Penguins Q&A with Dave Molinari
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Q: I'm curious to hear your input on the new rule resulting from Sean Avery's actions (Sunday night, when Avery stood directly in front of New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur and, with his back to the play, waved his arms and stick in Brodeur's face to distract him). My opinion is that the new rule is unjust. I don't think this is any different than trash-talking an opponent to distract him.
MOLINARI: Although it's easy to understand how people could get the impression that that was the case, the NHL did not institute a new rule to deal with situations like the one that arose during Game 3 of the New York Rangers-Devils series. Rather, it issued an advisory detailing how an existing rule -- Rule 75, which covers unsportsmanlike conduct infractions -- is to be applied in the event someone decides to replicate Avery's latest stunt. The rulebook lays out the parameters under which officials are supposed to operate; it doesn't specify every possible violation of every rule.
Also, as Penguins winger Jarkko Ruutu noted in yesterday's Post-Gazette, that was not the first time an NHL player tried something like that. The only unfortunate thing is that referees Don VanMassenhoven and Mike Hasenfratz didn't have the judgment to assess Avery the penalty he deserved; Ruutu pointed out that Todd Bertuzzi, his former teammate in Vancouver, wasn't so fortunate when he did something similar a few seasons ago.
Avery obviously took a risk by turning his back to the play so he could badger Brodeur during a five-on-three power play, because it's hardly out of the question that one of his teammates could have hit him with a shot Avery never would have known was coming. Perhaps the league's advisory would have been unnecessary if Avery had paid for his actions, one way or the other, in real time, although it obviously would have been preferable to have that message delivered by a penalty, not an injury (even a minor one).
Avery's actions Sunday aren't the most despicable thing he has done in his career -- his resume includes accusations of ethnic and racial comments made on the ice during games -- but mostly because there are so many other candidates for that distinction.
What Avery did also doesn't undermine the game's integrity quite the way Bryan Murray, Ottawa's coach and general manager, did last week when he publicly and repeatedly accused the Penguins of intentionally losing their final regular-season game so they could face the Senators in the first round of the playoffs, but failing to reach the heights of absurdity Murray did won't qualify Avery for a lifetime achievement award.
Q: Can you explain why forwards who break their stick insist on playing without one in their own zone, sometimes for 30-60 seconds, rather than risking the four-second dash to and from their bench to get another one? I can somewhat see the argument in the second period, with the longer (distance to the bench), but in the first and third, it seems to me a forward could easily dash, get the stick, and be back, and the team wouldn't be as harmed as it is by having a forward defending for an extended period without a stick. My guess is that (because) coaches are conservative by nature and dislike criticism, they haven't espoused this.
Dave Glass, Clearfield, Pa.
MOLINARI: Most hockey coaches and players don't enjoy criticism -- neither do shoe salesmen, bank tellers, insurance agents, hockey writers or anyone else -- but it's safe to assume the fear of a negative reaction by the press or public isn't the reason coaches refrain from telling players to get a replacement stick as soon as theirs breaks. Frankly, any coach who allows writers, broadcasters or fans to dictate how he runs his team doesn't belong in the business, and isn't likely to stay there for long.
While players obviously are infinitely more effective when they have a stick, the time spent getting to and from the bench -- whether it's two seconds or four or 10 -- is more than enough for most teams to manufacture a quality scoring chance and, quite possibly, a goal. Even if a player has lost or broken his stick, he's able to clog passing and shooting lanes; if he sprints to the bench while play is in his end -- the only time in which any of this is an issue -- by the time he gets back, there's a decent chance his goaltender will be fishing the puck out of the net.
First Published April 16, 2008 12:00 am