My final words on this are that I am glad that Max Pacioretty is recovering so well. He is not experiencing any concussion symptoms and his neck seems to be mending well. There is even a chance that he could be back depending on how long the Canadiens last in the playoffs. This ended up being a very fortunate situation, but it could have been much more tragic. Let’s hope that this is one more mistake from which the league learns.
Bombs Away: No, Chara, I Didn’t Forget About You
Just over two weeks ago, Mike Murphy handed down one of the biggest joke decisions in supplementary discipline when he decided that the Bruins’ Zdeno Chara should receive no fine or suspension for his hit the night before on the Canadiens’ Max Pacioretty. I bring this up again for several reasons.
First, the Habs and Bruins meet for the first time since that game tonight. Second, with all that has taken place since then including a few elbows and some guy named Matt Cooke, Chara has managed to fade into the darkness. Third, in the week and a half following the decision there was a lot of reaction to the decision from other players as well as some very interesting feedback the following week from the GM meetings. But, most importantly, I think that the decision brings to the forefront some very important flaws in the NHL’s disciplinary system that need to be addressed as the discourse continues as to how to address dangerous plays and the punishment that follows.
Let me just say that had I written a post back on March 9th, following Mike Murphy’s decision, it would have consisted of all four letter words and variations of those words. The concensus of most of the media and other players, both before and after the decision, seemed to be that Chara should have received at least a couple of games. The way I look at it, regardless of the injury, Chara ran Pacioretty along the bench and easily saw the stanchion coming and should have eased up. This whole line that it was a “hockey play” is a bunch of BS if you ask me. But more of that in a minute. As a result of this “hockey play” Pacioretty was knocked out, suffered a severe concussion, and a broken vertabrae in his neck.
Now, I’m sure that many of you saw replays of the hit later that night or the next day. It is difficult to watch, but here it is:
Notice, that the replay is shown right there, from that night, in slow motion. Want to know something that made my mouth drop, Mike Murphy never viewed that video in slow motion. Never. Not once. How can you determine what really went on there if you never viewed that video in slow motion? Murphy told Yahoo’s Nicholas Cotsonika that he didn’t watch it in slow motion because it doesn’t happen that way, it happens fast. True, but then you miss things. Things that you or I might have even picked up on in the real time replay if we had watched it as many times as he said he did. Certainly in slow motion. More of that in a minute.
In his decision, Murphy went on to say things like Chara did not administer a hit to the head, leave his feet, or hit Pacioretty from behind. First of all, Chara is 6′ 9″, about 7″ on skates. He can knock a planet out of orbit without leaving his skates. And, since when are those the only kind of hits that should be suspendable? Why can’t a simple reckless, dangerous hit be suspendable? Here’s the best part, Chara claiming he didn’t even know that Pacioretty was on the ice so he didn’t intend to hurt him…see, those two have some history. Well, obviously if Murphy didn’t watch the video in slow motion, he didn’t bother to look at this still shot:
That’s right, a clear shot of Chara’s hand pushing Pacioretty’s face into the stanchion. That could even be seen on the slow motion replays. Hmmm…the words, “liar, liar” come to mind here. How, is that a “hockey play”? A good, clean check? Absolutely! That, however, is a dirty, violent act.
But, Chara, for all of those “reasons” listed by Murphy and being considered a “first time offender” walked away with no supplementary discipline. Way to send a message, NHL. On Tuesday of the next week, the GMs spent the day discussing illegal hits and talked about the Chara hit. I’m sure they would not have by the outcome I’m about to tell you, but it was considered technically illegal since a penalty had been issued. The GMs voted 24-6 that the hit was just a “hockey play” and that there should not have been a suspension. Shero was one of the six. I wonder who would have switched sides if their player had been seriously injured. Well, at least the GMs and the league and the are all on the same page…the wrong one.
The Canadiens’ owner, Geoff Molson, posted a letter to the fans on the Habs website following the decision which also encouraged the other GMs in the league to stand with Gauthier at the GM’s meeting in trying to find a way to remove violent plays from the game. The letter was met with a seemingly so-so response. A much better response than if he had Matt Cooke on his roster.
Here’s one of the problems, you’ve got one guy (Colin Campbell, unless the Bruins are involved, then Mike Murphy) making the disciplinary decisions based, apparently, on whatever he wants. I’m starting to think that a panel is a better idea. Not only does it bring in more views and objectivity, but maybe a little more common sense to say, “Hey, let’s slow down that video and watch it again.”
For the players, don’t they at least deserve to know the proceedings of these hearings? Remember, they’ve got the NHLPA in there who is representing both the player who commited the offense and the player who may have been injured. And, why are the hearing so secretive? How is anyone…the players, the coaches, the GMs…supposed to learn how the league is defining things or what it expects if everything is behind closed doors. The decision is only a small part of the process, the deliberations and what went into the decision would be more helpful to everyone.
A glaring problem to me is letting first time offenders off the hook. No punishment or simple slaps on the wrist need to stop. What’s it going to take? You let someone with no history go because it wasn’t a hit to the head, from behind, or they didn’t leave their feet. So, do you wait until the guy comes around who kills someone on his second hit? No, send a message the first time. Make players realize that they have to think out there on the ice. That they need to make those decisions as to whether to back off on a hit.