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The Journal Gazette

Friday, May 26, 2017 2:00 pm

A must-read on Toledo's plight

JUSTIN A. COHN | The Journal Gazette

You simply have to read the column I post below by Toledo Blade columnist David Briggs, in which the Toledo Walleye's president and CEO, Joe Napoli, voices his discontent with the state of ECHL play in the postseason.

It should be noted that the Komets lost to Toledo in the second round of the playoffs, so I guess some of this is about Fort Wayne. There is so much we could unpack from the story, which can be read by clicking here.

Here are the main things I want to say about it:

* The ECHL definitely needs to get rid of the dirty play and Toledo's Simon Denis fell victim to one of the most publicized instances in the first round, when Kalamazoo's Ben Wilson repeatedly cross-checked him in the head, but getting rid of physical play is not a recipe for success in the minor leagues. The fans want it, so most of the owners want it and it's a staple of hockey, especially in the postseason, at this level. Again, physical play is good, dirty play is bad. 

* You think relatively new owners of ECHL teams in places like Worcester or Kansas City want to come in and get rid of physical play? That'll be a good sell to their fans.

* Two of the most talked-about hits from the last two years were by Toledo players -- A.J. Jenks blowing out the knee of Shawn Szydlowski and Cody Lampl's check into the boards of Tristin Llewellyn. Toledo isn't exactly 100 percent clean out there.

* For Toledo to imply the ice is slanted against it rings hollow. It has been highly successful in the regular season, where it had the ECHL's best record this year, and it's coming off a playoff in which it beat a quality Kalamazoo team and a Komets team that was the fourth overall seed. Colorado was 47-20-5 in the regular season and completely changed its identity after a poor 2015-16. So it adapted, and isn't that what great teams do? And Toledo lost in triple overtime of Game 7 of the conference finals in 2015. Does it want a coupon to the Cup because it can't quite get over the hump?

* I will say this till I'm blue in the face: A good power play always beats a goon. In the Toledo vs. Colorado series, the Walleye was 3 for 16 on power plays and Colorado was 5 for 17. 

* If there's too much goonery in the ECHL, that's a problem with rules enforcement. I don't know too many people who would dispute the referees need to improve in the calls they make and the consistency from game to game, period to period.

* Toledo certainly isn't the first team to go off on a rant in the heat of the moment. So we need to keep in mind the circumstances. It will be interesting to see if there's any effect. There are definitely many around the league who feel Toledo already gets the benefit of the doubt with calls and are fatigued with that. I hear it from team officials around the league all the time. And I'm surprised Toledo would want to set itself up for all the trolling it will get about running to the commissioner. But there are also some who would like to see an even more family friendly brand of hockey and maybe Napoli's comments will appeal to them. 

jcohn@jg.net