30 Thoughts: An easy fix for Dubinsky-Crosby incident

One has to imagine that the Department of Player Safety will be taking a look at Brandon Dubinsky after he took a two minute cross-checking penalty. By breaking his stick on the back of Sidney Crosby's head.

In the aftermath of Brandon Dubinsky’s one-game suspension for cross-checking Sidney Crosby, here’s the question: if that’s the supplemental discipline, would a better deterrent be throwing the offender out of the game?

Dubinsky was given a minor for breaking his stick on Crosby at 18:40 of the second period. It was still 0-0 at the time in a game the Blue Jackets needed to have. Dubinsky returned and was arguably the best player on the ice, his dominant overtime shift leading to Cam Atkinson’s winning goal.

Columbus lost the next night in St. Louis without him, but at least the team went at it with a full lineup.

If Dubinsky is tossed on Friday, the Blue Jackets play Pittsburgh a man short and the Penguins get the benefit of Crosby being free of his biggest pest for the third period and overtime. They also get a five-minute power play. The forward missing a game against the Blues doesn’t help the Penguins as much.

(One GM a few years ago complained about an offender not getting thrown out against his team, then getting suspended for games against clubs his organization needed to lose. This alleviates some of that problem.)

Something similar happened on Saturday night. At 11:43 of the second period, Nashville’s Viktor Arvidsson was given a major and a game misconduct for cross-checking Buffalo’s Carlo Colaiacovo. In slo-mo, it looked brutal, and thankfully, Colaiacovo escaped serious damage. In real time, you could see there was little intent as Arvidsson turned around, saw the Sabre and got his stick up because he expected to get hit.

But no one is going to blame an official for making that call at high speed. Arvidsson was careless, and his carelessness cost the Predators. Down 1-0, Buffalo scored twice on that power play en route to a 4-1 win. I couldn’t help but watch the outcomes of these two games and think this might be an effective strategy.

This comes at a time where the league and its officials are wrestling about replay, and who should have control over it. Privately, some of the stripes are concerned their influence is eroding. This is a way of handing it back.

The biggest hole in this argument is what happens if the penalty comes later in an already decided game or if the incident is particularly egregious. Yes, that’s when you have to turn it over to the Department of Player Safety for an extra level of justice.

But these two situations are examples of how this can work. Each game is so important. Getting thrown out of one — and the ensuing five-minute power play — is a major momentum shifter. Tough to sell carelessness to your teammates after that.

30 Thoughts

1. Most executives, coaches and players will tell you they recognize times have changed, that fighting is no longer a major deterrent, nor is it really a factor any more. That said, in informal conversations, several admitted privately that if any situation called for the strongest possible response, it was Dubinsky’s crosscheck to Crosby.

The guy who scored huge points was Evgeni Malkin, for fighting Jack Johnson. One GM said he wouldn’t want Malkin in the penalty box with Crosby temporarily out of the game, “but how can you fault him?”

2. Anders Nilsson on Malkin’s incredible (first) goal against the Oilers last Saturday. “For a moment, I thought I got lucky…the puck hit the crossbar and went up. Then I saw it in the net and said, (bleep).”

Asked for a different word we could actually use than (bleep), Nilsson smiled, thought about it and came up with, “Shoot.”

3. The Board of Governors’ meeting is next week in California. The NHL usually provides an early estimate on the next season’s cap number.

A couple of executives, asked what they are expecting, said the smart play is to be conservative. “You’re going to be happy if it goes up more than $1M,” one said.

4. Winnipeg’s Dustin Byfuglien-Travis Hamonic attempt doesn’t necessarily mean Byfuglien is “on the block.”

The number one thing to remember here is we don’t know the exact timing. Hamonic’s request was made months before it was reported. It’s unlikely such an offer came last week, for example.

Walk it through: Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff prefers not to trade Tyler Myers or Jacob Trouba. He probably guesses New York counterpart Garth Snow isn’t taking Byfuglien (a pending free agent) for Hamonic. But you try anyway. And, who knows what else may have been part of this deal, if anything.

Byfuglien would stay in Manitoba if the right deal is there, but my sense is it needs more term than the Jets currently are willing to give. This was one attempt by Winnipeg, but it may not mean anything in the greater context.

