Bob Hartley is finding his style of hockey is gaining him of a nasty reputation with his fellow coaches, one which may find him on the lonely side of the coaches' association by the end of the year.
Hartley's Atlanta Thrashers are finding more of their names associated with the penalty sheet than the scoring sheet the last two weeks or so, as the opposition coaches suggest that Hartley is on a crusade to bring back the days of the Broad Street Bullies.
The most recent debate over Hartley's handling of his offensively challenged players started up with the recent Leafs/Thrashers game in Toronto. Pat Quinn, took to the post game microphones to express his distate for Hartley hockey, suggesting that Thrasher Eric Boulton's hit on Eric Lindros was designed to do more than to take Lindros off his game. The hit on Lindros created a number of ugly skirmishes in the runaway 9-1 Toronto victory and gave Leaf tough guy Tie Domi the opportunity to hold court and take exception to Hartley's hockey bona fides.
Hartley had just finished ignoring the complaints from Leaf land, when Boulton went and got himself into further trouble after a nasty elbow delivered to the jaw of Tampa rookie Paul Ranger. Colin Campbell will hold court on Monday to dispense justice to Boulton who was suspended indefinitely after the ugly incident with Ranger.
The successive exhibitions of goonish behavior appear to be contrary to the new NHL as espoused by Gary Bettman and his high office NHL executives. Making things worse for the Thrashers is the woeful record of the team and the continual routing that the team seems to suffer on a nightly basis. With a deficit on the scoreboards of 22-2, the expectations of a high scoring machine have not been met, instead night after night of losing seems to bring out the worst in the Thrashers
The Thrashers are quick to snuff out any stories about the team not wanting to play for Hartley, suggesting that in fact Hartley is so respected by players that they seek him out for his hockey knowledge. Using Bobby Holik and Ilya Kovalchuk as players that are in Atlanta because they want to play for Hartley.
With fellow coaches like Pat Quinn and John Tortorella expressing rather strenuous objections to the style of Thrasher play, Holik and Kowalchuk may be a minority vote for the next little while.