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Monday, October 29, 2007

Burnside Article

I have been known to dislike Scott Burnside from ESPN, but I read this article and I really liked it.


Scott Burnside

Oh, we know the drill.

Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Randy Jones offered heartfelt remorse for his hit on Patrice Bergeron that might have left the talented Boston forward paralyzed. It didn't. Bergeron has full range of motion, but the timetable for his return to the Bruins lineup is unknown (Boston is expected to say more on the matter Monday).

Did we mention Jones was sorry? Really sorry?

Just like Jesse Boulerice was sorry he nearly decapitated Ryan Kesler when he cross checked him in the face. And Steve Downie was exceptionally sorry after he headhunted Dean McAmmond of the Ottawa Senators during preseason.

Sorry, sorry, sorry.

The NHL season is not yet a month old, and three times the Flyers have had to answer for how one of their own has gone AWOL and committed an indefensible act against another team's player.

We acknowledge that Jones' hit on Bergeron doesn't compare to the brutality of the other two incidents, but let's not just pass this off as "just another hockey hit." To suggest this is the kind of hit that happens every night is to ignore the hit entirely.

Jones tracked Bergeron as he headed into the Flyers' zone. Bergeron's back was to Jones the entire time leading up to the hit, but Jones still used his forearm to drive Bergeron's head into the boards.

Rest assured: If a Flyer, let's say, Daniel Briere, had been on the other end of any one of these three assaults, the team would be screaming blue murder.

If the NHL responds as if this were just another hockey hit and penalizes Jones lightly or lets him off altogether, all the league's statements that it is serious about eliminating dangerous play would be rendered moot.

For all the praise being heaped on Flyers GM Paul Holmgren and coach John Stevens for turning around a Philadelphia franchise that finished dead last in 2006-07, these incidents suggest this franchise has no real control over its players.

What else are we to conclude from the fact that three players scouted and signed by the Flyers have engaged in behavior that could have ended players' careers?

The culture of recklessness in Philadelphia has been known for years, from the Broad Street Bullies on. It is part of the team's identity, whether anyone has tacitly endorsed it or not.

Holmgren himself is known as one of the toughest players ever.

At what point does the NHL say this culture has to change?
Patrice Bergeron sustained a concussion and broken nose when he was smashed into the boards from behind by Philadelphia's Randy Jones.

Apparently, two potentially devastating incidents weren't enough. Maybe a third will prompt some action.

Perhaps this is a good moment for the league to send a parallel message to its teams that if they can't control their players, then they too will be held accountable.

Earlier in its season, the NFL fined the New England Patriots and took away draft picks (depending on the team's regular-season finish) for spying on the New York Jets. That was a tough penalty, and no one got taken to the hospital.

The Flyers have essentially robbed their opponents of a chance to compete through their flagrant disregard for the rules. McAmmond has yet to play for the Senators. As for Bergeron, the most talented of the three victims, it is not overstating the case to suggest he is crucial to the Bruins' return to the playoffs. Now, Bergeron's return to action is in question and one wonders what effect it might have on the Bruins' strong start.

Why not impose a sliding scale that takes into account previous history? That's what NHL lord of discipline Colin Campbell does when he levies suspensions against players. You could start with a suspension of the coach for five games after a second serious incident. Then, if there's a third incident, start carving off draft picks; the more serious the incident, the higher the draft pick.
As for safety in the workplace, we happened to see Don Cherry on "Hockey Night in Canada" talking about cushioning the dasher boards in the wake of the Jones hit on Bergeron. The NHL has tested a cap system on Long Island last season, but there seems to be no indication it improves safety.

Maybe it's time to take another -- harder -- look.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

guys, how 'bout updating the sidebar stuff (i.e. standings, stats, get rid of the free agent wish list)

5:20 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

Yeah I have it on my to do list...I'll try to get it done by Friday. It takes awhile with the template crap.

7:38 PM  

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