NHL’s Department of Player Safety still brutally inconsistent
The most aggravating record store in the world is located in Dallas. Not a single item in the shop has a marked price. If, after sorting through rows of unorganized vinyl, you find something you want to buy, you haul your finds to the front desk where Bill, the owner, thumbs through your selections. He then sizes them up, sizes you up ... and quotes whatever price he feels like.
I think Stephane Quintal would love it there.
Quintal is the Bill of the NHL’s Department of Player Safety. And like Bill, the price he demands as the overlord of league discipline is based entirely on whim.
Consider a pair of decisions that were handed down seven minutes apart by his department on Wednesday evening. The first involved New Jersey Devils forward Bobby Farnham, who flipped his wig after being flattened by a perfectly legal hit delivered by St. Louis defender Kevin Shattenkirk. Once he picked himself off the ice, he made a beeline for Dmitrij Jaskin, who just happened to be the nearest guy wearing a blue sweater, and blasted him into the third row.
Total cheap shot, and fully deserving of the four-game suspension it earned him.
“What elevates this hit to supplemental discipline is its extreme lateness and the predatory nature of the hit,” said Director of Player Safety Patrick Burke in a video explaining the department's decision.
Burke then hammered home the point in six simple words: “This is not a hockey play.”
No, it wasn’t. This was a retaliatory response to a clean hit, a behavior the league wants to eliminate from the game. More to the point, it was a reckless and dangerous decision by Farnham that could have resulted in a serious injury.
If that was to be the standard, it’s one that all fans could get behind.
Like the Farnham incident, Myers took exception to a clean hit delivered by a forechecking Wingels. Unlike Farnham, Myers retaliated by targeting Wingels’ head with a vicious two-handed crosscheck.
To these eyes anyway, this was a more despicable act, and deserving of a more severe punishment, something along the lines of what Edmonton’s Matt Hendricks (photo above) got for boarding Florida’s Aaron Ekblad (three games) last Sunday night. The league didn’t see it that way, though, and it issued Myers a meaningless $5,000 fine.
Maybe that shrug of indifference shouldn’t be surprising. The Quintal-led DoPS has shown a remarkable tolerance for this particular brand of malevolence in the past. In November, Brandon Dubinsky was given just one game for trying to decapitate Sidney Crosby from behind.
And just last month, Columbus defenseman Dalton Prout escaped supplemental discipline despite landing four crosschecks to the head of Pittsburgh’s Sergei Plotnikov, an attack Deadspin labeled “a straight-up assault.”
The problem here is obvious. It’s a holdover from an old-school mentality, when Quintal patrolled NHL blue lines as a marginally skilled defender and the ungentle application of the lumber was seen as the duty of defenders and the price to be paid by forwards.
But these aren’t “the good ol’ days.” And these incidents aren’t occurring in a vacuum, either.
You’d think that a league whose integrity on the issue of player safety is being challenged by multiple lawsuits might see the benefit of taking a hardline position in cases of clear head contact.
Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe a two-hander to the head is still considered a hockey play.
The numbers game
• At 19 years 207 days, Sam Bennett of the Flames is now the third-youngest player in NHL history to score four goals in a game. The younger ones: Maple Leafs forward Jack Hamilton (18 years 185 days on Dec. 4, 1943 vs. the Rangers) and Capitals forward Bobby Carpenter (18 years 227 days on Feb. 25, 1982 vs. the Blues).
• Benner is also the fifth rookie to score a hat trick this season. The others: Anthony Duclair of the Coyotes (Oct. 14 vs. the Ducks), Frank Vatrano of the Bruins (Dec. 18 vs. the Penguins), Sam Reinhart of the Sabres (Jan. 10 vs. the Jets), and Max Domi of the Coyotes (Jan. 12 vs. the Oilers).
• The Blackhawks, riding a season-high eight game winning streak, meet the Canadiens tonight in Montreal (7:30 p.m. ET). The Hawks are 5-0-2 against the Habs in their past seven meetings dating back to Oct. 30, 2009.
• The rink being built to house a potential NHL team in Las Vegas will be special, but Terry Jones says the new facility being erected in Edmonton will blow it away.
• Too bad Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers didn’t win the Powerball draw. If he had, he would have bought one of these.
• Despite facing a constant barrage of on-ice abuse, Daniel and Henrik Sedin persevere.
• The KHL is investigating an incident in which bananas were thrown on the ice to taunt a black player on Wednesday.
• As a victim of domestic abuse, Alex Galchenyuk shouldn’t be treated as a punchline.
• The hard sell from the league. The populist pushback from a local politician. It's all part of the inevitable dance that will lead to a new arena in Calgary.