PLAYER SELECTION

Brian Sutherby
January 20 2014 08:55AM

During and after the fireworks in Vancouver on Saturday night, many people wanted to get on Canucks head coach John Tortorella for being so mad. Claiming that if he didn’t want or expect that to happen, he should have put out a more skilled line.

I disagree.

He shouldn't have made his way to the Calgary Flames dressing room but that doesnt mean he can't be upset about the start to the game.

MCGRATTAN & WESTGARTH

Yes, every once in a while a team starts their fourth line and it doesn’t always result in a line brawl but Torterella couldn’t risk putting his skill guys out there. I don’t think if they countered Calgary’s fourth line with the Sedin line, the twins would have gotten mauled but how do you really know?

You don’t start that line with Brian McGrattan and Kevin Westgarth, two of the toughest in the game, without the intention of a big physical start. Whether it’s running around to set a physical tone or actually fighting someone.

It’s hard to know what was said between Westgarth who was playing center for some reason and Kevin Bieksa but it sure looked like Westgarth was more than ready to do something dumb and it didn’t matter who was taking the draw. Westgarth did immediately jump an unwilling guy and then grabbed Kellen Lain and made him fight 2 seconds into his first NHL game.

If things were different and a skilled Canuck player was injured or beat up badly because they didn’t respond with the right line, who is everyone blaming today?

The head coach of course.

It happened to Randy Carlyle in pre-season this year, when he put out Phil Kessel with John Scott. His best player was put in a bad spot because he didn’t expect it to happen. “I never believed in my wildest dreams that the attack would come directed at that type of player from the opposition, but I was wrong.” He said.

BOB HARTLEY

A very memorable game I was playing in 2006 had a similar situation as far as player selection. The game was in Washington versus the Atlanta Thrashers who were coached at that time by none other than Bob Hartley.  His teams were always pretty tough and we had some good battles with them.

It was late in the game and six foot five Andy Sutton took a big run at one of our young defenseman Mike Green. This wasn’t a little run; this was a take your head off and hurt you type run. The third or fourth time he had done this late in a hockey game against us. Green thankfully avoided it, but the intent was absolutely there to hurt someone once again.

After the hit, a small melee ensued. This left each team playing 3 on 3.  Our bench was irate. Many four letter words were exchanged before the next faceoff. What happened next is, Hartley either misread the situation or he intended to diffuse it with the players he put out.

WRONG MOVE

We were at home and had last change. Hartley sent out Greg DeVries, Vitaly Vishnevskiy and Marian Hossa of all guys. Our head coach Glen Hanlon answered with Donald Brashear, John Erskine and Matt Bradley. Everyone knew what was going to happen whether you like it or not. We were not going to be pushed around again.

Brashear beat the snot out of Vishnevskiy, Erskine gave Hossa a rough ride and DeVries and Bradley paired off.

Now this incident in 2006 happened at the end of an extremely heated game with rules in place to prevent instigating and shenanigans in the last 5 minutes so perhaps there was a sense of protection the Thrashers bench felt?

Either way, the end result was players that shouldn’t have been out there for Atlanta were and Hartley made a huge mistake. Andy Sutton and Bob Hartley have to feel terrible for getting their guys pummelled.

COACHING CALL

The situation in the Flames-Canucks game was different. There wasn’t a heated incident immediately before, but as a coach I don’t think you can take that chance, especially if you have last change.

Torterella is vilified more today if Daniel Sedin is mugged or their team is completely taken advantage of.  He protected his team, which is what a coach is supposed to do. He had no choice but to put out a comparable line of grit and toughness. That doesn’t mean he has to be happy with what unfolded next.

No one knows what might have happened had Tortorella put out a skilled line. This game is unpredictable and rules don’t often matter in the heat of the moment. Assuming nothing, could have been very costly for him, more than the fine or suspension he will likely receive and deserve for his intermission antics. He could have lost his best players or that dressing room.

Has Bob Hartley ever tried to diffuse a situation again, when put in Tortorella's spot?

I doubt it. 

