November 15, 2010

Why Colin Campbell will continue to be the NHL's sheriff

On the heels of Tyler Dellow leaking emails (cached version here if site's still down) between Colin Campbell, NHL VP Mike Murphy, now Director of Officiating Terry Gregon, and former NHL Director of Officiating Stephen Walkom that were part of a court case involving former official Dean Warren, the blogosphere is lighting up in screams of joy and beginning to decorate for a "going away party" for the League's discipline czar.

The problem is, well, the NHL won't fire Campbell over these emails. In fact, he'll likely never be fired.

If the media backlash to some of his decisions regarding supplemental discipline haven't been cause for a change in the position, emails from him commenting on specific players won't be a smoking gun to send Campbell his pink slip.

Dellow unearthed the emails from CanLII, a Canadian legal site where you can search for various court cases (like this one involving former NHL goalie Vincent Riendeau v. the NHLPA). Robert Cribb of the Toronto Star originally reported on these emails in regards to the Warren case a year ago, so they've been out there for a while as part of the case.

You don't think Gary Bettman and Bill Daly, both with legal pasts, weren't briefed with what was going on with Warren?

Barring Campbell going all Brendan Fraser in "Airheads" and taking over the XM radio studios above the NHL Store in New York City to defend himself, he'll remain the man in charge of discipline until he decides to walk away.

We know how terrible and inconsistent Campbell's been at the job. Hell, two hits last season (Booth, Savard) that went unpunished were the basis for an entire rule change for this season.

The continual outrage towards Campbell will never end and if you're still invested at this point when a decision is handed down, do what I do: expect to be disappointed, therefore you won't be disappointed at all.

Photo credit Canadian Press via The Hockey News

November 7, 2010

Bill Guerin still needs a job, right?

When Pittsburgh Penguins GM Ray Shero signed Mike Comrie over the summer the reaction -- after the "He's still around?" questions -- was that it was a good risk for the team to take. Signing Comrie to a one-year, $500,000 deal was one of those "low risk/high reward" deals you see often. If Comrie meshed well with the team and put up decent numbers, it would be a victory for both sides. Should Comrie struggle and fail to rebound from a few down years, then it was an inexpensive failure on Shero's part.

We're now 15 games into the season and after spending most of his ice time next to Evgeni Malkin, Mark Letestu and Sidney Crosby on separate lines, Comrie has only produced five assists. He's had numerous opportunities to notch his first goal of the season ... solid goal scoring chances and he's only managed 1.5 shots/game.

Given that the Penguins are in the midst of some struggling and the situation on the wings is always a testy subject, isn't it time for a Bill Guerin return to the 'Burgh?

Guerin spent the past season and a half playing alongside Crosby and in 95 regular season games, the old man put up 26 goals and 57 points. Guerin's 21 goals last season tied him with Jordan Staal for third-best on the team. Factor in that he's an incredibly good presence in the locker room, able to keep things loose when times get tough (like this current stretch) and well, he can score goals, the move would work.

With little room under the salary cap and the fact that we're nearing the quarter-pole of the NHL season and no team has offered Guerin a deal, you'd think Shero could get him cheaply; maybe not as cheap as Comrie, but something that won't hamstring the Penguins if they wanted to make another trade deadline move.

Guerin, seeing his career ending in the not-so-distant future, would get one (or two) last chances to win another Stanley Cup and the Penguins would get a winger who's clicked with Crosby and is certainly a better option right now than Comrie, even if he turns 40 years old this Tuesday.

Photo credit Associated Press

November 2, 2010

If Brent Johnson keeps winning, it's not a controversy

Brent Johnson: 5-0-1
Marc-Andre Fleury: 1-5-0

It's November 2nd. No need to freak out.

That's the benefit of Johnson's success so far this season. He's kept the Pittsburgh Penguins afloat as Fleury goes through a tough opening stretch. If Johnson was mediocre while Fleury struggled, the New Jersey Devils' fanbase would have company on the bridge.

What Johnson has done is give Fleury time to work through his issues. In six starts, Johnson has yet to give up more than two goals, while Fleury has yet to give less than three in his six starts.

The topic of Fleury has been raging among Penguins fans for years, even with a Stanley Cup ring and game-saving stop in the dying seconds of Game 7 in 2009. It seems to be a never-ending debate unless he seemingly wins 50 games a season and doesn't have multi-game losing streaks during the course of a year. And with all of the debate around Fleury, who would his detractors want to replace him (reasonably) in the Penguins net with? Tough to come up with some names.

This situation is sorta kinda like what happened in 2008 when Fleury went down with a high-ankle sprain and Ty Conklin took over. With the former No. 1 overall pick out for six weeks, Conklin took the reigns, put up MVP-type numbers and helped guide the team to an Atlantic Division title. Fleury would pick things up and bring the Pens to the Cup Final against Detroit.

While Fleury isn't hurt this time around, it's another credit to Ray Shero and the moves he's made as Pens' GM. Johnson has been primarily a backup for almost a decade in the NHL and in his past three seasons (including '10-11) with Pittsburgh and Washington, he's has posted a 27-12-4 record. The record shows that when given the opportunity to let the team's No. 1 get a breather or take a night off to rebound, he gets the job done.

In Pittsburgh right now, it's the same situation, except if he keeps doing what he's doing, his opportunity will be much more than a game or two at a time.

Photo credit Associated Press via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette