Dumbing Down Hockey Mike Duco Style

Cup'pa JoePrior to Thursday night, I had no idea who Mike Duco was. Going forward, I’m not sure I’m going to hear much about him that’s flattering.

It was the Florida Panthers’ Mike Duco, making his second appearance in an NHL sweater, who took leave of his senses and attacked the Caps’ Alexandre Giroux in the third period Thursday night. For his labor Duco earned 27 minutes of penalties: 2 for instigating, 5 for fighting, 10 more for misconduct, and 10 after that as an aggressor. His Panthers team entered play Thursday night well fatigued from a 6-5 overtime victory over Colorado back in Sunrise Wednesday, so Duco thought it a swell idea to attack, get banished, and have a teammate sit in the penalty box for an extended period, furthering diminishing the Panther bench.

So who is Mike Duco? He’s a 22-year-old center who earned 173 PIMs in his final season of junior with Kitchener. He never got drafted by an NHL club. (Good scouting, that.) Last season with Rochester he piled on 147 PIMs. What’s he doing skating with the Panthers? Well, Panther’s coach Peter DeBoer coached Duco in Kitchener, and the Panthers had lost five straight prior to Wednesday night’s victory, so I guess DeBoer wanted a some spark in his lineup. Spark? On Thursday night, Duco was a combustion engine backfire.

What did Giroux do to draw Duco’s ire? He very cleanly checked Dmitry Kulikov into the boards, that’s what. So Duco went Isleworth Swedish nanny on our winger.

In the victor’s locker room Giroux was asked about the leadup to the attack. Had there been words exchanged? Did he imagine that his hit on Kulikov could have been interpreted as dirty?

“I thought it was a clean hit,” Giroux said.

And any history of antagonism between you two?

“I don’t even know who he is,” he added.

The Capitals were comfortably ahead 4-0 at the time of Duco’s dimwittedness, but two power play goals during nearly seven minutes of extra man time blew it wide open, and perhaps more importantly, made an improved Panthers team this season look on Thursday night like a bush-league outfit.

Bruce Boudreau minced no words in condemning Duco’s idiocy.

“To attack Alex . . . Almost what the game’s come to is, you get a good hit, and not a hard hit, and you take exception to a hit.

“Hockey used to be, you hit a guy hard and that’s what it’s all about. Now you hit a guy hard and you think you have to retaliate on that. It’s stupid. It was a dumb thing. And [Duco] took their team totally out of a chance to win the game.”

It was a moment of madness that did much to overshadow Alexander Semin’s conspicuous return to the Capitals’ lineup: the game’s first star put up two goals and two assists, his first tally a staple Semin wicked wrister that seemed to suggest he was functioning with a rather well healed shooting hand. The Capitals will play one more game — Saturday, in Philly — with a depleted lineup, but come Monday in Tampa there could be names like Ovechkin, Poti, and Morrisonn back wearing red, white, and blue sweaters, with Mike Knuble following just days later.

There was a road-wreck novelty to Mike Duco’s actions Thursday night, but I’m uncomfortable devoting an entire file to his lunacy, and thereby showcasing exclusively hockey’s underbelly, so I’ll share a few uplifting words related to a smart hockey player, Mathieu Perreault. I thought Perreault had a tremendous third period Thursday night.

My OFB colleague Gary snapped some stupendous images from his visit to Montreal last Saturday night, a Capitals’ 4-3 shootout triumph, and a handful of them well captured Perreault in his first game as an NHLer back in his home province. It’s an amazing camera that Gary has, and we’re going to deploy it as often as possible in 2010. Anyway, I suggested to Gary that he transfer the images of no. 85 onto a disc, and bring it to me during Thursday’s game, whereupon I’d pass it along to Perreault in the postgame locker room.

I waited a while while the young center received postgame treatment, and when he emerged from the trainer’s room he smiled when he recognized his frequent interviewer. But I only asked him one question: how many of his family and friends he was able to pack into Bell Centre last Saturday night (turns out the Habs were only able to come up with 10 tickets for him, thereby stranding seven of Matty’s friends . . . who later scalped their way into the building). Then I handed him the disc and explained that I thought he’d appreciate nearly two dozen high resolution images of his first NHL game in Montreal. My hope is that enjoys a few of them enough to pass them along to his family and friends who shared that special experience last weekend.

It’s a moment like that one that reminds me how miraculous the coverage parameters of new media now are for hockey, relative to the pen and pad days of just a few years ago.

This entry was posted in Alexander Semin, Bruce Boudreau, Florida Panthers, Mathieu Perreault, Morning cup-a-joe, National Hockey League, Washington Capitals. Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Dumbing Down Hockey Mike Duco Style

  1. Kevin says:

    Your an idiot. Duco scored over 100 goals in his OHL career and plays a fast exciting game (giroux is softer than butter). Duco was also named rookie of the year for rochester last season. This wont be the last time you see him. But what do you know i assume you can’t skate. PLug

  2. admin says:

    Oh, Kevin. We love comments like yours. You call the author an idiot, but yet you manage to butcher the language/grammar/spelling while trying to do it.

    We believe you mean:
    “You are an idiot”
    or
    “You’re an idiot”.

    Thanks for reading OFB.

  3. Andy says:

    Kevin, are you honestly defending Duco’s performance last night? He’ll be lucky to get another game with Florida this season after screwing his team, and their 3rd string goalie last night. I’d hardly qualify Giroux as soft as butter for making a clean hit, and being jumped from behind while he couldn’t defend himself.

    OFB – Good on ya for passing along those photos to Perreault. I’m sure he appreciates it!

  4. KevinC says:

    Don’t really care about Duco or what he did. He’s not the first player to do something like this and he won’t be the last.

    Other than the hit on the end boards there were no replays of anything Duco did BEFORE Giroux turtled, so something must have set him off besides that hit. All I saw was Duco punching a turtle and nothing else. Giroux hit two guys on that play. Who did Giroux go after along the left side half boards right after the first hit and what did that look like? The play went up the ice and the camera followed.

    Does the NHL have rules about replaying incidents like this one from start to finish?

  5. Jeremy says:

    I can’t believe I’m actually responding to this nonsense, but Kevin, I was at the game. If you saw the whole replay, you would have seen one clean hit by Giroux, and then, as Giroux skated back through the neutral zone, Duco, unprovoked, taking a run at him from behind with a shot up high and then pummeling him. This was the definition of conduct that has “no place in the game.” Florida was so pathetic so much of the night I was actually feeling sorry for them and their 2-300 fans down there in Lauderdale. And I mean, come on, the other night when Ballard smashed his goalie in the face. This is obviously one classy organization. But attempting to make someone pay (i.e. injure someone) after a clean hit, just because they have been vastly superior to you for 45 minutes, is what the NHL cannot allow. He should be suspended.

  6. KevinC says:

    I didn’t say nothing happened, just that they didn’t show squat on TV. Still would have loved to see the 2d hit by Giroux. He had two good hits on that play.

  7. Jeremy’s right, except for the 200-300 fans count in Florida. That’s in Atlanta. The ‘Cats have at least 600.

  8. j-man says:

    Do you want a pat on the back for giving one of your idols a CD? I don’t understand the purpose of sharing that story.

  9. DMG says:

    “Your team doesn’t have any fans” is an argument that ranks right up there with “But what do you know i assume you can’t skate”. Both completely irrelevant. Any Capitals fan who frequented Verizon Center before the last couple years ought to be able to tell you that.

    With a few exceptions, winning teams draw, losing teams don’t. Atlanta will be more than fine if they ever put together a solid on-ice product.

  10. DMG,

    There’s empty rinks and then there’s Atlanta’s. Apparently even players’ family members can’t be spotted in the stands. And are they a lousy team in your view? A week or so ago they were the highest scoring team in the league. Not exactly an unmarketable product, no? Gonna be interesting to see if Kovy re-ups. The vast emptiness there can’t be aiding those negotiations.

  11. admin says:

    j-man,
    Thank you for reading OFB. In the future, perhaps you can use a less offensive fake email in your comments. You are always welcome to use your gannettt.com or usatoday.com email as well.

    Otherwise, we are within our right to no longer approve them.

