Yesterday, the NHL Department of Player Safety issued a one game suspension to Los Angeles Kings forward Milan Lucic for a sucker punch to the head of Arizona’s Pat Connauton. I’m shocked at how many people have jumped to his defence. (See the video of the incident and my original assessment here).
Obviously to some, Connauton quote “had it coming” because of a vicious two handed slash directly to the wrist of Lucic in a clearly aimed and intentional act. He lined his stick up, sought out the hand, and took a whack. I completely concur that this happened and that he knew full well what he was doing. The officials on the ice either missed it or didn’t think it was enough to call.
I think Lucic was definitely justified in letting Connauton know that was uncalled for. Without straying to far, some have argued the other way that Lucic had a clear scoring attempt and “what was he supposed to do, let him just have a free shot?” No, but here’s two lessons for any of you young players out there. 1)How about taking charge of the front of your net with decent positioning? Don’t be almost behind your goaltender and to the side. 2)take the stick away. If you want to slash and that’s the best you’ve got, at least hit the stick. I’d stick with option 1. Hit the gym and learn how to box out, but I digress.
So now that we know Connauton was wrong, does that make Lucic right to seek him out, target the jaw, and have at ‘er? Hell no. He could have pulled him aside, explained to him what was about to happen, and then dropped the gloves and fed him. He could have grabbed him and explained to him all the ways he was going to get him back when no one was looking. He could have explained how he was never going to be safe in a game against the Kings ever again. Get inside his head a bit. Have some fun with it. Lucic just wanted to have the instant gratification, and that’s selfish.
I understand players need to take some matters into their own hands. I’ve lost faith in the league’s disciplinary committee too. After the game, they should have looked at both the slash and the punch. You can’t depend on them for anything. But two wrongs don’t make a right. Unfortunately, the league also had a chance to send that message and failed again.
The same system that kind of caused this whole thing to happen in the first place has done nothing to prevent it from happening again.