Thursday, September 26, 2013

Sabres/Leafs line brawl epilogue

The moral of the story is this:  There is no moral of the story.

Everyone did what they needed to do, or did what they felt like they needed to do.

--Corey Tropp showed disregard for personal safety and went at it with Leafs "apprentice tough guy," Jamie Devane.

--Devane, who had bypassed potential encounters with Sabres tough guy John Scott, proceeded to break Tropp's jaw.

--Scott was fit to be tied and was going after whomever was next to him. It happened to be Phil Kessel.

--Kessel defended himself with a two-hander like any of us would have done. He also showed extreme malice two-handing Scott again and then showed what a little bitch he is when he jabbed/speared Scott. In both instances Scott was entangled with three and two bodies, respectively.

--Sabres coach Ron Rolston didn't change his line after the Tropp/Devane incident leaving Scott on the ice. Leafs coach Randy Carlyle tried to "diffuse" the situation by sending out a scoring line with Scott on the ice.

--Recently-inked, and very rich man, David Clarkson jumped the boards (receiving an automatic ten-game suspension and will forfeit over $270k in salary for the move) and joined the fray. He proceeded to grab Sabres d-man Drew Bagnall and hold him while teammate Carter Ashton sucker-punched Bagnall.

--Brian Flynn went after Kessel, with total disregard for personal safety, and proceeded to get his nose bloodied.

--Ryan Miller, who's name should never again be in the same sentence as "fight," took a few shots from Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier, who's now a cult hero in Toronto for landing a punch on the 160 lb. Miller.

--The major sports networks had the opportunity to belittle the red-headed step-child of North American sports, which they never pass up, and mocked the NHL.

--NHL player safety czar Brendan Shanahan had the opportunity hand out suspensions and in true Department of Player Safety form, screwed it up.

--The NHL couldn't buy the kind of attention that this incident thrust upon the league.

Time to move on.

But before we do that...

In a move that's almost as lame as Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel getting a 1/2 game suspension for his autographs, NHL disciplinarian Shanahan handed out a three-game suspension to Leafs swashbuckler Kessel.

Three games for wielding a hockey stick like an ax with intent to injure is appropriate, save for the fact that it's three preseason games. Nearly all NHL vets, like Kessel, hate playing preseason so in effect, Kessel was rewarded.

Getting suspended for a preseason game is akin to a priest saying, "Take Sunday off from church, my son, to reflect fully on your sins."

Perhaps even more incredulous than the "suspension" itself was Shanahan's explanation.

Having reviewed the incident, Shanahan says that the first swing was self defense (fair enough,) but the second, while John Scott is engaged with two other Leafs, was landed even after Kessel was out of danger. Which is malicious intent to injure with a weapon, by the way.

Shanahan mentions that fact and proceeds.

Next he shows a video of a Leafs game vs. the Flyers just six days prior and points out that Kessel "engages in two similar stick-swinging incidents in a game vs. Philadelphia."

Then he says, "in summary, Kessel has no history of supplemental discipline, blah, blah, blah. Kessel is suspended for the remainder of the preseason."

Three times within the last six days Kessel used his stick as a weapon, supposedly to defend himself. It was only after the third incident that he faced disciplinarian action.

What happened with the other two?

Maybe the better question is, what is Kessel doing and/or saying that's pissing off the tough customers of the league? Is he barking like an annoying schnauzer? Is he being a little bitch? Should he really be playing for Vancouver?

Oh. And for good measure. Sabres coach Ron Rolston was fined $10,000 by the league for "player selection and player conduct" even though Scott was already on the ice, the Leafs had the last line change and Scott admittedly went after Kessel of his own accord.

*shakes head*

That ruling against Rolston has pissed off a number of coaches. QMI's Chris Stevenson penned a piece that delved into the "player selection" part of the ruling.

Said one coach, "So what am I supposed to do now? Do I call the ref over and call timeout so I can call (league vice-president of hockey operations) Colie Campbell and ask him who I can put on the ice?”

It's a good piece.


Rolston, though, took it all in stride.

As incredulous as the rulings were, he said "It's part of what they do. They have to make a decision on what's best for the league. Those are things we can't control so we do what is handed down and go from there."

He simply wants to move on, but does defend Scott and the role he played that game, "It's because it was John. It's just more reputation," he said. "But he had played the whole game, played well and was playing a good game for us. He had an assist [a primary assist] on the first goal. He's worked hard on his game to play hockey too. But I think obviously reputation is a big part of that."

Sabres GM Darcy Regier was on WGR yesterday (which starts at the 19:45 mark) and touched upon the incident later in the segment.

Regier was evasive, as usual, but really wanted to relay something Scott had said to him concerning what the enforcer had said to Kessel. Confidentiality dictated he couldn't so he simply offered, "John just wanted to," he chuckles, then continues, "I'm smiling because I can't tell you what he said to Phil [Kessel] but there's a lighthearted side to it. It's pretty funny, actually."

It's part of a great interview with Schoppsie and the Bulldog where Regier touches on a number of subjects including the line brawl, the rulings handed down, the state of defenseman Tyler Myers and the play of rookie d-man Rasmus Ristolainen.


Former Sabre enforcer Rob Ray who is a part of Sabres' broadcasts was on the show in the previous hour.

In addition to his disbelief over the penalties handed out by Shanahan, he added some insight into the incident that television viewers didn't get the opportunity to witness.

After Tropp was knocked out there was a TV timeout. During that two-minute span, said Ray, "the whole two-minute break the linesman was in the little box between the benches separating players. Coaches were yelling back and forth. It was a whole melee'. It cleared up about 10 seconds before they came back on the air."

"If Carlyle thought that putting Kessel out there would diffuse the situation," mused Ray, "then Randy Carlyle's not that smart."

It was a bizarre scene on the ice on Sunday, a situation that brought out the true colors of everyone involved..

Although the Sabres didn't win the fights or the game, they handled themselves well. They're growing up. No whining, no cursing, no bravado.

Just taking everything in stride.

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