Thoughts on Sean Avery
By now you all know Sean Avery's transgression and the punishment. But here was my question: How do players feel about the league suspending players for something said to the media rather than what someone did on the ice. Since the government is not involved, this is not a free speech issue. The NHL is a private entity to which teams freely have membership. So, the question is, is it fair?
Since the Lightning's Players Association rep, Jason Ward, is in the minors, and no other player seems to have taken the job, I asked former Lightning captain Tim Taylor, who also was Tampa Bay's player rep.
Taylor said his hip is good. He just ran a 10K race in just over 40 minutes, and plays on a traveling squash team. He also recently put a nail through a finger while helping workers construct his new house in his hometown of Stratford, Ontario. Anyway, Taylor said the NHL approach is correct.
"To be quite honest, and siting back as a fan of the game, I'm glad they did this," Taylor said of the suspension. "I just think it's totally wrong for him to make comments like that when you're trying to market the game, and really trying to go in a positive direction. It's absolutely taking two or three steps back as a league with these comments."
Taylor said selling the game in a positive way is important, especially when trying to lure new fans who only see hockey make news when there is something controversial.
"They can't allow it to happen," Taylor said. "The league as a whole was embarrassed. ... If there would have been an unbelievable game that night, great goals, great saves, the best game ever seen, what would have been shown first on ESPN was his comments. That's why the league had to step in. I feel bad for the guys playing in the NHL. A lot of people who don't live the game, they're going to get what he said, and see his antics and his personality. Everybody will be painted with the same brush."
Lightning defenseman Marek Malik played with Avery with the Rangers said he has "no problem" with the troublemaker.
"That's his personality," Malik said. "He likes to be in the spotlight and be on the edge. That's how he is. That's how he rolls. You just have to understand what he does. He likes to be on that edge. Sometimes, maybe it's good. Sometimes, he gets his teammates going. Sometimes it might be a little bit over the edge, but that's his hockey style."
Malik said he always appreciated Avery's honesty.
"He was a good teammate of mine," Malik said. "we had lots of laughs. we had some arguments but we tried to discuss them. He's a fair guy. There were problems and we straightened it out right away. He was really honest, so I appreciate those kinds of guys."
Still, Malik said of Avery's comments about former girlfriend Elisha Cuthbert, who is now dating Calgary's Dion Phaneuf: "I'm an old-school guy. I like to keep stuff in the locker room and on the ice, don't go through the media. ... But it's up to him. That's him."
On another subject, goalie Olie Kolzig said he is well aware the team is going to lean on Mike Smith for a stretch of games in the next little while, and he has come to terms with his situation. Kolzig has said he did not come to Tampa Bay to sit, but admitted Smith has played extremely well and Kolzig has been spotty the past couple of games.
"Smitty has taken the ball and run with it," Kolzig said. "He's been exceptional. I'd hate to see where we'd be right now if he hadn't played the way he has."
As for his future, Kolzig said he wants to stay with the team, even if it means an even further diminished role.
"I made a decision to make a change," he said of signing with the Lightning after spending his entire career with the Capitals. "I don't really want to make a handful of changes in a relatively short period of time. I've come to grips with my role. My family enjoys it here, and if I did go somewhere else, my family wouldn't be coming with me, nd to me, that's not an option. Come the trade deadline, we'll see. But right now, I have no desire to go anywhere else."
Other stuff from the morning skate: Coach Rick Tocchet said center Chris Gratton has an ankle injury, not a knee injury as was believed. Gratton is skating now and then before practices, but Tocchet said it is a "frustrating" injury that will need time (but not a procedure) to heal. ... Tocchet said it's possible left wing Matt Pettinger (knee) could play on the four-game road trip that begins Monday. ... Tocchet would not reveal scratches for tonight's game but wing Adam Hall stayed on the ice after the skate to work further. ... Tocchet reiterated he still believes the team can make a run at the playoffs or the Southeast title. "I know there's a ton of games left," he said. "We can't keep saying that and dropping games, but there's a lot of time left to get back in the race."