Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Discipline in the NHL (Does it Make Sense to Anyone?!)

So if you've been paying attention at all to the NHL the past couple of weeks you've probably noticed that the NHL has noooooo clue what it's doing when it comes to handing out suspensions. There have been four incidents that have occurred since the NHL resumed play that have warranted further action by the league disciplinarian Colin Campbell. In each case, Campbell has left everyone watching scratching their heads and wondering what he was thinking.

Case #1: Maxim Lapierre's hit on Scott Nichol

Lapierre ended up getting a four game suspension for this hit from behind on the Sharks' Scott Nichol. Lapierre is a pest/agitator type of player, yet prior to this suspension, had no previous suspension history. So while a somewhat dangerous hit, it's a type of hit that happens in the NHL from time to time without any serious injury, though Nichol ended up missing about a week with a shoulder injury. This suspension seemed to be based on Lapierre's reputation as a tough guy, even though he wasn't a repeat offender.

Case #2: Matt Cooke's elbow to the head of Marc Savard

This was the most puzzling of Campbell's decisions not to suspend someone. This hit happened the same week that the GMs in the NHL were gathering to discuss hits to the head in hockey. Campbell had an opportunity to send a message that he and the NHL are serious about eliminating this type of play, yet instead of sending that message, he chose not to suspend Cooke because he had not suspended Mike Richards earlier in the year for a similar type of hit (I would like to note that Richards did not appear to target the head the way Cooke did and that is a distinct and important difference in the two cases as Campbell has suspended players for their intent to target another player's head in the past). Cooke also had a history of dirty hits like that and had been twice suspended for dangerous hits on other players. So so far, Campbell has suspended someone who had never been suspended before for a borderline hit, and let a repeat offender walk despite his clear intent to hit Savard in the head. Confused yet? Savard, by the way, will miss the rest of the season with a severe concussion. He is Boston's best player, and Boston is a possible first round matchup for the Penguins...

Case #3: Alexander Ovechkin's hit on Brian Campbell

This was Campbell's most puzzling decision to suspend someone. Out of the three hits so far, this one was actually clean. Ovechkin hit Brian Campbell from the side, unfortunately, Campbell's skate got stuck and he twisted and hit the boards awkwardly. Ovechkin had been suspended earlier this year for a knee to knee hit on another player, but this play was clearly the result of freak accident, rather than a blatant dirty hit. Nevertheless, Colin Campbell decided to hand down a two game suspension to the Washington star, possibly so he could show that he isn't afraid to suspend league superstars.

Case #4: Steve Downie's takedown of Sidney Crosby

Here is another strange decision not to suspend. It's hard to defend what Downie did as anything other than an attempt to injure Sidney Crosby. It was well out of the play and he locked his legs up with Crosby's while pulling him backward. Nothing about that hit was unintentional. Downie also has a suspension history as he was given a 20 game suspension two years ago for launching himself at Dean McAmmond's head. However, Downie managed to escape a suspension, though he did get a small fine.

So as you can see, clearly there is no rhyme or reason to suspensions in the NHL right now. Each case took a lot of explaining as to why the player was or wasn't disciplined, and the verdict of each case just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. If the NHL is serious about player safety, they really need to have clear, strict rules on what will happen if you hit players in certain ways. Until that happens, I fear that these types of plays will become more commonplace. And that isn't good for the sport at all.

1 comment:

Jess said...

The league's decisions about suspensions are quite mind-boggling. I think they're like, "This suspension would make sense... so let's do the opposite!"