There’s no doubt Torrey Mitchell of the Buffalo Sabres is feeling a little badly this morning. Probably not as badly as he did more than six years ago when a reckless play he made almost ended Kurtis Foster’s career and helped inspire the NHL to change its icing rules, but pretty remorseful nonetheless.
If you need any further proof that some hockey players just don’t ever seem to get it, that no number of rules or suspensions will ever get them to change their ways, look no further Torrey Mitchell. Because if anyone should have realized the perils of pushing an opponent from behind into the boards, the way he did to Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Cody Franson in a pre-season game Sunday night, it should be Mitchell.
Have a look for yourself:
Looks an awful lot like the same play he made in March, 2008 on Foster, doesn’t it? Franson, who suffered a knee injury on the play and had to leave the game, at least didn’t suffer the same fate as Foster, who broke his femur on the play. That summer, he needed crutches to walk down the aisle at his wedding and missed most of the next season. Here it is:
If that weren’t enough, during training camp the next season, Mitchell was pushed from behind and sustained his own broken leg, one that kept him out of the San Jose Sharks lineup until the playoffs.
Torrey Mitchell is not a dirty hockey player. He’s an honest, bottom-six forward who has to play a physical, robust game that’s based on a strong forecheck and turning pucks over in the offensive zone. No, he’s not dirty. But he’s reckless. And that’s almost as bad. The play was unfortunate, yes. But it didn't have to happen. And it wouldn't have if Torrey Mitchell had more respect for the game and his opponent.
Any player who fails to realize that it’s dangerous to push another player with momentum into the boards from behind needs to have the privilege of playing hockey taken away from him for a significant amount of time. And that’s what should happen with Mitchell for his hit on Franson. And not one of these NHL namby-pamby suspensions where Mitchell would have to endure the misfortune of missing Buffalo’s two final pre-season games. It’s obvious this young man needs to watch the game for a lengthy period of time so he can realize that playing it recklessly is potentially just as dangerous as playing it dirty.
Players have to be in control of their sticks at all times and the same should apply to their brains and their bodies. That the hit on Franson was either completely missed (almost impossible) or ignored by referees Tim Peel and Darcy Burchell should be as much of a concern as the fact that Mitchell would even think of making a play like that. As for supplemental discipline, your trusty correspondent gave up trying to figure out the league’s rationale on these things long ago. But if newly appointed director of player safety Stephane Quintal wanted to make a strong statement with his first ruling of this season, this is the time for him to do it. (The league must be waiting to find out how badly Franson is injured. It didn’t look good on the replays as Franson’s leg crumpled beneath him before he hit the boards.)
Any player, from a minor hockey just feeling his oats to a player in the NHL, should know better than to make the kind of play Mitchell did. Given his past history on both the giving and receiving ends of this kind of hit, Mitchell should know better than anyone, even in the heat of the moment.
“I’m a role guy,” Mitchell told the Buffalo News last week. “I think I fit into any system just if I use my speed and wreak havoc on the forecheck and create turnovers, have a big role on the penalty kill and be a good, solid two-way forward.”
Nothing in there about making reckless, bordering-on-stupid plays that injure other players. But Torrey Mitchell, it’s patently obvious, simply doesn’t get it. And like a toddler who constantly needs to be reminded what’s acceptable and what’s not, it’s high time for a time-out.