Monday, December 17, 2007

Sorry Won't Cut It

Update: Charles Wang did the right thing in taking action with Chris Simon before the league, and by being the mouthpiece for the organization. As a heavily involved owner, it was only right for Wang himself to address the status of Simon rather than drop the obligation in the lap of Garth Snow, or worse, Ted Nolan. Snow and Nolan will undoubtedly have to field questions on the matter, but they will do so with the official position of the organization clearly defined.

As for the content of the statement, I'm sure it will anger many NHL fans, as well as Islander fans, that the team didn't immediately sever its ties with Simon. Contract and CBA issues aside, it's apparent that the organization views Simon not as a threat to its integrity but as a troubled member of the family. It is not a sin to be loyal and supportive of someone in need. However, if Simon's acts of unbridled aggression on the ice are symptoms of problems that require counseling, then he should enter counseling with the goal of preparing himself to live a productive life beyond that of a hockey player. That life may be right around the corner, pending the league's involvement.

The Islanders should not saddle themselves with expectations of when Simon will be ready to return and how he will fit back into the team's picture. You can only apologize and say "there's no excuse" so many times. The team needs to move on and address its on-ice goals without such distractions. There are jobs to be won and roles to be established. From this moment on, the Islanders and Chris Simon are fighting very different battles.


The severity of Chris Simon’s punishment depends on neither the force of the blow nor the extent of the injury it caused. Simon has demonstrated once again that he has no regard for the well being of another human, even if that human is a hockey player of questionable ilk like Jarko Ruutu. Whereas another player would have dismissed Ruutu with a shove, a face wash, or even an invitation to engage in legitimate combat, Simon chose to expose his adversary’s flesh to the forceful delivery of a sharp blade.

It does not matter that the target of the blow was protected by a sturdy skate boot. The act was heinously irresponsible and within in an inch or two of causing a catastrophic injury. The NHL cannot tolerate such a degree of callousness.

Maybe in Simon’s mind there is a difference between Ruutu and other players. Maybe Simon believes that players like Ruutu and Ryan Hollweg are so low that brutalization and mutilation are somehow justified. If this were an isolated incident, we would be searching for an explanation. What did Ruutu do to incite Simon’s wrath? Wasn’t Simon just being a good teammate, protecting his boys? But the act is indefensible and so is the body of work.

Following the game, one could sense the hesitancy to react among the players in the locker room. Certainly, they were unclear about exactly what had transpired. Additionally, they appeared to disbelieve that this had happened again—a selfish act that compromised their ability to win a game, and would put them in the awkward position of having to explain the detrimental actions of a teammate. It’s tough to put your teammates through that once. To make them do it twice in less than a year leaves little room for recovery. How fast will they be lining up for the next round of apologies?

It's almost painful to think about how Ted Nolan must feel in this situation. He must know that no one wants to hear an unqualified statement of support for Simon. But given their well-documented personal relationship, one has to expect that Nolan will express some sort of concern for his once-troubled protege. It is sure to be a delicate balancing act. You wonder where the middle ground is among understanding, imposition, and a sense of betrayal.

Time permitting, I'll have some notes from the game itself later today. Islander Frontier has an excellent piece on the Simon story that is well worth reading regardless of your perspective.

1 comment:

BuckSAC said...

Well reasoned. Thanks for the perspective.