After Atlanta coach Bob Hartley sent out his tough guys late in blowout losses to Toronto and Tampa Bay, resulting in violent incidents and suspensions to Andy Sutton and Eric Boulton, it renewed the debate over coaches being held liable for the actions of their players.
Should Hartley get the same six games that Boulton got for elbowing Tampa rookie Paul Ranger? Should Marc Crawford have been made to pay for the sins of Todd Bertuzzi?
Colorado coach Joel Quenneville says it's a fine line. On one hand, if it's late in a lopsided game and tempers are already being stretched to the limit, coaches should know better than to send out guys who are paid to stir up trouble. On the other hand, it's a good opportunity to get your fourth liners some valuable ice time while resting and protecting your skill guys.
"Players have a pretty good idea of their roles and what's expected of them, and you as a coach have a pretty good idea of what a guy might do in certain situations,'' said Quenneville. "If you see something coming, you might tell him be smart this shift or something like that, but it's tough to tell him not to go out there and do the things they normally do.
"A player has to be smart, too, knowing you're eligible to be suspended.''
A few years back the Avs were giving it to the Oilers and Hartley called a time out before a Colorado power play in the final minute. So Craig MacTavish sent Georges Laraque out on the PK. Laraque clubbed one of the Avs to the ice, there was a big melee and MacTavish got hit with a fine because the NHL viewed Laraque on the PK as an act of vengeance on MacTavish's part.
"He had killed a penalty before, but he was coming out of the box when he did it,'' said MacTavish. "That was my only saving grace - that I had 12 seconds of penalty kill to use in my defence.''
He says the onus also falls on the winning team not to run up the score. When the Avs were slapping Edmonton 7-1 last week, Quenneville had his fourth liners on the power play, he wasn't calling time out.
"That's old-school hockey,'' said MacTavish. "That's the way it always used to be. If you got blown out in a game, you had to turn it into a brawl. It was further motivation not to put your team in that predicament because you were going to have to put your (manhood) on the line.''
KEEPING THE FAITH: The new rules are really making it tough on NHL netminders. Cup winner Nikolai Khabibulin is fighting it in Chicago (3.90 GAA), Martin Brodeur is 3.61 GAA in Jersey, Marty Turco is 3.45 in Dallas and we don't have to tell you about Ty Conklin's struggles.
Manny Legace, Dominik Hasek and the Minnesota duo of Manny Fernandez and Dwayne Roloson aren't having any problems, but by and large the goaltenders union is getting lit up.
"Goalies are taking a lot more abuse in public opinion and in terms of goals and stats,'' said Turco, who had a career GAA of 1.95 heading into the season. "And I'd say 80 per cent of the goals are tips, screens or go in off somebody. You think you're playing pretty good and they've got three past you. It's crazy. It's entertaining hockey, we just seem to be the brunt of the joke.''
In the old days, trapping reduced the shots and the ones that did come were from shooters hurrying before they got slashed and grabbed. There weren't as many rebound goals because the forwards were getting cross-checked in the spine. No wonder that almost every goalie in the league looked like Ken Dryden. Now, because of the wide-open style, netminding has never been harder, or more important.
"At the end of the day it comes down to your goaltender,'' said Stars coach Dave Tippett. "Because there's a lot of chances out there.''
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STORYLINES OF THE WEEK
Today: Oilers at Predators: One of the coldest teams in the NHL against one of the hottest.
Today: Thrashers at Tampa: Bob Hartley and John Tortorella face off for the first time since Tort's set the single season record for beeps in an interview. It's the first game of a home and home series.
Nov. 4: Oilers at Blues: Chris Pronger returns to St. Louis.
Nov. 4: Thrashers at Caps: Ilya Kovalchuk takes on Alex Ovechkin in a battle of young Russian superstars.
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HE SAID WHAT?
"The linesman goes, 'What do we do.' I said, 'Well, I can't reach his face, you better come in.'
Ian Laperriere, on a conversation he had with the linesmen before they broke up his fight last week with six-foot-six Oilers defenceman Alex Semenov.