Toronto Maple Leafs: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

October 26, 2009

by Aaron Neely… As Leaf fans, we’ve all heard the jokes, we’ve all been ridiculed and we’ve all sat in our chairs wondering what the heck went wrong.

Only four weeks ago, Leaf Nation had completed the pre-season that was suppose to start the year the Leafs made it back to the playoffs. Victor Stalberg was a beast, our goalies still understood their jobs as puck stoppers and our defense still knew those childhood lessons such as, “stay in your lane”, “don’t chase on the penalty kill” and most importantly, “don’t pinch unless you have support from your forwards.”

Now, since the majority of my heart is dedicated to the Toronto Maple Leafs, I still have a place in my heart for the amazing game that I have played and loved my whole life—hockey.

Through my life I have learned that under no circumstance does anything that happens in October, and most of November, carry great substance in March and April. The good teams prove they are good, the “supposed to be good teams” struggle only to regain form about now and finish in the Top Five and the lesser teams battle inconsistency from start to finish. That is why they rarely win the cup.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are obviously somewhere in the third group of teams that finish somewhere in the 6-15 range in the Eastern conference.

This is where my article goes from an extremely bad outlook on the Leafs continuing season, to a very positive outlook on their season.

For starters, we have yet to ice our complete 23-man roster. Our best hockey player has yet to take the ice for a game and our goalies have yet to iron their creases out.

So why do I still have a positive outlook for this season?

To make things simple, our best hockey player is one of the most dynamic in the NHL. He can score with the best of them, skate past the rest of them and just so happens to be 22 years old.

Our goaltending has been terrible. Joey Macdonald had a farm and should never have left it. Vesa Toskala has a save percentage that, if he was a student, would make him worried about falling off the honor roll.

So now it comes down to Jonas Gustavsson and the start of his NHL career. People may say that he has pressure on him coming back and, hopefully, taking over the starting job. I say what possibly pressure can he have? All he has to do is be better than Toskala and anything more is a plus.

So, Phil Kessel comes back and we get more goals. Gustavsson comes back and based on the scouting report, we keep some goals out. Check and check.

Now it comes down to the rest of the players.

So far, our forwards average just under two goals a game. Our defense somehow made it possible to allow right around 4.5 goals a game. Safe to say, two players aren’t going to change this team.

Here is where this article makes all of you believers that this season is going to go much better then it looks, and Boston will not be picking Taylor Hall first overall.

When Toronto started the season, things were good because our defense and penalty kill were supposed to be better—and they will. Mike Komisarek is one of the best stay-at-home defenseman in the game, Tomas Kaberle is one of the best puck moving defenseman in the game and Luke Schenn is going to improve. Thus, both issues listed above are going to get better.

Another reason, it’s quite simple, Brian Burkes’ ego is bigger than Toronto. He does not want to see Boston walk up on stage and take Taylor Hall. He will make this team better, or find someway, anyway really, to make this work.

Ian White has shown that he can be a solid NHL hockey player since he basically has been our best player in the first three-and-a-half-weeks. Perhaps he is the reason we move Tomas Kaberle and get something in return.

Leaf Nation, please do not start buying Scott Gomez jerseys, please burn that Daniel Alfredsson jersey and realize that despite the early season troubles, we are nine points out of the playoffs with two games in hand and 74 more games to play.

That paragraph made me smile.

The Leafs will win, soon. The Leafs will score more, soon. The Leafs will find a goalie, soon. Let’s just hope that “soon” comes before November.

Michael Vick: Convicted, Served, Forgiven?

June 18, 2009

By Aaron Neely… I remember
sitting at home in mid summer and watching sportscenter. I was watching
to check out the latest NHL signings and on the ticker, the words
“breaking news’ came across the line. The following words horrified me,
“Kobe Bryant accused of rape.” Those may have not been the exact words;
however, as we all know it is accurate.

