Jack Johnson (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson will have a phone hearing with the Department of Player Safety on Wednesday with regards to his hit in Tuesday night's game against Carolina. Johnson injured Jiri Tlusty with an open-ice hit and could be facing up to a five-game suspension.
It’s almost incredible to believe that through the first two weeks of the NHL season there was little-to-no discussion about what the NHL was doing to increase player safety. The suspendable offenses were few and far between and it looked like everything may magically have been fixed.
Now, just four full days into November, we’ve had a hit in question on a near nightly basis. Tuesday night was no different than the three prior, as Jack Johnson caught Jiri Tlusty with a vicious check to an unsuspecting Jiri Tlusty, leaving the 26-year-old dazed:
Following the hit, Tlusty left the game and did not return. Johnson was given two minutes for a check to the head.
The case for suspending Johnson: It’s clear that this is exactly the kind of hit the Department of Player Safety is talking about when they say a, “blindside hit to the head.” Tlusty isn’t aware of Johnson, doesn’t see Johnson approach, and only turns his head in time for Johnson to catch him in the chin. And while the hit may not be the latest one we’ve ever seen, it is right on the border.
The case against suspending Johnson: Is there one? Some will say Tlusty should have had his head up, but it’s difficult to use that defense. The onus now lies on both the hitter and the player taking the hit. Referees Greg Kimmerly and Tim Peel called it an illegal check to the head, it could have also been interference, and the injury to Tlusty will certainly come into the conversation. Johnson might be sitting out a couple on this one.
Though Johnson hasn’t been suspended in his career, he could be looking at his first. The Department of Player Safety has already stated it will have a phone hearing with the Blue Jackets defenseman so we know any suspension will be less than five games, but it’s probably safe to say Johnson won’t spend more than a few games watching.
The Blue Jackets can ill-afford to lose another player as their roster is almost entirely depleted. Johnson's potential suspension will surely hurt.