December 02, 2008
Last night, Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Jeff Finger laid out Los Angeles Kings center Oscar Moller with a stout hit near the boards. Derek Armstrong, grizzled leader that he is, skates over to teach Finger a lesson, which Finger clearly refused to learn.
Now, here's what we saw: Finger delivers a check to Moller, who was skating with his head down into the offensive zone-- if Finger made contact with Moller's noggin, that's why. Armstrong can't exactly check the replay before defending his teammate, so he moved in on Finger based on what he saw transpire. Which is a tad admirable when you consider Armstrong isn't exactly Craig Berube with the fight card.
That said, the whole "fight after a clean hit" thing is getting really, really annoying.
Moller got up and gave Finger a shove before he skated away. Maybe if he was staring at the rafters, flat on his back, then Armstrong moves in for enforcement. But it wasn't an instantly injurious hit, and Armstrong still skated over for whatever that adventure in sleeve-tugging was supposed to resemble.
There's too much talk about whether fighting does or doesn't have "a place in the game," because it does. What needs to be discussed more is whether certain types of fights have a place in the game.
One of the NHL's major campaigns against "the silly stuff" in hockey fighting was to enforce and legislate against brawls that come off as dishonorable and unsportsmanlike; with the instigator, the harsh penalties for fights late in games and the aggressive enforcement against punches thrown after the whistle.
Armstrong's hug-fest is the silliest of silly stuff, and needs to be legislated against before every good hit earns a pointless vengeance. If only there was a rule that added two minutes of extra punishment to a player who skates over to an opponent looking for retribution and instigates a fight in the process ...
... because if there was such an "instigator rule" on the books, why the hell didn't Armstrong get one last night?