Noted Buffalo dirtball Patrick Kaleta has been somewhat quiet recently—slipping all the way to a career-low 10th on the most-hated players list, but he's angling to get back among the leaders after this brutal cross-check that sent New York's Brad Richards headfirst into the boards.
Kaleta will be suspended, that's not in doubt. But his disciplinary hearing this afternoon will be by phone, not in person, so history indicates that he'll get five games max. That's probably not enough for Richards and Rangers coach John Tortorella:
"That's not a hit that was ever in the game," Richards said. "That's a little different than a head shot, that's just stupidity. If we're all going to look at each other's numbers, ram each other from behind, head-first into the boards, it's going to be a tough game to play."
"It's not hockey," Richards said. "I don't know what game he plays, actually. He doesn't play hockey to begin with. It's the same guy all the time."
"Yeah, that's great, I'm glad we made them pay [by winning]," Tortorella said. "It's disgusting. It's a lack of respect."
Richards returned to the game after the hit, and Sabres fans on Twitter are pointing to that, and claiming Richards took a dive or sold the injury, as excuses for why it wasn't an egregiously dirty play.
But the outcome doesn't matter, or even the intent (one wishes the NHL was more consistent on this front); only the action. And the NHL cracked down on this sort of action two years ago, when they changed the wording of Rule 41, regarding boarding penalties. The word "pushes" was added, taking the emphasis off the intensity of the hit and putting it on the victim's collision with the boards. They also inserted the word "defenseless," in a specific attempt to protect players from getting boarded from their blind side.
This is exactly the kind of play that the NHL is trying to eliminate, so it's a little mind-boggling that Kaleta is going to get off with five games or fewer. He's a repeat offender, and a poster boy for those pests who care more about delivering a hit than playing the puck, and yesterday he delivered the singular type of hit that's good for nothing but causing head or neck injuries. You can debate whether suspensions and fines are effective deterrents, but five games aren't going to change who Pat Kaleta is.
Update, 5:30 EST: Kaleta gets five games.