Setting Precedent – NHL Calls Ron Rolston “Fine” or something
Once there was a coach who had the audacity to play John Scott in the third period of a preseason game. You’ve gotta understand…this is John Scott we’re talking about. The Pale Mamba. A man who fights in a league where fighting is punished by going to a box and thinking about what you did for 5 minutes. Real bad news here. For this atrocity, the NHL had decided to enact Double Secret Probation and fine the Sabres coach for “player selection”. No, seriously. Player selection is now punishable when…I guess…there’s a brawl?
Buffalo Sabres head coach Ron Rolston has been fined for player selection and team conduct: http://t.co/IQK9m5TmzI
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) September 24, 2013
Look, I don’t ask for much here. I actually totally agree with the spirit of this, I really do. But let’s not pretend this is anything other than the NHL catering to an over-privileged group of people who are stomping their feet because two of the Toronto Maple Leafs each did something completely moronic. I’m not going to post all of Damien Cox’s Twitter rantings because A.) he’s just doing it to get the traffic, and I don’t want to contribute and B.) the amount of hot air would actually blow pixels off the monitor. Literally. Not literally, that’s ridiculous.
You want a break down of what happened that fateful eve on Sunday, September 22? Here you go:
- Corey Tropp picked a fight and lost.
- John Scott was on the ice and wasn’t called off the ice.
- Randy Carlyle sent out his top line to defuse the situation, because the third period of a preseason game, with your team winning, having just won a fight, and the opposing team’s enforcer out on the ice is exactly when you want to send out your best players.
- John Scott told Phil Kessel he was going to fight him or jump him. Screw it, let’s go with “jump” him. Sure.
- Kessel does, frankly, what I would do. Run away? Check. Swipe at the polar bear chasing you? Absolutely. As of right now, no harm and the only foul is on John Scott for instigating.
- Despite the dog pile on John Scott, _everything_is_actually_okay_.
- Phil Kessel now decides that this would be a good time to hack at a man’s ankles. Generally frowned upon in the heat of the moment, there has been a couple of seconds of time since he ran away, which is an eternity in hockey-time. Don’t try to tell me “he was still reacting” because then we’re going to get in to a discussion about the reaction speed of professional athletes and that’s just asinine. Kessel absolutely knew what he was doing.
- After the brawl, which was pointless in and of itself, Kessel quite literally pokes the bear. No. Seriously, dude straight up comes over to John effing Scott and jabs him with his stick blade. I’m sure he was still just reacting.
- In all of this, David Clarkson came off the bench. 10 game suspension.
To boil down what happened above, John Scott did exactly what John Scott does. He took two of Toronto’s best players out of the game. Only this time, it’s 10 games for Clarkson and we’re still waiting on Phil Kessel. The trick there is that each of their suspensions were their own frigging fault. The Leafs could have come through this entire ordeal smelling like roses, except both of these guys chose to do something boneheaded in the heat of the 5 minutes this brawl took place. Both of them.
Scott started a fight, but sure looked like a lot of Leaves out there, acting with coach’s permission. They got goaded. And they lost.
— Barrister (@theycallmedubs) September 24, 2013
Let me rephrase that. John Scott made them both do something completely stupid. Then the Toronto media looked for somebody to blame, because obviously it couldn’t be their players. Their players couldn’t have done something so incredibly unprofessional, so superbly imbecile, that they deserved their suspension. A-and look at John Scott! He’s just skating around like he belongs in this league! Somebody had to have masterminded this devious, horrid plan. Somebody had to have-
…Rolston! You…y-you SNAKE!
And then we were treated to wonderful little asinine anecdotes about how the Sabres coach behaved in a restaurant in Sweden. No. Seriously.
My fondest memory of Rolston: His profane rudeness when Canadian fans came over 2 talk w him in a restaurant @ WJC in Sweden in ’07. #0class
— Gare Joyce (@GareJoyceNHL) September 23, 2013
So now the NHL has decided to fine a coach for “player selection”. That’s where the league screws up. I don’t GAF if you fine a guy for a thing he did, but they borked up the cause. I could understand the “team conduct” part, but this “player selection” is what leaves a really bad taste in my mouth. Why? Because now a precedent has been set. This is absolutely going to rear its ugly head.
So why wasn’t Carlyle fined last year when he put Orr out on the ice at the same time as Tomas Plekanec, let alone at any point in any game?
— Harrison Mooney (@HarrisonMooney) September 24, 2013
Of course “player selection” means what, exactly? Are we going to have to start comparing PIM’s and fighting majors every time a team faces off? I’m sorry Boston, but you straight up aren’t allowed to put Shawn Thornton on the ice if Henrik Sedin is out there. That’s a fine now.
No. Realistically it’s a knee-jerk reaction to try to “balance out” everything because the Toronto players are facing suspensions. See, originally everyone was calling for John Scott to get a matching suspension until they realized how hilariously pointless that would be, so gears were switched to punish Rolston for going against “The Code” or some shit. Because the only way to know an Unwritten Rule is to break it.
Screw it. I hope they keep this up. I’m expecting to see a Kickstarter to pay Rolston’s fine before the end of the day. Just keep in mind that now the precedent has been set. A team can be punished for who they put on the ice (even if the opponents have the last change). Like most dumbass things the NHL does, this is going to come back to bite them. For now, the best part about this entire situation is that David Clarkson’s bloated cap hit counts against the Leafs’ salary cap for the 10 games he’s out.
UPDATED 9/26 – Would you look at that, coaches around the league aren’t hot about the “player selection” crap either.
So what am I supposed to do now? Do I call the ref over and call timeout so I can call (league vice-president of hockey operations) Colie Campbell and ask him who I can put on the ice?
But keep telling yourself it’s just fans that are whining about the coach being fined. This might come as a surprise, but I could not give less of a crap if the coach loses money on any given day. The issue here is what this arbitrary “player selection” punishment means for the future, and how players, coaches, and fans digest the fact that the league continues to just make up whatever rules it wants on the fly.