  12. DMG says:

    I think Atlanta’s a mediocre-at-best team right now, exceeding expectations. Maybe they come together, their young players get better, and they ride their hot start to a playoff berth, but I’m not sold yet.

    But the issue goes way beyond this year. They’ve made bad trades, drafted poorly, interacted poorly with the fan base, and mortgaged a significant portion of their future to get to their one playoff berth (with no wins) in the ten years they’ve been around. People are skeptical enough that they’re not going to start coming out after a couples months of good play, the same way you wouldn’t expect the Pirates to start filling the stands if they had a solid record come next Memorial Day. You can’t undo years of poor management and poor teams that quickly.

    Coming out of the lockout the Thrashers enjoyed a decent amount of popularity in Atlanta, especially when they made the playoffs. They didn’t have any problem filling that building late in the 05-07 season and it was loud.

    I think it’s easy to dismiss Atlanta because they’ve drawn so poorly, but places that fill the arena most nights like St. Louis, Chicago, Boston, Pittsburgh, and even Washington had horrible attendance when they had bad teams and, Chicago aside, none of those were run nearly as poorly as the Thrashers. Still, it took the fans a little while to catch on and come back.

    Ultimately I just think the fact is teams get supported when they win and don’t when they lose. Atlanta, save for a few months, has been a losing team. I think it’s hard to say there’s an issue there until we see what happens when the team wins, and based on my experience the team will be supported when they win.

  13. MikeB says:

    Jeremy,

    Outside of the freak Ballard/Vokoun incident (which was accidental) and Duco last night, what warrants the sarcastic “This is obviously one classy organization” comment? They have two enforcers on their team (McCardle & McIntyre) who give plenty of notice when they want to scrap. Other than that they have very few physical players.

    Besides, I’m the only Panthers fan in DC. I’ve already suffered enough pain this season, don’t need to read it on here, too. SOME SYMPATHY PLEASE. 😉

  14. Patrick says:

    The reason why Pucks mentions the generous act is because sometimes people need to hear a feel-good story. Among all of the negative sports articles of the past couple weeks, Tiger, Alex, Serena, etc. there is room for this. This is just another reason that some of us are regulars on this board. Those who don’t appreciate the act of decency can read other hate articles elsewhere, that is not the way OFB rolls.
    Adding to the article, Perreault is stock-full of potential and will be in the NHL on a permanent basis ( hopefully wearing a Caps jersey ) for a long time. He really dangles out there, and appears to be a perfect fit in the Caps systems, not unlike Semin, Backstrom, Flash and that other Alex guy.
    Matt Bradley, a shift or two after scoring his goal did a toe drag around a defender that resembled the aforementioned finesse players.
    I love the way this team is gelling up and playing quality hockey right now. Solid defensive team play, accompanied by scintilating offensive prowess!
    The hockey Gods have got to start sharing some love for Steckel. He is absolutely dominating face-offs, and the corners, but cannot seem to buy a goal. As Laughlin said last night “When he finally does score, they will come in by the bucket-loads“.
    Varly was, again, phenominal.
    Pothier was, again, excellent. His return to the lineup has given the caps another threat.
    I am looking forward to the Philly game!!
    GOOOO CAAAAPPPSS!

  15. DMG,

    I agree with a lot of your points, but two other considerations might be (1) the remarkable macro-economic conditions in which Atlanta’s emptiness now occurs, which I suspect is fueling a lot of the speculation that the Thrash rank as one of the league’s Dirty Six franchises *quite* apt for relocation (they are *always* included in such discussions); and (2) empty is a somewhat relative term. When the Caps were skating what was tatamount to an AHL squad in the spring of 2004, VC was still about half full, and when quality clubs visited I often saw 14- or 15,000 fannies in the seats. When Ovechkin and the no. 1-in-the-league Caps visited Atlanta earler this season, on a Friday night, with Kovy skating on the ice as well, and tumbleweeds could be seen billowing about the aisles, I thought ‘That’s big-time trouble.’

  16. DMG says:

    Relocating from Atlanta would a mistake on the NHL’s part. There are far too many people, far too much money, and far too much corporate clout in that city for the league not to be there. Frankly I think most of the “move Atlanta” sentiment comes from (1) people who still hate the idea of hockey in the American South and (2) looking at the numbers without context. The fact that there are a lot of people (or at least some very loud people) who think that doesn’t sway me in the least.

