((From time to time I will get a request from a fan to allow them the opportunity to voice their opinion here on the blog. "C-Leaguer" recently sent me an email and asked if I would post his point of view about the volatile Sutter situation, and I agreed.
Opinions are all over the map about this situation. Who's right and who's wrong? I wish I knew, but many fans are fed-up with the parade of concussions and other injuries on the Canes and they are searching for answers. Here is one point of view that will probably stir some debate))
First, let me thank Bubba for this opportunity. His blog is very professional and I only hope that I can measure up to the standards that both he and Cory have set.
Last night (October 25) The Hurricanes and the Islanders faced off at the Nassau Coliseum. Both teams were looking to prove something in the early season. The Canes wanted to wash the bad taste out of their mouth after a couple of games that could have gone better. The Islanders wanted to try and turn their season around after going 2-4 in the first six games. Midway through the third Doug Weight, a man who was instrumental in the Canes Stanley Cup win in 2006, leveled the 19-year old rookie Brandon Sutter at center ice at a time where the Canes were winning 4-2. I'm not going to debate the legality of the hit or the sportsmanship. It appeared legal, although it did not appear if Weight was making a play for the puck.
What I do want to question is why Peter Laviolette did not send one of his two enforcers, Dan LaCouture or Wade Brookbank, out on the ice to answer the hit.
Laviolette's system is a demanding one that requires that the team play together. Forwards have to get in deep on the forecheck and have to help with clearing pucks. Defensemen have to be able to make the break out pass or skate the puck up and get involved with the offense. No one is allowed to be a defensive specialist or an offensive specialist. Cherry pickers and prima donnas are not welcomed. The system doesn't support those types of players.
Team chemistry is so important to Laviolette and his system that there are many off ice activities built around bringing the team together. There's typically a week long retreat early in the pre-season that focuses on team building. There's the annual Father's Day Weekend where the players fathers come to town to watch a few games and travel with their sons. The goal is to form a cohesive unit where 23 guys play as one.
After Weight's hit, Laviolette had the opportunity to put in to practice that which he preaches. Sending out LaCouture or Brookbank would have done more to reinforce the team chemistry than any amount of words, obstacle courses, or trips with the Dads. Actions speak, and Laviolette's inaction last night said volumes to his team.
Perhaps what is worse is that this is not a new situation. As a matter of fact this is a situation that the team has been in many times over the last two plus seasons. A player on an opposing team has taken some liberties with a Canes player, made a viscous head hit, and injured an important part of the line up. Laviolette's response has been the same all along; don't fight.
One has to wonder what effect Laviolette's decisions are having on team chemistry. Since winning the Cup in 2006 there have been too many games where the Canes have either come out or finished up in a listless manner. The only constant is how inconsistent the team has played. Injuries have been blamed, but as was seen last year and the Cup year the system can overcome injuries if the commitment is there.
The question has to be asked what impact Laviolette's decision is having on the team and their effort level game in and game out. Is his decision to not allow players to fight negatively affecting the team chemistry that he's tried so hard to create and that his system demands? Is it leading to a system where guys don't want to give there all because there will be no repercussions to the opposing team? More importantly can the Canes afford to have a coach his in undercutting his own system?
Certainly the Canes can take away that they got two points last night, but in my opinion this was a situation where a battle was won and a war was lost. How many more players will get injured? How many more listless evenings will the fans endure? How many more times can GM Jim Rutherford trade for Darcy Hordichuk before Laviolette wakes up? Overall, I think he's a fine coach, but this is one area where he has to make an adjustment before he loses this team just like he lost the Islanders in his first head coaching stint.