Julien: On-ice verbal taunts starting to cross the line

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Julien: On-ice verbal taunts starting to cross the line

By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
BOSTON -- Many hockey people are convinced an unwritten rule in the hockey world was crossed when Sean Avery complained he was the victim of homophobic barbs uttered by Philadelphia Flyers forward Wayne Simmonds.

The words were offensive if Simmonds truly said them, and on one level Avery was courageous in standing up for a cause he adamantly believes in. But theres also the code among NHL players that trash talk and on-ice insults never reach the media, and you dont go public with something said to you during a game.

There is some nasty stuff out there. Chatter about divorces and player backgrounds or physical characteristics are commonplace, and there was even an instance two years ago when Mike Richards threatened to knock Marc Savard back out with a concussion just months after the Matt Cooke incident.

It can get ugly when NHL players add a little salt to their language, and the competitive juices get involved. But clearly insults aimed at race, creed, religion, sexual orientation or players families is crossing over the line into an area that shouldnt be approached, but surely is in plenty of instances.

Claude Julien has witnessed this kind of trash talk behind the bench with the Bruins, and hes hoped for years that it would get cleaned up. Clearly theres verbal abuse for referees that has always been a part of the NHL, and there are penalties in place for stepping over the line. But the taunts and colorful language between players battling on the ice has been considered mental warfare, and off limits from discipline where its difficult to prove what was said.

There's a rule in place for when there's a certain type of language -- whether it's to referees and stuff like that you certainly can get tossed out of a game, said Julien. I'm one of those guys that believe that you know you shouldn't be crossing the lines. There are some things that are being said out there that are really crossing the line.

The Bruins coach is decidedly from the old school where certain topics are sacred within trash talk, and there are places you just didnt go. But in a world where rats like Avery, Steve Ott and Matt Cooke exist while lurking in the shadows and attempting to provoke their opponents, it seems that nothing is off-limits.

Whether that's been like that decades ago, I'm not quite sure. People are going after divorces or calling people certain names that I don't even want to allude to here, said Julien. But there is a fine line I think that has to exist. There's gamesmanship and then there's crossing the line. I think more and more, players today are going further than they used to so.

You'd hope that it would be policed by the players and by having a little bit more respect for each other. They are part of a player's association, they should all be part of a group and there should be at least that kind of respect that exists. Some people are better at refraining themselves than others. You always have those other kind of guys whether the league needs to step into it . . . it's always a hard thing to prove. You know he said, she said and whatever. It's not an easy thing to tackle.

As Julien alluded and as Avery found out again this week, policing conversations between players on the ice isnt an easy thing. Sure there is more access, more microphones and cameras to pick up conversations on the ice and sensitivities to so many items within each players life, but theres also the Fight Club mentality that continues to permeate the NHL at all levels.

Rule No. 1: Whatever is said on the ice stays on the ice. Rule No. 2: Always refer back to rule No. 1 during moments of confusion.

Joe Haggerty can be reached at jhaggerty@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Joe on Twitter at http:twitter.comHackswithHaggs

Julien reaches breaking point with struggling, inconsistent Bruins

Julien reaches breaking point with struggling, inconsistent Bruins

It sounds like Claude Julien has reached a breaking point with a fragile, inconsistent group of Bruins players who have lost four games in a row at a critical point in the season.

The Bruins dropped a 5-1 decision to the Pittsburgh Penguins at PPG Paints Arena on Sunday afternoon, and completely fell apart in the final period after Tuukka Rask was lifted because of migraine issues in the middle of the game. It was a typical Bruins effort, in which there weren’t enough scoring chances despite 45 shots on net -- largely from the perimeter -- and the defense totally unraveled in the third period once the Penguins got their offense going.

After the loss, the embattled Julien challenged his players, saying they weren’t providing enough across the board . . . which has largely been the case for the last two months as the Bruins have stagnated as a team.

“If you look at some of the mistakes we made, it’s a team that just got unraveled there in the third period,” he told reporters after the game. “With the opportunities that we had, we don’t capitalize on them. You always give the goaltender on the other side some (Matt Murray) credit. He was good tonight but at the same time, if you’re going to win hockey games, you’ve got to find ways to get [shots] through to him.

"It’s frustrating. There are a lot of guys that, right now, aren’t giving us enough, and this is a team that I think needs all 20 guys going in order to win. We don’t have enough talent to think that we can get away with a mediocre game, so this is where it’s important for our guys to understand that and it’s important to have 20 guys that want to go. It’s okay to have talent, but you’ve got to compete. For others, you’ve got to get involved. You’ve got to be willing to do the things that are not fun to do but are going to help your hockey club. It’s too bad because I think the players we expect a lot out of every night are certainly battling every night, but we need more than that . . .

“When you’ve lost three, now four in a row, it sets in. We’ve got to find a way to turn this around and start going back to the drawing board with our guys respecting what they need to do and be patient enough to give it time to turn around. When I say patience I don’t mean we need to do it in the next week. We need to do it next game but we need to respect what we’ve done well and when we’re in our game and within our structure we’ve had success but in order to be within the structure, you’ve got to be willing to want to do those things. Right now, we don’t have everybody and it just takes one guy not to want to do his job and it throws everybody else off. We have to look at personnel that way, and say that if we need to replace some guys, and we need to be patient with others, I want guys that care and want guys that want to come in and give it their all every night. We need more of that, and we don’t have enough right now.”

It remains to be seen what, or who, Julien is referring to when he mentioned personnel during his postgame comments, but it’s clear he's well aware the effort hasn’t been consistently good enough over the last two months.
 
The Bruins have dropped to third in the Atlantic Division, with the Maple Leafs just a point behind them while holding a whopping six games in hand. Even struggling teams like the Panthers, Lightning and Hurricanes have caught up to the B’s in the playoff race, while holding games in hand.

The B’s are in big, big trouble at this point in the season, and it doesn’t get any easier with games against an improving Red Wings club and the dominant Penguins prior to a much-needed break recess for the All-Star break.