It certainly wasn’t Chris Simon’s most heinous on-ice act of aggression – after all, we’re talking about a guy who has served 35 games worth of suspensions for the following: Two-handing an opponent in the face; cross-checking another in the throat; kneeing; elbowing; cross-checking an opponent and then jumping on him and punching him; and uttering a racial slur towards an African-American opponent.
But what Simon did Saturday night should finally get him expelled from the NHL for good. And if the league doesn’t have the gumption to do it, then the New York Islanders should.
Either of them could compile a very good case for doing so.
Simon will undoubtedly receive the seventh suspension of his career for his latest episode. But you have to give him credit on one front – at least he’s finding novel ways to make an idiot of himself. This time, in a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Simon responded to a fairly innocuous exchange between Jarkko Ruutu of the Penguins and Tim Jackman of the Islanders by effectively slew-footing Ruutu, then stomping on the back of his right skate.
The play may have seemed harmless enough, but what if Simon had gone a little higher and sliced Ruutu’s calf muscle? A 6-foot-4, 235-pound man stomping on flesh with a sharp skate blade, the result could have been devastating, even tragic. Remember, Dan Boyle of the Tampa Bay Lighting needed surgery to repair three severed tendons after a skate fell off a hook in his dressing room stall and onto his left wrist during the pre-season, so it’s not a stretch to suggest Simon’s act had the potential to be far more serious.
The NHL should kick Simon out of the league because, with his seventh suspension on the way, it could easily be argued he has lost the privilege of playing in the best league in the world. And if he hasn’t, the league could just as easily argue that, given his two-handed swing to the face of Ryan Hollweg was mere months ago, Simon is a menace who is creating a dangerous workplace for everyone who has the misfortune of being on the ice when he is.
The NHL should have the cahunas to suspend Simon for the Islanders’ remaining 51 games this season, plus the playoffs if the Islanders qualify. That would almost certainly end Simon’s career – at least in the NHL – once and for all. If NHL Players’ Association executive director Paul Kelly is as concerned with players respecting one another and with being a good partner with the league, then he should look out for the safety of his constituents and stand by the suspension.
The team has given Simon time away to seek assistance, and should simply put an end to this nonsense by sending him to the minors for the rest of the season. Not only does Simon continue to be an embarrassment to the organization, the Islanders could argue his presence in the lineup is counterproductive.
Not only was his match penalty against the Penguins gratuitous and stupid, it also snuffed out any chance the surging Islanders had to come back and tie the score Saturday. Should the Islanders miss the playoffs by one or two points this season, they can point back to that game as one of the reasons why.
In 26 games this season, Simon has averaged seven minutes per game and has totaled one goal and three points. And for a player who is supposed to be as physical as Simon is, the guy has a measly 12 hits, averaging not even one hit for every two games he plays. Simon is second on the Islanders in penalty minutes with 51 (Andy Sutton leads the team with 53). Once a very effective tough guy who could contribute offensively, Simon has degenerated into a fourth-line thug, one who would be easily replaced by a call-up from the farm team.
And the best thing about it is suspending Simon wouldn’t even cost the Islanders much in lost salary. That’s because of his $800,000 stipend for this season, the Islanders have already paid $325,000 as a bonus for Simon playing five games. With 76 of the 187 days of the season already accounted for, the Islanders have to pay Simon just $282,000 for the rest of the season. He’s also eligible for $100,000 in bonuses for scoring 10 and 15 goals, but it’s unlikely Simon would be able to find enough time out from abusing people to be able to score that many.
Chris Simon has become a blight on the NHL and the New York Islanders. And it’s time for one or both of them to get rid of him for good.
Ken Campbell’s Cuts appears Mondays only on The Hockey News.com.
One of THN’s senior writers, Ken Campbell gives you insight and opinion on the world of hockey like no one else. Subscribe to The Hockey News to get Ken’s expertise delivered to you every issue.