Buffalo Sabres fans, if you watched the game between the Sabres and Los Angeles Kings last night, you probably witnessed the Matt Frattin hit on Cody McCormick that has some of the Buffalo media and bloggers up in arms:
Here’s what Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News had to say about the hit:
I’ll hold my breath waiting 4 Shanahan to call Frattin for hitting McCormick in the head. Stripes didn’t even call anything. #garageleague
— Mike Harrington (@BNHarrington) November 8, 2013
Meanwhile, Garth over at Sabres Buzz was commenting
McCormick was defenseless. Was a blind side hit to head
— SabresBuzz (@SabresBuzz) November 8, 2013
and even wrote this in his blog today:
FYI, the Kings visit the Sabres on Tuesday night. Were I the NHL, I’d sit Frattin for that game. If he skates away from the long arm from the NHL law like a few players have done recently (ie: Seidenberg and Chara), there’s no doubt that the Sabres will be looking for Frattin on Tuesday night. Isn’t that the way it works? Players police the players if the NHL won’t get involved?
Know what I say to all of this? Please.
Hey, Sabres fans – I get it. Some of us feel like the media has it out for the Buffalo Sabres; that John Scott and Patrick Kaleta have become targets of the league and that Gary Bettman and Brendan Shanahan are trying to make examples of the Sabres; that’s it’s just us against the world.
Whatever – I’m not going to get into all of that, because nothing I say or do is going to change how fans feel. I will say, however, that this is much ado about nothing, and only serves to make some people dig in even deeper to the trenches.
Even watching that hit live, at full speed, I was okay with it. First of all, was it a late hit? No. McCormick was still trying to control the puck when he got
plowed. He didn’t pass, or shoot; he simply lost control for a second and made the mistake of putting his head down in an effort to relocate the biscuit.
Second of all, was he actually defenseless? Good lord, no. Look: when you have control of the puck, you can get hit. Does a hockey player in the NHL like McCormick NOT realize this? Of course not. If he wasn’t ready for the hit, it’s because he was so focused on getting the puck back on his stick that he let his guard down. He’ll think twice about that next time.
Finally, was it a head shot? Could be. To me, there is zero intent on the part of Frattin to make contact with the head. He’s coming in to check McCormick from the side, and McCormick winds up leaning forward as he reaches for the puck. If Frattin does make contact with the head, and the league had chosen to suspend him, I would be okay with that – but I’m not hopping mad that he wasn’t penalized, since this is a case of McCormick leaning into the hit and moving his head into the principle area of contact.
And there’s the difference between a hit like this and John Scott’s hit on Loui Eriksson. Eriksson was standing tall when Scott hit him; he was’t falling forward or turning abruptly. Scott lined him up and hit him the head, maybe not with intent to injure, certainly, but with intent to hit him high. Frattin, on the other hand, comes in for a hit, and it’s McCormick who determines where the hit lands. Frattin doesn’t have his hands high, like he was intending to hit the head and follow through; nor does he try to adjust his body at the last second in order to make contact with McCormick’s head; he simply rushes in to make a hit and collides with the Sabres player who was foolish enough to turn away from the hit and go low right before impact.
Bottom line: this was a hard, but clean, hit. I don’t mind that Tyler Myers went after Frattin – it’s good to see Myers getting a bit more physical out there. What I do mind, however, is that people are crying foul over this hit and adding to the negative culture that pervades Buffalo chatter. Missing in a lot of this? The fact that the Sabres actually played a good game last night and wound up losing to a fairly good team with a really great goaltender. The “Ryan Miller got hit by Milan Lucic” hangover needs to go away – it’s over and done with. Right now, the Buffalo Sabres just are not a good hockey team, and whining about not getting the calls because the Sabres don’t win championships or have superstars isn’t going to help the cause. Every professional sports league favors its big money-makers and superstars – it’s a fact of life. Complaining about it won’t exactly endear you to the people you wish paid you more respect.
Being a Buffalo Sabres fan isn’t exactly easy right now, but if we start to look for injustice everywhere, we’ll find it, but at the expense of missing the bright spots. I enjoyed last night’s game and felt pretty good about the young players that I watched, and look forward to seeing them in action again tonight. Hope many of you feel the same way.