November 3, 2011

Shanabanned ;Patrick Kaleta

Last night, I was extremely disappointed that I would only be able to catch the first five minutes of the Sabres' game against Philadelphia. But in the end, I didn't even watch that – after the second goal got past Miller at 1:56 I turned off the TV, threw on my shoes, and walked out the door to wait for my ride. They looked absolutely pathetic.

But apparently I missed something important, because I got a text from the Buffalo sports radio station, WGR 550 AM, at about 4 PM stating: “Sabres F[orward] Pat Kaleta suspended 4 games for head butt vs. Flyers.” Four games. I figured it must have been pretty bad, something like the incident in the 2006 World Cup between Zinedine Zidane and Marco Materazzi, where the head butt was seemingly pointless and completely out of character for the situation at hand. But then I saw the video with Shanahan's explanation:

It's physical play at it's best right there. Shanahan needs to realize that there's a fine line here, and you have to be careful not to cross it. Kaleta was merely going in to try and play the puck, and the way that should be done is with physical play. That's exactly what Kaleta set out to do, and is what he managed to do.

Lately the NHL's suspensions have been much too severe. Recently, the Chicago Blackhawks' Dan Carcillo has been suspended 2 games for a hit from behind on the Hurricane’s Joni Pitkanen. In the video of the play, it is apparent that there was a push from behind by Carcillo, causing Pitkanen to fall towards the boards. I agree that this is an act that should be penalized.

But take a close look at the play – Carcillo was leaning on Pitkanen from behind as they went towards the puck, so he definitely knew there was a player defending him. Then there's the fact that Pitkanen seems to lose balance a little too easily. It's quite likely that he dove to draw the penalty, in case it was missed.

Then there's the five-game suspension of the Edmonton Oilers' Andy Sutton for an illegal hit to the head. Yes, this play did result in a hit to the head. Yes, I agree this is a suspendable play. But Shanahan is trying to argue that this hit was somehow worth a total of five games? No way. It was deserving of three games at most. The play was a hit to stop the advance of the puck, not to cause injury or harm to an opposing player. In such cases, the punishment to the offending player needs to be reduced.

Brendan Shanahan, you need to realize that hockey is and has always been a physical sport. You're crossing a line here with your numerous suspensions, and if you keep this up we may be heading down a slippery slope headed towards making this a sport where players are afraid to check their opponents.

Watch out, Shanahan, or you may be the next one to be “Shanabanned.”

~Adam Singh

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