Three Stars of Comedy
The third star: Taylor Hall – His slow-but-sure transformation into one of the league's better (and meaner) personalities continues.
The second star: Brad Marchand – He's tweeting out video games memes and pumping the tires of the next generation.
The first star: Kings vs. Karlsson – Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty are good here, but the real star is Dustin Brown.
Wait. Do we… do we like Brad Marchand and Dustin Brown now? I know it's 2017 and nothing makes sense anymore, but that feels like a bridge too far.
Outrage of the Week
The issue: On Monday night in Toronto, Kings goalie Jonathan Quick was bumped in his crease and fell to the ice holding his head. That triggered a bizarre sequence of events in which he was allowed to stay in the game, then pulled, then put back in, then pulled again before finally returning—all without ever actually being checked for a concussion. The outrage: The NHL's concussion spotter program is a mess. Is it justified: The Monday night debacle got plenty of attention, partly because it happened in Toronto and the game was one of only two being played that night. But it sure seemed to highlight some glaring holes in the league's concussion protocol. How can a player get hit in the head, fall down clutching his head, be slow to get to his feet, and not immediately be pulled for further evaluation?
As it turns out, the league has an answer—sort of. And it all goes back to an issue we flagged back in the playoffs: The NHL's spotter policy is way too specific about what does and doesn't trigger a player's removal. In this case, there was a question over whether Quick was hit with a shoulder (which does trigger the policy) or a stick (which for some reason does not). That's why the back-and-forth played out, and why the Kings ultimately didn't actually need to take Quick back to the dressing room for an evaluation.
Clearly, that doesn't make any sense, especially when it comes to goaltenders. Under the current rules, a goalie could get hit in the mask with a point-blank Shea Weber slapshot and go down holding his head without needing to come out. The same is true if he's kneed in the face during a scramble, or clubbed over the back of the head with a stick. The lines of distinction here are a problem, just like they were with Sidney Crosby back in May.
For his part, Quick insists that he was fine all along, and the whole thing was a waste of time. Maybe he's right. It's quite possible that he was only momentarily shaken up, or maybe just trying that old goaltending trick of embellishing contact to try to draw a whistle. (If so, given how things played out, goalies around the league may want to rethink that strategy.)
But there's a bigger question here, and it's one that most of us probably don't want to acknowledge. A forward or defenseman can be pulled from the game and head to the room for an evaluation, and if all is well, they might miss a shift or two. But a goalie coming out of the game, leaving his backup to come in cold, is a much bigger deal. So should the concussion protocol rules even apply to goaltenders? Or at least, should they apply in the same way?
The easy answer here is yes, of course they should, since a goaltender's brain isn't somehow concussion-proof just because of the position he plays. If the rules are about player safety, then you apply them across the board, and if teams don't like it then too bad.
Except the concussion protocol rules aren't about player safety, at least not entirely. If they were, players would be pulled out of the game for evaluation every time they were involved in a collision of any kind, since we know that concussions can result from virtually any significant contact. If we were really focused on safety above all else, there'd be a constant stream of players heading in and out of the dressing room all game long.
But there isn't, because the protocol rules are trying to strike a balance between enhancing player safety and minimizing disruption. That why goalies are so tricky; they throw the equation out of whack. And it's why they seem to be treated differently when it comes to concussions—remember Golden Knights goalie Marc-Andre Fleury taking a knee to the head, finishing the game, and then being placed on injured reserve?
Again, maybe the answer here is to just enforce the same rules for everyone and live with the consequences, even if it means that goalies have to come out every now and then. Given what we know about the long-term impact of head injuries, that seems like a pretty reasonable position. Just remember that if that's the standard you want to apply to Jonathan Quick in the first period on Monday, it also applies to your favorite team's goalie in overtime of a game seven.
Obscure Former Player of the Week
It's almost Halloween, and you're probably in the mood for a scary story. If so, you'll appreciate this week's Obscure Player: early-90s winger Steven King.
King was a college star who spent four years shining at Brown, and was selected by the Rangers in 1991 as part of the (now defunct) supplemental draft. He was the best pick in that draft, which sounds impressive but isn't saying much; only three other players taken ever made the NHL, and they combined for just 19 games between them. King spent most of the next two years in the AHL, but got a shot with the Rangers in December, 1992. He started strong, scoring in each of his first four NHL games, including third-period winners in both ends of a home-and-home against the Lightning.
He cooled off from there, scoring just three times in 20 more games. But he apparently impressed the Mighty Ducks, who took him in that summer's expansion draft. He'd dress for 36 games in the Ducks inaugural season, including the opener, and scored a goal in the franchise's first-ever win. He ended up with eight goals before his season ended in misery when he suffered a serious shoulder injury.
That injury was about it for King in the NHL. He missed the following season, and played just seven more games for the Ducks in 1995-96. But he had success in the AHL and IHL, including a 40-goal season with the Baltimore Bandits and a triple-OT winner in the 1999 Calder Cup final. He retired in 2000, and later tried a short jaunt into coaching.
He has never been photographed with Canucks minor league goalie Richard Bachman.
Be It Resolved
The Montreal Canadiens are struggling. After coming into the season looking like a contender to win the Atlantic, the team face-planted out of the gate. They can't score, their star goalie is struggling, the captain is beating himself up, and the team has spent most of the season within a point or two of last place in the Eastern Conference. Their season is slipping away. And so this week, general manager Marc Bergevin stepped up and did what he had to do.
No, he didn't make a big move to turn his team's season around. Don't be silly. A trade? In the NHL? Is this your first day here?
