“Oh Danny boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountainside
The summers gone, and all the flowers dying
Tis you, tis you must go and I must bide.”
By Rich Lindbloom
Danny Carcillo’s decision to self-detonate into Tom Gilbert in the Oiler game last Monday brings to mind a bad decision I once made. Actually the decision was reached with the help of three friends in my scramble foursome 20 years ago at Silver Lake C.C. We found ourselves in a bit of a quandary when our approach shots on the diabolical 9th hole left us with two unpleasant options to rescue par. An abnormal amount of debate factored into our ill-fated decision.
For those of you unfamiliar with the rules of a scramble, all four players hit from the same spot and you pick the best shot of the lot, proceeding accordingly until you hole out. Our foursome included an A, B, C, and D player although Ed, our D-player, actually was more aptly classified as an X-Y or Z hacker. I was the spurious A, Mike a solid B and Bernie was the C/hacker. Our options were a relatively easy shot out of the sand or an impossible flop shot from a terrible location behind the green that Phil Mickelson would have “Just said no” too. After much banter, our semi delusional B player convinced us the shot out of the sand was our best course of attack; that is convinced everyone but Bernie.
“I have a great sand game-it’s an easy shot,” lobbied our B-player. Armed with putter in hand, our D-player skulled his shot sending a line drive into the lip of the trap. The lip slowed the ball down enough that it came to rest 10 feet off the green on the opposite side. Bernie, our C-player, launched a ball into a group of trees by the carts. The over confident B player proceeded to dig in a bit too deep and left his ball in the sand, triggering a unrelenting barrage of criticism. That left me, the nominal A, as our only hope. Let’s just say when you choose your D-players shot out of a sand trap, generally speaking all is not well. We ended up double bogeying the hole. Abandoning any hope of winning the event, the rest of the afternoon was spent assiduously searching for the beer cart girl. The collapse has left Bernie bringing the incident up almost anytime we get together, even 20 years later. “Yeah, Mike was our B-player, “B” for bad decision.”
Actually, the laughs we’ve had over the years about the “B for bad decision” proved to be more fun than successfully extricating ourselves from the sand trap. Unfortunately no one’s laughing at Carcillo’s “bad decision.” It was a reckless play, a play that even though it injured two players, could have been worse. It seems Carcillo can’t contain himself at times – as if there’s a bad decision switch that flips on resulting in uncontrollable mayhem. Sandpaper turns into a microburst bent on destruction.
When Carcillo was helped off the ice, writhing in pain, my first thought was “good riddance.” I’m not sure I’ve ever felt that way about a Hawk player before. The hit on Gilbert is just about everything I find abhorrent in hockey. It was not a hockey play, not finishing a check, not even a consideration to gaining control of the puck. It went well beyond playing on the edge. It was pretty much going over Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel. It was an intent to injure, pure and simple.
If you watch the replay, Carcillo draws a bead on Gilbert from the top of the circle. Devan Dubnyk, the Oiler goalie, said he heard the referee hollering, “Easy, easy!” to no avail. Too late, the B switch had been activated. If you observe the photo of the hit, you’ll notice there is a lady who in horror has her hand over her mouth. Her countenance said it all in describing the wicked play. Lest you think I’m a pansy, at least two or three times a game I find myself either saying or thinking, “We need to hit somebody.” However, I doubt the most hardened hockey fan wants to see someone carried off the ice on a stretcher.
Are Carcillo’s days with the Hawks over? Has his act warn as thin as the ice on ponds in Chicago this winter? My first thought was, “I hope so.” It was an Elizabeth David quote that made me think twice – “There are people who take the heart out of you, and there are people who put it back.” It’s easy to jump on the ‘I hate Carcillo’ band wagon at the moment. Yet, I started to think about this player written about and quoted perhaps more than any player since Burr-dawg. A player who does not have the words “back down” in his vocabulary. I’ll never forget the confusion on David Backes’ face when Danny jumped in to “defend” Tazer. The thing is, Carcillo would have done that for any player on his team. He has an above average skill set for a bottom six player. On the 1st goal that night, he made a great pass to Toews. He infuses a level of uncertainty, danger and wariness into the opposition’s mind when he’s on the ice. From all reports he has been a key player in establishing this team’s personality.
Oddly enough, Carcillo’s knee injury has opened the door for two promising rookies to join the fray. CliffKorrol, one of the more knowledgeable bloggers at the secondcityhockey website, said something that really made me think about Jimmy Hayes. A student of the game, unlike me who judges everything on the eye test, CK said of Hayes, “He’s here to stay.” His observation holds a lot more water than the casual fan basing their enthusiasm on a few good games or shifts. Is it just me, or does it seem like the pucks in the opposition’s end for over 80% of the time when he’s on the ice?
Then “Carcillo Light,” the 5’10” 180# stick of dynamite, starts buzzing around the ice like a frenetic free radical. Both Shaw and Hayes seemed able to generate some offense, appearing to have an affinity for the dirty areas. Most people scored Shaw’s bout with Rinaldo a defeat. I thought he fared pretty well, clearly stinging his former minor league adversary with two wild rights. The haymaker appears to be a mainstay of his arsenal. Rinaldo seemed quite content to hall him down rather than trading blows. But I have to ask the question-did those two knuckleheads call each other before the game and say “let’s dance?”
The addition of Hayes and Shaw no doubt is causing Coach Q many sleepless nights concocting new lines. Deep within the bowels of the United Center, I can imagine Q sitting at a dimly lit desk, with a garbage can of crumpled up paper. Finally, perplexed, he turns to Haviland and says, “What about Ray-can he bring anything to the power play?” The incessant shuffling of our lines in attempt to find the perfect combinations appears to be Joel’s personal Rubix Qube. The rookies have given Q many new, exciting possibilities. And with Sharps injury, where to stick Benji has Q undoubtedly working overtime; “Kitchen, I need more paper and sharpen this pencil.” Personally, I’ve wanted to see a Kane/Folic/Smith line since last year’s playoff ended. (For you geeks out there-how many different 4 line combinations can be formed by shuffling 12 players around? And no Coach Q, it’s not a bazillion.)
However the lines turn out, you still have to wonder if Carcillo will ever be on one again. If you haven’t seen the movie Waking Ned Devine, it’s truly a hidden gem. While the movie has a good ending, its sequel, Waking Danny O’Carcillo, might be classified a tragedy. It reminds me of a story my brother-in-law living in Dublin told me. Liam was visiting some friends at a house when apparently some poor bloke met an untimely demise. Now in Ireland, apparently it is the custom to wake the person in the house they die in. Horrified, the owners of the house who were leaving for holiday the following morning began to panic.
When the paramedics arrived they asked Liam, who is a doctor, his medical opinion on the situation. Liam’s answer through them off a bit, “Well, I can’t say with certainty that he’s dead,” in a veiled attempt to get the deceased to a hospital where he would be “officially” declared a goner. The paramedic, in typical Irish form, then asked Liam, “Well then; would you say with certainty he’s alive?” They decided to deliberate the matter over a cup of coffee, eventually taking the man to the hospital. It was there that he, with no uncertainty, was declared deceased.
Certainly, uncertainty clouds Danny Carcillo’s future with the Hawks. Is there a way to control Carcillo’s “B” switch, or will it continue to randomly engage leaving carnage in its wake? My guess is if he can recover from the knee injury, he just gives Coach Q to many options to jettison. As Elvis O’Costello would put it, “Don’t bury me cuz I’m not dead yet.”
“But come ye back, when summers in the meadow
Or when the valley’s hushed and white with snow
Tis I’ll be here in sunshine or in shadow
Oh Danny boy, oh Danny boy I love you so. – Reidar Myhre
Rich Lindbloom is the author of the book War Drums in the Distance, a collection of articles Rich authored on the Blackhawks in their path to the 2010 Stanley Cup.