5. Byfuglien has some control over the situation, as he must submit a list of teams he can be traded to. Every team handles this differently, but it’s not unusual for clubs to see if a potential trade partner is interested before going to the player. If the Islanders say nada, there’s no need to ask.

6. Wouldn’t be surprised if Edmonton, the Islanders and St. Louis talked to see if there was a three-way match. Not sure how far it went, but it sounds like the window’s closed.

7. Not positive Columbus is 100 per cent going to trade Ryan Johansen. I do think GM Jarmo Kekalainen is testing his value.

Don’t be surprised to see several teams make multiple trips to Ohio —or elsewhere — specifically to watch him. Plenty of homework will be done here.

Number one centres are hard to find and rarely become available. My sense is this isn’t about the last negotiation; you have to put that behind you. But it is about the next one. He’s going to get paid, big. The question is: who will do it?

8. Prior to the Toronto game, one Edmonton player (not quoted here) said the group was challenged to be better against the NHL’s lower-ranked teams. Then, they laid an egg against the Maple Leafs. That’s pretty damning, especially with two in one week, as the Oilers were awful in a 4-1 loss to Carolina.

People can understand this is a work in progress, but they can’t understand — and shouldn’t accept — poor efforts. Especially when there have been stronger performances against better opponents that give the organization hope.

9. When Peter Chiarelli comes out and says he’s not making a panic trade, there’s two components. The first is that when struggling, other GMs throw anvils, not lifejackets. Often, these are your worst deals.

“Fans want improvement,” he said last weekend. “What they don’t want is a short-term move that hurts for years.”

Second, at times like these, the value of players you might be willing to move is lower than ever. Let’s say, for argument’s sake, the Oilers wanted to trade Jordan Eberle. He’s behind everyone else because he was injured until November. He’s gone five games without a point. In the 12 games he’s played, he’s been a plus player once and is minus-eight in his last four. In the past two seasons, he has 53 points in 79 games pre-New Year’s; 75 in 82 after.

No doubt Chiarelli is going to perform major surgery. But he needs to hold more than Queen-high.

10. Two things opponents said to watch for when looking for changes to Edmonton’s defensive-zone structure: first, the wingers have been asked to play higher in the defensive zone to ease congestion in front of the net. Second (and this happened a couple of times in Toronto), some of those wingers get into trouble when they are on their “wrong” side. They try to switch — or get to the other side — and the defenders are pressured while waiting. Better to just stay.

11. Chiarelli did say goaltender Laurent Brossoit would not be promoted from AHL Bakersfield. Brossoit’s save percentage was .937 until he gave up eight goals in two games last weekend.

He thinks Brossoit is in the right spot, preferring Nilsson and Cam Talbot to work through their struggles. Remember, Talbot also had Calgary, Dallas and Florida chasing after him at the draft. So it’s not as if Edmonton was the only team to see something here.

12. One bit of good news: Brandon Davidson has turned from longshot into a potential piece.

Was he told to find a place? “Yes, but I’ve tried to keep it pretty quiet,” he said with a smile. Davidson said the moment “wasn’t as exciting as you’d think.” Chiarelli was waiting for him after a practice, congratulated him and that was pretty much it.

Davidson needs waivers to go back to the AHL, and would likely be claimed. But he’s trying not to be satisfied. “The next step is proving to them I can be a top-four defenceman.”

13. Not sure what the exact injury is to Carey Price, but do know one goaltender who went through this.

Price stepped on a puck during warmup in Edmonton on Oct. 29. (We looked for it on video, but couldn’t find it.) In 1999, Toronto’s Glenn Healy did the same thing during the public skills competition and injured his MCL. “I knew it right away,” he said Monday. “Once it happens, you can’t stop your leg until it gives out.”

Not knowing the specifics of Price’s pain, Healy said the Montreal goalie had the same reaction he did when the injury was aggravated last Wednesday in Manhattan.

“Your head falls back because your body can’t support you.” Healy and then-teammate Alyn McCauley saw the doctor with the same injury at the same time. “He told Alyn three weeks and told me six weeks,” he said. “I asked him why it was longer for me. He said, ‘You’re old.’ But I was back before he was. It’s all about how fast you heal.”

