Morning Skate 39: A Chara suspension proves nothing

Morning Skate 39: A Chara suspension proves nothing

By Joe Haggerty
MONTREAL There isnt a lot of precedentforthis gruesome Zdeno CharaMax Pacioretty incident from Tuesday nights game, and it appears theres going to be some vociferous disagreement no matter what theNHLdoes.Chara and Pacioretty have been locked in a dangerous dance for much of this season that reaches back to the young Habs forward shoving the enraged, towering Bs Captain after an overtime win for the Canadiens in Montreal two months ago and that painful tangohad a gruesome ending on the Bell Centre ice in Bostons 4-1 loss Tuesday night.Chara shoved Pacioretty near the Bruins bench with an extended forearm, and sent the wobblyHabs forward flying into nearby stanchion in an area thats always been a danger zone for high-flying, fast-skating hockey players.The gruesome, gasp-worthy crashleft Pacioretty unconscious and unmoved on the ice for 10 minutes before he was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher, and Habs officials said Wednesday morning their player has suffered a severe concussion and a non-displaced C5 fracture of his vertebrae from the collision.Its clearly a serious injury and could be career-threatening given the gravity of any injury dealing with the neck and spine, and that can be a factor in the supplemental discipline decisions made by the NHL and Assistant Director of Game Operations Mike Murphy.But there are so many other factors that the league has to mix into the pot before making a complex, controversial decision. What was Zdeno Charas intent and how much of the hits aftermath was simply a result of the games speed and intensity?Chara has been suspended for a grand total of one game in a long, All-Star career spanning 913gamesfor the Ottawa Senators and Bruins, and boaststhe kind of Irish Spring clean whistle record the NHL always looks favorably upon. He simply isnt a dirty player despite whats being muttered about the 6-foot-9 monster along the snowylengths ofRue de St. Catherine this morning.At the end of the day it was an interference call against Chara, and was nowhere near the realm of elbowing, head shots, boarding, hitting from behind or any otherdastardlyinfractions thatreside as hot button actions within todays NHL. No one can peerinto the mind of Chara to deduce whether his actions were the perfectly evil hit at the exact wrong time near the treacherous stanchion area, but his body of work over a starry career would say completely the opposite. They would instead proveChara was playing the body to slow Pacioretty down from flying into the offensive zone with the puck, and it was the wrong place at the wrong time.What happens if Chara simply lets the player go, and he scores another goal at the end of the second period in a game that's already reached "bowser" category.If the NHL doesnt want hitting near the danger areas near the benches perhapsthere should be black-and-yellow police tape or a plastic bubble around the bench area prohibiting physical contact anywhere near them. A suspension or disciplinary action against Chara when it was simply an accident of circumstance does nothing to prevent it from happening again and it certainly isnt going to help Pacioretty in his long road to recuperation in Montreal.The bottom line is this: the NHL cant prove mal intent, the league is always going to rule in favor of their star players that adhere to the proper rules of conduct and safety in the NHL and there will always be violence and regrettableinjuries within the game of hockey.There is no way Chara wanted to break Paciorettys neck or seriously physically impair him, and knew that would happen after an otherwise pedestrian one-on-one battle for the puck on a simple interference call. There's no evidence to support either supposition.Things happen in the NHL, and this was one of those regrettable, unfortunate accidents that can transpirewhen big strong bodies tangle in the wrong part of the frozen sheet. A suspension would assign blame to Chara when there doesnt need to be any, and would send the wrong kind of message.Fans all over the NHL should focus their energy and thoughts on hoping that Pacioretty makes a full recovery and plays hockey again as Erik Cole did after fracturing his vertebrae with the Carolina Hurricanes. The passionate, frothy calls for suspensions and justice simply dont apply this time around with Chara.On to the links:Mike Milbury thinks that time may be running out on Sidney Crosby, and everyone Ive talked to about Sid the Kid has said the exact same thing.Adam Kaufman chats with Trent Whitfield, who has recovered from an Achilles tendon injury to have an excellent season for the Providence Bruins.Want the story about how Alex Ovechkin made his way back to the world of Twitter? Well here it is.TSNs Bob McKenzie knocked it out of the park in his assessment of the Zdeno CharaMax Pacioretty hit from last night, and deserves a little link love and appreciation.SI.coms Michael Farber sends a love letter to Pittsburgh Penguins hatchet man Matt Cooke. Wonder if he felt the need for a long, hot shower after writing this piece?\

Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on


Thursday, Aug. 25: Nearly two decades later, the Whalers live on

Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while in disbelief mode that the summer is almost over.

