I like pugilists just like the typical hockey traditionalist. I spy Pierre MacGuire with his mug looking like someone just spilled his Chablis as he is forced by the NBC producers to watch fist fly. It is then that I pray that Mad Mike will then just lose his sanity, a la an Isles trade, and then take a swing at the man. Why? I am sure Pierre is a nice enough fellow. But, hell, I like some good chaos like the next manly man.
I am not full-believer of the new NHL. I think the speedier game allows for much more decision-making mistakes, like the Flyers (and other teams) issue with hits. There is much less time to make the right quick thinking move these days. So little time for flash decisions, and that effects safety.
Meanwhile, old protectors have gone the way of the dodo, or have much more responsibility and new things thrown on them. Some who could not skate now litter the AHL or, perhaps, are sitting near you at your local Hooters screaming at the TV screen amid mid-chew of a wing and a pitcher of beer.
Things have changed. And not all for the better. Players, due to this, do not have the protection of being able to police the game themselves. Sure, the game is faster, and more frenetic at times. But there are some costs. And those costs have those needed protectors saddled with much more responsibility and must keep up value. Not just be a guy who can only play about 2 minutes, fly some fists, and then like Maverick...punch-out back in the box or back on the bench.
Chris Simon, who has skills to play the game, even with the faster pace of the new NHL, is one of those men. With coming to Ted Nolan's team, who is a father figure to him, he has multiple roles for the Isles since the start. He buy-ins to Nolan's system and coaching. He's a savvy veteran. He has malicious fists that can throw with the best of them still. He can score and play the top lines in a pinch.
Last year, he found that spark and groove that had him as a dangerous goal scorer, as well as protector. But in that groove, he was also guilty of one of his worst infractions. The stick-swinging incident against NYR's Ryan Hollweg. A brutal hit and loss for a team, and seemed to be a loss of himself. For on his return this season, that offensive prowess seemed to be missing. And he looked out of step with the rest of the team.
Soon after, was worst incident #2, versus Ruutu when he tried to shave on of his legs with his foot. And then, the outcry, poured in. Fans gave up on Chris Simon. Your truly included. I gave him slack for what was a terrible judgment on Hollweg, not buying the head-hit defense that much resemble a Twinkie defense. Simon, in that moment lost his head and bearing, and lost himself to the darkside. Where in a dangerous game, he lost his moral compass and reason. But, I too, gave him a pass. No enforcer is Mother Theresa. They are a gritty, sometimes skating over those gray areas.
But when he transgressed once again this season, I felt, like Hayden Christensen's casting and dialogue in Lucas's inept Star Wars prequels, he was a lost cause. And many fans and bloggers still agree.
Yet, there was the NYI website this week, touting his return in complete denial of those fans feelings. And you have to wonder, why?
Well, somewhere, they feel there is still redemption. That Chris Simon has not completely gone over to the dark side, just yet. He can be redeemed. Well, forgive me for not buying that company line wholesale, but I do see why.
Chris Simon is still needed. Especially if this tean peels away their mixed-bag of one-year deal players and those whose contracts are up this season. They might hope some of them look to return via free agency (Comrie? Silly?), but if they finally have realized the folly of taking sleepers and depth players, and seen the light on development of prospects and draft picks, they might, even if they toy with the 8th spot, still pull the trigger on deals.
Garth Snow is quoted on saying that he'd do the Ryan Smyth deal again. Well, in looking at O'Mara and Nillson (and Esposito still undeveloped in Pitts system as they let him get away), he might be able to say that still. Because that was their last shot in a former era...or error, of players like Yashin still on the team. They knew Blake was a goner. Perhaps Poti also.
Sure, Garth, you'd do the Smyth deal again...but isnt the tougher and more precarious of questions is: Would you have made the same offers to Smyth? Thats the real question, buttercup. The Isles seemed to be unwilling to ante up above and beyond to hold onto someone they felt was a valauable addition to their future and fortunes. They also did not offer up above and beyond for Chris Drury.
Instead, we were outbid, in either money, years or just locations. And the scrapheap was all that was left as the Isles had to relook at their aims and desires. Now those pieces might be up for sale in just a few days. Or, they will seek, with a decimated staff, to still buy-in to the illusion and perception of scraping into the playoffs, will somehow redeem the Isles franchise, let the Lighthouse Project leap into Uniondale, and create gobs and gobs of cash.
IT will. If we get the right players and personnel that get us out of the sinkhole of mediocrity. Being a mediocre team, even if we somehow get the 8th spot, does not make us playoff viable or viable for the future. Youth, prospects, draft picks along with picking a new scheme of vet and player commitments is the only way.
And this leads us to why Chris Simon is still important to the Isles.
They might have already seen this light. That this is the way to go. But to do so, you also need to keep your Nolan buy-in players, vets and core as you move towards youth and a rebuild.
Simon presents, if he can control himself, a positive element to protect, serve, and still put the puck in the net. And that DOES have value in a rebuild. If he can reclaim his former self and has a bearing on his issues. And those things I or you cannot answer. Only Chris Simon can.
So, can Ted Nolan raise the zamboni from the swamp, and also work with the kids to find their way?
This is what was successful in his time in Buffalo. Kids, plus vets, all buying in to his system and gameplay. The Isles have only had this in spurts. But if they do sell-off and rebuild choosingly, they might have more success in the longterm, changing their fortunes in a much deeper and successful way in the standings, fans, and locally. They can build a longterm winner this way.
And that's a sequel worth waiting for.
In the meantime, we beat Toronto the other night, a team more hapless than us presently, despite some excellent players. Today we take on Atlanta who just put down the Devils. And Monday, we face the west...the Sharks come to town. Three games that might seal the deal on where we go from here. One hopes we can bust the illusion that we are viable playoff contenders, and we need a serious retooling for the future.
Also on Monday, is the GM meetings. This is way groundwork might be laid down and talk might spur to action.
- BD, shaving with his lightsaber.