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.

Power Rankings: Kings taking regular season seriously (Rest of league: ‘Yikes!’)

Ken Campbell
Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Kings are blowing their cover. In previous seasons, the Kings never seemed terribly interested in blowing the doors off the NHL during the regular season, instead being content to watch teams raise their division championship and President’s Trophy banners while they hoisted a Stanley Cup pennant.

That’s all changed in 2014-15. The Kings are taking the regular season seriously in the early going and are steamrolling their way through the league. If this keeps up, expect to see them at or near the top of thn.com’s Power Rankings for most of the season. (Last week’s rankings are in parentheses.) Read more

‘Doogie’ Hamilton ready to fill the enormous void left by Chara injury

Ken Campbell
Dougie Hamilton (Photo by Brian Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

Shortly after earning the second assist on the Boston Bruins first goal of the evening Saturday night, Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton was referred to as ‘Doogie’ Hamilton by Air Canada Centre public address announcer Andy Frost.

A little bit like Doogie Howser, Doogie Hamilton is something of a child prodigy. All right, that might be a stretch for a 21-year-old kid, but considering he’s already in his third year in the league and due for a big payday next season, we’re prepared to declare him on the fast track. (It also gives us an excuse to run this video.)
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Power Rankings: Ducks flock to familiar perch at No. 1

Ken Campbell
Anaheim Ducks (Photo by Debora Robinson/NHLI via Getty Images)

The Anaheim Ducks almost certainly don’t put a whole lot of stock into Power Rankings, nor should they. They started and ended last season at the top of thn.com’s Power Rankings and what did it get them? An overabundance of bupkis when it came to cashing in that currency against the Los Angeles Kings in the playoffs.

But here we go again and here go the Ducks again. After losing their first game of the season, the Ducks have knocked down five straight en route to opening this season as the No. 1 team in our Power Rankings. Since this is our first installment of the year, last season’s final ranking will be in parentheses. In the future, the previous week’s ranking will appear. Read more