Dustin Byfuglien and Ondrej Pavelec (Lance Thomson/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Winnipeg Jets need all hands on deck in their battle to lock up a playoff spot – which is why the decision of star defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to cross-check Rangers forward J.T. Miller in the back of the head as he lay prone on the ice is such a dubious one. Look at the video evidence and decide – would you suspend Byfuglien?
The Winnipeg Jets are in the midst of a brutally tough playoff race and need all hands on deck the rest of the way if they're going to continue playing after mid-April. That's why the decision of star defenseman Dustin Byfuglien to cross-check Rangers center J.T. Miller in the head Tuesday – while Miller was sitting on the ice with his back to him – is so dubious: in essence, Byfuglien is risking suspension on a nothing play, and considering how everyone knows the NHL is more sensitive about headshots, there's no justification for it.
The play took place in Winnipeg's MTS Centre, and it materialized after Miller was looking to jar the puck loose from Jets goalie Ondrej Pavelec and took a couple whacks with his stick at him. He's unsuccessful in his scoring attempt and Miller falls over into a seated position by himself, but at that point Byfuglien, who hadn't been anywhere near him, keeps both hands on his stick and drills it into Miller's head and the back of his neck, pushing his head toward the ice:
(video via Streamable.com and Reddit user IAmaRedditorAMA)
Although no penalty was called on the play and it's somewhat understandable to see an NHLer make life hard on any member of the opposition who takes shots at his goaltender, our evolving understanding of head injuries and their serious ramifications necessitates a tougher approach from the league's supplemental discipline department on plays like this. And if Byfuglien does wind up getting suspended, he'll have nobody to blame for it but himself.