It wasn’t the worst hit on the night, but Dan Carcillo’s infraction against linesman Scott Driscoll could result in the longest suspension of this playoff season.
And, with NHL player-on-player supplemental discipline being as inconsistent and soft as it is, that’s OK.
Shortly after Brandon Prust’s controversial hit on Derek Stepan early in the game, the Rangers were looking for some payback on the (somehow) unpenalized play. Dan Carcillo took a charging penalty on Prust, Derek Dorsett fought him and then, as Driscoll tried to separate Carcillo from the pack to prevent any further shenanigans, the Ranger shoved him.
It wasn’t a dangerous play, but this is a huge no-no.
Carcillo was ejected from the game and the play will be reviewed by the NHL. Rules 40.2 and 40.3 apply. And it could result in a lengthy suspension:
40.2 Automatic Suspension – Category I - Any player who deliberately strikes an official and causes injury or who deliberately applies physical force in any manner against an official with intent to injure, or who in any manner attempts to injure an official shall be automatically suspended for not less than twenty (20) games. (For the purpose of the rule, “intent to injure” shall mean any physical force which a player or goalkeeper knew or should have known could reasonably be expected to cause injury.)
40.3 Automatic Suspension – Category II - Any player who deliberately applies physical force to an official in any manner (excluding actions as set out in Category I), which physical force is applied without intent to injure, or who spits on an official, shall be automatically suspended for not less than ten (10) games.
TSN’s Darren Dreger summed it up:
A common reaction I’ve heard to this is that the NHL has it backwards for not penalizing Prust, while ejecting Carcillo and having him face a substantial suspension (more than Prust will likely get) for a much more minor infraction. “Take liberties on players, but for heaven’s sakes, don’t lay a hand on the officials,” they shouted.
This, of course, is a ridiculous generalization. The two plays are not equal.
First off, it was an egregious error by the officials to not call a penalty on Prust. And the fact his follow-up suspension likely won’t be long enough to quench anyone’s thirst will be a further indictment on the NHL’s supplemental discipline. It’s no surprise the NHL could improve on its suspension practice.
But why would we answer any of that with softer rules on referee interference? Is that really the answer here? The moment shoving, sticking or getting physical with a referee is brought down to become equal to the current punishments for player-on-player infractions – which are too soft as currently constituted – is the moment it becomes (relatively) acceptable. This is a non-starter. Whether or not you believe players have less respect for each other these days, the in-game player respect for officials and their jobs must always be protected. It’s a slippery slope.
It is the linesman’s job in this situation to get Carcillo – a recognized instigator – out of the fray and off the ice. The linesman is there to prevent the scrum from escalating and Carcillo crossed the line, plain and simple. It’s clearly not an intent to injure, but you can’t treat referee interference with kid gloves. Let’s talk about improving supplemental discipline, rather than focusing on Rules 40.2 and 40.3. That’s the only standard that’s correct here.
It wasn’t the worst play of Game 3, but Carcillo messed up. There is simply no defense for shoving a referee – especially when you consider what Carcillo may have done had he got loose.