Red Fisher is a permanent fixture around the Canadiens, and rightly so. The man has been loyally covering the Habs for over 50 years. Respect where it’s due but I have my own personal qualms with that fact; most notably that he is probably preventing a passionate recently graduated journalist from establishing a career in that domain. I digress.
I used to enjoy Fisher’s insight, but in recent years his writing began to change. His viewpoints became massively outdated, irrelevant and he would frequently go on lengthy rants about the “good old days” of the Habs of yore. I’m all about tradition and respect, particularly when it comes to this team, but constant whining that Cammalleri and Gionta will never compare to Beliveau and Rocket is…well, dumb (it also drives me nuts that he will frequently write “an” instead of “and”). It’s been years since I genuinely enjoyed a piece of his writing instead of just rolling my eyes at the notoriously curmudgeonly old man.
That’s why I was surprised to pick up The Gazette last week and really like this article. Flashes of the brilliant Fisher shine through here, and I couldn’t agree with his opinion more. I do think that he comes down a little too hard on the Penguins, because I believe there were other factors at work here. The doctor who does the exams usually belongs to the home team, so I think he’s way off the mark on that one.
It seems as if the NHL hasn’t taken any strides at all in the protocol for players who suffer a hit to the head but who don’t show immediate symptoms upon a 10 second physical examination. After the game, there was some confusion as to the post-hit procedure that Kris Letang had to undergo. He said he underwent a baseline test but coach Bylsma said he didn’t, rather he was just patched up for his broken, bleeding nose and sent back out.
Either way, there’s some serious discrepancies here. If Letang didn’t undergo a baseline test or the other concussion protocols the NHL set into place (sitting in a dark room, being examined by a doctor, etc), then did the Penguins break NHL protocol and allow an at-risk player to return to the game? If he did do a baseline test, why wasn’t anything detected? Letang started to feel symptoms two days after the hit. If it is a concussion (which let’s hope it’s not), then something in the baseline test needs to be changed because it clearly couldn’t detect a serious problem.
Pacioretty hit on Letang Was Reckless, But So Was Letang’s Return
by Red Fisher
Max Pacioretty says he’s sorry he delivered a hit to the head of Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang with 3:14 remaining in regulation of Saturday’s 4-3 overtime victory over the Canadiens which left the Pittsburgh Penguins defenceman bleeding heavily from a broken nose.
He also says he apologized to the player when Letang returned to the ice for the overtime.
Thankfully, what he didn’t say was: “All I was doing was finishing my check. I didn’t mean to hurt him.” As you know, no penalty was assessed on the play, but a wrong decision was made right on Monday when NHL disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan suspended Paciorietty for the games the Canadiens will play on their visit to Anaheim, San Jose and Los Angeles.
What else was Shanahan supposed to do in view of the league’s all-out campaign against hits to the head? No matter what Pacioretty said or did not say, repeated views of the replay made it plain this one was nothing less than a deliberate attempt to injure – much like Milan Lucic’s recent hit on Buffalo’s Ryan Miller, which left the goaltender with a concussion.
Everything about the illegal hit was senseless and dangerous. Shanahan explained it was targeted at the head and it came at a time when the Penguins were on a roll after Jordan Staal’s goal tied the score with fewer than five minutes remaining in regulation. The last thing the Canadiens needed at that point in the game what should have merited a major penalty and a game misconduct – and would have been called if the refereeing duo of Mike Hasenfratz and Dan O’Rourke hadn’t been counting sheep at the time.
Pacioretty has nobody but himself to blame for his uncharacteristic decision to go for Letang’s head. The defenceman wasn’t looking for trouble. Neither was Pacioretty, but it sounded as if the Canadiens sniper knew a suspension was forthcoming when he told reporters after the game he felt badly about the hit, and “hoped it was within the rules.”
Another, and perhaps even more dangerous than Pacioretty’s reckless move, was the Penguins’ decision to allow Letang to return for the overtime.
Yes, it was reported the defenceman received attention from a doctor during the intermission. And yes, he was cleared to play. On the other hand, have the Penguins already forgotten that terrible moment when a player named Sidney Crosby was blindsided by Washington forward David Steckel at the phony Winter Classic last January?
Have they forgotten that Crosby was allowed to return after the hit and was allowed to play the next game in Tampa Bay on Jan. 5, during which he was hit by defenceman Victor Hedman – and missed the rest of the season and the first 20 games this season?
Nobody will ever know whether Crosby was concussed by the Steckel hit or whether the scary damage was administered by Hedman. All that’s certain is that there were real fears he would be unable to play at any time this season. There were even suggestions that Crosby’s career was at risk.
The word which comes to mind is ‘mind-boggling’.
By allowing Letang to return for the overtime, what the Penguins were telling us was that the miniscule minutes an intermission lasts were enough to probe into a player’s brain and determine beyond question that no damage had been done.
Are you kidding me?
Why, after their experience with Crosby would they even think of allowing Letang to return to the ice? What was the upside to it? Did they feel they truly needed him on the ice in the overtime, or that without him they ran the risk of losing the game either in overtime or during The Gimmick?
Did they think the extra point was so important to a team which had been winning consistently without Crosby would be unable to do the same without Letang?
What I’m really saying is that the organization’s decision was even more reckless than the Pacioretty hit … that somebody up there has a thought process badly twisted out of shape.
What I’m saying is that Letang should not have been allowed to play until he underwent an examination in depth and cleared by a specialist in head trauma.
What I’m saying is that whoever within the Penguins organization was responsible for making the final decision on Saturday should have his head examined.