The trial went down in Denver, Colorado and just a
few weeks ago the Lakers closed out a season against that town’s team.
However, hardly any talk was given to that story.

Personally, I believe that the greatest story in
today’s sports world that affects us has to do with Michael Vick. What
he did was absolutely terrible and horrendous. What he did makes me
sick to my stomach and makes me hate these types of people so much more.

Going back a few years, I can remember the
majority of Sunday afternoons during the football season where I
watched my beloved Bills only to become even more excited when the most
exciting football player in the league was to take the field. Michael
Vick was electric, he was magical and he became the best friends of
chairs throughout the Atlanta reason because so many people who just
stand and watch.

Has anyone legitimately thought about Michael in this way recently?

What makes me even sicker then thinking about what
Mr. Vick did was how everyone responded to his actions. News anchors
across North America acted as if they were far better then him, fans
began kicking the man when he was down and  we
wrote articles bashing the man and treating him as if he was worse then
what we are.

For those of you who are familiar with the bible,
there is a quote that says “whoever is without sin should throw the
first stone.” Point is, Michael Vick made a mistake. He went to jail
and as far as I know he is now out on house arrest after serving the
majority of his time.

In society we have a justice system because it is
a punishment for the wrong they do. For parents out there, do you yell
at your child even after they have gone to their room to serve their
punishment? As parents would you like to pay for your speeding ticket
for the rest of your life? Then why do we hold athletes at such a
higher standard for making mistakes?

The athletes that we watch every night in all
sports are role models to millions of people around the world. Watching
players come back against all odds and dominate can bring tears to the
eyes of many. We demand them to be perfect on the field, court, and ice
rink because we are paying large amounts of money to watch.

However, their life is their life. They are just
like us in every single way; they just are so great at a specific sport
we pay to watch.

Like I said, I hate what Vick did. As an owner of
a dog, I don’t just own a dog but I adopted my dog into my family. The
thought of my dog being beaten and tortured makes me feel terrible.
Michael Vick did these things and has paid his dues!

As a sports fan and as a person who has made
mistakes in my life I believe that he deserves a second chance. I
believe in my heart that he is remorseful and understands what he did
was so incredibly wrong that many will unfortunately never forgive. But
let it be known—I forgive. I forgive him because the next time I screw
up, I hope that everyone around me forgives me because just like you, I
am a person.

So here is my conclusion, my grand finale.
Everyone who reads this article has made a mistake in their life that
they are glad to say is done with and glad that they don’t have to live
with it anymore. So let’s give Michael another chance, I am not saying
that we forget about it, as the great saying goes, “forgive, but never

Let’s give this man another chance, because no matter how much we want to think otherwise—he is a man.

He has a family, friends, people who look up to him and most importantly—he has a heart and he has feelings.

So ask yourself, do you like being bullied?
Because that is what we are doing to him right now. And if you can
legitimately say that you can’t forgive him, ask yourself this
question. If you were in a room with him alone sitting at a table,
could you still make fun of him in that position!?

I know I couldn’t—I forgave, I will never forget.

Biggest Sleeper in the MLB: Toronto Blue Jays

March 31, 2009

by Aaron Neely… As the baseball season inches closer and closer to the opening pitch many questions are swirling around.

How will A-Rod do? How will the Yankees do? Manny in LA? San Fran looking to make their first real charge since the Bonds’ days.

Many questions, and we’ll have to wait along time for answers.

So let’s speculate!

When you think of the best teams in the Major Leagues, people automatically think about the Yankees and Red Sox…rightfully so.

But what about that team that usually finishes third in that division? Are they maybe getting closer to surpassing one, or both of those teams?

The Toronto Blue Jays are a team notoriously famous for their “Next year is going to be our year” motto.

However, could it actually be that this is their year? Taking a look at their lineup in years past they have always had one of the three keys components to win games.

They either have a bullpen, pitching or hitting. This year, they are the closest they have ever been to having all three.

When you look at their lineup a few things come to mind. First off, you marvel at the pitching ace that is locked up long term as well as the other young arms.

