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Murray Musings- News & Views

By Tom Murray,

News: The Boston Bruins Shawn Thornton gets a 15-game suspension for attacking the Pittsburgh Penguins Brooks Orpik.

Views: Good for Brendan Shanahan. In the days leading up to Friday’s hearing and Saturday’s decision, the conventional wisdom was that Thornton would get anywhere from eight to 10 games. The 15 he received is appropriate for what he did, which was not, as Shanahan stated, “a hockey play that went bad, nor do we consider this a spontaneous reaction to an incident that just occurred.”

But it all raises an obvious question: Why did Orpik’s teammate James Neal get only five games for his knee to the head of Brad Marchand in the same game? Like Thornton’s act, Neal’s was also vicious, premeditated and could have ended horribly. Keep in mind that Neal had been suspended twice before; Thornton’s suspension slate was clean. The fact that Marchand was uninjured and returned to play in the game shouldn’t have been taken into account any more than  the news that Orpik--carried off the ice on a stretcher and transported by ambulance to Massachusetts General Hospital--recovered in time to join his teammates on their return to Pittsburgh after the game.

Both acts were heinous and inexcusable and both players should have received punishments that were commensurate with their actions. Thornton was the only one who did.

News: P.K. Subban not a shoo-in for the Canadian Olympic team.

Views: Huh? Really? This nonsense is truly hard to believe. Has any incumbent Norris Trophy winner ever gotten less respect than this guy? As of this writing he’s second only to Duncan Keith in scoring among Canadian defensemen, has participated in two World Junior championships (and won two gold medals) and as a player for the OHL’s Belleville Bulls played a ton of games on an Olympic-sized ice surface.

Does he make mistakes from time to time? Undeniably. Who doesn’t? And PK’s up side is off the charts, even if he was brought to Sochi to participate only when the Canadians are on the power play.

And yet there was a commentator on CBC a week or so ago, predicting that seven defenseman were veritable locks: Drew Doughty, Duncan Keith, Shea Weber and the pairings of Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo (St. Louis) and Dan Boyle and Marc Edouard Vlasic (San Jose). Which meant that P.K. was just one of 10 defenseman who were on the outside, all vying for that eighth spot, a list that included players like Marc Staal, Mike Green, Dion Phaneuf, Kris Letang and Karl Alzner.


None of these guys are playing even close to Subban’s level this season.

What is it about this kid that bothers everyone so much in his home country? You don’t hear this criticism from pundits in the United States, only in Canada, where hockey players are revered for their humility and--in the case of Subban, it appears--vilified for exuding confidence, even brashness. Of course, those qualities are precisely what make him the terrific player he is.

Impossible to believe that P.K. won’t be on the roster when it is finalized. But we’ll have to put up with the nonsense until it is.

News: New York Rangers finally win a game at Madison Square Garden.

Views: Break ‘em up! No, seriously, Sunday’s night’s 4-3 shootout win over Calgary was one the boys in blue had to have. In the exact middle of a 9-game homestand, they were 0-3-1 in their last four games, had been outscored 16-7 in those games and were an abysmal 1-7-1 in their last 9 games at MSG.

But the biggest concern was goalie Henrik Lundqvist. The bedrock of the team, their best player for the last 8 years, the guy who could always be relied upon to make a big save as he time and again covered up for his team’s lack of scoring punch has been far less than his usual sensational self this season: A 9-14-1 record going into Sunday night’s game, along with a very pedestrian .910 save percentage. And of course he finally just signed that long-awaited boffo 8-year $60 million contract extension. Pressure? What pressure?

Like most Rangers outings this season, the game was an excruciating three-act (period) saga. The first period (act) was a familiar and wrenching replay of maddening mediocrity: No intensity on the ice, no life in the building and a 2-0 first period lead for the Flames after just 8 shots on Lundqvist.

But then two rallies! From deficits of 2-0 and 3-2 to force overtime and, eventually, a much-needed win in a 7-round shootout.

When it was finally, mercifully over, Lundqvist spread his arms wide and raised up his head and stick. Ah, sweet victory! And as any Ranger fan can attest, Hank’s ebullient gesture also meant the pain could stop. If only for a little while. No experienced Ranger fan would ever predict for how long. It is a day-by-day proposition for all of them.

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shazam88's avatar

I’m not going to re-post your words because this is a bit lengthy as it is, but sure, there’s definitely criticism of Subban here in the States as well. The only difference is neither he nor the Habs (or Leafs) are anywhere near the center of the hockey universe.  The argument however, generally starts with the very real East coast bias of the hockey media, and the fact that guys like Subban actually win the Norris to begin with, not that they are disrespected afterwards. No denying he has great O-stats, but his positioning on the ice seems fairly mediocre and then he still has a lack of discipline at times - granted I don’t see him play all that much, but he was doing everything he could to goad some of my Kings into fights last week - and that typically doesn’t translate all that well into an Olympic game. Anyway, which of the 7 projected players above him would you replace? All things being equal, if there are two players of similar capabilities and one has a partner on the team, why not go with familiarity? It’s a short tourney, as of course you know.

As for the Neal knee, yes, he probably got off a little easy but I’d definitely like to know your definition of “premeditated” if you aren’t distinguishing between his action and Thornton, who after trying previously to engage Orpik, skated up to him and took him to the ice. Neal maybe had one second to react and decide his course of action.  Wrong and intentional? Yes, most certainly. Premeditated? No, probably not even in a first year law school fact pattern, let alone the real world.

Posted by shazam88 from SoCal on 12/17/13 at 12:48 PM ET


Why did Orpik’s teammate James Neal get only five games for his knee to the head of Brad Marchand in the same game? Like Thornton’s act, Neal’s was also vicious, premeditated

Therein lies the problem with this question. “Premeditation” requires more than about a second. Neal’s was a crime of opportunity. Split-second decision.

Thornton had a dozen seconds to think about what he was going to go do.

Not excusing anybody, just pointing out that it’s a false question.

Does he make mistakes from time to time? Undeniably. Who doesn’t? And PK’s up side is off the charts, even if he was brought to Sochi to participate only when the Canadians are on the power play.

Canada is of the opinion that they are best-off maximizing quality while minimizing variance. Lot of variance in Subban’s game. Don’t know if he’s going to score a big goal and capably shadow Alex Ovechkin or play a 2 on 1 totally wrong, throw a temper tantrum and get ejected.

Ultimately, I think this aversion to risk is going to be Canada’s undoing. Subban is exhibit A, but he’s not the only example.

They’re also likely to take good-old, reliable, swiss-army-knife Chris Kunitz. This is another example of sacrificing the upside of a, for example, Jamie Benn, for the certainty of a grinder. There are other examples and the thinking is foolish every time.

Some team is going to take their own high-upside, high-variance players (Erik Karlsson, TJ Oshie), the guys will catch fire and trounce TC’s “safe” little team, I think.

Posted by larry on 12/17/13 at 03:29 PM ET


To Larry & Shazam88: Both you guys made good points about my use of the word “premeditated” regarding Neal’s knee to Marchand’s head. Thoughtless, reckless and/or disrespectful would have been better choices. But the bottom line is Neal made a decision to deliver a gutless cheap shot, one that could have been avoided.


tom murray

Posted by Tom Murray from Birmingham, MI on 12/18/13 at 12:31 AM ET

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