If there’s anyone out there who can explain the NHL’s rationale when it comes to meting out discipline, please contact The Hockey News as soon as possible.
Let’s take the Ryan Hollweg suspension, just for fun. Hollweg drills Alex Pietrangelo of the St. Louis Blues into the boards from behind during a game Monday afternoon. It earns him an automatic three-game suspension, his second automatic suspension in a matter of weeks. The league has the latitude and discretion to add as many games as it sees fit, but opts to let a habitual and egregious offender go without any further discipline.
That’s confounding enough in and of itself. After all, Hollweg is nothing more than a sideshow and a buffoon whose extended vacation from playing in the NHL would only be noticed by those players who don’t like having their faces drilled against the glass from behind.
But what really perplexes here is the NHL’s inability/unwillingness to send anything more than a “just wait until next time” threat to a player who is clearly a menace and a danger. Of course, it doesn’t help that had NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell tossed the book at Hollweg, the NHL Players’ Association, which has historically protected goons and bullies at the expense of their victims, would have undoubtedly grieved the suspension.
“Enough is enough,” Campbell told The Toronto Star when discussing Hollweg.
Huh? Enough is enough? If that’s the case, why didn’t the NHL give Hollweg the long-term suspension he so richly deserves? On the one hand, the league says Hollweg has to stop drilling players in the numbers, then, with a golden opportunity to send a message that such acts won’t be tolerated, allows it to go without any further punishment.
The Leafs, of course, aren’t much better. Instead of condemning what Hollweg did, GM Cliff Fletcher first claimed the call against Hollweg was marginal, then intimated Hollweg is being targeted by referees.
If there was ever a perfect storm to send the right message, this was it. Blues coach Andy Murray was spot-on when he described Hollweg as an “insignificant player.” Suspending Hollweg would not have been robbing the Leafs or their fans of an impact player. In fact, given how the Hollweg penalty changed the complexion of a game the Leafs were winning, but went on to lose in a shootout, the league might have been doing the Leafs a favor by keeping him out of their lineup.
Hollweg was not only a repeat offender, but his previous suspension was fresh enough the league could have pointed out he obviously hadn’t learned his lesson and needed a little more than the mandated time to cool his heels and think about the manner in which he approaches the game.
But the league didn’t do any of that. It let the perfect storm blow over. But just you wait, the next time Hollweg does something like this, he’s going to get it.
It kind of makes you wonder exactly what a guy has to do to get a decent suspension around here.
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