Sat Dec 31 11:17am EST
Now that Matt Cooke has become practically saintly, Andy Sutton of the Edmonton Oilers has worked hard to fill the void for the NHL's multiple-suspended, reckless hitter who confronts his wrongdoings by saying 'don't hate the playah, hate the game.'
Sutton has missed 13 games this season thanks to the Shanahammer: Five for a headshot on Gabriel Landeskog of the Colorado Avalanche and eight for another hit to the head on Alexei Ponikarovsky of the Carolina Hurricanes.
The total financial hit for these indiscretions? That would be $264,749. Oh, and 49 cents.
After his first suspension, Sutton released a petulant statement through the Oilers, saying that "for 14 years, I've always played the game with respect and integrity and I will continue to do so when I return." He also told the Edmonton Journal:
"I've had very few infractions over a long career (two previous suspensions) and I'll continue to play my style. I'll be more mindful of the new rules," said Sutton. "I have to play close to the opposing players. I'll continue to play aggressively. That's what's got me here but I'll double check my routes (to the puck-carrier)," he said.
He saw it as a hockey play gone bad; an attempt at a clean check in which the "end result was a good force of the blow ending up on his head."
As for Suspension No. 2, which ends on Saturday, Sutton "didn't feel I had much of an argument" in his hearing with Shanahan. What has he learned this time 'round? That the NHL is way too oversensitive about seemingly dangerous hits, and that hitters are going to have to, ahem, get creative to avoid a phone call from Brendan Shanahan.
"This will be hard because my style of play is to be on my toes, playing physically," said Sutton. "You may see more hits with my back and my butt than my shoulders and my elbow. Seems to be the only way you're not suspended anymore."
Sounds like someone has been watching Niklas Kronwall's hit on Ryan Kelser.
As for the NHL itself, Sutton's tired of everyone overreacting on every hit:
"Those guys have to calm down, it's nuts. Everybody does. You can almost dissect every hit and see a guy leaving his feet or there's contact to the head. Guys are always leaning (with the puck). It can look like an elbow, but it's not. The media shows it 1,000 times."
Well, at least they've seen the replay, and can offer some expertise.
His points aren't without merit. Much like his rant about the inequities of the NHL's appeals system, it's good to have a counterpoint to the NHL's player safety initiatives.
That said: Would it surprise anyone to see Andy Sutton notch a suspension hat-trick this season?