Commentary

Nitwit rule will prevent any further stick-wagging antics

From Sean Avery's spastic dance to playoff teams in trouble bouncing back, Scott Burnside provides us with the five things we learned from Monday night.

Updated: April 15, 2008, 1:02 PM ET
By Scott Burnside | ESPN.com

Five things we learned from Monday's action:

1. Guess ownership agreed with fans and media in Vancouver who thought GM Dave Nonis didn't collect the right tools to return to the playoffs this spring as Nonis was relieved of his duties on Monday. The GM who pulled off one of the great steals in recent hockey memory -- prying netminder Roberto Luongo out of Florida for Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen and Alex Auld -- couldn't follow it up with the move that might have saved his job. Instead of bolstering his anemic offense in the offseason or at the trade deadline, Nonis saw Luongo turn human and his team fall apart and miss the playoffs a year after winning the Northwest Division and advancing to the second round of the playoffs. Now the question is: Did the Canucks make the move so they could move in on Anaheim GM Brian Burke, who has yet to sign a contract extension in Anaheim? With Burke's defending Cup champions down 2-0 to Dallas and the Toronto Maple Leafs believed to be coveting his services, there could be a bidding war for the talented Burke in the coming days. If Burke, a former GM in Vancouver, doesn't return to the Canucks, look for Steve Tambellini to make a case for his promotion from assistant GM to full-time GM for Vancouver.

[+] EnlargeJason Arnott
AP Photo/The Tennessean, Sanford MyersJason Arnott scored his first goal of the postseason to get the Predators back into the series.
2. Sometimes it's not how much you do but when you do it. And so it was with Nashville captain Jason Arnott, who had been held without a point in the first two games of the Predators' series against Presidents' Trophy-winning Detroit. In Game 3, a must-win for the underdog Preds, Arnott scored his first goal of the series at 16:12 of the third period to break a 3-3 tie and help the Predators close the gap on the talented Wings. The goal came just nine seconds and one shot after Ryan Suter had tied the game. Detroit held leads of 2-0 and 3-2 but the plucky Preds kept battling back. Although he was the team's second-leading scorer during the regular season, Arnott had just one shot, zero points and was minus-2 through the first two games of the series.

3. Think the line between winning and losing is razor thin? With the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild playing in their third straight overtime game on Monday night, defenseman Jeff Finger took the wrong route to the puck behind the Colorado net and what should have been a simple icing play with the faceoff back in the Minnesota zone quickly turned into the game-winning goal for the Wild. Finger misjudged where the puck was going to end up when it bounced off the end boards and Brian Rolston grabbed the puck and without being checked passed to Pierre-Marc Bouchard, who ripped a shot past Jose Theodore. The Avs, who now trail the series 2-1, have given up a third-period lead in each of the three games.

4. It's sometimes said the two-goal lead is the hardest lead to defend. It appears the two-game series lead is likewise difficult to control. When the Predators came back to defeat the Red Wings in improbable fashion Monday, it marked the third time in a matter of days a team with a 2-0 series lead could not put the other team away. The Rangers lost on home ice to the New Jersey Devils on Sunday and Montreal finally lost a game to Boston, also on a Sunday in Boston. Whether it speaks to parity or the urgency of teams who trail 2-0 given that being down 3-0 in a series means certain playoff extinction, there is new life in Jersey, Boston and now Nashville.

5. No doubt Sean Avery's spastic dance in front of New Jersey Devils netminder Martin Brodeur was an, um, unusual method of trying to distract the future Hall of Famer's attention, but it's also nice to see the NHL has moved quickly to introduce the Nitwit Rule to prevent it from happening again. Hard to imagine any other NHLer doing the stick-wagging routine that was the talk of the league Monday, but now anyone who decides it would be a good strategy will be subject to a penalty. Some suggested someone from the Devils should have gone over and pounded Avery. But, oddly enough, Avery has been pounded on a few times in the past and it doesn't really seem to bother him. On the other hand, risking putting his team down a man seems like the perfect deterrent against a repeat of the spectacle.

Scott Burnside is the NHL writer for ESPN.com.