Roy Halladay is a guaranteed 20+ wins a season as well as a very likely night off for any pitcher who usually comes out of the bullpen. He has and will continue to be a pitcher that competes for the Cy Young award yearly.

Taking over for A.J. Burnett is 24-year-old Jesse Litsch. Having pitched only two years in the majors he still has plenty more to offer. He won 13 games last year and if all things fall into place could push the 18 win marker.

Let’s say for a second that the Blue Jays can get 40 wins between Litsch and Halladay, if the rest of the rotation can play just above average the Yanks and Sox won’t be the only teams contending in the AL east.

Second off, the out field is something to die for. Vernon Wells is a gold glove candidate and as long as he stays healthy is good for 25+ home runs and 105+ RBIs. His swing is perfect and his speed is among the elite. All star? I think so.

Alex Rios is even younger and has even more potential that, if things go well, should be realized this season. He took a bit of a step back last year but came on strong towards the end however should be a shoe in for similar stats as Wells, if not even better.

Add in veterans like Overbay and Rolen as well as young bats Snider and Lind and the returning Aaron Hill who was a Gold Glove second baseman and a 85-RBI guy at the plate and that is a very solid lineup.

Now comes the third and final part, very fittingly as well because it is the part that finishes the game most nights.

Two years ago the Blue Jays through a long term big money contract at B.J Ryan and finally got rid of the issue of a shaky bullpen.

After that Shea Hillenbrand decided to go AWOL and force the Jays into trading him; they somehow acquired Jeremy Accardo for the nut job Hillenbrand.

Combine those two guys with hard throwing Brandon League, Scott Downs and Brian Wolfe and you have quite the bullpen. If their pitching is as good as it was last year then they have one of the best arms in the MLB.

Overall, the Jays are going to make some noise…everyone knows that. The big question is if it can be more noise then what is going to come from New York and Boston.

New York is a soap opera that every writer wishes they created and Boston is getting older but is quite the powerhouse. If Toronto can get past New York then they just might crack into September.

Toronto has what it takes if it can all fall into place. They have the All-Stars, they have the youth and they have the finishers. But can those players finish is what we need to wait and see on.

So unfortunately for A-Rod, Manny and Barry, Toronto might just steal some of your spotlight guys. And they will do it with character and professionalism, so hopefully those three guys can learn from Toronto and see what good news can do. That, however, is a completely different article.

Creating the Perfect Hockey Team

March 16, 2009

by Aaron Neely… Every year general managers create a team that they feel can win the Stanley Cup.

Players on these teams are not simply the best of the best, but players who can fit within a team system. They have to be players that do not cause problems and have instant chemistry with their line-mates.

As well, these teams are never simply all veterans who have all played a thousand games and have spent more time in the playoffs then many players will ever spend in their whole NHL career.

Teams need to have a bit of everything.

Experience, youth, grit, skill, speed and a whole lot of luck are needed to win the Stanley Cup.

Finally, they also have to fit within the NHL’s hard cap of $56 million.

A general managers job has never been harder.

Luckily for me, I have the chance of picking 21 guys out of the near 700 that currently play in the NHL.

However, what I am going to do is take goalie pairings, line combinations and defensive pairings that actually exist on teams today.

Let’s start with what wins championships!

Martin Brodeur: Duh.

If anyone is going to argue this decision they need to go check the record books.

As of today, he sits tied with Patrick Roy with the most wins ever by an NHL goalie and with at least three years left he is going to set a new standard that will never be reached by any other goalie.

He wins on the international stage, the regular season and in the playoffs. He has records that goalies would not even dream to obtain and over his 15-year career, he has three Stanley Cups.

Not to mention he comes cheaper then many goalies of his caliber at a very reasonably $5.2 million a year.

If you don’t agree with this, you have to do some research and then agree with this.

Scott Clemmensen: One of the most sought after back up goalies at this years trade deadline, Scott Clemmensen is one of the best goalies to come in and play at a seconds notice.

