Last week, Buffalo's Chris Drury was taken out by a hit from Ottawa's Chris Neil that was high, late, unnecessary and dirty. That escalated into a full scale brawl. The brawling didn't occur in New Jersey, but we saw a carbon copy of the incident that precipitated it. The talentless goon, played by New Jersey's Cam Janssen made a late, high, unnecessary and dirty hit on a star player, played by Toronto's Tomas Kaberle. Janssen is nothing more than an agitator and Kaberle is one of the best defensemen in the League and arguably Toronto's best player.
I won't detail the hit. Damien Cox of the Toronto Star has a ... um... strongly worded piece about the hit. I recommend reading that. Here's the footage:
No penalty was called on the play. I don't get that. It looks like Janssen left his feet. That could be charging. Because of the way Kaberle was spun around and slammed face first into the boards, this could be boarding. This could be elbowing. This could be roughing. Because Kaberle was clearly not in possession of the puck, this could be interference. No call was made.
When Kaberle went down, play was immediately stopped and Janssen stood there anticipating a confrontation. The Leafs players never stood up. Perhaps they were afraid of the instigator rule. Perhaps they didn't want another Wrestlemania '07. Perhaps they were more concerned about Tomas' health than in kicking Janssen's ass. Neither Darcy Tucker nor Wade Belak were in the lineup, and maybe that also had something to do with it.
By the time it was all said and done, Toronto won the game in a shootout. Kaberle was held overnight in a hospital and is being examined. Clownshoes Campbell will investigate the tape today to determine Janssen's fate.
I've written about this before, and I'll say it again. I think the NHL needs to take a stance against blows to the head. Any blow to the head should be penalized, followed by a fine and/or suspension. This makes at least a half dozen times this season where a player has been knocked out by a blow to the head and carried off on a stretcher. In each case, the hit was late and of very very questionable legality. I would argue that this one had questionable intent. Pittsburgh's Colby Armstrong wasn't trying to hurt Carolina's Trevor Letowski back in October. Edmonton's Raffi Torres wasn't trying to kill Detroit's Jason Williams back in November. Calgary's Robyn Regehr didn't attempt to knock Montréal's Aaron Downey out (although he probably enjoyed it). There have been a few others, and then the incident in Buffalo last week.
Chris Neil probably was trying to hurt Chris Drury with his late and high hit. Cam Janssen had no business being that aggressive in that situation, so I have to think that he may have been head hunting.
Cam Janssen didn't play at all after that incident, which occurred late in the second. Was he being punished, or is Claude Julien too chickenshit to send his player out there to face the music? Methinks the latter.
On the incident, I have a few cheers and jeers to hand out:
Yes, I know that players are taught at a young age to "finish your check" and to "play through the whistle" and I know that hitting is part of the game. Obviously. However, hitting high and late is not "part of the game". Lining up a star player like that is not "part of the game". Refusing to face the music is not "part of the game".
Again, I'll recommend that you read Damien Cox's scathing take on the incident. Just remember that he's a Leafs journalist.
The two teams will meet again in Toronto on March 20.