    I never noticed much correlation between quality of opponent and crowd size in DC. I did notice bigger crowds for teams that “travel well” – Toronto, New York, Philly, etc. Washington doesn’t generally “travel well”, especially in Atlanta.

    But, again, the situations are similar but aren’t apples to apples. The Capitals had been in DC for thirty years at that point and had done well for most of the last twenty-plus. The Thrashers have been around ten and have generally been awful, even beyond their expansion growing pains. With the Caps you had the history, a competent management group, and an owner with the team’s best interests at heart. In Atlanta the team has been awful, the management stinks and everyone knows, and the ownership has been a disaster. Simply put, there’s no reason to show your support (especially financially) to the team. The only comparable situation I can think of would be Chicago and Wirtz. It’s that bad.

    Heck, you could compare it to Washington in their early years. A market unfamiliar with hockey, an awful team that seemed to be going nowhere, constant threats of relocation, low attendance, people from traditional markets looking down their noses…

    Going back to the Caps in Atlanta, I don’t think that’s too damning. The Thrashers play the Capitals multiple times every year and Ovechkin’s been to Atlanta many times. Factor in that, and the sorry state of the franchise over the last…well, the vast majority of it’s existence, to me that’s a blip compared to the pattern of teams being supported when they’re winning and ignored when they’re not.

    Like I said, I only think it’s a problem if the team can’t get support when they’re good, and the Thrashers were well supported in the very brief period of time they were good, which is something that it’s easy to underestimate if you weren’t there at the time. Atlanta’s never going to be Detroit, or the Twin Cities, or Boston, or Philly, but I think it’ll be more than enough to make an NHL franchise viable long term.

  17. muddapucker says:

    Let me take this opportunity to say that the Ducos of the world would be less apt to exist in the NHL if the boys were allowed to police their own game without fear of “retaliation” penalties…

    Furthermore, asking Ovechkin to tone down the physical nature of his play is ridiculous. Its what makes him special. If Gordie Howe had toned his play down in his 5th year in the NHL, he would not have made the Hall of Fame.

    Both the NHL and NFL are consummed with reducing violence and physical play to the detriment of their games. If this continues, we might as well play virtual hockey on computer games. When is the game no longer the game?

    Don’t get me wrong, I am not for unmitigated violence and out of hand physical play but I am for retaining the foundation of the game without trying to cater to the politically correct interests of our society who don’t even know the game and furthermore don’t buy tickets or watch it on TV.

    C’mon Gary Bettman, have some nads… George McPhee has it right, even good hits can go bad. Don’t water down this game to the point where the players are saying “excuse me” and “pardon me please”.

    Let the players play and don’t water down a game that has so much potential.

  18. daddy axe says:

    Get rid of the instigator rule.

  19. Laura says:

    Kevin: Woah — Duco scored 100 goals in his OHL career!?! And you’re comparing that statistic to what of Alex’s? Let’s take a look at their AHL statistics… You know, a Professional league as opposed to Juniors.

    Last year, “soft as butter” Giroux managed to net 60G in 69GP during the regular season. He added an additional 15 more in the playoffs. But since Rochester didn’t make the playoffs last season, we won’t use those figures. Duco notched 14G in 68GP. In +/-, Duco ended his regular season at a -19. Mr. Giroux ended with a +23. Shall I even give the point totals each player ended with, or are you catching on to this trend?

    What’s that you say? I’m comparing a seasoned veteran to Duco’s rookie season. Your initial post opened up the comparison, so if you want to put Duco in a category with Giroux.. expect the facts.

    If Alex Giroux is, as you say, “soft as butter,” I doubt he’d have the professional numbers he has. The D-men out there on the blue lines don’t typically lie down and allow forwards to casually stroll in and score. There is at least some physical contact involved — Give the guy some credit.

    Maybe you’re referring to the way in which Alex didn’t retaliate to Duco’s “attack” while his back was turned? Hmmm — What good what it have done his team to take a roughing or fighting penalty? None. He played it smart. He drew the penalty, and his team capitalized on it. I’ll take that any day!

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