Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Paul on 03/24/14 at 08:55 AM ET
By Tom Murray,
So there he was again last Thursday night, doing something dangerous, stupid and inexcusable.
We’re talking about James Neal, of course, the clueless forward for the Pittsburgh Penguins who continues to exhibit dangerous, stupid and inexcusable behavior, with impunity, because the NHL apparently has no interest in imposing a punishment that will even give him pause, never mind stop his reckless behavior.
For those who aren’t up to speed, in the second period of a game against Detroit Neal delivered a vicious crosscheck to the head of Wings forward Luke Glendening. He had plenty of time to think about what he was about to do, like maybe hitting his opponent cleanly. But that’s not how James rolls, is it? And why should he when the league keeps coming up with its laughably toothless responses? In this case it was a $5,000 fine. Chump change for a guy who pulls down a salary of $5 million a year. No hearing, no suspension, no real punishment.
Remember, this is the same guy who got a puny five games last December for going out of his way to deliver a knee to the head of Bruins forward Brad Marchand, who was on all fours at the time.
That gutless act made Neal a “repeat offender” which, one would logically conclude, would suggest that if he committed another similar violent act, he would be in line for a severe reprimand.
But in the topsy-turvy world of NHL discipline, who truly knows what severe or reprimand truly means? Even the folks at the Penguins-centric Pensblog were befuddled by the league’s non-response:
“We’re going to assume that it’s because Glendening wasn’t injured on the play,” read a post after the game, “and then we’re going to stop thinking about the NHL’s logic when it comes to suspending people because it hurts our brains to do so. Hopefully Neal stops with the dangerous plays before he really hurts someone and/or gets suspended before a big playoff game.”
Well put. And couldn’t agree more that way too many of these disciplinary decisions seem to rely on the condition of the recipient of the bad hit. Which completely misses what should be the point: A dirty hit is a dirty hit and should be penalized as such, regardless of the condition of the guy on the receiving end.
The most infuriating aspect of this latest gaffe by the league disciplinarians is that Neal is clearly someone who not only doesn't get it—remember Matt Cooke before he reformed himself?—but who is going to continue to play exactly the way he pleases.
The obvious question is, until what happens?
If the league keeps up with these ambivalent, wishy-washy reprimands—for Neal and anyone else—one of these nights someone isn’t going to get up after being pole-axed in the face with a crosscheck or driven headfirst into the boards.
Which begs another obvious question: Is that what has to happen before the Department of Player Safety finally starts living up to its name?
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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