Throw the Book at Torres

Raffi Torres and his crazy eyes

If the NHL wants to prove that it is serious in its war against head shots then the time is now.

In game 3 of the Vancouver Canucks’ series against the Chicago Blackhawks, Raffi Torres nailed star Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook in the head (See video here). Torres was playing in his first game back, fresh off of an, in my opinion, unjust 4 game suspension with his hit to the head of a reaching Jordan Eberle.

The hit on Seabrook was the kind of hit you cringe. It’s the kind of thing that the NHL and NFL are trying eliminate.

Head shots.

There is a lot of debate already to whether Torres’ hit was in fact illegal. You can even see in the video Raffi Torres is claiming the newly implemented rule 48 – Illegal Check to the Head. Bob McKenzie tweeted last night he believed initially that this was a classic case of rule 48 “Blindside hit, principal pt of contact to head or targeted head shot.” However, he subsequently tweeted that “When NHL GMs created Rule 48, they allowed area behind net is “hitting area” and players need to be more aware than, say, in neutral zone.”

To be honest, that second tweet just sounds like more ambiguity than anything else and it seems as though there can be a wide range of interpretations to the Torres hit.

The other big issue that McKenzie points out is “principal point of contact. Was it a straight on body check where shoulder also struck head or a “head shot.”??” There is no doubt in my mind that this is a head shot, not a case of his shoulder also striking the head. Whether or not Raffi Torres intended to hit Seabrook in the head is anyone’s guess but there is undeniably a great degree of recklessness involved in the play.

What has to be taken into account here is that Raffi Torres is a repeat offender and I’m not just talking about his most recent hit to Eberle. The CBC broadcast showed his Scott Stevens like elbow to the head of Milan Michalek way back in 2006, which is about as dirty a play as you’re going to see in the NHL.

Repeat offenders need to be punished. When repeat offenders are not punished you get Matt Cooke.

Related: NHL Head Shots

The NHL often finds ways to cop-out of making the hard decision with their interpretation of the vague guidelines set in the rule book. Although it was too harsh to suspend Raffi Torres those 4 games previously, it was (almost) nice to see the NHL make an attempt at showing the players that the Matt Cooke 10 game plus the first round of playoffs suspension wasn’t an anomaly even if it was the wrong one.

They must not revert back to their old ways.

I reiterate, this is a repeat offender. Even if there is a possibility that his hit was in the hazy boundaries of rule 48, a lengthy suspension will deter future offenders. This might have been said with the latest Matt Cooke suspension but I now believe that this decision on Torres will be the monumental verdict that will shape the nature of head shots for the NHL in the next 5 years.

Brent Seabrook shortly after Raffi Torres' shot to his head

This is the turning point in the game, the defining moment of a career. This is for all the marbles.

If the NHL wants to protect its product and its players then they have to come down hard on Torres. Anything less than five games should be heart wrenching for fans. That look of confusion that Seabrook had on the bench following the hit as he attempted to get his mind refocused, like a drunk convincing himself that he is okay to drive, will be the look on your favourite player in due time if the NHL doesn’t fix this pandemic.

Don’t think that the NHL is becoming the “No Hit League” either as some callous fans have deemed it. The safety of the player’s is priority number one and if you don’t care about that then take a look at the latest studies on the effects of concussions and then tell me what you think.

If you watched the game you must have seen Canucks defenseman Dan Hamhuis rock the world of Markus Kruger. That’s what the NHL is all about. It was as clean as my bathroom after using my magic eraser.

If you’re kid does something bad and you don’t punish him he will do it again. Colin Campbell doesn’t know whether he wants to be the good cop or the bad cop though. Well, it’s time for Colin Campbell to fully embrace his inner bad cop and throw the book at Raffi Torres.