C76a4c69c9026575581a01d4ac34111c
A Moose Jaw Warriors alumnus and veteran of 460 NHL games with the Capitals, Ducks and Stars—Sutherby is here to regale us with tales of the WJHC, life as an NHL player and much more from a Pro’s perspective. Co-Host's the Jason Gregor show on TSN1260 on Tuesday's from 3-5 and Coaches at www.proconnectionhockey.com Twitter:@briansutherby
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#1 Hat Pughes
January 20 2014, 09:35AM
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Off topic but on the same situation. I don't get why Everyone (Cherry PJStock VanMedia)was so high on commending Bieksa for his leadership in the situation in protecting the rookie Lain.

Are you freaking kidding me???!!!???

Bieksa heroes up to take the draw.Then when the puck is dropped he refuses to engage with Westgarth. Instead, Bieksa beelines it to Smid and decides that who he wants to fight. Guess who Lain partners up with anyways without "Big Bro Bieksa" lookin out for him -- Yup Westgarth.

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#2 China town man
January 20 2014, 09:35AM
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As a fan of the oilers! I ask that Calgary please don't hurt our players when we play against your team we are small and fragile just making good money skating in circles for 40min the other 20min is to embrace what a difficult life they have. And I also asked that Vancouver when we play against your team can you ask your coach to not scream and yell!!! Because our coach is the the weak and quiet type.

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#3 billythebullet
January 20 2014, 09:01AM
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Not sure what hartleys intents were but I for one think that this may have been the years most entertaining hockey game.

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#4 vetinari
January 20 2014, 09:10AM
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What I can't understand is why Torts got so mad-- he had last change and elected to go with his toughies... fine... just don't bark at the other side because you accepted the challenge.

If Torts wanted to throw the Sedin line on the ice instead, he could have called over one of the refs before the faceoff, told them of his concerns and his expectations that if the Flames guys try to jump his guys, his guys were unwilling combatants and he'd hold the ref's responsible for player safety. I presume that the refs would have then skated over to the Flames bench and had a little conversation with Hartley about what would happen if his guys tried something (ejections for all of them, including the coach).

Clearly, Torts was out of line trying to go after Hartley and the Flames in their dressing room. What would have happened if Torts disappeared into their dressing room and the door closed behind him? He would have got the beat down of his life. Stupid. Suspend him for at least one game to send a message.

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#5 RexLibris
January 20 2014, 09:08AM
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Tortorella made a mistake in going to the Flames dressing room in the intermission and for that he should be suspended.

I have no love for him or the Canucks organization, but you are absolutely right that he is going to be vilified for this when Hartley shares responsibility.

Hartley's lineup to start the game was clearly meant to incite and he, and the Flames, deserve to be called out by the league for this as well.

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#6 camdog
January 20 2014, 09:13AM
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Hartley got called out by Burke for the team not playing tough enough. Burke still has a bad vibe with Canucks since he left the organization.

I know we in Edmonton like to pretend that the president of hockey operations doesn't effect day to day operations of the team, I on the other hand disagree.

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#7 Czar
January 20 2014, 09:14AM
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Of all the teams that need a beatdown it's the Canucks! The only time I'll EVER cheer for Calgary is when they play Vancouver.

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#8 mk
January 20 2014, 09:39AM
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What I don't get is the sudden change in attitude from everyone. I definitely don't like having Westgarth and McGrattan playing as much as they do, nor do I think teams need a "tough-guy" line.

However:

whenever a team's top line scores against another team's 4th line, EVERYONE congratulates the scoring-team's coach for getting line-up match that dramatically favours his team.

If Torts were smart, he'd start Burrows-Kesler-Booth (or someone) as the forwards. Burrows and Kesler actively practice running away from fights and the line is skilled enough to scare Hartley into changing his forwards PDQ when the puck is dropped. Stupid lineup by Hartley, stupid response by Tortorella.

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#9 pkam
January 20 2014, 10:00AM
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Didn't Torts do the same in Mar 19th 2012 when they visited the Devils?

Didn't he send his tough guys out in the first shift and start a line brawl when Deboer responded by sending his tough guys out.

So if Torts could send out his tough guy out in the first shift, why can't Bob Hartley?

Funny it was also Torts that yelled at Deboer. So he yelled at Deboer for responding to his challenge, and now he yelled at Hartley for starting it? So it is okay if he does it but not for anyone else?

what an embarrassment to the league. Hope the league not just fine him, but suspend him for a long time.