No, instead Bergevin played the most well-worn card in a modern-day GM's deck: Bravely vowing not to make a "panic move".
That sound you hear is a million or so frustrated Canadiens fans all breathing a sigh of relief in unison. They were probably lying awake at night, worried their GM was going to sprint into the office, make a trade, pull the fire alarm and then jump out the window, all while flailing his arms like Beeker from the muppets. Luckily, Bergevin set them straight.
This is well-worn ground around these parts by now, where we've been pointing out (and making fun of) the timid excuse-making of risk averse GMs for years. And to be clear, this isn't meant as some sort of shot at Bergevin, who's merely reading straight from the pages of the modern GM's manual. This week, it happens to be him. Next week, it will probably be Jeff Gorton or John Chayka or someone else.
But since it seems like NHL GMs could use an early-season reminder, let's offer one here: There has literally never been a fan in the history of hockey who wants his team to make a panic move. That pressure doesn't exist. It's made up, just like the fans who want you to "make a trade just for the sake of making a trade."
When you get in front of a microphone and announce that you're not going to make a panic move, you're not telling us anything of value. You seem to think you are. You seem to think that you're projecting confidence, and that we'll be impressed by your steely resolve in the face of adversity. I can assure you that we are not. When we hear you start to mumble about panic moves, all we hear is some variation of I am all out of ideas and would really like it if everyone would just leave me alone.
As fans, we know that the salary cap complicates everything. We know that when things are bad, other GMs throw you anvils instead of lifejackets. We know that making midseason roster moves is hard. Our jobs are hard sometimes too. We still have to do them.
So be it resolved: NHL GMs, enough with the "no panic moves" nonsense. If you can't or won't make a move and feel the need to justify it, just say that you're looking at all avenues to improve the team but that nothing is imminent right now. Irons in the fire, that sort of thing. Even if it's not true, it will at least make it sound like you're trying. Fans tend to like that sort of thing.
But spare us the lectures about panic moves. They're not a thing, and never have been.
Classic YouTube Clip Breakdown
The NHL found itself in an unusual position last week, when they had to admit that they screwed up an instant replay review. It turns out they misread their own rule, and took a goal off the board that should have counted.
As you can imagine, people weren't impressed. But let's give the league a break. After all, they've only had replay reviews for… uh, well over three decades.
- It's the 1985-86 season, and the NHL is looking for ways to improve its officiating. They've got a half-million dollars to spend, and one of their ideas is instant replay review. But it's still experimental, because the league wants to get it right. After all, the worst thing you could do is bring in a new replay rule and find out everyone hates it.
- I have no idea who this anchor is, but I like him. He seems earnest. And I like how he's going old school and just reading his intro off a piece of paper in front of him. He's no Sugar Joe Tilley, but he's alright.
- I'm also enjoying the NHL logo, superimposed on a background of NHL logos. I think this story might be about the NHL, you guys.
- We start off with a cool clip. It's a disputed Mike Gartner goal, and referee Dan Marouelli is wearing a mic so we get to hear the entire conversation between officials and captains as they try to sort out what happened. Special credit to veteran linesman Gord Broseker, who is clearly trying to tell Marouelli he messed up without using those specific words.
- Marouelli is pretty confident the puck was in, even telling Brian Sutter he had "perfect vision." When Sutter keeps chirping, Marouelli hits him with "Why would I lie to you, I was in perfect position." Maybe don't oversell it here, Dan.
- Hey, we all thought that Dan Marouelli kind of looked like David Bowie, right? That wasn't just me? Cool.
- Our reporter is Brian MacFarlane, who must have caught up with John Davidson for most YouTube section appearances by now. He serves up a slow-motion replay of the Gartner goal, which shows that it wasn't a goal at all. It clearly rings off the crossbar, meaning Marouelli did lie to Sutter. But why?
- NHL VP of Officiating Ian Morrison is here to outline some of the league's concerns, including camera positioning. He explains that it's crucial to have working cameras in every building in the league, before adding "Although I suppose we could probably get away with not having them in Buffalo during the Stanley Cup final, right?"
- There are other concerns, including the time it would take to get the call right. I can't decide if it's reassuring or not to hear the same arguments being made in 1985 that we still have today. But we do get a neat look at hockey's first ever replay review, from an exhibition game between Team Canada and Michigan State. "The replay showed the referee's decision to be absolutely correct." Was that so hard, Marouelli?
- We cut to an interview with Toronto captain Rick Vaive, who supports the idea. Then comes a fantastic clip of the Leafs getting screwed over by a goal judge in New York, which leads to goalie Don Edwards going over to bang on the glass and point at his eyes. Sadly, he does not break out this move.
- Referee Kerry Fraser ends up counting the goal, one of three scored by Bob Brooke in a 7-3 Rangers win. Years later, the Leafs would get some payback against Brooke. Fraser, not so much.
- MacFarlane ends his report with an extended sequence of furious players and coaches, highlighted by a leaping Chico Resch. I miss when guys would have full-on meltdowns during NHL games. I think every team should get one per game. And if you turn out to be right about the call, you get it back, just like your challenge.
- Sadly, we never circle back to Marouelli. I really wanted to see what the final call was, and what kind of closure he got with Sutter. Even if it counted, it's still not the worst disputed goal call the Sutter boys will ever see.
- And we end up with our earnest anchor, who informs us that a final decision on using replay is still to come. But he can assure us of one thing: The league will only ever use replay to determine if the puck has gone in the net. That makes sense. After all, if you started reviewing other calls, you might screw it up.
Have a question, suggestion, old YouTube clip, or anything else you'd like to see included in this column? Email Sean at firstname.lastname@example.org .