I know I’m beating a dead horse here, but developments involving the league’s disciplinary body over the course of the past 24 hours have certainly revived the heated debates surrounding the issue of concussions, head-shots, and violence in the NHL – so forgive me. The NHL was decisive in its punishment of Matt Cooke’s flagrant elbow to the head of the Rangers Ryan McDonagh regular season. The Penguins agitator’s regular season is finished, and he can count on missing at least one round of the playoffs as well. The penalty levied is tough and fits with what many were calling for given Cooke’s history of over-the-line physicality.
The league was absolutely right to throw the book at Cooke – but from my perspective at least – the league has now exposed all of its prior inconsistencies for review. They’ve now proven in this decision that they are willing to suspend players long-term for cheapshots. But how can the NHL justify a 14-17 game (the Pens are going to make the playoffs) suspension in this case and not even 1 game in the case of Chara? How does Danny Heatley, who goes out of his way to elbow Steve Ott only get two games for essentially the same thing? How about Brad Marchand – who had this (it would be sad if it wasn’t so hilariously ironic) to say: “I think it’s about time he gets [suspended]. He needs to be taught a lesson. He’s doing that stuff left, right and centre. I expect he’ll get a bunch of games. He’s got to be taught a lesson. He can’t be running around doing that stuff all the time. He’s going to seriously hurt someone again – look at (Marc Savard). He could have easily hurt McDonagh.”
The fact is – the NHL is using “prior incidents” as their major thrust for long-term punishments for headshots. The message this sends is clear: only those who have a history need worry about the ramifications of their actions. Free passes to everyone unless you’ve proven beyond all reason that you cannot be trusted like Matt Cooke or Trevor Gillies. The NHL is currently missing its best player as a result of a cheapshot “accident”, and yet they are unwilling to do anything of note unless the most blatant and flagrant fouls are committed.
I’m not suggesting that the NHL start handing out season-long suspensions for every cheap hit – but there are those who are acting as though this one case is redemption for the NHL on this issue. Talk to me when they act on a headshot that doesn’t involve punishing the most notorious offender. It’s easy to throw the book at a repeat offender – someone who has shown continual disregard for the safety of others. Despite what some are saying in the media – suspending Matt Cooke does not constitute a statement on head-shots. The two-game slap on the wrist to Danny Heatley says far more.
Anyways, the Canadiens are playing another huge game tonight (don’t you feel like the Habs play a huge game every night?). Buffalo is in position to deal a serious blow to the playoff aspirations of both the Maple Leafs and Hurricanes tonight. Buffalo is 3 points clear of Carolina, and 5 clear of the Leafs who will both be cheering for a Canadiens win in regulation tonight to keep their respective playoff runs alive.
Excluding the Capitals, the Canadiens share the distinction of the hottest team(s) in the East with the winning-too-late-and-killed-their-chance-at-a-good-draft-pick-Devils. It’ll be interesting to see how the Habs fare after such an easy win versus the Wild.
Go Habs Go!!!