After a weekend of fun and festivities, the NHL’s back and it’s already time to talk about potential suspensions. Two separate incidents on Tuesday could find Montreal’s Alexei Emelin and Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler in hot water.
Early in the second period of the Canadiens' tilt against the visiting Dallas Stars, Emelin gave chase to Jason Spezza behind the net and, with the puck coming towards the Stars center, Emelin gave him a shove from behind which resulted in a bloodied Spezza.
Emelin was given a major for boarding and tossed, and after the game, Spezza told the media he had broken his nose on the play. However, Spezza returned sporting a full shield, so the injury in this case isn’t significant enough that Spezza will be forced to miss any time.
The case against suspending Emelin: It’s hard to say there was any intent here, and it looks like a simple case of Emelin going to guide a player into the boards gone wrong. When you watch the second replay, you can see Emelin’s arms are extended before he reaches Spezza, so there’s no shove through the body to propel the Stars center. In addition, Spezza is already leaning forward as Emelin approaches.
The case for suspending Emelin: All other things aside, it was still a boarding penalty, it still left the boarded player with a broken nose, and it’s a hit the league will want to remove from the game. Maybe this is an instance where, if it were an option, Emelin would have wrapped Spezza and taken him to the boards. It’s hard to speculate. But the hit itself could easily be a suspension or at least a fine.
If Emelin is suspended, it will be a minor one – a game, at most. If the Canadiens blueliner gets nothing, that wouldn’t be shocking, either.
But if Emelin’s boarding of Spezza was not a suspension, it is more likely that Kesler’s high elbow on Vancouver Canucks tough guy Derek Dorsett will land him in a discussion with the Department of Player Safety.
Early in the second period, with the Canucks on the power play, Dorsett had his head down to receive a pass just over the blueline when Kesler connected with an elbow to the head. Dorsett went down, needed help leaving the ice, and did not return to the game.
This one is going to be a bit trickier for the league because of the injury on the play, and the possibility of the concussion to Dorsett.
The case against suspending Kesler: Like many of these plays, it’s hard to judge intention. Did Kesler mean to catch Dorsett in the head? That’s unlikely, especially considering the Ducks were already down a man and that type of boneheaded play would have put the Canucks on a 5-on-3. Kesler also doesn’t have a suspension history, and that will work in his favor.
The case for suspending Kesler: It was a headshot. It injured Dorsett enough that he did not return. These are exactly the type of plays the league wants to take out of the game and discourage. It was not penalized, so there was no punishment at all for the play. The Department of Player Safety will look at this, at the very least.
One night, 11 games, and two possible suspensions – that sure didn’t take long.