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#10 Westcoastoil
January 20 2014, 09:56AM
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China town man wrote:

As a fan of the oilers! I ask that Calgary please don't hurt our players when we play against your team we are small and fragile just making good money skating in circles for 40min the other 20min is to embrace what a difficult life they have. And I also asked that Vancouver when we play against your team can you ask your coach to not scream and yell!!! Because our coach is the the weak and quiet type.

I wonder if Hartley goes for physical intimidation the next time the Flames play the Oilers - if he starts with Stajan, Backlund and Cammelari we'll know he's doing it again.

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#12 piscera.infada
January 20 2014, 09:41AM
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Hat Pughes wrote:

Off topic but on the same situation. I don't get why Everyone (Cherry PJStock VanMedia)was so high on commending Bieksa for his leadership in the situation in protecting the rookie Lain.

Are you freaking kidding me???!!!???

Bieksa heroes up to take the draw.Then when the puck is dropped he refuses to engage with Westgarth. Instead, Bieksa beelines it to Smid and decides that who he wants to fight. Guess who Lain partners up with anyways without "Big Bro Bieksa" lookin out for him -- Yup Westgarth.

I thought the exact same thing.

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#13 acg5151
January 20 2014, 09:13AM
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Torts shouldn't have gone to the dressing room but he was pissed off and I might have made the same mistake as a coach.

Icing the fourth line with his toughest defensemen, however?

Not a mistake.

I for sure would have done the same thing - especially with the Kessel/Scott incident fresh in my mind. Believe it or not, this game is still violent people!

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#14 Czar
January 20 2014, 09:42AM
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How many times have we seen Torts go off in a press conference or game in the past few years? The guys a tool who does more harm to the hockey with his BS and tirades than any fight, staged or otherwise has. I'd like to see him get 3-5 games but a good beating in the hallway would have been even better.

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#15 Jamie E
January 20 2014, 09:46AM
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Wonger wrote:

Time for the Oilers to trade for BIG JOHN SCOTT if they want to compete in the Wild West. BIG JOHN SCOTT would neutralize the Flames and the CANUCKLEHEADS by himself!

As a Canucks fan I completely agree. Eberle and a pick should do it.

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#16 lionlager
January 20 2014, 12:59PM
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Fighting discussions always bring the best and brightest to the comments.

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#17 Czar
January 20 2014, 09:49AM
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Wonger wrote:

Time for the Oilers to trade for BIG JOHN SCOTT if they want to compete in the Wild West. BIG JOHN SCOTT would neutralize the Flames and the CANUCKLEHEADS by himself!

Your sure consistent with the BIG JOHN SCOTT posts dude, are you his agent or brother?

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#18 Oliveoiler
January 20 2014, 09:55AM
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@China town man

OMG .... TOO funny. Hubby and I laughed till we cried. LOVE IT!!!!! Thanks for making our day!

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#19 piscera.infada
January 20 2014, 12:42PM
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@elvis15

Ok, fair enough. Can we at least call Burrows "a joke"? No one's going to argue that one. Face protector or not, he deserves to have his jaw bashed in at any point. It would definitely stop him from his little sqwak-and-run-away routine.

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#20 Wonger
January 20 2014, 09:32AM
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Czar wrote:

Of all the teams that need a beatdown it's the Canucks! The only time I'll EVER cheer for Calgary is when they play Vancouver.

Time for the Oilers to trade for BIG JOHN SCOTT if they want to compete in the Wild West. BIG JOHN SCOTT would neutralize the Flames and the CANUCKLEHEADS by himself!

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#21 SeanCharles
January 20 2014, 10:10AM
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Coaches have started their 4th lines in games before...

This is not a foriegn concept.

Torterella could have started his 2nd line and wouldnt have to worry about the Sedins being out there or a scrappy line..

There is no rules against who you start in a game.

Torterella made a mistake by going to our dressing room and got what he should have expected by throwing his 4th line out to match.

I dont mind Torterella as much as most but he screwed up because he's a hot head and let his emotions get the best of him.

That was a great game, I love when this stuff happens.

Truculent it up! I miss when teams feared coming here because they knew Iggy, Regehr and Phaneuf would hit and fight anyone.

