There are many adjectives to describe the actions of Adirondack left-winger Trevor Gillies on Friday night -- opening night of the AHL regular season, and all of them would be accurate.
Looking more like Ogie Ogilthorpe of Slapshot fame, Gillies' assault spree began after a whistle deep in the Flames end with 3:09 left in the third period and the hometown Rochester Americans leading 5-1 at the time.
With Adirondack's Patrick Sieloff and Matt MacKenzie squared off in a shoving match in the corner, Gillies skates over to the two of them and from behind throws a vicious overhand left to the side of the head of the unsuspecting MacKenzie.
And he was just getting started.
Gillies then gives a shove to the chest of Swedish forward Johan Larsson, the next Americans player he encounters, and then continued by attacking William Carrier and proceeding to pummel the rookie, who was playing his first AHL game. The beating continued as Carrier dropped down to the ice on his knees -- gloves still on, stick still in his hands, defenceless.
But wait, there's more.
If all that wasn't enough, before he skated away, he put an exclamation mark on the despicable act by grabbing the 19-year-old Carrier by the shoulders and slamming his head on the ice.
For his actions and you can watch the entire sequence for yourself right here, Gillies was tagged with 27 penalty minutes: an instigating minor, fighting major, and two game misconducts -- one for being the instigator in the game's final five minutes, the other for being the 'aggressor' under rule 46.2 of the NHL Rule Book.
Now that the referee has done his job, it's time for the league to step up and do its job and suspend Gillies for a long time. It's also time for the Flames to do the right thing and release this guy before he does something stupid again.
Surely There are Better Sources of Leadership
I've never talked with Gillies. I've heard he can be a decent guy off the ice. But let's be honest, he's an idiot when he's on the ice and no amount of goodwill off the ice can justify what he did last night.
If it's veteran leadership the Flames organization is seeking for an inexperienced Adirondack forward group that has loads of talent but are all very young, surely there are plenty of far better options out there.
Gillies rap sheet from over the years, as you can see (and watch), pretty much speaks for itself:
- As a New York Islander, he was suspended nine games in February 2011 for a blatant elbow to the head of Eric Tangradi,
- In March of that same season, after returning from the first suspension, he was suspended for 10 games for a headshot on Cal Clutterbuck.
- In a stint last year in Finland, he was third in penalty minutes for HIFK Helsinki despite only playing three games. His highlight this time was a blatant sucker punch to the face of Jarkko Ruttu.
Since turning pro 15 years ago, Gillies has amassed 3,054 penalty minutes in 696 games that have come while playing for 20 different teams. Hopefully there won't be a 21st team.
If you are wondering if maybe playoff experience is the intangible that he brings. Nope, guess again. He's appeared in only 20 playoff games in that decade-and-a-half and hasn't picked up a point while racking up 43 penalty minutes.
Could That Have Been Johnny Gaudreau?
One overlooked angle to the earlier debate around whether talented but tiny Flames winger Johnny Gaudreau would be better off starting in the AHL or in the NHL is what would be best for his own safety.
The NHL is a changing place. There is no better example of this than the encouraging sign that came out of Toronto last week when the Maple Leafs cut Colton Orr and Frazer McLaren and opened the season without a dedicated enforcer.
However, where did those two noted pugilists end up? The AHL. Down there, they join the likes of Gillies, Zack Stortini, Jay Rosehill, Cam Janssen, Steve MacIntyre and Pierre-Luc Letourneau-Leblond. The AHL is becoming a landfill for ex-NHL goons.
Who is to say that on Nov. 26 when Adirondack are to play the Toronto Marlies for the first time that the tables wouldn't have ended up reversed from last night.
After all, who was William Carrier anyway? He was an innocent bystander caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. He's a highly touted second round draft pick by the Blues, who was acquired by Buffalo in the trade package for Ryan Miller last year. He had all of five fights in his four full seasons in the QMJHL. It's not his thing but Gillies was not on the prowl looking for a guy whose 'thing' was fighting, he was merely looking to ragdoll anyone he could find.
Imagine the conversation in Calgary today if Gaudreau had been jumped by Orr and beaten into the ice.
Does Playing the Same System Mean This?
It's been stated that coach Ryan Huska will have Adirondack playing the same system that Calgary plays under Bob Hartley this year to ease the transition on players when they're brought up to the NHL.
I thought by that, they were referring to roles in the defensive zone, responsibilities on the forecheck, etc. But, perhaps that also means icing a marginally skilled fourth line with guys that bring little other than belligerence, truculence and all those Brian Burke terms I've grown really tired of hearing about.
In playing Gillies last night on a fourth line centred by agitator Mathieu Tousignant, Adirondack left speedy Turner Elson, young Bryce van Brabant and intriguing 25-year-old German prospect David Wolf in the press box.
Wolf, while no angel himself -- he's had more penalty minutes in Germany than anyone else over the last three years, at least he has decent offensive skills and an all-round game. As I wrote about Wolf here, he played with two skilled guys in Germany and was among the team's top scorers. There's two dimensions to his game and there's room in the NHL -- plenty of room, for guys that can do both. But Gillies, he's about as one-dimensional as you can get. In those 15 pro seasons, he's scored 11 goals.
One can only hope that eventually the Flames will realize that they'll need more from their fourth line if they're going to be a legitimate contender. The enforcer is becoming an endangered species but unlike the giant panda, there is no need to put it on a protected list. The game is too fast now to count on just three lines while deploying a fourth line for just a handful of minutes.
Lance Bouma, Bill Arnold, Josh Jooris. Now that would be an excellent fourth line in my eyes. All guys that can do multiple things -- defend, kill penalties, bring energy, and play physical and scrappy, but without needing to drop the gloves and beat the crap out of someone.
Once that day happens here in Calgary, hopefully that same 'system' will be reflected across the organization, so in Adirondack too.
Adirondack got a lot of negative publicity on Thursday when they unveiled a new mascot named Scorch in a poorly thought-out video in which Scorch appeared to be dancing around the corpse of a fireman. Also, Scorch is ridiculous looking.
But the type of negative public relations Adirondack got one day later from Gillies is 100 times worse and don't kid yourself, it not only embarrases the baby Flames, but the entire Calgary Flames organization.
Rochester coach Chadd Cassidy said it best after last night's game. "If there's room for that in hockey, I'm not sure I want to coach anymore."
Calgary Flames content on YouTube has been on the rise lately and for all the right reasons -- thank you, Johnny Gaudreau. We need more of that and not the type of dubious YouTube infamy that Gillies just provided.
My goodness, if you need to make a choice Adirondack, keep Scorch for gods sake and get rid of Gillies. It's a no-brainer.
On Saturday afternoon, the AHL confirmed an automatic one-game suspension for Gillies, a result of being assessed an instigator penalty within the final five minutes of the third period of a game. The AHL added that "any further supplemental discipline will be announced following the league’s official review of the game."
Also on Saturday afternoon, Gillies apologized via a statement on his Facebook page. "I would like to apologize to my family back home for embarrassing the family name. To my teammates and the organization and the fans in the hockey community. I crossed the line. Thankfully the kid is okay. I'm not taking this lightly or easily and promise it won't happen again. If you want to bash me I get it. I will just take my medicine with no response. Again I'm truly sorry. Gillies"
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