The suspension given Tuesday to Sabres enforcer Patrick Kaleta is the longest of his career, but it’s still not close to enough for one of the game’s worst repeat offenders.
There were no pained cries of injustice after the announcement of a 10-game suspension handed down to Patrick Kaleta late Tuesday afternoon because the book on the Sabres agitator is open and not for the faint of heart. He is one of the league’s most hated players and may or may not get the message with the longest suspension of his career.
Is it enough? Not for me. When, as NHL chief disciplinarian Brendan Shanahan noted in rendering his verdict, we’re talking about a player who’s been fined or suspended six times in the past four seasons – most recently, when he boarded Rangers center Brad Richards and was suspended five games in the 2012-13 campaign. Kaleta clearly hasn’t arrived at a career crossroads the way fellow agitator Matt Cooke has. But as always, I don’t blame Shanahan personally; he is working within a collective bargaining agreement framework and although I’d love to see him throw the book at a serial offender like Kaleta, league owners and the NHLPA have ensured it’s more of a pamphlet.
The only way – the only way – you communicate with players is by hitting them in the pocketbook. Ask Blue Jackets defenseman James Wisniewski, who was levelled by Shanahan early in the latter’s tenure with the league with an eight-game suspension for elbowing the head of then-Wild winger Cal Clutterbuck.
Wisniewski had to fork over $536,585.36 for his transgression and hasn’t raised his elbows near his shoulders ever since. Kaleta will lose $152,439 of his salary – nothing to sneeze at, but it somehow seems wrong that a multi-time offender doesn’t have to pay as much as a relative angel such as Wisniewski.
But that’s the NHL for you. If they wanted guys like Kaleta out of the league, he’d be gone. Instead, for better or worse, the people in charge are good with giving him repeated chances.
Sooner or later, that’s going to result in an player injured more severely than those who have been left in Kaleta’s wake so far.