When the games matter most, tempers are sure to flare, but when the games matter least, NHL tempers border on insane apparently. Take Sunday night's preseason tilt between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres for instance.
After a big fight between Toronto's Jamie Devane and Buffalo's Corey Tropp, in which Devane staggered Tropp and left the Sabres forward bloody (and is at the beginning of the video above), Buffalo had eyes on revenge it seemed.
With enforcer John Scott on the ice for the Sabres on the ensuing shift, Toronto countered with skill players including Phil Kessel. Scott and Kessel exchanged some words and the 6-foot-8 Scott dropped his gloves looking to engage Kessel.
Then everything got crazy.
Scott going after Kessel is as big a mismatch as you could expect, so Kessel wanted none of what Scott was offering, save for a few two-handed chops to the giant tree with fists coming at him. Kessel explained to James Mirtle after the game:
Kessel: "It was pretty stupid, right? He said he was going to jump me... He's a big boy. If he's coming after me, what are you gonna do?"— James Mirtle (@mirtle) September 23, 2013
Toronto's big summer free-agent signing David Clarkson clearly hopped off the bench to come to Kessel's aid. That, of course, is a major no-no. Clarkson, who received a 10-minute penalty, is staring down the barrel of an automatic suspension of 10 regular-season games for leaving the bench to join an altercation. Remember, this is a preseason game.
Everyone else on the ice squared off, including Kessel, who started throwing with Sabres prospect Brian Flynn. Kessel, who received penalties for slashing and fighting, actually bloodied Flynn.
Then the goalies started going at it. Sabres netminder Ryan Miller went toe-to-toe with Jonathan Bernier, who made his way to the Sabres end to engage Miller. It was a pretty lengthy scrap between the two goalies, with Bernier looking to have gotten the better of Miller.
More than 100 penalty minutes came out of the melee.
Basically, there was a whole lot of dumb going on in Toronto on Sunday.
"Old Time Hockey," will be the description from the traditionalists, but in all honesty, it's remarkably stupid on everyone's part.
Scott has no business going after a team's star in the preseason. None. It's cheap and unnecessary. There's nothing to be accomplished by that. Kessel's hacks in self defense may go unpunished, but it looks like he may have also speared Scott, which could draw the ire of the NHL's disciplinarians.
If Clarkson misses the first 10 games of the year -- a near-certainty -- that hurts the Maple Leafs when the games count. Besides, T.J. Brennan was right there to intervene when Scott was chasing Kessel around.
The goalie fight was beyond pointless, but it sure gave the fans a charge. Miller encapsulated the whole thing in a postgame tweet, with a nod to Slap Shot.
There are certainly a lot of people that are going to love this, but if you think a team's best players getting involved in a nasty line brawl in the preseason has any purpose, you're nuts. Fighting is a part of the game, but what happened Sunday in Toronto isn't even close to justifiable.
Expect there to be several phone calls made by the department of player safety in the coming days and a lot of red faces in the NHL offices Monday morning.