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NHL Fines Buffalo Coach Ron Rolston For Player Selection And Team Conduct

NEW YORK (Sept. 24, 2013) -- Buffalo Sabres head coach Ron Rolston has been fined for player selection and team conduct as a result of events that took place at 10:01 of the third period during NHL preseason game No. 61 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto on Sunday, Sept. 22.

The events took place during the face-off after Buffalo forward Corey Tropp fought Toronto forward Jamie Devane. Buffalo forward John Scott initiated an altercation with Toronto forward Phil Kessel, whom he was lined up against on the face-off, resulting in several fights. In total, 211 penalty minutes, including three game misconducts, were assessed due to the various altercations.

Filed in: NHL Teams, Buffalo Sabres, | KK Hockey | Permalink
  Tags: ron+rolston

Comments

Paul's avatar

Do you agree with this tweet from Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News?

Rolston fine is crazy. Only because it happened in Toronto. If the thing goes down in Columbus, nothing happens.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 09/24/13 at 04:09 PM ET

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Yep. This happens in Columbus, Hell, just about anywhere other than Toronto, Montreal or Vancouver and this is a one-day story with no suspensions except for Clarkson.

And the implication of this fine is crazy. If you don’t remove a player who fights from the ice (Scott was at the beginning of his shift during the Devane fight…he just never changed after it because it was still his shift) after an incident that might make him want to fight, you get a fine.

Posted by larry on 09/24/13 at 04:19 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

The “Player selection” thing is kind of troubling because it’s the NHL calling John Scott a goon.

I mean, he is… but he’s the easiest-to-define goon in the league.  How do you follow this up as real guidance in the future.  Is there a list for the kinds of people who shouldn’t be sent out in this situation?  Dan Carcillo is a goon, is Shawn Thornton? How about Jordin Tootoo?  What defines a goon and what specifically defines inappropriate player selection?

The “Team Conduct” thing is more than enough to (justifiably) fine Rolston; the “player selection” part is a mistake.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 09/24/13 at 04:37 PM ET

Paul's avatar

J.J., I was listening to Dreger on TSN and he said both suspension points should be looked at as one.

A little bit of a clearer picture, maybe, if you look at it that way.

Posted by Paul from Motown Area on 09/24/13 at 04:42 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I don’t think that really makes it any better. Team Conduct is still more than sufficient to say without opening up the door that is the NHL actually calling a goon a goon.

Unless they’re planning on better-defining goons that is.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 09/24/13 at 04:49 PM ET

Primis's avatar

I think the dumbest argument I’ve heard out of all this is that it’s “not against the rules to send out Scott to fight Kessel”.  That came from a Western market fan, FTR.

The NHL has a real problem here, a much larger one.

As this goes on I’m more for getting rid of fighting entirely because there are just so many a**bags out there who won’t stop being a**bags about it.

Posted by Primis on 09/24/13 at 06:11 PM ET

perfection's avatar

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 09/24/13 at 05:49 PM ET

I totally hear you that the precedent here is very slippery… as you say, where do you draw the line?

but I also think that Paul’s point via Dreger does actually clarify it a bit. Because if you combine the two, he’s not getting fined for sending out a goon, in fact, it’s perfectly legal to send out anyone he wants, as long as he has them under control.

But the fact that he had a goon on a skill player AND that goon preemptively started a fight with a skill guy with no provocation before the play even really starts added together does paint a different picture. See, now the NHL isn’t saying Scott is inherently a goon or that the coach is inherently limited in his player selection, but rather that Scott’s subsequent behavior is what makes him a “goon” in this situation. I actually think that it’s a more limited ruling when you view the two points together and wouldn’t apply to ANY other player as long as they don’t immediately try to fight someone for no reason.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 09/24/13 at 06:41 PM ET

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It seems odd to me that most people, and it would seem the league, are missing the fact that Scott wasn’t sent out to fight a skill player. As pointed out above, Scott was already on the ice as an extension of his prior shift. Most significantly, however, is the fact that Carlyle had the last change. Harrington from the Buffalo News has been beating that drum repeatedly, but it makes a difference. If this happens in Buffalo, and Rolston sees that the Leafs have a skill lineup on the ice and then sends Scott over the boards to take on Kessel, then I can see the point. Still seems odd that the league can now fine coaches for deciding which players to put on the ice, but there is a hint of merit there given that it would be relatively obvious. However, all Rolston did was leave Scott out there, and I’m sure the assumption was that Carlyle would be clued in enough to know what was to come and respond accordingly. Instead Carlyle puts a skill line out there and all hell breaks loose. If Carlyle just responded the way this nebulous “code” seems to dictate, he would have put a pugilist on the ice, he and Scott would have gone at it, and it all would have been over quickly instead of turning into this debacle. I fail to see at all how Rolston is at all at fault here, particularly given that at the time he left Scott on the ice he had no way to know that it would be Kessel’s line out there with him.

