Say what you will about Patrick Kaleta – please keep in mind we try and keep it PG-13 ‘round these parts – but the guy is passionate. He wants to play, wants to contribute to the Buffalo Sabres with his unique brand of, uh, contribution.
Sunday night's game against the Washington Capitals marked the first day Kaleta was eligible to return to the Sabres after his 5-game suspension, handed out for a hit on Brad Richards of the New York Rangers.
But he won’t return – he’s a healthy scratch for Buffalo, and he’s rather unhappy about it.
"I'm pissed off. I want to play," Kaleta said. "And especially after watching some things, sitting there watching the game, I want to play. ... I guess they don't need me right now I guess. I've been pissed off watching for the past couple weeks. No matter if you're a fan, a player, you guys know what's going on. You should be pissed off. You should play with a little piss and vinegar. You shouldn't be happy. We're not in position we want to be in. We have to work harder, come in and do something about it."
Kaleta’s a tempo-setting player for a team that could use a jolt now and again; frankly, he’s also someone that has infuriated the Capitals on occasion, too. So why sit him?
He sits because, ironically, interim head coach Ron Rolston wants Kaleta in the lineup, too. Only he didn’t have access to him for five games, and it appears the Sabres coach has decided to tack on some extra punishment for that self-inflicted absence.
Rolston said, "He understands what just happened and the way he's got to play. But again, we want to balance the way he plays and not take that away from him either because that's what makes him a valuable hockey player in the league.
"On the other hand, it's a situation where he understands that sitting out five games for him wasn't a good thing and it wasn't a good thing for our team. We have to make adjustments and he has to make adjustments going forward."
Wow. Meet the new boss, not endorsing the tactics of the old boss.
We imagine NHL fans and pundits will be building rhetorical monuments in Rolston’s honor, as he's a coach apparently willing to go beyond the NHL’s supplemental discipline to hand out a bit more of his own.
For those of us who feel teams don’t suffer enough consequence for the actions of their players – fining coaches for massive suspensions, for example – it’s refreshing to see a team take responsibility for the unconstructive actions of one of its players.
Kaleta signed a 3-year deal that started this season, through 2015.
We’re still wagering he lasts longer than Rolston in Buffalo.