From the “in case you missed it” files, there were a couple of questionable (read: scummy) hits recently that were brought to the attention of NHL Disciplinarian Colin Campbell. One of the hits I took a look at the other day in my post analyzing the broadcasts from Colorado and Washington regarding David Koci’s dirtbag hit on Capitals defenseman Mike Green. For the video of that hit (take your choice of which one to watch) I kindly ask to check it out there.
The other hit came from Ottawa’s 2-0 win over Buffalo Wednesday night and involved a couple of rather notorious figures in the eyes of the NHL: Senators forward Jarkko Ruutu and Sabres forward Patrick Kaleta. These two guys have reputations as ugly as anything in the league so when they come together in an ugly play… It’s usually tough to get people to feel bad for the guy that feels the brunt of the attack. In this case, it was Patrick Kaleta getting the worst of everything. (Video suggestion: mute the audio unless you want to hear what Rick Jeanneret sounds like on quaaludes)
The fun part about this brutal hit, which knocked Kaleta out of the game, is that there’s nothing accidental about what Ruutu did here. He was running Kaleta, a guy who plays the game generally the same way as Ruutu, and he was making sure he was going to hurt him because he was clearly gunning for his head.
So you’ve got two obviously dirty and brutal hits and where does the league come down on this, especially since both involved head injuries of some sort?
David Koci of the Colorado Avalanche has been fined for his hit on Washington Capitals defenceman Mike Green, while Ottawa Senators winger Jarkko Ruutu has been fined for his hit on Buffalo Sabres’ Patrick Kaleta.
For those of you checking in on the Wheel of Justice, I’ve got a surveillance photo taken directly from Colin Campbell’s office for how he came up with just a fine for both of these dirty hits.
I’d like an explanation as to how or why two guys with reputations and, in at least Ruutu’s case, prior transgressions for which he’s been punished by the league get off with fines and no suspensions at all. I thought curing the league of dirty head shots was a big deal to the NHL but this decision, specifically against Ruutu, is irresponsibly inconsistent by the league.
This isn’t a situation like with Philadelphia’s Mike Richards earlier this year where you could sort of make a case against suspending him for hitting Florida’s David Booth – Jarkko Ruutu’s hit on Patrick Kaleta is scummy, dirty and the exact kind of thing the league should be punishing severely. Instead, it gets let go with a weak fine. This is where I want the league to be more forthcoming as to why they make the decisions the way they do. Too many times the result of the hit plays into what the punishment is which means most of the intentionally dirty stuff that doesn’t connect and seriously injure a player goes unpunished. A lot of people treat the “intent vs. results” debate as a “chicken or egg” kind of situation, meaning that if a guy’s intent is to put a hurt on another player is there but he fails that makes it OK.
I can’t imagine a line of thought being more violently incorrect.
Take a look at that video of Ruutu on Kaleta again and try to explain to me how Jarkko Ruutu was just playing the game “the right way” and how him gunning for another player’s head (regardless of who that player is) is OK. I’m sure the excuse is that he was chasing after the puck and checking his man. Never mind that his man has his back turned to Ruutu the entire time and nevermind that Ruutu also made no effort to play the puck while skating in at full speed from outside of the zone and then delivering a shoulder to the head of Patrick Kaleta.
I can’t imagine there being more things wrong with this entire scenario, but it’s only deserving of a fine in the eyes of Colin Campbell. The league is busy, again, talking out of both sides of its mouth in regard to head shots trying to placate the Players Union as well as the fans who both clamor for an end to these things and to those who say it’s all “part of the game” and guys should suck it up.
The league can’t make everyone happy here but coming up with some sort of concrete method to the madness regarding dirty play and suspensions for committing offenses like these has to come out of all this. There have been too many instances where we the fans and I’m sure the players as well are left scratching our collective heads wondering what is going through the head of Colin Campbell when he goes to his smoky back room to come up with some kind of action against offending players. Every other major sports league has some kind of step-ladder for doling out punishment for breaking the rules like this yet somehow the NHL can’t remove its head from its own ass to create their own.
I know… I’m as shocked as the rest of you are that this is how this league chooses to operate. After all, there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right?