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Guest Blog: Ryan Lambert: On the Thin Line Between Awesome and Repulsive



Ryan Lambert is a fellow Puck Daddy writer.  He’s the dude that writes Monday’s “What We Learned” that I’ve FJM’ed so many times, and Friday’s “Trending Topics.”  I look forward to his every post, as the guy has some pretty great points about the NHL.  Also, he’s a complete asshole, in a slightly tongue-in-cheek way, and I really enjoy that.

Follow him on twitter, as not enough people do, and he’s one of my favourite follows.  Hopefully Lambert will write some more for us in the future.


The Line Between Awesome and Repulsive


Wednesday night, the Bruins and Habs engaged in a bit of a dust-up as part of a rollicking affair that brought hockey fans the world over back to what is affectionately referred to as The Good Old Days.
Because of a couple line brawls and even a good-natured goalie fight, there were 178 penalty minutes. Pretty much everyone thought it an exemplary game of hockey that got a bit out of hand because things were a little testy, and hey, it’s Habs/Bruins, right?

Good ol' fashioned dust-up.

 Convert that video to grayscale and scratch it up a little bit, it’s from the 1950s, when those teams legitimately hated each other. Add a different filter, make it grainier, and it’s from the 1970′s. All good stuff.
Apart from Greg Campbell using his elbow pad as a weapon in a fight — which went unnoticed by everyone, apparently, since I’ve not seen or heard a word about it and he sure as hell wasn’t suspended — you couldn’t say this wasn’t a perfectly healthy part of a very contentious game between archrivals. A little out of the ordinary, sure, but everyone involved was very, very willing.
But then the braindead pacifistas Get Fighting Out of Hockey crowd got significant ammo when something they would call “roughly the same thing” happened two days later. As the Islanders piled nine past the Penguins, they also saw fit to turn the game into a sideshow act, a nauseating and deplorable effort to even the score for trespasses — both real and perceived — committed in earlier meetings.
Those trespasses? Well, they’d been embarrassed a week and a half prior when Brent Johnson broke Rick DiPietro’s face with a vicious left, and claimed the rest of the Pens chuckled up their sleeves at the one-punch wonder. And of course Talbot had given Blake Comeau a concussion in the same game with a perfectly clean hit. 

This doesn't end well.

 But despite this, the game started rather innocuously. The Islanders jumped out to a quick three-goal lead, and it appeared that their way of getting revenge was to badly outplay the Penguins in a game of ice hockey.
Obviously, Michael Haley traded punches with Craig Adams over what he felt was a borderline hit in the neutral zone; one which looked innocent enough but you could kind of see why Haley objected. Then Eric Godard scrapped with Trevor Gillies late in the first period. But this was fair as well. It was two guys whose only job is to beat the living shit out of people like them, doing so.
Godard ostensibly wanted to fire up his team, they’d lined up across from each other on the draw. In short, everyone knew it was coming. Decent fight too. Nothing untoward. Again, an acceptable part of the game.
But these two fights should have, perhaps, served as a bit of a warning. Haley, for example, had been called up specifically for this game. Already a veteran of parts of five pro seasons, he’d been in 56 fights and put up 196 penalty minutes in just 65 AHL games last season alone. Clearly, this call-up was not made to juice the offense; Haley’s job on Friday, like the rest of the Islanders’, was clear. Send a message. They were more than happy to oblige.
In all, the game featured at least two absolutely reprehensible cheapshots (Matt Martin on Max Talbot in a six-goal game, and Gillies’ bionic elbow on Eric Tangradi), 346 penalty minutes, and one gigantic load of shit from the Islanders organization from top to bottom.
To wit, Garth Snow didn’t bring just anyone down from Bridgeport as a replacement. He called up a guy with 144 penalty minutes this season, despite Gillies and Zenon Konopka already being dressed for the game. He clearly knew what would take place, in one form or another, beforehand.
And while Jack Capuano (perhaps) didn’t order this absurd level of hate-fueled violence, he certainly didn’t mind that flying elbows and blindside ambushes and, most disgustingly of all, cretinous taunting were how his team reclaimed their pound of flesh. That he stood there after the game and told reporters with a straight face that he had no problem at all with what his boys had done that night serves as irrefutable evidence of this.

