Kukla's Korner Hockey
by pcoffey on 06/07/11 at 08:15 PM ET
Is trading Aaron Rome for Nathan Horton a trade you would make?
Didn’t think so. But we’re not the the Vancouver Canucks, who will gladly lose the journeyman defenseman for the remainder of the Stanley Cup Final, knowing the Boston Bruins will be without Nathan Horton, one of their top-six forwards, for the remainder of the series thanks to Rome’s crushing, late hit in Game 3.
Listening to each team is useless in this instance. The Bruins have been robbed of one of their top players, so they aren’t in a forgiving mood. The Canucks are singing that ‘Gee, Aaron’s a great guy, not a dirty player” dirge.
That drops the problem into the lap of the NHL’s Hockey Operations department, which is stuck in a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation. Rome was tossed from the game on the hit, considered late by just about everyone not wearing a Canucks sweater. But if the punishment is to fit the crime, shouldn’t the Canucks lose a player akin to Horton’s value for the remainder of the Final. Can anyone say the Canucks aren’t benefiting in this “trade”?
Yes, it’s a nightmare for the NHL, but there is no precedent for any other action than disciplining the offending party. No one will say “Rome can play, but you lose Alex Burrows for the rest of the series.”
NHL Vice President Mike Murphy is a man of integrity and intellect, and made the best decision he could under the current rules. Perhaps new discipline czar Brendan Shanahan will look into making sure a team doesn’t benefit from illegal actions when he sinks his teeth into one of the most thankless jobs in sports next season.
“I take it very seriously, very seriously,” Murphy said. “Aaron Rome is an important part of the Vancouver team. Guys play all their lives to get to this series on both teams, and you might never get back. So I take it very seriously. That’s all I can say. I do not make light of this. I wish I wasn’t sitting here. I wish Aaron was playing, and I wish Nathan was playing.”
As for the Rome-Horton situation, Murphy knew something had to be done.
“I probably viewed it like most of you did,” Murphy told reporters Tuesday. “I thought it was a late hit. I thought that the body was contacted, but I also thought that the head was hit. It caused a serious injury to Nathan Horton. So the key components are: the late hit, which I had it close to a second late. We have our own formula at NHL Hockey Operations for determining late hits, and it was late. We saw the seriousness of the injury with Nathan on the ice last night.
“That’s basically what we deliberated on,” Murphy continued. “We tried to compare it with some of the other ones in the past, but it stands alone. It’s why we made the ruling.”
So, what went into the ruling? Murphy said multiple discussions and time cemented what needed to be done.
“First of all, I don’t make any assessments immediately,” Murphy said. “I need to look at things in a little cooler temperature than the arena. You never want to say something that’s wrong, especially in the severity of these type of things where we’ve got one young man in the hospital and one young man taken out of the Final.
There’s no lightness about it. There’s no fun to this. There’s no enjoyment to this. Nobody wins in this. Everybody loses. The fans lose. We lost two good hockey players.
“I sit down and I look at it and I get a gut feel for the play and say, ‘What exactly happened here?’ I look through it, look through all the angles, look at all the different network feeds. I start asking questions of people I have confidence in that can give me their side of information, their information, Terry Gregson, Kris King. Unfortunately I’m not able to use the wisest of them all, Colin Campbell, right now. He’s been eliminated from the series and not involved. I have no conversations with him. But this is what the number was when we kind of went through it and the way I felt it. That’s why it was assessed.”
As for Shanahan, who recently had disciplinary duties added to his job description, Murphy said he was one of the official he spoke with regarding the incident.
“Brendan has been on our team in Hockey Operations for two years,” Murphy said. “We talk to Brendan on almost every issue we have. As I said, every night we have eight, 10 issues come out of there. Brendan is on there. We take input. The way Colin operates, he says ‘Take a look at this, give me your thoughts.’ Last night I sat with Brendan, we discussed the play, the pros, the cons, what they saw, what they felt.
“Guys like Brendan and Rob Blake, you can’t get better people involved. They’re just recently retired. They’ve lived these rules. They’ve lived this game. They’ve lived it at this level, the finals.”
But Nathan Horton won’t get the chance to experience it anymore and that handicaps the Bruins a lot more than losing Rome hurts the Canucks.
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