There are many different ways that Saturday’s game between last year’s Stanley Cup Final combatants could have disappointed. The game was so highly-hyped that a bland game would have been more disappointing than the first time Star Wars fans saw Jar Jar Binks.
Fortunately for those who were able to watch, the game, like a club recommended by Stefon, had everything. For those who like fighting, there was a line brawl a few minutes in. For those who like goals, this game had 7 of them. Do you like controversy? The early line brawl inexplicably led to a two-man advantage for the Canucks and a game misconduct for Milan Lucic, while one of the Bruins goals was scored on what the Canucks thought was icing.
For those who like illegal hits…well, there was one of those too.
I’m not particularly interested in going into the details of Brad Marchand’s hit on Sami Salo; suffice it to say, I agree with Brendan Shanahan’s ruling. The penalty was called, the suspension assessed, the issue is essentially closed. Unfortunately, both teams didn’t (and don’t) know when to stop talking it.
The right thing to do for both teams would have been to comment on the hit, register their displeasure with either the hit itself or the call, wait for the decision from Shanahan, then comment on whether they are pleased or displeased with the results. Instead, it turned into a passive aggressive and occasionally aggressive aggressive war of words in the media that only served to make both sides look worse.
Brad Marchand expressed his view that he was defending himself and ducking out of the way of a hit. That’s fine, if that’s his defence, though it’s suspect given the early collision between the two players that Marchand evidently felt wasn’t dangerous enough to duck. I’m even sympathetic to the defence in theory, given that Marchand is 5’9″: I can understand how he’s had to protect himself coming up in hockey. Going low like he did definitely isn’t the best way to do it, however, and hopefully the suspension will prevent him from doing so in the future.
Claude Julien, on the other hand, went a bit too far.
In my opinion, if guys start protecting themselves the way Marchand did, maybe guys will stop taking runs at other guys because that’s the consequences you end up paying for taking runs at guys, too. Who knows where we’re going to go with this? I know we’re all trying hard to fix that part of the game, but it’s still there, and it’s still not fixed.
First of all, it was Sami Salo. Last time he took a run at something, he tore his achilles tendon. Second of all, the solution to taking dangerous hits out of the game isn’t a different type of dangerous hit. That’s a logical fallacy in the highest degree. This kind of comment just makes Julien sound like a coach who encourages cheap shots. I sincerely doubt he is, which is why he probably should have stopped talking.
Of course, Alain Vigneault couldn’t resist some entirely unnecessary smack talk in response:
That’s a stupid comment. What Marchant did, you could end a player’s career doing that. I’ve never seen Sami Salo take a run at any player in the NHL. All Sami Salo has done is play the game with integrity.
“Stupid” was probably a bit strong. I mean, it’s true, but it’s probably not ideal to have that coming from an NHL coach. It didn’t help that he followed it up with a stupid comment of his own:
Marchand — and this is just my feeling — but someday he’s going to get it. Someday, someone’s going to say “enough is enough” and they’re going to hurt the kid because he plays to hurt players. And if the league doesn’t care, somebody else will.
And that is going too far. Was it a threat? Not exactly, but it’s stupid for the same reason Julien’s comments were stupid: the response to dangerous hits cannot be a different type of dangerous hit. It’s also ripe for misinterpretation and many immediately jumped to the comparison to the Bertuzzi/Moore incident. That’s also too far, but it doesn’t happen unless Vigneault makes these comments.
Predictably, Julien, Marchand, and GM Peter Chiarelli had their own response to Vigneault’s comments and it was enough to make everyone wish the two parties would just resolve their differences with a massive pillow fight and be done with it.
Unfortunately, Brad Marchand has been writing a blog for ESPN Boston giving him another opportunity to have his say. He reiterated his claim that he was protecting himself and that he didn’t think it was clipping. Fair enough, though the NHL disagrees. He probably should have left it at that:
It technically wasn’t a clip. Clipping is when you hit someone at the knees and I did not hit him at the knees. Anyone that has seen the video will see that I hit him in the upper thigh under the buttocks. They can call it a clipping, but they obviously don’t know the rules of hockey.
The “they” he’s referring to that “obviously don’t know the rules of hockey” could be any number of people, but here are some interesting names to throw out there: Dan O’Rourke and Don VanMassenhoven, the referees who, y’know, called it clipping. The guys who, by definition, are supposed to know and enforce the rules of hockey and two of the most experienced referees in the league. Whether you agree with the call or not, it’s probably not a good idea to say that about them.
There’s also Brendan Shanahan, veteran of 1524 career games over 21 total seasons in the NHL, future Hall of Famer, and current head of the Department of Player Safety. He also called it clipping. So I guess he “obviously” doesn’t know the rules.
I sincerely hope that both sides are done talking about the subject, because neither helped their arguments. Indications are that the Canuck players have been instructed not to discuss the incident, while Chiarelli released an official statement about the suspension that will hopefully be the end of it from the Bruins side. With no more meetings between the two sides this season, unless they meet for a sequel in the Stanley Cup Final, there won’t be any more reason to bring it up.