SUN Hockey Pool

Taunting a blemish on the NHL

BILL LANKHOF, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 6:59 PM ET

When it comes to the NHL wars, the Toronto Maple Leafs can’t win. Maybe they’ll have better luck in the Battle of Carcillo.

This is a team four points from being mistaken for a doormat, one that has just lost in embarrassing fashion to the last-place Carolina Hurricanes.

The Leafs are in the midst of a streak that includes two wins in 11 games, the offence is AWOL, the penalty killing is abysmal, the coach is calling out his players. Confidence is lower than a rattlesnake’s belly in a wagon-wheel rut and the team, maybe the entire city, has a mad on over Dan Carcillo.

”I’m not speaking about Carcillo,” coach Ron Wilson told the media as the team prepared for its rematch with Philadelphia. “We have other important things to worry about.”

Geez. No kidding. Like snapping a four-game losing streak would be nice.

So what’s the solution? Evidently it involves calling up Jay Rosehill. He has two points and 122 penalty minutes in 23 games with the Marlies. An offensive thoroughbred he is not but he might be able to hit Carcillo on the nose.

Satisfaction for the Leafs has come to this.

Not sure it’ll do much to right the sinking ship, though.

Wilson’s announcement came after the team worked on tip drills, line rushes and breakouts but did refrain from actually having anyone dress up as a Carcillo punching bag.

“We want more of a physical presence in our lineup especially against the Flyers. We didn’t like how the game went in Philadelphia and we want to be more physical,” Wilson said.

That game in Philadelphia sits like a boil in the Leafs’ psyche.

“They have a tough team in Philly. Things got a bit rambunctious in their building. Certainly we don’t want to be pushed around, definitely at home," Jamal Mayers said. “Maybe they’re trying to get back to the old Philly style hockey but I kind of enjoy that style anyway.”

It was after that 6-2 loss that Wilson questioned the game of both Phil Kessel and Alexei Ponikarovsky.

It was also that game which resulted in hockey people questioning the very heart of this team, resurrecting the tiresome debate about whether stupidity and juvenile behaviour deserves to be answered with a full-scale brawl normally reserved for the WWE. With Mayers and Colton Orr also in the lineup Thursday’s rematch could look like a throwback to the the Broad St. Bullies.

“I’m sure there are fans that crave that type of hockey. The fans here understand the game, they have a good memory,” said Mayers. “They don’t mind that type of game ... we’ll stick together when we need to.”

Carcillo played the opening gambit a week ago when he scored, mocked the Leafs’ bench, fought Mayers, and finally made a throat slash gesture at assistant coach Keith Acton.

“Whenever you think there’s going to be a rodeo sometimes it turns out to be nothing,” said Jeff Finger. “I don’t think it’s a matter of knocking the crap out of them. It’s just a matter of showing up the next time and competing and trying not to be embarrassed. That’s the No. 1 thing.”

Carcillo was fined for the slash gesture, as he should be. Other than that, Carcillo’s reaction wasn’t much different than the chest-pounding and “look-at-me” goofiness evident every NFL weekend.

The suggestion by hockey traditionalists is that the best way to keep disrespect, not to mention violence, out of the game, is to employ an enforcer.

They’ve only been trying that since the league started in 1917-18 and it hasn’t stopped anyone from Howie Young, to Ken Linseman, Dave Schultz to John Avery and John Kordic from behaving badly.

Maybe the NHL needs to change focus; change the rules of engagement.

Somehow I’m thinking a five-minute major for taunting, if there were such a thing, would make guys like Carcillo shut up a lot quicker than a fat lip.

Maybe then the Leafs could get back to figuring out how to win a hockey game rather than a spitting contest.


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