Argue with NHL player safety suspensions if you want, but blame team owners & players for soft punishments

Dustin Byfuglien (Marianne Helm/Getty Images)

The instant Dustin Byfuglien’s four-game suspension for a vicious cross-check on Rangers center J.T. Miller was announced late Thursday afternoon, hockey fans and some media types took to social media to vent anger and frustration over the brevity of it. And it wasn’t just Blueshirts supporters; in this era of heightened awareness of head injuries and their long-term effects on players’ post-career quality of life, an ever-increasing number of people agree that actions like Byfuglien’s are absolutely unacceptable and warrant a severe punishment that causes NHLers to think twice before doing something so reckless. They didn’t get that with a four-game ban.

Believe me, nobody agrees with those folks more than I do. However, there’s a group of fans out there who direct their wrath over the league’s consistently underwhelming suspensions at the NHL Department of Player Safety. Those people were out in full force in the wake of the Byfuglien verdict. And those people are wrong. You can disagree with the choices of chief disciplinarian Stephane Quintal or anyone in Player Safety, but attaching primary blame to him or his department is like faulting police for laws they enforce; if you want to effect change and put pressure on the appropriate parties for the long-established leniency of the league, you should look at the two groups chiefly responsible for soft punishments: the first is NHL team owners, and the second is the NHL Players’ Association. Read more

Suspend him or not: Flames’ Brandon Bollig boards Blues’ Barret Jackman

Adam Proteau
Blues center David Backes and Flames winger Brandon Bollig. (Gerry Thomas/NHLI via Getty Images)

The NHL’s playoff race is heating up, but the stream of questionable hits from behind is as steady as every – and Thursday night, Caglary left winger Brandon Bollig added another to the list when he boarded Barret Jackman as the Blues defenseman had his back to him.

There were approximately two minutes left in the first period in St. Louis when Bollig took a run at Jackman, who was protecting the puck along the boards. Pay close attention to Bollig leaving his feet and pushing up into Jackman, driving his head into the boards:

(video from SportsnetCanada)

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Byfuglien suspended four games — can the Jets make the playoffs without him?

Jared Clinton
Dustin Byfuglien (Jared Silber/NHLI via Getty Images)

News came down this afternoon that the NHL’s Department of Player Safety has suspended Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dustin Byfuglien for four games for his crosscheck to the head and neck area of New York Rangers center J.T. Miller. And while Miller thankfully escaped without serious injury, it appears Byfuglien might have put more of a hurt on his own team.

Make no mistake, Byfuglien earned every game of his suspension. But what a time for him to be heading to the sidelines because of a reckless play. With only five games remaining in their regular season, the Jets are attempting to lock down the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference while the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings seem determined to sneak ahead of Winnipeg for a chance to protect their crown.

Without Byfuglien, Winnipeg’s chances of hanging onto the final wild-card berth are hurt, but just how much? Read more

Suspend him or suspend him: Vancouver’s Alex Burrows ejected after head shot on Preds’ Paul Gaustad

Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa stands near Preds center Paul Gaustad, who had just been hit by Vancouver's Alex Burrows. (John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Just about every NHL media person working today will tell you it’s easy and often unfair to judge players’ actions from the comforts of the press box or our living rooms. We always have to bear that in mind when we’re talking about supplemental discipline. The game moves faster than any sport not contested on wheels, and there are times when players will seriously injure an opponent with no malice intended.

Then there are NHLers who “just happen” to be involved with an annually-increasing number of borderline dirty incidents in the same way Jason Statham just happens to make essentially the same action movie time and again. Which brings me to Alex Burrows.

