NHL needs to stick to punishment script

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:02 PM ET

Sometimes, it's so hard to figure out the NHL.

Often when players dish out a hard but clean, bodycheck, they have to be prepared for an opposing player to come at them looking to exact a pound of flesh.

The best example that comes to mind was early last season when Calgary Flames defenceman Mark Giordano lined up Edmonton Oilers rookie Taylor Hall but only got a piece of him because Hall jumped to avoid a check. The extent of Hall's damage was landing on his rear end.

However, Colin Fraser, who came onto the ice for a line change right after the hit, went straight to Giordano and dropped the gloves.

Yet when Boston Bruins forward Milan Lucic ran into Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller or the Montreal Canadiens' Brian Gionta cut across the crease and bumped into the Toronto Maple Leafs' James Reimer, nobody reacted to that degree on the ice.

It's good the league's GMs have decided to call that kind of contact more closely, but it all comes back to the goofy sense of self-policing we have in the pro game.

Goaltenders are not 'fair game' - although some of them sure take advantage of that freedom when they juke and jive with the puck, expecting forecheckers to go right by them - but aren't being protected by their teammates.

(That said, the hockey world will be on high alert when the Sabres and the Bruins meet again Nov. 23.)

Players should be protected, but it's messed up when antics we see from the likes of the Minnesota Wild's Cal Clutterbuck, the Buffalo Sabres' Patrick Kaleta (who Miller apparently doesn't realize crosses the line with regularity) and the Columbus Blue Jackets' Derek Dorsett run around on the ice with little reprisal and everyone takes offence to clean hits.

Worse yet is the league hands out deserved suspensions for as many things as it has this season, yet it lets Lucic get a free pass.

Sure, Lucic didn't want to clobber Miller, but he sure didn't seem to let up much.

And don't get me going on how big of a joke a three-game penalty is for St. Louis Blues forward Chris Stewart for his drilling of Detroit Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall.

Does this mean we're once again back to limiting suspensions because a player isn't hurt?

FLAMING C-NOTES

Now we know why the Flames scratched Niklas Hagman but played Pierre-Luc Leblond against the Minnesota Wild last week. The whole waiver process which resulted in Hagman going to the Anaheim Ducks was about to be set in motion, and the Flames didn't want to risk Hagman being injured.

The knock on Rene Bourque isn't just about offence, it's about how inconsistent he is at being a factor. When you see the way Bourque absolutely dominated the game against the Montreal Canadiens during last season's Heritage Classic at McMahon Stadium - two goals and 11 shots on goal - you can't help but ask why they don't happen more often, as in once a month.

It's not like Bourque should be expected to be a 40-goal scorer, but he can at least push for it. Jarome Iginla's high was 31 before netting 52 in that dominating 2001-02 season.

Here's the most basic way for the Flames power-play to start working: Start hustling to win puck battles and stop standing still.

HOCKEY TALKY

It's taken time, but the Boston Bruins sure look to have it in gear. Don't be shocked when they zoom to the top of their division, even if they've already played 13 of their 41 home games. That plus-19 goals-for/ goals-against after Thursday night's 2-1 shoot-out win over the Blue Jackets in Boston is proof the Bruins are a team ready to win.

Sure, other coaches will be talked about for coach of the year candidates - the Wild's Mike Yeo, the Pittsburgh Penguins' Dan Bylsma, the Dallas Stars' Glen Gulutzan and even the New York Rangers' prickly bench boss John Tortorella - but what an incredible job also by Phoenix Coyotes head man Dave Tippett.

Weren't the Coyotes supposed to disappear without quirky goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov? Not sure if the Edmonton Oilers are a playoff team, despite where they are today, but we're not going to write them off after losing three straight games to the Bruins, the Wings and the Chicago Blackhawks by a combined 15-6 score. All three of those clubs are good and getting in their grooves.

YOU DON'T SAY

"In these positions, it's tough not to bring home and think about it 24/7. When you're trying to help your franchise, that's a different kind of pressure."

-- Jackets captain Rick Nash

 

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @RandySportak


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