Costly error in judgment

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:19 AM ET

Alex Pietrangelo was not the only one hurt by Ryan Hollweg yesterday.

So were his own Maple Leafs teammates.

This is becoming a disturbing trend that must stop. In a hurry.

Admittedly, general manager Cliff Fletcher and coach Ron Wilson are within their rights to suggest the five-minute boarding major and game misconduct handed out to Hollweg for wallpapering the St. Louis Blues defenceman in the second period were "marginal" calls.

On that point, we agree to disagree. That's fine. Each argument has merit.

But the Leafs braintrust hardly can debate the following:

- That Hollweg's history of run-ins with the NHL's guru of discipline, Colin Campbell, makes him a "target" of officials, a point Wilson did acknowledge.

- That Hollweg needed to be smarter, especially after just coming off a two-game suspension for running Blues defenceman Jay McKee from behind 12 days ago.

- That Hollweg's splattering of Pietrangelo changed the momentum in favour of the Blues, who wiped out a 3-1 Toronto lead with a pair of power-play goals on the ensuing man advantage en route to a 5-4 shootout victory.

In the end, he let his team down. A young team. An inexperienced, unpredictable team that can turn every game, every period, every shift, into a wild roller-coaster ride.

A team that rides on the emotions of youth.

A team that had everything going for it, including a two-goal lead.

And then Hollweg hit a Blues player from behind.

Again.

Cue the St. Louis comeback.

Hollweg is a standup guy. During his brief tenure in Toronto, he has exhibited a penchant for coming to the aid of his teammates, a trait that should be commended.

His decision-making, however, should not be.

Here he was, making his Leafs regular-season debut, having missed the first two games because suspension. Here was his chance to display leadership in a dressing room full of baby-faced kids.

Instead, his comeback lasted five shifts. Four minutes of ice time. And one huge error in judgment.

Again.

Hollweg's teammates are not going to throw him under the bus. You don't do that. Nevertheless, some questioned what he could have been thinking.

"He just came off a suspension," forward Nik Antropov said. "He has got to be more careful, I guess."

Antropov quickly backed off, pointing out he had not actually seen "the hit."

No matter. He already had said enough.

Reached shortly after the incident, Campbell confirmed Hollweg receives an automatic three-game suspension, noting he can "add" to that punishment if need be.

Hollweg's phone number might soon find its way on to Campbell's speed dial at this rate.

This was the fourth time Hollweg has received a boarding or checking from behind major since Jan. 5. In fact, Campbell suspended Hollweg for three games for committing that very same act on R.J. Umberger, then of the Philadelphia Flyers, back on March 23, 2006.

"You think a guy would learn," McKee said. "It's not just since he has been in Toronto. He was like that with his previous team (the New York Rangers).

"I love when guys play hard. I like when guys play tough. Jamal Mayers is a perfect example. But at least he knows when to turn (away). Obviously Hollweg has a tough time turning. I don't know if he can't turn left or right good enough but ... someone's going to get seriously hurt."

Told that Fletcher felt the call was borderline, McKee replied: "When it's their player (doing the hitting), that's what he's going to say. But when the refs see it and make that call, and you see an 18-year-old lying on the ice, that says it all."

Pietrangelo, who eventually returned to the game, will be re-evaluated today.

"The game is so fast ... but we have to find a way to limit those things from happening. Guys have to have respect for each other," Pietrangelo said.

Perhaps the best take on the entire affair was offered up by Blues coach Andy Murray.

"An insignificant player made a poor decision. Fortunate for us. Unfortunate for them."

Very unfortunate.


Videos

Photos