Saturday, October 27, 2007

Opening Night II?

We had Opening Night and Kids' Opening Day. After a week with no hockey, tonight's tilt with Carolina almost feels like a second beginning to the season. You have to wonder how the team will respond to seeing game action for the first time since last Saturday's win over the Devils. My hope is that the week off won't be nearly as big a deal as we've all been making it out to be (hey, we needed something to talk about). Certainly, I'd expect to see the team come out flying and then skating hard for a full sixty minutes. With four full days off before the next game on Thursday, there's no reason to be conserving energy. Tonight will see Marc-Andre Bergeron back on the blue line and replacing the injured Bryan Berard at the helm of the power play. We may also see the return of Shawn Bates to the lineup. All in all, it feels like we're rebooting the season. And doing so with a 5-3 record means that the reboot feels like it was necessitated by a software upgrade rather than a fatal error. Let's hope the updated version runs as smoothly as its predecessor.

I finally had a chance to read Michael Farber's profile of Chris Simon on It was interesting to digest it having already read Chris Botta's strong reaction to the piece. From an outsider's perspective, I thought it was a reasonably balanced piece. Yes, there were some cheap shots taken:

But Simon's apparent haze sounded like a hockey variation of the Twinkie Defense; instead of sugar, a concussion had made him behave aberrantly. Judging by his record, however, the concussion just made him more like himself.

Farber did, however, show that Simon is multifaceted and highly respected by many in the NHL brotherhood. You cannot tell his story without revisiting his previous transgressions, just as you can't tell it without quoting multiple players on how there's no better teammate with whom to go to battle. Of course, I don't work with Chris Simon and I don't know him, let alone consider him a friend. I completely understand how, in his position, Botta feels like he got burned after providing generous access for the story. I also understand how Botta and Nolan want to be protective of a guy who has made such strides in turning his life in the right direction.

But when Simon admits that he's a different person when he plays than he is in everyday life, you have to set limits for what is acceptable conduct by that on-ice persona. Simon has operated outside those boundaries on more than one occasion. His handling of the consequences of this incident has been right on target. He has been appropriately contrite, paid his penance, and is moving on with his career. We know that Simon can be a tough, effective NHL player and a great teammate without over-the-top acts of aggression. The future of his career depends on him continuing to do that.

By the way, I also think that the insertion of Simon into the lineup for the preseason game against the Rangers served to diffuse the bad blood more quickly. That's not to say that the two teams won't scrap again during the regular season. But at least the enmity between the teams hasn't been simmering all this time. Letting off some steam out of the glare of the regular season may have been the best of circumstances in this situation.

For those of you who are prospect watchers, note that Ryan O'Marra has been sent to Stockton of the ECHL. Thanks to bjoelson on the HF Boards for first bringing this to my attention. Read about the move here and here. O'Marra scored two power play goals in his first game for Stockton.

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