Critics circle ban-wagon

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:22 AM ET

When the hammer comes crashing down on Rouyn-Noranda bad boy Patrice Cormier on Monday, anything short of a lifetime suspension from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League is certain to ignite waves of criticism.

By waiting more than a week to announce the punishment for Cormier's Elbow Heard Round The Hockey World, QMJHL president Gilles Courteau has allowed Cormier's cheap shot to become one of the most watched YouTube replays in this country.

And every time you see it, it becomes uglier and uglier.

Of course, Cormier did not help his public image with his recent comments to RDS that his actions were "reflex."

Reflex?

What a lame excuse.

Was it "reflex" that he hopped off the bench and smashed his elbow into the head of the Quebec Remparts' Mikael Tam, causing him to be carted off the ice on a stretcher with a concussion and without several teeth?

Not likely.

In making his decision, Courteau knows OHL commissioner David Branch was knocked in some circles last week for allegedly being too soft on Windsor Spitfires forward Zack Kassian for his shot on the Barrie Colts' Matt Kennedy.

Kassian received a 20-game suspension, meaning he is eligible to return with four games remaining in the regular season. The ruling spawned outrage among those who called for Kassian's heave ho for the entire campaign, playoffs included.

On the other hand, Branch and the CHL can not be accused of taking the easy road out in the past. Branch, for one, has administered some of the stiffest suspensions in hockey history:

* In 1993-94, then-Sudbury Wolves defenceman Gary Coupal was involved in a high-sticking incident that landed him a suspension for the remainder of the season and the playoffs -- practically a lifetime ban from the OHL, since Coupal was in his final year of eligibility.

* On Nov. 2, 1998, the Spitfires' Jeff Kugel was handed a 25-game suspension and a subsequent lifetime ban for coming off the bench to sucker-punch Owen Sound's Juri Golicic. After Branch allowed Kugel to appeal at the end of the season, Kugel played two games for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 1999-2000.

* In 2005, Sudbury's Kyle Musselman was banned from the OHL for the remainder of his junior eligibility after sucker-punching Ottawa forward Mark Mancari.

* Earlier this season Erie's Michael Liambas, 20, was expelled for the remainder of his junior eligibility after being slapped with a boarding match penalty that sent Kitchener's Ben Fanelli to hospital.

Given the history of suspensions in the CHL, this much is certain: Courteau will be ripped if he does not throw the book at Cormier.

And rightly so.

Jilted Jeff

Say this about the Philadelphia Flyers forward Jeff Carter: He's doing everything in his power to prove Team Canada officials erred in passing him over for the 23-man Olympic roster.

Carter now has five goals in his past four games, including one in a 2-1 loss to the rival Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday afternoon.

Carter remains a top option should a player from the regular roster not be able to play in Vancouver because of injury. To that end, he has been undergoing drug testing like the rest of the players picked for Team Canada.

Flower power

Both Pittsburgh Penguin and Team Canada officials must be breathing a sigh of relief after seeing Marc-Andre Fleury dress against the Flyers on Sunday, albeit as a backup.

Fleury, who has missed more than a week with a fractured finger, is expected to get the start Monday night against the New York Rangers, a team he has gone 3-1 against this season with a solid 2.33 average.

Bruised Bruin

The goal-starved Boston Bruins will have to wait a little longer for playmaker Marc Savard to be back in the lineup. Savard, out with a knee injury, did not accompany the Bruins on their current road trip, which concludes in Buffalo on Friday.

The week ahead

It will be a battle of Olympic goalies Wednesday when the New Jersey Devils, featuring Team Canada's Martin Brodeur, visit the Buffalo Sabres and Team USA's Ryan Miller ... Will the Chicago-San Jose tilt Thursday prove to be a preview of the Western Conference final?

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos