tying goal off of Troy BroUwers skate in last night's Blue Jackets-Capitals game tied the game and set up the quick overtime winner -- not to mention the fact that it was allowed to stand by the Toronto War Room -- I got to thinking about the rules the game, and how the league has dealt with controversy in the past.

I suppose it's not just hockey, as there are a lot of rules in sports that are arbitrary and left to interpretation.

In college football, you have the excessive celebration rule. Well, what's excessive? The midair chest bump? A few guys piling on a guy in the end zone after a touchdown? This things happen all the time. Sometimes they get flagged, and other times they don't. Completely arbitrary. But the silly rule is still there.

Photo: USA Today
But how about gloves in college (and pro) football that can form a logo? A few years ago when those things started popping up, players were getting flag for unsportsmanlike conduct penalties for putting their hands together to form the logo in their palms: "Hey look mom! I learned how to make shapes in college today!"

Then just about every college under the sun got those gloves, and pretty much no one ever talked about it again. Nice end-around beat down of that rule.

In hockey, we have this foggy set of standards that discusses whether a goal of someone's skate is legitimate, based on whether a player is making a "distinct kicking motion." It goes up to Toronto for review, they flip a coin, spin the explanation and tweet it.

Troy Brouwer's goal probably should not have counted. You might argue that there is not an explicit "distinct kicking motion." However he was sliding toward the goal, and the centering pass was sent towards him. Come to think of it... I don't think it's too far of a reach for hockey teams to have drills covering the stuff... how to crash the net and deflect the pass into the net without making a "distinct kicking motion."

That's the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard, strange hockey blogger from Columbus, you say.

And that is exactly my point about the rule: It's ludicrous, and you guys are morons for having such a rule with such an unreliable and unacceptable margin for human error.

Back on November 18, Boone Jenner had a power play goal disallowed against the Detroit Red Wings. Jenner was going by the net, took a shot that rebounded back toward his feet. Danny DeKeyser was in the process of knocking Jenner off his feet when the puck hit his skate and went into the net.

Now your whole thing is about a "distinct kicking motion." That tells me that a distinct kicking motion is an action that is taken. A deliberate action.

Hockey is a fast game. I sincerely doubt any hockey player in the process of falling down can -- in a fraction of a second -- make a determination of "Hey, a puck! I can't get a stick on it, but if I just kick at it..." and take said action.

I defy you to give me a sound argument to the contrary.

In short, you guys are freaking idiots.

Not just for having a War Room where a "distinct kicking motion" might as well be determined by a "distinct coin-flipping motion," but for the fact that we should even be talking about this rule.

So, here's my proposal: You guys have no problem getting rid of a rule if it causes controversy and and gets people to the point where they just won't stop bitching about it.

For example… I give you the 1999 Stanley Cup final. Dallas versus Buffalo. Your infamous "skate in the crease" rule... in which, essentially, if there was an attacking player's skate in the crease when a goal was scored, that goal was disallowed, whether it had any bearing on the play or not.

However, Brett Hull's skate was clearly in the crease when he scored the Cup-winning goal in the third OT in Game 6. You counted it. Dallas won the Stanley Cup, and Buffalo is probably still pissed at you.

THEN... so as to avoid any further controversy the "in the crease" rule disappeared.

Like the original actress playing Roseanne's older daughter (although Sarah Chalke was a step up... rrrrowr).

Like Charlie Harper on Two and a Half Men... after Charlie Sheen started "winning," "tiger blood" and all that other stuff in between eight-balls of coke, and his character drove off a cliff.

So, gentlemen... might I humbly suggest that we send this whole "distinct kicking motion" bull$#!+ to the same lock box containing the "in the crease" rule, Charlie Harper, actress-who's-less-hot-than Sarah Chalke, and the CBJ's Boomer mascot.

This is not about the Columbus Blue Jackets' winning streak. It's not about the loss.

It's about the fact that this is a rule that is open to interpretation by individuals relying only on their eyes and not common sense. Or in Jenner's case, physics.

That's my interpretation, anyway.

It is time to consider whether any goal should be allowed in off a skate. That is something that you can definitely make a solid judgment call based on video replay: If the puck goes in off an attacking player's skate, under any circumstances... no goal.

If the puck goes in off a defending player's skate... oh well. $#!+ happens. Move on.

Plain and simple.

You're welcome.

Cheers,
Martini

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Streak Ends, But Not Entirely

It ended quickly.

It ended miserably.

However, the seven-game losing streak by the Columbus Blue Jackets did not end with a mind-numbing, spirit-crushing splat.

However, it did end controversially... and probably shouldn't have ended at all.

But it did.

Big picture... it ended with one point. And the Jackets can live with that. They have to.

A slow effort out of the gate was only one shot on goal through the first God-knows-how-many minutes, and the Jackets were probably lucky to just be down 2-0 after a period. Even in that situation, however, you could sense this was not going to stand, with the Jackets having bounced back from situations like these in the early games of the streak. Resilience has become a hallmark of sorts for this team, with the roster getting healthier and more regulars coming back.

It also helps that the Capitals took some undisciplined penalties -- I would hate to see Barry Trotz' mood at practice today -- that helped the Jackets get back in it, courtesy of power-play goals by Jack Johnson and Nick Foligno in the second. Then the Capitals completely lost their cool, and we saw three pairs of fighting majors in the period.

Suddenly, a game that threatened to be one of those blowout losses that sucks the life out of the streaking team, was back to a whole new game for the last 20 minutes.

Foligno would find the net again, not even a minute into the third, to give the Jackets their first lead at 3-2. But Karl Alzner tied it up six minutes later.

What should have been the game-winning goal by Michael Chaput was an absolute beauty, as he reached out for a rebound from a shot by Jared Boll, and put it home past Braden Holtby.

To look at the celebration involved afterwards, you would think he had just scored a game-winner in overtime, a la Kevin Connauton against Philly a couple weeks back.

The sad truth is, it probably should have been the game winner, except for the fact that the Toronto war room is being relied on to make decisions it really should not make. But that's another matter of discussion altogether.

Troy Brouwer's legitimized skate-goal set up the tie, and the OT winner by Eric Fehr, and the win streak is now simply a point streak.

But, honestly... in the big picture, I can't bitch.

Except for that "other matter of discussion" thing.

Oh, and there's the John Carlson punch to Ryan Johanson's head that didn't get called, even though the video seems to indicate there was an official maybe 20 feet away. The league is reviewing and might do something about it. But I don't put much faith in the league, anyway.

The Jackets set themselves up for disaster, but bounced back, and they are still on track for getting themselves back in contention. They gained ground, but not as much as they needed in a four-point division game. They now sit seven points out of the playoff spot, whether it's a Wild Card or a Metro spot.

As December began, the Jackets were nine games below .500, and needed an estimated 16-6 record before the All-Star Break to get above 500. 14-6-2 was another number I tossed out there. Well, a 7-0-1 record in the first eight games of that stretch takes a nice bite out of that.

Keep in mind, I was just talking about getting to 500. In light of the last three weeks, who knows what this team can accomplish in the next five?

The next four games are at home, and then the Jackets will spend seven of the next 10 on the road before the All-Star Break. The home games will not be easy -- that's Chicago on the schedule next... followed by Nashville, Boston and Minnesota.

But you could hear it on TV last night (obviously if you were there, you could), as the crowd rallied with the "C-B-J" chant. You could hear it in last Saturday's thriller against Pittsburgh, too, when "C-B-J" drowned out "Let's Go Pens." And we all know how loud and obnoxious those Pens fans can be.

Hell, they're worse during the National Anthem.

But you can hear it. It's there.

Nationwide Arena is our barn again, kids. And this team is feeding off of that energy.

It's a steep climb, but this team is making that climb.

I still believe.

See you Saturday.

Go Jackets!

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Friday, December 12, 2014

Stress... Relief

41 shots against.

40-freaking-one... shots against.

Almost half of those on the power play.

That was how many shots Columbus Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky faced on Thursday night against the Washington Capitals. Carrying a four-game win streak into Washington, the Blue Jackets made it scary from the get-go against the third-place Capitals -- getting some good work out time for the penalty kill, making three trips to the penalty box inside of the first five minutes of the game. It was no wonder why the Caps were out shooting the Jackets nine or 10 to 1 at one point.

And yet the Jackets bounced back in the first period, beginning to take some control of the game and managing to get the puck on net to avoid losing control of the game early. It paid off, as Nick Foligno took a pass from Brian Gibbons and put a snapshot past Braden Holtby from beyond the top of the slot to tie the game at one. The Jackets were still outshot 13-6.

However, they seemed to carry some good momentum into the second. But then they still struggled to generate chances and shots, as they were outshot 15 to 4 in the second. The 15 saves that Bobrovsky made in that period kept he score knotted at one.

The Jackets would wake up in the third, though, and match the Capitals shot for shot, and the two teams exchanged goals in the middle of the period. First, Troy Brouwer put the caps up 2-1. But then there was Kevin Connauton again -- a game after scoring the game winner in OT against Philadelphia -- with the clutch goal as he sent a wrister past Holtby to tie it up with about nine minutes to go.

So, for those scoring at home... 11 shots, 10 saves by Sergei Bobrovsky in the third period.

However, of all the saves the Bobrovsky made, the two biggest ones were in the overtime.

Just seconds into a Columbus power play with former Jacket Jason Chimera sitting in the box, Brooks Orpik came out of his own zone and streaked down the ice with Jay Beagle for a two-on-one with Bobrovsky. The first save on Orpik... there it was, but...

...well, you know that moment when you see the rebounding puck float into the slot... and it's going in this nightmarish, excruciating slow motion toward a hockey player's stick...?

Well... the puck was doing that right toward Jay Beagle's stick.

