Why Mara Was Right

by Ryan

I try really hard not to be a complete homer at times. This is easy to do on the internet, because you never know when a Bruins or Leafs might come by and tell you how wrong you are. Even so, there are plenty of time I’ll defend a player to the death for their actions, if only because of the sweater they wear.

This is not one of those times.

Listen, you all know I love me some Pat Kaleta, but what happened with Paul Mara makes a whole lot of sense in hindsight. Kaleta has gained a bit of a reputation over his brief stay in the NHL, and last night he lived up to the downside of that reputation. Check out what last night’s AP summary had to say.

“It’s two hits on me that he has jumped,” Mara said. “I just made a decision that enough is enough from that little guy. If he was a man, he would’ve dropped the gloves and stood in there. I did what I had to do.”

Actually, I agree with what Mara is saying. Kaleta needs to stop turtling or his antics aren’t going to work anymore, and even if he fights back Mara will get two for the instigator. He shouldn’t have other people cleaning up his messes, and he shouldn’t be lying in a heap while a defenseman whomps on him. He just proved a game ago that he can fight, why not defend his own actions?

I wouldn’t be so ready to defend Mara if not for this next bit:

“I’ll always remember that hit. And when he was in the scrum he made a pretty classless move, asking me how my face was. You don’t want to hurt guys in this league, and to have him say something like that, it’s classless.”

Again, I absolutely agree, especially if Kaleta really did say that. That’s not in the code. That’s not how hockey is played. Even if both hits were completely legal you don’t revel in another player’s injury. Asking about Mara’s face isn’t some clever rap lyric, and it’s not “have another doughnut.” It’s classless, plain and simple, and I don’t like seeing that from a kid I like so much.

For the record, this is the hit from last night:

One skate off the ground for sure. Dirty? Probably not.

But here’s where Mara’s beef starts:

Yeah, I can see where he is coming from. It’s not outright illegal but it’s borderline enough that I can understand where Mara could get upset. We all know the result, and no matter how good a hit the resulting injury isn’t something to brag about. Kaleta’s defense was this:

“I caught him pretty good last year, but it’s part of the game,” Kaleta said. “I go in and finish the check. That’s my job and that’s what I have to do. Whether he didn’t like it, or it was from last year, I’m not too sure.”

It’s tough to criticize that logic, but if Kaleta is going to take that “job” he has to stand up for himself, even if that means taking on a guy bigger than him, and even if he doesn’t want to. We previously thought that he took big strides last year by getting into a real fight, and this year with “the Witt Slam”. As of today, I think all that progress has gone away. I like the kid, I really do, but you have to respect the game and “The Code”, even if you are a “new breed” of enforcer.

If you can’t stand up for your actions, you aren’t enforcing anything.

18 Comments

  1. Heather B.

    Ryan, I agree with you. I don’t think Kaleta needs to drop the gloves every time someone gets pissed at him but there are definitely situations where he needs to do it and last night was probably one of them considering the history with Mara. I’m also not a huge fan of the injury-related taunting. I’ve gone back and forth on Kaleta since he came up and this was a good example of why.

  2. sabresfan88

    I agree with pretty much all of that, but I don’t think Kaleta proved anything with “the Witt slam” except maybe that he’ll go out of his way to avoid a fight even when he’s already tied up with a guy.

  3. Becky

    In the Buffalo News it sounds as if Mara’s moves were anticipated on high:

    “Mara was clearly avenging a Kaleta check that cost him 12 games last February due to a fractured facial bone, but it cost his team what proved to be the winning goal.

    “Whatever I can do to help the team out, I will,” Kaleta said. “If it means I have to take a couple punches to get a power play, I’ll take a couple punches. If it sets up Thomas on the power play, great. He’s been awesome right now, solid in his own zone and one of the best players on the ice.”

  4. Cari

    I agree that Kaleta should drop the gloves and defend himself a lot more often, because after seeing his experiences up here, and enough of them while he was in Rochester, he does turtle… a lot.

    But I don’t mind what he did Wednesday because, as Becky brought out, he knew Mara was going to be looking for revenge from the original hit. I don’t like it when guys carry vendettas from game to game, season to season. It’s a game, for crying out loud. Forget about it, and move on. Mara asked for Kaleta’s reaction.

  5. Zach

    I would like to see Kaleta not turtle so often but Matt Barnaby did it so often as well that I guess I have gotten used to it. We all know Kaleta can hold his own and be able to drop the gloves but if he can be an annoying pest then I guess I can live with it. I don’t necessarily like it but I will live with it.

  6. Steve

    I like your posts better when you are a homer. That first hit on Mara was legit, so was the second. Let the man do his job. It works for Avery, Neil, Tucker, etc. He’ll fight when he needs to. The penalty to Mara led to the GWG, you can’t knock him for that.

  7. Anonymous

    For now under the jackassed NHL rules that make it impossible (without incurring a significant penalty) to keep goons like Kaleta, Niel, Avery, etc… in check, Kaleta has to do what helps his team, and Ruff has to encourage it. If this means borderline illegal hits that could potentially injure someone and turtling, then so be it.

    In my opinion, the NHL needs to change the rules to eliminate the instigator (for starters), and crap like this would not happen as often, rendering these players antics innefective and resulting in them being unemployed, sitting the bench, or heading to the minors.

    As a Sabres fan, you have to cheer Kaleta’s cheap hits because it helps us win, but you also have to realize it works both ways (for instance Drury getting cheap shotted by asshole).

