Thursday, January 31, 2008

A look at the facts before Ruutu is suspended

Surely by now you've seen this, but take another look to keep it fresh in your head as we lay out the case for and against Jarrko Ruutu.

The case for Ruutu:

  • He went in to finish a check against a player. Normal hockey play, happens tons of times. On this occasion, however, the opponent saw him coming and tried to lean out of the way. Well, he got his upperbody away from Ruutu, but his lowerbody was still in the crosshairs and he took the brunt of the impact in the knees.
  • Ruutu did not lead with his legs, did not seek the legs. The opponent tried to evade at the last second and boom, what was done was done.
  • Ruutu was given 20 minutes worth of penalties (kneeing, game misconduct and a fighting major). Aside from leaving his team with 10 regular forwards, it granted the opposition a 5 minute powerplay.
  • As we mentioned last post, why the fighting major? Ruutu did not drop his gloves, did not throw a punch. Basically he was mugged by a teammate standing up for his guy. Not that there is anything wrong with what Steve McCarthy did, but he deserved his 5 for fighting and an instigator. Ruutu, a non-participant, shouldn’t have been slapped with an additional major for fighting.
  • To our knowledge, despite Ruutu’s reputation, he’s never been suspended by the NHL. Much of Ruutu’s image comes from when he took a run and put a nasty (and dirty) elbow to Jaromir Jagr’s head at the 2006 Olympics. Ruutu does lead the leagues with 3 diving penalties, and had to have a mandatory phone call with the league but even they admitted that some of those calls where a bit excessive, that Ruutu’s reputation probably lead to them and he did not deserve to be suspended a game (as is the league’s right).

To be fair, the case against Ruutu:

  • His reputation proceeds him. He may not have been suspended (yet) but he has a history of, at the very least “questionable” hits. Also trouble seems to follow him around. He is cast as a pest and an agiator and he plays that role very well. But it’s a thin line to cross before taking penalties, etc.
  • It’s a league of stars and he just took out a guy who is 2nd in the league in goals. On purpose or not, he injured a star’s knee (severity unknown) no less, which other than a headshot is probably the most reprehensible thing a player could do..

The Ilya Kovalchuk factor
**Disclaimer: No one deserves to get hurt and we’re not suggesting Kovalchuk “had it coming”, but there is a factor here, so do consider it.**

  • The victim is no angel himself; having just coming off suspension that could have been longer for running a defenseless player into the boards.
  • Kovalchuk probably set himself up for at least getting checked every available chance by showing up the Penguins bench after he scored a first period goal. He also has a history of pointing at/provoking Penguins, notably Sidney Crosby. For better or worse Kovalchuk put a target on himself by acting unprofessional and directly taunting his opponents.

Again, we repeat, no one deserves to be injured and we’re not happy or satisfied to see a skill player suffer a knee injury. Just sayin’ the public outcry of "suspend, suspend, suspend!" isn't always just. So put down the pitchforks and extingush the torches and look at the facts again.

We came up with more of a case for him then against him, because that's how we see it. Is it biased? Perhaps. But the cons may outweigh the pros, especially since it's in Colin Campbell's hands now.


MattB said...

Very objective analysis. I just thought I should point out that one of Ruutu's diving penalties occurred when he was punched in the face and stumbled backwards. I think that shows how he is judged on the ice by his reputation.

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dj4aces said...

For what it's worth, it was only a three minute power play. McCarthy got a fighting major, misconduct, and instigator for 17 penalty minutes. Two minutes of four on four, and three minutes of power play. I have to wonder why Ruutu was given a fighting major as well. All he did was turtle to draw a penalty.

Whether or not he lead with the knees, however, is something many hockey fans will have to agree to disagree on. Point being, no one knows Ruutu's true intentions other than what he stated to the press.

Kovalchuk's MRI came back negative, which is good. He's going to begin working out with it today to see if any swelling occurs. He could play again as soon as Tuesday vs. Philadelphia. Very lucky for him, and the Atlanta team.

Lastly, Kovalchuk did not taunt the Penguins bench. It's a standard Kovalchuk goal celebration. He does it every time he scores. Consider that he just ended a five game goal scoring drought. He loves to score goals, and he loves to win. The only "history" he has of pointing at Pens players after a goal, or any player really, is the Crosby incident. There was an incident where he taunted the bench in Edmonton after he took a penalty for using an illegal stick, but that's another matter entirely... and something that happened early in his career, before he matured. As someone who has watched him develop over the years, he's definitely not the same player now as he was then.

Maybe you'll see my observations as rational, and maybe you'll think I'm just some meathead who wants to see Ruutu suspended for a long time. But no matter how you see it, just consider this an alternative perspective. As fans of our respective teams, we're prone to being biased. It's human nature. But your analysis has to be one of the most rational ones I've seen from a Pens fan.

Hooks Orpik said...

dj, you good opinion and vantage point and I respect it.

We do have some different thoughts on the matter and that's only natural....I probably wouldn't have been so dismissive of the play had someone like Evgeni Malkin been on the receiving end.

I am relieved and glad to hear that there is no major damage to Kovalchuk and that it seems he won't be missing a lot of time. That, we can all agree, is probably the best outcome for all parties.

Also, I think the NHL vindicated my viewpoint that it really wasn't THAT dirty of a hit by them deciding not to suspend Ruutu. Certainly a player like him (given his history, reputations and actions) is on a short leash, as he should be. There's no place in hockey for guys running around trying to take out superstars.

Thanks for the comment, it was well thought out and a good opposing point of view. Thanks for reading the blog too. I live near DC and will actually be at the Caps/Thrashers game tonight so check back in for a recap and analysis.