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Was costly hit worth it for Carcillo?

1/3/2012
Not only did Dan Carcillo draw a major penalty and suspension for his hit on Tom Gilbert, he also injured his knee. Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- News that Blackhawks forward Dan Carcillo is suspended indefinitely for his boarding of Edmonton defenseman Tom Gilbert can't be a shock to anyone who follows the Hawks or Carcillo. He will be able to state his case to the league at some point and then he'll finish serving his third suspension of the season. And this all happens after he recovers from his injuries.

That's one costly hit.

After talking with hockey people around the league on Tuesday, the consensus is Carcillo will get 4-6 games for the blow. No more.

Here is the bottom line: the hit was reckless but we've seen worse. He didn't target the head nor "purposely" ram Gilbert's head into the boards. Carcillo's history will play a part in the punishment but Gilbert's injuries don't appear severe so that will help his cause.

Joel Quenneville was asked on Tuesday what Carcillo could have done differently.

"It's a quick moment when you're going for a counter hit fighting for a puck," he said after practice. "He [Carcillo] probably had better leverage than the other guy. His intent certainly wasn't what happened."

It's not a cut and dry play. In fact, it's not necessarily boarding. Yes, Gilbert went flying into the boards but the players were not up against them or within inches of them as in normal boarding calls. It may have been closer to interference. And Gilbert admitted Tuesday he saw Carcillo coming.

"I should have been more ready for a guy who has made those kinds of hits before," Gilbert told reporters in Buffalo where Edmonton plays Tuesday night.

So there is enough gray area to at least believe the league won't necessarily throw the book at the controversial forward. But the big question still remains, why would Carcillo even take a chance with a questionable hit?

He had just returned from an injury, was playing on the top line and playing decent enough. In fact, he had a beautiful steal and assist on the Hawks' first goal, and in his first game back on Friday, he showed immediate chemistry with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa.

Monday's game was sailing along fine for the home team. The Hawks were leading 1-0 -- thanks in part to Carcillo -- and Edmonton was doing nothing on offense, plus the Oilers had just lost star rookie Ryan Nugent-Hopkins to an injury. On top of it, the Hawks were 14-0-1 when scoring first this season while the Oilers were 3-13 when getting down 1-0 this year. The game did not call for a borderline hit. Carcillo must know this.

He hasn't spoken since leaving with a knee injury and a game misconduct, but what could have been going through his mind?

"I think he's been fine," Quenneville said of Carcillo's season. "I think he gives us a nice look. You appreciate what he brings, his intensity. He's got some skill to complement his aggressiveness, but at the same time we still want him to play with energy. I think he has some track record that doesn't help. His leash is definitely a lot shorter than most or every player in the league. It's tough finding that right balance. From our perspective he's doing everything we want."

If everyone knows the leash is tight, why even risk it? Why does a player on a 24-10-4 team, who has been inserted onto the top line after sitting for six games take a chance like Carcillo did? He will undoubtedly try to explain the hit away but explanations aren't necessary if the proverbial line isn't approached. If Carcillo simply tries to get around Gilbert and get to the puck, the Hawks probably win the game and he's not injured.

"We want to keep a guy like that in the lineup and it's tough to lose him so quickly," Toews said. "He's an effective player for us. It's no fun when that happens."

Toews almost said that like it was out of everyone's control. It wasn't. One guy could have helped avoid a bad situation but Carcillo chose the tough route and now has to pay the price.

That's one costly hit.