Update: Raffi Torres was not suspended by the NHL. In other news, Benoit Pouliot and Chris Kunitz both threw out head shots on Monday in protest…at least I think they were protesting.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I am now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Andrea Bargnani Needs To Go

Former first overall pick Andrea Bargnani has not lived up to expectations

When Chris Bosh decided to leave for Miami, the Toronto Raptors gave their key to the franchise to Andrea Bargnani. They should have shown him the door.

I wouldn’t have said that at the start of the season but as the year has gone on it apparent the Raptors need to go in a different direction. Bryan Colangelo needs to be a man, swallow his pride and cut his losses now.

As the go to guy in the Raptors offence, Andrea Bargnani has established himself as one of the premier scoring big men in the NBA. This past season he averaged 21.4 points a game. A fairly respectable figure.

Too bad that’s all he does. Sadly, referring to his offensive numbers as respectable discounts his decline in field goal percentage and increased turnover rate from the 2009-10 season.

What is worse is Andrea Bargnani’s insistence on slacking at the defensive end, which is simply inexcusable. It isn’t a coincidence that in the two years that Bargnani has been given a more prominent role in the organization, the Raptors have sported the league’s worst defensive efficiency.

I would say that Bargnani’s defence mirrors that of a stereotypically soft European but to say that would be an insult to soft Europeans.

Andrea Bargnani doesn’t possess the drive that the Kobe Bryant’s and Kevin Garnett’s of the NBA have. He doesn’t care that he provides no inside presence for his team. He doesn’t care that it is his job to carry a mostly hapless roster. He doesn’t care about his reputation as a marshmallow. He doesn’t even care about his statistics.

Surprisingly, Bargnani’s rebounding and block totals are down from 2009-10. He averaged a pathetic 5.4 rebounds a game for a 7 foot center playing over 35 minutes a game, which is down from his 2009-10 average of 6.2 rebounds a game. Could it be more alarming that his block average has been cut in half this year? Last season he averaged 1.4 blocks a game and hopefully you can do the math, but if you can’t, he averaged 0.7 a game this year.

As the supposed franchise player, his attitude shows no signs of the responsibility he should feel for his lack of hustle and dismal statistics. When asked about his poor defence he said that, in reference to his offence “I do things that are much more complicated than getting rebounds and playing defence. That should be the easy part.”

In an attempt to be hard himself either he’s incredibly naive, doesn’t understand what it takes or flat out isn’t concerned and doesn’t want to be bothered to correct his obvious laziness and ineptitude.

I’m thinking it’s the latter.

Bargnani also said that the team needs to get more guys that can help play defence.

Wow.

It may be true that management has done an inadequate job of surrounding the team with quality two-way players, but Bargnani’s outlook cannot be tolerated.

The way he plays speaks volumes about his attitude. Well, if his play speaks volumes then I must be deaf because his comments just hit 200 decibels.

The problem is that Bargnani still has 4 years averaged out at $10 million a year left on his contract. Is the possibility of unloading his contract about as small as the impact Bargnani has made on the franchise or is someone willing to take a chance?

Does any team want to take on a player with not only Bargnani’s defensive deficiencies but also his mental deficiencies? Obviously, playing on a losing team has dampened the big Italian’s spirit more than the thought of being the face of the franchise has motivated him.

I’ll slip a little bit of my distaste in for Jay Triano here because I am amazed that he has let Bargnani get away with this for so long. Granted, Triano was the one who saved Bargnani’s career after Sam Mitchell sucked almost every ounce of confidence from Bargnani. Nevertheless, not once this year has Triano sat or even threatened to sit Bargnani for his consistent laziness.

What I’m trying to get at here is that there might be a possibility that a better coach and/or team could inspire Bargnani to put some real effort into his game, which could be a selling point in trade talks with other teams. But that’s a big if.

It is wrong to solely blame Bargnani for the Raptor’s woes considering their line-up features some equally incompetent defensive players, namely Jose Calderon. However, a new wave of talent has come to Toronto with Demar Derozan and Ed Davis proving that they have some serious game. They may not be franchise players but they are good pieces to build around.

