What would a week on the NHL beat be without a suspension controversy?
Philadelphia Flyers forward Daniel Briere was suspended for three games by NHL disciplinarians this morning over the incident below in Saturday's game against the New York Islanders.
We asked our roster of hockey writers to play Colin Campbell this morning: What, if any, was the appropriate punishment for Briere?
I have to speak as one who has known Danny Briere most of his hockey life. He's a wonderful person, a good father and, usually, a quiet, polite and respectful citizen. That said, I'd throw the book at him. To call this a "highstick" is to insult the act. A true high stick is either a stick held high for protection in a collision or, at its worst, a highstick crosscheck to another player's neck, face or head.
This is none of those. This is a stick held high and then used as a driving weapon -- not straight ahead, both arms, but a swing from the side -- in a deliberate attempt to injure.
He deserves multiple games. I would go five, expect less from the NHL.
It's funny, watching the highlights of this game, reminded me of the NHL's old brawling days, when the games got out of hand far more frequently, on the scoreboard and on the ice, where teams felt a need to send a "message" to each other. Nowadays, you see more of this sort of behaviour in baseball.
I would say the message that Colin Campbell needs to send is that you can't wield your stick as a weapon, the way Briere did, even if he were provoked. People complain about Campbell's inconsistencies, but he usually goes four games for a stick incident; that would be my choice to, in the three-to-five game neighborhood.
"Hi, is this Daniel Briere? It's Colin Campbell, the NHL's lord of discipline. Can you hear me okay? Good.
"We're having his call today because of what happened the other night when your Philadelphia Flyers played the New York Islanders and you swung your stick at an opponent's head.
"I've watched the replay of your attempted decapitation of Frans Nielsen and I must say, Daniel, that was bad. That was very bad. That's the kind of thing I expect from your teammate Dan Carcillo. He and I know each other quite well. I have his cell number on speed dial. But you, Daniel, you have a reputation for being a skilled player and a gentleman on the ice - and still you tried to chop Nielsen's head off his shoulders.
"For that, and for not paying attention to all the recent talk about deliberate head shots and the NHL's desire to treat them seriously no matter who delivers them, we're sending a message by sending you to the sidelines for five games.
"Now if you'll excuse me, I have to talk to Dan Carcillo. A disciplinarian's work is never done."
This one's an interesting test for Colin Campbell, it pits the repeat offender rule against the NHL's unwritten, unstated "good guy" criterion (and its corollary, the skill player scale: please refer to Cammalleri, M., in the pre-season).
I'd go higher than the four or five games Roy and Eric invoke because what happened on Saturday night was as nasty and egregious a play as we've seen in the NHL this season, and is thus deserving of the stiffest punishment to date (more than Rick Rypien's six). It's true Daniel "call me Danny" Briere is known far and wide as a wonderful fellow, a stand-up guy, one of the league's most gifted offensive players. Yet, Briere also has previous - two games last year for a cheap shot on Scott Hannan - so maybe Campbell will make an example of him. But it's hard not to be cynical.
Agree with the group, three to five games for a swinging high stick. And like Eric, I am amused with the old-school, brawling, send-a-message scene that plays out afterwards, particularly Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro's attempt to get at Philly's Daniel Carcillo, and the trouble he has shedding his trapper.
Gee, Roy, when you were channelling Don Cherry about Briere, you left out one thing - he's a good Canadian boy. Good Canadian boy or not, though, he deserved more than the three-game suspension Colin Campbell just gave him. A minimum of five was called for, with gusts up to 10.
Ever since improvements in equipment over the last 20 years made players feel invulnerable and the adoption of full cages and visors made their opponents feel they were impervious to any attacks with fists or sticks, there has been a sharp rise in careless and intentional use of the stick to smack opponents on the head. When talk turns to a "lack of respect" among NHL players the Briere attack is just the kind of thing they are talking about. It needs to be stamped out.
And by the way, I am not recommending the abolishment of cages, shields or visors.
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