Suspend him or not: Gabriel Landeskog’s flying elbow

Adam Proteau
Gabriel Landeskog (Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)

After the NHL began the regular season rather quietly on the supplemental discipline front, players have been making up for lost time of late – including Anton Volchenkov’s four-game suspension, Jordan Nolan’s two-game ban for boarding, and Andrew Ference’s three-game suspension for an illegal check to the head. And after Sunday night’s game between the host Colorado Avalanche and Anaheim Ducks, there ought to be another.

See it with your own eyes. Look at the footage of Avs star Gabriel Landeskog barreling into Ducks winger Corey Perry, and ask yourself, would you suspend him or not? Read more

Taylor Hall injured, Andrew Ference could be suspended; Oilers need an exorcism

Adam Proteau
Taylor Hall (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Edmonton Oilers began the year looking painfully inept, but had recently saved face (and perhaps the employment of coach Dallas Eakins) with a four-game win streak. However, because no good news seems to go unpunished with this franchise of late, that positivity was soon to disappear: the first sign of trouble’s return came when goalie Ben Scrivens made a sub-par clearing attempt that led to the game-winning, shorthanded goal in Saturday’s 3-2 loss to Vancouver; and in the same game, they lost star winger Taylor Hall for 2-4 weeks with a sprained knee. Hall is Edmonton’s leading scorer (six goals and 10 points in 11 games) and his absence on a team that’s mediocre on offense (a 16th-best 2.64 goals-for per game average) could devastate any hope the Oilers have of climbing out of the depths of the Western Conference.

It’s easy to say Edmonton will have to tighten up on defense, but that might also be a little more difficult after Saturday: captain and veteran defenseman Andrew Ference is facing a possible suspension for attempting to de-head Canucks agitator Zack Kassian.

If you’re an Oilers fan, aren’t you asking yourself if the fates are conspiring against your favorite players and the larger management team owner Daryl Katz has assembled? Read more

Hiring Scott Stevens would make player safety department top heavy with bruisers

Ken Campbell
Paul Kariya after a Scott Stevens hit. Photo by: Brian Bahr/Getty Images/NHLI)

Well, there seems to be no shortage of outrage that Scott Stevens is being seriously considered for a post with the NHL’s department of player safety. That has something to do with the fact that if the department of player safety existed and had its current mandate when Stevens played, he would have been called on the carpet so often he probably would have had his own parking spot.

But to suggest Stevens played outside the rules is absurd. In fact, he played entirely inside the rules. The fact that the NHL’s rules, or lack of them, allowed players to take runs from the other end of the ice, lift their feet and drill their elbows into their opponents’ skulls when applying open-ice hits was not Stevens’ fault. The fact is Stevens was not a dirty player at all, he was a devastating open-ice hitter. He played 1,635 games and was suspended only twice for a total of four games. And of his 2,785 career penalty minutes, only eight of them were for elbowing penalties. Never once was Stevens suspended for one of his hits.

The league has its share of rambunctious players deciding now whether or not the guys on the ice will be suspended. The guy who runs the department, Stephane Quintal, was certainly no shrinking violet, with more than 1,300 penalty minutes. Chris Pronger was suspended eight times during his career and was one of the dirtiest players of all-time. And take a look who has run that department in recent years – Brian Burke, Colin Campbell and Brendan Shanahan – none of whom you’d like to meet in a corner.

But the department has also employed Brian Leetch, a skilled defenseman whose highest PIM total for a season was 67. And a big part of the decision making group includes Patrick Burke and Damian Echevarrieta, who have never played a shift at the pro level. It also includes hockey operations people Colin Campbell, Mike Murphy and Kris King, all former players.

So, yeah, if Stevens is added to that group it is a little top-heavy with guys who played a physical game. And there’s certainly nothing terribly wrong with that, but wouldn’t you for once like to see a guy like Mike Bossy or Pierre Turgeon be part of the decision-making process? You know, just to even things out a little. After all, if there’s always a place for guys with multiple suspensions and penalty minutes in the thousands, surely it could be balanced out with a couple of guys who won the Lady Byng Trophy and approached the game from a different perspective.

But that just doesn’t seem to be the way this league rolls. In fact, the department of player safety’s own mission statement reads this way: “We are committed to making the game as safe as possible for our players,” which is all good. But then it goes on to say, “while preserving the intensely physical, competitive and passionate nature of hockey.” Which is basically the NHL’s way of saying, “Yeah, we want the players to be safe, but make no mistake, we have no intention of turning this game into four-on-four ringette.”

Shouldn’t a department of player safety be concerned with making the game as safe as possible for all its players, full stop? Why does it need to be concerned with anything else. Decide whether a player’s safety was put at risk and whether the incident surrounding it broke the rules. That’s about it.

The league is capable of penalizing bad hits such as the John Moore hit on Erik Haula without fearing having hitting removed from the game. Case in point, was the Eric Gryba hit on Artem Anisimov. Anisimov was hurt on the play, largely because his helmet popped off, but the department saw the hit as a legal shoulder-to-chest hit that had a bad outcome. It decided no suspension was warranted and there’s no trouble with that.

But it would indeed be nice if the people making those decisions weren’t tilted so heavily in the direction of the guys who used to make those kinds of hits rather than receive them.

NHL suspends Rangers’ John Moore five games for headshot

Adam Proteau
Erik Haula and John Moore (Getty Images)

The NHL’s department of player safety suspended New York Rangers defenseman John Moore five games for his headshot on Minnesota Wild center Erik Haula Monday. Moore will lose $51,859.75 in salary for the hit, which occurred in the second period of Monday’s game. But really, he should be thankful he plays in a league and in a culture that doesn’t take harsher measures to curb concussions.