14. Good line last week from one executive: “Last year, people were asking Marc Bergevin why he was keeping Michel Therrien. This year, those same people are asking why Therrien isn’t working for Canada at the World Cup.”

15. Last weekend’s AHL back-to-back between St. John’s and Toronto in the Ontario capital gave several teams an easy opportunity to watch Jarred Tinordi.

The 23-year-old defender is on a conditioning stint. He had one assist and was plus-four as the IceCaps swept both games. This is a guesstimate, but I could see Buffalo, looking for left-shot defencemen, being a contender here.

16. Speaking of conditioning stints, would Jonathan Bernier accept one? Might be a good way to give him some playing time and get his game going.

Can’t see anyone having an issue with avoiding waivers, because if Joni Ortio and his $600,000 salary isn’t getting claimed, no one is taking Bernier at almost eight times that.

Across the continent, one of his former coaches lent support. “He makes it look easy, so when he’s not playing well, it looks like he’s not trying,” Kings goalie coach Bill Ranford said Monday night. “But that’s definitely not the case.”

Ranford stressed he hasn’t seen every second Bernier’s played this season, but said there were some “tweaks” they would try when the goalie struggled. One was depth. “He had success playing deeper at the AHL level, and we moved him out a bit in the NHL.” He added Bernier is a “shot-release reader, so you have to limit the options in front of him.”

It should be pointed out Toronto’s defensive game is improving, so Bernier has to take responsibility.

17. I did ask Ranford about the idea of going to the AHL. He didn’t want to comment specifically on another organization trying that move, but did say, “It’s been done with other goalies before.”

It’s a good idea for Bernier to try, as he looked absolutely stunned at what’s happened to him. “I’ve known him since the Under-17s,” Ranford said. “Confidence has never been a problem for him. He’s been through challenges before. He’s a good goalie and I believe he will figure it out.”

18. If no one is going to claim Ortio’s salary, I’m trying to figure out what the market is for Cam Ward. He had a rough night in New York on Monday.

19. When the Maple Leafs were 1-9 and things looked abysmal, players said Mike Babcock showed them video and said, “If we keep playing like this, we’re going to be okay.”

James Reimer (and now Garret Sparks) have a ton to do with their recent lift, but the team noticed how the coach was trying to convince them on process over results.

Another thing Babcock pressed? “Be available in the middle,” Daniel Winnik said. “If you get the puck along the boards, (opponents) are on you quick. Give your teammate an option in the middle of the ice.”

20. Matt Hunwick, on what has impressed him about Morgan Rielly: “In Nashville, a forechecker was on him and I yelled, ‘Reverse!’ (The Predator player) cheated towards me, and Rielly didn’t fall for it. He took it the other way.”

What did Hunwick learn? “I shouldn’t yell so loud,” he laughed.

21. Jake Virtanen left Monday’s game in Anaheim early, but if his injury is not serious, there is a model for the Canucks to follow.

At this time last season, Ottawa’s Curtis Lazar was playing more than Virtanen is now. But the Senators saw the value in the World Junior event. There was discussion beforehand about role and responsibility. Ottawa was assured Lazar would be a significant part of the squad and, depending on who you talk to, knew he’d be captain.

The move benefitted everyone — the player, the organization and Team Canada. If I’m Jim Benning, I’m having a similar conversation this time around.

22. Worked the Vancouver/Dallas game last week, and, in preparation, asked Stars GM Jim Nill to compare the Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Patrick Sharp line to any of the trios he saw in Detroit.

“I’m not big on comparisons,” he replied. “Where I want to see us get to is where Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan were…no excuses. No matter what, we stick with it and we keep going.”

Their previous game was a 7-4 loss to Ottawa that featured all of the bad habits the team is trying to avoid. What was said after? “(Lindy Ruff) didn’t have to say much, they knew it…In Detroit, when we lost a game, it was all about, ‘Let’s stop the losing streak now. It’s not two or three games. Just one loss.’”

The team did that, beating Vancouver 3-2 and coming back from 3-0 down to stop Minnesota. Not surprisingly, Nill thinks Johnny Oduya and Sharp are helping push that attitude.

23. Also asked Nill if, in 2010, John Klingberg was on Detroit’s radar.

He said the Red Wings knew him, but, like a lot of teams back then, weren’t entirely confident in him. Klingberg wasn’t making Swedish National Teams at the youth level and hadn’t cracked the country’s Elite League. “He was 160 pounds and his skating wasn’t strong,” Nill said.

