He damn well shouldn't be. That is for sure. I cannot even believe what I saw last night. A fourth line plug, who isn't even really good enough to be called a plug, cross checks a skilled player in the face. Ryan Kesler did not see it coming, there was no reason for it (Boulerice says that Kesler took a run at Randy Jones...ya...ok...), he didn't have the puck, and he is just lucky to have a jaw that is in one piece.
This is a play that in my mind is enough to get Boulerice punted for the season...at least the season. The fact is this has got to stop. We saw Downie, we saw Simon last year, Bertuzzi wasn't too long ago...plays like this need to be taken out of hockey, permanently. No if's, and's or but's. The guys who commit these infractions need to be taken out of the game. For me 20 games just doesn't cut it. The play that we saw last night in my opinion is worse than the other three I mentioned. It was worse than McSorely, Bertuzzi, Simon, Downie, Perezhogin a while back, I for one cannot think of a play I think was worse.
The differences for me between this play and the ones I just mentioned are pretty straight forward;
- McSorely was going after another tough guy (Brashear), he took no backswing on his slash, he was definitely not TRYING to take his head off, unfortunately for Marty he has terrible aim.
- The Bertuzzi play was awful in the fact that it was pre-meditated, he was following Steve Moore all over the ice, but again, he was not trying to break his neck, he was trying to punch him in the head (no stick - fighting is allowed).
- Simon was close to as bad, but it was fairly reactionary, Hollweg had just run him into the boards and human instinct went a little overboard.
- Perezhogin absolutely tried to slash that guy (I don't remember his name) but the thing is he was just knocked down, and the guy was behind him - he had no idea that the guy was on his knees when he spun around.
- And lastly, Downie, at least tried to get his revenge by using a body check (and McCammond had just dished the puck off), he just needs to be a little more careful, it was not an intentional head shot, just an intentional huge hit.
So that brings us back to Boulerice. What was his intent on the play, because that plays a huge part in the suspension process, what was he trying to do? Well, when he sees a guy coming around from behind the net, and he goes after him with his stick, directly to the face, it is pretty clear what his intention was. He wanted to cross check him in the face, that doesnt happen by accident with a cross check, not when it is on a guy he had targeted in Kesler. So if Downie gets 20 for a similar type situation but using a body check, what does Boulerice get for the same thing but using a cross check, and targeting the head? I would say take the 20, add another 10 for using the stick in that manner, and then another at least 10 for targeting the head. The fact that is is on a guy like Kesler rather than another enforcer could add even more. So in my opinion he is looking at a MINIMUM of 40 games.
However, I believe it should be more than that, because prior to that point in the game, (when the Flyers were winning 7-2 no less) Boulerice had played 4:04 in that game. He has 10 points in 167 career games. He is not a good hockey player. He is most definitely not an NHL calibre hockey player. He is a big tough guy who just so happens to be able to skate. He is lucky to still be in the league, and he comes out in the second game of the season and does that? To me, forget suspension, just rip up his contract, he has no place in the game.
But before anyone rips my head off, I know that there are those who will say that Boulerice has a place in the game, as an enforcer. And I agree, enforcers have a place in the game, but their job is to be done with bodychecks and fisticuffs, not blatant cross checks to the face. Why Boulerice didn't just take Kesler into the boards, or challenge another Canucks player to a fight is beyond me. What was going through his head?
Pretty obvious to me: Air. Get him the hell out of here. And let the rest of the league know what awaits them if they don't use their brains. I sincerely hope that it doesn't take a Crosby or Ovechkin to be laying on the ice with no teeth for the NHL to wake up, and do what is right for the game.
Oh and by the way, in 1997-98 Boulerice was suspended for the entire season + playoffs by the OHL for swinging his stick like a baseball bat at the face of another player. He also pleaded no contest on charges of aggravated assault. How long after this one until he does it again?