Every week, the FTR crew will review the biggest hockey news from the previous week.
-Matt Cooke wasn't suspended, Alex Ovechkin got two games, and James Wisniewski got eight games. Is there consistent logic in those three issues?
Mike: If this is about intent to injure, then Cooke and Wisniewski should be suspended. I don't think Ovechkin is a dirty player, but we've all acknowledged that he's reckless -- even his own coach says so. Intent should compound the punishment, but it's not an excuse at all. The fact that Cooke got off with nothing when similar plays have warranted suspension pretty much sums it up. At times, they use prior incidents as precedence and other times they don't. At times, they factor in the actual injury and other times they don't. I don't think anyone's happy with Colin Campbell's decision-making but on the other hand, I'd hate to have his job.
Joe F: We have debated this on Rink Side Radio (and will continue to debate it this week), but there is no formula for these types of isses. Matt Cookes' hit, although not illigal in terms of the NHL rule book, compleatly crossed the line, and was a blatant attempt to injure. Cooke should be out a long long time, period. Personally Ovechkin deserved the two games, and in my opinion deserved another two as a "relax with these hits" reminder. And I think that Wisniewski got what he deserved, that his was pre-meditated and meant to cause some harm. Overall there is no formula, the NHL has to make one if they want to stop these incidents.
Cory Lavalette: I can see the logic, even if I don't agree with it. Ovechkin's recklessness is an issue, and Wisniewski's hit was both a blow to the head and an intent to injure. Unfortunately, Cooke's hit — by the letter of the current law — was legal. Thankfully that is set to change, because his hit was the most dangerous of all.
Bob: On those three issues I see some logic, but the system needs a complete overhaul. Some consistency would be nice.
Cassie: "Logic" has never been used when it comes to additional off-ice discipline. These things should be spelled out beforehand so that it's the same type of punishments for everybody. Repeat offenders should be punished more, of course, but in a systematic way - as in, first time offenders get this, second time offenders get that, third time offenders get whatever, etc. And the star players shouldn't get let off lightly simply because having them out of games hurts NHL marketing.
In this instance, where Ovechkin was penalized but Cooke wasn't, I sort of feel that that was a makeup call. The NHL knew after the fact that Cooke should've been penalized - but only because of the public outcry over it; it made them look bad - so they slapped Ovechkin with something because they felt they had to. Normally, if Ovechkin's hit had been an isolated incident, that wouldn't have happened since he's a star player and they like their double standards. The NHL is all about appearances, even when they don't care about the substance.
-The New Jersey Devils have run over the Pittsburgh Penguins in the regular season. If they meet in the playoffs, will this matter?
Mike: A few years back, the Sharks ran over the Red Wings in the regular season before losing to them in the playoffs. Over the course of six regular-season games, injuries and roster moves occur, so the team that loses back in October might be different from the team that loses in February. I wouldn't look too much into it; everything is reset once the playoffs start.
Joe F: Regular season statistics don't matter at all (aside from seeding you). At the end of the day, any team can get hot and win games. The Oilers showed us that a few years ago. It might come into play mentally for both teams, but if you take your foot off the gas because you beat up on a team in the regular season, you won't be going very far in the summer.
Cory Lavalette: If I was Pittsburgh, I wouldn't be too worried about the regular season results. The playoffs are a completely different animal.
Bob: It might not matter to Pittsburgh, but it should certainly give the Devils reason for some confidence. Confidence in the playoffs is never a bad thing.
Cassie: Everything changes in playoffs. I'm not sure that it'll matter too much to either team, really. Once the puck drops on the first round of playoffs, it's a clean slate and a whole 'nother season.
-Some contending teams are stumbling after the Olympic break. How will this momentum affect their playoff hopes?
Mike: Fatigue has to be a factor here for teams that sent a bunch of players into the Olympics, but I think the bigger issue comes in the form of bad habits. If your team is firing on all cylinders in March, it may not mean anything statistically when the playoffs start but at least you know everyone's moving forward as a cohesive unit. If they're losing, it could be because of sloppy defense or selfish offense, and the longer that stays, the more it becomes ingrained in how players work. There have been examples of both hot teams getting swept out of the playoffs early and cold teams pulling together, but I'd certainly rather be going strong than not.
Joe F: Again it's all about when teams get hot. A team can get t with two games to go and carry that momentum all the way through the playoffs. By the same token, a team can be playing amazing till the last few games of the season and lose it all. The playoffs is a clean sheet, for every team.
Cory Lavalette: There are ebbs and flows in every season — the Olympic break just makes them more noticeable because of how long the hiatus is. I'd be more concerned with the players who played a lot of games being affected by fatigue, especially if some teams are pushed to six or seven games in the first round.
Bob: Momentum is a fickle lady. It can last for weeks or it can turn around within the course of a game. Certainly, teams doing well heading into the postseason will have a leg up, but a team could still turn things around within a series.
Cassie: The Olympics might've sapped the momentum from teams immediately after the break, but it's a moot point right now. A team can pull themselves together or fall apart within any given month in the NHL. It doesn't matter how a team's playing in February, but how they're playing by the end of March. If they're not on a winning streak, then they probably won't do well, regardless. Even with injuries and fatigue, it's probably all about the same as it would've been had there been no Olympics.
-Can the Phoenix Coyotes win the Pacific Division?
Mike: Who would have believed that the Coyotes would set a franchise record for wins, let alone be within striking distance for the division? Ultimately, I think San Jose will stabilize and win the division, but it's certainly not unrealistic for Phoenix to target the division title.
Joe F: I don't see it happening but they sure do have a chance. Good for them, great offense, solid defense, and some well timed goaltending. When the Rangers miss the playoffs I'll make sure to throw on my Phoenix hat.
Cory Lavalette: Goaltending can go a long way, so it can happen. But I think the Sharks will hold them off.
Bob: Can they? Yes! Will they? No!
Cassie: I don't see why not.
-If you support a bottom-feeding team, do you cheer every loss for a better lottery pick or is that out of the question?
Mike: I think as a fan, you have to be concerned with promoting a culture of losing, even if the end result is a better draft pick. What I'd support a go-nowhere team doing is ditching the ice time to give the rookies and prospects NHL experience. Their enthusiasm should carry them through the losing, and if it winds up being a better draft position, more power to them.
Joe F: I don't think you "cheer every loss" but I also don't think you let it upset you too much. At the end of the day though draft picks are what you make them. Pittsburgh is a great example of the good, New York (untill recently) is a great example of the bad.
Cory Lavalette: I can certainly speak to this, since the Hurricanes have been among the league's hottest teams of late. You don't cheer for losses, but at the same time the losses don't hurt as bad if you think of what the return could be on a bad season. When it comes to Carolina, the team is giving a lot of their young players a shot at playing in the NHL — those guys competing and winning can only have a positive impact going forward.
Bob: I echo Cory's sentiments. It's really tough to cheer for losses. But the sting after a loss is not as sharp when you think of the possible return in June and long term rewards.
Cassie: Let's see...the Lightning had the second overall pick last draft, and the first overall pick the previous draft.... Personally, I can't stand losing. I don't care if they've been out of playoffs since January. And I don't care if losing gets the team a better spot in the draft. I just really hate losing. So I always cheer for a win - always.