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Tootoo takes the fall, Predators drop the ball

It's quite fashionable to bash the Nashville Predators this season, and last weekend's game against Dallas only added more voices to the chorus seemingly bent on running the Preds out of town, or as some would prefer, out of the league entirely. Since we now know that Jordin Tootoo will sit for five games for knocking out Stephane Robidas, I thought I'd toss my $0.02 in on the evening's activities:

1. Obviously (to most, but not all), the initial hit by Tootoo on Modano was clean, hard hockey. Mike Modano had just played the puck, Tootoo didn't leave his feet, end of story.

2. Robidas sees the hit and turns to charge at Tootoo - he comes at him with his stick in both hands, ready to come in and blast away. Under those circumstances, I don't see Tootoo's response as a "sucker punch", as many have called it*. If Robidas hadn't gotten the concussion from that hard fall, I doubt it would have resulted in a suspension (which is a problem of subjective decision-making in the league office). Who knows what would have happened if Tootoo hadn't turned around, Robidas would likely have drilled him into the boards.

3. Modano's stick swing from behind on Tootoo seemed to be one of those where a guy starts to do something, then stops halfway through. No harm, no foul - maybe they could have called him for a high stick (as they do when even accidental stick contact is made to the head), but that's about it.

4. The Nashville Predators did indeed "fail the game" (to use Dallas President Jim Lites' words) by not recognizing Modano's goal-scoring milestone during Saturday's game. Yes, it was a competitive game against a conference foe the Preds are likely to see in the playoffs. But the NHL is supposed to be about the highest level of professional hockey, not mere city vs. city bloodsport. The classy move would have been to recognize Modano's new status as the leading American-born goal scorer in NHL history, and for the fans to have given him a polite ovation. Especially in a town where the Preds are trying so hard to build a hockey fan base, the misstep here is troubling. If the Predators want to be treated like a top-notch NHL franchise, they need to act like one, and showing the proper respect for hallmark achievements like Modano's should be expected.

Just keep your calendars marked for March 31st, when Tootoo's suspension is over and the Dallas Stars return to Nashville for what could be a 1st-round playoff preview.

*Update: In an interview on Nashville radio Tuesday afternoon, former Star (and current Dallas radio host) Craig Ludwig said he didn't see it as a sucker punch, either.

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