I’ve come to terms with the fact that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety and I have very different views about what constitutes appropriate discipline for improper conduct.
I’m inclined toward punishing the league’s rats with a rapidly escalating series of suspensions and fines that would put the fear of New York in them. The DoPS, however, prefers to change behaviors with a vaguely disappointed look and stern words. We hope you learned a valuable lesson from this, young man.
The league’s disciplinarians are like the dream parents that every delinquent kid in North America wishes they had, the ultimate softies.
With that in mind, I don't get too upset anymore by what I feel is a lenient sentence. Take Thursday’s ruling on Antoine Roussel’s latest misdeed. The NHL suspended the recidivist Stars forward for two games as punishment for the vicious crosscheck that he laid on the Bruins’ Adam McQuaid on Tuesday night. The DoPS knows that it will take heat for the call, but it’s a sentence that the department believes is fair.
So is there any reason for the DoPS to be trolling us now, too?
I was stunned to hear Patrick Burke, who presented the league’s explanation on its official suspension video, say that the DoPS “accepts Roussel’s claim that he did not intend to strike McQuaid in the neck.” I mean, they took time to watch tape of the incident, right? What exactly did they think Roussel’s intention was? Because it looks to me like the only other options here were to deliver that two-hander to McQuaid’s jaw, teeth or nose.
If the DoPS saw Roussel staring sheepishly at his shoes and saying, “Gosh, I didn’t mean to,” and in their heart of hearts they wanted to believe him, that’s fine. But doing so is a leap of faith, and by including it in the explanation of the review process, the department is revealing itself to be either incompetent, shamefully gullible or a fire-starter of the highest order.
Man, I hope it’s the latter, because that would at least be hilarious. The other options are just too sad to bear.