Q: Eric Godard hasn't played at all in the playoffs and Craig Adams has. I understand that Adams adds a lot better defense and kills penalties well, but don't you think Godard should be rewarded for his hard work throughout the year? He won two team awards this year, has fought everyone and defended the stars on the team. Shouldn't he be rewarded with some action? I didn't say Craig Adams was a better offensive player than Godard, because he isn't, in my opinion.
Todd Walker, Muncy, Pa.
MOLINARI: A player shouldn't get a spot in the lineup, let alone playing time, at this time of year as a thank-you for what he contributed during the regular season. That's what those six- and seven-figure salaries they receive are for.
Godard is a one-dimensional player; his primary, if not only, responsibility is to fight when he believes the situation calls for it, and he handled his role quite effectively during the regular season.
One of the most impressive aspects of his performance was that he had a good sense of when to fight, doing it when there was reason to think it would give his team a lift, and avoiding fights when the flow of the game suggested the other club would be the one to benefit. He also had a pretty healthy winning percentage in his bouts.
Fighting is rare during the playoffs, however -- in the Penguins' hotly contested series with Philadelphia, only six fighting majors were assessed during the first four games, and even that total was inordinately high -- and coaches are reluctant to dress a guy strictly to fill an enforcer's role then.
Although Adams has been filling the spot Godard would be in on the fourth line, their roles are decidedly different. Godard is here because of his toughness; the Penguins claimed Adams off waivers from Chicago because of his defensive work and penalty-killing, and he's given them no reason to second guess that decision. Fact is, going into Game 5 against Philadelphia last night, Adams actually was averaging more ice time per game during the playoffs (9:43) than he had during the regular season (8:41), a pretty good indication of how interim coach Dan Bylsma has assessed his work so far.
And for what it's worth, while neither Adams nor Godard is in the league because of his offensive output, their career statistics give Adams a pronounced advantage in that facet of the game. He has 37 goals and 53 assists in 507 regular-season games, while Godard has five goals and seven assists in 271.
Q: Would it be a good idea to assign a set of referees and linesmen to an entire playoff round instead of switching them every game? I believe it would make the calls more consistent.
MOLINARI: The league does pair up referees, as well as linesmen, during the playoffs -- there are 10 sets of each working the first round -- and it's hard to dispute that deploying them as four-man units and having each group work a series, start to finish, would lead to more consistency in calls. Presumably, what Bill McCreary or Paul Devorski views as a hooking minor or goaltender interference or whatever in Game 1 of a series would not change by the time Game 7 rolls around.
The downside to that kind of set-up is that, at least in the case of hockey, familiarity really can breed contempt, and if a player and official have a run-in early in the series, there's a danger that the incident could color the ref's judgment (even if it's unconsciously) the rest of the way. Part of an official's mandate is to be thick-skinned and to not carry grudges, but it seems like it would be difficult to remain completely objective about a player who questions not only your vision, but the breed and mating habits of your parents.