We couldn’t help but notice an increase in readership the last couple of days. We normally see these kinds of spikes in page views when the Penguin Scum appear on the Caps schedule or when we hurl further insults at Pittsburgh.
So we figure you’re surfing on by to get our take on A.O.’s suspension. Fair enough, who are we to deny our adoring public what they want? Aside from our busy schedule (and us more loopy than normal on the various fumes emanating in our command center right now) we were refraining from commenting because once we weighed in on this situation, there wouldn’t be anything else for anybody to say about it.
First of all, we’ll admit we were wrong with our prediction of a 10 game suspension. We thought that the NHL would take the opportunity to “send a message” and ensure that A.O. couldn’t win another automatic award this season. Sure, you could say that 10 games would be too many for the league to sit one of their superstars, but you would be forgetting the fact that the NHL does little to push A.O. on their own in the first place. Unlike other alleged NHL Superstars, A.O. is as popular as he is because of what he’s done on the ice, not what the NHL has done for him off of it. So the short of it is, despite being the two-time MVP and goal scoring leader, the NHL doesn’t feel like they owe him any favors. After all, the more he plays, the more he makes a mockery of the NHL’s marketing ploy.
Yet, the NHL shockingly did to A.O. a favor here by suspending him for only two games. First of all, it is a good bet that A.O. would have missed tomorrow night’s game at home against Florida as a precaution and it wouldn’t have been the worst thing in the world for him to miss Saturday night in Philadelphia either. However, from a business standpoint, neither the Caps nor the Flyers need much help when it comes to selling tickets. But the Ning sure do and that’s when A.O. is eligible to return, next Monday night in Tampa. Of the next ten opponents, only Tampa and Colorado have had trouble selling tickets this season. So by allowing A.O. to possibly return on Monday, the NHL helps their overall bottom line. After all, under the current CBA, the league needs to generate as much revenue as possible to keep the players happy and the only way the NHL can reliably do that is through ticket sales. So while A.O. gets two games off to heal, the NHL does itself a favor by only shelving him for two games he might have missed anyway. (Though the $98,844.16 in forfeited salary goes to the NHLPA’s labor battle war chest. Another reason to shorten his suspension as much as possible.)
Though the dominate topic of conversation over thee past couple of days has been, “is A.O. a dirty player?”
Our answer is no. Here’s why.
First of all, as our Ultimate Fighting on Ice (UFOI) brethren love to tell us, hockey is a contact sport. Those of us who want to see fighting banished from the NHL are often accused by UFOI fans of wanting to take all hitting completely out of the game as well. But that is not the case and just one of their many red herrings and strawmen. A.O. plays the game hard, the way many think the game should be played. Yes, we agree that he can be reckless and out of control at times but there’s a difference between being reckless and out of control and dirty.
Have you ever seen A.O. deliver a two handed slash to the back of a player’s leg? (No he’s not Mary-OH! and Mary-OH! never got suspended for the times Mary-OH! did exactly that) Have you ever seen A.O. clobber somebody in the head with his stick or try to carve up somebody’s face with the blade? (Too many players in this category to name) Have you ever seen A.O. spear somebody in the gonads? (We’ve seen it happen to A.O. three times already) Have you ever seen A.O. sucker punch somebody? (Paging Mr. Ward. Mr. Aaron Ward…)
We haven’t. And if you have, please send us video of said incidents to capsnut over at gmail dot com because we’d like to see it. Those are the marks of a dirty player. In addition to never seeing A.O. pull those kinds of stunts, we've also never seen him run away or back down from a challenge. It is well know the easiest way to "awaken the beast" is to start hitting A.O. and many players don't want to do it, because he's likely to to hurt you more than you could hurt him.
Yeah, there was the hit from behind on that Scumbag Dani Briere during his rookie season. But as soon as he delivered the hit, A.O. knew he messed up and he pulled off from the hit. If A.O. had followed through on that hit, Dani might have never gotten up. The slew foot on Rich Peverley earlier this season was in a battle for a loose puck, not an open ice kickout at the end of the game of a player whose team is beating you. The hit on Patrick Kaleta last week was a charge, not a board, and in the grand scheme of things, a result of officials trying to get home early for Thanksgiving. There was all kinds of nonsense going on when A.O. applied that hit and the refs had to put a stop to things right away. And as we said before, the hit on Monday night was a lot like the hit on Sergei Gonchar in the playoffs. Tim Gleason tried to jump out of the way of an oncoming hit and A.O. couldn’t react in time. Had Gleason and Gonchar not reacted the way they did, yeah they would have been plastered and posterized by A.O., but there also wouldn’t have been any knee on knee contact. And please note, despite what some reprobates might say, we're not blaming Gleason for following his natural instincts. We wouldn't to be hit by A.O. either. The same goes for Gonchar whom A.O. concussed in a Russian Super League Game during the 2004-2005 lockout with a clean shoulder on the chin.
So if you want to take hitting out of the game, tell guys who play the game hard like A.O. does to “tone it down.” While we abhor the racism card, we have to believe that the typical Canadian mindset is coming into play. After all, Bobby Clarke is hailed as a national hero for his slash of Valeri Kharlamov in the 1972 Summit Series. Why should a Russian who plays the game "the way it is meant to be played" be afforded the same courtesy? After all, didn't Don Cherry once say that A.O. played the game like a Canadian before he realized he was a Russian?