Leafs need to use their heads

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:31 AM ET

If the Maple Leafs opt to hunt down Cam Janssen like he's some kind of street mugger tomorrow night, keep this much in mind.

The New Jersey Devils pugilist welcomes the challenge.

Go ahead. Let the Leafs seek revenge on him for his controversial hit on Tomas Kaberle on March 2, a blow that left the concussed Leafs defenceman crumpled on the ice in a pool of his own blood.

Janssen reckons that if the Leafs concentrate on retaliation, their focus will be off more important things.

Like keeping Scott Gomez off the scoresheet.

Or like squeezing a few pucks past Marty Brodeur.

If stripping the Leafs of two valuable points means wearing a target on his back, so be it.

"I kind of hope they worry about me (more) than putting the puck in the net," Janssen told a group of New Jersey reporters. "Then we will win the game and everything will be fine.

"Whatever happens happens. I'll have to deal with it one way or the other. I just hope we come out flying and get a victory."

There is no excuse for Janssen's act against Kaberle. Whether you debate the fact that it was a head shot or not, it easily was a late hit, a point that NHL disciplinarian Colin Campbell made clear when he slapped the Devils forward with a three-game suspension.

But here in the self-proclaimed "Centre of the Hockey Universe," where the sport is dissected daily as if it were being examined by a specialist from CSI, the public outcry has been, at times, over the top.

Judging by some of the e-mails sent to the various media outlets around town or the odd enraged caller putting his two cents in on some of the local talk shows, Janssen's act was far more heinous than anything Chris Simon, Todd Bertuzzi, Marty McSorley and even the legendary Ogie Hoglethorpe ever did out on the ice.

To those people, here is some advice: Get a grip.

What do these extremists expect the Leafs to do when they face off against the Devils tomorrow night? Put a bounty on Janssen's head like Paul Newman did on an opposing player during the cult hockey flick Slap Shot?

Maybe John Ferguson should quickly run out and ink the Hanson brothers to one-day contracts.

The truth of the matter is, the Leafs can't be silly and go out of their way to send Janssen and his teammates a message.

If there is a hit to be had, take it. If things get chippy, stand up for each other. And if there is a chance to go fist city with Janssen without the aid of cheap shots, that's fine, too.

But sitting in the penalty box all night would be a ridiculous game plan for a team that inexplicably came up short in games against the Washington Capitals and Montreal Canadiens over the weekend, snatching just one of a possible four points.

Besides, on most occasions, these alleged grudge matches don't live up to their billing. Of course, that won't stop the hype over the next two days from escalating to the point where it would make WWE boss Vince McMahon proud.

"We tell you guys that all the time," Leafs enforcer Wade Belak said. "You have to realize this is not old-time hockey any more. There are rules now.

"We are going to be smart. We can't be stupid. We need the points."

With the Leafs still on the outside looking in during their quest for a post-season berth with just 10 games left, defenceman Bryan McCabe couldn't agree more.

Not that the Leafs have forgiven. Or forgotten.

It's just that revenge can wait for another day."

"That's all we are worried about -- points," he said. "We can take care of that other stuff at a later date like next season. There is always time for that."

Despite the whining of all the Don Cherry bashers out there, hockey is, by nature, an emotional, violent sport. And yes, there is a place for fighting in the game.

Cheap shots, on the other hand, are unacceptable.

The Leafs had best remember that if they are looking to get even tomorrow night. The means, after all, do not justify the end.


Videos

Photos