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Home Ice

Canucks suspensions continue NHL's pattern of inconsistent sentencing

By Allan Muir

The fickle arm of NHL justice strikes again.

According to Uncle Bob McKenzie, Zack Kassian will sit out the rest of the preseason along with the first five games of the regular season for the high-sticking incident that left Edmonton's Sam Gagner with a broken jaw.

Dale Weise, meanwhile, was suspended for the remainder of the preseason for a cheap shot delivered to the head of Taylor Hall in the same game.

To a Canucks fan, both sentences probably seem a little harsh. To everyone else, they're simply baffling.

The elbow that Weise laid on Hall was clear and deliberate. He led with his forearm right up until making contact, and his target kept his head level the whole time. It's impossible to argue a lack of intent or that the blow was influenced by a last-second move by the victim.

This was a textbook example of the head contact the league talks about wanting to eliminate from the game, and that's exactly what makes Weise's penalty tough to swallow. Three preseason games serve as neither a punishment or a deterrent, and not just because there's no telling if Weise was even scheduled to play in any of those contests. The games are meaningless and so is this suspension.

What makes it even more frustrating is that Kassian's reckless stickwork cost him real time (and real money). Five games seem about right for dangerous but accidental contact where there doesn't appear to be any intent to injure. But the sentence appears predicated more on the extent of the injury -- Gagner could be out a month or more -- than the action itself.

Brendan Shanahan and the league's disciplinary committee have yet to craft a universally applauded punishment. And as long as they continue to send mixed messages about the sort of actions they want out of the game, they never will.

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