There have been 13 suspensions in the NHL in this shortened season.
Is that because the competition on a nightly basis is more intense? Is it because the league is taking a more diligent path in policing the games? Is it because the players have less respect for the rules and the welfare of each other? Maybe it is all of the above, or maybe they just do not know or understand what constitutes an offence that will lead to a suspension.
Vancouver’s Alex Edler received a two-game suspension for charging Phoenix goalie Mike Smith. I get the call. Rule 42.1 states: “A goalkeeper is not ‘fair game’ just because he is outside the goal crease area. The appropriate penalty should be assessed in every case where an opposing player makes unnecessary contact with a goalkeeper. However, incidental contact, at the discretion of the referee, will be permitted when the goalkeeper is in the act of playing the puck outside his goal crease provided the attacking player has made a reasonable effort to avoid such contact.”
Alex saw Mike Smith handling the puck and finished his check. He did not look like he tried to slide by him and was called for charging. He got a major penalty, which in the rulebook is 42.3. “The referee, at his discretion, may assess a major penalty, based on the degree of violence of the check.”
It was a hard check and Alex is a big guy. The five minute penalty occurred in the second period with the score 1-0. The punishment seemed to suit the crime. The Coyotes did score on the power play, but only once. The suspension was the thing that caught me by surprise. I know the league took a lot of heat when it didn’t do anything to Milan Lucic when he steamrolled Ryan Miller last year. That hit was worse than the Edler hit, yet it received no supplementary discipline. Brendan Shanahan made a mistake then but a player who has never even had a major penalty in his seven-year career should not have to pay the price. If you get a chance, watch the video on the NHL website of the Edler suspension. They say there was no malicious intent and that he is a first time offender. He never targeted the head or jumped into the contact he just did not try to avoid the contact. He was punished and his team was punished with the five- minute penalty.
Joffrey Lupul was suspended for two games for a careless elbow to the head of Victor Hedman, yet Rick Nash never had a hearing after a similar hit to the head of Tomas Kopecky . Lupul was on Sportsnet saying that he was not campaigning to have Rick Nash suspended, but could not understand why he got nailed and Nash did not. Brad Stuart flattened Gabe Landeskog with a shoulder to the head early in the season and got nothing. Landeskog missed a month with the dreaded upper body injury.
The players just do not know what is punishable by a suspension and what is not. The rules are there and yet the interpretation of those rules is so inconsistent, everyone is left guessing.