Yeah, things got ugly.

What the Islanders did was pure pro wrestling garbage. That they provoked the Penguins into answering in kind was, as with any good heel act, probably exactly what they wanted.
How else do you explain Haley going after Johnson after already having been sent to the box for fighting on the same play? Yes, Godard leaving the bench was embarrassing, and nothing excuses it, but the circumstances had been so ratcheted-up by the crap the Islanders had been pulling for two periods that of course a cementhead like that was going to be suckered into getting himself suspended for 10 games.
And that’s what separates that sickening display from the dustups in the Habs/Bruins game. There was nothing premeditated about the hatefest in Boston, while the incident on the Island practically had an itinerary.


21 Responses to “Guest Blog: Ryan Lambert: On the Thin Line Between Awesome and Repulsive”
  1. Pat Tracey says:

    Ryan – you did not do your homework on Haley. He led the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in goals with 12. Also – he beat Johnson like a rented mule with a nice goal. The kid can play.

    You are a good writer – but must be on NBC and Versus’ payroll. I could care less what the holier than thou Canadian hockey writers will say about our team – and the “outrage” over the punishment inflicted on a team that has Matt Cooke on its roster….they took liberties on our guys all season long. Plus – the NHL will not police it when people take runs at our guys – like the one Oprik took at Grabner that went unpenalized and the runs that people have taken at John Tavares all season. The suspensions were fair. Cannot understand what Gillies was thinking and Matt Martin should have approached Talbot from the front. Their suspensions are fair. The fine ? Money well spent.

    The Islanders are at the bottom of the food chain in the NHL – and gets no respect. The only way is to win. And they did win that game. It will take time – but the team has perhaps finally decided to stand up for one another and they have to keep on doing it. Lots of fun and chuckles on the Pens bench and in the media after the recent game in Pittsburgh. They ain’t laughing so loudly now. Love how the NHL cited only the Islanders….and keep in mind – none of our guys came off the bench. A Penguin did – and they don’t get fined? Time to move on……..but the team has to continue to gel and win – in order to make it a worthwhile lesson learned.

  2. Pat says:

    Haley was also the leading scorer in Bridgeport and the Isles needed a forward up to make up for Comeau’s production, something conveniently ignored. Pulling him up doesn’t seem as premeditated if you look at it from that aspect. Even if it was just an enforcer move, which is a very arguable point, everyone of his fights was clean so I’m not seeing the objection to him, even Johnson clearly indicated he was willing to go.

    If we’re going to discuss premeditation then shouldn’t there be suspensions for the Dallas-Boston with 3 fights right off the face off? Obviously not because the fights were clean. I’m not buying the premeditation argument, frankly revenge is an accepted part of the game. The real reason the game was offensive is because of two bone headed plays from Gilles and Martin. Without those 2 plays you’d hear much less complaining about the Isles and defense of the dirtiest team in the league the Penguins.

  3. Dave says:

    Dude grow some balls.. Clean hit on comeau? Watch it again. Cooke runs everyone.. Pens laughing at the isles last game, got what they deserved. Please so stop crying about the isles organization from top to bottom and grow some balls. This game probably got more relatings than any other game, show or this blog. Later bitch

  4. Al Sleet says:

    Waaaaaaa Waaaaaaa Waaaaaaaa. What the islanders did, for the most part would have been accepted if not embraced by the fans and league had it been a different team. I dont agree with the martin and gillies incidents, but those aside had a team stood up for itself AND scored NINE goals in a game against a team that openly mocked them there would be a lot more positive press than negative. Lets Go Charlesto, o wait i mean islanders

  5. Cari says:

    Great post. Very well said. The Islanders and others saying the Penguins should have been punished equally are ignoring what was obvious, that the Islanders wanted revenge and set out to punish and maybe even injure the Penguins. It was like the Islanders lost all control and let rage take over. The Penguins weren’t angels but they didn’t start it, and they didn’t commit the shots to defenseless players’ heads that got Islanders players (rightly) suspended.

