Dave Cameron is a rookie NHL coach, and we all know — rookies make mistakes.
The mistake Dave Cameron made in the post-game presser following the first game of the post-season, though, was a whopper.
The league was already worked up over what can only be described as this post-season’s equivalent to all the nut-related controversy of last spring. Remember that? First, Chicago Blackhawks head coach John Quenneville got fined $25,000 for his unseemly gesture right out of the playoff gate — then Milan Lucic followed up about, oh, 24 hours later with a $5,000 fine assessed to the forward for spearing Detroit Red Wings defenseman Danny DeKeyser in…. well.
This year, the outrage was over a slashing incident. Montreal Canadiens blue liner P.K. Subban, in what can only be described as a moment of irrational mind-melt on Subban’s part, took a baseball swing at Ottawa Senators forward Mark Stone. He cracked Stone across the hand, breaking his wrist and earning himself a five minute major and game misconduct.
When Subban first delivered the slash, it was pretty blatant. There are miscalled penalties when a player is going for the puck and gets tangled up, but this was about as textbook as it gets — what riled everyone up was whether Stone (who left the game, then came back, played limited minutes, and finally got in a fight) was actually hurt and if the hit warranted suspension.
Turns out, the league wasn’t handing out supplemental anything for the hit. Chances are, the game misconduct — which cost Subban half the game and the Montreal Canadiens two goals against on the ensuing penalty kill — were deemed enough for the hit. It wasn’t clean and it wasn’t negligent, but it also wasn’t a blindside hit or to a vital part of Stone’s body. There’s no head contact, it’s not a tomahawk chop to the neck (like the one that earned Dustin Byfuglien a four game suspension leading up to the playoffs), and — while the Senators have confirmed that Stone has a fracture in his wrist — it’s not a career-ending hit. Play was still in motion, both skaters were actively involved in the sequence on the ice… apart from the complete and utter lack of necessity behind the intentional blow, there’s little about the slash that the league could review and say ‘this warrants extra time off the ice’. The Senators aren’t being called cheaters anymore, and the Montreal Canadiens almost lost the game on one own goal and two power-play goals from Subban’s game misconduct. Justice has been served.
Cameron, though, was a bit… well, furious after the game.
Emotions always run high in the playoffs — St. Louis Blues center David Backes has already declared war on the Minnesota Wild, and the two teams have yet to take the ice for game one — but there’s always one series that sees absolute pandemonium. This season, it’s looking pretty likely that this is it.
When Dave Cameron issues his thinly veiled threat to the league — essentially suggesting that Subban be suspended, or one of Montreal’s stars might be the next victim of a giant hack — he not only put himself at risk of being issued a $25,000 fine by the NHL Department of Player Safety, he provided motive for any questionable hits made by a Senators skater from here on out. If Jared Cowen loses his composure and delivers one of his signature ‘wait, is he allowed to do that??‘ hits, fingers will be pointed at Cameron. If Chris Neil does anything to anyone on the Montreal Canadiens — especially considering the overabundance of players under 5 foot 10 on the Canadiens roster — the outrage will pick back up. Even if a double minor gets called for a poor play, the idea has already been planted — Dave Cameron wanted a suspension, or he wanted retribution.
The Senators ultimately may get overpowered by Montreal by the end of the series — although Carey Price looked human to start the game, Andrew Hammond did too — and tensions are sure to continue running higher as the series progresses. Dave Cameron may have been a pretty spectacular coach so far, but this was his big mistake — and it could, all things considered, cost his team more than the slash did to start.