Size and grittiness does create offensive chances because you own the boards and cycle the puck around by winning battles. There is nothing wrong with this, so long as the players can also play.

This is what people fail to see in Burkes vision. He doesn't want a team of 4th liners. He want guys who can fight and skate on the 4th line. Guys who can skate and hit and have skill on the 3rd line and a mix of high end skill and grit in the top 6.

Players like Baertschi and Gaudreau have spots on the team, if they continue to improve... But they will be surrounded by players who have a physical presence which is what I miss out of the Flames lately.

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#22 Jay
January 20 2014, 09:58AM
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It's nice to have an article written about an NHL game on this site. Too bad it was between van&cal. Maybe next decade the oilers will have one

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#23 Czar
January 20 2014, 10:09AM
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mk wrote:

Plus, we have lingering hatred from 2004. Am I right?

I had no problem with Calgary losing in 2004,in fact I enjoyed it. I just wish it would have happened in 1989 as well.

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#24 elvis15
January 20 2014, 12:03PM
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@Brian Sutherby

Absolutely agreed, especially considering it doesn't have to be a fight right off the draw but rather it could be McGrattan or anyone else taking a run at one of the Sedins (or Burrows, who was wearing a full face guard in his first game back from a broken jaw) and causing injury that way.

Alberts still isn't healthy from the concussion he got from McGrattan in that Dec 29 game.

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#25 Glenn
January 20 2014, 12:20PM
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I don't get how Hartley is to blame here.

The Canucks have been going on for the last 2 weeks about how they are going to be tough to play against. How's that working for ya?

Hartley has every right to throw out the big boys. Like has already been said, if the Flames had their 4th line out for an icing call and couldn't change, Torts would have had the Sedins out in an instant.

Did Hartley bait Torts? You bet he did. Did Torts take the bait? Right again.

Torts trip to the dressing room is where he crossed the line. About a 2 game suspension seems appropriate to me.

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#26 chillout
January 20 2014, 12:18PM
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@elvis15

His hands came up after initial contact. Have a close look at the video again.

Either way what you are saying is never ever put the sedins out against somebody's fourth line? I mean yeah they are little babies but that sounds kind of stupid to me.

If you think Mcgrattan is such a goon maybe you should look at the penalties he gets. He rarely ever takes a stupid penalty, he doesn't run around like an idiot trying to hurt people. His minutes are usually fighting and that's it.

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#27 chillout
January 20 2014, 12:05PM
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@Brian Sutherby

Mcgrattan didn't Ko a canuck with an elbow. You should probably go back and review that video. That was one of the weirdest KO's I've ever seen. it was shoulder to shoulder and Mcgratts hands came up and that was it. Didn't appear to be any significant contact to the head. What contact there was, was secondary. He got the "elbow pit" (inside of the arm) in the face.

More likely it was just a unexpected impact for Alberts that stunned him

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#28 xeno
January 20 2014, 12:35PM
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Westcoastoil wrote:

I wonder if Hartley goes for physical intimidation the next time the Flames play the Oilers - if he starts with Stajan, Backlund and Cammelari we'll know he's doing it again.

Stajan couldn't beat a good hard on.

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#29 Terry
January 20 2014, 10:21AM
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Good read.

I've never respected Hartley as a coach going back to his days in Denver. He was and still a goon coach who liked his players sending messages when games were pretty much decided.

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#30 Spydyr
January 20 2014, 10:35AM
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How many decades has it been since the Oilers could put out a line of tough skilled players?

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#31 Primo
January 20 2014, 12:57PM
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The heart, energy, desire that the Flames are showing despite that it's early in their rebuild and the team has very little talent is exciting. This identity is a critical element of a successful rebuild.

Unlike the Oilers who have had 3 consecutive 1st overall's (soon a 4th) and much more talent they are listless, lifeless, heartless, and most important they have developed a culture of no accountability and losing that will be very difficult to change!

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#32 chillout
January 20 2014, 01:08PM
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@elvis15

I'm glad you take offense at that(ummm why?). At least I'm not calling you names. Besides what should you care what I call players. Vancouver Canucks Diving team probably upsets you too.

