Dallas Stars forward Ryan Garbutt is becoming well-acquainted with Hockey Hall of Famer Brendan Shanahan, but not in the way he may have hoped.
Shanahan, the NHL’s chief player disciplinarian, had to drop the hammer on Garbutt for the second time this season when he suspended the 29-year-old three games for two slew-footing incidents in last night’s game against Winnipeg.
The NHL rulebook defines slew-footing as “the act of a player or goalkeeper using his leg or foot to knock or kick an opponent’s feet from under him, or pushes an opponent’s upper body backward with an arm or elbow, and at the same time with a forward motion of his leg, knocks or kicks the opponent’s feet from under him, causing him to fall violently to the ice.”
Slew-footing is an extremely dangerous play, and the NHL needed to take swift action to try to prevent it in the future. Garbutt’s first incident of the night, against Jets goalie Michael Hutchinson, was called for goalie interference. The second one, where he upended defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, was called for tripping. The tripping of Byfuglien was completely inexcusable, and he deserved all three games he got for the infraction.
Garbutt is a repeat offender when it comes to being punished for these incidents, which doesn’t help his case any. He got suspended two games in November for kneeing Edmonton’s Taylor Hall and was suspended five games last season for charging Anaheim’s Dustin Penner. He also got fined for spearing Corey Perry in the groin.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff was quoted in the Dallas Morning News as saying he feels like he is “losing a bit of ground again” in dealing with Garbutt’s lack of discipline. He said it was something he was working on.
If your own coach is frustrated with your dirty play, that should be a wake-up call that it’s time to cool it. However, Garbutt has said that he’s not going to change his style of play because his grittiness was what got him to the NHL as an undrafted free agent.
While the fourth-year forward is more than a dirty, hack player (he scored 17 goals last year), his style of play is going to be his downfall if he doesn’t modify some things. It’s perfectly acceptable to be gritty, but tripping people and slamming defenseless players into the boards is going to get someone seriously injured.
Garbutt is going to regret how he played the game if he’s sitting at home searching for a paycheck in a couple of years a la Sean Avery. The infamous agitator hasn’t been heard of since he walked away from the game and quit his off-Broadway show in a temper tantrum.
The dirty, disliked players may have a spot on an NHL team, but it’s the tough guys who play the game the right way with class and professionalism who are remembered forever- like Brendan Shanahan.