James Neal of the Dallas Stars was suspended for two games by the NHL for his blatantly cheap shot on the Columbus Blue Jackets' Derek Dorsett.
Not that the Dallas Stars didn't circle the wagon around their young forward. Check out what ethically and legally-challenged Dallas coach Marc Crawford had to say:
"He's not a mean player," Crawford said. "It looked like he was trying to hit the other player. He got overanxious on the hit."
"Nobody likes to see anybody get hurt," Crawford said. "I know James didn't mean to hit the guy that way."Yeah, Neal's the victim...a boy scout. And Crawford doesn't like to see people get hurt (Was he laughing at the Bertuzzi hit on Moore or wasn't he?) At the same time, the article also showed that Crawford has mastered the understatement:
Crawford said Neal, 22, has to learn to be in better control of where he is on the ice.True dat. He also might want to be in better control of what he does on the ice as well.
Honestly, I wasn't going to post anything on this until I read Columbus Dispatch CBJ beat writer Aaron Portzline's on-the-record comments from Dorsett himself:
Dang. Them's fightin' words from Double D. And that's worth commenting on."I know what kind of person he is; I know his intention. There was no intention to slow down. I'll remember this."
There's a big difference between what Dorsett does and what Neal did. Dorsett is a sandpaper guy. He plays hard, sometimes within eyesight of the edge of the rulebook. He fights as needed within the accepted rules of hockey. He takes his major penalties and moves along. But he doesn't take cheap shots. He's a man about his work.
Neal, however, now has The Taint. The hearing today has labeled him as a cheap shot artist. He now has a record (as Puck Daddy reminds us), and life will only get more miserable for him if he pulls that crap again. It won't be 5 games, it'll be more like 5 or 10. You see, the NHL discipline policy weighs past discipline when doling out punishment. If you've been bad in the past, you'll get hit progressively harder and harder with the book. It's a shame, really, as Neal is at the front end of what could be a promising NHL career. He's going to have to carry this burden for a long, long time.
So keep your nose clean, Neal. Watch the cheap shots, and perhaps take a page out of Adam Foote's Guide to Hockey Health and develop a 24-hour flu bug whenever you have to play Columbus. Because there's this guy, #15, who's dying to meet you - man to man. You know, the way you weaseled out of last night in the first period.
UPDATE: Portzline's article in today's Dispatch is a must-read for CBJ fans...powerful stuff. For example:
Neal's hit "is something I'll always remember," Dorsett said. "There's that saying you take numbers and save them for a later date. I will remember."