But this Ducks/Wings fight shows us the difference between sending a message and “message sending.” This was a nasty but emotionally organic bit of olde tyme hockey; none of the players on the ice were knuckle-dragging goons looking for a target at the end of the blowout….
The NHL’s disciplinary system would become a parody of the joke it is if any of these players are suspended for Game 7.
Greg Wyshynski is the editor of Yahoo’s excellent Puck Daddy blog, and an irreverent and outspoken columnist who has far more good points than bad ones. On this point though, I think he’s letting Perry and Getzlaf’s point totals blind him just a little bit.
It looked to me like Perry and Getzlaf were looking for targets. Here’s a quick glance at three numbers from their two bouts: size, penalty minutes, career fights:
Getzlaf vs. Hossa
Size: 6’4, 221lbs vs. 6’1”, 208lbs. Advantage: Getzlaf
PIM: 121 vs. 63. Advantage: Getzlaf
Fights: 10 in 297GP vs. 4 in 775GP. Advantage: Getzlaf
When you toss in the fact that only one forward in the entire league took more penalties than Ryan Getzlaf, and that Getzlaf instigated the event and threw the first punch, I think the possibility that he was looking for a target to soften up before game seven becomes incredibly likely. Still, let’s move on to event #2.
Perry vs. Rafalski
Size: 6’3”, 209lbs vs. 5’10”, 200lbs. Advantage:Perry
PIM: 109 vs. 20. Advantage: Perry
Fights: 14 in 286GP vs. 2 in 692GP. Advantage: Perry
Corey Perry’s another guy on the frequently-penalized list, tied for fourth among NHL forwards (one back of Ethan Moreau). Meanwhile Brian Rafalski managed to take virtually no penalties all season; an incredible feat for a defenseman. Again, we have a case where Perry clearly instigated the altercation and used it as an excuse to whale on a clearly overmatched opponent.
I didn’t bother mentioning the third fight, although again in all categories Niedermayer is well ahead of Datsyuk (a Lady Byng candidate), since Niedermayer isn’t exactly a fighter himself. But Niedermayer’s elbow to Datsyuk’s face wasn’t exactly a clean move itself either, and works back to the overall point: that the Ducks blatantly provoked this incident.
Of course, the NHL has a suspension policy for players involved in an altercation in the last minutes of a game – a policy that I’ve never been especially fond of – but if the policy is there it should be enforced, particularly when one team has two big, tough players attacking a pair of smaller, less-willing combatants. The fact that those two players happen to be scoring stars is incidental – they clearly defied NHL policy, and neither of the “fights” was an equal contest: it was a pair of big guys beating up on a pair of smaller guys.
They won’t be suspended, obviously; the NHL has repeatedly shown that it has a two-tiered justice system, one for stars and one for role players. Since Getzlaf and Perry are stars, and it would look too much like the NHL was rigging the series, they will not suspend the offenders.
If the league were just, though, neither Perry or Getzlaf would suit up for Game 7. And it wouldn’t be the travesty that Wyshynski claims – it would be two players who willfully went after smaller, less physical opponents with no time left on the clock getting exactly what they deserved.