Thoughts on Staal, Simmonds and Avery
The Marc Staal situation is still no clearer today than it was weeks ago. At this point he is still in the States practicing with the Rangers AHL affiliate in Connecticut while his teammates are continuing the exhibition season in Europe. The question is when will Staal be ready to play.
Obviously the Rangers need Staal if they expect to challenge for the Atlantic Division crown. Given how much he plays against the opposition's best, a lengthy absence will force the Blueshirts to use inferior or more inexperienced defenders to counter some of the most skilled players in the league. For a team that relies so heavily on playing good defensively not having Staal in the lineup is a risk they would rather not have to confront.
The news has shed little light on the prognosis. GM Glen Sather even questioned whether or not Staal was suffering from post-concussion syndrome or if it might be some other malady. Regardless at this point Staal has not been cleared to join the club as the team handles the situation with kid gloves. The old adage in play here is, "better safe than sorry."
Staal himself didn't shed any light on how he is feeling. Recent comments suggested the biggest hurdle keeping Staal out of the Rangers exhibition lineup is the fact he is not in "playing shape."
Personally, as a Rangers fanatic, I am only modestly concerned. Any time you are dealing with the possible specter of post-concussion syndrome, there is cause for worry. But it seems to me the Rangers would rather be overly-cautious in order to protect their long-term interests.
The fact the club has yet to add a veteran FA to the mix despite the availability of players like; Bryan McCabe, Paul Mara, etc., is telling. Granted neither of those options are particularly appealing but if there was real concern Staal might be out for a while I would expect more buzz around Slats making a move of some sort. If this situation stretches beyond the first few games of the regular season then I might change my tune.
Avery and Simmonds
Without a doubt, Simmonds timing and choice of words was unfortunate. I'm sure he isn't the first player to ever utter that particular "homophobic" word on the ice. Still coming on the heels of the banana throwing incident in London, Simmonds maybe should have been more sensitive to the use of a term considered exceptionally offensive to a specific group of people.
Do I think Simmonds use of the word had anything to do with the much publicized PSA Avery did in NY on behalf of same-sex marriage? In my opinion, no, I think it was more of a reaction to the stuff going on at the time between Avery and Simmonds on the ice. My guess is that particular word is used enough in the sport among its participants that it is rarely considered for its actual meaning and is probably assumed to be no worse than mildly offensive insults like; idiot, moron, etc.
Do I think it was suspension worthy? Again, I don't think so. While the NHL reserves the right to punish players based on what they say, it isn't spelled out what words the use of specifically merits a suspension. I'm sure the NHL will take care of that in short order.
I do find the excuse used by the league, specifically Colin Campbell, to be lame. They claim it couldn't be proven what exactly was said. Really, that's the best you got? Anyone with at least 20/5,000 vision in one eye could see what Simmonds said. And why was it that Campbell appeared to be behind that ruling rather than the "Shanhammer?" I thought Shanny was in charge of discipline now?
I'm also disappointed in Simmonds. I believe he should have admitted what he said and apologized. Instead he claimed to not recall what he said to Avery during an interview conducted just after the game. Then his memory cleared enough that he could deny using the word in question during his hearing with the league.
I would have respected Simmonds far more had he held himself accountable, admitted using the term and then apologized for it. Kobe Bryant didn't deny calling an NBA referee the same thing during a game last year. He conceded it was wrong and apologized to those he may have offended with its use. That's the way Simmonds should have handled it too.
I also think Simmonds quote of, "I might've said some things he didn't like. ... It's Sean Avery, come on, now," was the wrong thing to say. Just because the insult is used on a player universally disliked doesn't make it right or make it less offensive to others.
Now about Avery, yes, he was wrong for saying he was going to "f***ing kill Giroux." I doubt anyone actually believed Avery would ever try to follow through on his threat though. I also wouldn't be surprised if that type of comment was made more often than we hear during games. It doesn't excuse Avery either but I doubt it would have been as big a story as it was had it been a different player.
Bottom line is this has probably gotten way more attention than it deserved. Let's move on and get ready for the regular season already.
Now back to the fan who allegedly hurled the banana on the ice prior to Simmonds' shootout attempt in the game against Detroit. He claims he didn't realize the racist connotation of the banana. Yeah, right. Who brings bananas to a hockey game? Did his mommy pack him a lunch for the game? If he really wanted to bring a piece of fruit to the game for a snack rather than pay outrageous sums for arena food, why not an apple or a pear? Stop with the BS excuses.