February 9, 2012

Fischler Report: Cherry weighs in on ever-changing game

By Stan Fischler

No matter how you shake it, Don (Grapes) Cherry remains the most visible and quotable hockey personality.

      Grapes proves this over and over again, most recently in an interview with the Ottawa Sun’s Tim Baines. Here are some of the issues with which Cherry dealt: 

* CHERRY ON HOW LONG HE CAN KEEP THIS GOING:

      I’m going to keep it going as long as I’m having fun. I’m as excited now as I was for the very first Coach’s Corner. If CBC only knew, I’d do it for nothing.

* CHERRY ON HOW THE GAME HAS CHANGED:

      The guys are bigger and faster. And they shoot harder. Is it better? I don’t know. But the respect for one another has dropped.

* CORRELATION BETWEEN RESPECT AND CONCUSSIONS:

      People are upset when I blame the victims. You cannot do what they do, turn their backs and expect not to get hit. When I see players run guys from behind, we never used to do that. It comes from when they’re playing minor hockey. What they do, they turn their backs. Nine of 10 guys, they don’t hit them. But that 10th guy, he gets him.

* HOW HE WOULD CHANGE THE GAME:

      One is the instigator rule. So many injuries are a result of the instigator rule. Today, nobody can protect anybody. The governors said they’d put the instigator rule in so tough guys wouldn’t pick on the stars when it was the exact opposite. The other one is touch-icing. There’ve been more players retired, careers ruined, from touch icing than there has been for concussions.

* ON BEING SELECTED AMONG THE TEN GREATEST CANADIANS:

      The people who voted for me didn’t think I was the greatest Canadian. It was a time that the right wing, the hard-working guy in the factory, the construction worker could finally have a say. They didn’t think I was the greatest Canadian, maybe the most popular.

* FIGHTING – GOOD OR BAD?

      Most of the players like it. The coaches don’t seem to mind it. And the owners don’t seem to mind it. The people that love it the most are the fans. And they’re the ones that pay the freight. If you take away fighting, you take a lot of excitement out of the game.

BRAD MARCHAND TALKS ABOUT HIMSELF AND THE CHAMPION BRUINS

Boston’s Brad Marchand has been a sparkplug on offense this season. Instrumental in Beantown’s Cup run last year, Marchand is Claude Julien’s clutch scorer.

TFR’s Jared Lane spoke with Marchand on the following issues: 

*IMPORTANCE OF WINNING:

When you're winning a lot, it's a lot easier to come to the rink. But, we still know that when we're here we have a job to do. Everyone embraces that goal and does the most to make sure he’s at his best every day.

* TEAMS DEVELOPMENT TO GET TWO POINTS EACH GAME:

      It's huge that we can play with any kind of team. We can play with skilled teams, or play with big, strong power teams. The fact that we can play against different styles is definitely an advantage to us, and we have to use that to our advantage whenever we can and come out with wins.

* PATRICE BERGERON:

      He's if not the best, one of the top face-off guys in the league. He's very consistent every night. He's very strong on the draws and it's huge for our team. You don't want to spend the whole game chasing the puck off face-offs and when you're able to win the way he does, it makes it very easy for us.

* IMPROVEMENT OF TYLER SEGUIN:

      He’s playing unbelievably. He seems to be able to do it every single game. Around the net he can’t miss. Tyler makes great plays out there. It is very good for him and we are all happy.  We need him to keep going; he’s a big part of our team.

* LEARNING FROM YOUR MISTAKES:

That's something you want to be able to do in this league and you want to show that you can learn from mistakes and different things. You just want to be able to bounce back and show that it doesn't affect you and it doesn't bother your game. The big thing is you have to respond and make sure you learn from it.

* BRUINS LIVING UP TO EXPECTATIONS:

Yeah it was getting a little scary there for the first ten games or so, but after that we really kind of turned it around and found our stride and everyone is playing at the same level they did at the end of the last year. The tough thing to do is to keep it going all year and that’s going to be our goal. We need to make sure we do it game in and game out for the rest of the season and hopefully down the stretch.

OBSERVATIONS:

* SIDNEY CROSBY will be hearing plenty of suggestions from the media (SEE BELOW) and others that he retire. While well-meaning, those “Get-Out-of-Hockey” supporters don’t account for the Crosby psyche. No matter how you shake it, Sid is the ultimate competitor and – like mountain- climbers – understands his risks involved. The future scenario will be simple: if the time comes when medics declare that Crosby can play, he will play; no if ands or buts!

GOSSIP:

      That the Islanders will play an exhibition game in Brooklyn’s Barclays Center next fall has several explanations: 1. It’s a signal that foot-dragging Nassau politicians had better get serious about working out a new Coliseum deal. 2. The thought that the Brooklyn building is too small for hockey (14,500) is counter-balanced by Barclays Center insiders. One puts it this way: “Sure, the Brooklyn arena is small but it has all of the other amenities afforded to any successful NHL franchise. What they might lack in attendance, they can make up for with sponsorship and other business opportunities.” Bottom line: It’s not  up to NHL standards and major changes would be required. …

Meanwhile, the Islanders continue to build hope for the present and future. John Tavares was named First NHL star for the Month of January. Tavares led the NHL in assists (13) and points (22) and shared the league lead in plus-eleven last month. Add to that the fact that Bridgeport Sound Tigers centerCasey Cizikas was named Reebok/AHL Player of the Month for January. Cizikas tallied eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points.  Sound Tigers’ goalie Kevin Poulin was named Reebok/AHL Goaltender of the Month for January. Poulin made seven appearances during the month and allowed 11 goals on 216 shots, going 6-0-1 with a 1.52 goals-against average. A .949 save percentage and three shutouts. …  

Edmonton’s Sam Gagner, New Jersey’s Ilya Kovalchuk and Toronto’s James Reimer were named the NHL’s Three Stars for the week ending February 5. The first star was Gagner, who tallied a league-leading 12 points. The second star was Kovalchuk, who notched ten points, leading the Devils to four consecutive victories. Third star was Reimer, who posted shutouts in consecutive games against Pittsburgh on Feb.1 and Ottawa on Feb. 4. …  Don’t be surprised if Kevin Cheveldayoff pulls off a deal with his former club, the Blackhawks. With his club precariously slipping, the Jets g.m. knows the Blackhawks roster better than anyone . Without a doubt, the Jets require a big infusion of talent. Also clear, is the historic fact that the Thrashers blew the Ilya Kovalchuk deal. All that really remains for Winnipeg is up-and-down-defenseman Johnny Oduya. …

The question asked everyday in morose hockey-minded Montreal is this: Is there a single g.m. among 29 who will trade for Scott Gomez? Since Scoreless Scotty is making $7.5 million, the odds are 30:1 against it which inspires the second question, are the Habs considering a buyout of Gomez between now and June 30? … Speaking of nutsy contracts, how about Jeff Carter’sScott Howson gifted this underachiever with an 11-year, $58 million dollar contract. Here are two things you should know about Carter: 1. He likes his salary; 2. He doesn’t like being in Columbus.