*Good piece on the remainders of the Hartford Whalers organization in Connecticut trying to keep the dream alive for the Whale.

*Tyler Seguin sits down for a podcast this week that I freely admit I did not have the time to listen to. I wonder if Boston even rated a mention in the conversation?

*Rating the top NHL contracts, according to the fancy stats hockey analysts, sounds like an interesting exercise.

*Tracey Myers has Duncan Keith bowing out of the World Cup of Hockey while recovering from an injury, and getting replaced by Jay Boumeester.

*The “Da Beauty” Hockey League has kept players like Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan McDonagh and David Backes in hockey shape this summer while slowly getting ready for the season.

*The Arizona Coyotes make a historic hire by naming Dawn Braid as skating coach, making her the first female coach in the NHL.

*For something completely different: FOH (Friend of Haggs) Rich Shirtenlieb guested on the #DORK podcast this week, and it sounds like he didn’t love “Stranger Things.” At the very least he liked “Preacher” better. I thought Preacher was entertaining, but I didn’t even think it was in the same stratosphere as Stranger Things. Rich also has me wanting to watch “It Follows” now, however, after his endorsement.


Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

Bruins don't poll well in latest New England Sports survey

It’s no secret Bruins fans are getting fed up with a hockey team in decline, one that’s missed the playoffs each of the last two years. Now there are numbers to prove it.

Channel Media and Market Research, Inc. came out with its annual New England Sports survey,  tabulating responses from over 14,600 polled, and, according to the numbers, the Bruins are dropping in popularity, fan support and faith in the current management group.

The B’s are holding somewhat steady with 16 percent of voters listing them as their “favorite sports team” behind the Patriots (46 percent) and Red Sox (29 percent) while ahead of the Celtics and Revolution. Claude Julien also ranked ahead of John Farrell among the big four teams in the “coaches/manages most admired” category.

But after sitting at a relative high of ranking at 27 percent for “ownership performance” in 2014 -- they year after their trip to the Cup Finals against the Blackhawks -- the Bruins now rank dead last in that category at 2 percent, behind the Patriots, Red Sox, Celtics and even the Revolution. Ouch, babe.

Also sitting at a lowly 2 percent is Bruins president Cam Neely in the “leadership performance” category. In "management performance," Neely has dropped from a solid 49 percent in 2014 to just 16 percent in this summer’s survey.

So B’s fans are clearly upset with a team that traded away Tyler Seguin, Johnny Boychuk, Milan Lucic and Dougie Hamilton, and has featured a decimated defense corps for each of the last two seasons. But do the B’s fans think that things are getting any better with prospects coming down the pipeline?

Not really.

In the “which team has done the best job making its product better.” category, the Patriots (35 percent) and Red Sox (31 percent) were resting at the top, with the Celtics (27 percent) a respectable third. The Bruins limped in at just 4 percent with a fan base that very clearly sees that, on paper, this upcoming season’s club doesn’t appear to be much better than last year's.

On top of that, only 13 percent of those surveyed believe the Bruins have gotten better over the last year, and 52 percent believe they’ve just gotten worse. A lowly 3 percent of those surveyed think the Bruins have the best chance of the five teams to bring a world championship back to Boston; the Patriots (79 percent), Red Sox (11 percent) and Celtics (5 percent) all ranked higher.

Finally, Zdeno Chara, Tuukka Rask and Jimmy Hayes were at the top of the list of the Boston athletes “who did not meet expectations” last season. None of that is a surprise, given the state of Boston’s defense along with Hayes’ subpar season.

The good news for the Bruins: They still have a passionate fan base. But they need to start reversing course immediately before they do lasting damage to the B’s brand.