    I am glad Kaleta took the “beating” for us rather than drop the gloves. I hope he does this every time. But I also hope the NHL changes the rules so he and his type cannot do this without consequense and continue to make a mockery of the NHL.

  8. Matty Dubs

    As someone who was in the arena for the game on Wednesday, I have to say that I loved the way Kaleta played it. Mara was clearly amped up, and if Kaleta had actually tried to fight him, he probably still would have gotten his ass kicked. The mood in MSG was at a tipping point, and to lose a fight like that after controlling the play for so long could have been a big shift. Instead, he takes a couple punches, we get a huge PP and its basically game over. All the air got let out of the building on that one and the Sabes never looked back.

    While I am not a fan of injury related taunting, we don’t even know that happened. We also don’t know what Mara said before hand. What we do know is that Mara basically cost his team the game and was vigorously defending his actions after the game to the NYC media. I am taking his side of the story with a grain of salt.

  9. Matty Dubs

    let me also ditto much of what was said in the post immediately above mine. However, there will always be players who feel that the game isn’t being called their way and that players are taking cheap shots at them. If they’re willing to risk the game for the sake of retribution, that is their call.

    Oh, and while I get the analogy, I don’t think you can put Kaleta’s hits on Mara in the same class as Neil’s hit on Drury.

  10. Jill

    Kaleta’s job is to draw people into penalties… that’s what he did and he does it well. He does it passive aggressively. He doesn’t go out there and taunt like Avery… he doesn’t act like a moron like Neil. He hits and skates away. Mara didn’t give him enough time to drop his gloves. Mara avoided the hit turned around and grabbed him and started to pound him. Yeah Kaleta did hurt him last year… and I feel for Mara on that. And yes Kaleta needs to fight more often… but his role is to draw the penalties not to fight. Peters role is to fight. Until they ditch Peters, Kaleta will keep on doing the same. And I like what I see. He is good at what he does and puts the Sabres on the power play. A great majority of his hits are clean.

  11. Anonymous

    Why not?

    Neither got a penalty. Or a suspension or fine.

    Kaleta broke Mara’s face. He missed some games

    Neal broke Drury’s brain. He missed some games.

    One was “questionably” late, one was “questionably” leaving the feet.

    How are they not comparable except that one was against our team and one was for ou team?

    Kaleta is unquestionably doing a good job so far this year and giving his team an advantage based on the current rules. I just don’t like that the NHL does not allow the players to police possible career ending hits and then very un-unifrmly applies rules, fines, and suspensions for such.

    Just remember that these plays can go against us, and when someone takes out our guy on a questionable hit, youall will be bitching for a suspension.

    Now lets go fuck some canucks up.

  12. Mark B

    I have a theory about Patty Kaleta. I should suffice this by saying that I have no issue with his “antics” at all.

    My theory starts by pointing out that he will fight on occasion and has: Avery, slamming Witt down (which technically is not fighting, I know). But he will only fight when he is angry, not when the other player is angry with him. I believe he thinks if the other player is angry, he should take advantage of that and give us a PP. I think that’s a good philosophy.

    Basically he’s saying: “I will drop the gloves but only on my terms, not because someone got angry that I hit him.”

  13. Ryan

    Wow, lots of good responses here.

    I’m sure I will be talking about this again, but I agree with a lot of what Anon is saying. As stated above, I like Kaleta and a lot of his game, but there are things he does (or doesn’t do, for that matter) that bother me as a fan and as someone that sees value in the Code.

    You all are right when saying he does his job well, and of course what he did turned out as a positive for the team. However, I worry about his game in the long term, and what course his development as a player takes.

    Now is the time for those tendencies as a player to develop. I think Mark B’s theory on Kaleta has some truth in it, and it that’s the case I’m okay with how he plays.

    I’m glad so many people have something to say about this. It really is an important issue with the team becuase Kaleta does so much. It’s been a very long time since the 4th line has made such a big impact on the game.

  14. Slacker867

    1) If you’re comparing Kaleta and Barnaby I think you have the answer already.

    2) I’m with Anon – The Neil/Kaleta hits were totally comparable – Kaleta’s first hit was a lot more than finishing the check …just as Neil’s hit on C.D. was more than just catching a guy who wasn’t looking (The second Kaleta hit was totally fine to me – Mara was gonna say hi one way or another in that game)

  15. Steve

    Come on, if you want a fight with the guy you have to give him a chance to drop the gloves. Mara just grabbed Kaleta and started punching him, maybe a big guy like Peters or Neil can push you off and start trading punches but Kaleta was in no position to drop his gloves. I think he was surprised because he didn’t even hit Mara. It’s a dirty way to play, hitting people up high like that, but it’s up to the league to start enforcing it.

  16. Matty Dubs

    Well, I am completely fine with being a homer, I guess. I still see a major difference between the two, despite the similarities that you all point out.

    But, to echo the sentiment above, I am totally ready for another great one tonight. Today could not be going more slowly.

  17. Ebscer

    I disagree.

    I would rather see Kaleta turtle every single time, and draw the penalty, rather than throw a few punches and negate any advantage that he has earned for the team.

    The sport is not boxing, it is hockey, and Kaleta is doing what best helps the team win hockey games.

  18. RITBeast

    I have no problem with turtling there, as he was jumped from behind. Next game, he should offer Mara a fair fight. To me, that’s following ‘the code’ to the letter.