The NHL has handed down the punishment on Jordin Tootoo of the Nashville Predators for his crash into Buffalo Sabres netminder Ryan Miller from over the weekend. The result is a two-game suspension for the Pesky Preds forward.
As has become customary, here is video from Brendan Shanahan explaining the decision, but this one coming on location from Pebble Beach instead of New York because of the Board of Governors meetings.
In detailing the suspension, Shanahan notes a few factors that played into the rationale. First is the fact that while there is pressure from defenseman Jordan Leopold, it's not enough to significantly steer Tootoo toward the crease. This is something to keep in mind when you look at the David Booth hit on Miikka Kiprusoff again and why it's unlikely the Booth hit was given much of a look from the league.
Secondly is perhaps the money quote from Shanahan in this conversation: "Goalies should feel safe in their crease." For those wondering why Tootoo's hit warranted two games while Milan Lucic, who ran into Miller a month ago, resulting in a concussion and this high state of awareness, that's a key difference even if the rulebook clearly states that goalies aren't free to be hit no matter if they are in the crease or not.
Also coming into play was the fact that before the collision, Tootoo looks up and spots Miller before running into him. I don't see how that should have much of an impact, by the time he actually looks at Miller, there is nowhere left for Tootoo to go.
If anything, and Shanahan concedes as much, it looks like Tootoo actually tries to leap over Miller and avoid the hit. Bobby Orr he is not. Still, it didn't save Tootoo completely. The fact that he was given a five-minute major and a game misconduct for the hit was also a factor for Shanahan, perhaps reducing the suspension since he was punished in-game as well.
The environment around this topic is toxic right now, particularly around Ryan Miller and the Sabres. As some have joked, Tootoo was suspended two games for Lucic's hit on Miller. But if there was no punishment for Tootoo here, there would have been a near riot among the Sabres faithful.
Sabres coach Lindy Ruff saw this as an opportunity for the league.
"I hope to see a strong message," Ruff said following practice on Monday. "Really, it’s just time. I just hope they do the right thing with it.
"I understand with a phone hearing the max you’re going to get is [a five-game suspension]. In my eyes, is that a big message? It’s OK. I look at the NFL and I look at the Detroit Lion [Ndamukong Suh] that got two games for a 6-inch kick. He got kicked out of the game, and then that amounted to one-eighth of our season. That’s a 10-game suspension. I think they do it right. The message there is we’re not putting up with this stuff. I think we need a strong message. Is five strong enough? I don’t know."
How about two, coach?
Even with Tootoo getting a boot, I don't think Ruff will be overly pleased. It was him, you might remember, that said the lack of suspension on Lucic meant it was open season to run goaltenders. That's why he was hoping for a clear message. Well that and his starting goaltender was run over twice in two games.
I know the folks in Buffalo won't agree, but I think it's a pretty good scenario of the punishment fitting the crime here, particularly with no injury resulting on the play. But it will cause every hit to be scrutinized, just like a lot of other hits around the league.