By Allan Muir
Well, this is a bit surprising.
After hearing an appeal from suspended New York Rangers forward Daniel Carcillo last Friday, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman decided today to reduce his sentence from 10 games to six.
Carcillo had originally been suspended under Rule 40.3 for deliberately applying physical force to an official. Any violation of that clause calls for a minimum 10-game timeout. But Carcillo argued successfully that his crime was more appropriately covered under Rule 40.4, which describes "deliberately applying physical force to an official for the sole purpose of getting free of such official during or immediately following an altercation."
That Category III offense calls for a minimum three gamer, so six games essentially splits the difference between the two options the commish had at hand.
I'm sure Bettman had to swallow hard before making this call, but the grey-ish wording of the rule left wiggle room for Carcillo to make his case. It wouldn't be a surprise to see that section tightened up at the league's next Board of Governors meeting.
Carcillo has already served three games of the original suspension, so he will be eligible to return for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final. That doesn't mean that New York fans should gleefully anticipate seeing him in action during the series. The Rangers have won three straight in his absence, so unless coach Alain Vigneault is in a tough spot where he needs to shake up the roster after the first three games, the man known as Car Bomb might not be released from the press box after all.
UPDATE: The league sent out a detailed commissioner's opinion report that encapsulated everything that went on at the hearing...and it is chock full of gold.
The record shows that Carcillo testified that the incident came at "an emotional point in the game" as Montreal's Brandon Prust and New York's Derek Dorsett were squaring off to fight in Game 3 of the Eastern final. He then said that linesman Scott Driscoll came in and grabbed him to remove him from the area. As they were jostling, Carcillo “pushed back” and they went at each other verbally. He then told Driscoll to “f--- off” and as he tried to get away it was then that his elbow came up and struck the linesman in the head.
That made perfect sense to Rangers' Assistant GM Jim Schoenfeld, who argued that Driscoll was a big strong guy, and "if you're trying to get loose of a big strong guy, there are a lot of moving parts. It's not easy to break a grasp... I'm pulling here, I'm pushing there. And I think that's what happened. That's when the elbow came up."
He added that Carcillo "just kind of melted" as soon as he realized that he'd struck the linesman and immediately apologized.
Driscoll's version of the events included a few more Carcillo F-bombs, but basically jibed with what the player had to say. Apparently that left Bettman enough room to interpret the incident as being less serious than it was originally made out to be, and the suspension was reduced to fit the parameters of a Category III offense.