Stoney Point - September 23, 2013 - Randy Carlyle is to blame for the Gong Show that took place at the Air Canada Centre last night in the pre-season game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres. With ten minutes left in the game a line brawl broke out that will likely result in the suspensions of both Phil Kessel and David Clarkson.
The Sabres were unhappy that Jamie Devane of the Leafs pounded Corey Tropp in the third period. Tropp was left bloodied on the ice after the fight and had to leave the game. Both coaches had a different view of the Devane-Tropp battle:
"That guy's a big guy, six foot five," said Sabres head coach Ron Rolston. "And (Tropp's) a smaller guy but certainly a battler. So guys weren't happy about it."
"(Tropp) was the guy who instigated the fight," said Leafs coach Carlyle when asked about the fight.
On the shift immediately following this fight, Rolston puts out John Scott, 6’8”, 270 pound tough guy. This follows an episode when Scott went over and was chatting to the Leafs bench. It is not uncommon for the team to throw out their tough guys after one of their own gets knocked out.
Carlyle, who is no stranger to this sort of game - counters with the Kessel line. It’s not like the Leafs have a shortage of “truculence” on the bench. Media reports suggest that the Leafs coach sent out his top scorer in an attempt to defuse the situation. Really?
Scott made his intentions very clear as to what he had in mind.
"It was pretty stupid, right? He said he was going to jump me," Kessel said. "What are you going to do? He's a big boy so if he's coming after me, what are you going to do?"
The veteran coach left his superstar on the ice to defend for himself. Kessel was issued a match penalty for swinging his stick, which means an automatic suspension pending a ruling from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.
Seeing the team’s top scorer getting jumped buy a guy eight inches taller, was too much for Buds newcomer Clarkson - as he jumped the boards to come to Kessel’s aid. Clarkson likely was scratching his head when he saw Carlyle match Kessel up with big Scott.
It is expected that Clarkson could get 10 games for coming off the bench. Clearly, Clarkson should have shown better restraint - but good for him for standing up for his teammate. Sadly, Carlyle was quick to throw Clarkson under the bus after the game.
"We're not proud or happy that went on, that's for sure," said Carlyle. "I think Dave Clarkson made a mistake and now we'll pay for it."
I think Randy Carlyle made a mistake and now the Leafs will be without two of their better players.
The Sabres and the Maple Leafs next meet on November 16th when Buffalo comes back to the ACC. I would expect that the Leafs will have Colton Orr, Mark Fraser, Frazer McLaren, Dion Phaneuf and Clarkson dressed for that game.