There very well could be better backup goalies in the NHL but as I said, none that can come in and play whether you tell them they are playing after warm-ups or give them 30 games a year.

This year, when Brodeur went down with his injury, Clemmensen came in for 39 games and posted a staggering 25 wins, 2.39 GAA and a .917 save percentage.

What’s his cap hit you ask?

A very easy half million. Talk about a nice investment.

Total goalie price: $5.7 million

First line: Calgary Flames (Cammalleri, Jokinen, Iginla)

Every team’s first line has to score them goals.

That is an obvious statement that will never be argued.

They log your most minutes, take the credit when things go well and have microphones stuffed in their face demanding answers when things go badly.

So, what do you need from a first line?

Well, everything that the Calgary Flames have.

When you talk about the perfect hockey player, whom do you think of?

Alex Ovechkin?

If hockey was only played in two zones…

Sid the kid?

Is he really as mentally tough as you need to be…?

Jarome Iginla?


Jarome Iginla does everything; he hits, fights, never takes a shift off, will score 50 goals in any given year and plays in every zone and makes everyone on his team a much better player.

He is the closest thing to a Mark Messier type captain that we have in today’s game and aside from being my team’s leader on the first line, he also is my team’s captain.

Joined by Mike Cammalleri and Olli Jokinen they have combined for 104 goals and 204 points.


All three of these guys are veteran hockey players who have been around the block once or twice.

Even though Jokinen has never played in the playoffs, I like his chances of success playing alongside Iginla.

Overall, I cannot say enough good things about Jarome.

He leads everyone and can succeed with a whole city on his back. Pressure does not faze him and he just might be the most feared hockey player in the NHL.

He does it all.

First line cap hit: $15.8 million.

Overall cap hit, so far: $21.5 million

Second Line: Boston Bruins (Lucic, Krejci, Ryder)

A second line has to be defensively aware as well as capable of putting the puck in the back of the net. They need to be guys who can score more than 60-points a year but at the same time make sure they are not making costly mistakes.

Where better to find your second line from one of the best teams in the NHL.

Boston has always had one of the best defensive teams in the NHL and at the same time has been well known for being able to score with the best of them

The Boston Bruins have always had a team that scares the crap out of just about anyone, but not since the days of Cam Neely have we seen a player like Milan Lucic.

A good western Canadian hockey boy, Lucic, is feared league wide for his size, speed and skill level.

His defensive awareness is also obvious based on his +12 rating.

He also has posted 102 PIMS and can fight anyone and everyone. This year, Mike Komisarek thought he would drop the gloves with Lucic and had his face rearranged. Enough said.

Lucic also allows Michael Ryder and David Krejci to play the game they are known for.

To this point in the season they have contributed 43 and 62 points and more importantly the two of them have a combined +58. Talk about two-way hockey players.

Any team would love to have a second line like these guys. As mentioned, they score, hit, fight and do not give up chances to the best offenses in the NHL.

Perhaps more importantly, two of them are still under their rookie contracts. Bringing this lines cap hit to a whooping $5.4 million.

Overall team cap hit: $26.9 million

Third line: Minnesota Wild (Clutterbuck, Shepperd, Boogard)

When you look at your team’s third line, what is the first thing you see?

The most annoying, irritating, undisciplined, nut job of a hockey player that always seems to be bordering on the line Sean Avery has brought us to know?

Every team hopes so.

Every team hates these players and almost every player has something to settle from years past. Whether it is Sean Avery or Claude Lemeiux, these guys are known league wide.

Point is, everyone reading this knows why Minnesota was chosen for the third line, they just might have the most annoying hockey player in the NHL.

He has already gotten under the skin of almost every single player he has played against and even had some face time on Hockey Night In Canada with Don Cherry.

And Cherry didn’t have friendly words for him, is there a better compliment for an agitator?

