Plenty of disagreement with NHL discipline this week

By Adam Gretz | Hockey writer

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In news that should come as a surprise to no one, there's been some disagreement with the NHL's disciplinary decisions this week.

Shocking, right?

Not long after the NHL announced Alex Edler's two-game ban for charging Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith, the Canucks issued a short statement addressing the suspension, which isn't exactly common practice across the league when supplemental discipline is handed out.

General manager Mike Gillis said the team respects the process, but may not agree with the ruling.

"As an organization we respect the NHL and its process for supplemental discipline," said Gillis in the statement. "While we may not agree with this ruling, we will move forward and prepare for our important game tomorrow in Los Angeles. We do not intend to comment further on this matter."

The NHL has made an effort to protect goaltenders, and as much as people want to believe they're fair game to hit when they leave their crease, they simply aren't. That's the rule, and the league is going to protect them (and seems to be pretty consistent with it, at least more so than it appears to be in other areas).

Edler had no prior discipline history but it was a pretty clear charge on Smith, who had to leave the game after the second period and sat out of practice on Friday. Smith was on the receiving end of a similar hit in last year's playoffs from Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw. Shaw was suspended three games for that hit.

But the Canucks weren't the only ones expressing some disagreement with the league on Friday.

Shortly after it was revealed that New York Rangers forward Rick Nash would not be suspended for his hit on Tomas Kopecky, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Joffrey Lupul wanted somebody to explain to him what warrants a suspension and what doesn't.

Lupul of course was suspended for two games earlier this week for a hit to the head of Tampa Bay's Victor Hedman.

Even with the Canucks and Lupul voicing their disagreement and confusion, the NHL seems to have made the right call on both Edler and Lupul.

But Nash's seemed to be just as bad -- if not worse -- and the exact type of play the NHL is looking to eliminate (and if it's not looking to eliminate that type of play, it certainly should be).

An NHL spokesperson told me Friday night that Nash neither targeted the head nor made principal point of contact with the head, and that at most it should have been a charging penalty. He added that "the department of player safety doesn't react to missed penalties by issuing fines and suspensions."

And it shouldn't be expected to that in most normal cases.

But this wasn't your run-of-the-miss missed call in a game. Those happen. It's a fast game with a lot of stuff happening, and some things are slipping through. But this wasn't your run-of-the-mill missed call. Nash left his feet and went high on a defenseless player after he got rid of the puck. I'm not even convinced after watching the play (again and again) that the head wasn't the principal point of contact.

The Nash play not only deserved a penalty, it deserved an additional punishment from the NHL.

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