Hawks struggle with reaction to Carcillo hit

CHICAGO -- Two days after the incident, several veteran Chicago Blackhawks finally had an opinion on the controversial hit forward Daniel Carcillo laid on Edmonton’s Tom Gilbert as both chased the puck in the Oilers' zone in Monday’s 4-3 victory by Edmonton.

Carcillo sent Gilbert flying into the end boards and was kicked out of the game for the major boarding infraction. The NHL announced on Wednesday that he has been suspended seven games.

“I want to say the Edmonton guy kind of initiated contact by kind of stopping,” defenseman Sean O’Donnell said Wednesday after practice. “It was unfortunate he was right in that area, right by the boards. I think he kind of tried to do a reverse hit, and I don’t know if he lost his balance or Danny was coming with more speed. He went in [to the board] pretty awkwardly. I think it was a hockey play. I don’t think it was that bad.”

O’Donnell has been around a long time, which is good and bad. He knows a dirty hit when he sees it, but he also has been conditioned to be a good teammate. But is he being a good teammate by somewhat absolving Carcillo? If players talk about policing themselves -- and they have -- it has to start in their own locker rooms.

It was evident captain Jonathan Toews was uncomfortable with trying to defend Carcillo while also trying not to condone the illegal hit.

“It’s tough to tell because you know the guy,” Toews said. “He’s your friend, he’s your teammate. It is a dangerous spot, and we’ve been talking about suspensions and head shots and different places that we have to be careful. Obviously, he has a bit of a reputation so that may play into it, but again, you stand behind him. He’s a physical player, he’s going out there trying to create energy for our team. It’s unfortunate both players kind of came out of it with an injury so we’ll see what happens here.”

The Hawks have been the victim of some recent dirty head shots -- see Marcus Kruger for evidence -- so it’s incumbent upon them to be critical of their own as much as they are of an opponent. It’s not easy, but the change to the game might be worth it.

“I don’t know what he could have done differently,” O’Donnell said. “You always want to be playing the puck, but it’s still a physical game. It’s a tough spot for D-men. We can’t hold guys up, you can’t do anything. And they're coming full speed for you, and I think he wanted to give Danny a bump and go in together. I think there is a lot of gray area, and it was one of those worst-case scenarios where the guy went in hard and kind of awkwardly. I just hope the NHL sees it the same way.”

O’Donnell made those comments before the league suspended Carcilllo for seven games. But the Hawks defenseman is right about one thing he said: “You always want to be playing the puck.”

Why Carcillo didn’t try to go around Gilbert to get to the puck as undoubtedly Toews or another forward would have done is a question only he can answer.

The Hawks didn’t exactly come down on the hit as much as they should have, but at least they admitted it’s a dangerous play. Working dangerous hits out of the game has to start within each locker room. The Hawks have been on the receiving end enough to know that when one of their own -- already with a bad reputation -- commits a heinous act, there is no defense for it.