The Mark Bell saga is finally over, our newspapers will no longer be flooded with repetitive stories speculating on how many games Bell would be gone for, as he has been suspended for fifteen games. Along with the fifteen games suspension, the former Ottawa 67 forward will also have to report to a substance abuse program. We should not that during this time Bell will be allowed to practice with the team.
Overall, the forward will miss a month and a half of game time and is scheduled to play his first game on October 13th. Bell is scheduled to make $2 million in the upcoming season which will now be cut by 18%.
Bell arrived in San Jose via a three-way trade that took place between Ottawa and Chicago. The former Blackhawk was expected to be a power forward and significantly benefit from playing on a line with Joe Thornton. Unfortunately, off-ice issues had an effect on Bell and he was not able to play up to his ability with San Jose. As a result the troubled forward was shipped off to Toronto this off-season in a questionable acquisition by Leafs GM John Ferguson Jr.
My take: Fifteen games is a fair amount to hand down to Bell. It is not overly excessive, yet, at the same time, not too light. This suspension sends a message to the players of the NHL that they will not only pay for their actions in court, but they will also lose their paycheque and miss valuable game time. Players now understand that being convicted of crimes not only hurts them, but also hurts the team. (Although if Wade Belak was convicted of drunk driving and was suspended for 15 games I don't think Leafs fans would mind.) If I were Bell, I would be upset about losing 15 games pay, but I would be more concerned about spending six months in a prison. Hopefully he will be able to clean himself up, devote himself to Jesus and return to the same form he showed when he scored 48 points for the Blackhawks in 2005-2006.