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Leafs' Keefe should also be called on carpet
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Leafs' Keefe should also be called on carpet

Good morning, folks.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend. It was certainly a good one for those of you who are fans of the local CFL and NHL teams.

You might say there was a lot of winning moves in Winnipeg on the weekend.

Unfortunately, there was also at least one losing one, as well.

While the NHL’s Department of Player Safety announced Monday that it was looking into the knee-on-knee hit by Jets defenceman Neil Pionk on Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman Rasmus Sandin and the retaliatory knee-to-the-head hit Toronto veteran centre Jason Spezza delivered to Pionk, Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe should also be called on the carpet by Sheriff George Parros.

With less than a minute left to play in Sunday night’s game between the Jets and Leafs, Keefe sent Wayne Simmonds over the boards. Trailing 6-3 in the game, the Toronto winger was on the ice for one reason only and his head-hunting mission led him to Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey. Seriously? Was it '70s Night at the downtown shinny rink?

The Jets also had Logan Stanley on the ice — probably to keep an eye on Simmonds — and the big Winnipeg rearguard came to his teammate’s rescue and managed to help subdue Simmonds. So the game ended — thankfully — without further incident.

Listen, I don’t agree with the hockey code that someone had to pay for Pionk’s hit on Sandin, but I accept it’s kinda "part of the game."

One of our guys has been carted off and we need to exact revenge. (*roll eyes*)

In his post-game availability, Keefe admitted the Pionk hit triggered the third-period shenanigans. He said he thought the hit should have been a major penalty and he also thought Jets centre Pierre-Luc Dubois should have received an extra minor for his manhandling of his star sniper, Auston Matthews. And so…

"You make the decision there as a coach… we needed to have some sort of response of some nature," Keefe said.

Sheldon Keefe

Down 5-3 in the game, a goal would have been a good “response” by the Leafs — but instead, we got Simmonds: Part 1.

The one-time decent goal scorer, who now looks to be playing the thug role, cross-checked Jets winger Janson Harkins while lined up for a face-of. That move and some antics on his way to the sin bin earned Simmonds a minor penalty and a 10-minute misconduct. The Jets scored on the resulting man advantage to increase their lead to 6-3.

Now, there’s a good “response."

It could have, but it didn’t, end there.

A few minutes later, Jets rearguard Brendan Dillon was compelled to scrap with another Leafs thug, Kyle Clifford.

Again, that could have — should have — been the end of it.

Listen, when I was a young and didn’t know better, I loved a hockey brawl as much as anyone. Terry O’Reilly exchanging punches with Bob Nystrom or Mel Bridgman was as good as it got. I like to think I’ve evolved since then, but more importantly it’s what we’ve learned about these blows to the head. We have learned that, right?

During his post-game interviews, Matthews said: "It wasn’t really hockey out there in the third period, it was just a bit of a gong show."

Yep.

But, here’s the thing: there is plenty to not like about players not having regard for one another’s safety, but if the league allows guys behind the benches to blatantly take the law into their own hands and encourage vigilanteism, then they shouldn’t expect anything different from the boys on the ice.

Simmonds was fined on Monday for his cross-check.

Pionk had a phone hearing, and was then suspended two games for the hit.

Spezza has been offerred an in-person hearing, which usually means a suspension of five games or more.

But it’s only by penalizing the instigator and one supposedly in charge — in this case, Keefe — that anything will change.

As always, you can reach me by replying to this mailing or by sending me an email here.

P.S.: Funniest thing I read Monday... BREAKING NEWS: Nazem Kadri suspended three games for Pionk hit on Sandin.

Have a great week, folks.

Our Coverage

5 Takeaways: Taylor Allen has a look back at the Blue Bombers victory over the Saskatchewan Roughriders in Sunday's West Final;

• Got grit: Jason Bell has a story on how the Jets didn’t just outscore the Leafs — they refused to be pushed around and toughness by committee remains the mantra;

Building bridges: And Mike Sawatzky has a yarn on how Athletics Manitoba is bringing track and field to the inner-city students with a free 10-week program that offers an extra indoor option for fun and exercise.

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