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Shea-ved Ice: Media Scrutiny Of Orpik Vastly Misguided

By: Casey Shea
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(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)

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It took about a week, but the NHL finally handed down its disciplinary action against Boston Bruins’ tough guy Shawn Thornton.

The Bruins will be without Thornton’s services for 15 games for an assault on Brooks Orpik during the first period of their game on Dec. 7.

As a result of the suspension, Thornton will miss out on $84,615.45 of his salary.

My initial reaction to the suspension was shock that it was actually somewhere in the ballpark of appropriate. However, I still don’t think it was long enough. Personally, I would have preferred to see the suspension in the 20-25 game realm, but I’m glad it wasn’t less than 10.

There is probably an appeal coming based on statements made by the Bruins and Thornton on Saturday. If the suspension gets reduced, the Department of Player Safety will have even less credibility than it already does.

For the Boston fans that end up seeing this article, I also think James Neal got off easy for kneeing Brad Marchand in the face. He’s lucky that was only a five-game suspension.

Anyway, I’m having a real hard time fathoming how members of the Boston media are placing blame on Orpik in this ordeal.

Orpik’s hit on Loui Eriksson was not borderline dirty.

At the very most you could make a small case the hit might have been interference. However, slow-motion replays appear to show Eriksson may have gotten a piece of the puck prior to the hit.

As for the hit itself, it doesn’t get any harder or cleaner. Period.

Earlier this week, I voiced my displeasure with the new culture in the NHL of having to defend oneself for clean hits. Judging by reports out of Boston, they don’t feel the same way.

There have been several reports this week claiming Orpik should have just fought Thornton the first time he was confronted and then this wouldn’t have happened.

One such person to make the claim was NESN’s own color guy Andy Brickley.

During an interview with WEEI, Brickley stated, “…Because if you’re not going to handle it the way the Bruins feel it should be handled, then people were going to start crossing lines and the game was going to get ugly. You knew it was going to happen, and I think that’s where it started to break down.”

He goes on to say Orpik is a good player, but then is sure to point out the other guys he has injured in his career.

I have a big problem with the first part of that statement. So, because Orpik declined to appease the Bruins for how they feel he should have to atone for the grievous mistake of executing a clean body check, he got what was coming to him?

To Brickley’s credit, he does start off by saying Thornton crossed a line, so there’s that.

Again, why does he have to fight in the first place? He’s not a fighter to begin with and only has 10 regular season fights to his credit, according to HockeyFights.com.

By comparison, Thornton’s fight card is a mile long.

Let’s assume for a minute that Orpik did drop the gloves against the more experienced Thornton.

Let’s also assume the fight goes how you might expect. I mean no disrespect to Orpik, this is just to make a point.

Would one potential outcome of the fight not be a concussion for Orpik?

Given what transpired, Thornton was clearly determined to have his fists meet Orpik’s face in some fashion during the contest.

Anyway, did the media stop there?

Nope.

Perhaps the most incredible piece to be printed this week was the conspiracy theory that Orpik was faking the concussion so Thornton would get a stiffer suspension.

While the Boston Herald article does not specifically claim this as fact, the following line is rather incredulous:

“Many are also questioning how Orpik was so grievously injured on the short little jabs Thornton threw. And there is a suspicion, among many, that Orpik will make a very quick recovery and return to the ice as soon as the suspension is announced.”

First of all, who are the “many” expecting Orpik to get back on the ice tomorrow now that the suspension has been handed out? Do they all happen to reside in Boston or cheer for the Bruins?

According to the Penguins, Orpik has only done some light workouts and isn’t close to returning. But, I’m sure that’s all part of the conspiracy theory right?

More importantly, with all the injuries the Penguins have endured, do you really think they’d fake an injury to another defenseman so a plug like Thornton sits for a couple of more games?

In what bizarre scenario is this even plausible?

Better yet, why does it even matter if Orpik was hurt on the play? The fact the Department of Player Safety considers the severity of an injury is asinine, especially in this case.

Even if Orpik has escaped relatively unscathed in this ordeal, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Thornton carried out a premeditated attack.

What happened to the days of taking down the number of the guy who hit you and getting back at him later by returning the favor within the rules?

Hockey is a contact sport. If you don’t want to be hit or are going to throw a temper tantrum after every clean hit, don’t play the game.

Again, I understand the concept of sticking up for teammates. But, when it’s a clean hit, you have to play on.

The Penguins are just as guilty as any other team in this regard. It’s a problem league-wide that needs to be addressed.

At any rate, this story now shifts to the recoveries of both Eriksson and Orpik.

Hopefully, both will return to the ice quickly and we can all move on from the latest black eye on the NHL.

You can follow me on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sheavedice

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