By Elliot Chan, Staff Writer
On Sunday, March 17, the Buffalo Sabres benched 26-year-old Patrick Kaleta after he served his five-game suspension. Irritated about being a healthy scratch and his team’s under achievement, Kaleta spoke with the media before the game against the Washington Capitals.
“They don’t need me right now, I guess. I’ve been pissed off watching for the past couple weeks,” said Kaleta. “No matter if you’re a fan or a player, you guys know what’s going on. You should be pissed off. You should play with a little piss and vinegar. You shouldn’t be happy. We’re not in position we want to be in. We have to work harder, come in, and do something about it.”
Ryan Miller, Buffalo’s goaltender, was not pleased by his teammate’s comments after losing 5–3. “That’s just drama and he needs to just grow up,” said Miller. “He doesn’t have to go to you guys and say that stuff. I’m addressing it now and I’ll go and talk to him about it. There’s no reason to say that.”
Dressing room conflicts are a common aspect of sports. But are peer disciplines helpful for team and player development? Miller is a well-respected leader, but when it comes down to it, he has no great superiority over Kaleta. They might as well be two co-workers in an office firm bickering over sales. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Although Kaleta should have sucked up his pride when benched, Miller should also know his role, which is to stop pucks, not authorize his teammates’ comments.
Relocation is an easier solution to resolution. If you’re not a good teammate, you’re a good opponent. Kaleta’s negative comments toward his teammates might have just bought him a trip out of Buffalo, but with the way things are looking, that might be exactly what he wanted.
The game is full of selfish players, but their dirty laundry doesn’t need to be aired out for the public to see. We don’t notice the problems occurring behind the scenes of our favourite restaurants, our local market, or even our classrooms. Not everyone reacts obediently to judgment and helpful criticism; sometimes those guiding actions can cause a defiant reaction.
On the same night as Miller and Kaleta’s war of words, Nashville Predators’ forward Sergei Kostitsyn lost control of a puck during a game against the Edmonton Oilers. The play caused an odd man rush heading the opposite direction, and instead of chasing after the opposition, Kostitsyn opted for a line change. The Nashville bench was livid with his indolence and he knew it. “I made a mistake. I went to change, I should have back-checked, but didn’t see the second guy was coming there,” said Kostitsyn after the 3–2 loss. “Even if it was a one-on-one, I should go back, it doesn’t matter if I was tired. I should have gone back and pressured him from behind.”
Hockey is a team sport, and it requires players to take onus of their own actions, whether it is on or off the ice. It might seem like a good strategy to point the finger and command someone to do better, but pointing out errors is counterproductive. Growth comes from communication and trust, and no team will fully develop by playing the blame game.