When revisiting the line brawl on Sunday night between the Buffalo Sabres and Toronto Maple Leafs, it's hard to determine what exactly was the dumbest thing to happen in it/result from it of all. Because there was a whole lot of dumb going on.
In case you missed it, which I doubt you did, all hell broke loose in the third period of a PRESEASON game on Sunday night. One fight begat six more fights, all at once, and is likely to result in a couple of suspensions and more fines. All of this from a game that didn't matter.
So now, let us count the ways that stupidity shined through on Sunday.
Corey Tropp: This is where the whole thing began. There wouldn't have been a line brawl if not for Tropp's initial tilt. The Sabres were upset after seeing Tropp bloodied by the much bigger and tougher Jamie Devane of the Leafs, which would be understandable if Tropp didn't come across as a willing combatant.
Just watch the lead up to their fight once or twice more and see where Tropp is doing his part to engage Devane for a round. It's easy for Buffalo to get mad at Devane for pounding on Tropp in that spot given their size and style differences but if Tropp didn't want to go he didn't have to. The instigator penalty is there to help, though it might not have saved him if Devane was truly intent on throwing a punch, Tropp would have had help from teammates on the ice as well, which actually included John Scott. In that case, the Sabres' reaction would have been somewhat justified. As it is, the regrettable dance was the catalyst for chaos.
Randy Carlyle: You can blame Sabres coach Ron Rolston all you want but did he really do anything wrong? People pointing out that he responded to the Tropp fight by sending out Scott are forgetting one thing; Scott was on the ice when the initial fight occurred. He just kept him out there. But for his part, Carlyle completely misjudged the situation.
Seeing as how the game was in Toronto, the Leafs had the last change. Carlyle could have kept a star player like Phil Kessel off the ice when he saw Scott out there but he relied on the old code that a meal-ticket player wouldn't be attacked by a goon. He was, as he said, trying to defuse the situation all while knowingly putting his best player into some level of risk. Oops.
This one is much more of a hindsight stupidity award so he's down near the bottom of the list if that's any solace (it shouldn't be).
For the record, I don't put Rolston in the stupid category. Instead, he belongs with the villains in this situation alongside Scott.
NHL rules: When you allow fighting in the game -- save me the rationale that the NHL doesn't allow it as it hands out penalties; it's allowed -- these things are going to happen and it seems to make no sense. The great instigator of the whole melee, Scott, is unlikely to get any punishment for this because really, what rule did he break? I suppose you could argue he deserved an instigator penalty but not much beyond that.
And therein lies the problem. You can't say what Scott did, or what Rolston did by putting Scott out there, was dumb because the results all worked out pretty well for Buffalo. David Clarkson is going to get an automatic suspension and Kessel could face that and/or a fine as well. This brawl did more damage to the Leafs than the Sabres. A lot more. Considering they are division rivals and this will hurt Toronto when the games actually count, the results were pretty good for Buffalo all things considered.
Still, the premise reeks. Put it this way: Could you imagine a bench player in another sport coming onto the field/court with the sole purpose of going after a star player on the opposing team? There would be cries for season-long bans but because fighting is within the game in hockey, there's not a whole lot that can actually be done here.
David Clarkson: Not only did he leave the bench and earn himself a guaranteed 10-game suspension to join the fight, but what did he even do? I mean if you're going to get yourself a ban like that, at least make it worth your while. Instead Clarkson came in and really just did some clutching in the scrum.
Further, there was no need for Clarkson to protect Kessel. The Leafs already had responded on the ice and allowed Kessel to get away while swinging his stick at Scott for good measure. On to Kessel real fast -- I can't call his actions dumb, except perhaps the second slash. But if Scott was trying to jump me I would do the same. Plus it gave us a lightsaber.gif and those are always fun.
Now Clarkson is going to miss an eighth of the season as a result, not exactly what Toronto wanted out of its big free-season acquisition that cost them a lot of money. Which leads to the next item. ...
Cap problems: Yes indeed, the Leafs' situation managed to get worse with a preseason fight. With Clarkson about to be suspended, that's a spot on the active roster the Leafs will have to fill while Clarkson's contract stays on the cap. So instead of hoping to use the $3 million in cap space they have to try and finally re-sign Cody Franson and get him into camp, they're going to need to use it on another forward to play while Clarkson is out.
Now, because of this suspension coming down the chute, it all but guarantees that Franson is going to be out just as long as Clarkson, likely longer. There's really no way that Franson will be able to sign a new deal as the Leafs will have to eat into that cap space further, at least for a short while to get through the suspension.
So yeah, let's just say it wasn't David Clarkson's most brilliant move ever.
It was a PRESEASON game: Did I mention it was a PRESEASON game? I feel like it should be noted it was a PRESEASON game, as in a game that didn't count for anything.
But hey, at least we saw a goalie fight: Hooray?