And as it did so, Bobrovsky's left leg was sliding its way towards his left post -- ever-so-slightly faster -- to make a pad save that preserved the Jackets for another 1:20, when leading scorer Foligno took a pass from Jack Johnson and slapped it past Holtby to take the Jackets to their fifth straight win.

I would imagine the dialogue during that last hug had to go something like "Dude...." "Duuuude."

With a knowing look in both Bob's and Nick's eyes, of "Holy crap... we just did it again...?"

Not the most imposing presence on the ice by a team, one would suppose. But the two points counted. To keep the streak going to six, it will take a game that more resembles the win over Tampa Bay, than the one last night, or the one against Florida, because those are the division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins taking the Nationwide Arena ice tomorrow.

While the Blue Jackets need to be sharper, they are still headed in the right direction: Up.

And between the current five-game winning streak and the first game against Pittsburgh since last year's first-round series, the Jackets shouldn't have any problems finding motivation for this one.


See you Saturday.

Go Jackets!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Dude. Really...?

Honestly, I was going to let it go. It was tough, and I do carefully weigh these kinds of things before I butt in with my opinion, but--

Oh, who the hell am I kidding... I couldn't shut up about something like this if I tried. And I usually don't try anyway.

I didn't read the paper on Sunday... and honestly, I take the Columbus Dispatch's Blue Jackets coverage with a grain of salt, because otherwise if I took it too seriously I probably be balled up in a corner somewhere in a deep depression. Between Aaron Portzline's "doom and gloom stat of the evening" on Twitter when the Jackets are trailing, and Michael Arace's "Well, try to time to pack in the season" candor... well, I think many of us intentionally avoid unpleasant things, because they do is no good.

But I decided to catch up on headlines on Monday before going into work, and sure enough there was Arace's latest bummer in which the headline actually proclaims, "Hey Jackets: Playing for the draft is an option," This... feeling welled up inside me, and two words escaped my lips...

Mother. Fudge.

Only I didn't say "fudge."

And my first thought after that -- well, after I said three more words ("Yep. Typical Arace") -- was that someone's mom needed to go full-Christmas Story on his ass.

[Obviously parody... not to be taken seriously. Lighten up. *wink*]
subpar PhotoShop skills provided by yours truly

Keep in mind, this Arace column was published after the Blue Jackets had won their third straight game, and over the NHL's best team at the time.

Then, after last night's win… I got a little more frustrated. And because, as long-time readers already know, I rarely shut up about stuff like this. So...

An open letter to Michael Arace of the Columbus Dispatch

Good Sir:

It was with confusion, and eventually frustration, but I had a chance to take in your Sunday column, in which you seems to take some words from CBJ President of Hockey Operations John Davidson somewhat out of context, and to suggest that the team "playing for the draft" is an option.

When Mr. Davidson mentioned that the ownership is "very supportive" of working through the Jackets current situation "especially without getting impulsive and discarding the future"…

... where in the hell did you get "Okay, if we lose a couple more guys to injury, let's pull a Disney Crosby-style swan dive and get Connor McDavid"?

And then to go on and talk about what a commitment it is to tank... how it takes hard work and a drive to turn in a half-assed effort for the remaining 4 1/2 months of the season... to get the most ping-pong balls in the hopper and hope that the Hockey Gods don't screw Columbus over again.

Sure. I get your point in a sense. The Penguins tanked to get Evgeni Malkin, then Disney Crosby , then Jordan Staal... then went on and built an pseudo-empire.

But look at the Edmonton Oilers. Maybe "tanking" is kind of a strong word for whatever the hell they're doing in Edmonton with all their top draft picks amassed over the past few years... but their failure to get some decent goaltending on their team at least implies they're sure as hell not trying very hard.

Remember when the Jackets "Failed For Nail"?

Remember how that worked out?



I still remember reading the comments from gloating Oilers fans who looooooooved watching Columbus get hosed by the Gods, and getting their third-straight #1 draft pick.

They're still watching a $#!+ty hockey team.

I know that covering the last few years of the Hartford Whalers' existence before they left town was probably not an entirely fun thing for you in the mid- to late-90s. I totally get it and I know that for some -- myself included -- a little bit of cynicism and snark in honest commentary is to be expected.

But the mere suggestion of tanking, and even endorsing that as a potential option is just endorsing a copout.

Tanking is for quitters.

Quitting is for guys like Rick Nash, who don't deal with adversity very well, and just decide to not put in the work anymore.

And as I watched the bench clear to tackle Kevin Connauton last night after his game-winning goal, I saw that team that went bat$#!+ crazy in Game Four of the First Round last year.

I saw a team that seems to think that it can win, regardless of how foolish you clearly seem to imply such a thought is.

That Neutrogena-looking stuff pictured above looks pretty harsh, so... please feel free to tweet me which bar soap you prefer for washing out your mouth, and I shall send it to you posthaste.

Seriously. I'll be happy to do it. Merry Christmas.

Cheers,
Martini

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