Additionally, if the league is fining the coach for “team conduct”, where is Carlyle’s fine? It was his team that ultimately went out of control and had players leaving the bench to participate.

Posted by Dan_T on 09/24/13 at 07:08 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Scott was already on the ice as an extension of his prior shift.

His prior shift didn’t end on an icing, so this is moot. He chose to keep Scott out there, which is the same as choosing to send him out there.

If Carlyle just responded the way this nebulous “code” seems to dictate, he would have put a pugilist on the ice, he and Scott would have gone at it, and it all would have been over quickly instead of turning into this debacle.

Or if Rolston had any control over the worthless meatbag he kept on the ice, it wouldn’t have turned into a debacle.  If you want teams and coaches to follow this stupid “Code” that dictate Carlyle doesn’t actually have a choice in the last change (because he either HAS to send a goon to answer Scott or he has to watch “a debacle”), then codify the stupid code. 

If you’re too cowardly to make the code an actual rule, then Carlyle isn’t at fault for sending hockey players out to play hockey while Rolston is sending dipshits on skates out there to cause trouble.

I fail to see at all how Rolston is at all at fault here, particularly given that at the time he left Scott on the ice he had no way to know that it would be Kessel’s line out there with him.

Because he had every way of knowing what John Scott was going to do. On the day after this circus went down, Scott told everybody that it didn’t matter who Carlyle sent out because he was going to fight whomever the hell that was.

Again, “The Code” is not a rule in the NHL and it is not in the CBA. However, there are things in the NHL rulebook and CBA which specifically state that things like “sportsmanlike conduct” are good and “intent to injure” are bad.

It’s John Scott’s responsibility to not act like a big dumb goon and it’s Ron Rolston’s responsibility to not send a big dumb goon out there to settle a score that didn’t need to be settled. John Scott had no business on the ice at that time and to leave him out for a shift to force the other coach into a staged fight is ridiculously irresponsible.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 09/24/13 at 07:23 PM ET

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JJ, please. Everyone knows how this works, like it or not, and the Leafs are some of the worst perpetrators of goon-ism and thuggish behavior in the league - as an example, see the link Paul posted to Elliott Friedman’s 30 thoughts piece. They knew exactly what was going to go down, and it’s entirely on Carlyle that it was Scott on Kessel, when Carlyle had the entire power to determine who would line up opposite Scott. Scott - and players of his ilk - have a role to play in the game, and they have their role because fighting exists and teams feel a need for retribution when they think they’ve been slighted. Every team does it at some point, and Buffalo’s no different. I hereby stand by my original point: we can’t fault Rolston for leaving Scott out there, because he didn’t send him out there to fight a “skill” guy. If this was Scott on Colton Orr, for example, this isn’t even mentioned the next day because it’s just part of the game. The only reason it’s noteworthy is because it’s Scott v. Kessel, but Rolston was powerless to select Scott’s opponent.

Posted by Dan_T on 09/24/13 at 07:34 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

Everyone knows how this works, like it or not

Clearly that’s not how it works because Ron Rolston is the one with lighter pockets.

Scott - and players of his ilk - have a role to play in the game

Wasting time with stupid staged fights is a dying role, and good riddance to it.

Every team does it at some point

yeah that’s not true either.

I hereby stand by my original point: we can’t fault Rolston for leaving Scott out there, because he didn’t send him out there to fight a “skill” guy.

You stand stand in Rolston’s lighter wallet with him then. Point remains he sent him to engage in a fight that wasn’t necessary and that’s why he got fined. 

Let’s pretend it’s not the Leafs, but it’s a team that doesn’t constantly engage in these same stupid antics… Scott chases after a skill guy who turtles instead of trying to chop him down because “The Code” is bullshit. Rolston gets himself fined again and this time Scott gets the 8-game suspension he actually deserves.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 09/24/13 at 07:41 PM ET

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He sent him to fight, but he didn’t send him to fight with Kessel and that’s what has everybody all worked up. Want to take fighting out of the game, that’s fine with me, but until that point staged fights are part of the game and Rolston did nothing out of the ordinary. Seems strange that the league is fining him for Carlyle’s decision to send Kessel out to take on Scott, but obviously you disagree.

Posted by Dan_T on 09/24/13 at 07:45 PM ET

J.J. from Kansas's avatar

I think this is a first step towards cracking down on it, absolutely. If Coach 2 (especially the home coach) doesn’t want to play that stupid game, he’s not required to and the guy who’s going to get in trouble will be the coach who allows a goon to pick a fight with absolutely anybody he lines up against.

And yeah, I’m happy about it. i don’t mind fighting in the game. I like when two guys get so fed up with another that they’ll happily trade the next five minutes of their night for the chance to try and punch each other’s faces off.

But there are two fights I’m positively sick of because they don’t bring added entertainment to the game. They are the staged fight (and you could even argue that the Devane/Tropp fight before then was worthless and led to the rest of this stupid mess), and the fight after a clean, hard check.

