Corey Perry will sit for four games after catching Jason Zucker with an illegal hit. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)
It’s not often this corner agrees with a decision made by the NHL’s department of player safety, but there was a lot to like about the four-game suspension to Corey Perry of the Anaheim Ducks. Take your pick. A late, illegal check, a reckless play and a significant injury. Perry’s hit on Jason Zucker of the Minnesota Wild had suspension written all over it.
The only problem is that by suspending Perry, the NHL could very well end up hurting the Wild even more than Perry did. Follow the logic here. The NHL suspended Perry for the Ducks next four games. That certainly won’t help Anaheim against their next four opponents and puts them at a significant disadvantage in each of those games.
And when you look closely at Anaheim’s schedule, it could end up harming the Wild far more than if Perry had remained in the Ducks lineup. That’s because of those next four games, three are against teams with which the Wild are embroiled in a battle for a playoff spot.
Going into Thursday night’s games, the Wild hold down the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference. Thursday night, the Ducks visit the Dallas Stars, who are in 11th place and just two points behind the Wild. Anaheim visits the St. Louis Blues on Saturday, a team that is just two points ahead of the Wild and on Monday, the Ducks are at home against the San Jose Sharks, with whom the Wild are tied at 28 points. Anaheim’s fourth game is at home against the Chicago Blackhawks, a game that will feature two teams that are so far ahead of the Wild in the standings that it won’t have any bearing.
But those are six valuable points up for grabs in the Western Conference where the Ducks won’t have one of their top players. How exactly does that help the Wild, who also lost Zucker in the collision with Perry? If the Ducks go on to lose all three of those crucial games and Perry could have been the difference in two of them, that’s a huge swing that works against the Wild.
Perhaps it’s time to change the way in which suspensions are administered in the NHL. For egregious acts in which the sentence is five or more games, the standard could remain the same – the player sits out immediately for the duration of his suspension. It is important to punish those kinds of miscreants swiftly and decisively and get them off the ice.
But for suspensions of fewer than five games, perhaps the aggrieved team could have the choice of suspending the player immediately or have him sit out only the future head-to-head games. So, if the Wild were to choose the second option, Perry would be able to play in the games that would help Minnesota in their quest for the playoffs, but would have to sit out the next four games his team plays against the Wild. The two teams do not meet again this season and if Perry were to change teams over the summer, the suspension would carry over to his new team’s future games against the Wild.
The NHL would still be able to fine Perry and have him sit out his games without giving the Wild’s opponents the advantage of not having to face him.
Just a thought.
Ken Campbell is the senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com with his column. To read more from Ken and THN's other stable of experts, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Ken on Twitter at @THNKenCampbell.