SUN Hockey Pool

NHL'd be wise to hit dirt

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:32 AM ET

Does the NHL have the guts to do unto others what the QMJHL did to Patrice Cormier?

In that same vein, do what the OHL did to Zack Kassian and Michael Liambas?

Let's give credit where it's due. The Quebec league did the right thing by suspending Cormier of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies for the remainder of the season, including playoffs, for his drive-by elbow to the face of Quebec Remparts skater Mikael Tam, which put him in hospital.

Just like the OHL must be lauded for banishing Michael Liambas of the Erie Otters just as harshly for hitting Ben Fanelli from behind and putting him in critical condition. The 20-game suspension handed Windsor Spitfires' forward Zack Kassian for his flying hit on Matt Kennedy of the Barrie Colts was also properly firm.

The time will come soon enough for the NHL to do the same, and hopefully, the powers that be are willing to do it.

Kassian and Cormier are stars of the junior ranks -- Cormier was even captain of Canada's world junior squad -- so it's refreshing the league didn't let a player's ability over-ride the deserved sentence.

Sadly, it's inevitable a star in the NHL will do the same. You know eventually somebody will throw a cheap elbow to the face of a player as he skates by, or jump into a player while making a hit.

We'd all love it not to happen, but it will.

The league has proved it's willing to throw the book at a player who does something disgraceful, but it's only recently happened when a player is in the waning years of his pro career.

Think of Marty McSorley's hatchet job to the head of Donald Brashear and Chris Simon's baseball swing on Ryan Hollweg.

And there have been instances where cheapshots have gone unpunished because nobody was injured.

How many times have we seen a player's head slammed into the glass from behind or the like, but nobody was hurt so no penalty has been called?

Here's to hoping we're seeing an evolution in the way punishment is handed out for dirty play.

Hockey doesn't need highlights to be looped on CNN or ESPN because another player has been sent to hospital.

More importantly, the players don't need to do it to each other.

Flaming C-notes

Best line heard about the Flames recently: "This is the best bad Flames team I've seen," remarked one observer. It's become downright flummoxing to watch a squad which should be strong enough to contend for the Northwest Division -- actually, should be running away with the title because its experienced so few injuries -- go through lengthy losing streaks and be unable to score more goals ... One problem that must be addressed is the amount of money spent on the defence corps. Imagine how US$4-million could be used to bring in a Rene Bourque-calibre winger and still have enough for a defenceman with enough skill to play in the top six ... That said, more than once have we heard lately from people in the know from other cities who wonder why Jay Bouwmeester isn't carrying the puck more or joining in the rush. Of course, it would help if his teammates would realize how quickly and often Bouwmeester has been available as a trailer during an odd-man rush.

Hockey talky

Only four Eastern Conference teams have won more games than they've lost against Western foes: Buffalo, Ottawa, Washing and Atlanta. By comparison, nine Western Conference clubs, including four of the five in the Northwest Division, are in the black against the East. The Sabres still have an 8-3-2 mark against the West but were slapped with a 1-3-1 mark during a five-game trip which ended in Vancouver ... Here's to hoping New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro is healthy enough to play all of the remaining 12 season of his 15-year, $67.5 million deal. He certainly has had enough long-term injuries to last a decade-and-a-half.

You don't say

"Sometimes when you use your brain, it gets in the way. You just go out and play, and you gotta have fun with it."

-- Pittsburgh's Chris Conner after scoring twice while playing on a line with Sidney Crosby Monday

RANDY.SPORTAK@SUNMEDIA.CA


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