By Danny Picard
WILMINGTON -- Daniel Paille thought it was a clean hit. Coach Claude Julienthinks Raymond Sawada should have had his head up coming over the blueline. And general manager Peter Chiarelli believes Paille's four-game suspension, handed down by theNHL for Thursday's hit on Sawada, was alittle too harsh.
"I thought it was a little stiff," Chiarelli said after Friday's practice at Ristuccia Arena. "Wefelt that Paille tried to square up, and circle around Sawada. Infact, if you look at the footage, Sawada was at one point, two orthree feet ahead of Paille and circled back . . .
"I thought it was alittle stiff. I thought maybe one or two games.
"There shouldhave been punishment, don't get me wrong," added Chiarelli, pointingout that the hit did take place in a blind spot on the ice, around thesame area that Marc Savard was hit last winter in Pittsburgh. "There shouldhave been punishment on this. I thought it should have been less thanfour games."
As Sawada took the puck over the blue line from theleft wing, he cut into the middle of the ice and Paille came streakingfrom the right side, Paille came up high on the Stars' forward, causingthe officials to eject him from the game.
Chiarelli sat in Friday morning's league hearing with Paille, and each side gave their view of the hit.
Having Savard out of the lineup once again, mainly because of a brutalhit he took to the head from Matt Cooke last winter, Chiarelli andJulien both made it known on Friday that they fully support theleague's stance on cutting down head shots.
"They're sendingstrong messages, and I'm not opposed to that," said Chiarelli. "Thisthing is a hot issue, and rightfully so. Part of me, deep down, thoughtthat something like this might come down, and it did."
Bothbelieve that there's no place in the game for "blind-sided hits," butboth also believe that this one could have possibly been prevented, onSawada's end.
"There's a lot of responsibility that's taken offthe player that's getting hit now," Julien said after Friday'spractice, reiterating his stance on Thursday night that Sawada had hishead down. "So until the players themselves, in their minds, startthinking about stop putting themselves in vulnerable positions, whetherit's playing with your head down, whether it's being by the boards andseeing that you're going to get hit and turning your back, or whateverthe case may be, I think if the players start taking thatresponsibility, I think it's going to minimize a lot of these things.
"Tome, I think that, until the players really take that upon themselves,you're still going to get those things happening. We can minimize that,if they do their part. That's my opinion.
"Once you're in thepros, you've been told for many, many years, not to play with your headdown," said Julien. "So if he hasn't learned by now, he shouldn't be inthe pros. Again, I'm stating my opinion."
Paille knows howsensitive the league's head-shot rule is, and he said he feels likehe's being made an example of, because he thought his hit was clean.
"Obviouslyit was a fast-paced play, and I just recognized that Sawada was goingon a breakaway, and I just went over there to backcheck and get thepuck, but he cut back through the middle," said Paille, who said he wasexpecting a two-game suspension, not four games. "If you look at theplay, I'm ahead of him. When I hit him, I felt that I hit his shoulderat that moment. And looking at the replay, I felt that he kind ofturned towards me, so I finished my check. I felt that I hit him in theshoulder.
Sawada suffered a broken nose and a sore shoulder on the hit, and Paille has yet to get in touch with him.
Ifhe does get in touch with Sawada, Paille's message will be clear: therewas no intent to injure, because he still feels it was a clean hit.
"Iknow that a lot of the guys on the team here know me and understand me,and agree with me," said Paille, even though Bruins defenseman AndrewFerence was quick to call it a "bad hit" after Thursday's game. "Justlooking at the replay over and over, I feel that I see the shoulderhitting the shoulder."
Danny Picard is on Twitter athttp:twitter.comDannyPicard. You can listen to Danny on hisstreaming radio show I'm Just Sayin'Monday-Friday from9-10 a.m. on CSNNE.com.