Rickard Oquist is the Dallas scout getting credit for making the choice. The story goes: That was Dallas’s last selection of the draft, and Oquist was given the responsibility. He was said to be looking at a couple of Swedish defenders and Klingberg was the guy. Don’t know who else was in the picture, but Toronto took Petter Granberg 15 spots earlier and Tim Heed went next to Anaheim.

Nill added when Dallas hired him, Klingberg told he him he wasn’t yet ready for North America.

“You have to put yourself in the player’s position. Some guys are not ready yet at 18 or 19. Some guys are not ready yet at 22. Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg took their time. He was in a great league on a great team. Worked out well.” That’s an understatement.

24. I joked with another scout that Oquist deserves a raise. He laughed. “I think he got a promotion last year.”

25. Dallas is an anomaly in the sense that half the roster (including much of the core) came in trades.

It’s been thought Nill would like to add something else, specifically a defender, but he says he’d prefer to see what he’s got. There are two extra defencemen at the NHL level and a few prospects at several positions in AHL Texas. “We have a lot of pieces, three or four choices internally. You have to find out what you have.”

26. Ryan Suter is a great interview because he’s blunt. Monday was one of those days Minnesota preferred he’d be a little less honest.

Head coach Mike Yeo reunited a pretty successful pairing from the last couple of seasons, Suter and Jonas Brodin, at practice. Both are left-hand shots.

“I don’t know what they’re thinking,” Suter told reporters. “Like I’ve said, I need to play with a right-handed defenceman to give me more options…It’s not fair to put a guy on his off side. I don’t know if that was just for practice today or what it is. They didn’t say anything.” (I was impressed the Wild kept this on their website.)

After the camera stopped rolling, Suter told The Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo he’d do whatever it takes. Yeo’s been publicly and privately hard on his team the past few days, so you wonder if a player will snap. Some coaches want that.

Brodin’s had trouble on his strong side, so this move may be for him as much as anything. Mike Babcock went to the Cup Final with six left-shot defenders in 2003. Can’t do that now, he says. “The game wasn’t as tight then.”

27. Dr. Gord Porter with a good story about his son, Chris. Gord was the team doctor for the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers when Dave Hakstol coached there. Chris started hockey late, as he was more into skiing as a boy.

Hakstol saw Chris play and said he could compete at the NCAA level. Fast forward to last summer. Hakstol is hired by the Flyers and Porter, looking for a fresh start, signs there. Right before the season, GM Ron Hextall tells the player he’s going to be put on waivers.

“Chris always used to get angry when put on waivers, but he didn’t care this time,” Gord said last week. “He laughed it off, saying nothing would happen…the next day, he’s in the shower and Hextall comes up to tell him he’s been claimed. He couldn’t believe it.” He rushed to call his wife, but she already knew (social media).

The good news is Minnesota’s been a nice fit for him.

28. At one point, Toronto wanted an outdoor game, the All-Star Game, the draft and probably the souvenir napkins for the NHL’s 100 anniversary season.

The wagering is an outdoor game happens, but Los Angeles is a significant contender for All-Star in 2017 — and may be the favourite.

It will be interesting to see if that is the final such weekend for a bit. The Olympics are in 2018 (and I believe the NHL goes to both South Korea and China, although much negotiating is to be done) and 2019 could be the Ryder Cup-style event.

29. When mentioning Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto were hoping for an outdoor game during the NHL’s 100th anniversary, I neglected to mention Winnipeg.

The Jets hoped to have one in conjunction with the Grey Cup, but talks with the CFL Blue Bombers fell apart.

The league’s Executive Vice-President of Events, Don Renzulli, was in the Manitoba capital last weekend to check out the setup. Possible for next season, maybe before the anniversary kicks in.

30. Not much of a rooting interest in the Grey Cup (aside from being Canadian), but was happy to see Eskimos GM Ed Hervey win it. He was great to deal with during my CFL reporting days.

My notes were lost in a flood, but when Hervey was at Compton High in Los Angeles, he led the school to the state track and field championships with only four runners. His specialty was the 400. If I recall correctly, he ran the relay injured to help clinch the victory.