John Ferguson is entering his fourth season as general manager of the Maple Leafs. Ferguson became the 12th person in team history to hold the role when he was introduced August 29, 2003.
I’ve been asked a lot about the hit on Tomas Kaberle and the three-game suspension the NHL handed to Cam Janssen.
On the one hand, I understand the league has a very tough job.
We’ve been successful in eliminating many of the stick fouls that we had been seeing.
We’ve created a system that creates more contact. There’s contact on the forecheck, there’s contact on the backcheck and deep in the defensive zone.
What we’ve done is create more hitting zones.
The league has a balancing act. We want to keep the physicality and speed of the game but obviously, we also want to deter illegal hits.
The players know what’s illegal. If Cam Janssen was talking with you and he was being honest, he would tell you his hit on Tomas was a late.
I still believe in a player finishing his check. That means the gap between hitting a player the moment he is free of the puck and an illegal hit that comes just a short time later can be difficult to gauge.
A hit that comes late may be hard to define, but when you see it, you know what it is and we saw it with the Janssen hit on Kaberle.
That brings us to the appropriate penalty and that’s not easy either.
The league asks for an injury assessment the day after. Because we don’t know when Tomas will be back, this was maybe a case where we could say the suspension should be tied to the length of recovery from the injury.
I’ve heard it suggested from people outside the game that the best remedy would come with a system where the team whose player illegally injures an opposing player has to put the injured player’s salary toward their own salary cap. That would certainly provide managers with a financial incentive.
Another suggestion is for a zero tolerance of players finishing their checks but that might result in players trying to suck in other players by getting rid of the puck just before contact.
There’s going to be a lot of conversation on this issue. I don’t know why this incident can’t be a departure point for finding a better way of getting these hits out of the game.