The ruling came down that Zack Kassian was going to have to serve a two-game suspension for his attack on Matthew Tkachuk during Saturday’s tilt with the Calgary Flames. And, while many Edmonton Oilers fans are not happy, perhaps there are few players less pleased than Oilers forward James Neal.
“The guy’s in a vulnerable position. Ask any guy in the league, no one wants to see that hit.” Neal called the whole thing stupid, especially the comments Tkachuk made about Kassian being on the tracks.
A reporter told Neal about the comments Tkachuk made about not squaring up with Kassian because he doesn’t want to fight that guy and his own players would rather have him out on the ice than in the penalty box. “Then don’t be taking 12-foot runs at him trying to kill him,” Neal responded.”
Neal gave the example of him taking a run at Milan Lucic calling that an idiotic decision because then Lucic would kill him. “Am I going to see Lucic come around the net, target his head and try to kill him? No.” Neal called it a respect thing. “You don’t see anyone else in the league doing that because they know they have to fight him.”
Is Respect in the NHL Gone?
Neal’s comments lead to an interesting question. Is respect and accountability gone in the NHL? If Tkachuk knows he doesn’t have to answer for three hits, at least one of which can be argued as dirty and dangerous, what is the NHL coming to?
Neal said there are places on the ice where you have to let up on guys and said in the past when these types of hits happened in the NHL, the guys who delivered them were worked out of the league. Maybe Tkachuk’s hits aren’t on that level but don’t tell the Oilers players that.
The entire interview, you could sense the frustration in Neal’s tone and on his face. This is only going to get uglier before it gets better.