Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Kerrzy’s Notebook: Around the Rinks

In & Out

Just when it looked like Peter Forsberg was ready to make an impact with the struggling Colorado Avalanche, a familiar problem crept up on him.

After skating with the team for a while, Forsberg felt comfortable enough on the ice to sign a one-year deal with the Avs last week. He jumped through the necessary hoops to get back on the ice after a couple of years – and a couple of failed comebacks – away from the NHL and finally made his re-debut against Columbus on Friday.

He played 17:38 and was a minus-two in a 3-1 loss to the Jackets, but looked pretty good by all accounts. A night later, he was a minus-two again in a 5-3 loss to the Predators, racking up another 17:32 of ice time. As good as he might have looked though, ESPN reports he started to feel the foot that has given him so much grief slipping and sliding inside his skate – a problem that has followed him around from team to team and league to league since 2003.

“We can fly to the moon, we should be able to fix the foot,” joked the 37-year-old at his retirement news conference on Monday. If it wasn’t foot issues, it was groin problems for the one-time NHL MVP, who has only played over 70 games in a season just five times in twelve years.

It’s tough to see a great player not able to leave the game on his own terms, but Forsberg seems to have earned a sense of closure for himself with this latest go-round. He says he’s happy that he got a chance to get out there and that he’ll feel pretty good about his career when he looks back. He got out just in time too, as the Avalanche got whooped 9-1 on Monday night!

I suppose if your health is still an issue after 25 surgeries though, it’s probably time to hang ‘em up!

Long Island Fallout

It’s been a few days since that big series of brawls between the NY Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins in a 9-3 Isles win and people are still talking!

The NHL was swift in its punishment, handing out three suspensions worth a total of 23 games and slapping the Isles with a $100,000 fine for failing to control their players, but that wasn’t enough for some people.

Penguins co-owner Mario Lemieux was harsh in his criticism of the league, saying it “failed” in its chance “to send a clear and strong message” when it comes to the cheap shots and thuggery that took place on Long Island that night. Lemieux called the game “a travesty” and “a sideshow,” and he’s halfway right. New York’s Matt Martin was suspended for four games for sucker punching Max Talbot, which probably should have been switched with the nine-game ban for Trevor Gillies. He was in the thick of the action all night long, but was suspended for a blow to the head of Pittsburgh’s Eric Tangradi.

Now, I don’t agree with the sucker punch and I don’t agree with the headshot…but I do agree that the league might have gotten it wrong.

First of all, Pens forward Matt Cooke should have been suspended last year when he knocked out Marc Savard. He should have been suspended again or reprimanded somehow when he went knee-on-knee with Alex Ovechkin earlier this month and he should have been slapped with a stiffer sentence when he blasted Fedor Tyutin from behind a few days later. He was given a four-game ban for that one, but as a repeat offender to the degree that he is one, the league should have sent him a stronger message and certainly had the chance to do so.

I know it might seem like a silly argument to say that Lemieux can’t possibly decry the league’s disciplinary process while Matt Cooke continues to get away with most of the dirty stunts he pulls, but there is some merit to the thought.

To suspend Gillies for nine games for the hit on Tangradi when most of the other headshots we’ve seen in recent memory are either ignored (and added to the league’s anti-headshot video in the off season) or met with four-to-six game bans just isn’t right. I’m not saying it wasn’t a dirty hit, because it absolutely was. I’m only pointing out that this is another example of the league being all over the map when it comes to penalizing such hits.

Meanwhile, Islanders GM Garth Snow says he doesn’t get why the Pens weren’t also fined for what happened, and NY tough guy Zenon Konopka says Mario Lemieux is "out of touch" with the league and just lost himself a fan…

Trade Winds Blowing Leafs

One of the most fun days to be a hockey fan is fast approaching, but some teams aren’t waiting until the February 28th trade deadline to start pulling the trigger!

After picking up a could-be solid NHLer in Fabian Brunnstrom back in January, the Toronto Maple Leafs have made two fairly big moves in past week and GM Brian Burke says they’re probably not done just yet.

On Monday the Leafs dealt forward Kris Versteeg to the Philadelphia Flyers for a first and third round pick at this year’s draft. It’s a fun little twist for the Lethbridge, Alberta, native who goes from a low-end team to a contender, one that his former club beat in last year’s Stanley Cup final.

That deal follows one that sent veteran blue liner Francois Beauchemin back to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forward Joffrey Lupul, a prospect and a conditional draft pick.

Those are two pretty interesting moves – Burke says Versteeg never really fit in with the Leafs way of playing and this move gives him some much needed ammo on draft day. The Beauchemin deal is intriguing as well – when you’re giving up the sixth-most goals per game in the league, you wouldn’t think that you’d go trading defense for a bit of offence.

I wonder who is next!

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