Originally posted on The Sports Bank  |  Last updated 1/4/12

After Sunday night’s loss to the Edmonton Oilers, some of Chicago fans’ attention was focused solely on the largely lackluster effort by the Blackhawks, especially on the power play. They were unable to capitalize on several key opportunities, including a lengthy four minute power play when Jonathan Toews was caught in the face with a high stick, and that contributed greatly to their downfall.

What some other fans, and most of the national media who commented on the game, was focused on was the illegal hit that Hawks forward Daniel Carcillo laid on Edmonton defenseman Tom Gilbert. Carcillo, who missed the season’s first two games while serving a suspension and also was suspended this year for an illegal hit, has been suspended indefinitely by the league. That suspension may not even begin at any point soon, because Carcillo may be out for the long term regardless because of a knee injury that he suffered on the play.

Here is the offending video, just in case you haven’t seen the “Carbomb” in action:

Obviously, Carcillo is going to be facing a lengthy suspension because of both his status as a “repeat offender”, but also the vicious nature of the hit. Gilbert clearly was not in possession of the puck at the time of the hit, and the league has usually considered players to be in a vulnerable position when they are skating up to the end boards. Both of those factors will play against Carcillo, but only his meeting with Brendan Shanahan will clear that matter up.

The bigger issue in this situation is what the Blackhawks intend to do about their troubled winger. Long known as a guy with a penchant for destruction from his time in Phoenix and Philadelphia, Carcillo came to town with a ton of baggage, but with a ton of upside. He was a guy who was capable of delivering a big hit just as much as delivering a goal or assist, and he was a needed addition to a Blackhawks team that was incredibly soft last season.

In only 28 games this season (besides the two suspensions he also missed six games with a concussion), Carcillo has scored twice and has dished out nine assists. This is thanks largely to the fact that Joel Quenneville puts him out on the ice frequently with players like Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, but the fact remains that Carcillo is capable of producing offensively, and that enables Quenneville to be flexible with where he slots him.

On the downside, however, Carcillo has shown some incredibly poor judgment this season. Both of the hits that he was suspended for were downright deplorable, and he is drawing some comparisons for his lack of hockey acumen to Penguins forward Matt Cooke, the standard bearer for the phrase “dirty player”. Cooke has received several suspensions for his hits, including a 10-game ban and the first round of the playoffs last season after he hit Ryan McDonagh in the head.

Comparisons to Cooke are not what someone wants on their resume, but that’s exactly where Carcillo has landed himself with his foolish behavior. The Hawks would be well off to, whether in public or private, deliver Daniel an ultimatum should he return to the ice this season (a big if with how vague the coaching staff has been about his injury status): if you get into trouble with Shanahan again this season, we will send you to Rockford and forget about you. Period.

A competitor like Carcillo would not want to be sent into exile in such humiliating fashion, but that very well could be the only way to get through to him in this situation. He has shown that suspensions and negative press will not deter him from failing to use his brain on the ice, so the Hawks need to raise the ante in a big way if they are to be taken seriously in their efforts to keep him in check. He is worth it to keep around just because of his physical ability and his soft hands with the puck on his stick, but that value only goes so far when it comes to the type of hits he keeps delivering.

If they fail to act, and Carcillo gets into trouble again, then they themselves might be the targets of some of the negative ink that their forward is getting. With the way that John McDonough and the gang have sold this team as a fun-loving group of regular Joes, that might be the biggest fear of all for the organization.

 

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