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03 March 2007

Janssen violates the Hockey Code, but not the rulebook.

Since the hit which landed star defenseman Tomas Kaberle in a hospital, Devils enforcer Cam Janssen has been the talk of the NHL. The specifics of the hit: did Janssen lead with the elbow, or the shoulder; did Janssen's skates leave the ice prior to contact; and most importantly, was the hit late, have all been broadcast throughout hockey media.

From watching the video it's impossible to truly determine if Janssen's hit was "late." The rulebook itself isn't especially clear and people have used numbers ranging from 1.3 seconds prior to Kaberle's passing of the puck to 3-4 seconds. Which number is accurate, no one can really tell at this point. Personally, I think the hit was in the grey, drastically moreso than Chris Neil's vicious but clean bodycheck of Buffalo's Chris Drury.

But the real problem with the hit wasn't the hit itself. Even if Janssen lead with the shoulder, kept his feet on the ice, and hit Kaberle soon enough that the hit wasn't legally late, Janssen knowingly took a shot at a defenseman in a vulnerable position and did so in a situation where the hit couldn't possibly provide his team with any tangible benefit on the play. The check was deep in Toronto's end - Kaberle was the last man back. There was no scoring chance to be created by the check and Janssen wasn't preventing the creation of one.

It was an unnecessary bodycheck, one that provided sufficient force to injure and was made in an uncompromising position. If Tie Domi was still in the NHL and had taken a similar shot at Brian Rafalski I'd be up in arms - not because the hit was necessarily illegal, but because you just don't do that.

Claude Julien benched Janssen for the rest of the game, preventing Toronto from going after him in retaliation, although no one in uniform for the Leafs would have won a fight with Janssen, a reputed pugilist. But next time the Leafs and Devils get together Janssen is going to be a marked man - and he deserves to be.

Last night the Leafs got the best kind of revenge - they won the hockey game. Next time Janssen will pay for violating the unwritten rulebook.

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