On Saturday night, Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller played his first game since being leveled by Milan Lucic three weeks ago. Apparently, Jordin Tootoo wanted to remind Miller why he was out of action for those three weeks in the first place.
As you can see in the video, Tootoo launched himself into the Sabres goalie.
The Sabres' broadcast team from MSG called for a suspension, claiming he made no effort to get out of Miller’s way. While I understand the broadcasters’ bias towards the Sabres, I have to agree with their assessment: The hit was intentional and it was cheap.
“I was driving to the net and I got a little shove from behind. The last thing I wanted to do was to run the goalie over and put my team down. Clearly I tried to jump out of the way; there was no intent to charge at him. That’s all I can say."
Sorry, but I’m not buying it. I can’t imagine the first thought that goes through the mind of a player trying to avoid a collision with the goaltender is to leap over him.
There are several better ways to avoid the goaltender, especially considering the player had already lost the puck in this instance.
Tootoo’s reputation has to be taken into consideration as well.
If you’ve paid attention to the NHL and have even casually followed Tootoo's career, you would know about his rap sheet of questionable on-ice incidents.
While he plays hard and aggressively, Tootoo is also regarded as a dangerous player and as someone who hits to hurt.
Another thing that won’t play into Tootoo’s favour—when NHL disciplinary sheriff Brendan Shanahan decides on whether or not the hit warrants a suspension—is the recent history of Miller being decked by Lucic.
After Lucic ran into Miller, the Sabres were criticised for not doing enough to stand up for their goalie and were consequently labelled a soft team. Clearly they weren’t going to let another incident like that slide again without retribution, as you can see by their mauling of Tootoo.
So perhaps Tootoo thought he could get inside the heads of the Sabres and throw them off their game by leaping into Miller. I’m not suggesting this was premeditated, but I am suggesting that Tootoo saw an opportunity while driving to the net and he took it.
Did it work?
Well, the Sabres won the game, but at the time of the hit they were leading 2-0 and the final score ended up being 3-2. Furthermore, Nashville outshot the Sabres 17-4 in the final period, which came shortly after Tootoo’s hit.
Certainly Shanahan will take this possible motive along with Tootoo’s history into consideration when he makes his decision.
In addition, the NHL has to be concerned that letting Tootoo off the hook could send a message that it’s not a big deal to take out goaltenders.
I’m not going to suggest that it will be open season on goaltenders, as Lindy Ruff emotionally stated after both the Lucic hit and the Tootoo hit, but I do believe it will set a poor precedent when it comes to goalie safety.
The NHL has shown that it’s serious about eliminating head shots from the game. Now it needs to take a serious stance on protecting goaltenders.
While the Tootoo hit certainly wasn’t the dirtiest play we’ve seen recently, the referees felt it was serious enough to warrant a five-minute major penalty for charging and a game misconduct (the Lucic hit only resulted in a two-minute minor).
I’m predicting that Shanahan will take a similar stance and hand down a three-game suspension to Tootoo.