Sestito incident points to NHL's lack of jam

 

 
 
 
 
Tom Sestito is as mystified as the rest of us when it comes to understanding the league's reasoning on punishing instigators of fights, which usually happens when someone has done something egregious to lead to a fight. - Getty Images files - Getty Images files
 

Tom Sestito is as mystified as the rest of us when it comes to understanding the league's reasoning on punishing instigators of fights, which usually happens when someone has done something egregious to lead to a fight. - Getty Images files - Getty Images files

Photograph by: Getty Images Files, The Province

You sometimes wonder if the people who run the NHL actually watch the games and pay attention to what goes on.

Take, for example, the Tom Sestito-Jordan Nolan incident in the first period of the Canucks game with the L.A. Kings Monday night, and what ensued.

To review: As he usually does, Nolan took a long run at Henrik Sedin early in the game. Fortunately, the Vancouver captain saw him coming and partially got out of the way of the hit, which easily could have been called a charge if they actually called charging any more.

Sestito decided he'd watched enough of the Kings doing their thing, which is to abuse the Sedins at every turn because it seems to be so effective.

So he decided he wanted to ask Nolan to pay a price for his behaviour.

(Consider also this: The Canucks have very little option but to do this. If anything happens to Henrik, their season is over. They would have absolutely no hope of competing at any level with any consistency without this guy, and many other teams are in the same boat with respect to their best player.) Now, in this case, Nolan chose not to defend himself, which is certainly his right - at which point veteran referee Paul Devorski, who used to have the jam to officiate an emotional game, took the easy way out and threw the book at Sestito, including a game misconduct so he wouldn't have to see him any more.

Think about what the league, through its employee and rule package, did in this instance.

It as much as said to a well-known agitator: "Go ahead and run at the best players in the league. If somebody asks you to fight because of this, we will not only defend you, we will actually give you extra motivation to go out and do it again. We will reward your team for your behaviour - in this case with a seven-minute power play - and downright encourage you to run at the top player in your next game to see if you can achieve the same outcome, whether that happens to be Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin or whoever."

And they wonder why, on any given day midway through the season, legions of the league's best players are sitting out injured? Does it ever occur to these people in New York that if they let Sestito in this case confront Nolan for running at the team's best player, he might decide it's not really a great idea? If every time he did this somebody was going to be in his face, perhaps he might stop.

And if that happened, perhaps the Kings might figure this position on their roster should go to somebody with a little more skill.

If they took out the instigator penalty, and exactly the same situation came about again, Devorski could still give Sestito a major and Nolan nothing if they thought it was appropriate.

They could still throw Sestito out of the game if the referee wanted to take the gutless way out as Devorski did in this one. But at least Vancouver would have been spared the extra two minutes, and in most cases the person being asked to pay the piper would defend himself.

If it turned out to be a mismatch as this one was, the linesmen would jump in, everyone would be even, Nolan somewhat chastised and the game would be policed by the players, creating a much safer environment for everyone but Nolan.

It's a mystery to many of us oldtimers why the league wouldn't at least try going back to the no-instigator rule for a year or two, just to see if it helps reduce the number of hideous collisions that now occur almost every night. They have absolutely nothing to lose.

There might be an increase in fighting to begin with, but there might be a whole lot fewer hits involving the top players in the game.

It will never happen, of course. The league doesn't have the jam to make the announcement that they are dropping the instigator penalty. And it's been in so long now, most of the players can't remember how it used to be, and even they favour the status quo.

But it's their candy store. They can run it as they see fit.

tgallagher@theprovince.com twitter.com/tg_gman

 
 
 
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Tom Sestito is as mystified as the rest of us when it comes to understanding the league's reasoning on punishing instigators of fights, which usually happens when someone has done something egregious to lead to a fight. - Getty Images files - Getty Images files
 

Tom Sestito is as mystified as the rest of us when it comes to understanding the league's reasoning on punishing instigators of fights, which usually happens when someone has done something egregious to lead to a fight. - Getty Images files - Getty Images files

Photograph by: Getty Images Files, The Province

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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