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Stopping The Spin: The Kostopoulos Assault

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No idea if I'll do this more often but here's another response to Damien Cox's "blog" (ie extra column that didn't make the newspaper because it wasn't good enough). I submitted part of it as a comment so we'll see if it gets 'moderated'.

A Good Play Gone Bad

Damien, are you drunk?

You swallowed Kostopolous' BS about Van Ryn "turning at the last second" like a good Anti-Leaf kool-aid drinker.

Watch the replay and show where he turned at the last second. And what about Kostopolous' forearm shiver to Van Ryn's name plate that served only to ensure that his head would be driven into the glass? What good NHL play was he making then?

Before continuing, here is video of the hit on Van Ryn again and try to see if you can find any evidence of whatever the hell The Omen thinks that he sees:

No intent to injure. Just a good play gone bad.

So no, Kostopoulos doesn't deserve a suspension, although the nature of the hit mandated his expulsion from the match. He probably will get at least one game off, however, for making that play in a nationally televised Montreal-Toronto game with the entire hockey world watching. If it happens in Nashville in a game between the Predators and Blue Jackets, we probably never hear about it.

But he doesn't deserve a suspension.

As someone with two functioning eyes and a brain that doesn't focus on how to anger Leaf fans first I can tell you that hits like Saturday's have in fact happened in games without the Leafs or Habs and they have attracted some attention. It helps in building strawmen if you didn't select something that is so obviously ridiculous.

Now if you want to change the rules, that's another thing. If you want to go to no-touch icing, or let the goalies play the puck anywhere they want again, or outlaw hitting within five feet of the end boards, then you might avoid that kind of play in the future.

Otherwise, it's going to happen in this sport of high-speed, violent collisions. But this wasn't dirty. This wasn't Cam Janssen hitting Tomas Kaberle five Mississippis after the puck was gone or repeat offender Ryan Hollweg hammering an opponent from behind for the zillionth time.

Of course, if you build one strawman he might get lonely so you need to give him (or her) someone to play with (that's what she said!). Of course, the only thing that would have prevented this kind of hit is a change to the rules. Well, the only thing except for enforcing the existing rules. And you can even take your pick!:

Rule 42 - Boarding

42.1 Boarding - A boarding penalty shall be imposed on any player or goalkeeper who checks an opponent in such a manner that causes the opponent to be thrown violently in the boards. The severity of the penalty, based upon the degree of violence of the impact with the boards, shall be at the discretion of the Referee. There is an enormous amount of judgment involved in the application of this rule by the Referees.

The onus is on the player (or goalkeeper) applying the check to ensure his opponent is not in a vulnerable position and if so, he must avoid the contact. However, there is also a responsibility on the player with the puck to avoid placing himself in a dangerous and vulnerable position. This balance must be considered by the Referees when applying this rule.

Any unnecessary contact with a player playing the puck on an obvious "icing" or "off-side" play which results in that player being knocked into the boards is "boarding" and must be penalized as such. In other instances where there is no contact with the boards, it should be treated as "charging."

Rule 44 - Checking from Behind

44.1 Checking from Behind A check from behind is a check delivered on a player who is not aware of the impending hit, therefore unable to protect or defend himself, and contact is made on the back part of the body. When a player intentionally turns his body to create contact with his back, no penalty shall be assessed.

And what happens if supplementary discipline is needed? Well, there is a process for that too:

Rule 29 - Supplementary Discipline

29.1 Supplementary Discipline In addition to the automatic fines and suspensions imposed under these rules, the Commissioner may, at his discretion, investigate any incident that occurs in connection with any Pre-season, Exhibition, League or Playoff game and may assess additional fines and/or suspensions for any offense committed during the course of a game or any aftermath thereof by a player, goalkeeper, Trainer, Manager, Coach or non-playing Club personnel or Club executive, whether or not such offense has been penalized by the Referee.

If an investigation is requested by a Club or by the League on its own initiative, it must be initiated within twenty-four (24) hours following the completion of the game in which the incident occurred.

I can't really fault Damien for not being aware of these rules since it took me all of 15 seconds to google "NHL Rulebook" and another 30 to find the relevant entries. A multimedia star like Cox can't waste 45 seconds researching his opinion piece so that he doesn't look like an ignorant asshole.

The funny thing is that Damien had a much different reaction to Ryan Hollweg's dirty hit (similar in style, much less dangerous in its result):

Let's be clear. This oaf on skates doesn't score goals, or set up plays, or generate a forecheck or even protect his teammates. Ever since he's been in the league, he has been known as a player who does one of three things every time he's on the ice:

1) Takes about 25 strides and charges an opponent.
2) Leaves his feet to hit an opponent.
3) Hits opponents from behind.

He's a dangerous, dangerous hockey player, and for all the wrong reasons. Everybody knew it before he got here after his years of playing for the Rangers. You might remember him as the player who helped Chris Simon snap last season. Well, snap the first time.

His proposed solution: A team imposed ban. For a franchise that is so much classier (kind of like being more maverick-y) than the rest of the league Cox has hit upon what they can do to continue to earn that self-anointed title: Suspend Kostopolous for as long as Mike Van Ryn will be out of action. Right now, the Leafs defenceman is out four to six weeks just for the broken pinky but his concussion is the big worry. As that article notes, Patrice Bergeron just returned this season after being put out by a similarly dirty hit. The penalty? two games.

But wait, if two strawmen are good then three strawmen would be great!

But others will differ, and some will suggest the play never would have happened if the Leafs had a goon in their lineup. Those people you'll never convince of anything, and the presence of Georges Laraque didn't stop the Leafs from steamrolling Carey Price on three separate occasions on Saturday night.

This continues Damien's crusade against fighting. Maybe he should tell his colleague Mark Zwolinski that he thinks that he's a dummy for suggesting that the Leafs bring up Andre Deveaux from the Marlies. Note the language he uses for the three times the Leafs came in contact with Jim Carey Price. "Steamrolling" Jim Carey Price three times? Grabovski went after a rebound and slid Price out of the way and Blake was hit into Price after his collision with a Habs defenceman. Of course, their intent was a good hockey play (going after a rebound) so we can ignore the outcome right? Oh, it's just another double standard for the Leafs? Quel surprise.

Finally, Damien manages to keep The Spin going with a nice admission that maybe Van Ryn isn't the C-level defender that he said he was just one post down the page:

The unfortunate thing for Van Ryn is that after missing time last year with wrist problems, his game was coming to together nicely in Toronto, and then this happens. Game's just not fair sometimes.

The real unfortunate result is that the real argument is being ignored thanks to Cox and his coterie of strawmen. What does the league have to do to eliminate these kinds of hits is what should be asked of people. One way is to signal an intent to deal severely with this kind of filth so that hits like Kostopolous' result in the league jumping on the offender with both feet.

It's a shame that someone that had such a great time slamming Hollweg (rightly) for his hit on Pietrangelo now thinks that it's all rainbows and mistaken intentions after a Leaf is left with a broken finger, nose, a serious concussion, and is facing an unknown amount of time on the sidelines. Yeah, the game's not fair sometimes but you can always count on The Omen never being fair.