Anyway I can't respect players like the sedin sisters or kesler, burrows and kassian. Their actions are often disgusting, like the drinking motions burrows was directing at our bench (maybe at SOB) I don't know, but a bunch of gutter trash that I would be disgusted to have on my team.

I can't stand the soccer style dives those guys attempt time and again. Or the bitting or the idiotic locker room charges. It's a joke. There is space for a little embellishment but it's just so bad on that team.

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#33 Lemming
January 20 2014, 04:37PM
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Anyone who argues the Flames and Hartly weren't out to fight, go watch the replay of the start of the whole line brawl.

Bieksa cleanly wins the face off. Why? Westgarth doesn't even try to win it, and just jumps straight on Bieksa.

If that doesn't show you that he's just looking for a fight (and the Canucks aren't), I don't know what does.

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#34 He Who Knows
January 20 2014, 10:46AM
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Seriously when will Burkie scrap with Lowe? Oil Country would thank Burke.

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#35 elvis15
January 20 2014, 12:09PM
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One other point I don't think has been brought up is Hartley tries to sell them being the starters by saying they scored in the last game. While McGrattan and Westgarth were on the ice for the Bouma goal in the previous game (at the end when the game was out of reach) none of that line has had a single point in some time. The last point of any kind for that forward group was Dec 12, when McGrattan had an assist, and Dec 21 for the defence, when Butler had an assist.

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#36 Parallex
January 20 2014, 12:33PM
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@cam

Sure... but I'm pretty sure he didn't put them out there to start a line brawl either. Blair Jones & Chris Butler aren't what folk would generally refer to as "tough customers"... why send those guys out when Lance Bouma and SOB are dressed? Probably thought that he'd put McGrattan out there to get the ritual "you injured my guy last time now we have to fight" over and done with but then Tortorella's maniac routine raised the temperture.

Regardless this whole articule is poorly thought out... by the logic expoused here no coach can ever put any line out against another teams fourth line except their own fourth line... for some reason I'm pretty sure if the Flames fourth line iced the puck Tortorella wouldn't have any objection to throwing the Sedins over the boards. He had a choice and he choose to take the outcome that Hartley offered up. His act of personal affrontery was buffoonish at best.

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#37 Wonger
January 20 2014, 11:09AM
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Czar wrote:

Your sure consistent with the BIG JOHN SCOTT posts dude, are you his agent or brother?

Brother? I am 5'6" 245lbs and have more chins than a Vancouver phone book! I am just an die hard life long Oiler fan!

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#38 WesternDP
January 20 2014, 12:30PM
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Thanks Mr. Sutherby for the nice article and insider's perspective.

I wish I could have read something that good in this morning's newspapers.

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#39 Clyde
January 20 2014, 02:16PM
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GeezMoney wrote:

I thought Saturday was a great night for hockey. Sestito beat down McGratten, Kassian punked Bouma and the Canucks won.

Sesito beat mcgratten? Lol

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#40 piscera.infada
January 20 2014, 02:27PM
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@chillout

I actually disagree. I think the Sedins get a pretty raw deal when it comes to their actual, instead of perceived work ethic, strength, and toughness - those guys are actually pretty tough competitors. They don't mix it up after the whistle, but that's not really necessary, and usually leads to some pretty funny hi-jinx. For example, this hilarious turn of events. As was pointed out during the game in question, the style of game the Sedins play (low cycle in the corner) is some of the most physically taxing play in hockey. I'll agree with you on some of the other suspects past and present, although I happen to like Bieksa as well (heresy, I know).

I also agree on the "ironman" streak bit too. That kind of crap is periphery - it certainly isn't gospel, or important in any way.

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#41 beloch
January 20 2014, 03:09PM
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First of all, I take issue with using "player selection" in the title of your article, which strongly suggests a comparison between Hartley and Ron Rolston, who was fined for "player selection" in the pre-season. That was a completely different situation. It wasn't the first faceoff. He sent a goon out to attack one of his opponents stars because he wanted revenge for a fight that occurred previously in the game.

I'm not going to pretend Hartley wasn't spoiling for a goon-fight. You don't start the game with your goon-squad if you aren't. However, Torts wanted it too. If he didn't want a fight, he had numerous options. He had four bloody lines to choose from, and three of them could have outplayed what Hartley put on the ice. He choose his goons. He could have instructed his goons that they were, under no circumstances, to accept a challenge to fight. They'd have looked like pussies but the Flames would have started the game with a penalty. Torts did no such thing. He sent his goons out there with implicit orders to do what goons do. Fight. He also sent out a rookie, which suggests he doesn't like that rookie very much, but whatever.

