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Transcript of Mike Milbury on D&H

03.10.10 at 2:41 pm ET
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NESN analyst Mike Milbury was a guest of the Dale & Holley show Tuesday morning to talk about the Bruins and the Marc Savard controversy (listen to the interview here). Following is a transcript.

Was the Matt Cooke hit on Mark Savard intent to injure?

I was traveling when the game was on so I didn’t see it live, and I’ve seen it three or four times since then and I really want to slow it down. The word predatory does come to mind. And you know, I don’t have any trouble with that. When you’re playing hockey, you’re supposed to finish your checks. I don’t think he meant to give him a Grade 2 concussion. That’s Matt Cooke’s game. He’s supposed to be a guy that finishes his checks, that agitates a little bit, that can play a little bit of hockey. He’s not a slug, But he’s no Sidney Crosby. His job is to make sure he punishes people when he gets the opportunity. Intent to injure? I don’t know. That’s a hard one to pin on anybody. Certainly, ready to finish his check with authority.

Do you think he should be suspended?

I want to get another look at this thing because it looks to me on the Mike Richards hit earlier in the year. It was almost in the exact same spot on the ice, it was a very similar situation. I think given the rules of the today, I don’t think it’s a suspendable offense. Having said that, the GMs are meeting in Florida and they’ve set up a committee specifically to study head shots, a lot of that has to do with bigger guys, harder shells on the shoulder pads and the frequency with which guys seem to be going down with head shots. There’s tremendous sensitivity to it. GMs have heard the call. They have a committee of eight general managers who will spearhead it and look at all the various types to see if and what they should do to make things a little bit easier on the players.

Did you think a response should have come from the Bruins players?

I think we got caught up here in Grapes [Don Cherry] mania. Like, you’ve got to die in order to satisfy the blood lust in the stands. That’s not my shtick. If your whole attack during the course of pregame is to find out who is the most dangerous people on the ice, make sure you negate them. Part of negating them is physical play. You want to go after their best players, that doesn’t mean you want to separate his head from his neck. But you want to plaster him in the boards. You want to tire him out. You want him to maybe rush his passes. Remember when Pittsburgh came in here last year and Andrew Ference got Sidney Crosby so upset that Crosby dropped the gloves and went at it? That’s the kind of attack you want to have, the approach you want to have through the course of the day.

When this incident happened, because it was a questionable hit, a lot of the guys on the bench aren’t paying attention as closely as you would think. They are sucking wind and getting some water and probably 50 percent of the bench didn’t have a clear view of what was going on. Clearly, guys on the ice didn’t have a clear view of what was going on, guys who were ahead of Savard or maybe some guys that were changing. However, your best offensive player goes down with a resounding check — borderline check under any circumstances, maybe cheap, maybe intentional. It requires a direct response immediately.

This is where my shorts got twisted listening to yahoos on many different outlets who said we should have gone right after Crosby and broken his legs and made sure he never played again. That’s just ridiculous. Are we that demented? Is that the way we have to approach this sport? I don’t think so. You should have gone into that game ready to be physical on their best players because that’s the way you stop them from being affective. You limit their time in you space, you make them take a physical price, tire them out and in the meantime you hope you get through a game when they are not as affective as they could possibly be.

To say that because your best player went down you have to immediately turn around and go after vigilante justice is Neanderthal. We’ve got to get past that. A good hit does not necessarily merit an immediate response with a fight. That’s silly, too. I think they should have had a quick and immediate response, especially to go after Cooke and then continue to play the damn game with the kind of authority that they should have gone into the game playing with. That’s my point. But to think we have to go back to, “They hurt one of our best players, so now we’re going to go take out Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby by giving them cheap shots in the back of the head,” that’s Philadelphia Flyers hockey in the ’70s. We’re past that. We should be past that, and if we ever revert to that, it’s the day I stop watching the damn game. Because that isn’t right. It’s just not right.

I love physical hockey. I love it when people get wired and play tough hockey, but I don’t want somebody running somebody up against the end boards when their face is up against the glass. I can’t stand that stuff. That’s cheap-shot punk stuff that needs to be punished immediately by the league, if not by the team.

I heard people say, “We didn’t respond. It was a 2-1 game we needed the points.” I can tell you about a time we were playing in New York against the Islanders, we were three games from the end of the season and we desperately needed the points. John Wensink with Jean Ratelle and it was a tight game. Gerry Hart just jammed Ratelle into the end boards. Wensink didn’t hesitate. He grabbed Gerry Hart, slammed him into the boards, pounded his head a little bit because it was a cheap shot. He retaliated against the perpetrator of that. On the bench I was like, “Not now John, not now.” And Grapes, who was still a little nervous about it, too, told the penalty-killers, “You’ve got to kill this one for us.” This is the way we lived, by these rules. If somebody goes after our best players with a cheap shot — fortunately it worked out well. We killed the penalty, won the game, won the division. That’s the way the response should have gone in this instance. The consequences be damned at that point, because you got to stick by your best players. That’s the kind of play where the players can police the game.

