Friday, May 22, 2009

Kerrzy's Notebook: Shakin' the Magic 8-ball

I know that Colin Campbell has a tough job.

I’m not here to say that he doesn’t. As the Senior Vice President and Director of Hockey Operations for the NHL, he has the task of deciding what warrants a suspension and what doesn’t.

Like I said, I know that’s a tough job and I don’t think I’d want to do it. But I just wish Campbell could at least make it look like he isn’t just shaking a “Magic 8-ball” for every decision.

What do I mean? Well, I’m glad you asked!

With the help of YouTube, I’ve compiled a ton of examples of suspensions vs. non-suspensions from this year’s playoffs to give you my perspective on the issue.

We’ll start with the most recent bit of controversy around the league: the knee-on-knee hit.

There was outrage when Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin (he says, accidentally) went knee-on-knee with Pittsburgh’s Sergei Gonchar, causing the Pens top blue liner to miss the next game.

Ovechkin wasn’t suspended, and Pens players and fans alike cried foul. One Pittsburgh forward said after the game “If I did what he did, I wouldn’t be on the ice.”

Oh really, Penguins forward Matt Cooke? Carolina Hurricanes forward Erik Cole was forced to leave game one of the Eastern Final after a knee-on-knee collision with…who else, but Matt Cooke!

No suspension there either – though both victims of the hits left the game with injuries. At least Alex Ovechkin got a penalty on the play!

From knees, we move on to cheap shots!

Now, I’m going to show you four video clips, and I want you to guess which one resulted in a suspension. Ready? Here we go!

A) Dan Carcillo on Max Talbot:

B) Mike Cammalleri on Marty Havlat:

C) Scott Walker on Aaron Ward:

D) Scott Niedermayer on Pavel Datsyuk:

Before you make your decision, here are some other facts about each play:

-The Dan Carcillo incident happened late in a 4-1 loss to the Penguins.
-It was tied in the third period when Mike Cammalleri clocked Marty Havlat.
-The Scott Walker sucker-punch came when the score was 4-0 Boston.
-The Scott Niedermayer elbow was thrown after his team’s 2-1 win.

ALRIGHT – so class, which of those clips warrants a suspension? If you answered A) Dan Carcillo on Max Talbot, you’re unfortunately right!

Even though the Cammalleri punch was basically the exact same thing, even though Niedermayer tried to take an unsuspecting Datsyuk’s head clean off and even though Walkers instigator penalty in the last five minutes of a game is supposed to be an automatic suspension – only Dan Carcillo felt the wrath of Colin Campbell.

In fact, his team was fined as well for the incident. See my point about the Magic 8-ball? It HAD to be in play when these decisions were made.

Onto our next category, cross checks!

Heres an example of a clear-cut suspension and another play that was a non-call, but probably should have been at the very least a fine…

In the last five minutes of a 5-1 Boston win over Montreal in game two of the first round, Bruins forward Milan Lucic picked up a one-game suspension for a cross check to the head of Montreal’s Maxim Lapierre (who got a 10 minute misconduct on the play too).

Lucic got a one-game sit down for that blow to the head. What do you think Chris Kunitz should have gotten for this cross check to the throat with 37 seconds left in a loss?

Not only did that Kunitz throat-check go un-called, his Pittsburgh Penguins scored just moments later.

AND NOW – for the grande finale!

The NHL says it’s firmly against headshots out there on the ice, so when a player sees another player in a vulnerable position he shouldn’t try to decapitate him.

At least, that’s what they want us to think.

Despite blows to the head being outlawed in international hockey, the NHL continues to let its players get away with just about everything…unless you have a reputation, that is.

Washington Capitals tough guy Donald Brashear is the only player to get a hefty suspension so far in these playoffs – five games for a blind-side hit NY Rangers forward Blair Betts, that broke his orbital bone.

Like it or not Mr. Campbell, giving Brashear five games for that hit sets a bit of a precedent, and the people expect that you’ll follow that.

In round two, Anaheim’s Mike Brown laid out Jiri Hudler of the Detroit Red Wings with what looked like an elbow to the face, as Hudler was looking the other way after dishing the puck to a teammate.

By then, he was out of the play so there was no real benefit to Brown ‘finishing his check’ other than potentially putting Hudler (who had just taken an elbowing penalty) out of the game…

Brown got five and a game for interference, but nothing beyond that from the league. Was it a headshot? Yes. Was it a retaliatory headshot? Maybe.

Should he have been suspended at least one game for a hit very similar to the Brashear one that landed him five? I’d say so.

This last one is for you Anaheim fans who think I’m just bringing up the Brown hit because I root for the Red Wings.

Nik Kronwall busted Ryan Carter’s nose with this hit and Ducks fans cried about it because they say Kronwall left his feet…

At least Carter had the puck on his stick, not like the Hudler hit! This is a two-minute penalty at best, though.

There, are you happy Ducks fans? (Probably not, because your season is over! Burn!)

In closing…

I’d like to once again say that I know that Colin Campbell has a hard job, and I know that he can’t just go around suspending everyone...but looking at some of the stuff that’s gone on in these playoffs really makes me wonder what’s happening at head office.

The NHL has painted itself into a corner, and until they straighten out what their own rules are, it’s just going to get uglier.

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