(Long Island, NY) It didn’t make any sense when the Islanders decided to bring back Chris Simon this season after he was suspended 25 games for mauling Ryan Hollweg of the Rangers. A 35 year-old journeyman forward with a bad reputation fully earned should not be a part of a team trying to build something, but general manager Garth Snow and head coach Ted Nolan must have felt that Simon would be able to help the team in some fashion.
Before his latest incident, Simon had only one goal and two assists in 26 games. Last Saturday, he attempted to stomp the foot of Pittsburgh’s Jarkko Ruutu, quite a problem when one is wearing razor-sharp ice skates.
Before the league was able to hand out punishment, the Islanders announced that Simon would be taking a temporary leave from the team. Team owner Charles Wang told reporters, “The actions of Chris Simon on Saturday do not reflect what the New York Islanders stand for. They were reckless, potentially dangerous and against our team concept of grit, character and heart.
“The Islanders are going to provide some time for Chris away from the team and give him the counseling he needs and the compassion he deserves. When Chris is completely ready, he will be a member of our team again.”
That will have to wait at least 30 more days, as the NHL handed out a one-month suspension to Simon, who has been previously suspended on six occasions during his career. It is the longest suspension ever handed down by the league.
The Islanders are Simon’s sixth team in his career, which began with the Quebec Nordiques in 1992-93. He has been with five different teams in the past six seasons and has scored only 22 goals in the past three-plus seasons. The last time he scored over 20 goals in a season was back in 1999-2000 for the Capitals.
His production has obviously been going down steadily and his behavior on the ice has been more of a distraction than anything else. Even after the latest suspension, the Islanders are standing behind Simon and are not going to sever ties with the troubled player.
“No consideration of that whatsoever,” Nolan told reporters. “I think that one of the easiest things to do in life is when there’s a problem, you get rid of the problem and pretend it doesn’t exist. Chris is an upstanding individual that needs some support and the easiest thing is to just say ‘get rid of the people and make it go
away,’ but we’re much more compassionate than that.”
Nolan has been a longtime friend of Simon and they are both members of Canada’s First Nation. Even so, it has come to the point that Simon is doing more harm than good for the Islanders. How much longer can the head coach protect a player that has been suspended for making a racial remark at a fellow player, cross-checking across the throat, elbowing, cross-checking and following it up by jumping on an punching, kneeing and swinging his stick like a baseball bat to the face? And that’s not counting trying to slice a foot off at the ankle.
Enforcers are still an important addition to every hockey team, but when someone who is making it more difficult on the rest of his team holds that role, it may be time to start looking for a new one.