Oct 2, 2007

The Downie Effect

I've intentionally avoided posting about the Steve Downie situation until now. Apologies in advance, but this will be a long one to slog through. Here's why I waited:

(1) I knew about Downie's problems and issues, and his reputation is not un-deserved.
(2) I wanted to review the video a few days removed from the hit.
(3) I wanted to know the NHL's decision and reasoning, in light of the new policy approved over the summer break.
(4) I wanted to watch the video again after the ruling.

So here's my ruling: I don't think that Downie's suspension is unreasonable.

Argue all you want about whether or not McAmmond should have had his head up, whether Downie left his feet before impact, whether he led with his elbow/stick/shoulder, whether the timing was late, etc.

That's not what matters to me. The real issues are:

(a) Downie lined that shot up for any Tom, Dick or Dean on the ice that was in a Senators sweater because he felt the refs missed an earlier call.

(b) the NHL drafted a policy for hits to the head with the input of all interested parties (including the players as represented by Shanahan, Iginla and Blake), distributed materials in various formats to all of the teams that explain what's all right and what would result in punitive measures, and Downie still let his small brain rule the day instead of the big one.

Hitting is part of hockey and no one with a functioning brain cell believes this will change that. The new criteria only provide guidelines for times when one player intentionally hits another player in the head in such a way as to incapacitate him.

The players represent the portion of the hockey community with the most to lose if these hits continue: their careers and lives are on the line!

Downie, you had a try-out with the big boys and you were really close to making it. But you totally blew it and you have no one to blame but yourself for reacting like you left a twelve year-old to operate your reptilian reflexes.

I'm sorry your life has been by turns traumatic and trying, but so has most everyone else's at one moment or another. My personal theory is that my history only accounts for up to 50% of why I do the stuff I do. The remaining percentage (whether it's 50% or more) is due only to what I choose to do.

I'm a sucker for comebacks and rehabilitation because they are possible. I'd love to see Steve Downie be the good player he has the potential to be. That's why I'm hoping the suspension works, because hockey - by all accounts - is the most important thing to Steve Downie. Maybe the sheer fact that he can't play in the NHL because of the suspension will be the wake-up call and turning point.

In the mean time, if I find myself anywhere near Downie, I'm getting away from him as fast as possible. Although there are any number of people who say he's a respectful, decent guy much of the time, I refuse to believe that such poor control and decision-making is limited to the ice.

P.S. Shmee: Every GM is going to be a blithering idiot in a situation like this. Your job description in such a set of circumstances is to both uphold the rules and rulings, while showing team solidarity by supporting your player. (At least, if you're going to be a good GM, you do.)

First, you have a player who does something totally stupid and breaks the 11th commandment while doing it (thou shalt not get caught).

Second, said player does take up cap space while on the big roster, which has $$ and rules implications. (And unloading him to another team may not be possible for precisely the same reasons since...)

Lastly, the suspension essentially has to be served in the NHL (as per Campbell).

Q. And secondly, I’m still a little unclear as to what happens if he is sent down to the American Hockey League? Can he play in the American Hockey League if he’s sent down? And if they choose to honor the suspension, does that take games off the NHL suspension or is he suspended 20 NHL games regardless of whether or not he plays in the American Hockey League?

Colin Campbell: He’s suspended for 20 games in the National Hockey League. I understand your question, we’ve discussed this and thrown this around. There are implications as far as the cap count on the Philadelphia Flyers. There are implications on the roster, the 23-man roster. And how they look at this suspension and how they deal with the American Hockey League, that’s up to Dave Andrews.

We treat theirs the same way we treat ours. We've got our own issues and they've got their own issues. But he has to serve 20 games in this league. And in the past, players were allowed to play in the other league, be it in our league or the AHL, depending on the suspension. But they had to serve the suspension in the league they received the suspension in.

Personally, I'm not going to be rooting for this kid until and unless he develops a more mature attitude, combined with a healthy dose of respect for others and himself.

And if you don't like or agree with this: Chalk it up to a difference in opinion, then let bygones be bygones.

No comments: