If you had been a fly on the wall during Alexandre Burrows’ telephone hearing with the Department of Player Safety Wednesday, that siren you would have heard would have been the NHL’s B.S. detector going into overdrive. When it suspended Burrows 10 games for his nonsense on Taylor Hall, the league was basically calling Burrows on his excuse – which was right up there with “the dog ate my homework” – and good for it in doing so.
It’s fun to actually parse the language that DOPS director George Parros uses in these suspension videos. When presenting the player’s side of things, he is often known to say something like, “While we accept Player A’s explanation…” With the Burrows suspension, you can tell that Parros is not even coming close to buying what Burrows is selling.
“We heard Burrows’ argument that the knees he delivered to Hall’s head resulted from his attempt to free his arm from a compromising position,” Parros said in the league’s video explaining the suspension. “We do not agree with his interpretation (Translation: “Seriously? Are you kidding me?”), nor would we excuse repeated knees to the head under those circumstances.” (Translation: “We here at DOPS did not just fall off a turnip truck.”)
Parros also observed that Burrows, “Frustrated from receiving a legal bodycheck, he repeatedly attempts to engage Hall…” What Parros could have very well said, “Frustrated that he’s playing on the fourth line and could very well be bought out by a team that has spectacularly flamed out this season, he repeatedly attempts to engage Hall…”
In any event, there’s no place for this kind of nonsense in the game, but somehow it occasionally finds its way. Must have something to do with the fact that hockey is so “emotional” as Senators coach Guy Boucher was saying Wednesday afternoon. (Of course we all know that hockey is far more emotional than any other sport and that’s why these outbursts are a lot more accepted.) When you watch the video, it’s not a stretch to suggest that altercation between Burrows and Hall – in which Burrows essentially jumps Hall, drags him to the ice and repeatedly punches him in the back of the head before resorting to kneeing him a couple of times for good measure – is just one disastrous turn away from being a Todd Bertuzzi-type of incident. For that reason, along with the fact that Burrows was identified as the “aggressor on this play at all times,” and his checkered history with discipline, he was given 10 games.
In a strange coincidence, the Burrows suspension came down the same day Brad Marchand returned from his five-game suspension for elbowing Marcus Johansson – also of the Devils – in the head. It was interesting to hear Marchand talk about how difficult it has been for him to escape his reputation. But Marchand actually sounded a little contrite, finally acknowledging what everyone else in the hockey world already knows – that he brings these things on himself. He talked about being better, making strides and how much he wants to work on it.
The proof will be in how Marchand conducts himself going forward. Has he finally learned from this? He’s saying all the right things, but you still get the sense that Marchand is like that little terror in school who looks down and shuffles his feet when he’s getting reprimanded and plans to never do it again, but goes out and does exactly the same thing the next time nobody’s looking. The only way Marchand will be able to rid himself of that reputation is to prove to the world that he has indeed learned from this latest sentence. Until then, the hockey world will remain skeptical.
Will Burrows learn from watching the next 10 games and forfeiting more than $134,000 in salary? Again, the hockey world will be skeptical. But when it comes right down to it, it actually probably doesn’t matter that much, since Burrows is clearly a fading player whose role will be even more diminished next season, if he has one at all. What the league was likely doing was telling all the future Alexandre Burrows that this kind of behavior is not acceptable.
And if the Department of Player Safety succeeds in doing that, then it will have done its job well.