The Red Wings defeated the Calgary Flames 8-2 on Wednesday night thanks to an explosion of goals (a goalsplosion) from the youth they’re counting on to take over the reins of the team. Andreas Athanasiou and Anthony Mantha had two goals each while Dylan Larkin added a shorty and a couple more assists to his total while the team dismantled a Calgary Flames squad that handed them a 6-3 loss a week earlier.
But we’re not here to talk about that; instead we’re here to talk about the ugly turn the game took late in the third period while the score was still 6-2. Both teams were playing out a foregone conclusion when 7th D-man/occasional forward Luke Witkowski tangled with Calgary defenseman Brett Kulak. Witkowski quickly brought Kulak down and then rag-dolled him on the ice before looking to challenge Travis Hamonic to a fight. The ragdolling was a similar kind of etiquette breach that originally brought Witkowski down on Anthony Mantha last year when he was with the Lightning, if you’ll remember.
The referees gave Witkowski a fighting major and a game misconduct, first skating him to the box and then escorting him across the ice to the tunnel where Matthew Tkachuk jawed at and eventually tapped Witkowski with his stick. At this time, the ejected fighter came back onto the surface to try and square up with Tkachuk. This set off a brawl that ended with Anthony Mantha and Travis Hamonic both fighting and getting ejected and Tkachuk getting a spearing major for... this
Matthew Tkachuk messing with opponents continues to yield hilarious results pic.twitter.com/NpQsNYp9tX— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) November 16, 2017
In terms of “spearing”, I don’t know about that, but I do think Tkachuk chasing a player being escorted off the ice is probably going to raise an eyebrow in the league offices and could possibly earn him a fine, but the big thing here is that Luke Witkowski was all the way off the ice and then came back on. That’s definitely against the rules, specifically 70.6. Here’s the part that applies:
Any player or goalkeeper who has been ordered to the dressing room by the officials and returns to his bench or to the ice surface for any reason before the appropriate time shall be assessed a game misconduct and shall be suspended automatically without pay for the next ten (10) regular League and/or Play-off games.
Looking at what happened, it’s very hard to argue Witkowski returned to the surface “for any reason” before he was allowed to.
The referees did not assess Witkowski a second game misconduct for violating rule 70.6 here, but it’s a decision the league has the authority to enforce in the postgame review, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did just that.
[Edit: Since the game ended, Witkowski has been given an additional TWO game misconduct penalties effective at the same time as the first one, so it’s even more likely the automatic suspension comes into play here]
If Witkowski is suspended, and with Trevor Daley being injured in this game, the Wings would likely need to call somebody up to fill their roster. Fans have been clamoring for Joe Hicketts since before the end of preseason, so that’s where I’d be looking, but first we need to see what the league is going to decide.