Colorado Avalanche: AJ Greer Attacked by Dustin Byfuglien

WINNIPEG, MB - FEBRUARY 16: Linesman Steve Miller
WINNIPEG, MB - FEBRUARY 16: Linesman Steve Miller /

Colorado Avalanche forward A.J. Greer was on the receiving end of some dirty play by the Winnipeg Jets’ Dustin Byfuglien.

Colorado Avalanche rookie forward A. J. Greer is known for being a snotty kid. That’s his shtick — he’s an instigator. He gets under your skin.

And when Greer gets under your skin, he’s not afraid to pay the price. He’s not an enforcer, but the 6-foot-3, 205-pound right wing doesn’t mind dropping the gloves. He knows being an instigator willing to fight — Cody McLeod-style — is his path to the NHL.

Last night against the Winnipeg Jets, it seemed like business as usual for Greer. (It looked like business as usual — blowing Central Division games — for the Colorado Avalanche, too, but that’s another topic.)

With just a few seconds left in the second period, the Avalanche were down 4-0. They’d been playing a lackadaisical, mistake-laden game. Greer was on the ice, and he realized he could provide a little energy to his team.

In fact, it all started with Jets captain Blake Wheeler. He and Greer were scrambling for the puck. Wheeler checked Greer against the Winnipeg bench — and clearly the players on said bench gave Greer a few chirps. He did so a second time, and Greer responded with a cross check. The official was right there — he let play go on.

Greer proceeded to chirp and give another little kidney shove to Wheeler. No Avs fan is disputing that or the fact that such behavior will likely result in ferocity from the other side. That’s hockey — it’s part of what we love about the sport.

Indeed, Jets goon enforcer defenseman Dustin Byfuglien ran over hapless Avs forward Gabriel Bourque to get to Greer. Here’s a closeup of the action:

Now, I’ve got to question why Blake Wheeler didn’t turn around and take care of business for himself — it was, after all, his kidneys Greer was hounding. And Wheeler isn’t exactly a shrinking violet at 6-foot-5, 225 pounds.

Colorado Avalanche
Colorado Avalanche /

Colorado Avalanche

In any case, Byfuglien railroaded Bourque to get to Greer, and that’s fair enough. Indeed, Greer dropped the gloves right away. He got a couple swipes in before the bigger, more experienced Byfuglien dragged him down. Bravo Greer, not exactly one for the win column, but we’ll take it.

Here’s where it gets ugly. Greer is just doing his job. He fought the bigger man and lost. The Jets are up 4-0, so there shouldn’t be any extra emotional trauma going on from their side.

Yet Byfuglien decided to go Beserker on the young man. Fighting is a part of hockey, so there are rules. When the two players are down, you stop the punching.

Byfuglien didn’t adhere to these gentleman’s rules (for obvious reasons — he’s no gentleman). Instead, he wrestled Greer onto his back and punched the defenseless rookie twice right in the head. As the officials intervened, Byfuglien proceeded to get not one, not two, not three, but four punches in on the now hog-tied Greer. Literally he utilized the officials trying to restrain the action like a small-minded thug enforcing bully tactics.

Let’s take a step back — literally — to observe the start of the scrum from afar. A.J. Greer chirped and crosschecked the Jets captain in the back. Yes, he should be prepared to answer for those actions — preferably from the wounded party, but the team goon enforcer goon works, too.

But what did Greer do that was so heinous it caused Byfuglien to lay out poor Bourque before pummeling Greer into the ice?

Nothing. And, unfortunately, Greer was the biggest tough guy on the ice for the Avalanche. Moreover, Greer’s sacrifice didn’t even light a fire under Colorado for the third period, though he did get a nice cross check in on Dmity Kulikov. (A.J. is nothing if not pesky.)

Next: All About AJ Greer

Here’s the problem with the modern-day NHL. If you decide to go all-in like the Colorado Avalanche with slight, fleet-of-foot players, all it takes is one goon to derail you. Hockey is a rough sport — if there’s a place for a Dustin Byfuglien on one team, then every team needs one.