Has this roller coaster ride gotten bumpy enough for you yet? Are you feeling as if you are being thrown from side to side in your seat as you read one account after another concerning L’Affair Paille? There seems to be a split in opinions on whether Daniel Paille‘s check on Dallas Stars‘ Ray Sawada was a clean one (from where I sit, the check was a clean shoulder to shoulder hit) but there is an even bigger difference of opinion on whether Boston Bruins defenseman Andrew Ference should have come out in the media and publicly aired his view of the play. Ference called it a “dirty hit.” Former Bruins coach, Don Cherry let his feelings be known on his Coach’s Corner segment this past Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada. Seen here http://www.kuklaskorner.com/index.php/hockey/comments/video_watch_coachs_corner/.
Cherry was joined by another former B’s coach, Mike Milbury, in his criticism in how Ference voiced his objection to the Paille check. The reactions to Cherry and Milbury have been swift and mostly negative. Personally, I agree with both gentlemen. Most of the reactions are coming from media members who I hold in the highest regards but they only get to see what goes on in a dressing room for a few minutes each day after practices and games. Some members of the “fourth estate” have played the game and they understand how the dressing room of an NHL team is the players second home. The players spend time more time in that dressing room than they do in their homes during the long season. In some instances, players know each other better than their families know them. Regardless of how anyone feels about the Paille incident, it is the players, coaches, and management who need to deal with the issue and it needs to remain inside the room. The players are just like the public and the media, they all have feelings and opinions about the play especially this team because of the concussion issues suffered by teammates Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron but there is an unwritten code that says any issues that arise during the season between players does not get aired out in public. A player does not violate that code. It can result in a loss of trust between teammates. It can, and will, divide the players into two separate factions. A team that had been enjoying a good season, such as the Bruins, can become one of divisions and cliques quickly and that will result in the downfall of the team and a good season will come to an end. It is human nature to take sides when someone speaks out in any situation. I have been involved in hockey for almost 40 years as a player, referee, and coach, I have seen dressing rooms become battle grounds. It is not pretty. The atmosphere becomes one that is so volatile that every one associated with the team cannot wait for the season to end. Hopefully, this will not happen with the Boston Bruins. This is a team that can go deep into the playoffs. The leaders, coaches, and management, need to step up and restore the feeling of unity and family that every championship team fosters. How that is restored remains to be seen. It could result in a surprising trade or two. Any team member who takes a hard stance against Paille could find himself playing for another team in the coming weeks or it could be Paille, himself, who gets moved. As has been discussed all season long, The Bruins need to add another defenseman who has the skills to add to the offense. The club also needs to add a veteran center to replace Savard, who at best, will return to action next season and, at worst, will need to retire. Incidentally, Savard was asked for his opinion on the Paille hit in today’s news conference, where it was announced he will be placed on Long Term Injured Reserve. Savard said he could not answer that question. He may or may not have a view on the situation but he did the right thing by not publicly commenting on it.
As Don Cherry pointed out, in the game that followed the Dallas tilt, the Bruins came out and put in a lackluster effort against San Jose which resulted in a shut out loss to the Sharks. That may have been a coincidence but most likely, it was not. The B’s are off until Wednesday when they meet up with arch rival Montreal. The Canadiens trail the black and gold by 2 points in the race for first place in the Northeast Division. More importantly, the winner will be in third place overall in the Eastern Conference. The Bruins currently occupy both positions in the standings but are 0 for 3 against the Habs this season. This will be the most important game of the season up to this point for both teams. Check out Rick Keene‘s take on Les Canadiens here at A Winning Habit http://awinninghabit.com/.
Including this week, there are just eleven weeks remaining in the NHL season, Boston cannot allow any off ice distractions to get in the way of its goal to finish in the top three in the conference and start the playoffs with home ice advantage. Hopefully, L’Affair Paille can become a distant memory sooner rather than later and the Stanley Cup will become the talk of the town instead of Paille, Ference, Cherry, or Milbury.
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Topics: Andrew Ference, Boston, Boston Bruins, Coach's Corner, Don Cherry, Eastern Conference, Habs, Hockey Night In Canada, Marc Savard, Mike Milbury, Montreal Canadiens, National Hockey League, NHL, Northeast Division, Patrice Bergeron, Playoffs, Ray Sawada, San Jose Sharks, Stanley Cup