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More email...I know how you live for it. This came from a reader who took exception to my Don Cherry observation last week (quote from column below that the reader included):

"Don Cherry: When you incorrectly identify the players involved in a specific and controversial issue (namely Chris Neil and Sean Burke, as opposed to Chris Neil and Chris Dingman), something’s wrong. We’re not exactly arguing over semantics here. It’s one thing to stir up a discussion — it’s completely another to be unaware of the facts (and significant history) going in."

But, he was right on the button this time. How tough can a player be, pointing at a goalie and challenging him? Chris Neil is the epitome of one of the biggest NON tough guys of all time. No matter who Neil was pointing at, he still did the big bad turtle when it came time to answer the bell. Oh, for sure, maybe just maybe he wouldn't have turtled if Burke came after him, but that would be a typical Senator play, to beat up a goalie. (Ed. Note: Whaa?)

If you are going to threaten the other teams goalie, then you need to be man enough to answer the call when the inevitable challenge comes. All year, Neil hid behind McGrattan, and now that big bad Brian sits all the time, Neil resorts to the little turtle move. Ain't that just like a Senator?

I noticed more dives in game one by the Senators against Buffalo than I've seen in an Olympic diving event. (Ed. Note: Don't know what game he was watching.) Man, what the Sabres had to do to overcome the absolutely atrocious officiating to win that game was immense. Here's to Buffalo for showing more heart and desire than ANY of the Senators can muster up. (Ed Note: Like who? Fisher?) The Sens were basically handed this game on a silver platter, and STILL could not win. That's not a good sign. Don was on the ball this time. One of the few times Don is ever right.

Marcus Allen then responds:

Hi there -- thanks for writing.

You're entitled to your opinion regarding Chris Neil, and I'm not going to indicate whether or not I share it, because it's irrelevant in regards to the point I was making in the column.

Chris Neil pointed at Sean Burke, and not Chris Dingman. The reason being that he has a history with Burke that dates back to the infamous Philly-Ottawa brawl. Cherry did not reference Sean Burke at all, and indicated that Neil was pointing at Dingman, who wasn't even on the ice at the time. That's all I was stating in the column. Nothing more, nothing less. Don was wrong because he identified the wrong player.

As for the rest of it...

Of course Neil turtled. Who's going to deny that? There was no need for him to fight, code be damned. The score was 5-2 in favour of Ottawa. There was a playoff game at stake. He obviously wasn't proud of what he did -- the _expression was all over his face. The camera was perpetually on him afterward, and he didn't smile once. In fact, he looked extremely embarrassed. But drawing those seven minutes in penalties was the difference in that game, because it completely destroyed any momentum that the Lightning were building at the time (and they were -- Ottawa was on their heels). He played the role of pest. He turtled. He took one for the team and it paid off. Scoreboard.

As for Brian McGrattan currently being a healthy scratch -- the last time I checked, fighting was a rarity in the playoffs and generally remains highly discouraged at this time of year. Neil had 33 points in the regular season. McGrattan had 5.

Those are the facts. Anything else boils down to subjective opinion. Thanks again for writing and take care.

Erin Nicks

P.S. I can't remember any specific examples of "typical Senators play" in which an Ottawa player "beat up" a goalie. If you can, feel free to remind me because it must be an aberration. But "typical" suggests this would be a regular occurrence, and if I can't remember any player-goalie brawls taking place, then something must be wrong with my memory. If there was any goalie involvement whatsoever, it would certainly only involve the backstoppers themselves, as that it is the norm. Ray Emery can more than hold his own (as demonstrated by his AHL history), and he has yet to fight thus far.

4 responses to "More reader email"

  1. I agree with everything that Don Cherry said, I usually do though. It was some bad officiating that gave Ottawa a 5-3, the Sens dive around the ice like they have been wounded or something. I am so glad they lost as you would have guessed, its another goaltending controversey in Sens town as like in the past, the goalies plain SUCK in the play-offs. Remember Lalime, Tugnutt, wow the list can go on and on. GO SABRES GO!!!!!


  2. One bad game does not constitute a goalie controversy. Ryan Miller hardly had a stellar showing -- do you also think Lindy Ruff will start Martin Biron because of it?

    The Universal Cynic

  3. There is no controversy. That would suggest some question as to what to do next.

    It's Emery or bust, and everybody knows it.


  4. BUST, BUST, BUST! Sens have no idea what a handful they are dealing with. I personally hate the Sabres. Can't stand them. They are a pain to play against because they are like flies on shit (Can I say shit?). Buffalo will have Spezza riding the bench in another couple of games due to horrendous giveaways. The controversy is one more brutal loss away. Assessing Emery's mental toughness will be done quickly. Everyone likes to paint him as solid as a rock, but the truth is he has had nothing of importance to deal with until now. The opinion of him may change drastically if the Sens don't give him more defensive support. If he's left on his own too much, the Sabres will chew him up and spit him out in no time. Like it or not, the Sens may have to revert to Jacques Martin type hockey to pull out this series and save their goalies ass. (Can I say ass, Aw Shit!)

    reality check