Having trouble with star players? Just take ‘em out

Staal on Crosby

So the Anaheim Ducks are having all kinds of trouble dealing with Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, who continues to log big minutes and will be a serious candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy if he keeps playing this way and the Kings go on to win the Stanley Cup.

No problem. Here’s a piece of advice: Just go out and hurt him. Instead of just continually roughing him up, have one of your players take a really good go at him and knock him out of the playoffs. There you go. Problem solved. Defenseman Bryan Allen, who took a good two-handed swipe at Henrik Zetterberg in 2003 and broke a bone in his leg only to get a two-game suspension, is as good a candidate as anyone to do the deed.

But, of course, it can pretty much be anyone. Hey, Francois Beauchemin could be your guy. Lord knows he tried, with a slash to the back of the legs of Doughty in the second period of Game 2 that sent Doughty to the dressing room briefly. Beauchemin had the right thought; it’s just that his execution was a little off. Better luck next time.

Then there’s the matter of Marc Staal and his penchant on Monday night for using his stick as an axe with Sidney Crosby’s head acting as a piece of wood. Twice in Game 2 between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, Staal took a whack with his stick at Crosby’s head, once connecting nicely with the back of Crosby’s neck. Again, just a little harder next time, Marc, and that should be good enough to take one of the best players on the planet out of the series.

None of the above-mentioned plays was even deemed to be a penalty, either because the two referees on the ice didn’t see them (highly unlikely) or they didn’t deem them to be vicious enough to be penalized. Those who didn’t notice the Beauchemin slash could at least hear the result, with Doughty screaming obscenities that could be heard on the television broadcast over the noise of an arena that had 17,281 people in it.

So that, of course, leaves supplemental discipline as the only option left. Good luck with that one. No harm, no foul. As of Tuesday morning there was not a peep about whether Staal or Beauchemin would face any further sanctions, but we all know that if they do, it will be something along the lines of a fine that will amount to 1/1,000th of their yearly salary.

“Hey what’s the difference?” Penguins defenseman Matt Niskanen told Dejan Kovacevic of the Pittsburgh Tribune after the game. “You do it and you know all you’ll get is a fine.”

And therein lies the problem. Once this column gets published and promoted on Twitter, I have no doubt people will bring to my attention hundreds of other equally egregious acts that have occurred in the playoffs so far that have gone unpunished. If those ones were allowed to go unpenalized, then logic dictates that the slashes on Crosby and Doughty should as well.

But it’s this kind of climate that allows these things to continue. It’s this kind of climate where Shea Weber of the Nashville Predators to smash Zetterberg’s head into the glass during the playoffs two years ago and receive nothing more than a two-minute minor and a $2,500 fine.

Not only does this kind of garbage go unpunished, it’s rewarded, going back to Bobby Clarke becoming a national hero in Canada for two-handing Valeri Kharlamov in the ankle and knocking him out of the 1972 Summit Series. To this day, Clarke is unapologetic about the incident, saying nobody told him to go out and do it, just that assistant coach John Ferguson whispered in Clarke’s ear that Kharlamov was killing the Canadian team and had to be stopped.

Sadly, nothing has changed in the intervening 42 years. If you need any evidence, just watch what happened to two of the best players in the NHL on Monday night.