He clearly wasn't expecting a full line-brawl, and that's why he was probably so incensed after it happened. He must have thought Hartley sent his goon squad out with orders to not just start one fight, but five of them! If you ignore 20/20 hindsight and consider what's likely to happen if you send a line out with orders to start a 10 player brawl, you'll rapidly realize Torts assumption was utterly idiotic. One goon fight was intended by both sides. The brawl was spontaneous.

Now, no matter how angry you are, NHL coaches are generally expected to be above charging into their opponents dressing room looking for a physical confrontation. Torts owes a lot to McGrattan, one of the very goons he professes to despise, for first keeping him out of the dressing room (where he would have been gang-pummeled) and then stopping Clint Malarchuk from going after him. Malarchuk might not be a man-mountain, but he is one tough SOB. The goons had more class than Torts that day!

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#42 mk
January 20 2014, 09:44AM
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Czar wrote:

How many times have we seen Torts go off in a press conference or game in the past few years? The guys a tool who does more harm to the hockey with his BS and tirades than any fight, staged or otherwise has. I'd like to see him get 3-5 games but a good beating in the hallway would have been even better.

Plus, we have lingering hatred from 2004. Am I right?

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#44 elvis15
January 20 2014, 12:10PM
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@chillout

His hands and stick were up in the hit and contacted Alberts. Regardless, if you want to look at that as a legal play it's further evidence of what could happen if the Sedins were put out on that faceoff.

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#45 Spydyr
January 20 2014, 12:30PM
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cam wrote:

Bob Hartley sent out his 4th line, a line made up of players that had combined for 3 goals in 76 games this season, to start the game – the first time in 49 games this season he had done so. He sent out a player that had previously only taken 2 faceoffs all season to win the opening faceoff and to, apparently, score a goal. I think we all know why Hartley put those guys on the ice and it wasn't to create offence.

But, but what where their Corsi's?

For the stat guys that think everything can be measured on a stat sheet.

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#46 elvis15
January 20 2014, 01:28PM
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@chillout

Offence at those kind of comments? Not so much, actually kinda happy to think that's the only argument people can come up with against the Sedins. It's pretty sad though that people still resort to that after all these years of the Sedins playing tough minutes.

If that's your stance that you can't respect someone like the Sedins even, but you want people to respect McGrattan, then there's not much point in debating any of this with you.

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#47 piscera.infada
January 20 2014, 10:36AM
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@SeanCharles

"...But they will be surrounded by players who have a physical presence which is what I miss out of the Flames lately.

Exactly. The reason I take little to no issue with everything that went on to start the game was the fact that the Flames didn't get completely outclassed by a team that is (admittedly) far more skilled and for all intents and purposes, should be outclassing them nine time out of ten. The beginning of the game likely changed the way that game was played. It was intense, and I loved it.

My biggest problem with the Flames play of late is that there's simply no push-back at all - player runs Ramo/Berra, all good, continue on. The only thing worse than having to watch your team get outskilled by a better team (on a nightly basis), is having to watch a little dweeb like Burrows skate around flapping his jibs while it happens.

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#48 cam
January 20 2014, 11:56AM
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Bob Hartley sent out his 4th line, a line made up of players that had combined for 3 goals in 76 games this season, to start the game – the first time in 49 games this season he had done so. He sent out a player that had previously only taken 2 faceoffs all season to win the opening faceoff and to, apparently, score a goal. I think we all know why Hartley put those guys on the ice and it wasn't to create offence.

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#49 elvis15
January 20 2014, 12:45PM
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piscera.infada wrote:

Ok, fair enough. Can we at least call Burrows "a joke"? No one's going to argue that one. Face protector or not, he deserves to have his jaw bashed in at any point. It would definitely stop him from his little sqwak-and-run-away routine.

:facepalm:

Uh, no.

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#50 PB
January 20 2014, 02:06PM
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@chillout

You must have loved the dive Giordano took grabbing Kassian's stick then.

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