Sidney Crosby has been cleared for contact in practice, but can’t seem to find anyone in the Pittsburgh Penguins lineup willing to give him that first, but pivotal, hit.
As much as he wants to see how Crosby responds to being knocked around, Penguins coach Dan Bylsma will want to have his star player steer clear of Arron Asham in practice, however. Anyone who would do something as stupid as Asham did Thursday night is capable of knocking the daylights out of the team’s and league’s best player.
No doubt you’ve seen or heard about what Asham did Thursday night in the Penguins 3-2 overtime loss to the Washington Capitals (and if not, you can see it below). After leaving Jay Beagle of the Capitals knocked out in a pool of his own blood as a result of a one-sided fight, Asham gave the knockout sign, then rested his head on his hands, indicating he had put Beagle to sleep. Beagle’s crime? Knocking Penguins’ defenseman Kris Letang’s helmet off during a scrum along the boards, an action that had already earned Beagle a two-minute minor for roughing.
Should Asham have the book tossed at him by the NHL? Of course he should. Rule 75.5 clearly states a game misconduct shall be assessed to, “any player who uses obscene gestures on the ice or anywhere in the rink before, during or after the game. The referee shall report the circumstances to the commissioner of the league for further disciplinary action.” That would suggest Gary Bettman, and not Brendan Shanahan, would have the power to make the call on this one.
Now I’m no lawyer, but I would have to think the NHL could easily make the case Asham’s gesture was obscene. Not in a sexual way, of course, but it was certainly an affront even to those who think there is a place for this sort of nonsense in the NHL. As a punishment, perhaps Shanahan could banish Asham to the Federal League or its equivalent where this kind of idiocy plays to a receptive audience.
Even Asham had the good sense to refer to his actions after the game as, “uncalled for, classless on my part.” Of course, he then had to provide the caveat that he isn’t “that kind of guy.” Well, if that’s the case, then why did he do something “that kind of guy” would have done? Did he lose his senses for a brief moment? Is he really “that kind of guy” and we just didn’t know it? Was he simply guilty of being a bonehead?
Not if you listen to the baloney Penguins coach Dan Bylsma was trying to pass off as a justification, saying Asham’s actions were prompted by the heat of the battle in an intense game between two bitter rivals. Please. Asham’s little display was borne out of nothing more than a lack of respect for the game and the opponent. This is Asham’s ninth season as a full-time NHLer and in that time he’s been in plenty of fights in hotly contested games and never done anything like this before.
But the old heat-of-the-battle argument works on so many levels when it comes to explaining some of the ridiculous things that go on in this game, so there’s no sense in not going to that well again. After all, there are more than enough people who will buy that argument every time.
The sad aspect of all this is Asham is supposed to be better than this. He’s one of the few enforcers who can actually play a little and isn’t a detriment to his team when he’s on the ice. By all accounts he’s an honest, hard-working guy who stands up for his teammates and is willing to play a very difficult role.
Perhaps it was simply a brief moment of cluelessness. Maybe he realized teammate Matt Cooke has changed his ways and figured he had to fill the vacuum of controversy and derision.
Whatever the reason, there’s no doubt Asham should cool his heels for a couple of games and lose a little money. If Nick Boynton can receive one game for making a throat-slash motion last season, surely to goodness the NHL can find a way to indicate to Asham and everyone else in the league this kind of bush league behavior is an embarrassment.
ARRON ASHAM-JAY BEAGLE FIGHT
Ken Campbell, author of the book Habs Heroes, is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column.
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