NHL suspends Duncan Keith six games – and dispels the “star treatment” myth

Matt Larkin
Duncan Keith (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Duncan Keith verdict is in. The NHL Department of Player Safety has suspended the Chicago Blackhawks defenseman six games, including the first game of the playoffs, for his retaliatory high stick on Minnesota right winger Charlie Coyle March 29. The league’s video justifying the decision:

New footage surfaced Friday depicting the play leading up to Keith’s stick swing. Coyle got his stick up high on Keith. But let’s not get bogged down here. For one, as director of player safety Patrick Burke says in the DOPS’ explanatory video, Coyle’s contact with Keith was the result of a battle for the puck. The contact was incidental. Keith, on the other hand, has full control of his stick, and that’s what establishes the intent. Even if we were to accept Coyle as partially guilty, the more vicious of the two acts was punished.

The Keith ban sent a strong message that the NHL will not give star players preferential treatment. Illegal is illegal. Not that Keith’s suspension should’ve been necessary to dispel the myth of “star favoritism” or even “Chicago favoritism” for that matter. Here’s a cross section of 2015-16’s suspensions to date, working backward, only including those dished out by the Department of Player Safety:

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Why the OHL came down so hard on Max Jones

Ken Campbell
Max Jones (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The consensus among scouts is that the 12-game suspension given to Max Jones of the London Knights for his headshot in the playoffs isn’t going to move the needle one way or the other when it comes to his draft status. Most NHL teams and pundits have him going in the top of the first round, probably somewhere outside the top 10, and that’s where he’ll stay.

The Ontario League announced Friday afternoon that Jones has been suspended for 12 games for his blind-side hit on Justin Brack of the Owen Sound Attack in Game 4 of their playoff series Wednesday night. It’s an enormous, earth-shattering sentence to be sure, depriving the Knights of the kind of player who can have an enormous impact on the playoffs – a big and gritty two-way player who can contribute offense.

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Watch vicious blindside hit that saw OHL player ejected from playoff game

Jared Clinton
Max Jones hits Justin Brack (via YouTube/Torontomapleleafs951)

According to just about every single draft ranking available, London Knights winger Max Jones is set to become a first-round selection at the upcoming draft. He may have hurt his stock Wednesday, though, when he threw a blindside hit to the head of Owen Sound’s Justin Brack and was kicked out of an opening-round playoff contest.

Jones’ vicious hit came midway through the contest with the Knights and Attack tied at two. Jones had attempted to enter the Owen Sound zone one-on-one, but the puck was stick checked away and Jones continued on behind the Attack net as a shot was fired on goal by Knights winger J.J. Piccinich. The shot was blocked on its way in and ended up bouncing out into the feet of Brack.

As Brack looked down to locate the puck, Jones approached him from the right, maintained his speed from the drive around the Attack goal, lowered his body and drove up and into Brack: Read more

Suspend them or not: Dustin Byfuglien (not) and Jason Chimera (fine)

Dustin Byfuglien  (Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images)

The most convincing argument that Dustin Byfuglien’s hit on Mark Stone Wednesday night was clean, ironically might have come in the fact that Stone was injured on the play.

Stone, the Ottawa Senators right winger who is in the midst of a second straight 60-point season, collided in the unscheduled freight train known as Winnipeg Jets defenseman Byfuglien in the second period of the Senators win in Manitoba. The good news was the victory by the Senators managed to keep the slim playoff hopes of the only Canadian team still in the playoff hunt alive. The bad news was Stone left the game with a chest contusion after being steamrolled by Byfuglien.

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Suspend him or not: Duncan Keith bloodies Charlie Coyle with vicious slash

Jared Clinton
Duncan Keith and Charlie Coyle (via NHL/Streamable)

With three consecutive meetings between the Blackhawks and Wild in the post-season, tensions between the two teams are bound to be high when the two teams meet, but Chicago defenseman Duncan Keith took his aggression too far Tuesday night.

Midway through the first period, Keith was attempting to hold the puck in the Minnesota zone when he was hit by Wild winger Charlie Coyle. The contact from Coyle knocked Keith onto his back, and the Blackhawks blueliner took exception. Laying on his back, Keith swung his stick up at Coyle, catching him in the face and drawing blood: Read more

Blackhawks suspend Garret Ross indefinitely as result of ‘revenge porn’ charge

Jared Clinton
Garret Ross (Chase Agnello-Dean/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Chicago Blackhawks have suspended 23-year-old prospect Garret Ross indefinitely days after reports surfaced that he has been charged with one count of has non-consensual dissemination of sexual images, also known as “revenge porn.”

The Blackhawks said they only learned about the charges against Ross on Saturday, which coincided with the first of two games the winger was scratched with over the weekend. When scratched, Rockford IceHogs coach cited a “coach’s decision,” but the reason for Ross’ absence from the lineup was made more clear when reports began to surface Tuesday of the charge against Ross. The Blackhawks announced their suspension of Ross on Wednesday evening. Read more

NHL needed to be bold in addressing Weber hit. It wasn’t

Ken Campbell
Bryan Rust (left) and Mike Weber  (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Many will react to the news that Mike Weber of the Washington Capitals did not receive supplementary discipline for boarding Bryan Rust of the Pittsburgh Penguins over the weekend with the same incredulity Hall of Fame coach Roger Neilson did so many years ago. “There are two things you don’t want to know in life,” Neilson once said. “What goes into hot dogs and what goes on in the NHL’s New York office.”

You watch the replay of Weber’s hit on Rust and it seems outrageous that there was nothing beyond the boarding major and misconduct that Weber received, which removed him from a game that was already decided with just 11:21 remaining. No hearing, no fine, no suspension. Nada.

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Update: Flyers’ VandeVelde suspended two games elbow on Blackhawks’ Toews

Jared Clinton
Chris VandeVelde hits Jonathan Toews (via Streamable)

Philadelphia Flyers winger Chris VandeVelde hasn’t found himself in the penalty box too often during his NHL career and has only 77 penalty minutes in 187 big league games. But the well-disciplined 29-year-old could be facing suspension after delivering one errant elbow.

VandeVelde was giving chase to Jonathan Toews in the final minute of play in the first frame of Wednesday’s game and attempted to deliver a hit to the Blackhawks’ captain. As Toews moved the puck on, VandeVelde followed through with his check but led with an elbow that caught Toews on the chin. Toews immediately stumbled, but was able to make his way to the bench.

The referees whistled VandeVelde for an elbowing minor, and Toews didn’t see the ice in the final 30 seconds of the period: Read more