  6. jtbourne says:

    Jeez, surprising comments. I’ll go ahead and assume, without being snarky, that you gents are Isles fans. There are inevitably plenty of those that read this blog, given that I’m a fan too, and I write about them often. Isles people had written *before* the game about the scary roster the Isles were sporting – yes, Haley can play, but to claim he was there for offense is silly. He’s tied for 196th in the AHL in points. He’s 14th in the AHL in PIMS. Hunch is, the organization knows that. You hope brawls occur a little more organically than that.

  7. MHCranberry says:

    I absolutely agree– and this is the first time I’ve seen anyone differentiate between Bruins vs. Habs and Isles v. Pens. There was a palpable difference in the two games, and to see them treated as part of the same trend is a bit frustrating.

  8. Quenton Cassidy says:

    I agree with most of this (as an Islanders fan), but I would submit also that the Cooke hit on DiPietro that ostensibly caused the goalie fight should at least be mentioned here. I’d prefer the revenge be taken purely on the ice (as the nine goals would well have done), aside from the fact that I’d like to see Matt Cooke hit in the face with a cinderblock.

  9. andy says:

    gregory campbell didnt use his elbow pad as a weapon.
    he sure used his fists, but not the elbow pad.

  10. Andrew says:

    I can understand one wanting to defend they’re team (I have to do it a lot with the Flyers), but the mandate that the Islanders went into in this game was inexcusable.

    They wanted revenge for Cooke, for Brent Johnson and for Talbot (whose hit was not clean, in my opinion). There seemed to be a pretty clear agenda held by numerous players on their team. After they jumped out to a huge lead, it was time to exact that revenge apparently. There were cheap shots that had a clear intent to injure, not to just “send a message”. This is why the league fined the team.

    Garth Snow looks like a fool saying that he was proud of his team for standing up for each other and that nothing was pre-meditated.

    Martin and Gillies took deliberate shots at players that were totally defenceless. Those weren’t fights. The shot of Gillies chirping at an injured player being attended to by a trainer is deplorable.

    Those defending the Islanders mention how dirty a player Matt Cooke is. No question Matt Cooke is dirty. In my opinion the guy should be suspended for the rest of the year at the very least. However, just because the Pens have him on the roster doesn’t make what the Islanders’ players did okay. The two things are totally unrelated.

    I should say, the Penguins aren’t totally innocent. I have to question starting Brent Johnson against the Islanders again. It seems like they’re almost goating them into a fight. Also, when a player leaves the bench to fight, the team should be fined, without question.

    Also, I understand that the stiff penalties for players leaving the bench for a fight because it needs to be discouraged. However, I don’t know if that’s really the most punishable offence from this game as many of the other commenters seem to believe. It’s not really a dirty play, nor is it an intent to injure. On that topic though, I’d suspend both Johnson and Godard for beating on Haley the way they were after he was down on the ice. Johnson should have stepped back when Godard came in.

    A question for JB and the others out there. Mario’s comments today were pretty strong. To me it sounded like he was just generally embarrassed and disgusted and not simply angry with the Islanders. So, do you think he was saying that both teams got off too easy? Or was he standing up for the Pens and saying the Islanders should have been punished more severely for this “street fight”.

  11. Dawn says:

    OK, I’m just getting tired of the hyperbole about the Johnson / DiPietro thing….. “broke his face with a vicious left”? That sounds a lot worse than “caused a fracture that was only discernable on CT scan, not on the initial x-ray”, which I beleive is what was finally determined. Is Brent Johnson in the same league as Matt Cooke, with HIS vicious hits? It was a lucky punch; he’s not even a lefty!
    Oh and… wasn’t it determined that…REACHED OUT to Cooke as he passed, even though, of course, everyone jumped on Cooke after that….

    Yes, everybody on ther Pens side was laughing, after the Johnson/DiPietro bout, but I believe it was at the situation, and the incongruity of it all, not at the expense of those thin-skinned Isles. Who knew they were going to brood and plot for 9 days??
    They had their revenge, alright, by whupping the Pens on the scoreboard before the game even got going good. That’s one reason the whole retaliation thing seems so stupid.

    And do the officials need to have a couple of stand-by guys available, in case the ones on the ice can’t monitor more than one event at a time?

    For the most part, I think the dialogue that has come out of this, just among the fans even, has been pretty thoughtful and enlightening. But then JB’s fans are the best!
    I hope the reaction in the league goes beyond lip service and posturing, so that constructive steps really will be taken.

  12. MattyJ says:

    I like Mario, but he needs to shut up. He should be fined for criticizing the league, just like any other owner or GM, and he should take a better look at what his role is. He’s the one that signs Cooke and Godard’s paychecks. If he wants the league to be more respectful, it starts at home. The Penguins lead the league in major AND minor penalties (important point) so they are not exactly a team full of 20 Lady Byng candidates. Quite the contrary, they are the least disciplined team in the league. This reminds me of Pat Quinn’s Leafs from the early naughts, where they pretended the other teams in the league picked on them while fielding Tie Domi, Darcy Tucker and Wade Belak all at the same time. These types of comments in this context tarnish Mario’s legend.

    The Pens got their comeuppance, and deservedly so. Sure, it was a bit out of hand but it’s been a long time coming.

    I also take issue with some folks insinuating that it was ‘uncool’ for the Islanders to take this chance to avenge anything that happened (or didn’t happen) in previous games. What? How is it that you think rivalries are developed? One game at a time? Not. These things build over weeks, months years, and the Isles are off to a good start with the Penguins. Really looking forward to April 8th!

    PS I think Garth Snow is awesome. Seriously, great way to stand behind his team, rather than whining about it like Mario. Reminds me of Bobby Clarke and that shit-ass grin he has any time he talks about the Flyers teams from the 70′s. Bobby (and Garth) know what they have/had and revel in it, instead of trying to conceal it under the rug and pretend it’s not there. Refreshing.

  13. pete says:

    @mattyj: garth snow is a great GM. so is bobby clarke. and you’re right, they should revel in what they have. 10 fingers bare of any stanley cup rings (we’re talking GMs here, I know bobby’s record as a player.) and i’ll go ahead and assume you are an islander fan, so maybe 16 goals in two games is what you should find refreshing, not some sideshow circus. a history with david volek and john tonelli moments make great rivlaries, not this garbage.

    crap. i suppose my argument loses some steam as you see my avatar….oh well.

  14. Fish says:

    and then some people dare to claim this is “old time hockey”…

  15. Steve C. says:

    Justin…hope you take this as a compliment.
    I thought you wrote the article until I got to the first comment!

  16. Derek says:

    I have a difficult time reconciling this article with Lambert giving his “Minus of the Weekend” on PD to Brent Johnson.

    I sometimes agree with Lambert, sometimes laugh at his jokes, but stuff like that and his ridiculously flawed logic in the “Eastern Conference is better than the Western Conference” argument from a week ago make it really tough to read him sometimes. His argument (for those who didn’t see it): ” A lot of teams out West are playing in an awful lot of three-point games, and in the middle of the pack, many are against That’s why they’ve all gone on mini-runs that lead you to believe they can be legitimate playoff threats. Get hot at the right time and anything can happen, right? But these teams are all deeply flawed in at least one important way, and very few have the type of goaltending and/or team defense that can steal a series or three.” and “So I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy that a conference is any good when the second-best team in it is only like 10 points higher than the 12th. Maybe that’s just me though.”