When Moore barrelled into Haula, who had just finished shooting the puck, he clearly had no fear of the consequences for what at best can be termed a borderline hit. But imagine if he did. Imagine if he knew that, as the repeat offender that he was, he could be suspended for a minimum of 20 games. Having that knowledge in the back of his head might not have stopped him from making the same split-second decision, but who’s to say it would have no effect? Players (and their families) would be acutely aware of the significant financial penalty they would pay, and there’s every possibility their behavior would be modified and the likelihood of a repeat offense would decrease. Read more

Eric Gryba on Artem Anisimov: Predatorial headshot or clean hit?

Eric Gryba (Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images)

When people talk about the director of player safety being the most thankless job on the planet, they might want to reference the hit Eric Gryba of the Ottawa Senators put on Artem Anisimov of the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night.

Because that hit epitomizes the rock-and-a-hard-place situation in which Stephane Quintal and his lieutenants often find themselves. If he suspends Gryba for the hit, he comes under fire from those who don’t see anything wrong with it and claim the NHL is trying to take checking out of the game. He allows it to go unpunished and he comes under attack from observers who believe the NHL is being complacent when it comes to making headhunters accountable for their actions.

For the record, Gryba received a match penalty and a game misconduct for the hit, which popped Anisimov’s helmet off before his head struck the ice. He did not return to the game and is out day-to-day with an apparent concussion.

Here’s a look at the hit from two different angles:

I’ve watched this hit numerous times from several angles in slow motion and I still can’t figure out whether or not it deserves a suspension. Do his feet leave the ice? Doesn’t appear so? Is the principle point of contact the head? Looks like a shoulder to chest hit more than anything? Was Gryba headhunting an unsuspecting player? Well, we’ll never know exactly what was going through Gryba’s head during the play, but it certainly doesn’t look like it.

Two things we should keep in mind here. The first is that Gryba is a repeat offender by the NHL’s definition for the suspension he received for his headshot on Lars Eller in the playoffs in 2012. But it’s also important to remember that his status as a repeat offender should, and will, have nothing to do with determining guilt or innocence here. That’s why a person’s criminal past is not allowed to be used as evidence during a trial. Now if he’s deemed to be guilty, then his status of a repeat offender will be held against him.

The second is the extent of the injury. It’s impossible to tell 100 percent whether Anisimov received any damage from the impact of the hit itself, but its indisputable that his bare head hit the ice when he fell. Whether Gryba was headhunting or not, should he be held liable for the fact that Anisimov did not secure his chin strap enough to prevent it from popping off his head upon impact? The answer is, of course, no.

It certainly wouldn’t be outlandish for the NHL to decide to not have a hearing with Gryba for this hit, unlike the in-person hearing it’s going to have with John Moore of the New York Rangers over this hit:

That one will probably earn Moore a six-game suspension. But with the Gryba hit, it’s difficult to determine whether there’s even any recklessness at play here. Was this just a case of a big guy seeing an opportunity to make a hit and making the most of it – nothing wrong with that in anyone’s NHL – or someone who was truly trying to do more than separate his opponent from the puck? When a 6-foot-4, 225-pound guy makes moving contact, sometimes it’s not going to turn out well.

One thing I do know: I wouldn’t want to be occupying Quintal’s chair on this file.

AHL suspends Brad Mills 20 games for failing performance-enhancing drug test

Adam Proteau
Brad Mills (Bill Smith/NHLI via Getty Images)

The American Hockey League announced Tuesday a 20-game suspension for Binghamton Senators Brad Mills after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug.

The 31-year-old Mills, who had one goal and two points in 34 games of NHL experience with the New Jersey Devils and Chicago Blackhawks, was in his first year in Binghamton after an eight-year AHL career that included stops in Lowell, Albany and Rockford; he has already sat out four games after the Senators removed him from the lineup last week once the test result came in, and he’s eligible to return to the lineup Dec. 12. Read more

Pair of Rangers could be in line for suspensions after questionable hits

Adam Proteau
Chris Kreider (Getty Images)

NHL chief disciplinarian Stephane Quintal and the rest of the NHL department of player safety will have a busy Tuesday after a pair of questionable incidents and ejections took place Monday night in the same game between the Rangers and Wild.

The first took place late in the first period, when Rangers winger Chris Kreider drilled Minnesota defenseman Jonas Brodin into the end boards with a hit from behind that left Brodin in a heap on the ice:

Kreider received a major penalty for boarding and a game misconduct; Brodin had to be helped off, but returned to play in the second period. However, the nastiness only got worse from there, because for some inexplicable reason midway through the second, Blueshirts defenseman John Moore decided to throw an elbow at the head of Wild center Erik Haula: Read more

NHL suspends Sharks’ John Scott two games for leaving bench

Adam Proteau
John Scott (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

As expected, the NHL handed out its first suspension of the season for a regular-season on-ice incident Monday, hitting San Jose Sharks winger John Scott with a two-game ban for leaving the bench to start a fight with Ducks winger Tim Jackman Sunday.

As the NHL department of player safety made clear in a now standard video explanation it hands out after each suspension, Scott left the bench on a legal line change, but made no effort to play the puck and instead instigated a fight with Jackman. Scott himself admitted he had no intent to join the play and was strictly interested in throwing fists: Read more