Like the other overrated Toronto GM, Bryan Colangelo insists on trying to build a winning team without truly rebuilding. He already traded the Raptors late first round pick that was acquired from the Miami Heat in exchange for another slashing wing player in James Johnson.

If Colangelo did in fact have an offer on the table for Bargnani, would he take it? Bargnani is the first guy that Colangelo drafted as Raptors GM.

Is his ego too big for him to admit he has made a mistake? He was able to get rid of Hedo Turkoglu who he personally signed to a brutal 5 year $53 million contract.

The Raptors will most likely have a very high draft pick as they finished with the 3rd worst record in the NBA. A change in direction to a grittier, defensive oriented team may be exactly the thing this franchise needs as it is evident that Colangelo’s European invasion has not flourished.

The departure of Chris Bosh has once again left the Toronto Raptors searching for an identity. Giving this Italian the boot would be a good place to start.


Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I am now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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3rd Line’s The Charm

Dave Bolland may not be around to help the Blackhawks stop Art Ross winner Daniel Sedin.

If it looks like déjà vu, feels like déjà vu, and sounds like déjà vu then it must be déjà vu. Right?

In a match made in heaven for the mindless, the Vancouver Canucks will face their newfound arch nemesis Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In case you don’t follow the NHL, the Blackhawks have ousted the Canucks from the playoffs in each of the last two years while giving Vancouver fans a new hobby.

As Vancouverites continue to poke pins and needles into their Patrick Kane dolls, there is also a growing sense of anxiety amongst fans as to the growing likelihood of a first round upset.

The hometown fan depiction of the Chicago Blackhawks as this Mount Everest-like hurdle, that once overcome will lead to our eventual playoff glory is preposterous. The Vancouver Canucks have lost a couple of years in a row to a couple of pretty damned good teams. A Stanley Cup winning team in fact.

At an attempt to be insightful, fans also carry on the notion that somehow the Blackhawks have “gotten in the heads” of the Canuck team, especially goalie Roberto Luongo.

“They’re in our heads.” “They have our number.” I hear it around town way too much.

As clever as it makes you sound, the thought that the Canuck team itself places the Blackhawks on this glorious pedestal as well is just silly.

Although the circumstances of the series may scream déjà vu, the Blackhawks roster of 2011 hardly resembles their Stanley Cup champion roster. Despite the more well-known core of players such as Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook still comprising a solid Chicago team, the immense depth that stymied the Vancouver Canucks last season is almost non-existent in the 2011 version of the Blackhawks.

The lack of depth in the salary cap pressed Chicago Blackhawk gives the Canucks a significant advantage that most likely will not be overcome by an otherwise talented group of Blackhawk players.

The key to last year’s series was the ability of the Blackhawks to shut down the vaunted Sedin twins. A combined effort from Chicago’s checking line did a magnificent job of stopping the Sedin’s and essentially Vancouver’s offence.

The problems will lie here for the Blackhawks. A number of important yet underrated checkers lost during the offseason including Andrew Ladd, Adam Burish, Ben Eager and John Madden will pose serious issues for the Blackhawks. Not to mention the questionable health of their most valuable checker, Dave Bolland, who is still out with a concussion.

Moreover, the Vancouver Canucks not only have the Sedin line to carry the offence this year but their increased production from the 2nd line, including 40 goal scorer Ryan Kesler, and improved depth in their bottom 6 will make the task that much more difficult for Chicago’s lack of an adequate checking bottom 6.

The key to this series is in the hands of the bottom 6 and primarily the 3rd lines of each respective team.

The advantage, as you have probably already determined, well that goes to the Canucks. Even though unfairly suspended Raffi Torres is out for the first two playoff games and one of the best faceoff men in the league Manny Malhotra is out for the season because of eye surgery, the Canucks still sport an incredible amount of depth. The deadline day acquisitions of Chris Higgins and Maxim Lapierre add to the plethora of possible bottom 6 candidates in the Vancouver line-up.

