Somewhere in Pittsburgh, Penguins owner Mario Lemieux is typing out an e-mail to NHL commish Gary Bettman and league disciplinarian Collin Campbell titled "Told you so ... (SMH)" (Or perhaps, "Gillies gone Wild.")
Wednesday night New York Islanders LW Trevor Gillies returned to the ice for the first time following his nine-game suspension for targeting the head of Pittsburgh Penguins center Eric Tangradi. During his time off the ice, Gillies must have missed the lesson.
Early in the second period, Gillies retaliated for a questionable hit by Cal Clutterbuck on Justin DiBenedetto by checking the side of Clutterbuck's head into the glass. Clutterbuck was not exactly an innocent victim, hitting DiBenedetto from behind along the boards. Still, Gillies clearly aimed for the Wild forward's dome as he followed through with his check.
The media reaction on Versus was scathing, with analyst Keith Jones calling Gillies a "meat head" and former Islander GM Mike Milbury asking for Gillies' removal from the league. Here's a more detailed transcript via Chris Botta and the New York Times hockey blog:
"[The Islanders] have embarrassed themselves one time too many," [Milbury] added: "Garth Snow should be embarrassed for his team; so should Jack Capuano. They happen to be friends of mine. I hope they get it, and if they don’t get it, I hope the league gives it to them."
Later, Milbury said: "This guy is not a hockey player. Get him out of the league as soon as you can."
Since first being called up in the 2005-06 season by the Anaheim Ducks, the 32-year-old Gillies has one goal and 220 penalty minutes in 48 games.
Gillies' role on the Islanders is clear. He's an enforcer, and after watching Clutterbuck take some liberties with his teammate he did what he thought was the right thing and retaliated. But you can't try to take players' heads off.
Fighting is legal in the NHL. Clutterbuck has seven fighting majors over the past two seasons. I'm sure he would have dropped the gloves to settle the score honorably (particularly with his team trailing 3-0 and in search of a spark). Instead, Gillies faces an uncertain future. It would be stunning if the league doesn't further discipline him, particularly considering the emphasis put on concussions and head shots these days. Beyond this season, it's unclear if Gillies will suit up for anyone. His contract expires following the final game.