First and foremost, this isn’t going to be an article complaining about how Kaleta was suspended. He deserved the suspension, to a degree. I’m also going to look at Kaleta’s roll with the Sabres, because despite arguments, I wouldn’t want to see him on another team.
We all saw what happened, and I don’t think anyone denies that Kaleta was going to be suspended. It was a pretty vicious hit. However, several factors contributed to this. Richards’ body posture was off balance. He was leaning in towards the boards, and his momentum was heading straight towards them. The distance from the boards also played into this as well. Kaleta shouldn’t have pushed him, but several other players in this league would make this play as well. Kaleta gets hammered for 5 games because of his past history.
My concern isn’t that it was a dirty hit. Like I said, Kaleta deserved a suspension and shouldn’t have pushed off. My concern is that there are several other hits that take place all over the whole league, that don’t get any attention what so ever. There’s no line that players can draw to identify what is suspension worthy and what isn’t.
If the NHL wants to eliminate hits like this, they need to clearly define what constitutes a suspension in the NHL. There’s so many situations where someone can look at 2 hits, that are extremely similar, 1 warrants a suspension, the other warrants absolutely nothing. There are some pretty severe hits that the league says are “legal” that clearly shouldn’t be. For example, I’m not a fan of the player putting himself in a “vulnerable position” and in turn, not being a play that warrants a suspension. Let’s be honest, in those “bang bang” plays, it’s an instinctual reaction to turn away. Some of those hits are worse than the Kaleta hit on Richards.
I guess what I’m getting at is that the NHL and Brendan Shanahan need to sit down in the off season and really clarify actions that warrant a suspension instead of just making it up as they good.
Again, not saying that Kaleta didn’t deserve a suspension for this. He shouldn’t have pushed him, no matter how weak of a push it looked like.
As for the value of Kaleta and hearing a lot of people complaining about him, I really encourage you to look at his style of play. He’s not going to be one of those players who really gets a lot of goals. He’s a defensive forward and a good penalty killer. Most importantly, he’s good a delivering hard hits, forcing opponents to look over their shoulders when he’s on the ice.
I personally would like to see him on the ice against some more of the top players for opposing teams. That alone can swing the momentum of a game.
For example, I attended a game in Buffalo vs Carolina several years ago. Kaleta was still a young player in the NHL, and his popularity was starting to build. Eric Staal came onto the ice fairly early in the game, and Kaleta stepped into him with a good clean bodycheck. For the rest of the game, Staal was looking over his shoulder, and made several bad plays which lead to Sabres goals. Buffalo dominated the game, and Kaleta effectively eliminated Staal from the game.
I also like that Kaleta (generally) delivers good clean body checks that irritate opponents. He also is very good at not retaliating and giving the Sabres a chance with the man advantage. Now, how the Sabres power play is currently, that isn’t really a plus, but it can be down the road once the team finds a way to score on the power play. He plays pretty smart hockey, for the most part.
I know that Kaleta isn’t really a fan favorite in other cities and he does get suspended. However, I’ll take that. He’s one of those players who contributes in ways other than on the scoresheet. While he does sometimes do things that frustrate myself and the fans of Buffalo, he’s a solid hockey player. I view Patrick Kaleta as a certain type of player;
Patrick Kaleta is the type of player one wants on their team, and the type of player that you don’t want to play against.
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