The worst things about his actions are the fact that skating on the other wing is the most feared fighter in all of hockey.

Known as the boogieman to most, Derek Boogard’s presence is enough to keep Clutter buck in one piece.

The reason I chose them for my third line is not because of this, but because of the fact that all three of these guys can actually play some hockey despite their side antics.

Boogard might be the only debatable one here but he does his job and opens up the ice for the other two guys without being a defensive liability.

Joining these two guys is also a young promising rookie in James Shepperd.

He scored 19-points in his rookie season and should surpass that in his sophmore year. Think those stats are little for a “promising” rookie?

Well he does play in the most offensive restricting system in hockey so give him some credit for getting to that point while being on the third line.

Once again, because of the new NHL salaries must be looked at and considered when choosing players and because these guys only take up $2.5 million a year they are easily included.

Total team cap hit: $29.4 million

Fourth Line: Detroit Red Wings (Maltby, Draper, Leino)

Who can play seven minutes a hockey game, be productive and contribute as much as possible?

Two of the classiest veterans in the game and a 26-year-old who is finding his way in the NHL.

Fourth line hockey players are not going to play a lot, they are not going to see powerplay time and they are not going to score many goals, but what they are going to do and make sure that team chemistry stays high, make sure guys are doing what they should do and put an arm around a young rookie who just can’t put the puck in the net even though he should be doing so.

These guys are not young and they are not new to the game of hockey.

The reason why I chose the Detroit Red Wings fourth line is because Maltby and Draper have played almost 350 NHL playoff games and have both played in excess of 2000 NHL regular season games.

Basically, nothing is going to happen they haven’t seen before and they know their better days are behind them.

Leino on the other hand has a total of 13 regular season games, however has posted nine-points.

He will one day crack the top six forward spot on the Detroit Red Wings but recently has just been used on the fourth line to learn and see how the game is played.

Because of their age and reputation they make a little more then a lot of fourth lines but their $2.7 million is well worth the price based on what they bring to the table.

Overall team hit so far: $32.1 million

First Defensive Unit: Detroit Red Wings (Lidstrom, Rafalski)

Quite possibly the most demanding role on any NHL club and one of the top two most important is the number one defensive unit and Detroit boasts the number one unit in the whole league.

These guys are going to log around 28 minutes, play on the power play and kill penalties. They play against the best forwards in the world every shift and have vision that instant replay does not even compare to.

Nik Lidstrom is a future Hall of Famer and has been named the captain of the Detroit Red Wings ever since the Great Steve Yzerman retired.

He is a class act and is respected around the league.

He is, maybe, the best defenseman ever with his stick work and will become one of a few defenseman ever to accord 1000 points throughout a career and is today’s Bobby Orr and that is something that you may never hear again.

Point is he is the best.

Combine him with 36-year-old Brian Rafalski and you get two guys with a combined +39 and 101 points.

Can’t get much better than that no matter what generation you look at.

At 13.5 million for the two of these guys, it is well worth the price.

Total team salary: $45.6 million

Second Defensive Unit: Vancouver Canucks (Kevin Bieksa, Willie Mitchell)

When you look at a role like this one, you want two guys who can play about 22 minutes a night.

Guys who can put a few points on the board but most importantly, do the dirty work you do not want your best defenseman doing too often.

Blocking shots and big hits are in the job description and anything that will contribute to the title of warrior, because that is what you have to be.

This job is not for the weak, not for the faint hearted and not for anyone who has issues with the physical therapist.

The reason I chose these two is because they are everything that I just described above. They battle and they are not afraid of anyone.

Most importantly, they are big and strong guys who are defensively aware. Both of them are over six feet and well more than 200 lbs.

They are rocks on the blue line and rarely ever make mistakes in their own zone.

Combined cap hit: $7.3 million

Overall cap hit: $52.9 million

Third defensive Unit: Ottawa Senators (Jason Smith and Chros Schubert)

Just like the fourth line of the forwards.

The third defensive unit cannot be young, cocky, ego driven hockey players.

They have to be able to understand their role and play a role like Hal Gill did for the Penguins in last year’s playoff run.

Whether they play 10 minutes or 20 minutes or something in between, they cannot let themselves be a step down from the second unit.

They have to play to their skill set and do things defensively and let whatever offense they have come later.

Just like the three and four defense man the most important thing they need to do is block shots and hit bodies.

They have to let the team know when they are on the ice and cannot be afraid to drop the gloves. Never is this job pretty but on my hockey team being physical will always beat out simply skill.

My final defense pairing needs to be an intimidating force and that is why I chose these two guys.

Jason Smith and Schubert are mammoths on the line. They are veterans and Jason Smith has been around the league long enough to know what it takes to get things done.

Playing the majority of his career in Edmonton, he is aware of what hard-nosed hockey is. He is the ultimate warrior and no one is going to argue that.

Schubert on the other hand has only played about 250 games in the NHL but playing with Smith will have tons of guidance when things get tough. He is also a big body at 6′3”, 220 lbs.

Better then that, he can also play forward when injuries come.

Total cap hit: $3 million

Overall team cap hit: $55.9 million

That’s That

Making it under the cap was hard but leaving out guys like Crosby, Ovechkin and other possibly future Hall of Famers was even harder.

I did not leave them out, because they lack skill but because their lines that they play on just do not compare to Calgarys first line.

Guys like Phaneuf and Green were left out because they don’t and never will compare to Lidstrom.

Overall, I believe that this team would be The Perfect Hockey Team.

Get Fighting Out of Hockey? No Way

March 11, 2009

By Aaron Neely… The other night, I had the privilege of attending a Toronto Maple Leafs game, albeit facing the lowly New York Islanders—but a Leafs game none the less.

We had 12th row from the ice in the Leafs zone, right above the goal line on the Maple Leafs bench side.

As the introduction began and the game started to be played, an often heard phrase was not about the game but about the hopes of a fight breaking out right in front of us. Thanks goes out to Phil Oreskovic and Tim Jackman for being willing to dance and accommodate so many.

As Phil Oreskovic was skating towards the bench at the end of his shift, Tim Jackman gave him a little shot with his stick and a few choice words. Then came what has become sign language in hockey for “let’s fight”… the glove shake.

As Oreskovic and Jackman dropped them and began to size each other up, frantic mothers reached for their child’s face to block their eyes, men booed and yelled at the crazy hooligans on the ice for stopping play and ruining the game.

Children who didn’t have their eyes blocked began crying and screaming for their parents and many others looked away in disgust and put their coats on and left the building for the night.

Ya, freaking, right.

What really happened was immediately 20,000 people jumped up and began cheering, as suddenly Phil Oreskovic had 20,000 ring men in his corner to give him tips. Upper cut one senior man screamed!

Body shots, BODY SHOTS a little boy beside me yelled. People who had left early to use the bathroom or get food flooded back in to watch the fight and concession staff left their posts to fill whatever room was left.

Ok, maybe a little stretch…However, after about 10 punches in the fight were thrown, Oreskovic took him down to the delight of 20,000 pleased fans. A standing ovation was given, all the players were on their feet banging their sticks against the boards.

Only the cheers for a wounded Canadian soldier in attendance, rightfully got a far louder applause. But I am sure even he applauded what he saw.

Point is, not one person left the building. Not one person complained, and not one person sat in their seat listing off reasons why that was extremely dangerous and everything that could have happened to these two grown men who willingly took part.

Now for those of you who are not Toronto or New York fans, you probably have no idea who these two hockey players are. So here is a little introduction:

Tim Jackman is Minnesota State product. He was drafted in the second round by the Columbus Blue Jackets and comes in at a towering 6′4″, 215.

Now before everyone immediately starts thinking that he simply is in the NHL to fight consider this…In 44 games in the AHL last year, Jackman posted a respectable 36 points. He does have some offensive upside in his game as well as intimidating size.

