On Dubi, the punch, and Captaincy

Last night fellow CBJ blogger Lindsay “@zinzwCBJ” Wilson wrote a post raising the idea that the sucker punch Brandon Dubinsky threw on Anton Volchenkov in the game against the Devils was evidence of his being unfit to wear the captain’s C for the Blue Jackets.

From the post:

In my opinion, this was a stupid thing for Dubinsky to do.  He was hit cleanly and should not have retaliated with the intensity that he did.  I can understand a shove or a  punch, but this was uncalled for.  The way that he put Volchenkov in a headlock was very dangerous.  What if he had twisted his neck and severely injured him?  Dubinsky also continued to punch Volchenkov in the head while he was on the ice.  This reminds me of when Phil Kessel tried to chop John Scott down like a tree with his stick.  It could severely injure someone and is very unsportsmanlike.

I actually agreed with a lot of what was said here. The hit was a very clean hit and well timed. Dubinsky probably shouldn’t have punched him while he was laying on the ice and I actually wondered if he might not get a call from Brendan Shanahan in the morning. Initially the optics of it looked bad but the more I thought about it,  it was a gloved punch to a helmeted player that was never going to do much damage. I don’t think that there was an intent to injure like I believe there was with Phil Kessel. Where my biggest disagreement comes from is with the closing lines of her post:

A captain does not do these things.  A captain represents the team and that is not the way the Columbus Blue Jackets should be represented.

The NHL has a very long history of captains, including some of the game’s best, doing stupid things. Here are a few examples of NHL captains making dirty plays or losing their cool in a game:

It’s no secret that the two leading contenders for captain of the Blue Jackets are Dubinsky and Jack Johnson. Even JJ has had his questionable moments:

My point is hockey players do dumb things sometimes. Even some of the best captains in the game have their moments of weakness. Should that preclude a player from becoming a captain? No, I don’t think it should.

In fact I think it may actually point the other direction. Dubinsky clearly over-reacted to that one hit. But what about the others? What about the cross check Dubinsky took scoring his goal or the slew foot Jagr pulled on Jack Johnson? The Devils were playing a very physical game and up to that point the Jackets had mostly let it happen. The kind of hit Volchenkov laid on Dubinsky is the kind that can fire a team up and give them a burst of energy. It can tell the opposing team that “we can do whatever we want to these guys and they’re not going to take it.”

But that’s not what happened. In one action Dubinsky took back all of the momentum the other team might have gained and sent a message to both the Devils, the Jackets and anyone else watching that if you’re going to try to push us around you better be ready for us to push back. Some would call that leading by example. Even if it means having to step over a line to do it.

One punch makes a player unfit to be a captain? Wonder what Dubi might say to that;)


  1. I also do not believe that one incident should lead you to think one way or another. Its fine to have an opinion on the subject, but the opinion should at least be backed up with a strong case if you’re gonna put it out there. That and the fact that the team doesn’t seem to care that there isn’t a captain should be enough to put this long and winded debate to rest. It doesn’t matter. And its been beat to death by bloggers of this team…

    • For sure, I’m not saying “Give him the C!” for this. I’m just trying to dispel the notion that one incident should eliminate him from the conversation and that Captains are above losing their cool.

  2. I said this on another post – how does this “misstep” by Dubi compare to the infamous Vinny point? Another action that was a poor choice in the context of the game, resulted in a penalty, and brought negative commentary from Richards – but yet it became a rallying point for the team and the fan community and was viewed as a consummate statement for the franchise. So in the context of the team it was valued? We have to judge things at the micro and macro level – as you point out.

    Captains or any leader should not be mistaken for saints – they are simply people who can shoulder the load of representing the culture and identity of a team both in public and in the room. They channel the long term goals of the team into reality – hopefully. That’s a lot of work and to expect anyone to be close to perfect at it is a mistake.

    Good job compiling all the examples through the years.

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