Who do you blame the most for the lack of response?

I blame the players who were on the ice at that time. You have to take accountability for the guys who are on the ice. You can’t clear the benches anymore. You can’t have somebody on the bench jumping off. The guys that are there have to recognize that there’s been a code violation, if you will. The code changes all the time by the way. You have to recognize there has been a violation. Your best offensive player, who by the way if he is out for any length of time is going to make it very problematic because they don’t have that many weapons in this popcorn offense right now. They should have gone right after the perpetrator or even gone after anyone else that was on the ice to rattle the cage. You can’t be taken advantage of that way. The players on the ice have to look in the mirror after this is over and say, “Dammit, we should have done something. We should have done it right away.” And the coach has to back them up on that.

It was disappointing to see the Bruins as a team not respond later in the game.

Not going to disagree with you there. You can have a response after the fact. It’s never nearly as affective. These things I believe should be spontaneous combustion. Not a planned attack to find a way to seek vengeance. That’s not the way it should play out. It does sometimes but usually it’s not satisfying in terms of the viewerhsip. It’s not even satisfying in terms of getting revenge. Because if somebody like Cooke does that thing, then he knows that people are out to get him. He’s going to be aware of what’s going on the ice and be heads up all the time and should be. You can still get your pound of flesh, but do it then and suffer whatever consequences there are and you can look in the mirror and say, “We stick together as a team. We win as a team. We are going to go down as a team.”

Do you think Zdeno Chara should be more physical?

We drafted him in New York. We drafted him on two showings of tape, and he wasn’t even playing he was doing drills on the ice. I met him for the first time, he was a quiet, shy kid and a peach of a young man, who came from difficult circumstances. This is not a guy that relishes the role of being physical. It’s not a role that comes particularly natural to him. He certainly can defend himself. I asked him in our draft interview if he could fight. He said, “Better not to mess with me.” That’s true of Zdeno.

Because he’s 6-foot-8, we’re asking him to be 30 minutes a game, fight, physical — we’re asking a lot of this guy. And last year he delivered. But it doesn’t come naturally to him. He’s got to force it. But the team needs him to be more physical, yes. They need him to occasionally fight. They need him to step in when Lucic, who got smoked by Colton Orr, which may have broken his nose. The kid has been whacked around pretty good the last couple of years in search of a victory for his team. He needed someone to come in on the next shift and say, “Big Daddy’s home. OK, you took on Lucic, my turn.” That would have been the response I would have appreciated from Big Z.

Will somebody do that [Tuesday night] against Colton Orr?

I’m not in the locker room. I don’t know. It’s now back in Toronto, in the hockey mecca, it would be a good time. At this point the moment is gone and now we are talking about setting something up. If Colton Orr is banging on Lucic or banging on anyone else that’s not likely to be a fighter in the situation, then it’s up to Chara or [Shawn] Thornton or [Steve] Begin, whoever you want to put in the physical category to step up. Right now that’s being questioned about their team. Their willingness to stick together under duress, nobody wants that question. It’s a question of macho and manhood.

Is this Bruins team too soft?

Yes. I’ll put this in context of the Bruins team of last year, where all the principals are still in place. They played a much more physical game last year up and down the roster. And I think when they do find their way back to it, they’ll be a better team offensively.

What do you think of Colin Campbell as a disciplinarian?

The guys in the office have the toughest job in hockey. They never win a game and they never get it right by everybody’s sightings. I think there are certain set of parameters that he works under, and not always do I agree with them. But he doesn’t make a decision randomly. He doesn’t make a decision without looking at all the tape in the past history, discussing with a lot of different people. He’s got a mindset, agree or disagree with, but I think he does an honest job. I know he does an honest job. I think he might carry a little bit of his own prejudices, biases or influences into the decision. He likes the game played in a certain way and you have to be careful with that. He’s not responsible for the way the game should be played. He’s responsible for making sure the rules are followed.

If you’re a Bruins fan don’t you think Campbell has it out for your team a little bit?

Don’t confuse me with every Boston Bruins fan. I didn’t think the Patrice Bergeron hit by [Randy] Jones merited that suspension that everyone else was talking about. I talked about the way Patrice turned back. It was an unfortunate situation and two games was plenty, in my mind, for that situation. He put himself in a vulnerable situation, and I know you disagree with that. But the [Scott Walker] hit on Aaron Ward should have been punishable. It was a wicked cheap shot and he should have got a game for that at least, maybe two.

This one, I need a little more time with it. That’s how difficult it is for these guys to do the job. It happens in real time, the officials make the call and all of a sudden you go back and see it five or six times from different angles. It makes for a whole different dynamic. I want to see this one again. I want to see if it’s the shoulder or the elbow on a follow through. I’m not sure how he’s going to handle it. But I guarantee you this, they are grappling with it, they are struggling with it. They are stitting there with surrounded by GMs, many of whom are on a committee for head shots, and they’ve got to make the call. They’ll do whatever they can to make their honest and best judgment on it.

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