Morning Skate 39: A Chara suspension proves nothing

Morning Skate 39: A Chara suspension proves nothing
March 9, 2011, 6:23 pm
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By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com
MONTREAL There isnt a lot of precedentforthis gruesome Zdeno CharaMax Pacioretty incident from Tuesday nights game, and it appears theres going to be some vociferous disagreement no matter what theNHLdoes.Chara and Pacioretty have been locked in a dangerous dance for much of this season that reaches back to the young Habs forward shoving the enraged, towering Bs Captain after an overtime win for the Canadiens in Montreal two months ago and that painful tangohad a gruesome ending on the Bell Centre ice in Bostons 4-1 loss Tuesday night.Chara shoved Pacioretty near the Bruins bench with an extended forearm, and sent the wobblyHabs forward flying into nearby stanchion in an area thats always been a danger zone for high-flying, fast-skating hockey players.The gruesome, gasp-worthy crashleft Pacioretty unconscious and unmoved on the ice for 10 minutes before he was wheeled off the ice on a stretcher, and Habs officials said Wednesday morning their player has suffered a severe concussion and a non-displaced C5 fracture of his vertebrae from the collision.Its clearly a serious injury and could be career-threatening given the gravity of any injury dealing with the neck and spine, and that can be a factor in the supplemental discipline decisions made by the NHL and Assistant Director of Game Operations Mike Murphy.But there are so many other factors that the league has to mix into the pot before making a complex, controversial decision. What was Zdeno Charas intent and how much of the hits aftermath was simply a result of the games speed and intensity?Chara has been suspended for a grand total of one game in a long, All-Star career spanning 913gamesfor the Ottawa Senators and Bruins, and boaststhe kind of Irish Spring clean whistle record the NHL always looks favorably upon. He simply isnt a dirty player despite whats being muttered about the 6-foot-9 monster along the snowylengths ofRue de St. Catherine this morning.At the end of the day it was an interference call against Chara, and was nowhere near the realm of elbowing, head shots, boarding, hitting from behind or any otherdastardlyinfractions thatreside as hot button actions within todays NHL. No one can peerinto the mind of Chara to deduce whether his actions were the perfectly evil hit at the exact wrong time near the treacherous stanchion area, but his body of work over a starry career would say completely the opposite. They would instead proveChara was playing the body to slow Pacioretty down from flying into the offensive zone with the puck, and it was the wrong place at the wrong time.What happens if Chara simply lets the player go, and he scores another goal at the end of the second period in a game that's already reached "bowser" category.If the NHL doesnt want hitting near the danger areas near the benches perhapsthere should be black-and-yellow police tape or a plastic bubble around the bench area prohibiting physical contact anywhere near them. A suspension or disciplinary action against Chara when it was simply an accident of circumstance does nothing to prevent it from happening again and it certainly isnt going to help Pacioretty in his long road to recuperation in Montreal.The bottom line is this: the NHL cant prove mal intent, the league is always going to rule in favor of their star players that adhere to the proper rules of conduct and safety in the NHL and there will always be violence and regrettableinjuries within the game of hockey.There is no way Chara wanted to break Paciorettys neck or seriously physically impair him, and knew that would happen after an otherwise pedestrian one-on-one battle for the puck on a simple interference call. There's no evidence to support either supposition.Things happen in the NHL, and this was one of those regrettable, unfortunate accidents that can transpirewhen big strong bodies tangle in the wrong part of the frozen sheet. A suspension would assign blame to Chara when there doesnt need to be any, and would send the wrong kind of message.Fans all over the NHL should focus their energy and thoughts on hoping that Pacioretty makes a full recovery and plays hockey again as Erik Cole did after fracturing his vertebrae with the Carolina Hurricanes. The passionate, frothy calls for suspensions and justice simply dont apply this time around with Chara.On to the links:Mike Milbury thinks that time may be running out on Sidney Crosby, and everyone Ive talked to about Sid the Kid has said the exact same thing.Adam Kaufman chats with Trent Whitfield, who has recovered from an Achilles tendon injury to have an excellent season for the Providence Bruins.Want the story about how Alex Ovechkin made his way back to the world of Twitter? Well here it is.TSNs Bob McKenzie knocked it out of the park in his assessment of the Zdeno CharaMax Pacioretty hit from last night, and deserves a little link love and appreciation.SI.coms Michael Farber sends a love letter to Pittsburgh Penguins hatchet man Matt Cooke. Wonder if he felt the need for a long, hot shower after writing this piece?\