Let me see if I have this straight: NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell was certain that Tom Kostopoulos did not administer a hit that Mike Van Ryn didn't know was coming, but because Van Ryn was injured, Kostopoulos got three games.
Jarkko Ruutu clearly laid out an unsuspecting Maxim Lapierre with an elbow to the head, but Lapierre wasn't injured, so Ruutu gets two games?
Does that make sense to you?
I had no problem with slapping Kostopoulos with three games, and in fact I was thinking he deserved five, but there was clearly no intent on his part to hurt Van Ryn, it was just an unfortunate outcome of his hit. But that outcome still had to be punished.
Ruutu claims that he wasn't trying to hurt Lapierre at all, calling the play an "accident." No, Jarkko, an accident is when you rear end someone while checking your blind spot (as I did recently), or when you cut yourself shaving.
An accident is not this:
That, my Finnish friend, is a pre-meditated attempt to injure, and a failed one, I might add. The fact he failed should have no impact on how long he's suspended, but in Campbell's eyes it clearly does.
It's funny, because immediately after the hit Tuesday night, I noted to the guy next to me how Lapierre would have done well to stay down a while and have the trainers come out, maybe even head to the dressing room for a couple of shifts, because then he may have drawn a major penalty. The comment was made jokingly, but the scary thing is it's probably true.
Bob McKenzie on TSN noted that this was a step in the right direction because the league in the past may not have acted on a hit like this precisely because there was no injury and only a minor penalty was called. Now Ruutu is down for his first suspension for a head shot (is that not a total stunner?), and if he does it again the next one will be more severe. At least in theory.
Ruutu's countryman Saku Koivu was asked after today's practice what he thought of the hit, and he didn't mince his words. Seeing as I have no space limitations here, I'm going to give you some raw Koivu here:
"It looked like Max kind of got away from the hit and Jarkko extended his elbow, but that’s something we’re trying to get away from. Things happen really quickly, there’s a fast pace, so you’re going to get some hits that you’re going to regret. But when you’re intentionally trying to hit somebody in the head, that’s something that doesn’t belong in the game."
Q: How do we get rid of these kinds of incidents?
A: "The first thing we need is the respect we have to have toward the other players. I understand there’s emotion involved and sometimes there’s frustration when things aren’t going your way, but trying to injure somebody, that’s not part of the game. It’s tough to draw a line between what’s intentional and an accident, but there are occasions where you can tell that there’s only thing on his mind, and that’s to hurt the player. When that happens, I think you have to be tougher on suspensions and I think that’s the only way to get the players to think more and be more fearful of those things."
Guy Carbonneau, whose membership card for the Jarkko Ruutu fan club seemingly got lost in the mail, was contrite again Wednesday when asked for his assessment of the play, having had a night to mull it over. The fact it was Ruutu who laid the hit and not, say, Mike Fisher, appeared to make the whole thing that much more distasteful to the coach.
"I think it was a deliberate head shot," he said. "We all know what kind of player he is, so I’ll leave it at that."
The other big issue discussed after practice today was Steve Bégin's future on the club. He's only played twice in the past 10 games, and he's starting to feel doubts that he'll ever be able to get back in the lineup, and rightfully so. I think he's going to need someone getting injured to have any hope of playing, and that's not something you want to be wishing for while watching your teammates play from the press box.
Bégin and Carbonneau had a chat prior to Wednesday's practice, but I have trouble understanding what Carbonneau could possibly tell him to make him feel better. What do you say, that you're simply not talented enough to play on this team any more, but be ready in case we need you even though you have little to no hope of playing when everyone's healthy?
Carbonneau laid out the situation quite clearly for us today, and it seems Mathieu Dandenault and Bégin are going to be regulars in the press box quite soon.
"We obviously didn't sign Geroges Laraque to sit in the stands, so that's one less job. A guy like Maxim Lapierre has been playing very well since the start of the season, so that's two fewer jobs. So there are three players fighting for one job."
However, earlier in the season, Carbonneau noted how well Tom Kostopoulos was playing and how hard it would be to take him out of the lineup. So when he gets back from that suspension, I would have to believe Bégin and Dandenault will be doing a lot of spectating.
What I would be worried about if I were Carbonneau is that both Bégin and Dandenault are in their contract years, along with 11 of their teammates. Bégin is normally a team guy to the bone who would never want to rock the boat, but all of a sudden he's complaining to some of my colleagues that he wants to play and he's not happy.
Could that have anything to do with his next contract? You'd be a fool to think otherwise, but this is the danger of creating a situation where over half the team is playing for a big deal. The guys who don't get to play start seeing dollars fly out the window with each passing game, and all of a sudden maintaining team chemistry by keeping quiet becomes a lot less important.