Maybe Colin Campbell figured he could make up for letting Matt Cooke off the hook last week by sticking it to Alex Ovechkin.
Maybe the league’s judge and jury thought he was could send a message about recklessness by using a superstar who often displays that tendency to set an example.
Or maybe Campbell just hoped he could restore some of the league’s credibility when it comes to discipline by suspending Ovechkin for two games after he ruined Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell’s season by shoving him from behind into the boards.
Then again, maybe Colin Campbell should have known better because in the end, he accomplished none of the above. Missing a couple of games may cost Ovechkin another goal scoring title, but ultimately it will be meaningless to a player who will be that much fresher come playoff time because of it. And it will have no impact on his Washington Capitals who have already clinched their Southeast Division and are still the odds-on favorite to finish first overall in the league.
If league’s head of hockey operations really wanted to get the attention of those around the league who tend not to think before they act, he would have thrown the book at Ovechkin by handing down more than a token suspension. He could have easily justified it because the Washington star forward was ejected from the game for needlessly sending the Blackhawks defenseman into the boards in a nationally televised game Sunday, the third time this season he has been sent to an early shower.
That makes him a repeat offender, which is the way Campbell described Ovechkin in the official announcement of his punishment. Technically though, the Capitals captain escaped an automatic suspended for a second boarding major because it has been more than 41 games since the last one.
Ovechkin wasn’t made to sit for sending Buffalo’s Patrick Kaleta head first into the boards in late November, but he got two games for kneeing Carolina’s Tim Gleason a week later. And Ovechkin has a history of cheap shots that include a knee-on-knee against Pittsburgh’s Sergei Gonchar in last spring’s playoffs and a slew foot this season on Atlanta’s Rich Peverley. He can be, and often is a dangerous player.
But so are a lot of players like Cooke or Tampa Bay’s Steve Downie, who could have caused some serious damage to Sidney Crosby’s by wrapping his leg around the Penguins superstar as he was taking him down Sunday.
Ovechkin’s latest incident, however, was border line at best. Chicago’s Campbell had already gotten rid of the puck and might have been off balance as was turning when Ovechkin shoved – not crosschecked -- and sent him into the boards. And chances are if Campbell had not broken his clavicle and some ribs, the boarding major and game misconduct to Ovechkin would have been the end of it.
But that wouldn’t have satisfied those around the league who want blood. And neither does the two games, although there are just as many who think that a suspension wasn’t really merited in this case. Particularly since Pittsburgh’s Cooke got away with putting the career of Boston’s Marc Savard in jeopardy with an ugly, blind side hit to the head.
The irony is that Campbell made the decision not to punish Cooke immediately after the conclusion of the league’s general managers meeting last week, when they voted to recommend for stiff penalties for precisely those kinds of hits. In that case, Campbell was applying the letter of the law that said Cooke’s hit was legal under current rules.
That decision didn’t satisfy anyone. Neither will this one. And it won’t make a difference either.