Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bertuzzi likely to get nothing for elbow

By Jeff

The NHL is not consistent in any way with handing down punishment for dangerous plays. This isn't breaking news or anything, but it's getting frustrating to watch as a fan.

Pittsburgh Penguins forward Matt Cooke was suspended for up to 17 games (Rest of the regular season and first round of the playoffs) because of a reckless and dangerous elbow to the head of New York Rangers Ryan McDonagh. He deserved the suspension. Cooke targeted the man's head with his elbow when he had no business even checking him.

The reason for the extended suspension was not the hit itself, but because Cooke is a repeat offender and was already suspended once this season for a dirty hit. Other recent elbows by Dany Heatley and Brad Marchand that were just as brutal as Cooke's only resulted in two-game suspensions because they aren't considered dirty players.

Well, what's the NHL's excuse for not suspending Todd Bertuzzi, or even scheduling a hearing for his elbow to Ryan Johnson's head last night?

ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun tweeted that Bertuzzi, who received a game misconduct for the hit, won't face further discipline. LeBrun also agreed with that decision, saying the hit was "clumsy/stupid rather than vicious."

Why does it matter if the hit is stupid or vicious? Bertuzzi raised his elbow, left his feet and clocked Johnson in the head. His intent should not matter. Especially when you consider that Bertuzzi is a repeat offender. As NHL fans may recall, Bertuzzi ended Steve Moore's career with maybe the dirtiest sucker punch in NHL history. Bertuzzi received a huge suspension for the incident.

Cooke could make the same argument. When he elbowed McDonagh's head, he didn't make any striking motion or deliver a vicious hit. He raised his elbow as he skated by to clip the man's head. I'm not saying that makes it OK, in fact, I'm saying the complete opposite. Stupidity should not be a defense.

Maybe Bertuzzi didn't mean to elbow Johnson in the head. No one but Bertuzzi knows his intent. But if the NHL really cares about eliminating dangerous head shots, shouldn't reckless plays be punished too?

And what exactly has Bertuzzi done to redeem himself? Everyone deserves a second chance, and Bertuzzi seemed sincere in his apologies for the Moore incident, but there were no columns on SI or ESPN today crying for Bertuzzi to be kicked out of the league like there was for Cooke. The man has a history of intentionally trying to hurt people, just like Cooke. It's the same situation, but the reactions are completely opposite for the two players.

Are members of the media, let's just use Scott "Ginger" Burnside as an example, going to now call out Henrik Zetterberg to be accountable for his own players the way the media called out Mario Lemieux when he criticized the NHL for not taking dangerous plays serious enough? If you missed it, Zetterberg said Cooke should be suspended for the remainder of the season and the playoffs after his most recent hit on McDonagh. So far, I haven't hear anyone calling Zetterberg a hypocrite the way people attacked Lemieux.

It's as if the NHL takes one step forward (Cooke suspension) on eliminating dangerous plays that have no place in the game, but then take two steps back when they are not consistent with handing down punishments.

Bruce Springsteen - One Step Up

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