Derek Dorsett was in the spotlight for all sorts of bad reasons before and during Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final for basically acting like a jerk. But it isn't his fault. He's part of the "message sending" culture that seems to dominate during the playoffs.
Ever wonder why the playoffs seem to turn some NHL players into such schoolyard bullies? Because it’s the Cup?
So far in this post-season, we’ve had an epidemic of pitchforks to the privates and a scourge of water-related incidents. Then there was that all-round character guy Derek Dorsett spraying one of the Canadiens flag kids with snow during the ceremonies before Game 5 of the Eastern Conference final. He would then go on to head butt Mike Weaver in the dying moments of the game.
First the spraying:
Then the head-butt:
Class act. And another one of those guys whose main job is to keep the peace on the ice trying to start the kind of mayhem he’s supposed to be, ahem, preventing.
But this is part of a bigger issue. And that is, what is it about the playoffs that makes players think they have to send these basically meaningless messages? We get that the playoffs are intense and that players are going to try to get edge, real or perceived, they can. After all, an extra hard hit in Game 2 might not make much of a difference at the time, but it just might force that player to be that much more run down by Game 6.
But this is getting ridiculous. Does anyone really believe that professional players who got to the NHL largely by having otherworldly focus and discipline are going to have their games thrown askew by something like a water or snow sprayed at them? The only message these guys are sending is that they're not the sharpest tools in the shed. Sometimes guys make it easier than others. Probably the league's easiest suspension of the post-Brendan Shanahan era came in Game 5 when John Moore took a run at Dale Weise and delivered an illegal check to the head in the third period of a game in which the Canadiens led by two goals.
The league undoubtedly looked into the head-butt, but the Department of Player Safety should have been more concerned with Dorsett’s spraying of snow. As we’ve all learned after Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford almost blinded a Los Angeles fan by allegedly spraying him with water in Game 4, these things can be very, very serious. (Tongue in cheek.)
As you can see in the Dorsett incident, the kid is lucky to be alive. Probably because he’s wearing a visor – another tangible piece of evidence that mandatory visor use will benefit everyone – the kid avoids getting a bunch of ice shavings in his eyes and his face. (Tongue in cheek again.) But you’ll also notice the kid falls down just seconds after his is sprayed, just as the Canadiens players are coming out onto the ice. What if one of the players had not noticed the kid and stepped on him with his sharp skates?
Luckily, the kid shows a good amount of that good old Canadian playoff mentality and springs up immediately, with the help of Ranger forward Mats Zuccarello, who would probably have to be measured himself to get on many of the rides at Disneyland.
In all likelihood, Dorsett was probably simply trying to spray the Canadiens players as they came out onto the ice and his little plan went awry. Or at least that’s what we’re going to believe because the alternative is just too difficult to fathom. But the fact is, it’s a petty move any way you slice it. And all kidding aside, it could have had much more serious consequences. If Dorsett thinks doing something like that is going to give his team any kind of tangible edge, well, he’s basically being a hockey player.
Hey, here’s a novel idea. How about sending a message by going out and doing something that really has some impact, like, say, scoring a goal?