    This actually caused me to respond on PD for the first time: “Lazy lazy lazy writing here. I like your justification for how the East is better than the West. Maybe take a look at head to head records next time. The West is 95-57-25 against the East. If you take out the dregs of the East, the 15 Western Conference teams are 62-31-13 against the top 10 teams in the East. If you only look at the middle pack of teams in the West (dropping Vancouver, Detroit, Dallas and Edmonton), they are 66-42-16 against the East. The three teams you mentioned (Bruins, Capitals and Rangers) are a combined 15-12-4 against the West. Only six East teams are above .500 against the West, while 12 West teams are above .500 against the East. Anyway you look at the stats, the West comes out ahead.”

  17. Beer:30 says:

    The Martin sucker punch on Talbot was, well, cheap. It also wasn’t that hard. Martin needs a suspension for it but it wasn’t thrown with intent to injure. I think he was just trying to get Talbot to throw down and fight him. Unacceptable but I wouldn’t go as far as to say reprehensible. Talbot did what I would have done, turtle.

    Haley and Johnson both wanted a go at each other.

    Ya, the Islanders dressed a bunch of muscle but so what? It’s a legitimate strategy and it worked pretty well as indicated by the score. Then Pens got embarrassed on the skill side of things and were more than willing to take things extracurricular. Yes, some of the Isle’s motives were questionable, but, they are the only team that showed up to play a game. It was a pretty disgusting effort by the Penguins that obviously rolled into the arena thinking it was going to be a cakewalk as illustrated by the score. It actually lends some substance to the Pens “previous disrespect” argument.

    FYI, I’m no Isles’ fan.

  18. nightfly says:

    There’s another thing about calling up Haley that gets lost: the Isles had very few options left. They’d already called up Joensuu, Colliton, Rahkshani, and two of them are now injured; they had just lost Comeau to IR; they’ve lost Hunter and Weight for the year; they were playing Bruno Gervais on the wing early in the season, for crying out loud. Bridgeport can barely field a team because of all the guys the Isles have had to call up. And on defense it’s even worse.

    You could legitimately question why Rob Schremp was scratched for the game; personally, I’d have preferred to see him on the ice than Martin, who really should be in B’pt himself, he’s not ready for prime time. But Haley’s call-up was for more than just goonery. If anyone else gets hurt they’ll be pulling Butch out of the press box. (And from what I understand, he can still play some.)

  19. neil C. says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more, Ryan Lambert (a sentence I have never said before). DP got knocked out fair and square and I didn’t think the hit on Comeau was anything particularly bad, maybe fight Talbot and get on with your lives. I like the Isles, I like most of their players, and like many of the commentors here, I’ve been waiting for them to have a breakout year (it could have been this year if not for some brutally timed injuries). I don’t understand why people are defending their actions in this game, and I’m no Pens fan.

    The Isles dressed this guy — — for his scoring touch? Right.

    Standing at the boards and shouting at a guy who is on the ground with a trainer because you just threw a suspendable elbow at his head from behind is one of the most disgusting displays of bad sportsmanship I’ve seen in years.

    The organization already looks bush league right now because of this. Isles fans, please don’t make it worse.

  20. Mark says:

    To be fair with Haley, it doesn’t really matter where he ranks in the AHL scoring race. Who else are the Isles going to call up? There are only 3 guys on Bridgeport with more points than Haley. There’s Rob Hisey, who is roughly the size of my head, Ullstrom, who has one more point than Haley and has played a grand total of 47 games in North America, and Rahkshani, who got concussed in one of his two NHL games this year and is roughly an inch larger than the size of my head.
    There’s probably a line between calling a guy up that can handle himself in a tough game and calling a guy up so that he can go fight the other team’s goalie. If they had wanted that, they’d have called up Yablonski.

    Also, from the fan-shot video I saw on Youtube, it looks to me like Johnson challenged Haley rather than it being the other way around. He was out near the blueline for the whole fracas, and looks to be motioning to Haley as soon as Haley moves away from Talbot.

    That said, the plays by Martin and Gillies were basically unforgivable garbage. Also, I agree that the “provocation” for all of this seems to have been pretty weak, although I do think I read somewhere that the Isles were upset with how to Pens bench was apparently laughing it up about DiPietro’s injury. I could understand, given how their season has gone, how that could get them pretty riled up.


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