Saturday, 19 November 2011

It's been a long time coming

The last couple of weeks have been crazy busy and I haven’t had much time to get on here. I have, however, been keeping up with events in the NHL as best I can and just wanted to share my two pence worth on a few ‘issues’ that have sparked debate in the last couple of weeks.

Flyers @ Lightning

There was much discussion following the Flyers unusual tactics in this game - particularly as it was being screened on TV across America. While there have been calls to change the rules to stop this kind of play I have to say I don’t have a problem with it. I suppose it depends which way you look at it – is the sport an entertainment business or a results business?

If it’s entertainment then obviously these kind of tactics do not lend themselves to high scoring, fast paced games. I’d never seen anything like this before in my fledgling NHL watching career so it was a surprise to me, but if I’m honest not one that I think should be outlawed.

There appears to be a lot of pressure on North American sports to provide entertainment – far more so than there is over here. I can’t tell you how many awful, awful 0-0 or 1-0 football matches I’ve been to. But for me, sometimes that’s sport. In the Premier League the smaller teams will frequently set up defensively against the bigger clubs, hoping to earn a draw and a point rather than going on the attack and losing five or six nil. For me the Flyers were just using tactics that they felt would best helpt them to win the game – which surely has to be the ultimate objective. If the coach paraded exciting, end to end hockey each game but lost 9-8 every time fans would soon be calling for his head. In my opinion if the coach feels that is the best way to go about winning the match then so be it.

To an extent you could compare it to the way Stoke City play in the Premier League over here. For anyone that hasn’t seen them they employ a midfielder (Rory Delap) who has an unusually long throw and whenever the opportunity arises they pack the area in front of the keeper and let Delap chuck it in there and see what happens. It’s hardly beautiful to watch, but more often than not the ball ends up in the back of the net and they get results. In my opinion, while sport does obviously entertain, it is ultimately a results businesses and coaches and players should do whatever they can – within the laws of the game – to win.

Milan Lucic on Ryan Miller

Another contentious incident from the last couple of weeks was the Milan Lucic hit on Ryan Miller and the fact that Lucic escaped suspension from ‘Sheriff Shanahan’. This is difficult for me to comment on having a pretty small frame of reference on these kind of things, but for what it’s worth I don’t think the hit was worthy of a suspension. Miller had made the decision to come out of his net and must have known he was on a collision course with Lucic and the end result was inevitable. Goal tenders certainly need protection, but when they come out of their area in this kind of situation they need to be prepared to go head to head with the attacker. In football goalkeepers are far too protected these days - if any forward goes up for a challenege with a keeper 99 times out of 100 the goalie will win a free-kick.

What was mind boggling was the lack of retribution that was dished out on Miller’s behalf on the ice directly afterwards. I should imagine the next game between the Bruins and the Sabres will be a little bit spicy!

Consistently inconsistent

Frustrating. Pretty much sums up what watching the Canucks is like right now. I’ve managed to have seen at least highlights of every game so far this season and it’s impossible to predict which Canucks side is going to turn up. The defense has struggled throughout the season – perhaps down to the changing partnerships and lack of consistency of the line up.

Going forward the team has really only fired in four or five games. I’ve been particularly disappointed with what I’ve seen from Ryan Kesler so far this season. I know he’s coming back from injury so he must be given time, but to date he hasn’t been influential during games and the second line has struggled to pick up the slack when the Sedin line isn't firing.

Some people are already saying we will be lucky to scrape into the play-offs, but it’s still early in the season and I’m confident that at some point we will get on a run and push on up the conference table. I can but hope!

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