Occasionally when the NHL makes a controversial decision not to suspend a player, it will release a video to explain why. That happened Friday when the department of player safety released an explanation of why New York Rangers star Rick Nash went unpunished for his hit on Florida Panthers forward Tomas Kopecky Thursday.
When word spread that Nash wouldn't get suspended, the reaction was immediate and negative. Our own Adam Gretz wrote:
Was the hit Toronto's Joffrey Lupul had on Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman earlier this week, a play that resulted in a two-game suspension, that much worse? And was Nash's hit on Kopecky less vicious than Vancouver 's Alex Edler's charge on Coyotes goalie Mike Smith on Thursday, a play that has resulted in a hearing with the league on Friday afternoon?
In the world of NHL discipline, where the only consistent thing is inconsistency, the answer to those questions appears to be yes.
For as nice as Brendan Shanahan's videos are when it comes to explaining suspensions, it would be equally nice to get some in-depth explanations from the league as to why plays like this aren't punished. It seems to go against everything the NHL is trying to eliminate.
Well, Adam got his wish for a video, but the explanation may not hold water for Gretz. It certainly doesn't for me.
Granted that the explanation is quite thorough and the department believes it is an illegal hit, I fail to see how this shouldn't rise to the level of supplemental discipline.
In the video, it is explained that Kopecky turns his body just prior to Nash making contact. Just prior? Though Kopecky turns in following through with his shot, Nash does not commit to the hit until the puck is away. At the very least, it appears Nash could have had enough time to minimize contact. Instead, Nash leaves his feet and while the head is not the principle point of contact, how is this not an incredibly reckless play? That alone deserves a phone call.
The fact that Nash didn't make contact with the head is actually kind of lucky considering Kopecky's awkward body position. These are the types of hits that are avoidable and can end in injury in some circumstances. Shanahan can't suspend based on hypotheticals, but there should be a consistent effort to punish reckless plays. This clearly was one.
It wasn't just the video. Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy also interviewed Shanahan, who explained that Nash should have received a penalty on the play:
“It was a rotten hit,” Shanahan said he told Nash.
But not a suspension. "There are lots of hits that we don't like," he said.
“We don't like this hit. It absolutely should have been a two [minute minor], and probably should have been a five,” said Shanahan, in a phone interview on Friday.
It's good that the department of player safety went so in depth to breathlessly defend their decision, but this seems more like another instance of a missed opportunity in a series of many this season and that's really unfortunate.
Shanahan doesn't have to suspend every player, but being charged with protecting the players from themselves, sometimes “rotten hits” need a strong message. This seems like one of those times.