Lost in all the noise of the Avalanche bouncing back from a horrible loss to the Blues by beating Columbus 5-1, of Joe Sakic bagging a hat trick, of Peter Budaj and Pascal Leclaire putting on clinics at both ends of the ice, of Rick Nash displaying the skills of the rapidly disappearing power forward genre, was ANOTHER flagrant use of the stick. In the waning moments of the third period, with Colorado in control, the role-players and depth guys for the Avs were seeing increased ice-time, including some unlikely PP time for some. Columbus blueliner Duvie Westcott was dry-humping Avs forward Wyatt Smith to the left of Leclaire well behind the play when Scott "Captain Caveman" Parker skated over to do some policing as the refs were apparently enjoying the snuff film on ice. Before Parker has time to utter any catchy one-liners he gets cross-checked in the face by Westcott. Parker was bloodied by the cheap shot, but didn't go down. He then proceeded to have an Incredible Hulk-like rage-fest. Thankfully, all-around good guy and humanitarian Ian Laperriere stepped in to prevent Parker from ending Westcott.
Westcott got 2 plus 10, Parker got 2 for apparently bleeding too much. Now, I know that it was a preventive measure to keep things from getting out of hand, and I commend the refs. A few seconds later, Columbus "tough-guy" Ole-Kristian Tollefsen (6'-2", 211 lbs) decides that with Parker off the ice he has free reign to prove his manhood. He takes a run at, and then attempts to rough up, Jaroslav Hlinka (5'-10, 185 lbs). Hlinka has great hands, but I doubt they've ever been balled up in fists in his entire life. The play further enraged Parker who had to be restrained again by teammates to prevent him from leaving the box. Tollefsen and Parker both get the gate in order to avoid incident, and the game ends shortly thereafter.
Now, anybody reading the NHL propaganda would believe that they want to protect players and keep these kind of flagrant cross-checks and stick-work out of the game, right? I mean, didn't' they just hand down lengthy suspensions for Downie and Boulerice? Therefore, a lengthy suspension for Westcott would be forthcoming, right? Wrong. No discussion immediately after the game or in the ensuing three days has indicated any meaningful penalty for Westcott's dangerous act. Instead, he gets the proverbial wrist-slap of a $1000 US fine. That'll teach him!
I have several problems with this, and none of them stem from my unabashed man-love for the Avs.
- The league has effectively taken the stand that Parker is not as important as Dean McAmmond or Ryan Kessler, who also were victims of vicious cross-checks and dangerous blows to the head this season. As I've noted elsewhere, conspiracy theorists will point to this as another example of the NHL attempting to weed-out enforcers and tough-guys.
- Since the only difference between the Kessler, McAmmond, and Parker hits was that Parker didn't go down in a heap on the ice due to the hit, whether the league meant to or not, they are implying that suspensions will only be handed out if damage is done. This inadvertently encourages diving in my opinion. Following the old Gordan Bombay tactic of "Take the hit, act hurt, get indignant." Not a good direction for the league.
- The Avalanche broadcasters were reveling in the look of bat-crap crazy rage that Parker had following the incident. They were talking about Parker "taking notes" for the next game against Columbus. Having been on the receiving end of misplaced "revenge" just a few years ago with the Bertuzzi-Moore incident, I expected them to be better than that.
- Tollefsen is leading the running for "Wuss-of-the-Year" for backing down from a fight with Parker earlier in the period and then showing his manhood against Hlinka. Tollefsen if first-class all the way...
- I foresee lengthy suspensions for somebody following what will likely be ugly incidents that occur in the next Avs-BJ's tilt. Proper league action to address the first incident (the Westcott cross-check) would have prevented that, but the NHL has again missed the boat. This will INVARIABLY lead to more of the stellar, unbiased press coverage from the media that the league seems to not be able to keep away from.
- To the best of my knowledge, Westcott has not sent a thank-you note to Lappy thanking him for saving his life. You figure a nice Hallmark at the least since Duvie would have likely required a closed casket if Lappy hadn't stepped in. How rude...
All-in-all, the lack of any cohesive disciplinary action by the NHL has again shown the league office's inconsistent application of the rules of the league. Don't they understand that the ACTION should warrant punishment just as much as, if not more than, the result? That is the only way that stuff like this will be weeded out of the game.