As for Phil Oreskovic, he played his second career game against the Islanders and is a Brampton Battalion product from the OHL. He is also around 6′4″ but is about 225. This year with the Marlies (Leafs AHL team), the stay-at-home defenseman has nine points in 59 games as well as a team leading +15.

And before you start thinking he is simply the token boxer, consider this…In the OHL he won awards for the best open ice hitter as well as the best defensive defenseman.

My point is, these guys can play hockey and fighting is just a way of showing it.

Are they ever going to come in and put up hall of fame numbers? Absolutely not.

Recently, the NHL has, in the minds of many, begun the process of eliminating fighting from the NHL. They say that they are just making it safer by putting in place rules for all fighters, but someone tell me how punching someone in the face is safe and what legitimate rules can you fail with before you just take the action out.

The greater picture is that without fighting, guys like this are never going to be seen. Are they simply fighters? No. They have to bring to the table what they can with the assets they have, if that means fighting the so be it. Guys like this are not going to be at the tops of their teams prospect list and without showing they can do something more to help a team that few can do, they may be career AHL players.

These two guys are going to be bottom end hockey players on any NHL team they play for. They both know that. The contributions they do make by fighting will leave a positive impression in their coaches minds and give them a chance to show they belong with their skill after they get that chance.

When they fight, people take notice. I guarantee walking into the Air Canada Center, less then half of the people knew Phil Oreskovic. Walking out…20,000 were raving about his play. Simply put, after his fight, people took notice.

Tell me this, for those of you who had the once in a lifetime privilege to witness Aki Berg dawn the blue and white, think about his play. Now imagine if, with his size he fought maybe 12-15 times a year. I guarantee we would all be saying that he was a stellar defensive defenseman.

Point is, his defensive game was very good. Pat Quinn played him in all situations and because his offensive skill wasn’t there, the average fan would never notice him or notice his good side—if he fought, we would all have known.

As well, the effect that it has on the game and his teammates is also huge. When he was on the ice, Martin Gerber is not going to be touched or harassed because no body knows what he will do to them.

No 180-pound featherweight is going to take a run at Ian White because Phil Oreskovic just might dismantle their face and multiple other body parts..

On the other side of things, having a guy like Jackman will make rookies like John Bailey, Kyle Okposo among others on the young Islanders squad feel a lot safer.

It will give them more room to play without feeling like they will be run and if they are, whoever runs them will have to pay the price and be accountable to Tim Jackman.

In the NHL there are guys like Derek Boogard and Georges Laraque who, if fighting was not in the NHL—neither would they be.

But there are also guys like Phil Oreskovic and Tim Jackman who will make the NHL by fighting and then show the hockey world they can be assets with their hockey skills.

These large, mamoths of human beings who some think of as slow, actually make the game a lot faster due to the fact that the speedsters will be left alone by pests. When a heavyweight is on a team, no middleweight will ever take a shot at any skilled, notable player.

Early this year, Ryan Hollweg took a run at Zach Parise only to have Michael Rupp jump on the ice and bloody up his face. Michael Rupp is 6′5″, 230lbs, Hollweg a mere 5′11″, 200. Think he will do that again?

Fighting governs the game more than a referee does. Fighting brings accountability to the game of hockey and without it we would never see the highlight reel plays and the incredible speed that we see every single night around the NHL.

As well, without fighting—we’d never have Phil or Tim and the hockey skills that they will one day show. But for now, we’ll watch them shake their mits, grab on and watch as 20,000 people shoot out of their seats like a goal had been scored.

Days after the game had been played, when friends ask how the game was…I don’t tell them about Ponikarovsky’s top-shelf goal or Grabovski’s overtime winner, I tell them about Phil and Tim and the excitement that was injected into the game.

In all honesty, the game was pretty boring until they dropped ‘em. After they did, it looked like they were battling for one and two in the league rather than John Tavares.

Neely, Out.