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Matheson engages in a fascinating conversation with Rob Blake about the suspension process

The Edmonton Journal's Jim Matheson's posted at least half of his weekly Hockey World articles on his blog page (I believe that he's still working on "Ask Matty" as I'm posting this, and I don't see any "Short Shifts" yet).

Especially given a) the fact that Don Cherry decided to suggest that John Scott and Cody McLeod require the sympathy of fans who don't understand "their role" or their obligation to "make a difference" and b) the endless suggestions that it's up to players and only players to police themselves when Sportsnet's John Shannon so wisely suggested that coaches, GM's and owners also share responsibility for employing players in "punishing" roles (we tend to forget that both players, coaches, GM's and owners are generally concerned about their team's well-being and competitive interests ahead of safe working environments)...

It's refreshing to hear now-NHL Department of Player Safety employee Rob Blake tell Matheson that there's a significant amount of push-back from teams when players are facing Sheriff Shanny's Wheel of Justice:

“We’re told in the summer to come down hard, then you act on a guy who’s had three suspensions before and his GM says ‘what are you doing? He didn’t do anything wrong,’ ” Blake said with a laugh. “The rules are there, but if it’s their team …”

Blake, who was no angel as a player with several suspensions over his career spent mostly with the Kings, is watching the ugly John Scott situation very closely. Scott, a lug with one career goal who is in the Buffalo Sabres’ lineup to police the bad stuff, blindsided Loui Eriksson in the head and faces a hearing, and a possible stiff rap, even if he’s never been before a league disciplinary board before.

“I’m sure whatever happens, they’ll (Shanahan and Co.) hear he didn’t get enough,” said Blake. “He has no history. That’s one thing he’s (Scott) got going for him. I don’t see it being the big one (suspension) people are waiting for.”

Blake and Shanahan, who is in the Hall of Fame, understand what’s going through a player’s mind because they were in the same boat a few times with hits gone very bad.

“There can be accidents where a player’s timing is just a little off, but it’s the predators … I don’t know if you still call them that, but you can tell,” Blake said. “Patrick Kaleta or Raffi Torres? You can tell two or three shifts before that they’re looking for somebody, then it happens,” said Blake.

Blake continues, offering a really fascinating take on Kaleta's ability to reform himself given that Matt Cooke's consciously changed his game--at the behest of his employer, and involving Cooke meeting with Shanahan--but I think this part of his conversation with Matheson's absolutely essential to read:

What the league would probably like is for players to willingly sit in on film study with Shanahan and Co. over the summer months to see illegal hits 20, 30, 50 times in slow-motion, various angles, and see how they dispense their justice.

“Funny you should say that … Andy Sutton had just retired and he was doing something with equipment and he came into our office for two nights,” Blake said. “He started watching the plays. We had him in here twice with in-person hearings (before suspensions). This was good for him. He said ‘geez, do you guys really look at this play, this way?’ ”

Blake's spot-on. The NHL needs to do more to educate its players as to how they go about determining suspensions. I'm sure it would be must-watch TV for coaches, GM's and owners as well.

Matheson's second article involves more brief observations...

- The Colorado Avalanche have an embarrassment of riches up the middle, with Canadian Olympic team hopeful Matt Duchene, 18-year-old Nathan MacKinnon and Paul Stastny. It’s so deep, former No. 2 centre Ryan O’Reilly is on the wing. But it’s highly unlikely the unrestricted Stastny will be re-signed. He makes a truckload at $6.8 million per season. They need a top-four defenceman. Can you get one for a rental in Stastny? Doubtful. “It’s a beautiful problem to have (too many centres),” said Avs head coach Patrick Roy.

- St. Louis Blues winger Magnus Paajarvi suffered an upper-body injury (maybe a shoulder) after a hit by the Nashville Predators’ Victor Bartley Saturday. It’s too bad because the former Oiler had gone from being a cheerleader, scratched for five straight games, to a second-line role in St. Louis alongside Vladimir Tarasenko and Derek Roy. “He’s a force,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. While Paajarvi is moving up the ladder, Brenden Morrow predictably is moving back from second to fourth line. Big heart, but not a lot left in the tank.

- Jiri Hudler looks 1,000 times better now than he did last year for the Calgary Flames. “He spent too much time trying to set up (countryman) Roman Cervenka,” said one NHL scout. Cervenka bailed after one NHL season — too difficult for him with all the hitting — going back to Russia’s bigger-rink KHL.

Which continue...

And I eagerly await his "Ask Matty" and "Short Shifts" entries.

Update: Here's more from Matheson:

You won’t find Matt Duchene in ex-Avalanche coach Joe Sacco’s fan club. “There is no doghouse with Patrick (Roy),” said Duchene, who chafed at Sacco’s style. “(Roy) brings you in, sits you down, you talk constructively, then you go back out and play.” Duchene said Sacco had a plan, but “it was the wrong plan. He wanted us to dump and chase.” Roy is more puck-control. Duchene is making the biggest push at forward for a Canadian Olympic men’s hockey team spot after being a long-shot going in with so many centres. Sacco is part of the gong show in Buffalo now as Ron Rolston’s assistant.

- The Phoenix Coyotes don’t know what to do with defenceman David Rundblad, the young Swede they got from the Ottawa Senators in the Kyle Turris trade. He’s an offensive guy but not a great skater, and the Coyotes have nine defencemen. They like Michael Stone just as much. Fortunately, the second-round pick they also got from Ottawa
for Turris was used to get centre Antoine Vermette.

- Boston Bruins coach Claude Julien cut to the chase on Buffalo Sabres skyscraper John Scott after the head shot on Loui Eriksson. “He’s there to do two things: he’s there to fight and to hurt people, and he did both things.” Scott has scored one NHL goal in his career, 152 games ago. Goalie Ron Hextall  scored two legit ones in his career.

Filed in: | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: buffalo+sabres, calgary+flames, colorado+avalanche, department+of+player+safety, jiri+hudler, john+scott, magnus+paajarvi, matt+duchene, rob+blake, st.+louis+blues


NHLJeff's avatar

FYI, Blake no longer works for the DoPS as he took the AGM job in LA after Hextall went back to the Flyers.

Posted by NHLJeff from Denver on 10/29/13 at 11:25 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.

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