The Canucks’ agitator was back in the headlines for all the wrong reasons Tuesday after this blindside hit to the head of Predators center Paul Gaustad got him a five-minute major and an ejection from Vancouver’s game against Nashville: Read more

Suspend him or not: Jets star Dustin Byfuglien cross-checks Rangers’ J.T. Miller in back of the head

Adam Proteau
Dustin Byfuglien and Ondrej Pavelec (Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Winnipeg Jets are in the midst of a brutally tough playoff race and need all hands on deck the rest of the way if they’re going to continue playing after mid-April. That’s why the decision of star defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to cross-check Rangers center J.T. Miller in the head Tuesday – while Miller was sitting on the ice with his back to him – is so dubious: in essence, Byfuglien is risking suspension on a nothing play, and considering how everyone knows the NHL is more sensitive about headshots, there’s no justification for it.

The play took place in Winnipeg’s MTS Centre, and it materialized after Miller was looking to jar the puck loose from Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec and took a couple whacks with his stick at him. He’s unsuccessful in his scoring attempt and Miller falls over into a seated position by himself, but at that point Byfuglien, who hadn’t been anywhere near him, keeps both hands on his stick and drills it into Miller’s head and the back of his neck, pushing his head toward the ice: Read more

Ex-NHLer Andre Deveaux faces criminal charges in Sweden, proving hockey can’t always protect its “protectors”

Adam Proteau
Andre Deveaux as a member of the New York Rangers in November of 2011. (Christopher Pasatieri/Getty Images)

The news former NHLer Andre Deveaux would face criminal charges in Sweden for a blind-side, stick-swinging attack on an opponent prior to a playoff game last week isn’t entirely unexpected. Once video of the incident surfaced, there were bound to be severe repercussions for the 31-year-old, and it’s looking like being released from his contract (as he was Monday) will be the least of Deveaux’s concerns.

The day after his release from Swedish League team Rogle BK, Deveaux had a warrant issued for his arrest, the TT news agency reported. Swedish prosecutors saw what we all saw – Deveaux inexplicably charging VIK Vasteras HK player Per Helmersson as his back was turned in warmups, winding up with his stick, swinging it baseball-style at Helmersson’s ankles, then clubbing him in the head – and decided a hockey punishment wasn’t nearly enough. And they were right. There was no major injury on the play, but what if that massive slash had shattered Helmersson’s ankle and decimated his ability to play at peak form for the rest of his career? In effect, Deveaux was gambling with an opponent’s career – and as it turns out, his own career.

You can argue whatever you like about whether or not Deveaux had been provoked in an earlier playoff game between his team and Helmersson’s, but that is missing the point. This is another cautionary tale, and it’s the one hockey’s fundamentalist old-schoolers don’t like to talk much about: the culture of the game can push you to levels of hyper-aggression you never thought possible, but there’s a Rubicon you can cross – and once you do cross it, the game’s gatekeepers won’t always be there to protect you. Read more

Former NHLer Andre Deveaux goes haywire, attacks opponent in ugly Swedish League incident

Adam Proteau
Andre Deveaux in his brief stint as a New York Ranger in the 2011-12 season. (Mike Stobe/NHL via Getty Images)

Well-traveled center Andre Deveaux played 31 NHL games with the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Rangers from 2008-2012, but he will likely be known from this point on as the man who snapped before a Swedish League game and brutally attacked an opponent with a blind-side attack that included a baseball-type swing of his stick.

Deveaux’s Rogle BK team was set to take on VIK Vasteras HK Thursday in Game 4 of a playoff series that would determine which team would go on to play in Sweden’s top division. But in warmup, Deveaux suddenly went after Vasteras captain Per Helmersson from behind, slashing him viciously in the leg, and then taking another clubbing swing at Helmersson’s head before he tackled him and pushed him to the ice: (video via Reddit user kaugesaar) Read more

Suspend him or not: Kings’ Toffoli boards Canucks’ Burrows

Jared Clinton
Tyler Toffoli

For the first time in his young career, Tyler Toffoli may be getting a call from the Department of Player Safety.

During Saturday afternoon’s game between the Kings and Canucks, Toffoli sent Vancouver Canucks winger Alex Burrows head first into the boards with a crosscheck to the back. Burrows stayed down on the ice for several moments before being helped from the ice.

You can see the play, which resulted in a five-minute major and a game misconduct for Toffoli, below: Read more