By Allan Muir
By suspending Buffalo forward Patrick Kaleta for 10 games this evening, Brendan Shanahan just did everyone in the NHL a favor. Including the Sabres.
Responding to yet another cheap shot delivered by the marginally skilled forward, this time on Columbus defender Jack Johnson, the Sheriff made the game a little safer and opened up a roster spot in Buffalo for someone who can actually play a little hockey.
A least for the next few weeks.
Here's what Shanahan had to say in the video:
"Kaleta approaches Johnson from the side and finishes a check directly to Johnson's head. Kaleta takes an improper angle, misses Johnson's body and does not make a full body check. Instead, he hits Johnson directly on the chin with his left shoulder.
"No matter who delivered this hit, it would have resulted in supplemental discipline. However, the fact that it was delivered by a player who has been fined or suspended six times in the last four seasons, the last time just 21 games ago, factors heavily into the severity of the decision."
That's right. This guy's been called on the carpet six times, including last March when he was banished five games for sending the Rangers' Brad Richards headfirst into the boards. Kaleta might have a short memory, but Shanahan, to his credit, didn't.
Because that foul was just an eyeblink ago, you can argue this one could have been longer. Perhaps should have been longer. But hey, 10 games is 10 games. It should get the point across to someone willing to pay attention. It's the sort of message that finally clicked with guys like Matt Cooke and Raffi Torres, who decided they'd rather radically change their approach than face a 30-game suspension like Chris Simon finally did back in 2007 after multiple misdeeds of his own.
And that's exactly what lies ahead for Kaleta. Because the next time his brain shuts off it won't cost him five or 10 games. It'll be 20, 25 or 30.
The thing is, you can almost guarantee that event is coming because Kaleta just doesn't get it. He thinks his way in this league requires that he "plays on the edge," which would be fine if that's actually how he played. But there's a big difference between edgy and cheap. And Kaleta has never been smart enough to figure that out in the past. No reason to expect he will now.
You just have to hope the next guy, like Johnson this time, skates away relatively unharmed.