The Florida Panthers were already having a season to forget. Last year, they missed out on the playoffs on a tiebreaker, having had the same record as No. 8 Montreal (41-30-11, 93 points) but losing the head-to-head points tiebreaker, 6-3.
The opinion here is the Panthers would've given the Bruins a much tougher series than Montreal did. But that's neither here nor there now.
Entering the season, the Panthers were looked at by some as being a playoff contender for sure, a potential playoff team and maybe even capable of winning a round or two.
Well, about that....
Florida has struggled, to say the least, in the early going. The Panthers have just five points at 2-6-1. Only the woeful Maple Leafs, with three points, have a worse record in the entire NHL. Their young stars have struggled, the goaltending has not been as good. Really, now that Jay Bouwmeester is not on the roster, it seems to be a different team.
One of those talented young skaters who wants a mulligan on the season's first nine games is David Booth. For a variety of reasons. First, he has just two goals on the season after netting 31 in 72 games in 2008-09.
He was also on the receiving end of that shoulder-to-head hit by Mike Richards. The result? A concussion. Initially diagnosed as Booth missing a week or so. One day later (today), that prognosis has already worsened. Booth is now on the injured reserve list and team officials say he'll miss at least two to three weeks.
Booth turns 25 in November. He's signed through 2015. He's part of Florida's core.
Right now, he can't watch television for more than five minutes. Who knows what his future will hold.
Richards played in Philadelphia's next game. Wasn't even fined.
Hockey is a physical sport. We all like to see players who throw big-time body checks.
Let me repeat that: body checks, not head checks. Richards, with one malignant hit, has jeopardized the career and life of a fellow player. Did Booth have his head down? Sure. Did Richards seem to target Booth from across the ice? That seems possible.
I do not like this argument of, "It's a hockey play," or, "Booth should've kept his head up." That's blaming the victim. This is a hockey blog, so I'm not going to specifically voice this comparison, but there's an argument in the real world that also blames the victim and makes as little sense.
Frankly, hitting a player in Booth's position is a sign of disrespect by Richards for his fellow player. This is on the heels of Richards, as captain of Philadelphia, recently shirking his duties to speak to the media, running headlong into Pittsburgh goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury in a recent game, and is also not the first time Richards made a hit like that on a player. Ask Ronald Petrovicky.
The NHL claims to want to eliminate shots to the head. Well, why was there no punishment for this then? Richards gets away clean, as do the Flyers, and Florida's already-disappointing season could very well be over without arguably their best player for almost a month, if not more.
With each failed sentencing after failed sentencing, it's getting harder and harder to respect the National Hockey League.
Especially when the players don't respect each other.