If this is a step to eliminate either of those types of fights, then I’m ok with it. Carlyle is going to lose two of his players to suspensions because he didn’t uphold the code and send a goon out, but fining Rolston is a good move because I don’t want coaches to have the kind of power to force their opponents to take part in a fight like John Scott was looking for.

Posted by J.J. from Kansas on 09/24/13 at 07:56 PM ET

perfection's avatar

Dan T you are missing the point entirely. You are pretending that Scott HAS to drop the gloves no matter the circumstance. That’s why theres a “team conduct” element to the fine. He sent Scott out to start trouble. Fine. As you say theres nothing wrong with that. While he can’t control who Toronto puts out, he should be able to control his player who supposedly has a human brain. Both coach and Scott should definitely know that attempting to fight Kessel the way he did will almost CERTAINLY start a line brawl at minimum. That is just a given. There wasn’t a remote posibility that Kessel was just going to square off and have an old fashioned donnybrook with Scott. I actually think they are lucky the benches didn’t clear from this.

For Scott to go ahead with his premeditated attack and his coach knowingly condone it is where the coach’s fault lies. These are grown ups. They understand basic cause and effect. So again, he’s not being fined for putting out Scott. And he’s not being fined because the player he put out started a fight with Toronto’s top scorer before the puck was even put into play. But he is being fined for the combination of the two.

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 09/24/13 at 08:06 PM ET

perfection's avatar

But there are two fights I’m positively sick of because they don’t bring added entertainment to the game. They are the staged fight (and you could even argue that the Devane/Tropp fight before then was worthless and led to the rest of this stupid mess), and the fight after a clean, hard check.

^this 1000%

Posted by perfection from LaLaLand on 09/24/13 at 08:07 PM ET

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Please realize that Scott did NOT fight Kessel.  At all.  Kessel slashed & ran, then got in to a fight with a smaller guy while Scott was attacked by several Leaf players at once.  I would like to put forth the notion that if Scott had wanted to beat the crap out of Kessel HE WOULD HAVE!!!

Watch the tape, and notice how Scott DIDN’T chase him down and rag-doll him in to a bloody mess.  IT NEVER HAPPENED.  Yes, Scott ended up fighting with Leaf players.  The precious ‘skill player’ came back slashing Scott & spearing him while Scott was safely occupied.

Now please, be rational.  Scott is not some sort of rabid dog on the ice, out there to destroy innocent little skill players.  He’s out there as a deterrent against violent players like Milan Lucic.  Yes, he admits he was angry & ready to fight whoever Carlyle sent out- and was surprised it was Kessel.  Carlyle is an idiot for thinking that sending out ‘his top line’ would diffuse things.  At that moment in time Scott was operating under the belief that Tropp had been *unfairly* pummelled by a larger guy.  Tropp was angry that Foligno got boarded & injured, so *he* challenged the big Leaf.  He really should have left that for Scott. 

You talk about Scott like he can’t add 2 plus 2 and get 4.  Just chill.

Posted by Nuthatch on 09/24/13 at 08:24 PM ET

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Both coach and Scott should definitely know that attempting to fight Kessel the way he did will almost CERTAINLY start a line brawl at minimum.

And Carlyle didn’t know this?

As Nuthatch said, Scott didn’t sucker punch Kessel; he didn’t wait until play started and slew foot, board him, or engage in any other dirty tactics solely intended to injure him. He skated up next to him, told him before the puck dropped that he thought they’d have to go, and that was that. The entire reason Scott’s on the team is because the hockey world/media spent weeks excoriating the Sabres when Miller was run over by Lucic and they didn’t stand up for him. Now the Sabres felt they had to stand up for Tropp after his head was driven into the ice by Devane, and they signaled their intentions by leaving Scott out on the ice. Carlyle was the one who chose to put Kessel out there knowing full well what was likely to happen, when I’m sure Rolston felt Carlyle would choose to pit fighter against fighter. It’s not up to the Leafs to dictate to Buffalo when and how they can respond if they feel they’ve been wronged by sending out particular personnel.

Additionally, what the hell was Bernier doing fighting Miller? That wasn’t an unnecessary escalation either? Maybe Carlyle should be fined for his personnel choice given by leaving Bernier out on the ice and he clearly instigated the fight with Miller, who has never had a fight in his entire career…

And ultimately, I see this as a failure of the NHL to effectively police the game. If teams didn’t feel the need to handle cheap shots and other issues on the ice, and could instead rely on the head office to be consistent in doling out effective punishment for infractions, there would be no place in hockey for the Scotts, Orrs, and others of their kind in hockey. Instead Shahanan and those before him have been arbitrary and ineffective in getting rid of cheap shots and dirty play, and teams feel like the onus is on them to police each other. The NFL has arguably taken this mindset too far, but the NHL is undoubtedly too far behind.

Posted by Dan_T on 09/24/13 at 09:38 PM ET

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