Thursday, December 20, 2007

Good times, bad times

You know, they've had their share.

Chris Simon, everyone's favorite unlovable scamp, fresh off a record 25-game sitdown for last year's Hassan Chop of Ryan Holleweg, limbo'd under the bar by netting 30 games for stomping Pittsburgh's Jarkko Ruutu over the weekend.

Now, while the whole "stick up for the team" concept is admirable, Simon is now in the Steve Howe Zone - this is his seventh suspension from the NHL, and after a while there comes a time where being a good teammate means respecting other players' safety, and not being blindly loyal to a guy who can't keep his act together on the ice. So, I hear Bryan Berard say "I've seen worse things on the ice that have gotten a lot less games, especially now with the head injuries, guys hitting from behind and things like that, and guys getting two games." ... Oy. I'm not sure he's right about "fewer games" for stuff, as several Flyers can attest. Second, has he really seen worse on the ice than a guy purposely stomping down on another guy's leg with a razor-sharp blade? Simon's 210 pounds - that's a lot of stomp.

Of the few things that are in the same league as what Simon has done (with sticks and blades), at least three resulted in similar punishments - Marty McSorely braining Donald Brashear, Todd Bertuzzi jumping Steve Moore, and Jesse Boulerice slashing Ryan Kesler in the face. (In the old days, I'll grant you, not so much.)

"I'm sure it's a tough one to accept but Chris is a repeat offender," Berard added, showing that he at least has some clue. But his head coach? "It's excessive," said Ted Nolan. "The league suspended him ... now we have to support Chris while he goes through this process."

Taken apart, I can kinda sorta see that they want to be good to a guy who's (by all accounts) a fine clubhouse guy, a good teammate, and someone that Nolan in particular has mentored since their time in juniors. Simon's overcome a lot to have a career, gotten a lot of his personal life in order... but it's time for the guy to leave the ice and get himself straight. If off-the-ice leadership and character are his strong suits, that's where he should serve.

The Isles celebrated "Rally Around a Felon Night" by firing off 43 pucks, only one of which found twine, and losing 2-1 to Buffalo. But, there is a little light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of Kyle Okposo, their best prospect, deciding that he's seen enough of this goal-free bunkum. But instead of fleeing (or simply staying at U of Minnesota long enough for his rights to lapse and re-entering the draft), he's decided to join the Islanders and start his pro career.

One of the biggest problems in turning around a struggling team is attracting big talent. Catch-22: nobody wants to waste away on a bad team, so the team stays too bad to attract the players to improve. It takes that one guy to lead the way. I'm impressed with Okposo as a player, and now as a guy willing to work and to be there to rebuild. I hope they can get the kid some help and not just ship him off in a few years. (See Jokinen, Olli; Schnieder, Matheiu; Spezza, Jason; Chara, Zdeno; Connolly, Tim; Torres, Raffi; Luongo, Roberto; and etc. etc.)

No comments: