In the past week, the NHL news around here has been excessive violence, more excessive violence, the Flyers being hellaciously awful, and the latest lunatic turns in the decade-long saga of the league trying to make fetch happen in Arizona.
That latest one continued Friday with Glendale’s city manager calling big-time bullshit on the excuse for the Coyotes’ now-paid bills.
Of everything going on, the thing that’s really irksome? One of the most awesome goals you’ve ever seen, Trevor Zegras making a feint to a Michigan move and passing to Sonny Milano, who batted it out of the air and into the net.
At least, that’s what you’re peeved about if you’re John Tortorella, 63, the former master of “Safe Is Death” who every year just gets a little more Abe Simpson.
In fairness, it’s not like Tortorella brought it up himself — he was asked about the Zegras-to-Milano play on an ESPN panel. As is his job now, Tortorella gave his opinion. And his opinion is exactly why he’s better off on that panel than behind an NHL bench.
“I’m not trying to be a fool here, but I’m just not so sure it’s great for the game,” Tortorella said. “If you did that in 2000, back in the late ’90s, 2000, you’d get your head taken off.”
Getting your head taken off was… great for the game? And scoring awesome goals that make a game between the Anaheim Ducks and Buffalo Sabres noteworthy is… uh… not?
The thing is, Tortorella isn’t alone in thinking this. Hockey’s culture has long embraced retribution for anyone who dares to show a bit of personality out there. This isn’t new, either, it’s just one of the starkest examples we’ve seen, with almost nothing external attached to it.
Zegras is a Boston University kid who grew up in Westchester, a stone’s throw from the Rangers’ practice rink while Tortorella was coaching them. Milano is a Long Island kid who also came through the USNTDP and played for Tortorella in Columbus. Their bios are as Torts-friendly as can be short of being a late-round draft pick goalie from Europe, and even then, Tortorella would tell you he pretty much just leaves his goalies alone.
That’s how much Tortorella hated this play. It’s not even like it was about the celebration. This isn’t the hockey version of a bat flip debate, or a throwback to the furor over Nail Yakupov’s ice-long slide. And it wasn’t like the Ducks were running up the score, because this was the first goal, early in the second period, in what wound up a 2-0 game.
The Ducks scored a goal, but they did it the wrong way. Not breaking any rules or anything, but just, too showoff-y. And nobody was punished for it — in fact, there were only four penalties the entire game.
Is the argument, perhaps, that had the Sabres taken out their frustrations over the goal by being violent, it could have fired them up to get back in the game? The odds are just as good that the result of such nonsense would be Anaheim power plays and an even harsher final score.
Maybe what would be good for the game is more players who can do sick moves.