Calgary Flames’ head coach Bob Hartley
placed himself in a highly controversial decision last week when he decided to
bench three of his players for one game, including the club’s top two scorers.
Hartley scratched forwards Lance Bouma, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan for
the Flames’ home tilt against the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs on February 9th
and luckily for him they hung on for a 4-3 victory. The trio was listed as
healthy scratches for the contest for arriving late for practice the previous
morning. It was a risky move by Hartley though since the Flames are involved in
a vicious dogfight for a playoff spot.
Fans were basically divided in their
opinion on the benching and cynics pointed out the players would probably have
all dressed if the game was against anybody other than the hapless Leafs. The
21-year-old Monahan and 22-year-old Gaudreau were leading the Flames in scoring
as of Feb. 13th with 36 and 51 points respectively. The 25-year-old
Bouma, who has just one goal this year, has been sidelined for most of the
season due to injuries, but he’s seen as a valuable physical presence when
Those who disagreed with Hartley’s actions
believe he should have come up with a better form of punishment. They point out
that he actually punished the rest of the franchise and the Calgary fans by
sitting out three important players during a playoff race. If the Flames had
lost the game there would have been an uproar and Hartley’s decision could possibly
have been the last one he made as the franchise’s head coach.
Critics said benching hockey players for a
lone game doesn’t have an effect on the way they play the game and the
organization would have been better off fining them or making them stay after
practice etc. The players were probably more embarrassed than anything as the
Flames’ fathers had gathered in Calgary to watch their sons take on the Leafs
before heading out on a two-game road trip. The annual father and son event must
have gotten off to a disappointing start for the dads of Gaudreau, Monahan and
Bouma and their sons would have some explaining to do.
All three players apologized in the media
to the fans, coaches, the organization and their teammates for showing up late
for practice and claimed they were upset with themselves for acting unprofessionally.
However, showing up late isn’t the end of the world and reports stated the trio
arrived at 10:15 a.m. for a 10:30 session. Benching your best players isn’t
going to make them perform any better on the ice and the move could have cost the
Flames two crucial points in the standings.
Hartley must have been second-guessing his
decision when the Flames’ 4-1 lead was suddenly cut to 4-3 by the Leafs in the
third period and would have certainly been relieved when the final buzzer
sounded. Hartley isn’t the only coach to make this controversial move this
season as Barry Trotz of the Washington Capitals benched his squad’s top scorer
and captain Alexander Ovechkin back on Oct. 13. The Russian star was
scratched after sleeping in and also showing up late for practice.
The move blew up in Trotz’s face though as
the Capitals were embarrassed 5-0 on home ice by the San Jose Sharks for their
first loss of the season. Luckily for the coach it was just the second game of
the campaign and the Capitals have been in fine form ever since. In fact, in a
poll taken by Sportsnet.ca, 77 per cent of voters agreed with Trotz’s decision.
But while thousands of Calgary fans were questioning Hartley’s move to bench
Gaudreau, Monahan and Bouma, Gaudreau’s father Guy wasn’t one of them. He said
he was obviously disappointed, but his son has to play by the rules just like
everybody else. His son agreed and added that being benched was certainly an
Labels: Ian Palmer