Versus the Stars on Friday night, Riley Cote earned himself a three game suspension for a late and high hit to the head of Stars' defenseman Matt Niskanen. Here's the video:
That's the best I could find. Clearly, Niskanen did not have the puck. It was gone for at least a second when Cote came barreling in from somewhere on the other side of the Delaware River to deliver a hit. Cote used his elbow and shoulder to lay the boom on the rearguard from the same town (Virginia, Minnesota) as Canes center Matt Cullen. Oh, and by the way, it was late in the game with the Flyers trailing 4-1. He was immediately given a ten minute match penalty, which carries an automatic suspension after review. Although Niskanen lost his lid on the play, he wasn't injured. But it wasn't because Cote didn't try.
Colin Campbell handed down the signature three game suspension along with the standard statement that goes something like "the offending player was trying to let up, but didn't let up enough. The other player was in a vulnerable position."
In addition to the suspension, Gary Bettman has informed general manager Paul Holmgren, head coach John Stevens and the entire organization that they are "on watch". According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Holmgren has talked to the team:
"They think, like I do, that these are different coincidences, and have to be viewed differently. But the question was raised about ramifications if it happens again," Holmgren said. "Obviously, we're under watch.... It has been addressed and will continue to (be) addressed. We want to play hard but play within the rules. It has to stop."
To Cote's credit, he knew the suspension was coming, and he never tried to plead innocence. After that game, he told the Inquirer:
"I know what's coming," Cote said. "It was stupid on my part. I had no intention of hurting anybody. I wanted to finish my check. . . . I definitely didn't try to hurt him. It looks bad. I don't know what to say. I feel terrible. . . . Head blow. Thank God he didn't get hurt."
This is now five suspensions for the Flyers this season, including the 20-game one that Steve Downie had in the preseason. He just finished that, by the way. In total, the Flyers have lost 52-man games to suspension. They have been warned that any further shenanigans will result in disciplinary action against the Flyers organization. Campbell has the authority to fine the entire organization and/or Holmgren and/or Stevens if he sees a pattern.
My question is why he can't already see a pattern. Sure, Downie has nothing to do with Jesse Boulerice and Boulerice has nothing to do with Randy Jones and Jones has nothig to do with Scott Hartnell and Hartnell has nothing to do with Cote. But by now, one has to stop giving them the benefit of the doubt. They should already be fined.
I have been thinking that since they are repeat offenders, they should be denied the right to replace the suspended player with an AHL call-up. I think the fines should be severe. They won't. My guess is that the next time this happens (and it will), the fines will be nominal in nature. And it's a shame. A damn shame.
Somehow, I think that when Gary Bettman tells Paul Holmgren "You guys are on watch", it's an empty threat. I hope he proves me wrong.