Vancouver’s 3rd line may hold the final key to victory but as I wrote in January, goaltender Roberto Luongo is going to need to step it up in order for the Canucks to make a serious playoff run. He has played brilliantly since Christmas but his weak playoff resume leaves much to be questioned from the franchise goaltender.

The supposed “in Luongo’s head” guy in Dustin Byfuglien has departed, which will leave no reason for fans other than choke if Roberto Luongo doesn’t continue to perform in the manner that he has for much of the season.

This fear from Canuck fans of the name and jersey of the Chicago Blackhawks does not reflect that nature of this sure to be passionate first round playoff matchup.

While the mirage of déjà vu in this series may not flee the minds of Vancouver fans, there is no doubt that a Canuck victory would be as satisfying as a cold glass of water in the middle of the Sahara.


Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I am now on twitter follow me @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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Rory McIlroy, Another Wasted Talent?

Is Rory McIlroy the next great choke artist in golf?

Rory McIlroy cemented his place in Masters history but not in the way that he would have liked. McIlroy did his best magic act as he disappeared off of the leaderboard faster than you could say Augusta. The young Irish “phenom” was the first player in a major to blow a four shot lead after three rounds in a major since the infamous Jean Van De Velde meltdown.

The excuses will be endless for Rory McIlroy especially considering his seemingly great rapport with the media. He’s too young, inexperienced, everyone has a bad day, Tiger was prowling, or maybe even it was too hot outside for the Irishman. The list is endless. Either way, those excuses may hold water for the time being but the big question that should be on everyone’s mind is whether McIlroy is another great golf talent cursed with the spell of the choke?

One bad round in an otherwise steady Masters tournament generally wouldn’t signal as much cause for concern, however this isn’t the first time that McIlroy has faltered under the pressure of a major. McIlroy shot a 9 under par 63 at St. Andrews in the 2010 first round of the British Open only to follow that up with an 80 in round two. He shot a 68 and 69 respectively over next two days, which left him in a tie for 3rd place.

It’s a scary thought to see the supposed next star in golf already having major issues with his nerves. After a couple of poor shots today McIlroy’s psyche was snapped like a fragile twig. That doesn’t happen to the great ones.

Nicklaus or Tiger aren’t collapsing the way McIlroy did yesterday afternoon. Even at 21.

It isn’t just the complete, utter breakdown that McIlroy went through. Of the golfers who sat above 4 under par to finish the tournament, there were only two other players on Sunday who shot over par. Those players were Fred Couples and Ross Fisher who ended up tied for 15th with McIlroy at 4 under.

What does it say about a player who shot an 80 while no one above 2 under par shot worse than a 73?

Moreover, aside from a very good final few holes in round 3, McIlroy was at best steady after his remarkable first round. He had ample opportunity to grab the tournament by the neck but time after time was unable to take advantage. Don’t the great ones run away from the field?

It would be sad for golf if Rory McIlroy soon became equated with such names as Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Anthony Kim. As I wrote in January, the PGA desperately needs another player to add to the Tiger-Mickelson couple but once again a challenger has yet to emerge.

As a fan it is frustrating to see guys constantly falter on Sunday. The days of excusing players based on the Tiger factor are over. It’s about time people start getting in through their thick heads that Tiger’s supposed God-like aura was not the reason golfers choke. The onus is all on the players themselves.

Tiger’s inability to step up in the manner that he has in the past has allowed more guys like Charl Schwartzel to “prove” that they have the chops, but what are the chances we see Schwartzel falling into the category of the Ben Curtis’ and Rich Beem’s of the world?

Rory McElroy needed nothing more than a half-decent round on Sunday to truly solidify his status as one of the PGA’s elite. The career defining win that has eluded the likes of Lee Westwood would have been a huge confidence booster for the 21-year-old McIlroy.

