Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs has made a habit of taking baseball swings to the legs of opposing players, and will now serve the daunting consequence of missing the final three, meaningless, preseason games.
Kessel's actions against the Buffalo Sabres Sunday forced tough disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan to hand down the harsh penalty to Toronto's star. Just incase the sarcasm is being missed, Kessel is barely getting a slap on the wrist after committing a dangerous act in multiple scenarios.
The scrum began Sunday when Kessel and Sabres enforcer John Scott lined up next to each other. Kessel shoved Scott with a hand, which was enough to send Scott over the edge. Scott dropped the gloves immediately and went after Kessel, who was no longer Mr. Tough Guy, and Kessel repeatedly swung his stick viciously at Scott's legs with an attempt to injure. Even while Scott was tangled up with other Toronto players, Kessel continued to swing his stick with two hands at Scott's legs. Kessel's actions were cowardly, and as Shanahan pointed out in his explanation, it's not the first time this preseason he has done such a thing. Kessel committed a similar cowardly act against the Philadelphia Flyers just days before Sunday's game with Buffalo.
Shanahan outlines that Kessel's suspension was determined by three points; he used two hands to slash with an attempt to injure, he has no history as far as suspensions and Scott wasn't injured. What Shanahan failed to note is that Kessel is missing three, very meaningless, preseason games. He's not struggling to make Toronto's roster, although their fans may have a gripe about that, as he has failed to hit 40 goals since Toronto broke the bank to take him off of Boston's hands.
Kessel's suspension is nothing more than a glorified vacation. He will rest and prepare himself for the time when the games matter. This incident can be related to Marty McSorley's clubbing of Donald Brashear in 2000. Of course, McSorley smacked Brashear in the head, causing a concussion, and was suspended a full year. Now of course Scott was not injured, the fact that Kessel used his stick as a weapon should not be taken as lightly as it is. Had he hit Scott in a place where he may not have intended, a serious injury could have occurred. Players need to be more aware of their actions, and that the stick in their hands could turn into a weapon that could do serious damage at any time. Just ask McSorley, who was convicted of assault after his incident.
Kessel's suspension is laughable. Shanahan references self-defense in his explanation, but a player needs to be held accountable for his stick at all times, and using it as a weapon is not an acceptable action. Kessel is a coward, and his actions might as well warrant no suspension if the NHL is only going to make him miss three practices with a game atmosphere. Because that's what preseason is.
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