Is Brooks Orpik a Dirty Player?

Was Brooks Orpik's hit on Jonathan Toews legal? (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)
Was Brooks Orpik’s hit on Jonathan Toews legal? (Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports)

Is Brooks Orpik a dirty player? Mike Milbury certainly thinks so. After Orpik lit up Jonathan Toews Sunday night, Milbury went on another biased tirade against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Milbury called out, and accused Orpik of attempting to injure opposing players. Milbury has been on Orpik’s case since the Shawn Thornton incident. Milbury is convinced that Orpik should fight if he dishes out vicious body checks like the one on Toews.

Another NBC hockey analyst, Eddie Olczyk, thought the Chicago Blackhawks should have attacked Orpik. Olczyk once coached Orpik, but went on to voice his displeasure about the incident on WGWG-LP 87.7 FM yesterday. Olczyk’s interview was quoted by Scott Powers of ESPN Chicago:

“He’s [Orpik] a big guy,” Olczyk said. “He’s a heavy guy. He battles. He’s a physical player. He takes runs at players. He doesn’t drop his gloves, which I certainly think is an issue I have, but that’s a whole other story.”

http://youtu.be/1uVA52fCaQ0

Olczyk wouldn’t have called for the Blackhawks to retaliate if he didn’t think the Orpik hit was dirty. But it’s funny that the Blackhawks failed to retaliate following the hit on their franchise player. Marian Hossa ran over to Orpik and gave him a bump and some words, but no dirty incident ensued. The Blackhawks tried lining Orpik up a few times in the corner, but all attempts to repay Orpik were in a clean manner.

This isn’t the first questionable hit involving Orpik. He was responsible for giving Loui Eriksson a concussion earlier this season. This was one of many controversial hits produced by Orpik over the years. Go type “Orpik hit” in a search engine and see all of the different names that appear. Toews, Eriksson, Daniel Paille, and Derek Stepan to name a few. Punch in “Orpik hit,” pick a letter, and a different player will appear.

All of these hits are debatable. Most Penguins fans say these were clean body checks. Critics say they’re dirty. But there’s one reason why people are frustrated with Orpik’s actions. He won’t fight. If Orpik would drop the gloves after his borderline checks, people would be less likely to question his actions.

But Orpik has no obligation to fight. Some of the same critics who call Orpik dirty want him to fight after he delivers a debatable hit. Isn’t this ironic? Fighting is a penalty and a dirty part of hockey. If a player fights, he gets penalized for it. Orpik wasn’t sent to the penalty box after his hits on Ericsson or Toews. But for Orpik’s hit to be justifiable, critics demand that Orpik fight and endure some type of punishment for his actions. This is bogus.

Scott Stevens was one of the best open ice hitters the league has ever seen, but people view him as a Hall-of-Famer instead of a dirty hitter. Stevens basically ended the career of Eric Lindros.

http://youtu.be/WRMz6A6r5fs

Orpik nearly ended Erik Cole’s career in 2007. And for all of the people who say Orpik should fight, he and Cole fought upon Cole’s return from this injury. There’s no doubt this hit was dirty, but Cole returned to have a normal career. Today, Orpik is a more mature player and leader in the Penguins’ locker-room.

Brooks Orpik will have his hands full on the larger Olympic ice surface against the world's best players.(Icon SMI)
Brooks Orpik plays on the edge and many of his hits are borderline.(Icon SMI)

To my knowledge, Orpik has yet to end a player’s career. He may dish out hits that unfortunately hurt opponents, but is it Orpik’s fault that these individuals put themselves in vulnerable positions? There are players out there like Sidney Crosby or Martin St. Louis who seemingly never get lambasted. If Orpik didn’t take the body and didn’t lay people out, he’d be out of the job. He’s not a puck-moving defenseman like every other blue-liner in the Penguins’ organization. He’s relied upon to be a physical presence every game. That’s his role with the team.

Hockey is a contact sport. Hitting is a part of the game.

Is Brooks Orpik a dirty player or an honest hard-hitting defenseman?