Maybe he just doesn’t have it in him. That’s not to say that he won’t ever win a major but with Gary Busey on the Celebrity Apprentice showing more mental stability than McIlroy it seems unlikely that this young talent will be anything more than a perennial underachiever.

With the amount of talent that this young man possesses it would be a shame to see it go to waste. In his short career Rory McElroy has shown nothing that should lead us to believe that he will be the next great thing in golf and it would appear as though he is going to have to pull a rabbit out of his hat if he wants to win a major anytime soon.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. You can also follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favor.

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Hossa Controvesy Brings to Light a Bigger Issue

The Toronto War Room. Look it's Colin Campbell!

Yeah, its been a while since I’ve posted anything and its starting to get to me. School’s keeping me pretty wrapped up but just another 3 weeks and I’ll be back on the blogging train.

Anyways, in the midst of a heated playoff race in the NHL’s Western Conference Marian Hossa was awarded a controversial goal in Chicago’s game last night against the St. Louis Blues. A storied franchise in the league, the Hawks are fresh off a Stanley Cup Winning season after a lengthy championship drought.

Check out the video here and decide for yourself.

Seriously though, there’s not much decide. For one thing there’s an 87.83% chance that it’s not a goal but it was ruled a goal on the ice so without indisputable evidence you probably can’t overturn that. However, there is undoubtedly a distinct kicking motion, which even the hometown Chicago Blackhawk announcers point out. Distinct kicking motion means no goal whether it was over the line or not. Duh.

The big issue here though is that every single play that goes to video review is transferred over to the head office in Toronto where they go ahead and make the decision. The referee’s or an independent party isn’t making a decision. It’s the guys working for the NHL that have an agenda. The NHL already has problems generating viewership in the United States especially after their brutal decision a few years ago to take a bit of extra money from the Versus network instead of sticking with ESPN.

The Chicago Blackhawks are a clearly a team the NHL would love to have in the playoffs. They sit on the brink of playoff elimination. Not so much after tonight’s win. It isn’t out of the question that the NHL is willing to look the other way on a controversial goal such as this one and give the benefit of the doubt to a storied, marketable American franchise.

Do I sound paranoid? Maybe just a bit, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to put 2 and 2 together.

Goalie Ty Conklin wasn’t too happy about they call. He expressed a similar feeling in an interview after last night’s game saying that “They called it a goal on the ice, which is fine, that’s understandable. But the reason we have video replay is to get the right call. They’re probably going to make it into the playoffs anyway, but do we really have to make it that obvious that the league wants them in?”

What I think the NHL needs to change is having the infamous “war room” in Toronto making all the decisions on video replay reviews. They need the referees doing the decision-making, who most likely aren’t influenced, at least to the same degree, as some of those guys in Toronto. How can those guys in Toronto make an objective decision when you have Colin Campbell breathing down your neck?

I’ll admit that I really don’t know much about what goes on back there but I don’t understand why the referees aren’t making the decisions. The NFL has their refs making the calls on challenges so why don’t the referees, who actually call the game, possess the ultimate decision.

It’s ridiculous. Talk about conflict of interest. I mean, what if we had the NHL’s principal disciplinarian making the final call on suspensions that deal with his own son’s team. Oh wait, that already happens.

Having the head office in Toronto determining vital calls almost makes paying real money to see Charlie Sheen’s one man act seem logical. Almost.

This is not the first time something like this has happened either. The War Room in Toronto already takes 14 hours to decide on a call while it isn’t uncommon practice for them to butcher that very call. Nothing is going to be done about this but if the NHL wants to better it’s game this is something they need to look into. Hell, if they’re not going to fix the head shots what chance do we have of seeing a change with this.

Hey, if you took the time to read this sloppy post I want some feedback. Am I crazy? The NHL kind of pisses me off just generally so I thought I’d rant about it.

Follow me on twitter @paintstheblack too, you won’t regret it.

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